John W. Burton: An Introduction to Evans-Pritchard

Studia Instituti Anthropos 45

This introduction draws attention anew to an exceptionally perceptive and literate anthropologist, a man who lived during a very important moment in world history. He was among the earliest "professional" ethnographers to study African cultures, and many of the stock terms and concepts that comprise a part of anthropological concern are richly addressed in Evans-Pritchard's work. His writings consider diverse topics, from bride wealth, witchcraft, sacrifice, political structure, and segmentary organization, to the problems of interpretation, translation, and rationality. His work also indicates that he was a keen observer of material culture. His prose is the mirror of his analytic brilliance. Three of his major monographs, "Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic among the Azande," "The Nuer," and "Nuer Religion," have long been recognized as classic studies.

The author focuses on the way in which Evans-Pritchard's ethnographic writings, prefaced by an earlier training in history, generated new concerns and directions in contemporary anthropology. Evans-Pritchard's contributions to the development of modern anthropology are not unlike a bridge spanning the empiricism that inspired the social sciences, in the 1920s and 1930s the writings of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown, and the more current manner of humane comparison that lies at the heart of "interpretive" anthropology.

John W. Burton studied social anthropology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the University of Cambridge, and Oxford University. His initial desire to carry out firsthand social anthropological research among a pastoral Nilotic people of the Southern Sudan was inspired by the quality of work on the same field published by the late E.E. Evans-Pritchard and Godfrey Lienhardt. At present he is Professor of Anthropology and Director of Africana Studies at Connecticut College (New London) and internationally known for his research on the Nilotic-speaking peoples of eastern Africa. He is the author of "God's Ants. A Study of Atuot Religion" (Studia Instituti Anthropos, 37).

John W. Burton: An Introduction to Evans-Pritchard. 120 pp., 1992. ISBN 3-7278-0786-5. sfr 38,-