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Literacy is a linguistic innovation characterised by the encoding and decoding of language into a system of visual signs whose relevance to daily life in most societies cannot be...
by Mark Turin, Robert Hanks
Le vodou haïtien a été formé dans le contexte de l’esclavage. Culte de la famille royale au Dahomey, en Afrique Occidentale, il a été transformé par les esclaves de l’île d’Haïti en...
by Laënnec Hurbon
Anthropology and history are inseparable, sharing concerns with societies other than the one we currently inhabit—whether in time or in space. This entry considers how the relation...
by Eric Hirsch
To know what men are, anthropologists look beyond dictionary definitions, personal experience, and opinions and study societies across the globe and throughout history. They study...
by Matthew Gutmann
Monsters are not only key protagonists in myths, legends, fairy tales, fiction, and films; they also haunt cellars, cyberspace, and crossroads. Based on encounters with monsters in...
by Yasmine Musharbash
There is something phenomenologically basic about the human experience of awareness, or consciousness. All ethnographies describe people who think, feel, imagine, hope, and are aware...
by Tanya Marie Luhrmann
Social reproduction is a lens through which to analyse the persistence of society over time, even as its human and material components keep changing. Its main value is in identifying...
by Hadas Weiss
The collapse of the socialist societies in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union drastically changed the lives of millions of people and offered a new and exciting field of research...
by Dominic Martin
There are many universal assumptions about what care is and how it ought to be provided. Such assumptions are widely embedded in public debates, government policies, and...
by Patrick McKearney, Megha Amrith
Phenomenology is one of the most influential philosophical traditions of the twentieth century and has significantly shaped contemporary anthropological and social theory. This entry...
by Jarrett Zigon, Jason Throop
Freedom of speech
Free speech is a familiar concept. It is an established ideal of liberalism and democratic politics, and the subject of political debate and conflict across diverse historical and...
by Matei Candea, Fiona Wright, Paolo Heywood, Taras Fedirko
Buddhism has existed for around two and half millennia, and is practiced by over 500 million people in the world today. The anthropology of Buddhism spans the breadth of the Buddhist...
by Joanna Cook, Hildegard Diemberger
Visual anthropology encompasses two parallel aims: the production of anthropological media (including ethnographic film, video, photography, drawing, interactive media, etc.) as well...
by Jenny Chio
Medical pluralism describes the availability of different medical approaches, treatments, and institutions that people can use while pursuing health: for example, combining...
by Venera Khalikova
Cannibalism, the eating of one’s own kind, is a practice that occurs in both humans and non-humans. Some people consumed their own kin to ensure that their spirits joined those of...
by Shirley Lindenbaum
Sharing is a particularly versatile and widespread human practice that features in all domains of life, including religion and politics, family life, and economics. It has a long...
by Thomas Widlok
Climate change, largely a product of human activities, is arguably the most comprehensive and dramatic challenge facing humanity. In the first decades of this century, its...
by Thomas Hylland Eriksen
Depression, which psychiatrists regard as a most common mental illness, has been examined by anthropologists especially closely since the 1980s. While most medical experts consider...
by Junko Kitanaka, Stefan Ecks
Dependence is often considered as a primarily negative state of being. It has gone from being described as a threat to individual self-reliance in early modern political theory in...
by Keir Martin
Writing is key in anthropology, as one of its main modes of communication. Teaching, research, publications, and outreach all build on, or consist of, writing. This entry traces how...
by Helena Wulff
‘Latin’ America is a region constructed in a context of imperial rivalries and disputes about how to build ‘modern’ nations that made it an ‘other America’ distinct from ‘Anglo’...
by John Gledhill
Paying tax or avoiding tax is part of everyday life across the globe. But what kinds of payments are taxes, and how do fiscal systems shape society? Taxes are often conceived of as a...
by Miranda Sheild Johansson
Sharia is a key concept in Islam and our contemporary world. Often translated into English as ‘Islamic law’, it includes financial contracts, criminal justice, and marriage and...
by Morgan Clarke
Emic and etic
The emic/etic distinction originated in linguistics in the 1950s to designate two complementary standpoints for the analysis of human language and behaviour. It has been...
by Till Mostowlansky, Andrea Rota
‘Neoliberalism’ is a widely used term that travelled from economic philosophy into policymaking, and from policymaking into critical social scientific discourse in the late twentieth...
by Natalie Morningstar
What is addiction? As an umbrella term, addiction is often used to describe activities where there is an overwhelming drive to engage in destructive, distressing or compulsive...
by Joshua Burraway
Numbers, enumeration, and the quantification of contemporary life seem to govern our existence more and more. Particularly since the dawn of the twenty-first century, the importance...
by Marlee Tichenor
Political ecology is a critical research field within anthropology and related disciplines that examines how and why economic structures and power relations drive environmental...
by Jason Roberts
Cooperatives are a main means of organization for economic activity, generally operating on principles of equal membership and members’ democratic control of their means of...
by Theodoros Rakopoulos
As one of the oldest forms of social actions that bind people together and as an arresting example of the universality and diversity of humanity, gift exchange has long been a focus...
by Yunxiang Yan
Children, as the youngest members of our species, exist in all human societies across space and time. But societies differ widely in their understandings of childhood as a...
by Catherine Allerton
Hunting and gathering
Hunting and gathering constitute the oldest human mode of making a living, and the only one for which there is an uninterrupted record from human origins to the present....
by Thomas Widlok
Professions are institutionalised bodies of specialised knowledge and practice around which divisions of labour within contemporary societies are organised. As well as performing a...
by Elizabeth Hull
Money is a formidable subject — an intimate object in our everyday lives, a claim over resources, and a topic of academic inquiry. Textbooks define money by its various functions, e....
by Allison Truitt
Farming has become increasingly visible in recent years, following a growing public interest in how food is produced. Anthropologists have been studying farming since the founding of...
by Andrew Ofstehage
Because water permeates every aspect of human existence, ethnographic accounts describe many forms of engagement with it: for example, its centrality to modes of production; its...
by Veronica Strang
House and home
If asked to imagine home, most of us will come to think of a particular house or building. And, for many of us, the quintessential image of home remains the place we grew up in. This...
by Farhan Samanani, Johannes Lenhard
Attempts to define and describe magic must reckon with this concept’s slipperiness, as magic is often understood against what supposedly it is not: typically, ‘proper’ religion and ‘...
by Matteo Benussi
Revolutions encompass political mobilizations that attempt rapid transformations of both the nature of political authority and wider social, political, and economic structures....
by Alice Wilson
Mining has occurred for thousands of years, and social anthropologists have studied it for almost a century. This entry explains anthropology's principle findings about mining,...
by Alex Golub
The concept of autism is historically contingent. It did not exist, in any proper sense, before it was invoked by medical and mental health professionals in the twentieth century....
by Ben Belek
From plastics in the oceans, to the export of toxic materials, waste is an issue that increasingly attracts public attention as well as demands for political and environmental action...
by Patrick O'Hare
Once a slur, the term ‘queer’ now is used to critique restrictive, dominant norms of respectable conduct and to recast sexual and gender variations in positive terms. With roots in...
by Ara Wilson
Animism is a particular sensibility and way of relating to various beings in the world. It involves attributing sentience to other beings that may include persons, animals, plants,...
by Katherine Swancutt
Global health is a field of expertise that has emerged at the turn of the twenty-first century alongside changing disease profiles, health technologies, and governance structures....
by Emily Yates-Doerr, Kenneth Maes
Activities that one can retrospectively label as ‘sport’ have probably been part of human beings’ repertoire for millennia, but sports as we know them today are the product of a...
by Niko Besnier, Susan Brownell
Though there is no universally accepted definition for what constitutes a ‘game’, games are typically defined as goal-oriented, rules-based activities closely associated with the...
by Max Watson
Divination is a widespread cultural practice that takes varied forms worldwide. It can be diagnostic, forecasting, and interventionist, in the sense of changing the receptor’s...
by Diana Espírito Santo
‘The Anthropocene’ is a term that is increasingly used to define a new planetary epoch: one in which humans have become the dominant force shaping Earth’s bio-geophysical composition...
by Liana Chua, Hannah Fair
Islam is not an anthropological concept in the way, for example, culture, or even religion, are. People have thought about and discussed Islam long before anthropologists started...
by Samuli Schielke
‘The digital’ is defined here as new technologies that are ultimately reducible to binary code. These have made many cultural artefacts easier and quicker to both reproduce and to...
by Daniel Miller
Cet article aborde la charité comme un terme «étique» qui facilite la comparaison entre des traditions différentes. Les bases théoriques en ont été posées par deux grands...
by Jonathan Benthall
The variety of ways in which death has been handled in human societies has been a source of much scholarly fascination. In this brief overview, anthropological approaches to the...
by Bob Simpson
Disability is a form of difference that is created when the social participation of someone with an impairment is ‘dis-abled’ by normative expectations and material conditions...
by Clara Devlieger
What is adoption? To answer this question is to jump directly into one of the key controversies of anthropology: anthropologists, associated for over a century with the close study...
by Jessaca Leinaweaver
To make a topic from one of anthropology’s principal means and objects of study, investigating relations through relations, is offered in the spirit of reflexive enquiry. The entry...
by Marilyn Strathern
What role do nonhuman animals play in human social life? This question has long interested anthropologists, who have provided various answers, themselves reflective of broader...
by Thomas White, Matei Candea
Cargo cult—the term—appeared in 1945, at the end of the Pacific War. Anthropologists rapidly embraced the neologism to label the Melanesian social movements that had come to their...
by Lamont Lindstrom
Precarity emerged as a central concern in scholarly research and writing in the twenty-first century, partly in response to political mobilizations against unemployment and social...
by Sharryn Kasmir
Ethnographic fieldwork, carried out according to the method of long-term participant-observation, is what defines social anthropology. The method is inductive and open-ended. As such...
by Signe Howell
This entry takes on two subjects. First, it addresses the influence that anthropology had on the work of the mid-twentieth century French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, and second, the...
by Jon Bialecki
This entry considers charity as an ‘etic’ term that facilitates comparison between different traditions. Theoretical foundations were laid by two great anthropologists at the...
by Jonathan Benthall
Tourism is a new phenomenon in world history, but today more people travel long distances for this purpose than for any other. This entry traces some main contributions...
by Rupert Stasch
Bureaucracy quite literally translates into rule by public office (‘bureau’). The anthropology of bureaucracy can be seen as falling under two broad approaches. Firstly, there is an...
by Nayanika Mathur
Voice is a salient category in our contemporary lives. We speak of marginalised groups ‘lacking voice’ and celebrate their efforts at ‘raising their voices’; we are advised to listen...
by Marlene Schäfers
Ontological turn, the
‘Culture’ is in many ways the most fundamental of anthropological concepts. Yet it has been the subject of a range of critical interventions in the course of the discipline’s history,...
by Paolo Heywood
Ethics / morality
It is possible to argue that the anthropology of ethics has always been part of the discipline but also that it is a radically new and transformative venture. This entry explains why...
by James Laidlaw
Feasts are special meals (food out of the ordinary in kind or quantity) shared among an enlarged circle of people. They are occasions for many kinds of activities, not only eating...
by Chloe Nahum-Claudel
'Science' features twice in anthropology. On the one hand, science is an object of anthropological enquiry, in much the same way as ‘kinship’, ‘religion’, or ‘nationalism’....
by Matei Candea
With images of protest and dissent widespread and frequently circulated in news broadcasts and social media posts, resistance to prevailing power structures seems to be an expected...
by Fiona Wright
Anthropology museums and museum anthropology
This entry provides an overview of the history, politics and changing roles of anthropology museums. It explores the developing field of museum anthropology, which encompasses the...
by Anita Herle
Gambling occurs when a person commits one or more valuable items (a ‘stake’) to an event or series of events packaged together, and where the result determines a loss or win at a...
by Anthony Pickles
The concept of values has recently re-emerged as the object of explicit theoretical attention in a number of disciplines, including anthropology. The aim of this entry is to review...
by Joel Robbins, Julian Sommerschuh
Matriliny is a way of reckoning kinship descent and belonging through the female line. This entry discusses some of the forms matrilineal kinship may take in practice before...
by Jessica Johnson
The concept of ‘tribal society’ is one of the most prominent and popular ‘anthropological’ notions of our time, yet within western social and cultural anthropology it has been...
by David Sneath
When we think about landscape, we tend to think of natural scenery, empty of people; of a view, spread in front of our eyes; or of a backdrop, a stage for people’s movements and...
by Paola Filippucci
The Mediterranean is one of the most underrated areas in anthropological imagination. On the one hand, its shores have furnished the most complex formulations of the unfolding...
by Naor Ben-Yehoyada
Human rights, as described in documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are a set of moral and legal principles that apply to all human beings irrespective of...
by Harri Englund
Colonialism / postcolonialism
The giant composite field of colonialism and postcolonialism studies has had a transforming effect on modern anthropology. Anthropologists have been innovative users of its...
by Susan Bayly
What is citizenship? The word itself is now used in a wide range of arenas, from citizenship education in schools to development agencies’ programmes of good governance, and public...
by Sian Lazar