Anthropology and Political Science

Anthropology and Politics usually do not get along all too well, each with their own prejudice of the other. This site aims to bring together the two where they meet, where people become political, where politics becomes human. The main focus for me is the issue of identity. This is necessarily a very multi-disciplinary topic, thus the approach through anthropology, which boasts an array of prisms through which we can observe and participate in the social. Be through legal, economic or political anthropology, psychology, kinship or religion, anthropology delivers a range of theoretical frameworks to discuss identity. Unfortunately the British anthropological tradition is less inclined to engage in multi-disciplinary discourses and the lines between sociology and anthropology have been drawn along varying battle lines. I find this ironic as it is anthropology, which is can incorporate and accommodate most social sciences in its own fold. However, academic departments’ necessity to define their own field and subject as a bounded society has seen the growing apart and entrenchment of separation.

My own work is deeply committed to the inter-disciplinary approach, for in order to gain understanding of complex social phenomena we can not rely on a prefabricated set of tools, but have to always be on the look out for inspiration with ourselves and others in whichever discipline they may be found. Following Geertz: “Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning.” (Geertz: 1975:5). Thus, I contend that social anthropology itself in most cases should move towards the humanities, where it can happily and without squabbles claim to tell the stories of peoples, rather than having to present scientific truths gained through (usually) dubious data collection exercises.


Geertz, C. (1975) The interpretation of cultures: selected essays. London: Hutchinson.


One comment on “Anthropology and Political Science

  1. jmlealsilva says:

    Strongly agree with your viewpoint. Here too some artificial border seems to inhibit the absolutely necessary extension of the anthropological analysis to the domain of politics. This is rather curious and I had a strange experience about when in a post-graduation work I developed the theme of “coup dÉtat”. Not being deceptive, the acceptance of this work wasn’t at all enthusiastic and made me feel that I was dealing with a somewhat”uncommon field” – in a kind of taboo that I absolutely reject. I see no reason to build any wall between Anthropology and Political Science and therefore I support your expressed analysis.

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