Meyer Fortes

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FORTES, MEYER

FORTES, MEYER (1906–1983), British social anthropologist. Born in South Africa, he settled in England. From 1934 to 1938 he was a research fellow of the International African lnstitute, London; he lectured at the London School of Economics, and at Oxford University (1939–41); was head of the department of sociology, West African Institute, Accra, Gold Coast (Ghana), from 1944 to 1946; and from 1950 until 1973 was professor of social anthropology at Cambridge University. Fortes conducted field research in Central and West Africa and initiated modern ethnographical research in Ghana. He studied ancestor worship, the development of a generalized theory of primitive social structure, and the demographical method in preliterate societies. With Evans-Pritchard he developed the modern theory of primitive political systems, and conducted research on the theory of kinship and social organizations in primitive societies. On the basis of his expertise in this realm, he analyzed structuralist theory and methodology. Among his books were Dynamics of Clanship among the Tallensi (1945) and Oedipus and Job in West African Religion (1959); he edited African Political Systems (1940, 19502). Later he wrote Kinship and the Social Order (1969) and Time and Social Structure (1970).

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odnb online: D.E. Hunter and P. Whitten (eds.), Encyclopedia of Anthropology (1976).

[Ephraim Fischoff]

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Meyer Fortes, 1906–83, British anthropologist, b. Britstown, South Africa, grad. Univ. of Cape Town (M.A., 1926) and the Univ. of London (Ph.D., 1930). From 1946 to 1950 he was a reader in social anthropology at Oxford, and from 1950 to 1973 he was William Wyse professor of social anthropology at Cambridge. An ethnologist, he specialized in African social structures. Among his writings are Oedipus and Job in West African Religion (1959), Kinship and the Social Order (1969), Time and Social Structure and Other Essays (1970), and Rules and the Emergence of Society (1983).

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Fortes, Meyer (1906–83) A South African social anthropologist, passionate defender of structural-functionalism, who spent much of his working life in Britain. His ethnographic work was concerned especially with the kinship system of the Tallensi of Northern Ghana (The Web of Kinship among the Tallensi, 1949) and segmentary political systems (African Political Systems, 1940).