Robin Fox

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick

Primary Section: 51, Anthropology
Secondary Section: 27, Evolutionary Biology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2013)


Robin Fox is University Professor of Social Theory at Rutgers where he founded the department of anthropology in 1967. Born in England in 1934 he was educated at the London School of Economics (sociology, philosophy, and social anthropology) and Harvard (social relations, human development), with post-doctoral work at the Stanford University School of Medicine (neuro-psychiatry). He did fieldwork among the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona, and with the Gaelic-speaking Irish of Tory Island, receiving a DSc from the University of Ulster for this work. He also worked with primate groups in Bermuda and the Caribbean. He taught at the universities of Exeter and London in the UK before coming to Rutgers. With his colleague Lionel Tiger he was a director of research for the H. F. Guggenheim Foundation 1970-82, where they fostered the science of social behavior now known as sociobiology. They wrote "The Imperial Animal" (1970), which introduced evolutionary and ethological thinking to the social sciences. He has been a visiting professor at Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, California (San Diego) and Los Andes (Colombia) and has written or edited twenty books, the best known of which is probably "Kinship and Marriage" (1967), which in all its editions and translations is one of the most widely used anthropology texts in the world. His latest book is "The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind" (2011).

Research Interests

His field research interests have been many and varied from his initial work on American Indian kinship and linguistics, through Irish peasant landholding, to primate societies in captivity and in the semi-wild conditions of Bermuda and St. Kitts. He was one of the first to try to summarize the structure of primate kinship systems and to study possibilities for finding the origin of human kinship systems in them. One of his first publications was on the incest taboo where he revived the then discredited ideas of Edward Westermarck on sibling incest avoidance, a position that has to his regret itself become somewhat orthodox. He has remained interested in all aspects of the incest problem from its manifestations in literature to its place in human evolution. In the meantime he has studied and published extensively on kinship but also on sex, food, aggression, war, polygamy, surrogacy, law, time, morals, sectarianism, democracy, religion, rights, rules, memory, food, literature, social evolution, cognition, bureaucracy, nationalism, initiation, innovation, and the history and state of anthropological and biosocial science. His current interests include the origins and failures of civilizations and the light that maritime states like the Calusa of SW Florida can throw on the issue. He is also involved in a study of the relationship between human mediogamy (his term) and the biology of population growth and decline, fertility, and dispersion. He is also involved in the attempts to solve the riddle of the authorship of the works of "Shakespeare."

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