Timothy Ingold

Timothy Ingold

Timothy Ingold

Timothy Ingold (UK) is a social anthropologist, and Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen.

Tim Ingold is a British social anthropologist, currently Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. He was educated at Leighton Park School and Cambridge University. He is a fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His bibliography includes The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, Routledge, 2000, which is a collection of essays, some of which had been published earlier.


Long Biography

Tim Ingold received his BA in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge in 1970, and his PhD in 1976. For his doctoral research he carried out ethnographic fieldwork (1971-72) among the Skolt Saami of northeastern Finland, and the resulting monograph (The Skolt Lapps Today, 1976) was a study of the ecological adaptation, social organisation and ethnic politics of this small minority community under conditions of post-war resettlement. Following a year (1973-74) at the University of Helsinki, he was appointed to a Lectureship in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. Here he continued his research on northern circumpolar peoples, looking comparatively at hunting, pastoralism and ranching as alternative ways in which such peoples have based a livelihood on reindeer or caribou. His second book, Hunters, pastoralists and ranchers: reindeer economies and their transformations, was published in 1980. A further spell of ethnographic fieldwork, this time among Finnish rather than Saami people, was undertaken in the district of Salla, in northern Finland, in 1979-80. The purpose of this research was to examine how farming, forestry and reindeer herding were combined on the level of local livelihood, to investigate the reasons for the intense rural depopulation in the region, and to compare the long term effects of post-war resettlement here with those experienced by the Skolt Saami.

Ingold’s research on circumpolar reindeer herding and hunting led to a more general concern with human-animal relations and the conceptualisation of the humanity-animality interface, as well as with the comparative anthropology of hunter-gatherer and pastoral societies, themes which he also explored while teaching courses at Manchester in economic and ecological anthropology. These concerns led to a number of essays which were collected together in his book The Appropriation of Nature, published in 1986. The same year also saw the publication of another major volume, Evolution and Social Life, a study of the ways in which the notion of evolution has been handled in the disciplines of anthropology, biology and history, from the late nineteenth century to the present. Two important conferences also took place in that year: the World Archaeological Congress (Southampton), in which Ingold organized a series of sessions devoted to cultural attitudes to animals, and the Fourth International Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (London), of which he was a principal organiser. Ingold edited one of the volumes to arise from the Southampton Congress, What is an animal?, published in 1988, and was co-editor of the two-volume work Hunters and Gatherers, consisting of papers from the London conference and published in the same year.

Through a reconsideration of toolmaking and speech as criteria of human distinctiveness, Ingold became interested in the connection, in human evolution, between language and technology. With Kathleen Gibson, he organized an international conference on this theme in 1990, and the resulting volume, edited by Gibson and Ingold (Tools, language and cognition in human evolution), was published in 1993. Since then, Ingold has sought ways of bringing together the anthropologies of technology and art, leading to his current view of the centrality of skilled practice. At the same time he has continued his research and teaching in ecological anthropology and, influenced by the work of James Gibson on perceptual systems, has been exploring ways of integrating ecological approaches in anthropology and psychology. In his recent work, linking the themes of environmental perception and skilled practice, Ingold has attempted to replace traditional models of genetic and cultural transmission, founded upon the alliance of neo-Darwinian biology and cognitive science, with a relational approach focusing on the growth of embodied skills of perception and action within social and environmental contexts of development. These ideas are presented in his book The Perception of the Environment (2000), a collection of twenty-three essays written over the previous decade on the themes of livelihood, dwelling and skill.

Ingold was appointed to a Chair at the University of Manchester in 1990, and in 1995 he became Max Gluckman Professor of Social Anthropology. He was Editor of Man (the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute) from 1990 to 1992, and edited the Routledge Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology, published in 1994. In 1988 he founded the Group for Debates in Anthropological Theory, and edited a volume of the first six annual debates (Key Debates in Anthropology, 1996). He was elected to a Fellowship of the British Academy in 1997, and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2000. In 1999, he was President of the Anthropology and Archaeology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1999, Tim Ingold moved to take up the newly established Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, where he has been instrumental in setting up the UK's youngest Department of Anthropology, established in 2002. In his latest research he has been exploring three themes, all arising from his earlier work on the perception of the environment, concerning first, the dynamics of pedestrian movement, secondly, the creativity of practice, and thirdly, the linearity of writing. These issues all come together in his current project, funded by a 3-year ESRC Professorial Fellowship (2005-08), entitled Explorations in the comparative anthropology of the line. Starting from the premise that what walking, observing and writing all have in common is that they proceed along lines of one kind and another, the project seeks to forge a new approach to understanding the relation, in human social life and experience, between movement, knowledge and description. At the same time, and complementing this study, Ingold is researching and teaching on the connections between anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture (the '4 As'), conceived as ways of exploring the relations between human beings and the environments they inhabit. Taking an approach radically different from the conventional anthropologies and archaeologies 'of' art and of architecture, which treat artworks and buildings as though they were merely objects of analysis, he is looking at ways of bringing together the 4 As on the level of practice, as mutually enhancing ways of engaging with our surroundings.

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