The founder of the Manchester School of Social Anthropology, British born Max Gluckman completed his PhD at Oxford University in 1936. His role as director (1941-1947) for the Rhodes-Livingston Institute helped him to later establish the Rhodes-Livingston Institute as a field research site for a great deal of the work conducted by the Manchester School. Upon leaving the Rhodes-Livingston Institute, Gluckman became a lecturer at Oxford University. In 1949, he began his tenure at Manchester University and worked there until he passed away.
Gluckman is known for his studies on legal systems in traditional African societies. He focused on conflict and conflict resolution in parts of colonial Africa. Gluckman also advocated an anticolonialism stance and was against other forms of social injustice, including racism and classism, at a time when it was not particularly fashionable to do so.
Gluckman’s anthropology was viewed as being unconventional by many outside of the Manchester School, at least partially because of his loyalty and dedication to the Manchester United soccer team. At the time, soccer was viewed as a game for the working class, and Gluckman viewed his department’s support of the Manchester United as symbolic of his desire to lead the Manchester School in examining issues of oppression. Similarly, Gluckman emphasized the importance of history in understanding contemporary societies and was careful to note that social anthropologists study modern societies in all of their forms, rather than viewing less developed societies as being prehistoric or even without history. The Manchester School was also known for having a Marxist orientation, and Gluckman encouraged his students to examine the historical and cultural contexts that influenced colonialism and its impacts on the colonized. As a result of Gluckman’s concern for class issues, he tried to dissociate his department from British anthropology’s historical connections to the upper middle class of England and the conservative ideologies by which it was influenced.
The Manchester School was at its peak from 1949 to the mid-1960s. The link between the Rhodes-Livingston Institute, which served as a field research site for the department during this time, and the Manchester School helped increase the productivity of the department. By the late 1960s, Gluckman began to withdraw from the department, and from 1971 to 1975, he served as a research professor at the Manchester School.
The numerous honors and awards earned by Gluckman include the Wellcome Medal and Rivers Memorial Medal, both awarded by the Royal Anthropological Institute; Mason Lecturer at Birmingham University; Manro Lecturer at Edinburgh University; Frazer Lecturer; President of the Sociology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; and Member of the Human Sciences Committee of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of Her Majesty’s Government. Gluckman’s published work includes numerous articles, book chapters, and several books.
- Gluckman, M. (1954). Rituals of rebellion in SouthEast Africa (The Frazer Lecture 1952). Manchester, UK: University Press.
- Gluckman, M. (1962). Order and rebellion in tribal Africa: Collected essays with an autobiographical introduction. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
- Gluckman, M. (1965). Politics, law, and ritual in tribal society. New York: Mentor Books.