Evans-Pritchard, Sir Edward

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Evans-Pritchard, Sir Edward (1902–73). British anthropologist who concentrated on religion and related cultural phenomena. Involved with fieldwork in the S. Sudan during the period 1926–39, Evans-Pritchard's main intention was to show the rationality and coherence of the cultural domain, in order to refute the Lévy-Bruhl thesis of primitive mentality. Theories of Primitive Religion (1965) is a sustained attack on scientific theories of religion, and Nuer Religion (1956) is one of the first detailed studies of a pre-literate religion in which the religious domain is treated non-reductionistically. His approach (known as hermeneutic explanation) is in strong contrast to nomothetic explanation (Gk., nomos, ‘a law’) which seeks to find covering laws or generalizations—e.g. Evans-Pritchard's near-contemporary, A. Radcliffe-Brown (1881–1955). Radcliffe-Brown sought to establish structural principles governing human relationships.