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A concept used to indicate the "environment" that surrounds a phenomenon (e.g. a statement, an act, an event), that constitutes its "ground" (see Gestalt theory). It is often said that a phenomenon's significance and meaning cannot be understood if it is not "seen in context"; what people do and say must be understood on the background of the totality of their lives (see also holism). Methodologically, the term "context" implies e.g. that one must make an effort, during fieldwork, not to narrow the scope of one's inquiry too much, and not to get too fascinated by the details, but include as far as possible the relevant surroundings in our descriptions.

For texts concerned with context on AnthroBase, click here:

To see the reading list for a university level anthropological course on context, click here: