Theories of the person - SE596

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2020 to 2021.


This module aims to develop the theoretical imagination of students by making them familiar with the central debates that have shaped anthropological theory from the early twentieth century to our contemporary debates. That is, we aim to instil the ability to apprehend theoretical issues and apply them with a critical and informed sense of the role of difference in the human experience. The module is not a 'history of theory' survey; rather, it will proceed by leading the students through the complex interrelations and cross references that have shaped anthropological theory over the past century. The module is organised around the theme of personhood, which will be used as a lens through which to view theoretical discussions within social anthropology as well as its appropriations from other disciplines.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150


BA Social Anthropology; Joint Honours; with a Year Abroad; BSc Anthropology

Method of assessment

Analytical Essay (50%)
Examination, 2 hour (50%)

Indicative reading

J. Pina-Cabral. 2017. World: An anthropological examination. Chicago: HAU Books (free online access: )
J. Fabian. 2002. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. NY: Columbia University Press.
Marshall Sahlins. 2013. What kinship is—and is not. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Michael Carrithers, Steven Lukes and Steven Collins (ed.s). 1982. The category of the person. Cambridge: University Press
(free online access:,%20Anthropology,%20philosophy,%20history.pdf)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

8.1 Discuss the main theoretical schools to have affected social anthropology in the course of the twentieth century, namely in relation to the issue of personhood
8.2 Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the relationship between social anthropology and the disciplines from which it draws its theoretical sources including sociology, philosophy, political economy, and psychoanalytic theory, namely by reference to the issue of personhood
8.3 Understand the ways in which social anthropologists have approached the theories of the person in relationship to their ethnographic writings
8.4 Analyse critically theoretical positions concerning the nature of the person, and locate them in the appropriate intellectual schools of thought from which they originate
8.5 Construct coherent and logical arguments, particularly in written form, which combine theoretical writings with the discussion of ethnographic data specifically in relation to personhood.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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