SSERG Workshop 2020

Methodologies in the Anthropology of Ethics


This workshop will examine the question of whether the expanding sub-field of the anthropology of ethics requires any special methodologies: how – if at all –anthropological enquiry into ethics should deviate from traditional ethnography and what methodological approaches should be applied to understanding morality in human social life. Despite the wealth of recent literature on the topic of ethics and morality in anthropology, there is an absence of explicit discussion of this issue. This international workshop will bring together leading figures from distinct currents of social anthropology to determine what methodological approaches are suitable to an anthropology of ethics and the implications of studying the ethical dimensions of sociality for how we understand ethnography.

Some scholars have commented that to speak of an anthropology of ethics disregards the fact that the discipline has always been centrally concerned with comprehending morality. However, what has been labelled the ‘ethical turn’ developed when ethnographic studies emerged that focused centrally on individual and collective processes of moral learning, reflection and conflict; how individuals ethically deliberate in social contexts, creatively engage in forming their own ethical identity, confront dilemmas and negotiate shifts and conflicts in the moral models of their culture during periods of social transformation. As it has matured, this body of scholarship has developed different theorizations of the ethical which emphasize distinct levels of analysis. Meanwhile, a number of anthropologists with interests in cognition and the use of experimental research methods have begun to focus on studying human morality, engaging with work in social psychology and experimental philosophy that examines the cognitive mechanisms involved in ethical reasoning. This workshop therefore takes place precisely at a moment in which anthropological research into ethics has grown into a diverse sub-field, while the wider empirical study of ethics has also developed into an interdisciplinary research arena that traverses many areas of the social sciences and humanities. Nevertheless, the absence of explicit discussion of methodological approaches between the different currents within the anthropology of ethics limits both its ability to make progress on common research questions and to enter into meaningful dialogue and collaboration with parallel investigation in other disciplines.


Full details are here.


Session I: Experience and the Human Condition
Monday, 14 December 2020
15.00 – 17.30 GMT

Session II: Social Action and the Everyday
Friday, 18 December 2020
15.00 – 17.30 GMT

Session III: Mind, Cognition and Culture
Monday, 21 December 2020
15.00 – 17.30 GMT