April 25, 1906|
Britstown, Cape Colony
January 27, 1983 (aged 76)|
|Known for||Tallensi and Ashanti|
|Academic advisors||Bronisław Malinowski|
Originally trained in psychology, Fortes employed the notion of the "person" into his structural-functional analyses of kinship, the family, and ancestor worship setting a standard for studies on African social organization. His famous book, Oedipus and Job in West African Religion (1959), fused his two interests and set a standard for comparative ethnology. He also wrote extensively on issues of the first born, kingship, and divination.
Fortes received his anthropological training from Charles Gabriel Seligman at the London School of Economics. Fortes also trained with Bronisław Malinowski and Raymond Firth. Along with contemporaries A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, Sir Edmund Leach, Audrey Richards, and Lucy Mair, Fortes held strong functionalist views that insisted upon empirical evidence in order to generate analyses of society. His volume with E. E. Evans-Pritchard, African Political Systems (1940) established the principles of segmentation and balanced opposition, which were to become the hallmarks of African political anthropology. Despite his work in Francophone West Africa, Fortes' work on political systems was influential to other British anthropologists, especially Max Gluckman and played a role in shaping what became known as the Manchester school of social anthropology, which emphasized the problems of working in colonial Central Africa.
- 1940. African Political Systems (editor, with E. E. Evans-Pritchard). London and New York: International African Institute.
- 1945. The Dynamics of Clanship among the Tallensi.
- 1949. The Web of Kinship among the Tallensi.
- 1959. Oedipus and Job in West African Religion.
- 1969. Kinship and the Social Order.
- 1970. Time and Social Structure.
- 1970. Social Structure (editor).
- 1983. Rules and the Emergence of Society.
- Parker, John (November 2013). "The dynamics of fieldwork among the Talensi: Meyer Fortes in northern Ghana, 1934-7'". Africa. Cambridge University Press. 83 (4): 623–645.
- Lecture by Meyer Fortes on Talensi divination followed by a discussion with students. Filmed 1982 by Audio Visual Aids Unit in Cambridge
John Henry Hutton
| William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology Cambridge University
1950 - 1973