Cultural Anthropology


Cultural or social anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans, and collecting data about the impact of global economic and political processes on local cultural realities. Anthropologists use a variety of methods, including participant observation, interviews and surveys. Their research is often called fieldwork because it involves the anthropologist spending an extended period of time at the research location. For a detailed description of the subject of cultural anthropology go to this link:

MY BIG BOOK: autobiographical anthropology

The symbol of my own eclectic interests, a sort of 'autobiographical anthropology,' can be found today in the small room I call "my study" here in Tasmania. Of postcards and cards there are few; of cartoons and assorted newsclippings there are more. The absences, the empty spaces, in my Big Book are voluminous, for one cannot record it all, all of the involvement one has had in the culture of one's birth or any of the other cultures one has been part of during one's lifespan.

Quotations abound in some 300 arch-lever files, two-ring binders, A-3 loose-leaf, and other-sized files on a host of subjects or what one could call various academic cultures: history, philosophy, religion, literature, poetry, fiction, drama, psychology, media studies, anthropology, Greek and Roman history, various religious themes, graduate study programs, journals, attempts at novel writing, biography and autobiography, inter alia. -Ron Price with thanks to Peter Alexander, Les Murray: A Life in Progress, Oxford UP, London, 2006, p.255.


Until 1990 I took no courses in anthropology, and I never taught the subject. Of course sociology often has content that is essentially anthropological, or borders on its content, as do various sub-sections of other social sciences.  Sociology has been part of my reading going back to at least September 1963 as have the social sciences in general.   From 1990 to 1992 I taught a course entitled 'Traditional Culture and Modern Society' which was essentially an introductory anthropology course at the Swan College of Technical and Further Education, now a Polytechnic, in Perth Western Australia.  I acquired many of the anthrpology notes that are found in the three arch-lever files I now possess while teaching that course. When I retired from FT teaching in 1999, I began to add resources to what were, back in the 1990s, just two arch-lever files. I have also enlarged the subject matter, the curriculum, the course content, and so what now appears in my current resource-base bears only a general resemblance to that course I taught more than two decades ago.

Ron Price
1/8/'09 to 27/2/'14.



As an anthropologist, philosopher, political scientist, literary critic, and all-around, all-star intellectual, Clifford Geertz helped a vast public make sense of the human condition. But for nearly everyone in that public, his ideas operated like gravity—invisibly, as attraction at a distance. Clifford James Geertz(1926-2006) was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for, and influence on, the practice of symbolic anthropology.  He was considered "for three decades...the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States." He served until his death as professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

His students, at least some, expressed the view that he was very different up-close, especially in the classroom. There his ideas bounced off the walls in all directions, lighting up subjects in unpredictable patterns. One student testifies to Geertz's prowess as a teacher. For more on this subject go to:


Unlike many other scholarly fields, anthropology today is markedly heterogeneous: without a unifying methodology, shared objects of inquiry or even a common perspective. Its heterogeneity is explained partly by the progressive fragmentation of anthropology over the past half-century into multiple subfields and specializations, and partly by the tendency among anthropologists to tap sources for their theories and frameworks from outside sources—such as Michel Foucault, Thomas Friedman, Barbara Ehrenreich, Mikhail Bakhtin, Philip Rieff and Judith Butler.

This is likewise the situation in “medical anthropology” & in its component minifields: the anthropologies of psychiatry, psychopathology, public health, infectious disease, etc. One can argue that these developments are a good thing or a bad thing, a sign of medical anthropology’s eclecticism and vigor or a symptom of medical anthropology’s failure to evolve as a distinctive scholarly enterprise. Medical anthropology studies "human health and disease, health care systems, and biocultural adaptation". It views humans from multidimensional and ecological perspectives. It is one of the most highly developed areas of anthropology and applied anthropology, and is a subfield of social and cultural anthropology that examines the ways in which culture and society are organized around or influenced by issues of health, health care and related issues. For more on medical anthropology go to:


Anthropological Theory is a peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes papers in the field of Anthropology. The journal's editors are Jonathan Friedman (University of California), Bruce Kapferer(University of Bergen) and Joel Robbins (University of California). It has been in publication since 2001 and is currently published by SAGE Publications. Anthropological theories of value attempt to expand on the traditional theories of value used by economists or ethicists. They are often broader in scope than the theories of value of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, etc. usually including sociological, political, institutional, historical perspectives and transdisciplinarity. Some have influenced feminist economics. For more on the subject of 'anthropological theories of value' go to:  For several articles at one of the online issues of the journal Anthropolocal Theory go to:

Readers interested in the many anthropological theories can access them at: These theories include: Actor–network / Alliance theory, Cross-cultural studies, Cultural materialism, Culture theory, Functionalism, Performance studies, Practice theory, Structuralism, Post-structuralism, & Systems theory. There are many theoretical perspectives in anthropology and the following should be added to the above: Applied anthropology, Boasian Anthropology, Culture & personality, Cultural ecology, Cultural evolution, Feminist anthropology, Globalization and transnationalism, Linguistic anthropology, Marxism & political economy, Poststructuralism, Structural-functionalism, Symbolic and interpretive anthropology, the Historic turn, the Reflexive turn, World system: Colonialism and development.

Each one of the above theories has four main subjects or aspects: (i) Main Points, (ii) Key Figures, (iii) Key Texts, and (iv) Critiques.  It should be understood that theory in anthropology is always on the move, whether it is moving in new directions altogether or taking old questions into new domains.  The above list of theories and topics is, in some ways, partial and simply serves as a starting point. The above is one possible way to see the discipline of anthropological theory over time and in the present, as well as to envision it into the future. 


Psychotropy is the altering effect of a mood-altering drug on perception, emotion, mental activity, or behavior. A psychotropic drug can act as a tranquilizer, sedative, or antidepressant. "On Deep History and Pyschotropy" by Benjamin Campbell is an article in Culture Medicine and Psychiatry (2014: Vol. 38). Campbell discusses four field anthropology which is often considered as a lesser form of anthropology done in backwater departments. It is in fact a serious endeavor in its own right. It requires one to let down the narrow boundaries of one’s sub-disciplinary assumptions and see the forest of the human species through the trees of different epoch, areas, geographies, cultures, social structures, & political regimes. It takes a certain mixture of naivety, & ambition to attempt such an undertaking. More likely, it takes someone from outside the field. If you want to see what such a four field anthropology might look like, you can find it in Daniel Smail’s Deep History and the Brain. Smail, dissatisfied with the traditional perspective of the historian, which he finds increasingly narrow and time bound, attempts to find a principle by which he can survey all of human history, from the origin of the species to the origin of civilization to the origins of our own modern age.

Anthropologists have produced the ethnographic & archeological evidence that demonstrates the humanity common to hunter-gather, horticultural and pastoral societies, all of which existed prior to civilization.  Students and the general public have to be reminded again and again about both the width and depth of our humanity. Smail’s complaint about the increasingly narrow time depth may or may not be true of historians, but it does characterize our society as a whole. As a culture, we are so identified with our own western industrialized educated democratic existence that we tend to think of our own experience as defining humanity, in much the same way that many traditional societies refer to themselves as the people, meaning the human ones. Hence, the larger mission of anthropology, to present the ways in which a single human species can experience their essential humanity in different cultural forms. So even if a book like On Deep History and the Brain is in some ways na─▒ve and superficial, it should be thought-provoking to anthropologists interested in how we can create a deeper and rich version of what Smail points toward.

One of the substantive issues that this article is concerned with is how a single species can live in so many different cultural environments and yet still share a single biological identity. This question is currently being taken up by the emerging field of Neuroanthropology. Neuroanthropology seeks to capitalize on the recent explosion in neuroscientific knowledge to understand how cultural conditions both shape and are shaped by a neuroplastic brain (see Lende and Downey 2012). In other words, a brain centered understanding of the interactive nature of human biology and culture. For the rest of this article go to:


Part 1:

"The Rise of Expressive Authenticity" is the name of an article by Charles Lindholm in the Anthropological Quarterly, Volume 86, Number 2, Spring 2013.  Charles Lindholm attended Columbia University for his undergraduate and graduate work. His fieldwork was in the Swat Valley of Northern Pakistan among one of the largest tribal groups in the world: the Pukhtun. There he researched the relationship between social organization and emotion, as well as politics, kinship, and the role of religion in this strongly Muslim society. His work led to an ethnographic study, Generosity and Jealousy (1982), and to a collection of essays entitled Frontier Perspectives (1996).

Here are some of the opening quotations to his article. (1) "Know thyself", wrote Oscar Wilde in 1905, "was written over the portal of the antique world. Over the portal of the new world 'Be thyself' shall be written." 
 (2) In 1896 the poet Matthew Arnold wrote: "Resolve to be thyself; and know that he who finds himself, loses his misery!" (3) From the poet Browning in 1899: "Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise from outward things, what'er you may believe."

The above quotes are characteristic 19th century testimonials to the value of personal authenticity.  Authenticity might be seen as the reigning value of a society bereft of divine sanction and dissatisfied with the false comforts of modern life.  The article I am quoting from here by Charles Lindholm presents ethnographic case studies and theoretical perspectives by various scholars.  They provide a context for the concept of authenticity in cultural terms.  In so doing, these scholars and this article expand upon recent work by anthropologists who have explored authenticity in its various forms, trajectories, and consequences.

Part 2:

One aspect of authenticity, in the particular form of "being thyself," came to serve as the basis for a shift in the meaning of transcendence in the Western world.  These paraphrased words from Lindholm's article are the basis for his foray into social, intellectual, & literary history. His foray is intended to provide a useful survey of the philosophical and aesthetic context as well as the social circumstances in which the value of personal expressive authenticity has arisen and taken hold of modern consciousness. Lindholm wants to demonstrate that Western philosophy, aesthetics, and literature are fair game for anthropological analysis, an analysis which expands the traditional boundaries of the discipline of cultural anthropology.

The word authenticity is derived from the Greek autos or "self" and hentes or "prepared." In his classic book Sincerity and Authenticity, Lionel Trilling (1974) writes that 'authentes' originally meant having full power over something, and so came to signify not only a master and doer. It also came to define a perpetrator, a murderer, and even a suicide-indicating the term's primordial connection with violence, assertion, and ruthlessness. However, in modern times, its valence is wholly positive.  Lionel Mordecai Trilling(1905-1975) was an American literary critic, author, and teacher. With wife Diana Trilling, he was a member of what were known as the New York Intellectuals.  He was also a contributor to the Partisan Review. Although he did not establish a school of literary criticism, he is one of the leading U.S. critics of the twentieth century who traced the contemporary cultural, social, and political implications of literature. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he has been a subject of continued interest since his passing nearly 40 years ago.

In English, the word "authentic" is one of an overlapping set of evaluations that includes: sincere, true, honest, absolute, basic, essential, genuine, ideal, natural, original, perfect, pure, real, and right. (See Phillips 1997:5-6) All of these words refer to some state of being that is believed to lie outside or beneath the vicissitudes of ordinary existence. But they also have a banal function as intensifying adverbs: "I'm really telling the truth," "ideally speaking," "to be perfectly clear," "essentially, the argument is," "I mean it sincerely." It is significant that it is impossible to substitute "authentically" into any of these adverbial constructions. Unlike its cousins, the authentic cannot be reduced to a mere intensifier. Authenticity has higher claims to make.

Part 3:

In legal jargon, authenticity means that evidence has been correctly gathered from a reliable source and has not been tampered with before presentation. More specifically, authenticity refers to the verification of objective representations such as signatures, documents, and paintings. When these are designated authentic, they are legally considered to have been authored by the person who signed them and to correspond in fact with appearance. They can then be used to validate legal claims.

In the lexicon of the computer age, authenticity indicates that a message received over the Internet is indeed the same as the message sent, and that the sender is indeed the person who signed the message. Authentication of a message's integrity and the sender's identity is vital in the virtual universe, where communications can be hijacked in cyberspace, and where credit cards, driver's license numbers, and email addresses take the place of personal recognition. To escape from a limiting, singular vision of authenticity attention should be paid to the multiple and overlapping meanings of the authentic as these are negotiated in particular contexts in order to avoid the trap of a singularly conceived authenticity.


In the journal Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy(Vol. 5, No. 2, 2009) is an article by Arran Gare entitled: "Philosophical Anthropology, Ethics and Political Philosophy in an Age of Impending Catastrophe."  Gare argues that philosophical anthropology is central to ethics and politics. The denial of this has facilitated the triumph of debased notions of humans developed by Hobbes and others. This has facilitated the enslavement of people to the logic of the global market, a  logic which is now destroying the ecological conditions for civilization and most life on Earth. 

Reviving the classical understanding of the central place of philosophical anthropology to ethics and politics, the early work of Hegel and Marx is explicated, defended and further developed by interpreting this through developments in post-mechanistic science. Overcoming the opposition between the sciences and the humanities, it is suggested that the conception of humans developed in this way can orient people in their struggle for the liberty to avert a global ecological catastrophe. To read this article go to:


The following is a summary of a review article in Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology, Volume 23, Issue 2, 2013.  The article is a review of a 2010 book: The sixth wave: How to succeed in a resource-limited world by James Bradfield Moody and Bianca Nogrady. Moody is the Executive Director of Development at CSIRO. Nogrady is a freelance science journalist. The book, so goes the review, critically evaluates predictions about the near future of humanity put forward in The Sixth Wave. The book paints a picture of the future, starting from the observation that society today is on the brink of several major crises demanding comprehensive change.

Each of these crises presents its own challenge but, according to the authors, they are all related & call for one basic response: we must drastically increase the resource efficiency of our lifestyles. The main limitation of this attempt at ‘prophesy’ is the authors’ poverty of understanding regarding the political and cultural drivers of social change, and hence their misplaced faith in technological innovation as a panacea for all that ails contemporary societies. Anthropology, argue some anthropologists, can provide a more holistic account of the present moment in human history, and of what may lie in store for us.


Part 1:
In 1963, when I was first being introduced to the field of anthropology as an inevitable part of an introductory sociology course, the American writer and filmmaker, professor, literary icon, and political activist, Susan Sontag(1933-2004) was just beginning her literary and media-popular career.(1) With the publication of her 1963 essay The Anthropologist as Hero, an article which traced mutations in the generalised image of the ‘heroic’ anthropologist, Sontag and I existed in the same intellectual ball-park. Sontag would become a player in the major leagues, while I would languish far down in the minor-leagues never to develop the literary skills or the intellectual acumen of "one of the most influential critics of her generation.”(1)  Although not a major player in the academic and intellectual game that is played out in the print and electronic media, I have been an enthusiastic participant and observer, reader and reseacher, teacher and scholar for at least the last 40 years: 1974 to 2014.  It took me the previous two decades, 1953 to 1973 to get warmed-up, to complete my education and training studies as well as my childhood, adolescence and youth. 
I have come to know about this stimulating and provocative writer, Susan Sontag, by degrees from the 1980s.  In the 1980s and 1990s I worked in adult education and at technical and further education colleges in Australia’s Northern Territory and Western Australia's Pilbara, as well as in one of the most isolated cities on earth, Perth.  It was not until the years of my retirement from the teaching profession, after a student-and-working life of more than half a century, 1949 to 2005, that I had a big-chew of the prolific work of this controversial figure.  Sontag once said that she had been in love nine times in her life: five women, and four men. I've never had any same-sex attraction myself; the opposite sex attraction has kept me fully occupied, if I think about it, since my childhood.  I've had to keep that attraction in a safe place, though, or I would have had an even more changeful life than I've had from 1944 to 2014.  
Part 1.1:

Back in 1963, I was just starting out on my own academic journey after 14 years of pre-university education.  I was wading-through Harry M. Johnson's 700 page 1961 text: Sociology: A Systematic Introduction.  This was a book and a sociology dominated by what I, and most of my peers, found to be the turgid and obscure sociological theory of functionalism drawing mainly on the writings of Talcott Parsons and Max Weber. Parsons imparted to Weber's works a functionalist, teleological perspective and, together, they imparted to students like myself an intellectual headache.

Reading lists from four other subjects also occupied my late-teen-age brain: (i) an introduction to psychology, (ii) an introduction to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, (iii) a general and economic geography, and (iv) European history from 400 to 1400.  I was also dealing with the permutations and combinations of what came to be called a bipolar 1 disorder, a mood disorder that played havoc with my emotions for my four years at university.  The beginnings of an active libido also played some havoc with my serious academic activities while informing me, in the process, of what it was like to have an orgasm.  About three or four months before my father's death in early May of 1965, less than six months before my 21st birthday, I began to date a 27 year old divorced woman who was living with her parents and her one son.  I took her ice-skating on our first date, and she took me to the heights of sensory pleasure. She helped me: (a) to blow-away the depressive-end of a bipolar 1 disorder mood swing, and (b) to find the energy to complete my studies in history and philosophy with a "B" average, and so continue into my third-year of a four year honours arts degree. 
When I was just entering academia, post-secondary education, in 1963, Susan Sontag published her essay The Anthropologist as Hero. But she would remain on the periphery of my academic life for at least another 40 years. During the next four decades I was kept quite busy working-out the permutations and combinations of: my working life, my marital life, my social and community life, my health and physical life, and my intellectual-reading life.
Part 2:
Sontag’s 1963 essay was an interpretation of the work of the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss in his Tristes Tropiques.  Lévi-Strauss(1908-2009) was the man who created anthropology as a total occupation, involving a spiritual commitment like that of the creative artist, the adventurer, or the psychoanalyst.  He was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer and Franz Boas, the "father of modern anthropology."  I remember seeing his 1962 publication The Savage Mind on the bookshelves of the McMaster University bookshop in 1963, or perhaps sometime from 1964 to 1966.  After the passing of more than half a century details like this are often, at best, good guesses.  In 1966 I graduated with a pass degree in sociology, and decided to take a one year teacher training course at what is now the University of Windsor.  With a B. Ed in my pocket I would be able to get a job as a teacher in Canada's eastern Arctic where I also decided, some time in late 1965 while studying sociology, to get a teaching job in a primary school.
The Savage Mind was and is, for many people, Levi-Strauss’s most important work.  In my four years of university I swam in print across a range of social science and education studies subjects. I have been swimming in the waters of the printed word ever since, more than half a century: 1963 to 2014.
 Part 3:
A considerable shift has occurred from the orientation to anthropology of Lévi-Strauss in the 1960s to ‘activist’ anthropology in which the anthropologist’s emotions are acknowledged and legitimised as part of anthropology’s ethnographic process. With the heroic activist anthropology of Levi-Strauss came the tendency to assume a single Euro-American vision of rights and responsibilities as universal, although in some contexts this has been in direct conflict with the sovereignty, the opinions and desires of some informants.   
Since the 1960s, though, anthropologists have increasingly come to study groups that are located ‘at home’; the analogy between fieldwork and a heroic journey into the unknown that Sontag posited has become only one model of the work of the anthropologist.  Fieldwork is now carried out in places—the hospital, the airport, the office—that would have been unthinkable several decades ago.
Part 3.1:

In these explicitly de-exoticised contexts of home and hearth, of the workplace and in a variety of contexts: urban and rural environments as well as sub-cultures closer to home, anthropologists took the field into new domains.  They were held accountable to their informants, and they were able to demonstrate a heroic honesty with regards to their subjects of study.  It is suggested that the generalised perception of anthropologists from outside the discipline, though, has not taken these new sorts of heroisms into account.
Reading Sontag’s essay 'The Anthropologist as Hero' today, half a century later, with its sensitive rendering of the anthropologist as a figure beset by doubt, by pessimism, by a constant questioning of his own knowledge and emotions, suggests the extent to which the tradition of Lévi-Strauss did help to usher in the self-reflexive, that is, highly introspective, inward-looking tradition in ethnographic writing.
Part 4:
Sontag was an empathetic rather than an objective critic and interpreter of Lévi-Strauss; she dismissed quite quickly other schools of thought and other anthropologists, for example Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown, as ‘nonsense.’(2)  It is not my intention to focus on Lévi-Strauss and the core of anthropology from the 1950s and early 1960s before it made its appearance in my youthful academic life; nor is it my intention here to suggest that any divergence from this anthropological tradition constitutes a betrayal of its origins. There were several anthropological orientations before the subject came into my life in the 1960s, and Levi-Strauss’s approach was but one.

In a review of a 400 page book entitled Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory by Patrick Wilcken we read: "Lévi-Strauss saw himself as a spiritual medium more than an author. ‘I don’t have the feeling that I write my books,’ he said. ‘I have the feeling that my books get written through me. I never had, and still do not have, the perception of feeling my personal identity.’  In Tristes Tropiques, the memoir of his fieldwork among the Indians of Brazil, he called the self ‘hateful’.  Everything he wrote aimed to puncture the notions of will and agency that cluster around the human subject. The critique of the subject was central to structuralism, the school of thought he helped to found. He existed, he wrote in those memoir’s closing paragraphs, not as an individual, but as ‘the stake … in the struggle between another society, made up of several thousand nerve cells lodged in the anthill of my skull, and my body, which serves as its robot’. His work, he said, was just as mortal as he was: it would be ‘childish’ to think he could escape the ‘common fate’."

"Levi-Strauss's style of structural anthropology fell out of favour among ethnographers long ago; its mathematical diagrams of cultural rules now look like relics of some mid-20th-century technocratic fantasy. Yet Lévi-Strauss, who died in 2009 at the age of 100, is in no danger of being forgotten.  This French anthropologist and ethnologist has been called, along with James George Frazer and Franz Boas, "the father of modern anthropology". The work of Lévi-Strauss was also a key in the development of the theory of structuralism and structural anthropology.  Readers here would benefit from a review of what constitutes (i) structuralism at:, and (ii) structural anthropology at:

Levi-Strauss was often honored by universities throughout the world; he held the chair of Social Anthropology at the Collège de France from 1959 to 1982, and was elected a member of the Académie française in 1973. For more on Levi-Strauss go to these two links: and

Part 5:

Activism, the de-territorialisation of the traditional informant, and fieldwork without travel have all been logical responses to specific historical circumstances and needs as they evolved from the 1960s to the 21st century in this particular social science subject.  During the 20th century, several factors began leading more anthropologists away from the bipolar notions of foreign savagery versus Western civilization, and the perception of anthropology as the study of exotic people in faraway places.

As a discipline anthropology moved more towards the study of urban cultures in general. A strong influence in this direction was the discovery of vast regions of the world thanks to a significant increase in human mobility, which had been brought about, among other factors, by the fast expansion of the rail network and the popularisation of travel in the late Victorian era. This meant that, by the mid 20th century, it was generally perceived that there were relatively few undiscovered “exotic” cultures left to study through “first contact” encounters. T
oday more and more anthropologists are dedicating themselves, not just to observing, but to understanding and helping solve social problems wherever they occur—in international aid organizations, British TV studios, American hospitals, or racist enclaves in Eastern Europe, for example.

Part 5.1:

In Exotic No More: Anthropology at the Front Lines, an initiative of the Royal Anthropological Institute, some of today's most respected anthropologists demonstrate, in clear, unpretentious prose, the tremendous contributions that anthropology can make to contemporary society.  This 2002 publication was edited by Jeremy MacClancy.  MacClancy also was responsible for a 2005 study of the popular literary image of anthropologists. After an impressive consideration of 170 works of fiction involving anthropologists, MacClancy discussed two types of  anthropologists he found mentioned in literature: the heroic and the pathetic.  The pathetic anthropologist is incapable of normal human interaction and emotion at home, and prefers to observe even the intimately social from a position of cool analytical superiority and detachment.
The inspiration for going into anthropological fieldwork, then, can be that of the brilliantly talented heroic anthropologist who has a whole range of intellectual disciplines clamouring to include him or her in their ranks. He or she chooses anthropology, in this model, because anthropology means doing things, not just reading about them. The heroic anthropologist is seen as: high minded, sexually attractive & aware, compassionate, engaged but, in the final analysis, boringly predictable.  
Part 6:
It is the other model of the anthropologist, the pathetic anthropologist, not the heroic one, who overwhelmingly dominates the works of mostly Anglophone fiction that MacClancy has analysed.(3)-Ron Price with thanks to (1)Wikipedia, with the publication of her 1963 essay The Anthropologist as Hero, and her 1964 essay Notes on Camp, Sontag became an international cultural and intellectual celebrity. Her best known works include: On Photography, Against Interpretation, The Way We Live Now, Illness as Metaphor, Regarding the Pain of Others, The Volcano Lover and In America.
In The New York Review of Books in late 2012, indeed on 19/12/’12, Sontag was referred to as "one of the most influential critics of her generation;”(2)  I leave it to readers with the interest to do a little study of other schools and theories in anthropology; and (3)Anthropology Matters Journal, 2007, V. 9, N. 1: http://
I never really had a big-chew
of the anthropological cake,
until ‘90, as I was beginning
my final decade as a teacher
and lecturer, tutor and adult
educator, and as I was at last
getting fully compliant on my
bi-polar disorder medication.
Now, a quarter-century later,
and with the age of 70 on the
time-horizon, I am still chewing
that cake in little chunks. There
are so many other intellectual- 
literary cakes in my burgeoning
world of knowledge and study.

These cakes are literally exploding
all around me on the internet, and 
giving me buckets-full of stuff; it's
enough to sink any man’s ship in
the sea of boundless thoughts, a
dynamic power in the arteries of
our planetizing world, the Earth.
Not until the sea boils up will the
waves rise, & scatter their pearls
of knowledge on the shore of life.(1)
(1) Abdul-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, Baha’i Pub. Trust, Wilmette, 1975(1957), pp.109-110.-Ron Price, 14/7/’13 to 27/2/'14.


Within the last fifty or so years, culture, as a topic, has moved into the foreground of history, criticism, politics, current events and our daily lives. This was clearly apparent to me back in the 1960s when I first studied sociology over some 7 different courses in four years, 1963 to 1967. Culture was back then, as it is now, no longer merely confined to the quiet spaces of art institutions, or the yellowing pages and memories of the keepers of folktales and myths. An awakening occurred that "the masses had culture and culture had a mass . . . what's more culture mattered".  So writes Michael Denning in his book Culture in the age of three worlds (London: Verso, 2004, 300 pages).  Culture, he says, contributed and contributes to the wealth of nations in ways that move beyond the accumulation of treasures in museums, galleries and collections, and "the general process of intellectual, spiritual & aesthetic development." (R. Williams,1983, Keywords(London, 1983, Fontana, p.90)...Culture is, in fact, a way to "win the battle of democracy" (Denning, 225) as we see "new forms of struggle and solidarity in places we never thought to look" (Denning, 234).

Michael Dennings' book Culture in the age of three worlds discusses the rise of cultural studies as a phenomenon generated from the demise of the three worlds and the rise of global economies and politics. At the onset, Denning plays the role of the omnipotent sage analyzing and interpreting cultural developments over the last fifty years; Denning does not side with one definition of culture over another, one theory of its force, or manifestation in our evolving global civilization. Nor, does he answer Jonathan Tomlinson's challenge that "What we need to understand is not what culture is, but how people use the term in contemporary discourse."

Christine Boyko-Head is the author of the above paragraphs which are part of a review of Denning's book in the online journal Other Voices: The ejournal of Cultural Criticism(V.3., N.1, May 2007). Boyko-Head is a professor in the Creative Arts in Learning program at Lesley University, Cambridge, MA. She resides in Southern Ontario and travels to various program sites in the USA and Israel to teach arts integration. Her articles have been published in Slippery Pastimes: A Popular Culture Reader, Journal of Canadian Studies,Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, Theatre Research in Canada and the Baylor Journal of Theatre and Performance to name a few. She is a playwright, poet, freelance journalist, producer and has recently completed her first novel based on the life of Laura Secord. Her second novel will be part of a mystery series for reluctant readers. For more go to:


There is in the Bahá'í teachings a clear, but complex and yet to be fully articulated, vision of the future society that is already taking embryonic form even as old orders collapse. "Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life."  To achieve this, a series of evolutionary steps are envisaged, from the relatively rapid agreement on a political peace between nations, through the gradual spiritualization of societies around the world, to the achievement of a world commonwealth and the flowering in centuries to come of a rich and diverse world civilization in a golden age, before the continuing development of new potentials and the inevitable loss of momentum and deterioration in any human system require another process of spiritual renewal. Go to this link for more:


Part 1:

Norbert Elias, The Symbol Theory, edited by Richard Kilminster (Dublin: UCD Press, 2011; Collected Works, vol. 13) was the last book Elias completed before his death. It is now found in the thirteenth volume of Elias's Collected Works soon to be published. It contains much that is new. Elias wrote it when he was already effectively blind, and the dictated text was not easy to follow. Now Richard Kilminster has made the numbered sections into separate chapters and given each of them a thematic title which, at a stroke, makes apparent the overall architecture of a remarkable book.

The Symbol Theory situates the human capacity for forming symbols in the long-term biological evolution of Homo sapiens.  Elias shows how symbols are linked through communication and how they help human beings orient themselves for the very survival of the group. Elias proceeds to recast the question of the ontological status of knowledge, moving beyond the old philosophical dualisms of idealism/materialism and subject/object. He readjusts the boundary between the 'social' and the 'natural' by interweaving evolutionary biology and the social sciences. The Symbol Theory provides nothing less than a new image of the human condition as an accidental outcome of the blind flux of an indifferent cosmos.

Part 2:

Elias was still dictating a new Introduction to this book over the weekend before he died on Wednesday 1 August 1990.  It was published in an incomplete version. Now, however, it has proved possible to retrieve from 'floppy disks' the last parts he wrote - indeed the last academic statements of his life - and incorporate them into a trenchant new version of the Introduction. Among other things, he makes passing remarks about his friend Pierre Bourdieu and, of special interest, launches a devastating critique of Jacques Derrida. When Elias died I was just beginning to teach the subject of anthropology and I have now enjoyed a quart-century of teaching and/or study of this social science.

Finally, in the course of reconstructing the Introduction, Kilminster gleaned information from two of his last student assistants, Mieke van Stigt and Willem Kranendonk, about Elias's way of working in the last phase of his life. He dictated to an ever-changing team of assistants, who had to read back to him whatever the last passages were, whereupon Elias would begin dictating again. Sometimes the assistants were not always sure for which of several ongoing projects the new text was intended! This new evidence goes a long way to explaining why some of Elias's very last work can seem rambling and repetitive. But the new edition of The Symbol Theory makes clear that this is a misleading impression: Elias's intellect remained keen and sharply focused until the very end.


Part 1:

As Price’s travelling-pioneering life moved on from place to place, he taught pre-school children, all ages in primary school, adolescents and then adults, from age 21 to old men and women, in their late adulthood(60-80) and old-age(80+).  He taught an incredible array of subjects, mostly self-taught: sociology, history, psychology, human relations, behavioural studies, the history of ideas, social sciences, English literature, politics, ancient history, welfare studies, communication studies, media studies, management studies, philosophy, anthropology, and on and on.  The learning of these subjects was solitary work.  But the teaching of it was inevitably social, interactive, always spurred on by his desire to plant seeds for future harvests.  

By the fourth epoch of Abdul-Baha's Divine Plan, that is by his mid-forties in the late 1980s, a certain other-worldly ambition had begun to animate his life. Although many of his students came to be close to him few, except in 1972, acquired the loyalty and devotion to the Cause to which he had devoted his life, at least since his late teens and early twenties. Although his faith in this Cause was shaken severely on two, perhaps three, occasions, his belief system weathered the storms, the tempests, that were harrowing-up the souls of mankind. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript.

Part 2:

As need and curiosity prompted, the English writer George Bernard Shaw taught himself shorthand and bookkeeping, penmanship and public speaking, economics and etiquette, score-reading and dialogue writing.  Most of this autodidactism was solitary work spurred on by a kind of other-worldly ambition...Shaw never had disciples...He added to his information or shifted his batteries, but his faith has been the same since its first stilted expression in the early fiction. -Jacques Barzun, The Energies of Art: Studies of Authors Classic and Modern, Harper and Brothers, NY, 1956, p.251.

So much of what we do and think
has unknown origins and goes
toward unknown destinations.

It has nothing to do with the moral,
but is simply part of the vague and
multiform spectacle of human life.

Human tendencies are so various,
circumstances far too complex,
for a single definition of the game.

Then, there are those moments
when we are alone, deeply, on
a summer day with the lonely sky
blue, pure, and I am not running,
thrust into the maelstrom, and the
busyness, the booming and buzzing
confusion of it all as James called it.

This presence of God vanishes with
others unless I keep remembering:
"Enter thou among My servants,
And enter thou My paradise."(1)

I ripen all that I write in the dark,
waiting for the death of self, that
I may be nothing and so then walk,
untrapped by mind, my heart ready 
for the descent of heavenly grace.*

(1) Baha’u’llah, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952. 
*    ibid., p. 51.

Ron Price
15/9/'95 to 27/2/'14.


While the famous American writer Saul Bellow was writing his final exams in sociology and anthropology at Northwestern University in 1937, the American Baha'i community launched its first Seven Year Plan.  The first epoch of 'Abdu'l-Baha's Divine Plan was finally put into action after a hiatus of nearly twenty years. Bellow went on to write 15 books, and receive the National Book Award an unprecedented three times. The international Baha'i community, in 1937 some 100 to 150 thousand strong, went on to more than five million by century's end and the completion of their Arc Project on Mt. Carmel.-Ron Price with thanks to Marian Christy, Boston Globe Online, November 15th, 1989, p.81.

He tried to instruct and entertain
to seize the moment
with his powerful mind.

He said our task
was to understand,
to accept our fate,
not master it.

With age he was less
vulnerable to negative opinions
and had a strong sense of
the impersonal about self.

He prayed when depressed,
as I have for years;
and we seized the moment
as we tried, usually in vain,
to accept our fate
with radiant acquiescence.

Ron Price
16/5/'03 to 27/2/'14.


Critical theory, a type of framework for the analysis of society in the field of sociology, was first defined by Max Horkheimer of the Frankfurt School of sociology in his 1937 essay Traditional and Critical Theory. Critical theory, Horkheimer wrote, is a social theory oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole, in contrast to traditional theory oriented only to just understanding or explaining society.  The implementation of the first systematic teaching Plan of the North American Baha’i community was put in place that same year. The Baha’i teachings were also oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole, but on an entirely different basis to Max Horkheimer and the Frankfurt School of sociology.

Horkheimer wanted to distinguish and establish critical theory as a radical, emancipatory form of Marxian theory. His theory contained a critique of the model of science as an absolutist system of truth and fact. It was also a critique of what he and his colleagues saw as the authoritarianism of orthodox Marxism and Communism. The core concepts of his critical theory were: (1) that it should be directed at the totality of society in its historical specificity, in how it came to be configured at a specific point in time, and (2) that it should improve the understanding of society by integrating all the major social sciences, including geography, economics, sociology, history, political science, anthropology, and psychology.(1)

The Baha’i teachings as they have been enunciated, written and interpreted within the Baha’i administrative order have evolved from the writings of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah. They, too, are directed at the totality of society and aim at an integration of all the major social sciences. They provide a vital, dynamic theoretical structure with a deep historical consciousness. It is a consciousness that sees truth as relative. This relativistic historical outlook creates an open, tolerant and liberal system of thought. These teachings possess a dialectical worldview with a basis in humanistic and democratic premises, and a view of reality as in a perpetual state of flux and change.(2)-Ron Price with thanks to (1)Wikipedia and (2)Nader Saiedi, “Dialogue With Marxism,” Circle of Unity: Baha’i Approaches to Current Social Issues, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1984, pp. 235-256.

I got into sociology and the Baha’i Faith
in a serious way back in ‘63-4 when my
teen-age years were closing…and as the
full institutionalization of a charismatic
Force was finally taking place. My own
world was disturbed by a disorder little(1)
understood by me or anyone back then.

Sociology and this new Faith are still part
of me more than half a century later, both
critical theory and the Baha’i Faith as the
emerging world religion----transformed in
those years, those decades, as a tempest
has blown over the planet uprooting its
institutions and harrowing-up the souls
of billions of the peoples of this world.

(1) bipolar I disorder

Ron Price
22/8/'10 to 27/2/'14.


Part 1:

In watching the ABC TV’s four part series “Mafia: Mafia? What Mafia,” screened on Monday evenings at 9:35 to 10:30 p.m. from 25 February 2008 to 17 March 2008, I could not help but notice the stark contrast between two organizations that had their origins in the mid-nineteenth century, organizations with psycho-ethnic-national-spiritual-historical roots that are obscure and complex even to the specialist. One of these organizations I belonged to and one I had heard about, read about and seen discussed in the media for half a century, from my youth in the 1950s and 1960s until just yesterday. After watching yet another discussion of the mafia on ABC TV, I felt moved to write this mostly prose poem of contrast and comparison, two threads in my life: a thin one I only experienced in the print and electronic media and the other one that occupied a thick vein in my life, that had become part of my outer and inner life for over half a century.

At the end of the 19th century The Sicilian ethnographer, a Palermo physician, Giuseppe Pitre wrote: “the mafia is the consciousness of one’s own worth, the exaggerated concept of individual force as the sole arbiter of every conflict, of every clash of ideas or interests.”1 Beginning with this consciousness, this paradigmatic psychology, an entrenched culture or “industry of violence” had developed in Sicily by the mid-19th century. Leopoldo Franchetti described the mafia in Sicily in 1876, in one of the first written reports on the mafia, as a culture, a way of life, an industry of organized destructiveness and terror deeply rooted in the institutions of mid-19th century Sicily. By the 1960s this culture had become embodied in an international organization whose direction of development was logical, indeed, hardly surprising given its embryonic origins and ethos.-Ron Price with thanks to Nancy Triolo, “Mediterranean Exotica and the Mafia "Other" or Problems of Representation in Pitre's Texts,” Cultural Anthropology,Vol.8 No.3, pp.306-316.

Part 2:

At the end of the 19th century, in 1890, the well-known Cambridge University Orientalist Edward Granville Browne met Bahá'u'lláh, the successor to the Báb whose teachings had been both popularized and anathematized in the 1840s in an Iranian bloodbath far more extensive than anything that occurred in Sicily. By 1890 Bahá'u'lláh had been a prisoner and an exile from Iran for almost 40 years. His teachings were at first shrouded in obscurity but gradually they came to light in a vast literary output and exegesis by His successors. His followers were, and still, are considered heretics in Iran. Some 20,000 Babis, Baha’u’llah’s precursors, and Baha’is were brutally exterminated in the half century 1844 to 1894.

Today Baha’u’llah is recognized by several million of His followers around the world as the Divine Teacher for this age. According to Bahá'í belief, such Teachers have included: Moses, Abraham, Christ, Muhammad, Krishna and Buddha, among others. They have appeared at intervals throughout history to found the world's great religious systems. They have been sent by an utterly mysterious, completely obscure, profoundly perplexing, forever unknowable Creator to enable humankind to bring its current level of civilization to greater heights of achievement and knowledge, larger units of social and political organization, indeed, new and wonderful configurations deriving from the power of thought. –Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 5 March 2008.

Part 3:

A lot can happen in 150 years,
on this earth, this veil of tears.
It has been a century & a half
of endless fear....still it is near.

With feather not with hammer
I would wish to lightly brush
the sleep-fast windows of this
dozing world where my brother,
unwitting, lies innocently curled
as the flames leap lush and the rank
winds yammer...tongues lick the door,
lap the sashes. Wingless, I clamber and
songless scream surrounded by patterns
of private withdrawal as obscure in their
psychology as they are transparent in their
very noisey and noiseless external shape.

Ron Price
5/3/'08 to 27/2/'14. 


My poetry describes a lifeworld, a domain of the everyday, an immediate social existence, a practical activity, with all its habituality, its crises, its vernacular and idiomatic character, its autobiographical peculiarities, its decisive events and indecisive strategies. It describes beliefs and what happens to them when invoked, activated, put to work and realized in daily life. It describes how people, especially me, experience time, space and everyday reality. You could call my poetry a type of phenomenological autobiography. -Ron Price with thanks to Michael Jackson, editor, Things As They Are: New Directions in Phenomenological Anthropology, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1996, pp.7-8. (This is not the Michael Jackson who authored, with Sharon Lucas, the book Great Beer Guide: The World's 500 Best Beers, D.K. Publishing, Inc., 2000); nor is it the Michael Jackson who died today, 26 June 2009).

It all goes by so many names,
names known only to a few
who live amidst certain kinds
of books. Sartre called this
everydayness our 'situation',
Wittgenstein our 'environment
of a way of acting', Habermas
our 'field of intersubjective
communication'. Others, many
others: our local moral worlds,
worlds experienced, primary...
experience, our immediacy.....

This poetry is an instrumentality,
a way of knowing the gritty........
the obscure drama of this every..
dayness, a way of saying that this
great lived complexity cannot be
possessed, controlled, captured or
pinned down only awakened to a
transitory brightness1 by some, any
inconstant wind, some invisible
influence, some root and blossom
of thought, my thought, thought that
tries to live on its own and tell of its
happiest moments, its tragedy, its vast
tracks of quotidian simplicities and its
journey from the abode of dust to the...
heavenly homeland2.....yes, that’s it!!

1 Shelley, A Defence of Poetry.
2 Baha'u'llah, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.4.

Ron Price
26 June 2009


But in our lives we have often ignored those small creatures, who do not seem to hold out much scholarly promise as we have defined the ethnographic imagination. At a theoretical level babies constitute for most of us a non-subject, occupying negative space that is virtually impervious to the anthropological gaze. Moreover, those studies that do privilege infants have been sidelined from mainstream conversations in cultural anthropology. Infants still occupy a marginal place in academic literature and in autobiographies early childhood usually gets only a passing nod while middle and late childhood get a more deserving place. The ethnography, the study of infants is still in its infancy.

Discussion of the social matrix of children’s lives appears to be developing rapidly in several fields of the social and bheavioural sciences. From the early work of Philip Aries in 1962 history and sociology are especially fertile grounds and signal encouraging paths for emerging discussions of children as culturally situated.

Developmental psychologists routinely define ‘‘infancy’’ rather strictly as the period encompassing birth to the onset of ‘‘toddlerhood,’’ which in their definitions normatively begins at the age of two years. The transition from the end of the second year to the beginning of the third is taken by psychologists as a benchmark of the latest date at which the young child begins to understand and respond to linguistic communication and can walk effectively without constantly falling.


One thing my poetry does is to trace the potential uniqueness of the recent past: mine, my society’s, my religion’s. Part of the trajectory of this unique individual and social experience is the erosion of personal memory and significance into history’s grey wash. Memory is associated with personal life and the construction of its meaning. History is the reconstruction, organization, of society’s past. Individuals and society are “hopelessly forgetful”, suffer from historical amnesia, the draining of traditional memory. Sites of memory exist: museums, archives, cemeteries, etc., places that mark the ritual of a society without ritual, places simultaneously full and empty of meaning. Of course, there are also places where the living heart of memory exists: places of special refuge, sanctuaries of spontaneous devotion and silent pilgrimage amidst the jostle and noise. This poetry is one of a memory so full in a world where memory is lost; a poetry which records a history so complete in a world where it has also become so empty.-Ron Price with thanks to Peter Redfield, “Remembering the Revolution, Forgetting the Empire: Notes from the French Bicentennial”, Visualising Theory: Selected Essays From Visual Anthropology Review: 1990-1994, Lucien Taylor, ed., Routledge, NY, 1994, p. 334.

There’s been construction and reconstruction
going on here for years. I’m not going to let it
all go into some kind of vacuum, some vague
and tenuous series of lines going back to the
start of my life, to those mud pies and meccano
toys in spring in Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

The pioneering trip, track, journey, experience,
after two dozen towns, can leave one hopelessly
forgetful, with what you might call a historical
amnesia, as empty as so many of those cemeteries,
those archives, where stone and paper fill the space
available and you pass them in the car or beside the
office wall as if you were passing some indefinable
combination of being and nothingness.

Ron Price
8 April 2000