International Encyclopaedia
of the Histories of Anthropology

Maurice Godelier (1934–) is one of the founders of Marxist anthropology and economic anthropology in France. Assistant to Claude Lévi-Strauss at the Collège de France at the beginning of his career, he went to Papua New Guinea for the first time in 1967, among the Baruya of the Eastern Highlands. There he studied male domination and the ritualised production of “great men” within a hierarchical society. Until 1988, he returned there eight times, observing the many changes affecting Baruya society. Godelier developed comparative theoretical thinking on anthropological topics concerning all human societies: the forms and functions of power, kinship and its metamorphoses, and the presence of imaginary nuclei at the heart of social relations. He was elected director of studies at the École de hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in 1975. From 1982 onwards, he played an important role in the organisation of French scientific research as director of social and human sciences at the CNRS. In 2001, this institution awarded him a lifetime achievement Gold Medal. From 1997 to 2000, he was scientific director of the Musée du quai Branly (Paris). He is the author, among other works, of: Rationality and Irrationality in Economics (1972); Perspectives in Marxist Anthropology (1977) ; The Making of Great Men. Male domination and Power among the New Guinea Baruya (1986); The Mental and the Material. Thought, Economy and Society, (1986); Big Men, Great Men : Personifications of Power in Melanesia (with Marilyn Strather, 1991) ; The Enigma of the Gift (1998); The Metamorphosis of Kinship (2012), In and Out of the West: Reconstructing Anthroplogy (2009); and Claude Lévi-Strauss, A Critical Study of His Thought (2018).

Keywords: Philosophy | Marxism | Anthropology of the body | Oceania | Papua New Guinea | Baruya | Economic anthropology | Kinship anthropology | Family and kinship | Incest | Initiation rituals | Power | Big Man | Gift | Domination

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