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Module

SOC3077 : Making People: the Anthropology of Personhood from Before Birth to After Death (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Cathrine Degnen
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0

Aims

Who counts as a person, and how do we know? When does personhood begin, and when does it end? How do the answers to that question vary from culture to culture? And what are the cross-cultural differences in the possibilities of the forms that personhood takes? This module explores, through cross-cultural examples and by looking at different points in the life course, how notions of the person are reproduced and vary substantially through time and space.

Making People will explore the ways in which people are constituted through social relations and practices across the life course. This includes from before birth and during; via childrearing and caretaking practices; through skilled practices such as hunting and animal husbandry; during the pressures on selfhood in old age; at the point of death; and afterwards in regards to burial and remembrance.

The module will also introduce students to recent anthropological and sociological perspectives on transitions in the life course via a series of cross-cultural examples.

Finally, this module will develop students’ knowledge of theoretical debates in the social sciences over personhood and relationality, with particular regards to what these social practices reveal about the categories of nature and culture and normative Western ideals of the autonomous individual.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module introduces students to anthropological and sociological perspectives on transitions in the human life course. Rather than take an approach that simply describes discrete roles and stages, this module examines the life course via a focus on how people build relations with the world and each other at various crucial points across the life course. Such connections often come into focus at moments of extreme experiences (such as birth, rites of passage and death), but are also achieved through more mundane practices (such as eating, hunting, gardening, caretaking and remembrance). Whether extreme or mundane, all have profound consequences for social life, and this module considers instances of both using a number of cross-cultural case studies. Such transitions can be understood as moments in which cultural meaning is made, the category of the person is reproduced, social cohesion is maintained and at times challenged. The module explores these themes using theoretical perspectives that unite the biological and the social as well as look beyond ontologies that divide the world into human and non-human realms.

Teaching Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Assessment Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Reading Lists

Timetable