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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Jack Goody reviews Maurice Godelier

Jack Goody reviews Métamorphoses de la parenté by Maurice Godelier in New Left Review. Us not too familiar with French or other books more urgent than this to read should get a good idea what Godelier's work is about from Goody's review. The first paragraph:
THE LABYRINTH OF KINSHIP

This is a blockbuster of a book. Nothing like it has been written since Lévi-Strauss’s Structures élémentaires de la parenté (1949) or Meyer Fortes’s Kinship and the Social Order (1969). Yet in the sweep of its evidence and argument, Godelier’s summa is more ambitious and far-reaching than either of these. It is at once a major intervention in the discipline of anthropology, and a work of the widest human interest. Kinship has the reputation of being the most technical department of anthropology, the least accessible to a general public. But while Métamorphoses synthesizes a huge range of complex materials, it is written in an unfailingly lucid style that makes no assumptions of professional familiarity with terms and debates about kinship, but always takes care to explain them in language anyone can understand. The book is both a monument of scholarship and a gripping set of reflections on universal experience. It is certain to be read and discussed for years to come.
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