skip to content

Department of Social Anthropology


The Frazer Lecture

In 1920 a fund was established at the University of Cambridge, on the initiative of the distinguished scholar of classical philosophy F. M. Cornford and others, with the purpose of celebrating Sir James Frazer’s contributions to scholarship. The Sir James George Frazer Memorial Lectures in Social Anthropology have been delivered before universities in the four cities with which Frazer was connected: Cambridge, Glasgow, Liverpool, and Oxford. 

Sir James George Frazer OM FRS FRSE FBA (1854-1941) was born in Glasgow and educated at the University of Glasgow and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated in Classics from Trinity and remained at the College until his death in 1941, with the exception of a year (1907-8) when he taught at the University of Liverpool. A prolific author and a pivotal figure in the development of Social Anthropology, Frazer’s The Golden Bough (published in three, progressively expanding editions from 1890 until 1915) had a substantial influence on the literature and thought of his time, as well as on academic anthropology. Frazer’s friends included the poet, A. E. Houseman, who gave an address before the first Frazer Lecture, and William Wyse, a contemporary at Trinity and also Fellow in Classics, whose bequest to the University endowed a fund for anthropological research which today supports both the William Wyse Professorship in Social Anthropology and a range of scholarships, bursaries, and other support schemes for postgraduate students in our field.

The Cambridge Frazer Lectures:

1923 (26 Nov)        
Rev Canon John Roscoe (Honorary Canon of Norwich), Immigrants and their Influence in the Lake Region of Central Africa

1927 (2 March)
Robert Ranulph Marrett (Reader in Cultural Anthropology in the University of Oxford, Rector of Exeter College), The Diffusion of Culture

1931 (26 Nov)
Arthur John Evans, The Earlier Religion of Greece in the Light of Cretan Discoveries

1935 (14 May) 
Alan Henderson Gardiner, The Attitude of Ancient Egyptians to Death and the Dead

1939 (24 Feb)
Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown (Professor of Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford and Fellow of All Souls College), Taboo

1943 (26 May)
John Linton Myers (Formerly Wykeham Professor of Ancient History in the University of Oxford), Mediterranean Culture

1948 (13 May)
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard (Professor of Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford and Fellow of All Souls College), The Divine Kingship of the Shilluk of the Nilotic Sudan

1952 (14 May)
Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf (Professor of Asiatic Anthropology in the University of London), The After-Life in Indian Tribal Belief

1955 (7 March)
Raymond Firth (Professor of Anthropology in the University of London), The Fate of the Soul: An Interpretation of Some Primitive Concepts

1959 (5 March)
Monica Hunter Wilson (Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town), Divine Kings and the ‘Breath of Men’

1963 (6 May)
Kenneth Lindsay Little (Reader in Anthropology, University of Edinburgh), Voluntary Associations and African Social Change

1967 (10 March)
Lucy Mair (Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics), Witchcraft and Society

1971 (18 Nov)
Frederick Russell Eggan (Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago), The Rituals of Headhunting in the Mountain Province, Philippines

1976 (5 March)
Mary Douglas (University College, London), Mistletoe

1982 (30 April)
M. N. Srinivas (National Institute for Advanced Studies, Bangalore), Some Reflections on the Nature of Caste Hierarchy

1983 (14 Oct)
Fredrik Barth (Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo), Symbol, Worldview and Creativity in Some Inner New Guinea Religious Traditions

1987 (30 Oct)
Robin Horton (Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religion, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), Back to Frazer?

1992 (5 March)
Godfrey Lienhardt (Emeritus Reader in Social Anthropology, University of Oxford and Fellow of Wolfson College), Frazer’s Anthropology: Science and Sensibility

1996 (22 Nov)
Alfred Gell (Reader in Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science), Royal Ritual and Coercive Deference in Central India

2001 (11 May)
Chris Hann (Director, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle), Culture as Superstition

2004 (6 May)
Clifford Geertz (Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton), Shifting Aims, Moving Targets: On the Anthropology of Religion

2008 (31 Oct) Paul M. Rabinow (Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley), On the Anthropology of the Contemporary

2016 (17 Oct) Jane I. Guyer (Professor Emerita, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore), Anthropological Recuperations: Intellectual and Social