Marilyn Strathern - Biography#


Marilyn Strathern (nee Ann Marilyn Evans) was born in 1941 in North Wales. She was educated in social anthropology as part of her BA, MA and PhD degrees at Cambridge University, where she worked with both Edmund Leach and Meyer Fortes. Her doctoral thesis, later published as Women in Between (1972), was the first ethnography of that period to focus on Melanesian women, and, like much of her subsequent writing, was prescient, foreshadowing an emergent feminist anthropology which revolutionised the discipline and cognate fields in the humanities and social sciences. But, from the outset she critically interrogated the mutual relation of feminism and anthropology, and the way in which Western preoccupations were projected onto Melanesian social practices. In a series of scintillating essays and a magisterial comparative work, The Gender of the Gift (1988), she demonstrated how several cognate Eurocentric binariesonature and culture, female and male, subject and object, domestic and publicodistorted anthropological interpretations of Melanesia. That book originated in reflections on her own ethnography of Melpa and Wiru peoples, but assiduously compared contemporary ethnographies of the Highlands, Massim, Sepik, and Gulf regions in Papua New Guinea and the islands of Vanuatu. It entailed not only rigorous comparison but also critical reflection on the comparative method itself and developed an original approach to gender as a fluid code pertaining to permeable and partible persons and things, in mutual relation. Her stress on the notion of relation as mutually transforming inspired her later approach to conceptions of subjects and objects and authorship in Western models of kinship and intellectual property.

Over her career Professor Strathern has published some fifteen books. Among those focused on the Pacific are Women in Between (1972), Self-decoration in Mount Hagen (1971 with Andrew Strathern), Dealing with Inequality (ed. 1987), The Gender of the Gift (1988), Big Men and Great Men: Personifications of Power in Melanesia (1991, with co-editor Maurice Godelier), Partial Connections (1991, ASAO Special Publication no. 3), Property, Substance and Effect (1999), and the forthcoming Transactions and Creations (with Eric Hirsch).

Prof Strathernis publications also include 44 single-authored journal articles and 57 book chapters. Many of these easily qualify as contemporary classics.

(Source: http://www.asao.org/pacific/honoraryf/strathern.htm)

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