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Chris Knight (anthropologist)

Chris Knight (born 1942) is a British anthropologist and political activist.


  • Life 1
    • Professional 1.1
    • Activism 1.2
  • Selected works 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5



Chris Knight teaching in Delmenhorst, Germany, 2006.
Following an MPhil in Russian Literature from the University of Sussex in 1977,[1] Knight gained his PhD in 1987 at the University of London for a thesis on Claude Lévi-Strauss's four-volume Mythologiques. He became a lecturer in anthropology at the University of East London in 1989 and a professor at the same institution in 2000.[2] Knight is a founding member of the ''Radical Anthropology Group (RAG).[3] He is currently Senior Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology, University College London.[4]
Chris Knight speaking in 2007.
Knight is best known for his theory that human language, religion and culture emerged in the human species not simply by gradual Darwinian evolution but in a process culminating in revolutionary social change. In this, he claims to be following in the footsteps of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, who in their later years were fascinated by what was then the new science of anthropology.[5] Knight published his first book, Blood Relations: Menstruation and the origins of culture in 1991.[6] In 1996, he co-founded the EVOLANG series of international conferences on the origins of language, since when he has become a prominent figure in debates on the origins of human symbolic culture and especially the origin of language.


Initially a supporter of the Militant tendency, Chris Knight was later a founder editor of the journal Labour Briefing[7] (he remains on the board[8]) and has a long record of political activism. Although a Marxist,[9] he is often mistakenly described by the press as an anarchist. During the build-up to the 2009 G-20 Summit in London, he was involved in a street theatre group known as The Government of the Dead.] Statements he made at this time in an interview[7] for the London Evening Standard[6] (and the PM programme[10]) led the Corporate Management Team at the University of East London to charge him with 'gross professional misconduct', 'insubordination' and 'bringing the university into disrepute'. He was suspended on 26 March 2009[2] and, despite a petition signed by 600 academics and others, was 'summarily dismissed' on 22 July 2009.

On 28 April 2011, Knight was one of three people arrested "on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance and breach of the peace". The three were planning a mock execution of the Duke of York in Central London the following day, to coincide with the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.[11][12][13][14] On 30 November 2011, he was one of 21 'Occupy London' activists arrested and later charged with public order offences for occupying the Haymarket (Central London) offices of the mining company Xtrata. On 8 August 2012, Knight and his co-defendants were all found not guilty.[15]

Selected works


  • Blood Relations: Menstruation and the origins of culture. London & New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-300-04911-0.
  • (ed. with R. Dunbar and C. Power) The Evolution of Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), 1999. ISBN 0-7486-1076-6.
  • (ed. with M. Studdert-Kennedy and J. R. Hurford) The Evolutionary Emergence of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-521-78157-4.
  • (ed. with R. Botha) .The Prehistory of Language Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-954587-2.
  • (ed. with R. Botha) .The Cradle of Language Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-954585-8
  • (ed. with D. Dor and J. Lewis) The Social Origins of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-19-966533-4


  • (with C. Power and I. Watts) The human symbolic revolution: A Darwinian account. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 5 (1), 1995, 75–114.
  • (with C. Power) Grandmothers, Politics, and Getting Back to Science. In E. Voland, A. Chasiotis and W. Schiefenhövel (eds), Grandmotherhood. The evolutionary significance of the second half of female life. New Brunswick, New Jersey & London: Rutgers University Press, pp. 81–98.
  • Early Human Kinship Was Matrilineal In N. J. Allen, H. Callan, R. Dunbar and W. James (eds), Early Human Kinship. London: Royal Anthropological Institute, 2008, pp. 61–82.
  • The origins of symbolic culture. In Ulrich J. Frey, Charlotte Störmer and Kai P. Willführ (eds.) Homo Novus – A Human Without Illusions. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2010, pp. 193–211.
  • (with C. Power) Arrest for Attempted Street Theatre. Anthropology Today, Vol. 28 No. 1, 2010, pp. 24–26.
  • In Defence of Activism, Freedom, 18 June 2011.
Defending science
  • In Defence of 'Selfish Gene' Theory, Weekly Worker, No. 636, 2006.
  • Marxism and Science, International Communist Current, June 2011.
Decoding Noam Chomsky
  • Noam Chomsky: The New Galileo?
  • The Enigma of Noam Chomsky
  • Decoding Chomsky
  • Anti-marxist myth of our time
  • The Pope and the Pentagon
Popularising "The Human Revolution"
  • Solidarity and Sex
  • Sex and the human revolution.

Radio Broadcast

See also


  1. ^ Robin Dunbar, Chris Knight and Camilla Power (eds), The Evolution of Culture: an Interdisciplinary View (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), p. viii
  2. ^ a b Richard Rogers and Paul Lewis, "Professor suspended over claims he incited G20 violence" The Guardian, 27 March 2009
  3. ^ A Brief History of RAG. Retrieved 30 April 2011
  4. ^
  5. ^ Frederick Engels, 1884. The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State
  6. ^ a b Melanie Newman, "UEL suspends 'Mr Mayhem' and cancels alternative G20", Times Higher Education, 2 April 2009
  7. ^ a b David Cohen, "Meet Mister Mayhem", Evening Standard (thisislondon website), 25 March 2009
  8. ^ "About Labour Briefing" Retrieved 30 April 2011 (Labour Briefing is the present title)
  9. ^ , 2 March 2006Ready Steady BookInterview for Retrieved 30 April 2011
  10. ^ Fiona Hamilton, "Anarchist professor Chris Knight suspended after G20 'threat'", The Times, 26 March 2009
  11. ^ David Batty, "Royal wedding protest: three anti-capitalist activists arrested" The Guardian, 28 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011
  12. ^ Zombie Wedding invitation Retrieved 29 April 2011
  13. ^ Robert Booth, Sandra Laville and Shiv Malik, "Royal wedding: police criticised for pre-emptive strikes against protesters" The Guardian, 29 April 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2011
  14. ^ *
  15. ^ 16 Occupy London activists found not guilty

External links

  • Chris Knight my story
  • Chris Knight – Professor of Anthropology Personal Web Site
  • Alternative London Summit
  • Responses to 'Blood Relations: Menstruation and the origins of culture'
  • Radical Anthropology Group
  • The Government of the Dead web page.
  • The Government of the Dead video
  • UEL Rising East academic essay exploring ideas behind Chris Knight's carnivalesque organisation of G20 protest.
  • Ian Tomlinson Memorial March
  • G20 protests: The Laughing Professor
  • Government of the Dead – Mardi Gras
  • PhD thesis
  • Blood Relations: Menstruation and the origins of cultureReviewers' comments on
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