Published in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology, 2019

Recommended citation: Wilson, A. (2019). "Revolution." The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology.

Although early anthropology rarely addressed such movements or programmes for change directly, in recent years longstanding anthropological insights have helped shape an emerging field of the anthropology of revolution. Ethnographers’ non state-centric approaches to studying political life have generated distinctive, and wide-ranging, insights into revolutionary movements and their attempts at social transformation. In-depth, long-term fieldwork highlights how revolutions involve not just transformations, but also continuities, contradictions, and slowly-unfolding legacies. Social life during revolution, even while experienced as exceptional and liminal, relates to political, economic, religious, and social phenomena before and after revolution. Ethnographic studies have also foregrounded contradictions and paradoxes surrounding official narratives of revolution as ordered teleology and emancipation from class-based, gendered, and racial marginalization. Finally, recent studies have foregrounded long-term legacies arising from divergent revolutionary outcomes.