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.
“Raymond Firth, Between Economics and Anthropology”
Freddy Foks, 2020
When Raymond Firth died in 2002, Marilyn Strathern wrote that the world had lost ‘the last of the great founders of social anthropology’ [Strathern, 2002]. Facts about his life can be found in obituaries and in entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and the Proceedings of the British Academy (Bloch, 2002; Davis, 2004, 2011; Strathern, 2002). His personal and professional papers are held at the British Library of Political and (...)