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Urban perspectives
Richard Werbner

Chapter 4 turns from rural research by the home town anthropologist Colson to urban research by Clyde Mitchell, whose lack of a home town in his early life and need to pay attention to railway timetables – his Scottish father worked on the South African railway – may well have been formative for a life-long disposition towards following people newly on the move, especially strangers encountering fresh situations and innovating in towns. Arguably, Mitchell’s formative disposition appears to be dual: both an affinity with mapping, navigating and finding the way through flux and complexity, and also a fascination with empirical bits of the kind a mathematician might parse. Chapter 4 complements a review of Mitchell’s seminal urban studies, especially on the Kalela dance, by giving a full account of the fiercely controversial attack, led by the Marxist sociologist Bernard Magubane, on Mitchell’s work in collaboration with A. L. Epstein. Carrying forward the interest in Gluckman’s impact, this chapter examines the nature of Mitchell’s interdependent, if ambivalent, relation with his mentor and friend, Gluckman, from whom he learned and whom, in turn, he taught, in good measure through restatements and revisions of Gluckman’s work and ideas.

in Anthropology after Gluckman
Richard Werbner

Chapter 5 examines the turn by A. L. Epstein, Clyde Mitchell and others to relational thought, at first primarily about ties of friendship or kinship and about the structures of these ties. Where an earlier generation of anthropologists in the 1930s had turned to science for physicists’ ideas of process theory, in the 1950s, led by John Barnes and later Mitchell, anthropologists fostered an approach to science through mathematics. After Barnes, Mitchell reformulated mathematical concepts in sociological language and brought graph theory and algebraic ideas and methods to bear on the data of interpersonal relations. Chapter 5 shows, also, how Mitchell responded when the tide of social network analysis turned in a fresh direction, sometimes called ‘The Harvard Renaissance’, and towards ‘block modelling’, in part stimulated by very much faster computers and exponentially more powerful computer programs. Of all the interdisciplinary contributions by members of the Manchester School, the ones that are best known, especially in sociology, are their pioneering parts in the development of this huge growth industry: the field of social network analysis.

in Anthropology after Gluckman