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Culture comes home

Anthropology began life in the colonial era as the "science of difference." Does it still have a place now that difference is celebrated and everything has a "culture"? Its new role may be to act as a a counterweight to evolutionary psychology's stress on the fixity of human nature.

By Nancy Hynes   March 1999

In 1898, seven men left the British Isles with a ship full of the latest scientific equipment. They set out to record a changing culture, and to determine whether Torres Strait Islanders experienced the world in the same way as someone in the shires of England. They tested colour perception, recorded genealogies and took photographs. Several of them returned home to become founding figures in the social sciences: Alfred Haddon in anthropology at Cambridge, and WHR Rivers in experimental psychology. Through their work, British social anthropology was born.

Today, a century later, the voyage which seemed so long and risky…

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