Negotiating Personal Autonomy offers a detailed ethnographic examination of personal autonomy and social life in East Greenland.
Examining verbal and non-verbal communication in interpersonal encounters, Elixhauser argues that social life in the region is characterized by relationships based upon a particular care to respect other people’s personal autonomy. Exploring this high valuation of personal autonomy, she asserts that a person in East Greenland is a highly permeable entity that is neither bounded by the body nor even necessarily human. In so doing, she also puts forward a new approach to the anthropological study of communication.
An important addition to the corpus of ethnographic literature about the people of East Greenland, Elixhauser‘s work will be of interest to scholars of the Arctic and the North, Greenland, social and cultural anthropology, and human geography. Her conclusion that, in East Greenland, the ‘inner’ self cannot be separated from the ‘public’ persona will also be of interest to scholars working on the self across the humanities and social sciences.
Table of Contents
2. Setting the Scene: Communication, Autonomy and Personhood
3. East Greenland: Historical and Ethnographic Background
4. Moving: Communication and Everyday Travel
5. Family Life: The Power of Words, Personal Space, and the Materiality of a House
6. Shared Hospitality: Flows of Guests, Goods, and Gifts
7. Social Sanctions: The Balancing of Personal Autonomy and Community Expectations
8. The Animate Environment: Perceptions of Nun-human Beings and the Notion of the 'Open' Person
9. Conclusion: Nammeq and Ways of Communicating
Sophie Elixhauser is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, UK. Her research interests include human–environmental relations and interpersonal communication in East Greenland, and the human dimensions of climate and environmental changes in the European Alps. She currently works in the field of migration in Munich, Germany.