Rethinking E.E. Evans-Pritchard

Dr Chris Morton is currently working on a major new monograph for Oxford University Press on the fieldwork and photography of renowned 20th-century anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard.

The book will offer a new insight into the way in which Evans-Pritchard’s theoretical contributions to the discipline were shaped by the historical contexts of his fieldwork, colonial and academic structures, the agency of his local informants, and his extensive visual and material interests. Arguing that Evans-Pritchard’s role as a photographer and collector of artefacts, vernacular texts and sound recordings has been completely overlooked in the historiography of the discipline of anthropology, the book will set Evans-Pritchard’s fieldwork and published results in their historical context for the first time, examining the colonial and academic networks that funded, facilitated and collaborated with him. It will discuss the extent to which Evans-Pritchard can be considered complicit in the attempt to expand colonial control over groups such as the Nuer in the Sudan, or whether he is better understood as a critic of the colonial administration – someone who used colonial funding for anthropology to increase sympathy for indigenous peoples.

The book will also examine how Evans-Pritchard's enormous theoretical contribution was developed through a particular set of fieldwork methods and events that informed the development of his ideas. These fieldwork practices involved capturing data photographically, textually, materially and aurally. These records would frequently be referred to later in writing his articles and monographs, and frequently drawn upon in the texts themselves.