Edwin Ardener

Edwin Ardener (1927–1987)[1] was a British social anthropologist and academic. He was also noted for his contributions to the study of history.[2] Within anthropology, some of his most important contributions were to the study of gender, as in his 1975 work in which he described women as "muted" in social discourse.[3]

A graduate of the LSE, Ardener took up an Oxford lectureship in social anthropology at the invitation of E. E. Evans-Pritchard.[4] His ethnographic research concentrated on Africa, particularly on Cameroon.[2] His history of the Bakweri of Cameroon in the nineteenth century is regarded as definitive.[2] In his works about Cameroon, he also wrote about a form of witchcraft in Cameroon known as Nyongo.[5]

One of his best-known contributions to anthropology came in the 1975 article ""The Problem" revisited", in Perceiving Women, a volume edited by his wife and fellow anthropologist Shirley Ardener. In this essay he advanced the theory that women have been a muted group,[6] comparatively unheard in social discourse, whose relative silence might also be seen as a function of the dominant group's deafness to them. He identified a problematic tendency in anthropological methodology to talk only to men and about women, thereby ignoring at least half the sample of people they were supposed to be observing.[7] Ardener diagnosed the problem as a result of the fact that ethnographic methods were both devised and verified by male anthropologists, who did not realise what they were overlooking.[7]


  1. Callan, Hilary (September 2004). "Ardener, Edwin William (1927–1987)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/74112.
  2. Austen, Ralph A. (January 1998). "Kingdom on Mount Cameroon: Studies in the History of the Cameroon Coast, 1500-1970.~(book reviews)". Journal of African History. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  3. "Ardener, Edwin". Anthrobase.com. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  4. Chapman, Malcolm (21 September 2007). "Edwin Ardener: the life-force of ideas". openDemocracy.org. Archived from the original on 30 August 2009. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  5. Ardener, Edwin. Kingdom on Mount Cameroon: Studies in the History of the Cameroon Coast, 1500-1970. Berghahn Books. ISBN 9781571819291.
  6. Kehoe, Alice B. "The Muted Class: Unshackling Tradition". Appalachian State University. Archived from the original on 2008-10-24. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  7. Spender, Dale (1980). Man made language. Routledge. p. 77. ISBN 0-7100-0675-6.

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