International Encyclopaedia
of the Histories of Anthropology

Sir Raymond Firth (1901-2002), born in New Zealand/Aotearoa, is a leading figure in British social anthropology. Initially trained in economics, he converted to anthropology through Malinowski’s seminars at the London School of Economics. Firth became Malinowski’s disciple before succeeding him in 1944. His ethnographic fieldwork in Tikopia, a small Polynesian island, took place in 1928, after which he produced a series of very detailed monographs, the first (We The Tikopia, 1936) being the most famous. With his wife Rosemary, he also did fieldwork in Malaysia (1939-1940). A representative of classical anthropology, Firth is nonetheless counted as a renovator in view of the importance he gives to the individual, his reflections on transgression, the margins and the flexibility of social structures, his major contributions to economic anthropology and the affirmation of new grounds for the discipline, beyond so-called ’primitive’ societies. His exceptional longevity adds to his almost legendary status.

Keywords: Functionalism | Social British Anthropology | British colonialism | 20th century | United Kingdom | Malaysia | New Zealand/Aotearoa | Australia | Tikopia | Maori | Social structure | Economic anthropology | Bronislaw Malinowski | Radcliffe-Brown | London School of Economics

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