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Senior Research Seminar: Professor Robert Anderson

When Nov 11, 2016
from 04:15 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Edmund Leach Seminar Room, Social Anthropology
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Professor Robert Anderson
(Simon Fraser University and University of Cambridge)

Highland Burma, Edmund Leach, and the formation of an anthropologist

Edmund Leach considered Political Systems of Highland Burma [PSHB] to be his most important work, but its origins are not well known. Grounded in six years of his life in northern Burma (1939-1945), that book was also strongly informed by his training as a young engineer at Cambridge (1929-32), an apprentice businessman in China (1933-36), and a first-time anthropological-adventurer in Taiwan (1937) and in Iraq (1938).

What can we conclude about the effects of these experiences after his departure from highland Burma in 1945? All that intense conflict, tests of loyalty and kinship, risks of deception and betrayal, the opportunities missed and realized, the struggle over space and resources: how much of it did he put in his 1947 dissertation and how was that received? And then how do we interpret the restless eight years at LSE (1945-1953) during which he arranged the complex and intriguing components of PSHB. Which parts of the past were included? Which were left behind?

 By reflecting back on Leach’s experience and knowledge as they shaped PSHB and seeking the yet as undiscovered links to the younger Leach and his formation, rather than, as customary, examining its impact, can we uncover a more nuanced reading of this seminal work?

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