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Thurnwald, Richard (1869–1954)

Richard Thurnwald, an understudied AustrianGerman anthropologist and sociologist, was known for his comparative studies of social institutions. He was a pioneer in every sense of the word: the first German language ethnologist to do serious fieldwork (in German New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and neighboring areas in Melanesia and Micronesia) and the first to collect a great number of artifacts from this area.

Thurnwald did path-breaking ethnographical, folkloristic, economic, anthropological, and linguistic research. Although he was, in theoretical terms, a functionalist, he paid more attention to history than did Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942). Thurnwald viewed social anthropology from a paradigm that suggested studying social institutions comparatively to better understand their differences and how these differences discerned the essential function of each institution. By making comparisons of functional ...

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