Social and Cultural Anthropology for the 21st Century: Connected Worlds

By Marzia Balzani and Niko Besnier.

We are delighted to announce the publication of our textbook, designed to introduce anthropology to students who are facing the concerns and challenges that are shaping the world in the twenty-first century. This generation of students is struggling with pressing existential issues that are truly global, perhaps for the first time in human history.  With its unique methods and ways of understanding social worlds, anthropology plays a crucial role in making sense of this emerging world. The textbook examines myriad forms of social inequalities as well as the equally diverse creativity that people bring to their actions, reflections, and attempts to transform the world. To ensure that students understand the many contemporary issues we present historically and with conceptual depth, we place them in dialogue with examples drawn from both classic and contemporary ethnographies and with key debates in anthropology.

In writing the book, we have drawn on our combined teaching and examining experience in universities in the United Kingdom, Continental Europe, North America, New Zealand, and the Middle East over a combined period of more than sixty years; our work as chief examiners, team leaders, and curriculum developers for the International Baccalaureate (which again amounts to over fifty years of combined experience); the A-Level anthropology programme for which Marzia Balzani was the first chief examiner; and workshops that we have facilitated for anthropology teachers around the world. The discipline of anthropology has changed significantly over the course of our careers, as have the needs and expectations of students and teachers; we have responded to these changes by focusing our textbook on contemporary issues and ethnographies, while also incorporating exemplary classic works to complement them and to add historical, conceptual, and disciplinary depth.

The textbook begins with introductory chapters (Society and Culture in the 21st Century and Anthropologists at Work) that set out a brief history of anthropology and the key concepts and methods of the discipline, such as relativism, ethics in fieldwork, and applied and activist anthropology. While it is not essential to do so, starting the book by reading these first chapters introduces key anthropological concepts and topics to students new to the discipline.

The remaining chapters are designed so that they can be read in the order in which they appear or in a self-designed sequence. The book moves from chapters focused on aspects of the person in relation to, for example, kinship, the body, and the senses, to chapters that scale up to broader topics, including the nation, media, mobility, and the environment. The text emphasizes throughout the relevance of anthropological knowledge for our contemporary lives and illustrates this relevance with examples from both the Global North and the Global South. Some topics, such as globalization and power, are showcased throughout the book rather than discussed in separate chapter, as some traditional textbooks do. This approach helps us emphasize the interconnected and mediated nature of our contemporary world. 

We have been very fortunate to have had many colleagues generously read and comment on drafts of our work and we are grateful to our students around the world who provided constructive feedback when we trialed textbook material in our classes. From them, we discovered that teachers and students wanted a book written in straightforward language but which does not oversimply the complexities and contradictions of social life. Teachers did not want a textbook that prescribed how to use the material but one that allowed them to do what they do best, namely to use a text to teach in ways that work for them and their students. From teachers we also learnt that the list of key thinkers, key terms, and questions for review at the end of each chapter serve as helpful revision and discussion guides. A glossary lists terms that appear in bold at first occurrence in each chapter.

Given that pages of uninterrupted text can prove daunting for students, the book includes a copious collection of images, including some that were kindly supplied by fellow anthropologists and many illustrating the ethnographies discussed in the text. These images help make the book a pleasure to read and view.

We hope that you enjoy using the textbook in your classes and would encourage you to contact Routledge for an inspection copy at the following:

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