Taking its cue from the articles in this special issue, this introduction explores what value a critical engagement with Strathern’s work might have for the social sciences by setting such an engagement in motion. It argues that Strathern’s writings are a particularly fruitful starting point for reflecting on our assumptions about what exactly theory might be and how and where it may be made to travel. Through the juxtaposition of articles published in this special issue and Strathern’s writings on Melanesia it explores the theorization of power in the social sciences as one arena in which Strathernian strategies might be harnessed in order to reflect on and extend Euro-American concepts. It also takes Strathern’s own interest in gardening as a metaphoric base for generating novel topologies of subject and object, the particular and the general, and the concrete and the abstract. This introduction does not provide a primer for ‘Strathernian theory’. Instead it reviews some of the original strategies and techniques – differentiation, staging of analogy, surprise, bifurcation, the echo, and an unremitting focus on how we make our familiar categories of analysis known to ourselves – that Strathern has used to ‘garden’ her theory: it can be used, if you like, as a conceptual toolkit.