Decoding symbols
Pages 1

If Geertz and Schneider were mainly responsible for grounding symbolic anthropology in a coherent theoretical framework, Turner probably exercised the most influence by sheer ethnographic virtuosity. He carried out fieldwork in the early 1950s as a research officer at the †Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, by then emerging as the African base of the socalled †Manchester school of anthropologists which gathered around its former director Max Gluckman. Turner’s first book, Schism and Continuity in an African Society, was a careful analysis of the structural tensions within Ndembu society, illuminated by the use of vivid case studies. As such, it was a particularly stimulating, but nevertheless conventional, example of state-of-the-art *British anthropology of the time. Turner followed this, though, with a series of extraordinary papers exploring the ritual and symbolism of the Ndembu.