Conclusion: New Metaphors for Old

  • Helen B. Schwartzman


A. F. C. Haddon made the above statement over 75 years ago, and today we are still flying theoretical “kites” in the study of play—only now there are more of them. This is as it should be because play requires a multiperspective approach (a number of trial balloons) and resists any attempts to define it rigidly (and thereby ground it). In this book, the development and proliferation of anthropological theories of children’s play has been traced from evolutionism to ethology. In the process, we have surveyed anthropologists’ metaphors for play, for children, and for culture. This book was written as a critical survey of the ethnographic literature on children’s play and also as a study of the development of anthropology as a discipline. In this way, I have attempted to illustrate how the discipline of anthropology provides students of play with a broadened perspective on their topic and also to suggest that the study of play provides anthropologists with a new perspective on their discipline. Here I have argued that play is not a peripheral or tangential subject to be investigated in the ethnographer’s “spare time” but a topic of central importance whose study can only improve our understanding of the anthropological enterprise.


Anthropological Theory Contextual Orientation Play Context Play Style Ethnographic Literature 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen B. Schwartzman
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Juvenile ResearchChicagoUSA

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