Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Manual of Ethnography

The Manual of Ethnography

Marcel Mauss
Translated by Dominique Lussier
Edited and introduced by N. J. Allen
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Manual of Ethnography
    Book Description:

    Marcel Mauss (1872-1950) was the leading social anthropologist in Paris between the world wars, and hisManuel d'ethnographie, dating from that period, is the longest of all his texts. Despite having had four editions in France, theManuelhas hitherto been unavailable in English. This contrasts with his essays, longer and shorter, many of which have long enjoyed the status of classics within anthropology. We are therefore pleased to present, in the English language for the first time, this extraordinary work that is based on the more than thirty lectures Mauss delivered each year under the title "Instructions in descriptive ethnography, intended for travelers, administrators and missionaries." Despite his dates, Mauss's treatment of fundamental questions, such as how to conceptualize and classify the range of social phenomena known to us from history and ethnography, has lost none of its freshness.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-553-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Abbreviations and Conventions Used in Notes
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    N.J. Allen

    Marcel Mauss (1872–1950) was the leading social anthropologist in Paris between the world wars, and hisManuel d’ethnographie,dating from that period, is the longest of all his texts. Despite having had four editions in France,¹ theManualhas hitherto been unavailable in English and is seldom cited in the Anglophone literature. This contrasts with his essays, longer and shorter, many of which have long enjoyed the status of classics within anthropology, and some of which (notablyThe Gift) have even transcended disciplinary boundaries.² It is easy to think of reasons why theManualhas been neglected; for a...

  6. 1 Preliminary Remarks
    (pp. 7-10)

    The course of lectures published here mainly seeks to address practical questions; it is meant to teach how to observe and classify social phenomena.

    One might see in these lectures simply an accumulation of useless details. But in fact, each of the details mentioned here presupposes a whole world of studies. Thus biometry, seeking to establish the curve of age distribution, presupposes statistics and probability theory; the study of colours requires, together with some knowledge of physics, familiarity with the Chevreul and Broca scales. What may appear to be futile detail is in fact a digest of principles.

    The field...

  7. 2 Methods of Observation
    (pp. 11-18)

    The method of extensive fieldwork, consisting in seeing as many people as possible within a given area and time, was widely practised at the period when all that mattered was to collect as fast as possible the largest possible number of objects that were likely to disappear, and to stock the museums that had just been created.

    The extensive method in many cases makes it possible to identify a location where a more intensive study can be carried out later; qualified travellers can, in the course of a large-scale survey, decide which tribes are to be selected for a return...

  8. 3 Social Morphology
    (pp. 19-23)

    By society is meant asocial group, usually named both by itself and by others, whether large or small, but always large enough to include secondary groups – two being the minimum, normally living in a particular place, having its own specific language, constitution and, often, tradition.

    The most notable difficulty, which has to be decided more or less arbitrarily at first, then worked through in the course of the investigation, is the determination of the social group under study. In fact, one should not rely on the name the natives give themselves, a name that most often means ‘man’, ‘noble’,...

  9. 4 Technology
    (pp. 24-66)

    The history of technology – of the study of techniques – is a recent one: the studies launched by the Encyclopaedists were not pursued by their successors. The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, the Horniman Museum in a London suburb, and the Cologne museum offer excellent examples of the history of techniques.

    Techniques are to be defined astraditional actions combined in order to produce a mechanical, physical, or chemical effect, these actions being recognised to have that effect.

    It will sometimes be difficult to distinguish techniques from:

    1) the arts and fine arts, since aesthetic activity and technical activity are on...

  10. 5 Aesthetics
    (pp. 67-96)

    Aesthetic phenomena form one of the largest components in the social activity of human beings, and not merely in their individual activity. An object, an action, a line of poetry is beautiful when it is recognised as beautiful by the majority of people of taste. This is what people call the grammar of art. All aesthetic phenomena are in some degree social phenomena.

    It is very difficult to distinguish aesthetic phenomena from technical ones, for a particular reason: a technique is always a series of traditional actions; a series, that is to say an organic concatenation, designed to produce an...

  11. 6 Economic Phenomena
    (pp. 97-106)

    Of all the moral phenomena, economic ones are those that remain most firmly grounded in matter. They are usually classified among material phenomena, side by side with techniques. But they are not merely material phenomena; they are collective representations governing the attitude of members of a society towards matter.

    By definition, an economic phenomenon is a social phenomenon, one governing a whole set of activities concerning objects that may be more or less necessary, but are all commonly called ‘goods’. The economic side of these phenomena distinguishes them from purely technical actions: it may be a service that is paid...

  12. 7 Jural Phenomena
    (pp. 107-155)

    In the field of ethnology we [in France] understand by law (droit) what the Anglo-Saxons call ‘social anthropology’, which means in fact our jural and moral sociology. As society becomes more and more secular, the role of morality increases. In our society, morality plays a more important role than law. Law remains unconscious among us, and becomes conscious only in situations of conflict (for example, the marriage contract). The opposite is found in primitive societies, where the individual is all the time immersed in a flux of prestations and counter-prestations; here, custom extends into the smallest acts of family life....

  13. 8 Moral Phenomena
    (pp. 156-158)

    All legal systems are moral phenomena, but morality is not wholly included in the law.¹ Being a matter of which people are clearly and organically aware, involving precise reactions, law corresponds to expectations that are defined in advance by the whole community, including the guilty and those who lose their cases. Just like the phenomena of religion, esthetics, and so on, jural phenomena are enveloped in a diffuse, amorphous mass of phenomena related to law without actually being law in the strict sense. Around religion there is magic, divination and above all popular superstitions; around law, there is morality.


  14. 9 Religious Phenomena
    (pp. 159-202)

    The whole series of lectures published in this book starts off from the study of material phenomena and ends up with the study of ideal phenomena. Thus the chapter on law precedes this chapter on religion. Since it involves objects, persons and actions –res, personae, actiones– law still contains an element of the material. Indeed, the fundamental mistake of mentalist sociology is to forget that collective life involves objects, that some of its phenomena are material. A philosophy that conceives of cognition (mentalité) as something given in itself forgets that it is given only in relation to material phenomena. Law...

  15. Index
    (pp. 203-216)