Holistic Anthropology

Holistic Anthropology : Emergence and Convergence

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Given the broad reach of anthropology as the science of humankind, there are times when the subject fragments into specialisms and times when there is rapprochement. Rather than just seeing them as reactions to each other, it is perhaps better to say that both tendencies co-exist and that it is very much a matter of perspective as to which is dominant at any moment. The perspective adopted by the contributors to this volume is that some anthropologists have, over the last decade or so, been paying considerable attention to developments in the study of social and biological evolution and of material culture, and that this has brought social, material cultural and biological anthropologists closer to each other and closer to allied disciplines such as archaeology and psychology.

A more eclectic anthropology once characteristic of an earlier age is thus re-emerging. The new holism does not result from the merging of sharply distinguished disciplines but from among anthropologists themselves who see social organization as fundamentally a problem of human ecology, and, from that, of material and mental creativity, human biology, and the co-evolution of society and culture. It is part of a wider interest beyond anthropology in the origins and rationale of human activities, claims and beliefs, and draws on inferential or speculative reasoning as well as 'hard' evidence. The book argues that, while usefully borrowing from other subjects, all such reasoning must be grounded in prolonged, intensive and linguistically-informed fieldwork and comparison.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 19.05mm | 581g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1845453549
  • 9781845453541
  • 1,225,734

Table of contents

List of figures and tables

List of contributors


Introduction: Emergence and convergence

David Parkin

Chapter 1. Bioculturalism

Stanley J. Ulijaszek

Chapter 2. The biological in the social: evolutionary approaches to human behaviour

Robin Dunbar

Chapter 3. Domesticating the landscape, producing crops and reproducing society in Amazonia

Laura Rival

Chapter 4. The biological in the cultural: the fi ve agents and the body ecologic in Chinese medicine

Elisabeth Hsu

Chapter 5. On the social, the biological and the political: revisiting Beatrice Blackwood's research and teaching

Laura Peers

Chapter 6. Anthropological theory and the multiple determinacy of the present

Howard Morphy

Chapter 7. Holism, intelligence and time

Chris Gosden

Chapter 8. Movement, knowledge and description

Tim Ingold

Chapter 9. The evolution and history of religion

Harvey Whitehouse

Chapter 10. The visceral in the social: the crowd as paradigmatic type

David Parkin


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Review quote

"This book...presents a powerful case for anthropology that provides a full and whole account of the contemporary world, as well as some dilemmas...Taken together, the different approaches and case studies presented in this volume amount to an important and refreshing perspective...showing how contemporary social anthropology, with [its] 'interdisciplinary turn', offers explanations that can help us understand the interplay of culture, society, biology, genetics, and ecology." * JRAI

"...provides some fine examples of ways that anthropology can capture and hold valuable ground in the borderlands between scientific and humanistic inquiry..an excellent volume... remarkable... for its systematic use of examples such as ethnomedicine, landscape studies, and cognitive anthropology to demonstrate the immensely rich ways in which a cultural

orientation can meet various kinds of science." * Reviews in Anthropology
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About David Parkin

David Parkin is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford, All Souls College, having held the chair from 1996-2008. He was previously from 1964 to 1996 at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. From February 2010 to October 2011 he was Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, Germany. He works in Eastern Africa among Muslims and non-Muslims on religion, healing, language, human bodily intelligence, and material culture. His books include Sacred Void (CUP 1991), Islamic prayer across the Indian Ocean (with Stephen Headley) (Curzon Press, 2000), The politics of cultural performance (with Lionel Caplan and Humphrey Fisher) (Berghahn Books, 1996) and Bush base, forest farm (with E. Croll) (Routledge 1992).
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