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E. E. Evans-Pritchard

Edward Evan (E.E.) Evans-Pritchard (1902 - September 11, 1973) was a British anthropologist instrumental in the development of social anthropology in that country. Born in Sussex, England, he studied at the University of Oxford and then as a postgraduate at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He was professor at Oxford from 1946 to 1970.

His early work was an ethnographic study of the culture and religious practices of the Nuer, a primitive people in Africa. This work become immediately well-regarded, and remains amongst his best-known.

His later work was more theoretical, drawing upon his experiences as anthropologist to philosophize on the nature of anthropology and how it should best be practiced. In 1950 he famously disavowed the commonly-held view that anthropology was a natural science, arguing instead that it should be grouped amongst the humanities. He argued that the main issue facing anthropologists was one of translation - finding a way to translate one's own thoughts into the world of another culture and thus manage to come to understand it, and then to translate this understanding back so as to explain it to people of one's own culture.

In 1965, he published the highly influential work Theories of Primitive Religion, arguing against the existing theories of primitive religious practices. Arguing along the lines of his theoretical work of the 1950s, he claimed that anthropologists rarely succeeded in entering the minds of the people they studied, and so ascribed to them motivations which more closely matched themselves and their own culture, not the one they are studying. He also argued that believers and non-believers approached the study of religion in vastly different ways, with non-believers being more quick to come up with biological, sociological, or psychological theories to explain religion as an illusion, and believers being more likely to come up with theories explaining religion as a method of conceptualizing and relating to reality.

He is one of a very few English language authors to write about the tarika that some believe to be the predecessors of today's radical Islamist cults.

He was knighted in 1971, and died in Oxford on September 11, 1973.