Big Man, Anthropology of

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    5 Scopus citations


    Referring to achieved leadership (often contrasted with inherited "chiefly" rank), "big man" has come to stand for a type of political organization closely associated with, although not limited to, Melanesia. This article locates the term's early uses, tracks developing analyses, and notes the shifting place of these studies vis-à-vis larger scholarly arguments. Contemporary trends include waning interest in classic comparativist typology building in favor of historically and culturally situated understandings of personhood and social action: attentive to gendered and emergent class relations, to nation-making and governance dilemmas, and to the impacts of international agencies and corporate interests on local communities and environments.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
    PublisherElsevier Inc.
    Number of pages7
    ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
    ISBN (Print)9780080970868
    StatePublished - Mar 26 2015

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • General Social Sciences


    • Big man
    • Chief
    • Comparative anthropology
    • Crony capitalism
    • Democracy
    • Economic development
    • Egalitarianism
    • Gender
    • Gift exchange
    • Historical change
    • Leadership
    • Melanesia
    • Oceania
    • Papua New Guinea
    • Political systems
    • Weak states


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