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Theory 2: Anthropology and the Person

ANTH 296
Spring 2018
Section: 01  
This course may be repeated for credit.
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 overall 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 them. This semester our topic will be anthropology and the person.

Anthropology has long been haunted by the problem of the person. The classic anthropological traditions define personhood as socially/culturally constructed, which is to say that individuals receive from society/culture the concepts and values through which they understand and experience themselves as well as the outside world. Social variation in notions of personhood tended to be represented 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 personal life is subordinated to public roles and obligations. While this binary model foregrounded potentially significant differences between societies with regard to the expression and valorization of subjectivity, it also discouraged attention to differences within societies, and its emphasis on determinism obscured questions of agency, creativity, reflexivity, power, contestation, and change. Contemporary anthropology works both with and against the binary to explore the interplay between social and individual aspects of personhood in particular sociohistorical contexts. In this course we will begin with selected works from classic anthropological traditions and then go on to review and assess various works in contemporary cultural theory and ethnographic writing that take personhood as a focus of inquiry. Among the themes and questions we will pursue are the romantic origins of the culture concept and the formation of romantic personhood; embodied knowledge, practice theory, and models of agency; personhood and gift-giving; the social boundaries of personhood; and online personhood and sociality.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: SBS ANTH
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: ANTH101
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ANTH)(CSCT)
Past Enrollment Probability: 90% or above

Last Updated on JUL-18-2024
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