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While for a whole century (1860 to 1960 roughly) political anthropology developed as a discipline concerned primarily with politics in stateless societies, a new development started from the 1960s, and is still unfolding: anthropologists started increasingly to study more “complex” social settings in which the presence of states, bureaucracies and markets entered both ethnographic accounts and analysis of local phenomena. This was not the result of a sudden development or any sudden “discovery” of contextuality. From the 1950s anthropologists who studied peasant societies in Latin America and Asia, had increasingly started to incorporate their local setting (the village) into its larger context, as in Redfield’s famous distinction between ‘small’ and ‘big’ traditions (Redfield 1941). The 1970s also witnessed the emergence of Europe as a category of anthropological investigation. Boissevain’s essay, “towards an anthropology of Europe” (Boissevain and Friedl 1975) was perhaps the first systematic attempt to launch a comparative study of cultural forms in Europe; an anthropology not only carried out in Europe, but an anthropology of Europe.
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Dec 8th, 2015
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