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The Problem of Context: Perspectives from Social Anthropology and Elsewhere

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Volume 4

Methodology & History in Anthropology

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The Problem of Context

Perspectives from Social Anthropology and Elsewhere

Edited by R.M. Dilley

256 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-57181-700-6 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (October 1999)

ISBN  978-1-57181-773-0 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (October 1999)

eISBN 978-1-78920-390-5 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


"... an interesting book to satisfy both specialists and those with an interest in particular contributions."  · The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Dilley's introduction offers a lengthy review of the literature on context and should be required reading for anyone interested in this problem. The volume is a welcome addition to the literature and will be useful especially to scholars of ritual studies."  · Religious Studies Review

"... a useful handbook for a field very much in need of attention."  · SIGNS - Journal of Women in Culture and Society


The apparently simple notion that it is contextualization and invocation of context that give form to our interpretations raises important questions about context definition. Moreover, different disciplines involved in the elucidation and interpretation of meanings construe context indifferent ways. How do these ways differ? And what analytical strategies are adopted in order to suggest that the relevant context is "self-evident"? The notion of context has received less attention than is due such a central, key concept in social anthropology, as well as in other related disciplines.

This collection of contributions from a group of leading social anthropologists and anthropological linguists addresses the question of how the idea of context is constructed, invoked, and deployed in the interpretations put forward by social anthropologists. The ethnographic focus embraces peoples from regions such as Bali, Europe, Malawi, and Zaire. Primarily theoretical in its aims, the work also draws on expertise from anthropological linguistics and philosophy in order to set the issue as much in a comparative disciplinary perspective as in a comparative cross-cultural one.

R.M. Dilley is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews.

Subject: Theory & Methodology in Anthropology


Notes on Contributors

Introduction: The Problem of Context
Roy Dilley

Chapter 1. Contextualisation and Paradigm Shifts
Ladislav Holy

Chapter 2. Context, the Ghost in the Machine
Sándor G.J. Hervey

Chapter 3. New Paradigm Thinking in Linguistics: Meaning is the Context
Elzbieta Tabakowska

Chapter 4. Ethnographic Misunderstanding and the Perils of Context
Johannes Fabian

Chapter 5. As They Like It: Overinterpretation and Hyporeality in Bali
Mark Hobart

Chapter 6. Context and Interpretation: Reflections on Nyau Rituals in Malawi
Brian Morris

Chapter 7. The Holistic Individual: Context as Political Process in the New Age Movement
Ruth Prince and David Riches

Chapter 8. Context as an Act of Personal Externalisation: Gregory Bateson and the Harvey Family in the English Village of Wanet
Nigel Rapport

Chapter 9. Culture and Context: The Effects of Visibility
Penelope Harvey


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