Who carried out his/her fieldwork in the southern part of the Sudan among the Azande and the Nuer? | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru

Azande and the Nuer

Question: Who carried out his/her fieldwork in the southern part of the Sudan among the Azande and the Nuer?

  1. Margaret Mead
  2. Radcliffe Brown
  3. G.H. Mead
  4. Evans Pritchard

Answer: (4)

E.E. Evans-Pritchard: A Pioneering Ethnographer Among the Azande and the Nuer

The question posits the name of E.E. Evans-Pritchard as the anthropologist who conducted fieldwork in the southern part of Sudan among the Azande and the Nuer. To fully comprehend the significance of Evans-Pritchard’s contributions to anthropology, it is imperative to delve into the context of his fieldwork, the methodological approach he employed, and the impact of his ethnographic studies on the discipline.

  1. Introduction to E.E. Evans-Pritchard:

Sir Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard (1902–1973) was a towering figure in British social anthropology. Born in England, Evans-Pritchard’s academic journey led him to Oxford, where he became associated with the influential group of anthropologists known as the “Oxford School,” which included figures like Bronisław Malinowski and A.R. Radcliffe-Brown. Evans-Pritchard’s work, particularly his fieldwork among the Azande and the Nuer, set new standards for ethnographic research.

  1. Fieldwork Among the Azande:

Evans-Pritchard’s ethnographic journey began with his fieldwork among the Azande people in the late 1920s. The Azande are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting parts of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Evans-Pritchard’s seminal work, “Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande” (1937), emerged from this fieldwork. In this monograph, he explored the Azande’s belief systems, particularly their understanding of witchcraft and oracles.

Evans-Pritchard’s approach was characterized by participant observation, a hallmark of anthropological methodology. He immersed himself in Azande society, learning their language, engaging in daily activities, and participating in rituals. This immersive approach allowed him to gain insider perspectives and unravel the intricacies of Azande social life.

  1. Understanding Azande Witchcraft:

One of Evans-Pritchard’s most influential contributions was his analysis of Azande witchcraft beliefs. Contrary to ethnocentric interpretations that might dismiss such beliefs as irrational or primitive, Evans-Pritchard sought to understand them within the Azande’s own cultural context. He argued that Azande witchcraft was a rational system of thought that provided explanations for seemingly inexplicable events and misfortunes.

In Azande society, accusations of witchcraft were not arbitrary but followed a logical framework based on cause and effect. Evans-Pritchard highlighted the nuanced nature of Azande thought, challenging Western preconceptions and showcasing the importance of cultural relativism in anthropological analysis

  1. Fieldwork Among the Nuer:

Following his Azande studies, Evans-Pritchard turned his attention to the Nuer people, another Nilotic ethnic group residing in the southern part of Sudan. His fieldwork among the Nuer resulted in a trilogy of works: “The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People” (1940), “Kinship and Marriage Among the Nuer” (1951), and “Nuer Religion” (1956).

In “The Nuer,” Evans-Pritchard provided a comprehensive ethnography that delved into Nuer social organization, economic activities, and political structures. His meticulous descriptions and analyses painted a vivid picture of Nuer life, emphasizing the pastoralist nature of their society and the significance of kinship ties.

  1. Methodological Innovation:

Evans-Pritchard’s methodological innovation lay not only in his participant observation but also in his commitment to linguistic and cultural fluency. He recognized the importance of understanding the indigenous language, as it allowed him to grasp the subtleties of Nuer and Azande conceptual frameworks. This linguistic competence enabled him to engage with the intricacies of their belief systems and social practices on a profound level.

  1. Contributions to Anthropological Theory:

Evans-Pritchard’s contributions extended beyond descriptive ethnography. He engaged in theoretical discourse, particularly in the areas of kinship, political organization, and religious beliefs. His analyses emphasized the need for anthropologists to adopt an emic perspective, striving to understand cultural phenomena from the insider’s point of view.

  1. Legacy and Impact:

The legacy of Evans-Pritchard’s work endures in contemporary anthropology. His emphasis on cultural relativism, nuanced understanding of indigenous belief systems, and methodological rigor have left an indelible mark on the discipline. Anthropologists continue to draw inspiration from his approach to fieldwork and his commitment to dismantling ethnocentric biases.

  1. Relevance to the MA CUET Exam:

For MA CUET exam aspirants, questions related to E.E. Evans-Pritchard’s fieldwork among the Azande and the Nuer may explore:

Methodological Rigor: Candidates might be assessed on their understanding of Evans-Pritchard’s immersive participant observation and linguistic competence.

Cultural Relativism: Questions may probe the aspirants’ grasp of Evans-Pritchard’s commitment to understanding cultural phenomena within their own contexts, avoiding ethnocentrism.

Impact on Anthropological Theory: Aspirants may be asked to articulate the theoretical contributions of Evans-Pritchard, particularly in the realms of kinship, religion, and political organization.


In conclusion, E.E. Evans-Pritchard’s fieldwork among the Azande and the Nuer stands as a testament to the transformative power of ethnography. His commitment to cultural understanding, methodological innovation, and theoretical engagement has solidified his place as a luminary in the annals of anthropology. As aspirants prepare for the MA CUET exam, a nuanced appreciation of Evans-Pritchard’s contributions will undoubtedly enrich their ability to engage with questions related to anthropological fieldwork, methodology, and theory.


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Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Question: Define the term “ethnic movement” and provide an example from India.

Answer: An ethnic movement refers to a collective effort by a group sharing common cultural, linguistic, or religious traits, seeking to assert their identity and rights; an example from India is the Khalistan Movement in Punjab.

2. Question: Identify the main objectives behind the Gorkhaland ethnic movement.

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3. Question: What was the Operation Blue Star, and which ethnic movement was it related to?
Answer: Operation Blue Star was a military action in 1984, aiming to remove Sikh militants hiding in the Golden Temple in Amritsar; it is related to the Khalistan movement, which sought a separate Sikh country.

4. Question: Mention a critical factor that triggered the emergence of ethnic movements in India, as discussed by Dipankar Gupta.
Answer: Dipankar Gupta emphasized that ethnicity is fundamentally a political process, wherein caste and religion, the key components of identity formation, are politicized by leaders for vested interests.

5. Question: What were the primary reasons for the Assam Ethnicity conflicts involving Bodo tribals and Bengali Muslim settlers?
Answer: The Assam Ethnicity conflicts primarily stemmed from issues related to immigration, land rights, and resource allocation, leading to clashes, riots, and evolving relationships among indigenous communities to address challenges.

6. Question: Briefly describe the role of the Dravidian Movement in terms of caste and societal structure.
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7. Question: Name the prominent ethnic movements in North-East India and specify one common objective.
Answer: Prominent ethnic movements in North-East India include the Nagas’ and Mizos’ struggles; a common objective was to gain autonomy and recognition for their distinct tribal identities and cultural uniqueness.

8. Question: What is the key argument of Gail Omveldt regarding traditional Indian society and multiculturalism?
Answer: Gail Omveldt opposed romanticizing traditional Indian society, arguing that hierarchy has always dominated it and dismissing the notion that multiculturalism is an intrinsic feature of Indian society as a myth.

9. Question: Briefly explain the social hierarchy factor as a contributing element to ethnic movements as suggested by Olzak.
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10. Question: Identify one consequence of the unequal economic development factor within the context of ethnic movements in India.
Answer: One consequence of unequal economic development is the marginalization and underdevelopment of certain groups, leading to feelings of alienation and sometimes initiating ethnic movements as these groups strive for equality and recognition.

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