From International Socialism, No.24, Spring 1966, p.36.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The Position of Women in Primitive Societies,
and Other Essays in Social Anthropology
There is little to unify the lectures and essays dating from 1928 to 1963 which make up this collection except that they are all by Professor Evans-Pritchard. This does not, however, prevent it from being a useful volume for the anthropologist. Not only does it bring together a large amount of important information about various peoples of Kenya and Southern Sudan, particularly his speciality the Azande, but it also includes some telling general points of analysis – though the title lecture on the woman problem is surprisingly unilluminating. Particularly interesting are his criticisms of Radcliffe-Brown’s theory of the dance; and distinctions such as those he makes between the sexual interest of obscene songs sung on particular occasions and the special emphasis on the social value of these occasions given by the withdrawal of a taboo merely because it is prohibited under normal circumstances; and between outright purchase of a wife and a system of bride-wealth where, for example, in the event of a female child being born to the marriage, divorce no longer entails the return of payments. Whatever the topic Professor Evans-Pritchard treats it with the self-conscious meticulousness of one who remembers that ‘many Azande were convinced that the British doctors were cannibals and performed operations to obtain meat to satisfy this disgusting propensity.’
Last updated on 15.5.2008