Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations

Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations

Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations

Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations

Synopsis

This innovative volume is an extended intellectual conversation about the ways personal lives are being undone and remade today. Examining the ethnography of the modern subject, this preeminent group of scholars probes the continuity and diversity of modes of personhood across a range of Western and non-Western societies. Contributors consider what happens to individual subjectivity when stable or imagined environments such as nations and communities are transformed or displaced by free trade economics, terrorism, and war; how new information and medical technologies reshape the relation one has to oneself; and which forms of subjectivity and life possibilities are produced against a world in pieces. The transdisciplinary conversation includes anthropologists, historians of science, psychologists, a literary critic, a philosopher, physicians, and an economist. The authors touch on how we think and write about contingency, human agency, and ethics today.

Excerpt

João Biehl, Byron Good, and Arthur Kleinman

This book is an extended conversation about contemporary forms of human experience and subjectivity. It examines the genealogy of what we consider to be the modern subject, and it inquires into the continuity and diversity of personhood across greatly diverse societies, including the ways in which inner processes are reshaped amid economic and political reforms, violence, and social suffering. It is an ethnographic conversation, with authors confronting specific forms of social life in particular settings, and it is a theoretical conversation, exploring the debates and disciplinary disagreements about how we think and write about human agency today.

The writings in this book suggest that contemporary social formations, with their particular ways of being and the theoretical frames available for analyzing them, have destabilized our observation, thinking, and writing about subjectivity. in editing this collection, we have sought to show the multiple ways in which scholars address the diverse phenomena we call subject and subjectivity. Striving for a single analytic strategy would have been limiting and premature at best. This volume is thus exploratory, aiming to provide new directions for studies of subjectivity and intersubjectivity in today’s distinctive conditions.

In the many settings in which anthropologists now work, the vagaries of modern life are undoing and remaking people’s lives in new and ominous ways. the subjects of our study struggle with the possibilities and dangers of economic globalization, the threat of endless violence and insecurity, and the new infrastructures and forms of political domination and resistance that lie in the shadows of grand claims of democratization and reform. Once the door to the study of subjectivity is open, anthropology and its practitioners must find new ways to engage particularities of affect, cognition, moral responsibility, and action.

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