lisa monaghan

McKinnon (2000). Evans-Pritchard and the Creation of Nuer Patrilineality and Equality

Further in those Bantu societies where I have myself studied social structure, whether in Central or in South Africa, nothing is more remarkable than the lack of permanence of particular lineages or "segments"; the infinite variety there is in their composition, their liability to change owing to historic factors, the strength of individual personalities and similar determinants .... Nor have I ever worked in an Africa [sic] society in which status within a particular group, an age-set or a territories  sic] section, was equal. The very existence of so many principles of ranking makes for varied status of the individuals within the segment concerned. This would be revealed in a careful descriptive account of some particular ceremony or activity undertaken by one of the segments studied, but is concealed by the diagrams of this book. I therefore cannot see the distinction between domestic and political systems of segments sharply defined as Dr. Evans-Pritchard has described it. The two systems seem to me to grow one out of the other, and in the dynamics of a social situation
constantly to overlap. Abstractions are obviously necessary if sociology is to develop as a science, but I think those of this book have been made too soon, at too low a level, and by too summary an exclusion of matter that did not "fit." Nevertheless, I consider the work more stimulating than many a carefully written and detailed monograph and it well repays the effort of reading and re-reading what is in some sections very difficult abstract matter. However unsatisfying in some respects, it is a brilliant, [sic] tonic, and in the best sense of the word, an irritating book. No anthropologist can afford to miss it.
-Audrey I. Richards, "A Problem of Anthropological Approach"

Category: Anthropology and History, Conflict

Sub-category: Socio-Cultural Groups and Practices


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