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Anthropology’s Ethics. Moral Positionalism, Cultural Relativism, and Critical Analysis


Caduff, Carlo (2011). Anthropology’s Ethics. Moral Positionalism, Cultural Relativism, and Critical Analysis. Anthropological Theory, 11(4):465-480.

Abstract

In a programmatic article, published in late 2008 in Anthropological Theory, the French anthropologist Didier Fassin explores the vexed question whether anthropology should be moral or not. Observing a general discomfort with the question of morality in the discipline of anthropology, Fassin argues that such a discomfort might actually serve a valuable heuristic function for the development of a moral anthropology in the near future. What Fassin means by moral anthropology is essentially a form of empirical inquiry that investigates how social agents articulate and negotiate moral claims in local contexts. In this response to Fassin’s article, I address a crucial challenge at the heart of moral anthropology, or the anthropology of ethics, as I prefer to call it. The challenge is to bring the anthropology of ethics into a productive relationship with the ethics of anthropology. Building on Fassin’s argument, I suggest that the discomfort with ethics indeed serves a valuable heuristic function because it is the spontaneous articulation of an ethics of discomfort.

Abstract

In a programmatic article, published in late 2008 in Anthropological Theory, the French anthropologist Didier Fassin explores the vexed question whether anthropology should be moral or not. Observing a general discomfort with the question of morality in the discipline of anthropology, Fassin argues that such a discomfort might actually serve a valuable heuristic function for the development of a moral anthropology in the near future. What Fassin means by moral anthropology is essentially a form of empirical inquiry that investigates how social agents articulate and negotiate moral claims in local contexts. In this response to Fassin’s article, I address a crucial challenge at the heart of moral anthropology, or the anthropology of ethics, as I prefer to call it. The challenge is to bring the anthropology of ethics into a productive relationship with the ethics of anthropology. Building on Fassin’s argument, I suggest that the discomfort with ethics indeed serves a valuable heuristic function because it is the spontaneous articulation of an ethics of discomfort.

Citations

7 citations in Web of Science®
8 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:790 Sports, games & entertainment
390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:14 Mar 2012 15:13
Last Modified:14 May 2016 08:08
Publisher:Sage
ISSN:1463-4996
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/1463499611428921

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