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Simplicity and complexity in anthropology

John M. Ingham (Based in the Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 6 February 2007




This paper aims to o review understandings of complexity in anthropology.


A number of works in the field of anthropology are discussed.


Anthropologists generally agree that human behavior is complex, although they differ about the meaning of complexity. For many in this era of postmodernism, it involves emphasizing cultural differences and social contexts. Earlier interests in underlying cultural meanings and structures, meanwhile, have become somewhat passé. Nonetheless, some social anthropologists, encouraged by chaos science, continue to explore hidden meanings and structures. While there is much to like in their attention to ethnographic detail, one concern is their metaphorical use of the science of chaos. Another is failure to deal with intention and agency.


Lévi‐Strauss doubts that psychoanalysis has anything substantial to contribute to anthropology. This conclusion helped to set the stage for postmodernist anthropology, and its consequences are evident in the works under review here.



Ingham, J.M. (2007), "Simplicity and complexity in anthropology", On the Horizon, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 7-14.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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