The grey zone, distortion and the ownership of causation

A response to Don Gardner

in Journal of Legal Anthropology
Nigel Rapport University of St. Andrews

Search for other papers by Nigel Rapport in
Current site
Google Scholar
Restricted access

I am grateful (once more) for the attention Don Gardner has paid to my work, in particular to arguments pertaining to individuality and its relation to the aspirations of the social sciences. Let me begin with overlaps he sees between us: (a) prevailing images of what anthropology needed to be, historically (in order to be an adequate science) have led to too great an emphasis on developing taxonomies of cultural variation, along with the generalising and essentialising descriptions this entailed; (b) some of social science's taken-for-granted vocabulary (such as ‘role’ or ‘status’) hampers our understanding of the nature of human agents and the springs of that agency; (c) questions of will and freedom, choice and moral responsibility are subtle and important; engaging with these is a necessary step for strengthening the social sciences, which cannot escape their philosophical roots. Notwithstanding, Gardner would take me to task for my understanding of causation, for not adopting a reasonable view on the hoary issue of ‘free will’ and for not taking account of post-genecentric accounts of human-evolutionary process.

Contributor Notes

Nigel Rapport is Professor in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews. Email:

  • Collapse
  • Expand
  • Emerson, R. W. (1981), The Portable Emerson, ed. C. Bode (New York: Penguin).

  • Giddens, A. (1976), New Rules of Sociological Method (London: Hutchinson).

  • Leavis, F. R. (1972), Nor Shall My Sword (London: Chatto & Windus).

  • Levi, P. (1996a), The Drowned and the Saved (London: Abacus).

  • Levi, P. (1996b), Moments of Reprieve (London: Abacus).

  • Rapport, N. (1990), ‘Ritual Speaking in a Canadian Suburb: Anthropology and the problem of generalization’, Human Relations 43 (9): 84964.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rapport, N. (1993), Diverse World-Views in an English Village (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press).

  • Rapport, N. (2011), ‘The liberal treatment of difference: An untimely meditation on culture and civilization’, Current Anthropology 52, no. 5: 687710.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rapport, N. (2012), ‘Managing the Łódź Ghetto: Innovation and the Culture of Persecution’, in T. Pitsis, E. Dehlin and A. Simpson (eds), The Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Innovation (London: Edward Elgar), 319337.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rapport, N. (ed.) (2017), Distortion: Social Processes beyond the Structured and Systemic (London: Routledge).


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 209 60 13
Full Text Views 30 2 0
PDF Downloads 11 2 0