Universiteit Leiden

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Raymond Corbey

Professor of Philosophy of Science and Anthropology

Prof.dr. R.H.A. Corbey
+31 71 527 2727

Raymond Corbey, a philosopher and anthropologist, holds a chair in both Philosophy of Science and Anthropology in the Faculty of Archaeology of Leiden University.


Most of his research deals with human cognition, sociality, and cultural behaviour in an evolutionary perspective. A major focus here is the analysis of "domain assumptions" (implicit ontologies) guiding research in various anthropological disciplines, in particular cultural anthropology and evolutionary anthropology.

Corbey departs from the idea of "history and philosophy of science" and that of anthropology as an integrated, holistic, interdisciplinary discipline, emerging out of its four fields, engaging with both evolutionary and interpretative approaches, and - its major challenge presently - struggling to work out how these two relate.

One of his research lines focuses on the reception and rebuttal of evolutionary analysis in 20th-century and present-day continental-European philosophy and in the humanities, for example in research on reciprocal exchange and on narrative meaning (in myth, ritual, art). One angle of approach here is ethnozoology, specifically the relations between folk taxonomies and scientific taxonomy (e.g., of primates and humans). There is intensive cooperation with several anthropological/archaeological research programs at Leiden University, where Corbey is an associate member of the Human Origins Group directed by Wil Roebroeks.

Another line of research concerns western representations and practices (stereotypes, photography, collecting, exhibiting, missions, iconoclasm) regarding nonwestern societies and, in particular, nonwestern ritual art. At the intersection of these two lines of research are such issues as the use of animal metaphors for cultural others and parallels between western domination over colonial others and human domination over (the rest of) nature.


Born 1954. Dutch nationality. Holds degrees in Anthropology (BA), Psychology (BA) and Philosophy (BA, MA and PhD) - all from Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Attached to the School of Humanities of Tilburg University from 1990-2016 and, next to that, to Leiden University since 1995.

Visiting scholar for periods up to one year at the Husserl Institute of Leuven University (Belgium), the Smithsonian Institution (African Art/Natural History; Washington DC), the AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity of University College London, and the Department of Anthropology of the University of British Columbia (Vancouver).

Regular advisorships to (mainly ethnological) museums and exhibitions in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany. Referee for various academic presses and journals on a regular basis. Member of the Scientific Advisory Board (Wetenschappelijke Adviesraad) of the Limburgs Museum, Venlo, the Netherlands. Fellow of the Eugene Dubois Foundation (Eijsden, the Netherlands). Member of the Escadron des Pays-Bas de la Compagnie des Mousquetaires d’Armagnac.

Corbey also has a keen interest in animal behaviour and is a bird watcher.

PhD supervision


  • David van Reybrouck. From primitives to primates: A history of ethnographic and primatological analogies in the study of prehistory. Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University 2000 (supervised with Prof. W.Roebroeks)
  • Gerrit Dusseldorp. A view to a kill: Investigating Middle Palaeolithic subsistence using an optimal foraging perspective. Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University 2009 (supervised with Prof. W.Roebroeks)
  • Erik van Rossenberg. Cultural landscapes, social networks and historical trajectories: A data-rich synthesis of Early Bronze Age networks (c. 2200-1700 BC) in Abruzzo and Lazio, Central Italy. Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University 2012 (supervised with Prof. H. Fokkens)
  • Angus Mol. The connected Caribbean: A socio-material network approach to patterns of homogeneity and diversity in the pre-colonial period. Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University 2014 (supervised with Prof. C. Hofman)
  • Eva Mol, Egypt in material and mind: The use and perception of Aegyptiaca in Roman domestic contexts of Pompeii. Leiden University 2015  (with Prof. M.J. Versluys)
  • Steven Frost, The Altar of Primordial Treasure: Ritual, theater and community life in the Mountains of China’s Guizhou Province. Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University 2017 (supervised with Prof. B. ter Haar, Oxford University)
  • Shumon Hussain. The French-Anglophone divide in lithic research: A plea for pluralism in palaeolithic archaeology. Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University 2019 (supervised with Prof. M. Soressi and Dr. K. Vaesen)
  • Eva Paulsen. Everything has its jaguar: A narratological approach to conceptualising Caribbean Saladoid animal imagery. Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, 2019 (co-supervised with Prof. C. Hofman and Dr. Eithne Carlin)


  • Joachim Nieuwland. The One Health initiative, global health policy and ethics at the ape-human interface (from 2014 on; co-supervising with Dr. B. Verbeek; funded by Arcus Foundation, New York)
  • Peter ten Hoopen. Ikat textiles of Timor’s Outer Islands (from 2019 on; co-supervising with Prof. Pieter ter Keurs)

Professor of Philosophy of Science and Anthropology

  • Faculteit Archeologie
  • Archaeological Heritage
  • World Heritage

Work address

Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden
Room number FLEX



No relevant ancillary activities

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