Marilyn Strathern Bibliography Meaning

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A still room where one hears the clock ticking, a quiet voice speaking with great clarity. A sense of privilege accompanied my reading Descombes, a sense that I was being invited to share something rather rare and fine—and the translator’s exquisite rendition of this text, first published in Paris in 1996, must be part of that impression. A nonphilosopher reading the book is reminded of the virtues of scrupulous analytic reasoning; an anthropologist, of anthropology’s enduring premise about the contextualizing power of social life. How to account for what we take for granted when people apparently understand one another? Given the endless argumentation surrounding this question and its variants, there is much to consider and much to dispose of. The author does raise his voice at times, of course, as for example when dissipating the mirage of social totalities imagined as indivisible collections of elements—as collectivities that are more than the individuals who compose them. Descombes instead favors the complexity of structural holism (following in the path of Louis Dumont), which requires a specification of relations and their logic. Thus, one of Descombes’s excursions takes in “the gift” and the fallacy of rendering interaction as a question of dyadic relations. Without the third term of an institution or law of giving, there could be no gift. The realism of triadic relations is a holism, he writes, reducible neither to the positivism of dyadic relations nor to the atomism of monadic terms. Anyone writing the history of British social anthropology might wonder what the effect of this argument might have been had this book appeared in English in (say) 1956 or 1966. But then, that was the very time when Dumont’s writing was gathering force, and for myself I take from Descombes the thought that Dumont’s criticism of A. R. Radcliffe-Brown’s British legacy (collective representations and dyadic relations alike) deserves reappraisal. The hands of the clock keep coming around to the same hour; this book is highly pertinent to the way much anthropology is still being written. [End Page 321]

Marilyn Strathern

Dame Marilyn Strathern is life president of the British Association of Social Anthropologists, William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology emerita at Cambridge University, and a life fellow of Girton College. A fellow of the British Academy and an honorary foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, her many books include The Gender of the Gift; Kinship, Law, and the Unexpected: Relatives Are Always a Surprise; Partial Connections; After Nature; Women in Between; Reproducing the Future; Property, Substance, and Effect; Kinship at the Core; and No Money on Our Skins: Hagen Migrants in Port Moresby.

Copyright © 2016 Duke University Press

Dame Ann Marilyn Strathern, DBE (née Evans; born 6 March 1941)[1] is a Britishanthropologist, who has worked largely with the natives of Papua New Guinea and dealt with issues in the UK of reproductive technologies.[2] She was William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge from 1993 to 2008, and Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge from 1998 to 2009.

Early life[edit]

Marilyn Strathern was born to Eric Evans and Joyce Evans in North Wales on 6 March 1941.[2][3] She married fellow anthropologist Andrew Strathern in 1965 and they had three children together before ending their marriage. Her first formal education experience was at Crofton Lane Primary School, followed by her attendance at Bromley High School. Strathern excelled academically, in part thanks to support and guidance from her mother, a teacher by trade.[2] Following school, she enrolled in Girton College to study Archaeology and Anthropology. She then became a research student there[4] and went on to obtain her PhD in 1968.[3]


Strathern has held numerous positions over her career, all of which involved her work with the people of Papua New Guinea and her expertise in feminist anthropology. Her career began in 1970, when she was a Researcher for the New Guinea Research Unit of the Australian National University, followed by a stint from 1976 to 1983 where she was a lecturer at Girton College and then Trinity College from 1984-1985, occasionally making guest lectures at the University of California, Berkeley in the United States,[3] Europe and Australia.[5]

She left Cambridge to become Professor of Social Anthropology at Manchester University in 1985. She then returned to Cambridge for the final time to take the position of William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology until her retirement in 2008. During this time, she also held the position of Mistress of Girton College from 1998 to October 2009.[4][6] Strathern was also co-opted member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics while also chairing the Working Party on "Human bodies: donation for medicine and research" from 2000 to 2006 and 2010 until 2011.[7]

Field Work in Papua New Guinea[edit]

From her doctoral thesis published in 1972 titled "Women in Between"[6] to her more recent publications, Strathern is constantly challenging the definitions and social constructs of gender "norms". In her piece "Self-Interest and the Social Good: Some Implications of Hagen Gender Imagery" (1981), Strathern notes that "[g]ender imagery is… a symbolic mechanism whereby "collective" and "personal" interests are made to seem to be of different orders".[8] As editor of a collection of articles in "Dealing with Equality: Analysing gender relations in Melanesia and beyond", she also brings to the surface the issue of gender "equality" and what it really means, asking if the definitions of the Western world are in fact correct, or if there is still a sense of patriarchal dominance.[9]

Taking this approach when studying in such fields as societies in Papua New Guinea has allowed Strathern to push the boundaries of thought on such topics as reproductive technology, intellectual property, and gender in both Melanesia and the United Kingdom.[6]

Strathern has spent much time among the Hagen of Papua New Guinea.[8] From here she has developed one of the main themes occurring across her work, that the world is ontologically multiple.[8][9][10][11][clarification needed] The world is made up of identifiable parts; however, these parts are not separate from one another. She does not address society specifically, but rather looks at socially-constructed multiple realities which exist interdependently with one another.[11]

Reproductive Technologies[edit]

Strathern's work in the 1990s became the basis for a new subdiscipline in anthropology concerned with new reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization. In her two 1992 publications, After Nature: English Kinship in the Late 20th Century and Reproducing the Future: Essays on Anthropology, Kinship and the New Reproductive Technologies, Strathern argued that existing models of nature and culture were transformed by the explicit use of technology to achieve reproduction. In the co-authored study Technologies of Procreation: Kinship in the Age of Assisted Conception she and her colleagues proposed that new definitions of kinship and descent would emerge as a result of the expansion of new reproductive technologies. These studies paved the way for what has since come to be known as the new kinship studies.[12][13]

Selected publications[edit]

Strathern is the author of numerous publications, including 44 single-authored journal articles, 57 book chapters, and over 15 books written alone or with another author.[6] Her topics vary from Melanesian culture to the culture of the United Kingdom. Strathern’s publications on the Melanesian culture focus on gender relations, legal anthropology and feminist scholarship, while her publications on the culture of the United Kingdom lean towards kinship, audit culture, reproductive and genetic technologies.[4] The book she enjoyed writing the most, according to an interview with the American Anthropological Association in 2011, was Partial Connections, written in 1991.[5] Her most famous book, however, is The Gender of Gift published in 1988.[3]

In The Gender of Gift, she uses a feminist approach in a new way to argue that Papuan women are not being exploited, but rather the definition is different.[clarification needed] Gender, she notes, is defined differently there than it is in the United Kingdom.[14] Strathern also brings to the surface the fact that theories are dominating themselves and while she knows as an anthropologist, she cannot separate herself from them, she does state that she offers a "narrative" over an analysis of the situation.[14]

Other Publications[edit]

  • Self-Decoration in Mount Hagen (1971)
  • Women in Between (1972)
  • No Money on Our Skins: Hagen Migrants in Port Moresby (1975) ISBN 0-85818-027-8
  • (ed. with C. MacCormack) Nature, Culture and Gender (1980) ISBN 978-0-521-28001-3
  • Kinship at the Core: an Anthropology of Elmdon, Essex (1981) ISBN 0-521-23360-7
  • The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia (1988) ISBN 0-520-07202-2
  • Partial connections. Savage, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield (1991). Re-issued by AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, CA. (2004)
  • After Nature: English Kinship in the Late Twentieth Century (1992) ISBN 978-0-521-42680-0
  • Reproducing the Future: Essays on Anthropology, Kinship and the New Reproductive Technologies (1992) ISBN 978-0-719-03674-3
  • (with Jeanette Edwards, Sarah Franklin, Eric Hirsch and Frances Price) Technologies of Procreation: Kinship in the Age of Assisted Conception (1993) ISBN 9780415170567
  • Property, substance and effect. Anthropological essays on persons and things. London: Athlone Press (1999) Collected essays, 1992-98 ISBN 0-485-12149-2
  • Commons and borderlands: working papers on interdisciplinarity, accountability and the flow of knowledge (2004) ISBN 0-9545572-2-0
  • (ed. with Eric Hirsch) Transactions and creations: property debates and the stimulus of Melanesia (2004), Oxford: Berghahn.
  • (ed) Audit Cultures. Anthropological studies in accountability, ethics and the academy. (2000) London: Routledge.
  • Kinship, law and the unexpected: Relatives are always a surprise. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2005) ISBN 0-521-61509-7


In 1987, she was elected Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).[15]

  • Foreign Honorary Member, American Academy of Arts & Sciences (1996)[4]
  • Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to Social Anthropology (2001)[4]
  • Rivers Memorial Medal, Royal Anthropologist Inst. (1976)[4]
  • Viking Fund Medal, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (2003) (last awarded in 1972.[5])
  • Huxley Medal (2004)[4]
  • 30th Anniversary Independence Medal, Papua New Guinea (2005)[4]

In 2000, artist Daphne Todd was commissioned by Girton College, Cambridge, to paint a portrait of Mistress Marilyn Strathern. This painting, which depicted Marilyn with two heads on separate panels, went on to win Todd the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ Ondaatje for Portraiture in 2001.[3][16]

Honorary degrees[edit]

  • Honorary Degree Sc. Edinburgh (1993)[4]
  • Honorary Degree Sc. Copenhagen (1994)[4]
  • Honorary Degree Lit, Oxford (2004)[4]
  • Honorary Degree Pol., Helsinki (2006)[4]
  • Honorary Degree, Panteion University, Athens (2006)[4]
  • Honorary Degree Sc., Durham (2007)[4]
  • Honorary Degree Philosophy, University Papua New Guinea (2009)[4]
  • Honorary Degree Social Sciences, Belfast (2009)[4]
  • Honorary Doctorate, Australian National University (2015)[17]


13. Strathern, M. (1992, 17 May). The decomposition of an event. Retrieved from

External links[edit]

  1. ^"Birthdays", The Guardian, p. 35, 2014 
  2. ^ abcVideo Recording of Marilyn Strathern by Alan Macfarlane, 6 May 2009.
  3. ^ abcdeUniversity of CambridgeArchived 15 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Marilyn Strathern.
  4. ^ abcdefghijklmnopGirton College, 2010 Past Mistresses: Marilyn Strathern
  5. ^ abcAmerican Anthropological Association, 2011. Inside the Presidents Studio - Marilyn Strathern.
  6. ^ abcdAssociation for Social Anthropology in OceaniaArchived 18 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine. by Mark Maosko and Margaret Jolly, April.
  7. ^Nuffield Council on Bioethics, 2012. "Past Council Members." London, England.
  8. ^ abcMarilyn Strathern. 1981 "Self-Interest and the Social Good: Some Implications of Hagen Gender Imagery." Pp. 370-391 in Readings for a History of Anthropological Theory,edited by Paul A. Erickson and Liam Murphy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  9. ^ abMarilyn Strathern. 1987 "Dealing with inequality: analyzing gender relations in Melanesia and beyond." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  10. ^Mikala Hansbol, "Marilyn Strathern, ontological multiplicity and partial connections." Mikalas Klumme: A Researchers Blog.
  11. ^ abMarilyn Strathern 2005. Kinship, Law and the Unexpected: relatives are always a surprise. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  12. ^Carsten, Janet (2004). After Kinship. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521661986. 
  13. ^Franklin, Sarah; McKinnon, Susan (2001). Relative Values: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822327967. 
  14. ^ abMary Douglas 1989, "A Gentle Deconstruction." The London Review of Books. London: London Review of Books 11(9): 17-18.
  15. ^"STRATHERN, Dame Marilyn". British Academy Fellows. British Academy. Archived from the original on 22 June 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  16. ^Times Higher Education, 2001 "Capturing a two-headed creature." England:London.
  17. ^"ANU honours influential anthropologist". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
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