The book is a translation of Louis Dumont's lectures on kinship, which provide a comprehensive but also idiosyncratic overview of descent theory and alliance theory for students. These two competing theories of kinship, associated respectively with the British and French schools of social anthropology, as well as the theoretical tendencies of functionalism and structuralism, dominated anthropological theory from the 1950s to the 1970s and are of fundamental historical significance.
Louis Dumont, who died in 1998, was one of the most important figures in post-war French anthropology. He is well-known for his early work on India, which culminated in Homo Hierarchicus (1966; in English 1972, 1980), an anthropological account of the caste system. He later extended this work into a comparison of the values of Indian and western society in works like Essays on individualism (1986) and German ideology: from France to Germany and back (1994). He is also known for pioneering work on kinship in south India and more generally (e.g. Affinity as a value, 1983). The current volume represents the fruits of this side of his activities and originated in as a series of lectures providing an account of the British and French schools for students. Robert Parkin is a Departmental Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford. He has a longstanding interest in the anthropology of kinship, represented by Kinship: an introduction to basic concepts (1997) and Kinship and family: an anthropological reader (2004, edited with Linda Stone). He has also published a full-length study of Dumont in the same Berghahn series (Louis Dumont and hierarchical opposition, 2003).
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