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Through an ambitious and critical revision of Michel Foucault's investigation of ethics, James Faubion develops an original program of empirical inquiry into the ethical domain. From an anthropological perspective, Faubion argues that Foucault's specification of the analytical parameters of this domain is the most productive point of departure in conceptualizing its distinctive features. He further argues that Foucault's framework is in need of substantial revision to be of genuinely anthropological scope. In making this revision, Faubion illustrates his program with two extended case studies: one of a Portuguese marquis and the other of a dual subject made up of the author and a millenarian prophetess. The result is a conceptual apparatus that is able to accommodate ethical pluralism and yield an account of the limits of ethical variation, providing a novel resolution of the problem of relativism that has haunted anthropological inquiry into ethics since its inception.
A clearly written, sophisticated summary of and prospectus for a flourishing current field of anthropological research.
Morality: An Anthropological Perspective provides the first account of anthropological approaches to the question of morality. By considering how morality is viewed and enacted in different cultures, and how it is related to key social institutions such as religion, law, gender, sexuality and medical practice, Morality takes a closer look at some of the most central questions of the morality debates of our time. The book combines theory with practical case studies for student use. Drawing on anthropological, philosophical and general social scientific literature, the book will be useful for both undergraduate students and researchers. Accessibly written, Morality provides a unique and wide-ranging perspective on morality, and will be essential reading for those interested in this important contemporary debate.
The human propensity to take an ethical stance toward oneself and others is found in every known society, yet we also know that values taken for granted in one society can contradict those in another. Does ethical life arise from human nature itself? Is it a universal human trait? Or is it a product of one's cultural and historical context? Webb Keane offers a new approach to the empirical study of ethical life that reconciles these questions, showing how ethics arise at the intersection of human biology and social dynamics. Drawing on the latest findings in psychology, conversational interaction, ethnography, and history, Ethical Life takes readers from inner city America to Samoa and the Inuit Arctic to reveal how we are creatures of our biology as well as our history—and how our ethical lives are contingent on both. Keane looks at Melanesian theories of mind and the training of Buddhist monks, and discusses important social causes such as the British abolitionist movement and American feminism. He explores how styles of child rearing, notions of the person, and moral codes in different communities elaborate on certain basic human tendencies while suppressing or ignoring others. Certain to provoke debate, Ethical Life presents an entirely new way of thinking about ethics, morals, and the factors that shape them.
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Bringing together ethnographic exposition with philosophical concepts and arguments and effectively transcending subdisciplinary boundaries between cultural and linguistic anthropology, the essays collected in this volume explore the ethical entailments of speech and action and demonstrate the centrality of ethical practice, judgment, reasoning, responsibility, cultivation, commitment, and questioning in social life. Rather than focus on codes of conduct or hot-button issues, they make the cumulative argument that ethics is profoundly 'ordinary', pervasive - and possibly even intrinsic to speech and action. In addition to deepening our understanding of ethics, the volume makes an incisive and necessary intervention in anthropological theory, recasting discussion in ways that force us to rethink such concepts as power, agency, and relativism. Individual chapters consider the place of ethics with respect to conversation and interaction; judgment and responsibility; formality, etiquette, performance, ritual, and law; character and empathy; social boundaries and exclusions; socialization and punishment; and commemoration, history, and living together in peace and war.

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