On Wednesday, 18 December, the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) will award Max Planck Director Chris Hann the Huxley Memorial Medal. Named after anatomist and Victorian polymath Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895), the award is the highest honour bestowed by the RAI, the world's oldest anthropological association. Following the award ceremony, Chris Hann will give a public lecture on "Economy and Ethics in the Cosmic Process" on 18 December at 17:30 in the British Museum in London.
Since 1900, the Huxley Memorial Medal has been awarded to outstanding individuals for distinguished accomplishments in the field of anthropology, broadly understood. Among the scholars who have received the medal in the past are such luminaries as Pierre Bourdieu, Clifford Geertz, Jack Goody, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Marcel Mauss. "It is a great honour to receive this distinction from the RAI," says Hann. "The news came as a great surprise to me. It was all the more unexpected because for many years I have not been able to maintain close ties with my colleagues in Britain."
In his lecture Hann will investigate the case of a state farm in Hungary to illuminate the interrelations between economics and morality that are also a focus of his recent collaboration with colleagues in Cambridge as part of the Max Planck - Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change (Max-Cam): How can societies strike a healthy balance between private and collective property, market and redistribution, efficiency and equity, economic maximization and ethics? The deliberations will be historically contextualized in relation to discussions by Huxley and others about the meaning of religion and the laws of historical materialism in the age of Darwinism.
Chris Hann was born and brought up in Wales. He studied at Oxford and received a PhD in Social Anthropology from Cambridge in 1979, where he was subsequently a research fellow at Corpus Christi College and a lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology. From 1992 to 1999 he was Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Kent at Canterbury. In 1999 he joined the newly established Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology as one of its founding directors. Hann's fieldwork has focused mainly on Hungary, but he has also conducted research in Poland, Turkey, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. His work has a main focus in the sub-discipline of economic anthropology but Hann is also concerned to break down disciplinary boundaries in contributing to a better understanding of Eurasia and of the place of socialism in world history.
More information on Chris Hann's Huxley Memorial Lecture: