Introduction: Hierarchy, value, and the value of hierarchy

Naomi Haynes, Jason Hickel

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


Many of the places where anthropologists work are hierarchically organized, and the people who live in these places often describe this arrangement in positive terms. Nevertheless, anthropologists rarely paint hierarchy in a favourable light. This special issue aims to question this tendency with ethnographic insights into social contexts where hierarchy is regarded as a desirable social good. By way of an introduction to the research articles, we explore those aspects of western thought that make it difficult for anthropologists to take hierarchy seriously. In addition, we develop an interpretive approach that treats hierarchy both as a relational form and a theoretical model – that is, as a framework for understanding value – drawing in part on our own ethnographic research in southern Africa. Our goal is to invigorate a discussion of hierarchy in a range of social contexts, especially as these have been shaped by globalizing forces like Christianity, development, democracy, and neoliberalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalSocial Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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