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T. M. S. Evens

This essay argues that the Manchester case study method or situational analysis has theoretical implications more radical than Gluckman was in a position to see, implications bearing on the nature of the reality of society. In effect, the essay is an anthropological exercise in ontology. It maintains that the problems situational analysis was designed to address were integral to, and hence irresolvable in, the Durkheimian social ontology then characterizing British social anthropology, and that situational analysis insinuated an altogether different ontology. The latter is adumbrated here by appeal to certain Heideggerian concepts in an effort to bring into relief the unique capacity of situational analysis to capture social practice in its dynamic openness and, correlatively, in relation to human agency as a distinctively creative force.

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Twins Are Birds and a Whale Is a Fish, a Mammal, a Submarine

Revisiting 'Primitive Mentality' as a Question of Ontology

T. M. S. Evens

Refuting the rationalist implication that the Nuer statement “twins are birds“ is dumb, Evans-Pritchard held that the statement should be taken as a figure of speech. Against his interpretation, I argue that the Nuer, at the time of Evans-Pritchard's research, understood their statement to be true in an ordinary sense. In effect, my argument continues to suppose that the perception of the world implicit in the Nuer statement differs in a fundamental way from that of moderns. However, instead of having to conclude that the Nuer statement about twins and birds is indeed dumb (or that we have never been modern in any distinguishing sense), my argument develops an ontological thought-experiment that theorizes the relative validity of the Nuer perception.

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Introduction

The Ethnographic Praxis of the Theory of Practice

T. M. S. Evens and Don Handelman

The ethnographic extended-case method, also known as situational analysis, was a diagnostic of the Manchester School of Social Anthropology—and today it remains an ethnographic practice of remarkable relevance and promise. Originated by Max Gluckman, the method was intended to use case material in a highly original way. Instead of citing examples from ethnography in apt illustration of general ethnographic and analytical statements, as was common in the discipline, Gluckman proposed to turn this relationship between case and statement on its head: the idea was to arrive at the general through the dynamic particularity of the case. Rather than a prop, the case became in effect the first step of ethnographic analysis. Underlying this methodological reversal, though, was a theoretical pursuit pertaining to an enveloping, indeed a suffocating, problem endemic to structural functionalism and implicating a social ontology radically different from this dominant paradigm.

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Preface

Theorizing the Extended-Case Study Method

T. M. S. Evens and Don Handelman

The essays composing this section vary in their purport and approach, but nonetheless address in common a number of questions that cut across at least any two of the essays, thus exhibiting what Wittgenstein spoke of as family resemblance for the lot. These include the question of dualism, of the relation between the micro and macro realms of social life, of the differences among the variants of the Manchester case method, of the determination of the boundaries of a case, of the part played by conflict theory in the development of the extended-case method, of the importance of the creative or emergent moment in the unfolding of a case, of the nature of the logic involved in analyzing a case, and, above all, of the intimate connection between the social-scientific turn to process and the creation of the extended-case method.

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Preface

Historicizing the Extended-Case Method

T. M. S. Evens and Don Handelman

In 1949, Gluckman was appointed to the new Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, with the intention of founding a new department. At the time, he was teaching at Oxford, in Evans-Pritchard’s department. During the visit there of a Dutch colleague, Gluckman was introduced to him as leaving shortly for Manchester. He responded: “Ah, in the same way as X has left the department at ______ to go to ______.” Evans-Pritchard remarked: “No, not in the same way. X is a refugee; Gluckman is a colonist” (Gluckman 1972: x). Gluckman, the colonial and colonist, remained devoted to Evans- Pritchard, his mentor, and hankered from time to time to find his way back to the Oxbridge ecumene.

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Preface

Extended-Case Studies—Place, Time, Reflection

T. M. S. Evens and Don Handelman

Extended-case studies originated and flourished in multiple sites in Central Africa as British colonialism waned. The extended-case study method was created and shaped in response to complex social situations that emerged from and through ongoing and at times profound changes in the ways in which social and moral orders were put together. The extended case and situational analysis have from their very beginnings been cognate with complexity in social ordering, with the non-linearity of open-ended social fields, and with recursivity among levels of social ordering. Manchester methods originated as a result of profound shifts in the practice of anthropology and contributed to turning these changes into the practicing of ethnographic praxis. Yet over time, the explicit valuing and evaluating of Manchester perspectives disappeared from view. Witness the inane, reductionist comment by George Marcus (1995: 110) (a member of the American lit-crit hit mob of the 1980s), limiting “the extended-case method” (with no mention of Manchester) to “small-scale societies,” where it has been “an established technique … in the anthropology of law” (with no mention of Gluckman).