The Ethnography of Moralities


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Foucault makes this point when he asks in the introduction to Volume Two of The History of Sexuality, why is sexual conduct, why are the activities and pleasures that attach to it, an object of moral solicitude? Why this ethical concern —which, at certain times, in certain societies and groups, appears more important than the moral attention that is focused on other, likewise essential, areas of individual or collective life, such as alimentary behaviour or the fulfilment of civic duties?

Foucault Foucault rightly, in my view, seeks the answer in the history of thought, not in circular arguments about rules and regulations. Sexuality then becomes part of a wider field of gender, one that focuses directly upon sexual behaviour and its constituting values. However, as every anthropologist knows, not all moralities are particularly concerned with sexual conduct.

Melhuus, in her study of a Catholic mestizo peasant community in Mexico, shows how women as sexual beings can, through their behaviour, shame or honour the significant men in their lives: husbands, fathers and brothers. Male identity is constructed along a scale of more or less male, the criteria for which are dependent upon a paradox. Within this harsh value system, women represent a moral barometer for men while, at the same time, their own femaleness becomes classified as either good or bad. Thus good women are both asexual and mothers.

Bad women are characterized by dint of sexual activities. Melhuus shows how these conflicting ideals are reflected through different levels of Mexican society, from the pious pilgrim at the site of the Virgin of Guadelupe, to the man who violently confronts another who has made his sister into a bad woman. These images are reiterated in popular films and serious literature. Honour and shame, good and bad, married and unmarried, sexual and asexual, male and female, virginity and promiscuity, Church and home are all lived concepts that create the overall moral discourse for rural Mexicans.

This discourse is articulated through images derived from values about sexual conduct. Evens relies on written texts alone to debate similar issues. Echoes of this interpretation can be found in the Mexican situation described by Melhuus. This becomes striking when we consider that Evens suggests that, despite all appearances to the contrary, a primacy of the female principle may be discerned in Genesis.

Again, we are faced with a paradox: spirituality versus materiality in which the explicit moral storyline emphasizes the former at the expense of the latter. Genesis may thus serve as an exemplar cf. Strathern, however, stresses that gender values and differences still may be regarded as constituting a significant moral force.

Gingrich also draws on authoritative religious texts, in this case Islamic ones, but he supplements these with observations from fieldwork in a Muslim community in the Yemen. Gingrich shows how the dominant Islamic ideology of male honour is intimately linked to the way that their significant women behave.

This is not unlike much of what Melhuus describes for rural Mexico. The aim, however, has been to start to clear the ground for some novel approaches to old problems experienced and debated in social anthropology. The aim has not been to provide clear answers as to how that ground be defined or operationalized, nor to define an anthropology of moralities. At the outset, I made a long list of possible questions that could be posed in the pursuit of eliciting indigenous moral discourses and discursive practices.

Some of these have been addressed in this book. Many remain for future studies to engage with. From their very varied positions, the authors of these papers have raised a range of theoretical and methodological problems and issues. Common to them all, however, is a willingness to grapple with the same central topic and to present their ethnographic material from an angle that they would otherwise not have chosen. For this reason alone, I feel that the exercise has been worthwhile. The range and quality of the papers in this volume do, I believe, bear witness to the rich potentiality inherent in a focus on morality.

Anthropology can indeed contribute to the understanding of indigenous moral discourses and discursive practices and, on the bases of such understandings, to comparative ethics. Borofsky, R. Carrithers, M. Dieterlin, G. Dumont, L. Durkheim, E. Edel, M. Evans-Pritchard, E. Griaule, M. Heelas, P. Howell, S. P Archetti ed. Fardon ed. Johnson, M. Leenhardt, M. Lessing, D. Lienhardt, R. Lukes, S. Malinowski, B. Needham, R. Parkin, D.

Parkin ed. The Anthropology of Evil, Oxford: Blackwell. Peristiany, J. Pocock, D.

The Ethnography of Moralities - European Association of Social Anthropologists - Google книги

Read, K. Taylor, C. Honneth, T. McCarthy, C. Offe and A. Thompson, J. Turner, B. There is no single term in Mongol that corresponds with the European concept, which itself is complex even in everyday usage. The combination of terms used by the Mongols to translate the European idea, yos surtakhuun, seems to be of rather recent origin. I shall argue that each of these two terms does, however, denote an area of moral activity which is important in Mongolian culture.

The two are not unconnected, but I shall argue that, as practices of evaluating conduct, they work in different ways. Through living in Mongolia and talking with Mongols I became aware that, while they of course do have rules, for them the more important arena of morality appears in the relation between persons and exemplars or precedents, that is the general sphere of surtakhuun. The concern here is with cultivation of the self as a moral subject in relation to individually chosen ideals. Morality in this sense is not simply the affirmation of existing cultural ways of life; there needs to be a social space for deliberation about ways of life, amid the pressures that circumscribe the instantiation of personal ideals.

The suggestion here is that this is successfully achieved primarily in the discourse of exemplars, despite the fact that Communist governments have attempted to hijack exemplary precedents to their own ends. The sophistication of the relational space constructed in the indigenous discourse of exemplars has enabled Mongols to withstand simplistic party-inspired variants, as will be described later in the paper.

The contrast that I have drawn emerged from considering morality in Mongolia, and I subsequently became aware from the work of Foucault that a distinction somewhat like it could be seen even more broadly as characteristic of morality in general. Whether it is right to divide moralities in general in this way may be a matter of debate, but it does seem significant that in this case a distinction arising from native categories meets theory arrived at on a different basis and in a different context.

Thus what this paper attempts is an initial discussion of the ways in which the unfamiliar moral world of the Mongols can be understood, in the hope that this may illuminate the constructions of morality more generally. To give an idea of what I mean by an exemplar, I shall immediately describe one such case. A Mongolian friend of mine, living in Inner Mongolia, which is a large province of China, had fallen in love.

The object of his affections was a young Chinese girl from a very influential family. But the question of marriage with her was a moral dilemma for him. The Mongols in this region are culturally hard-pressed, outnumbered ten to one by a huge population of Chinese, and in danger of losing their language and identity.

In either case, what we are dealing with is understanding located in practices and largely unexpressed. This understanding is more fundamental [than formulated representations] in two ways: first, it is always there, whereas sometimes we frame representations and sometimes we do not; and, second, the representations we do make are only comprehensible against the background provided by this inarticulate understanding…. Rather than representations being the primary locus of our understanding, they are similarly islands in the sea of our unformulated practical grasp on the world.

This is a mistake equivalent to ignoring the difference between a two-dimensional map of a terrain and our situated, embodied familiarity with the land which allows us to make out way around it. The problem with such an argument as regards morality, however, is that it seems resigned to the givenness of social structures and inherited practices a point to which I shall return. At first sight, however, an approach like that suggested by Taylor might seem appropriate for the case of the Mongols.

They make a distinction between rules as socially accepted customs yos, zanshil and as edicts zarlig of temporal rulers. However, there is a certain cosmological elision between the two, which suggests that both can be taken by Mongols to be largely concerned with power, and there seems to be a sense in which both are thereby removed from the sphere of morality as conceived by the Mongols. From the seventeenth until the early twentieth century the successive edicts through the centuries of khans or feudal rulers curiously took the form of specifying the different penalties applied to various social categories for not observing them.

Rulers regularly let off people from such penalties on account of some counterbalancing positive service they had performed Jagchid The same can be said, perhaps more controversially, about religious customs yos, zanshil in the context of shamanism and the respect paid to objects in nature. If you pollute the water, the river spirit will take revenge and punish you, so it is better not do it; or alternatively, people might say that you would be lucky to get away with it.

The spirits of nature, existing in trees, mountains, rivers, springs, etc. This is the same term as that used for temporal rulers, ranging from the Bogd Ezen Khaan the Manchu Emperor and in later times, more colloquially, Communist rulers, to local chiefs, officials and even household heads. It seems to me that both understandings are available in Mongol culture.

Let us look first at the idea that there is a moral sense of the rightness of the order of power. Only my hat is above me. Thus did Chingghis speak to his brothers and sons, after granting them subject people, instructing them zarlig bolugsan on the support of nations and the gist of government in summary.

The sense here is perhaps ironic, since it seems to mock people in the enjoyment and satisfaction that they take in following rules. Yos, in this way of thinking, are not simply there to be followed unconditionally, but have to be learned, together with their reasons. The process of learning implies acquiring an explicit rational understanding which can be argued for and debated. In a Buddhist religious context this is particularly developed in nom xeleltsex, the regular disputations about sacred texts by lamas learning them.

To illustrate this idea indirectly I was given an example, namely the intricate grain of wood, which should be studied before one cuts it, and which gives a reason for cutting it in a certain way. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were a number of petitions of grievances submitted by serfs about the intolerable activities of local lords, presented to higher princes in the hope that the rules would be correctly applied from the senior level.

People who have good connections with Jayisang Shagdar would never complain about him. Is this oppression of the humble people supposed to be only my concern? Even though I was dismissed from my office, I am still a citizen of the district. I dare to say that our people cannot stand it any longer if the taxes remain this way. The people suffer as much as I do, but they are afraid to say anything. I am inflamed with indignation and must make this accusation and let the truth be known at any risk, even if it costs me my head. Therefore, I beg of you my great lords and honourable superiors, to give me orders and I will follow them.

Rashidondog and Veit However, despite this evidence that moral arguments surfaced in public life, it still seems to me that this was not the main arena of morality for the Mongols. My reasons for this conclusion require referring again to ideas held in the past which nevertheless still have salience today.

In most of the documents individuals simply compared conduct to a set of unquestioned rules. For another, even if questions of justice, right, etc. In this view the notion of a morally ordered universe was virtually absent. In this case it was not that social institutions and laws themselves were regarded as immutable. On the contrary, they could be seen as passing affairs. The result of this way of thinking was that Mongols before the Communist period could punish a mountain, for not bringing rain in the way that it was supposed to do, in much same way that they could punish a man for not delivering state dues.

There are, however, domains, notably kinship, where following rules seems to have an irreducible moral aspect. Between these three aspects, which conflate the rulings given by the household head with the accepted customary behaviour of gendered and hierarchized persons and with the interiorized self-awareness of values attributed to actions, there is a great density of possible dilemmas. However, even in kinship the idea of a rule does not offer much discursive space, since the subject is constantly tripped up by the flat-like nature of one or another ruling.

Such a space is opened, by contrast, in the idea of the exemplar. Implicit in the above discussion is the weighting given by Mongols to personal, as opposed to impersonal, social values. In Mongolian culture it is your responsibility to improve yourself— at the very least to place yourself rightly in the world—before addressing the lives of others the sense in which this can be regarded as moral is also discussed in Humphrey In general, perhaps it can be said that social values, such as justice or altruism, are weakly internalized, compromised, as I have suggested above, by the existence of alternative understandings of how the world works.

It is impossible to deal adequately with this subject here, that is in a paper more concerned with locating the moral discourse of the Mongols than describing its content. This is illustrated by the final words of the autobiography of Academician Shirendev, who was for much of his life in charge of propaganda for the Mongolian government: Kind-hearted ones, Let us make this a country of good workers; If flowers can adorn the wide world Then good people can decorate the nation.

The social rules discussed above can be contrasted with universalized ethical precepts, which appear in the Mongolian context in both Buddhism and in communism. As Carrithers — has pointed out, precepts, which he associates with the rather patchy appearance of generalizing paradigmatic thought in any culture, are not free-floating and timeless, however abstract they may appear, and they must be understood in the form of discourse and social context of their appearance. The point to be appreciated here is that in Mongolia, unlike in Europe, in practice almost no space is given to general ethical precepts as emanations of God or society.

Rather, such precepts tend to be authored, and they then appear in relationships as tied to the personalities of both the mentor and the follower. So what I am arguing is that precepts tend to be assimilated into the exemplary mode. Therefore, rather than contrasting precepts and moral stories, as Carrithers does, I attempt, as a first step, to try to understand the nature of exemplary morality by employing the tactic of contrasting it with Western moral rules. None of these characteristics apply to morality by exemplars, and with this realization we step into another world.

The device of clarification by negative contrast with European moral rules suggests three conclusions about the ethics of exemplars: a it constructs a particular kind of individuality, or culturally specific concept of the person cf. Let me, however, proceed to elaborate the three points summarized above. How does this actually work? This applies to a herder or clerk just as much as to someone with religious concerns like a Buddhist monk.

Teachers are often Buddhist lamas, but they can also be inspired women, scholars, statesmen, or indeed anyone who is held to have perfected an admired quality. In the case of religious people, behind the teacher there may lie a saint or god, to whose qualities the teacher also aspires. However, this does not amount to a genealogy of teachers, unlike in the case of a Buddhist reincarnation. The reincarnation is different from the exemplar, because the new incarnation is in a sense the earlier one, whereas the relation with a teacher or exemplar is dyadic, implying difference of status between the two and mutual obligations that are in fact different on either side.

The first thing to point out is the extraordinary variety of these teachers, ancestors and gods that stand in a teacher-like relation to the subject. And someone is not, of course, limited to having only one exemplar in their life. This was shocking not because the two exemplified such different qualities that was only to be expected , but because Chingghis in his view was too great to be amalgamated with the chi-gong master.

The portraits should have been separate and in some way hierarchically marked. These altars are as diverse as the people in the family are diverse, and people will point out: this is my father, this is my teacher, that is the god that my husband worshipped when X happened, this is the saint that I particularly revere, and so on. A Mongolian child is not given a definite exemplar to follow in contrast to the case of rules, which are taught to children by their parents.

Rather, a young child is exposed to a great variety of moral stories and precepts and he or she then develops as a personality to the point where a teacher or an exemplar can be intentionally chosen. Thus, the subject in the morality of exemplars is already someone, already a moral person. In principle people are held to have individuality even from birth, although the accomplishing of moral qualities has yet to happen, since Mongols are born already marked as people.

In Mongolia, I suggest, it is as oneself that one searches for and chooses a teacher. It is common for people to look for many years until they find the one teacher they can truly admire. Sometimes the wise words are written on the back of photographs of film-stars—not that they are the sayings of these filmstars, but two kinds of ideal are combined in this way. Young people often exchange papers with wise words, as a way of indicating to one another what kind of person they truly are. This, I think, emerges from the nature of the discourse between teacher and disciple.

To get at this we must think about what exactly it is that the moral subject strives after in putting him- or herself in the position of disciple. The chosen teacher simply is someone who has the qualities that one admires. However, what is important here is that it is not just the teacher as a social person that is the exemplar. However, the exemplary words are not just something that has been said by the teacher. So people may avoid dealing with the sense unless they can also see the intentional point, and this gives almost all talk a kind of weight, or directedness, which one might see as the grounds for a pervasiveness of morality in their culture.

But although purposive teachings are not unknown in Mongolia, particularly in the context of Buddhist teacher-disciple relations,7 very often the teacher does not know which really are his surgaal, as they appear almost as a by-product of his enlightened or spiritually gifted passage through life. Thus my Mongolian friend, the one who fell in love, stressed to me that Chingghis Khaan, taken as a historical personage, was not an exemplar to him.

It was not that he deluded himself that he was like the great Emperor, or that he 38 CAROLINE HUMPHREY thought his marriage would actually make much difference in the tense ethnic situation in Inner Mongolia, but rather that acting according to this exemplar would make him a better, wiser human being, and would be a step to leading a more far-sighted life. This, I think, can only be understood as evidence for a sense of self as a fundamental form of thought and action.

Among the things that distinguish a morality of exemplars from a morality that appears in a code is that there is no requirement that exemplars be consistent with one another or that they be coherent with regard to society in general. Because moral exemplars are unique to their subjects, they do not get tangled up in the characteristic arguments of European moral philosophy relating to consequentialism and moralities as total systems. Ever since Aristotle, many European philosophies, from those of the utilitarians to the social contract theorists, have proposed that there is an attainable ethics of harmony, whereby it would be possible for humans to resolve the contradictions between pure thought, practical wisdom and public life.

However, other philosophers, with whom my argument would tend to agree, have argued that such a harmony, encompassing not only the different aspects of individual ethics but also the benign accommodation of individuals in society, is impossible. Stuart Hampshire has argued, in a sustained attack on the Aristotelian position, that we need to recognize that human language and culture reinforce differences in behaviour, and furthermore that people do this in a self-conscious and willed way. There is no set of natural dispositions which is by itself sufficient to form a normal and natural character and to which children could be introduced.

People are aware of this as they grow up and embark on a way of life, and they know that every established way of life has its cost in the absence or repression of others. To give a simple example, by becoming a prudent and successful farmer one cannot have the qualities of splitsecond resolution of a fighter pilot, but this does not prevent one from knowing about them, or even admiring them. These stories have a typical protagonist who takes a wrong step and turns everything upside down Dorjlham A typical example is the traveller who came and stayed and stayed, and thoughtlessly ate and drank until the household ran bare, and never gave anything to the hosts in return.

It is interesting that these wrong actions are not really possible kinds of action in a Mongolian context, nor do they usually take the form of mockery of alien ways of life the cheating foreign trader, etc. Its moral foundation is a sense of personal selfworth. However, it is the case that political leaders in Asia have used this very ethical formation to their own ends.

He was a poor soldier who devoted himself to the people far beyond the call of military duty. He helped old people free of charge, took patients to hospital, etc. The important thing to note here is that there were many of these Maoist exemplars, and unlike the situation in more politically relaxed periods of Mongolian life, they were designed to blot out all previous models—that is, to take over the moral landscape.

In Inner Mongolia, despite all the thought reform of the Cultural Revolution, the Maoist attempt was not to be successful. Interestingly, it was not only the political pressure that people resented. They also came to turn against the endlessly repeated Maoist version of socialist morality, that is, exemplars representing personal sacrifice for the sake of society-wide advantage. However, as things are, the most bitter covert battles are now fought over historical and mythical figures who might serve as new and alternative exemplars to those of high socialist times.

This is why the ideological battle of today is waged to a large extent in terms of obscure Mongolian bandits, Chinese princesses dredged up from the past, or the enigmatic sayings of early manuscripts. The Maoist models, with their simpleminded messages, are uncharacteristic as far as Mongolia goes.

The discourse of Mongolian exemplars tends to be highly wrought, focused and difficult to understand. Such exemplars require pondering by the disciple. In fact, they have no single meaning, but are given meaning in the context of the specific aspirations of the subject in his or her predicament.

However, to quarry a little at the edges of this, let me try to give an example. The thirteenth-century account of the life of Chingghis Khan, The Secret History of the Mongols, is a favourite source of exemplary incidents, but it is notoriously difficult even for Mongols to understand. Now the Mongolian scholar Jagchid, who fled the country at the time of the communist take-over and presently lives in Taiwan, and who has adopted something of a bagshi role in relation to the preserving of the traditions of his fellow Mongols, published an article Jagchid in which he attempted to draw out the moral lessons of the Secret History.

Huo-tu, exhausted, arrived at the tent of one I-na-ssu. Am I not better than leaves and wood? Jagchid explains to his readers that what these incidents, with the same exemplary saying repeated over generations, reveal is an ethic of altruism not unknown to the nomadic peoples. We can note that it was Jagchid as bagshi who made this particular interpretation; in itself the saying is mysterious and metaphorical, and has a potential for being understood in some rather different ways. I do not want to give too strong an impression of the extent to which exemplars inspire people to take decisions I know few such cases explained to me in this way, and perhaps it is almost impossible from outside to weigh reasons for decisions which are entangled for people themselves.

Certainly, personal exemplars cannot be seen as freefloating, beyond significant power relations, or unaffected by the systematic, non-contingent arena of production and reproductive social relations cf. Smith However, what they seem to offer is not only alternative conceptions of how one ought to conduct oneself, but a discursive space for deliberation about ideals. This enables people to transform themselves and gradually to commit themselves to certain ethnic modes of being.

Investigating exemplars also gives grounds to the people involved, and to us as anthropologists, for the questioning of the apparent givenness of social rules, and ideas like habitus. One of the most fundamental ways of cultivating the self is through the discourse of exemplars. In one prominent tradition of cognitive anthropology, although the schemas themselves are culturally specific, the subject of such motivating schemas is assumed to be a universal person and self Quinn Finally, it is clear that the Mongolian recourse to exemplars should not be likened to the later European use of proverbs and maxims.

As the example of the failed Maoist models showed, the exemplary relation is historically contingent, but in the end has been quite resistant to overt ideological pressures. But they do not have to stay with these teachers and are free to choose the monk to whom they will devote themselves. The result is that many senior lamas have no disciples at all, while others who are more revered may have hundreds Arjiya Khutagt, Kumbum Monastery, personalcommunication to U.

The Kanjurwa Khutukhtu has written interestingly Hyer and Jagchid that the lung gives the disciple s a special mandate to fulfill the exhortation read the prayer, perform the ritual , but that among lay persons this term came to be used for a telling off or scolding, or alternatively as a dry, indoctrinating and boring lecture. This suggests that a one-sided teacherto-disciple formalization of the exemplar is inimical to its continued viability, and that the initiative of the disciple is essential. Taylor is concerned here with ideals and the practices that are meant to conform to them, and he argues against various sceptical positions suggesting that ideals cannot be subject to reason.

Taylor argues beyond the liberal view that the character of the just state can be seen in its impartiality to these different conceptions of what constitutes the most worthwhile, fully human life. Furthermore, the liberal model belongs to a philosophical tradition which is blind to ineliminable culturally embodied differences.

See Nick Smith for a perceptive critique of this position. The importance of the teacher, who is normally of a previous generation, pulls the ideals in a retrospective direction, although we cannot exclude that even archaic exemplars, such as those taken from the thirteenthcentury Secret History of the Mongols, might not come to be signs for a new consciousness; nor can we conclude that Mongolian exemplars will not inspire groups as well as individuals.

Dorjlham, T. Carrithers, S. Collins and S. Erdene-Ochir, G. Hurley, London: Penguin. Rashidondog, S. Shirendev, B. Wittgenstein, Ludwig Philosophical Investigations, trans. Anscombe, Oxford: Blackwell. I explained what I meant by asking my informants to describe the norms for good behaviour toward other people. The answer was unanimous.

The word for this was tsika. This does not merely illustrate the relativity of morality, but rather the difficulties involved when we try to turn one of our own culturespecific abstractions into a subject of investigation in a society where people do not even have a word for that concept. How can we elaborate methods for the ethnography of moralities in other cultures, when the concept of morality does not exist? We may, of course, define morality in a value-free way, if we just state that morality concerns the norms for good behaviour in any given society.

By this definition I have not gone into any particular cultural rules for behaviour. Yet I have presented a definition that depends heavily on my own culture, with its egalitarian, Protestant ethos, and its concern with individual responsibility, conscience and guilt. If moral judgements concern the things I do to other people, rather than what I do to myself, this implies that a morally wrong act is supposed to be connected with feelings of guilt rather than with feelings of shame. In distinguishing between shame and guilt, Piers and Singer hold that guilt inhibits and condemns transgression, while shame demands achievement of a positive goal Piers and Singer They underline that shame arises out of a tension between the ego and the ego ideal, while they define guilt as a tension between the ego and the super-ego ibid.

Leaving the psychoanalytical jargon aside, I think we may say that the notion of guilt presupposes a notion of conscience, that is an inner sense of individual responsibility for what one does to other people. Shweder and Bourne Instead, socio-centric conceptions of personhood seem to dominate in non-Western cultures Marsella ; Kirkpatrick and White 11; Shweder and Bourne ; Dumont , ; Forssen ; Parin, Morgenthaler and Parin-Matthey Hence, if we want to use cultural scripts as a way to approach the ethnography of moralities in a comparative cultural perspective, it seems as if we would have to focus on scripts about guilt and shame, or maybe dignity, while contextualizing such scripts with respect to the culturally constructed notions of personhood.

I would like to take one case in point. First, does it deal with shame or guilt? Does it have to do with morality, dignity or the social order? Second, one might wonder about the wording of the proverb. Does this mean that it is worse to admit a mistake than to commit it? We will get an answer to these questions if we read the interpretation of the proverb provided by Paul Riesman, in his posthumously published book First Find Your Child a Good Mother Riesman , where this proverb is quoted. Hence lying is interpreted as a sign that you are not able to control yourself.

This puts lying on a par with farting. Finally, what makes theft shameful is not its undeniable threat to society, but the fact that the thief fails the test of mastery on two counts: first, he is poor, which implies that he has failed to manage his own life circumstances…. Against the overall background of the importance of avoiding shame, it goes without saying that it is worse to admit these mistakes than to commit them. This implies that self-mastery refers to how the Fulani define themselves in relation to other people.

In order to distinguish themselves from those who represent a different hierarchical category, the Fulani have to show self-mastery whenever they interact with them. However, this behaviour conforms to the social ideal of any encounter between people representing different hierarchical categories, even among the Fulani themselves.

To show self-mastery is thus a way of recognizing the relative positions of people who interact, rather than to recognize their respective individual identities. It is a way to express social personhood, and to show what it is to be a person among other persons.

In this kind of society, of which the Fulani are an example, we thus find that the individual and the social person may be two entirely different things cf. La Fontaine The individual has to be concealed by the social person. In some other societies, however i. Here we thus find that individual and social personhood are conflated. Individual identity is not supposed to be concealed. The Fulani proverb may thus be interpreted as a cultural script about social personhood. It talks about the priority of collective personhood over individual personhood.

However, we may also formulate this kind of social personhood in terms of social categories. However, this explicit model covers a whole series of relationships between different kinds of social categories. It is when individuals representing these social categories interact that their relative social personhood gets activated, while their individual selves are supposed to be concealed. A classificatory kinship terminology implies, among other things, that no relative is a unique person—not even the most significant others surrounding the child in the elementary family.

They all represent broad social categories rather than themselves. The logic implied in such a kinship system is that the rules for behaviour between social categories tend to prevail over the possibilities for individual negotiations in the interaction between the Self and his or her significant Others. Consequently, the recognition of his or her categorical position in relation to any partner of interaction will prevail over his or her identity as an individual.

In accordance with this, the terms of address will seldom be those of individual names. They will rather identify an individual by reference to the social category that he or she represents in relation to the speaker. Although such a social system would imply a continuous flexibility regarding what relative position any individual occupies when interacting with other people, it is conceptually built upon the idea of categorical definitions of relative identity.

Considering the broad interest in researching morality and the normative dimensions of everyday life, this Summer School aims to provide a platform for early career researchers to contribute to these debates, facilitating international and interdisciplinary dialogue, and highlighting the dimension of morality as objects of study.

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Study-Unit Description

In such problematizations morality comes into being as an object of reflection that can be contested and claimed. At their heart lies the nexus between morality and emotions. To this end, we welcome ethnographers working on questions of morality from different disciplines and at different career stages PhD students, postdocs and early- career scholars. Combining lectures, workshops, and master classes conducted by renowned scholars in the field, the Summer School offers profound theoretical input and different formats for exchange.

Moral conflicts are driven by and foster antagonal positions — the need to morally stand on the right side —, invested with claims for authority and legitimacy. The ambiguity of positioning in a continuum of possibilities is reduced to a dichotomous moral scheme. This cluster seeks to address the normative political, epistemic, emotional regimes underlying questions of legitimacy and authority, as well as their contestation, the unfolding conflicts, and processes of hierarchization. The most significant impact of ethnographic research heretofore has been in support of ethical relativism.

Gowans Undeniably, some cultures engage in practices that other cultures, such as contemporary European-American cultures, would find objectionable.

Morals and Moralities

Consider some marriage practices and genital mutilation today, and cannibalism and human sacrifices in Roman or Aztec cultures cf. Prinz Hence, not only students in introductory philosophy classes but many anthropologists and professional philosophers believe it to be evident to anyone with an elementary understanding of the history and cultures of the world that descriptive ethical relativism must be true Gowans ; Prinz Appiah Some forms of relativism are normative doctrines: that one ought not to pass judgments on other cultures or people.

The latter doctrine, in particular, appears attractive to many meta-ethicists because it saves the appearances of ordinary moral language e. The arguably best argument for moral relativism of the latter from depends on an inference to the best explanation: the best explanation of the descriptive relativism is that no moral proposition is true independently of any framework Harman ; Wong ; Prinz ; Velleman Of course, there are further questions about the legitimacy of inference to the best explanation to establish ethical relativism e.

Tersman ; here I focus on the descriptive point only: if descriptive ethical relativism is not established, the relativist will not get off the ground. The ethical turn should shake up the alleged fact of anthropology. Indeed, prominent proponents of ethical relativism sometimes do not critically engage with ethnographic data at all, but merely accept descriptive relativism at face value e.

Harman Some prominent accounts of diverging values may turn out to reveal similarities rather than dissimilar on closer inspection. There is some discussion as to whether there is disagreement about the value of freedom. Asad ; Abu-Lughod And indeed, the piety movement described by Mahmood suggests that alternative notions of freedom are operating.

However, Laidlaw shows that the conception of freedom criticised by Mahmood and others is the kind of freedom that Isaiah Berlin called negative freedom; the absence of coercion of constraint. Jain realise that reaching the target is impossible; they cannot wholly renounce worldly plans and desires, if only because they are committed to providing for their families Laidlaw Another relevant case study concerns the relevance of intentionality for many philosophical conceptions of moral agency, responsibility, and consequently moral evaluation.

Velleman However, as Keane points out, opacity claims seem to be more about what one should talk about, not what one has access to, for there is clear evidence that people that adhered to an opacity claim had no impaired Theory of Mind cf. Laidlaw Robbins Though evaluations of intentions differ, Keane notes that such accounts show how intersubjectivity and intentionality nonetheless play an important role in thinking about morality.

Laidlaw and Keane thus show how apparent moral differences can be traced to underlying commonalities: the centrality of reflective freedom and differing affordances, respectively. Finally, moral anthropology promises to enrich the recent debate about debunking arguments in moral philosophy cf. Sauer ; e. Greene ; Klenk a; Haidt Debunking arguments differ in their details, but the fundamental question that spurs the debunking debate is how learning about the ultimate and proximate causes of our moral beliefs affects our view of the nature of morality, the reality of moral character, and the reliability, truth, and justification of moral beliefs cf.

Klenk b. All debunking challenges are intended to rely on descriptive claims about the formation of moral judgments. Various conclusions have been drawn: from rejections of moral rationalism which says that moral judgments depend on cognitive, deliberative processes , rejections of deontology, to metaethical conclusions about the reliability of moral judgments. The ethical turn may affect the plausibility of the normative premise of debunking arguments. To debunk X, people often try to show that X depends on Y and that Y is untenable in light of some descriptive finding.

A popular anti-debunking strategy is to argue that X does not rely on Y. The anthropological literature offers material to support such anti-debunking strategies by suggesting alternative accounts of morality that are compatible with the epistemic premise of debunking arguments. Several scholars have recently attempted to attack these arguments by pointing out the stilted, artificial scenarios as inadequate test cases to make claims about moral judgments in general Appiah ; Anderson The ethical turn supports this criticism by showing the broad range of ethically relevant situations: dilemmatic scenarios that call for deliberation might be uncharacteristic of ethics and thus inferences about the reliability of ethical judgments, in general, would be threatened.

Of course, there are many open questions both in regards to the ethnographic methodology as well as the inferences from ethnographic data to philosophical positions. Nonetheless, the moral anthropologists writing today show sensitivity to philosophical nuances and the philosophical literature. Moral philosophers should take it as an invitation to take the ethnographic stance on morality. There is some debate about the distinction between anthropology and ethnography; cf.

Ingold Earlier anthropological work found morality implicit in or entailed by other concepts. By having studied, for example, the various religious, gender and kinship systems from around the world, anthropology implicitly shed light on morality Parkin ; cf. Barker ; Cassaniti and Hickman Barker ; Mattingly and Throop See, for further discussion of the history of moral anthropology, Laidlaw and Laidlaw , as well as Mattingly and Throop The ethical turn is decidedly non-normative. It takes these moral tensions and debates as its objects of study and considers seriously the moral positions of all sides.

A moral anthropology has no moralizing project. Carrithers Indeed, Foucault might have dethroned Durkheim as the leading voice in the ethical turn Mattingly The idea that change comes through challenging of otherwise implicit norms, and that moral exemplars carry out this task is frequently defended. Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Open Access. First Online: 01 August Flanagan However, it turns out that until recently few cultural anthropologists have explicitly and systematically taken the ethnographic stance on morality.

The ethical turn offers no explicit answer to this question. However, it is less clear that the ethical turn thereby supports some virtue theoretical conception of morality. Modern moral philosophy, he suggests, was long dominated by deontology and utilitarianism, and their aspirations at formulating universal and absolute moral principles, up until the intervention by Anscombe , which put virtue ethics back on the philosophical map. Moreover, both deontology and utilitarianism are chided for their lack of empirical foundation, allegedly demanding hyper-rationality or mistakenly implying the commensurability of desires Laidlaw Deontology and utilitarianism, thus conceived, are iconoclastic and eccentric theoretical constructs, far removed from practical reality and empirical foundation.

He extensively relates to current psychological research. Abu-Lughod, Lila. Veiled sentiments. Google Scholar. Anderson, Amanda. Psyche and ethos. Moral life after psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. CrossRef Google Scholar. Anderson, Elizabeth. Value in ethics and economics. Anscombe, Elizabeth. Modern Moral Philosophy.


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