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Placing personhood: ontology, the life course, and cemeteries

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Cathrine Degnen



This article considers the challenge of teaching the anthropology of personhood to third year sociology and combined honours undergraduates at a British university. It draws on the recent experiences of the author in developing and delivering such a module, considering in particular the difficulties of making the theoretical and empirical concepts at stake more tangible to this particular cohort of students. The article explores one of those solutions, namely a seminar-based fieldwork exercise in a local cemetery. The exercise sought to bring personhood ‘into view’ in the urban landscape and in everyday practices with a follow-up series of student presentations. The discussion here highlights the theoretical framing of personhood and ontology taken by the module; the dilemmas of finding ‘real world’ and emplaced sites for the students to try out these ideas; and some of the reflections on teaching personhood via this exercise that resulted for both students and lecturer.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Degnen C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Teaching Anthropology

Year: 2013

Volume: 3

Issue: 1

Pages: 3-16

Date deposited: 17/03/2015

Publisher: Royal Anthropological Institute