Sahlins, Marshall (b. 1930)
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American anthropologist; Ph.D. from Columbia University under Steward and Fried, 1954. Fieldwork in Oceania (Hawaii, Fiji). Sahlins started out as a neo-evolutionist and ecologically oriented anthropologist, and wrote a number of influential works with this orientation, in part inspired by Polanyi's substantivist economic theory, in the 1950's-70's (see especially Stone Age Economics, 1972). After the middle of the 1970's, however, he foreswore his earlier beliefs in a heavy critique (inspired by French structuralism) of materialist and other forms of utilitarian theory in anthropology (Culture and Practical Reason, 1976). In the years to come, he developed a critical theory of the construction of history (Islands of History, 1985). While retaining his interests in history and practice, he has also moved on to studies of "the indigenization of modernity", which has become a keyword for many researchers working with indigenous responses to globalization. The phrase, as Sahlins uses it, attempts to strike middle ground between scenarios that depict indigenous cultures as doomed to extinction and indigenous proclamations of reified cultural continuity.

Sahlins' large production has ranged across an unusually broad range of anthropological interests, and he has several times changed his theoretical orientation radically. Throughout his career, however, he has remained a theoretically and socially engaged anthropologist, who, it might seem, is more deeply committed to the issues under study than to the theoretical framework through which he studies them.

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