Letter from the Editor

Welcome to an entirely online, digital research encyclopedia that will ultimately cover the large and increasingly diverse scholarly world of anthropological research. Its articles are based on the latest, most significant research and written by active and well-respected scholars within the discipline. The Encyclopedia builds upon a distinguished tradition at Oxford University Press of publishing authoritative reference works in fields such as Linguistics, American History, Social Work, and Religion.

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology is being developed for researchers, teachers, and students interested in all facets of the study of anthropology. As a scholarly resource, it is a dynamic, constantly evolving research and teaching tool that aims to fill the demand for high-quality, up-to-date reference materials. It combines the high standards of Oxford’s scholarly publishing with the flexibility and accessibility of a digital environment.

Anthropologists employ a stunning diversity of methods, theories, and approaches in their efforts to understand our common humanity, and together, they represent a wide diversity of intellectual traditions. A unique strength of the online encyclopedia is its emphasis on the state of research across this diverse collection of traditions, and its focus on the needs of researchers in anthropology’s many varied subfields. Essays examine the evolution and status of current and past research programs and their dynamics, the significant issues that drive research, and the interaction between theory, methodologies, and empirical realities.

As a centralized digital resource, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology aims not only to organize the field but also to facilitate better communication between the many communities that define it. Working in combination with the more than 30 Oxford Handbooks and Companions on topics related to anthropology, as well as the Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology aims to provide an authoritative guide to both traditional practices and newly emerging traditions that benefits not only students, but also scholars and researchers in its diverse sub-disciplines. The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology is a source of foundational encyclopedic information to new scholars just joining the field, as well as to established scholars and practitioners expanding their research beyond their immediate area of study. The aim is to engage readers and stimulate research by discussing motivations, unresolved questions, and directions for new research. The Encyclopedia’s website is easy to use and intuitive, facilitating multiple paths for researchers and students to find related material, whether within the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology, in OUP’s digital ecosystem, or via direct links to cited sources. These capabilities enable the development of comprehensive understandings of significant topics, as well as the creative exploration of new and emerging ideas.

It is my intent to make the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology a focal point for both scholarly knowledge dissemination and scholarly conversation. Ultimately, our goal is for the Encyclopedia to become the authoritative resource for those who wish to understand this complex field of inquiry and endeavor. To that end, an editorial board of highly respected and influential anthropologists and archaeologists from around the world has been assembled and is building a taxonomy of major research categories that will serve as our foundation. This group of editors encompasses the diversity of the various subfields that constitute anthropological research worldwide. In addition to extensive coverage of sociocultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, biological anthropology, and archaeology, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology has or will have dedicated senior editors responsible for indigenous anthropology, applied anthropology, and histories of the field, among other areas.

Individual contributions, written by recognized authorities, are subject to blind peer review, as well as scrupulous oversight by the international editorial board. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology articles provide thorough and balanced syntheses of what is known, what is disputed, and what is in progress in anthropological research. These articles serve as gateways to new domains of inquiry, providing provocative ideas and incisive critiques, as well as addressing the broad controversies that mark the field.

We are in the midst of the greatest shift in the publishing environment since the advent of the printing press. The exciting possibilities afforded by the movement to online, electronic publishing as a rapid, dynamic format, combined with leading-edge research syntheses, will allow the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology to play a significant role in shaping the discipline for years to come. I invite you to explore the site and to get involved alongside the diverse community of scholars contributing to the development of this ambitious project.

Mark Aldenderfer, Ph.D.
Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship Endowed Chair, School of Social Science, Humanities, and Arts
University of California, Merced