Anthropology of Ethics and Morality

SS113
Spring 21

Ethical concern and moral evaluation are everywhere crucial aspects of social life. This course explores knowledge of Anthropology’s engagement with ethical life and related ethical concern and morality encountered in social life; It concerns the cross-cultural exploration of human moral capacities and selfhood, their expression in social life, and the fundamental role they play in situations of social change. The course begins with a review of the history and the recent development of what is sometimes called (problematically) the ‘ethical turn’ in anthropology; and continues with two formative intellectual sources for this recent literature: respectively the ‘genealogy of ethics’ found in Foucault’s later writings and virtue ethics in analytical philosophy. Both have been crucial for much of the recent literature, because they have enabled anthropologists to think about how some of the central concepts of ethics – such as character, virtue, responsibility, and freedom – might be construed as fundamentally relational features of social life (rather than as features of individuals, or in naturalistic terms). The succeeding lectures consider a series of emergent questions and research in the anthropological literature. At the end of the semester, students submit a medium-length paper communicating their understanding and analysis of a related topic of their choosing.

Juan CHEN

Juan CHEN

Juan Chen has received her PhD in Anthropology and Education from University of Cambridge.