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Theory 2: Anthropology and the Person

ANTH 296
Spring 2014
Section: 01  
Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory

Theory 1 and Theory 2 are core courses for the major, designed to elucidate historical influences on contemporary anthropological theory. While precise topics may vary from year to year, the overarching goal of the courses remains the same: to familiarize students with the main traditions from which the discipline of anthropology emerged and to explore the diverse ways in which contemporary anthropological practice defines itself both with and against its antecedents. This semester, our topic is anthropology and the person.

Anthropology has long been haunted by the problem of the person. A central contention of the classic anthropological traditions is that personhood is culturally constructed, which is to say that individuals receive from society/culture the concepts and values through which they understand and experience themselves. Classic anthropological theories represented this variability in binary terms, as a distinction between modern Western individualism and a construction attributed to "other" societies (both premodern and non-Western) of the person as a social being whose thoughts, feelings, and actions are determined by their relational roles. While the binary model identified potentially significant differences between societies with regard to the expression and valorization of individuality, it also discouraged attention to differences within them and tended to obscure questions of agency, creativity, reflexivity, power, contestation, and change. Contemporary anthropology works both with and against the binary to explore interplay between social and individual aspects of personhood in particular sociohistorical contexts. In this course we will begin with classic works from the French, British, and American anthropological traditions and then go on to review and assess selected tendencies in cultural theory and ethnographic writing that take personhood as a focus of inquiry. Among the themes and questions we will pursue are romanticism and cultural theory; performing personhood, embodied knowledge and practice theory; the social boundaries of personhood, sociality and personhood online.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: SBS ANTH
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: ANTH101
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ANTH)(SISP-Anth Conc)
Past Enrollment Probability: 90% or above

Last Updated on APR-24-2014
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