Professor of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
Ruth Adams Building 312
Phone: (732) 932-1139
Ph.D. Australian National University, 1969
Anthropology and social theory (especially primitivist thought), history of anthropology, kinship, anthropology of religion (especially pseudo-procreative thought), the ethnographic study of human nature; Aboriginal Australia, Lowland South America
Most of my current research is in kinship studies, particularly with a view to an extended critique of the so-called "performative" kinship studies inspired primarily by David Schneider and more recently taken up by Marshall Sahlins. I believe that the performativists are demonstrably wrong in arguing that criteria such as commensality, co-residence, and early nurturance have the same semantic status as procreative criteria, that the last-named nearly always provide a model for other means of establishing kinship, and that, throughout the world, kinship is based on the nuclear family. Moreover, I am concerned with the sloppiness of performativist analyses, their hegemonic aspirations in the current academic environment, and their subscription to antediluvian Durkheimian and Marxist models of human sociality - all of which, I believe, bode badly for the future of higher education. I argue that these models provide a critique of Western Civilization that is largely unwarranted, that lends itself to authoritarian and utopian thinking, and that is therefore fundamentally at odds with a free society. Those interested in a more extended treatment of these theses are directed to my recent articles:
"Contesting Marshall Sahlins on Kinship" (OCEANIA 2014), "Toward a Post-Schneiderian Perspective on Kinship" (JOURNAL OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH 2016), and "Fifteen Complaints Against the New Kinship Studies: (ANTHROPOS 2018). I have also edited a Festschrift in memory of Professor Harold Scheffler which has recently been published by The Australian National University Press.