Moral Anthropology: A Critical Reader, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Moral Anthropology

A Critical Reader, 1st Edition

Edited by Didier Fassin, Samuel Lézé


388 pages

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pub: 2013-11-11
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This Reader is the first anthology to cover the growing field of moral anthropology and will be an essential resource for students and scholars interested in exploring the important issues involved. Morality and ethics are increasingly invoked in the most diverse domains, from politics to economics, from war to sexuality, from international justice to biological research. To interpret this phenomenon from a critical standpoint, anthropology offers unique perspectives. This volume includes classical as well as recent material and sheds light on continuing debates about relativism and universalism, values and emotions, moral duty and ethical freedom, human rights and humanitarianism, the responsibility of the researcher and the regulation of research. The carefully chosen texts are contextualised with lucid editorial material, including a substantial introduction.


"Moral Anthropology: A Critical Reader is a stunning achievement. It is uniquely suited to introduce the genealogical depth and contemporary relevance of ethical and moral questions in the terrain of social sciences and humanities. Fassin and Lézé show a superb command over a complex literature as they present each chapter with a clear and concise description of its relevance for what they call the ‘moral question’. The main introduction and conclusion will help students to navigate the chapters but are also signal contributions to the issues that have arisen to the center of concern in the public sphere." - Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University

"Now that the compilers of this creative collection have satisfied the need they identify, it becomes almost inconceivable to think of the anthropological horizon without it. Care, thoughtfulness and considerable imagination have gone into the compilation. The result is a work that is surprisingly fresh and vigorous. More than all the 'uses' to which it can be put, this is also going to be - and not for anthropologists alone - a real source of intellectual stimulus." - Marilyn Strathern, University of Cambridge

"This compendium is an essential tool for anyone interested in the study of morality in the social sciences and the humanities. The texts, classical and recent, are judiciously chosen and give an unparalleled perspective on a range of burning questions. The editors have done us a great service in assembling them in a single volume." - Michèle Lamont, Harvard University

“This variety of articles offers a great introduction to moral anthropology. However, each of the 44 articles or extracts of articles are only a few pages long, thus enabling the reader can only quickly dive into the particular topic before being forwarded to the next paper. However, this also makes the anthology an excellent summary of the whole field, and it provides a sound starting point for research on moral anthropology.” - Karla Dummler, University of Hamburg, Germany

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Moral Question in Anthropology Part One: Foundations Legacies of Moral Philosophies. Premises of a Science of Morality Part Two: Positions The Location of the Moral. Ethical Relativism in Question Part Three: Descriptions Local Ethics. Moral Economies Part Four: Confrontations Borderline Situations. Practical Tensions Part Five: Prescriptions Moralizing the World? Codifying the Discipline? Conclusion: Towards an Hauntology of the Moral Question.

About the Editors

Didier Fassin is the James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

Samuel Lézé is an Assistant Professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Methodology