Chris Knight (anthropologist)

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Chris Knight (born 1942) is a British anthropologist and political activist.



Chris Knight teaching in Delmenhorst, Germany, 2006.

Following an MPhil in Russian Literature from the University of Sussex in 1977,[1] Knight gained his PhD in 1987 at the University of London for a thesis on Claude Lévi-Strauss's four-volume Mythologiques. He became a lecturer in anthropology at the University of East London in 1989 and a professor at the same institution in 2000.[2] Knight is a founding member of the ''Radical Anthropology Group (RAG).[3] He is currently Senior Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology, University College London.[4]

Chris Knight speaking in 2007.

Knight is best known for his theory that human language, religion and culture emerged in the human species not simply by gradual Darwinian evolution but in a process culminating in revolutionary social change. In this, he claims to be following in the footsteps of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, who in their later years were fascinated by what was then the new science of anthropology.[5] Knight published his first book, Blood Relations: Menstruation and the origins of culture in 1991.[6] In 1996, he co-founded the EVOLANG series of international conferences on the origins of language, since when he has become a prominent figure in debates on the origins of human symbolic culture and especially the origin of language.


Initially a supporter of the Militant tendency, Chris Knight was later a founder editor of the journal Labour Briefing[7] (he remains on the board[8]) and has a long record of political activism. Although a Marxist,[9] he is often mistakenly described by the press as an anarchist.[citation needed] During the build-up to the 2009 G-20 Summit in London, he was involved in a street theatre group known as The Government of the Dead. Statements he made at this time in an interview[7] for the London Evening Standard[6] (and the PM programme[10]) led the Corporate Management Team at the University of East London to charge him with 'gross professional misconduct', 'insubordination' and 'bringing the university into disrepute'. He was suspended on 26 March 2009[2] and, despite a petition signed by 600 academics and others, was 'summarily dismissed' on 22 July 2009.

On 28 April 2011, Knight was one of three people arrested "on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance and breach of the peace". The three were planning a mock execution of the Duke of York in Central London the following day, to coincide with the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.[11][12][13][14] On 30 November 2011, he was one of 21 'Occupy London' activists arrested and later charged with public order offences for occupying the Haymarket (Central London) offices of the mining company Xtrata. On 8 August 2012, Knight and his co-defendants were all found not guilty.[15]

Selected works[edit]



Defending science
Decoding Noam Chomsky
Popularising "The Human Revolution"

Radio Broadcast[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robin Dunbar, Chris Knight and Camilla Power (eds), The Evolution of Culture: an Interdisciplinary View (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), p. viii
  2. ^ a b Richard Rogers and Paul Lewis, "Professor suspended over claims he incited G20 violence" The Guardian, 27 March 2009
  3. ^ A Brief History of RAG. Retrieved 30 April 2011
  4. ^
  5. ^ Frederick Engels, 1884. The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State
  6. ^ a b Melanie Newman, "UEL suspends 'Mr Mayhem' and cancels alternative G20", Times Higher Education, 2 April 2009
  7. ^ a b David Cohen, "Meet Mister Mayhem", Evening Standard (thisislondon website), 25 March 2009
  8. ^ "About Labour Briefing" Retrieved 30 April 2011 (Labour Briefing is the present title)
  9. ^ Interview for Ready Steady Book, 2 March 2006 Retrieved 30 April 2011
  10. ^ Fiona Hamilton, "Anarchist professor Chris Knight suspended after G20 'threat'", The Times, 26 March 2009
  11. ^ David Batty, "Royal wedding protest: three anti-capitalist activists arrested" The Guardian, 28 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011
  12. ^ Zombie Wedding invitation Retrieved 29 April 2011
  13. ^ Robert Booth, Sandra Laville and Shiv Malik, "Royal wedding: police criticised for pre-emptive strikes against protesters" The Guardian, 29 April 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2011
  14. ^ * [[File:Knight, C. and C. Power 2012. Arrest for Attempted Street Theatre. Anthropology Today, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 24–26.]]
  15. ^ 16 Occupy London activists found not guilty

External links[edit]