Marett Lectures

The Robert Ranulph Marett Memorial Lectureship held at Exeter College, Oxford, and in association with ISCA, is a memorial lecture established in memory of the late R. R. Marett, D.Litt., D.Sc., F.B.A., Rector of the College


On 27 April 2018, Professor Anne-Christine Taylor (Director of Research at the CNRS; emeritus) delivered the 2018 Marett Memorial Lecture, entitled 'Individualism in the Wild: Oneness in Jivaroan Culture'. Amazonian ethnology has long recognized that individual sovereignty is a central value among indigenous lowland groups whose cosmopolitics are premised on the production of persons rather than material property. Jivaroan peoples exemplify this peculiar form of Amazonian ‘Individualism’ to an extreme degree. They were and remain deeply committed to the quest for uniqueness of being and destiny, unconstrained by the claims of any institutionalized form of supra-individual authority. Presumed to be shared by all persons claiming Jivaroan identity – indeed the defining feature of such an identity - the striving of each to become ‘the best of Jivaroans’ through the dedicated cultivation of agonistic stances is paradoxically constitutive of a distinctive social formation remarkable for its resilience and stability over time. My goal in this conference is first to describe the principal manifestations of Jivaroan individualism, then to analyze how it is produced, what kinds of relationality and temporality it implies and how these lead to the making of a society of ‘unequal equals’, before examining some implications of this study for a better understanding of the varieties of individualism and of the polities they are linked to. I thereby hope to bring some fresh insights to the classic problem of Amazonian ‘anti-politics’.


On 29 April 2016, Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo) delivered the 2016 Marett Memorial Lecture, entitled 'The Creole world between inequality and difference'. Controversies over Creole identity are related to fundamental questions
in anthropology. Drawing on material mainly from the Indian Ocean, the lecture attempts to create a dialogue between debates over Creole identity and theoretical questions raised in anthropology concerning the relationship between cultural difference
and social inequality.


The 2014 Marett Memorial Lecture was delivered by Professor Birgit Meyer on 2 May. Entitled 'How to capture the wow: awe and the study of religion', it calls attention to the surplus generated in the interplay of religious things and bodily sensations
and explores its role in politics and aesthetics of religious world-making.


On 27 April 2012, Professor Adam Kuper (Fellow of the British Academy) delivered the Lecture on Anthropologists and the Bible. In it he reflected on a century of debate concerning the anthropology of religion's uneasy, often unacknowledged and usually
one-sided dialogue with biblical scholarship.


On 6 May, Professor Terence S. Turner (Cornell University) delivered the 2011 Lecture, entitled 'Beauty and the beast: Humanity, animality and animism in the thought of an Amazonian people'.



On 29 April 2010, Byron J. Good, Professor of Medical Anthropology at Harvard Medical School and Harvard University, delivered the Lecture on 'Theorizing the 'Subject' of Medical and Psychiatric Anthropology'. Before it, he conducted an interview with
Nick Shapiro of ISCA about his life, work and research.