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Durham University

Department of Anthropology

Research Staff

Publication details for Dr Alex Flynn

Martin, K. & Flynn, A. (2015). Anthropological theory and engagement: A zero-sum game? (Respond to this article at Anthropology Today 31(1): 12-14.

Author(s) from Durham


Engagement with pressing social and political issues is often presented as a threat to the elaboration of sophisticated anthropological theory that needs to be protected from such concerns in order to flourish. However the history of anthropological theory demonstrates that some of the discipline's most important contributions have tended to arise as a result of its proponents' desire to engage in such debates. Although we cannot reproduce the cultural models of a previous generation of anthropologists, the future elaboration of ground-breaking anthropological theory depends upon a rediscovery of such engaged work that does not posit engagement versus theoretical development as a zero-sum game.