James W. Fernandez PhD, Northwestern University, 1962;
D Honoris Causa Amherst 1993;
UNED-Spanish National University 2015
Office: Haskell M132 Phone: (773) 702-7003 Email Interests:

Cultural anthropology; narrative and narrative ethnography; trope theory; culture change; Africa; Europe; Western Mediterranean; Atlantic Fringe (Celtic World).

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College

James W. Fernandez has done ethnographic research in Africa and is presently working in northern Spain and Atlantic Fringe Europe on regionalism, on shifting lifeways (from agro-pastoralism to mining to reindustrialization) and on revitalization processes. He is interested in short-range, over the last several hundred years, social and cultural evolution and how, by various imaginative devices, local communities narrate their past, understand their present circumstances, and seek to foretell their future. A semantic theory of tropes has been central to the analysis of this “time-binding” of past, present and future.

(Retired June 2000; still teaching.)


Recent Research / Recent Publications

Selected Publications

Rhetorics: On Persuading Practical People: The Rhetorical Approach to Understanding Ritual in Culture. In J. Kreinath, et al. eds., Theorizing Rituals: Issues, Topics, Approaches, Concepts. E.J. Brill, 647-656.

(w/ M. Huber) Irony in Action: Anthropology, Practice and the Moral Imagination. In J.W. Fernandez & M. Huber, eds., University of Chicago Press, 2001.

(w/ M. Huber) eds. The Irony of Complicity and the Complicity of Irony in Development Discourse" Irony in Action: Anthropology, Practice and the Moral Imagination, 54-85.

Peripheral Wisdom. In A.P. Cohen, ed., Signifying Identities: Anthropological Perspectives on Boundaries and Contested Identities. London: Routledge, 117-144.

(w/ Michael Herzfeld) On Meaningful Methods. In J. Russell Bernard, ed., Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Thousand Oakds: Sage, 80-129.

Trees of Knowledge of Self and Other in Culture: On Models of the Moral Imagination. In L. Rival & M. Bloch, eds., The Social Use of Trees. Oxford: Berg, 81-110.

The North-South Axis in European Popular Cosmologies and the Dynamic of the Categorical. American Anthropologist. 99(4): 713-730.

Amazing Grace: Meaning Deficit, Displacement and New Consciousness in Expressive Interaction. In A.P. Cohen & N. Rapport, eds., Questions of Consciousness. London: Routledge, 21-40.

Culture and Transcendent Humanization: On the Dynamic of the Categorical. Ethnos Vol 59(3-4), 143-167.

Egocentric Particulars: Pronominal Perspectives in Ethnographic Inquiry. In G. Bibeau and E. Cornin, eds., The Order of the Text. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 303-326.

Time on Our Hands. In D.D Fowler and D.L. Hardesty, eds., Others Knowing Others: Perspectives on Ethnographic Careers. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 118-144.

Advice to the Perplexed Ethnographer in An Age of Soundbites. The American Ethnologist. 20:179-184.

What I Learned from “The Parrot’s Egg” and “The Bull Who Crashes in the Kraal”: The Senses of Time Binding and Turn Taking in Being With the Other. In C.W. Gailey, ed., Dialectical Anthropology: Essays in Honor of Stanley Diamond. Vol II. The Politics of Culture and Creativity: A Critique of Civilization. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, pp. 209-216.

Architectonic Inquiry: Review Article. Semiotica 89 (1-3): 215-226.

(Editor, Preface and Introduction) Beyond Metaphor: The Theory of Tropes in Anthropology. (Editor, Preface and Introduction) Beyond Metaphor: The Theory of Tropes in Anthropology. Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp. 1-13.

Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa. Princeton University Press.

The Mission of Metaphor in Expressive Culture — With Comments and Rejoinder. Current Anthropology, 15(2): 119-145.