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Becoming Mapuche
Person and Ritual in Indigenous Chile
Magnus Course
University of Illinois Press, 2011
Magnus Course blends convincing historical analysis with sophisticated contemporary theory in this superb ethnography of the Mapuche people of southern Chile. Based on many years of ethnographic fieldwork, Becoming Mapuche takes readers to the indigenous reserves where many Mapuche have been forced to live since the beginning of the twentieth century. In addition to accounts of the intimacies of everyday kinship and friendship, Course also offers the first complete ethnographic analyses of the major social events of contemporary rural Mapuche life--eluwün funerals, the ritual sport of palin, and the great ngillatun fertility ritual. The volume includes a glossary of terms in Mapudungun.

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Concepts of Person
Kinship, Caste, and Marriage in India
Ákos Östör
Harvard University Press, 1982
Concepts of Person is the first comprehensive review of new developments in symbolic, structural, and cultural anthropology applied to a specific area—in this case, India. Using rich ethnographic detail, it looks at the extent to which new models of kinship, caste, and marriage translate into regional and Indian models. The contributors, all distinguished scholars of South Asia, tackle different geographical areas and such diverse topics as hierarchy, forms of address, ritual, household, and widowhood. But central to each chapter is a focus on the idea of the person in social relations: when, where, and how is a person a person, and how is this construction related to kinship studies in general? By applying these questions to South Asian models of the person, this book promises to play a central role in our future understanding of kinship, the possibilities for cross-cultural comparison, and ways of looking at social change.

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The Ethical Condition
Essays on Action, Person, and Value
Michael Lambek
University of Chicago Press, 2015
Written over a thirty-year span, Michael Lambek’s essays in this collection point with definitive force toward a single central truth: ethics is intrinsic to social life. As he shows through rich ethnographic accounts and multiple theoretical traditions, our human condition is at heart an ethical one—we may not always be good or just, but we are always subject to their criteria. Detailing Lambek’s trajectory as one anthropologist thinking deeply throughout a career on the nature of ethical life, the essays accumulate into a vibrant demonstration of the relevance of ethics as a practice and its crucial importance to ethnography, social theory, and philosophy.

Organized chronologically, the essays begin among Malagasy speakers on the island of Mayotte and in northwest Madagascar. Building from ethnographic accounts there, they synthesize Aristotelian notions of practical judgment and virtuous action with Wittgensteinian notions of the ordinariness of ethical life and the importance of language, everyday speech, and ritual in order to understand how ethics are lived. They illustrate the multiple ways in which ethics informs personhood, character, and practice; explore the centrality of judgment, action, and irony to ethical life; and consider the relation of virtue to value. The result is a fully fleshed-out picture of ethics as a deeply rooted aspect of the human experience. 

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Form, Power, and Person in Robert Creeley’s Life and Work
Stephen Fredman
University of Iowa Press, 2010

By any measure—international reputation, influence upon fellow writers and later generations, number of books published, scholarly and critical attention—Robert Creeley (1926–2005) is a literary giant, an outstanding, irreplaceable poet. For many decades readers have remarked upon the almost harrowing emotional nakedness of Creeley’s writing. In the years since his death, it may be that the disappearance of the writer allows that nakedness to be observed more readily and without embarrassment.

       Written by the foremost critics of his poetry, Form, Power, and Person in Robert Creeley’s Life and Work is the first book to treat Creeley’s career as a whole. Masterfully edited by Stephen Fredman and Steve McCaffery, the essays in this collection have been gathered into three parts. Those in “Form” consider a variety of characteristic formal qualities that differentiate Creeley from his contemporaries. In “Power,” writers reflect on the pressure exerted by emotions, gender issues, and politics in Creeley’s life and work. In “Person,” Creeley’s unique artistic and psychological project of constructing a person—reflected in his correspondence, teaching, interviews, collaborations, and meditations on the concept of experience—is excavated. While engaging these three major topics, the authors remain, as Creeley does, intent upon the ways such issues appear in language, for Creeley’s nakedness is most conspicuously displayed in his intimate relationship with words.


Charles Altieri

Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Stephen Fredman

Benjamin Friedlander

Alan Golding

Michael Davidson

Steve McCaffery

Peter Middleton

Marjorie Perloff

Peter Quartermain

Libbie Rifkin


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Homework Help from the Library
In Person and Online
Carol American Library Association
American Library Association, 2011

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On the Bones of the Serpent
Person, Memory, and Mortality in Sabarl Island Society
Debbora Battaglia
University of Chicago Press, 1990
Sabarl island—created, in myth, from the bones of a serpent—is a coral atoll in the Louisiade archipelago of Papua New Guinea. The Sabarl speak of themselves as true "islanders": persons separated from the means of both physical and social survival. The Sabarl struggle for continuity—of the physical and social person and of social relations, of cultureal values, of paternal influence in a matrilineal society—is the subject of Debbora Battaglia's sensitive ethnography of loss and reconstruction: the first major work on cultural responses to mortality in the southern Massim culture area and an important contribution to studies of personhood in Melanesia.

The creative focus of Sabarl cultural life is a series of mortuary feasts and rituals known as segaiya. In assembling and disassembling commemorative food and objects in segaiya exchanges, Sabarl also assemble and disassemble the critical social relations such objects stand for. These commemorative acts create a collective memory yet also a collective experience of forgetting social bonds that are of no future use to the living. Sabarl anticipate this disaggregation in patterns of everyday life, which reveal the importance of categorical distinctions mapped in beliefs about the physical and metaphysical person.

Using remembrance and forgetting as an analytic lens, Battaglia is able to ask questions critical to understanding Melanesian social process. One of the "new ethnographies" addressing the limits of ethnographic representation and the fragmented nature of knowledge from an indigenous perspective, her finely wrought study explores the dynamics of cultural practices in which decontruction is integral to construction, allowing a new perspective on the ephermeral nature of sociality in Melanesia and new insight into the efficacy of cultural images more generally.

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One Kind of Everything
Poem and Person in Contemporary America
Dan Chiasson
University of Chicago Press, 2007

One Kind of Everything elucidates the uses of autobiography and constructions of personhood in American poetry since World War II, with helpful reference to American literature in general since Emerson. Taking on one of the most crucial issues in American poetry of the last fifty years, celebrated poet Dan Chiasson explores what is lost or gained when real-life experiences are made part of the subject matter and source material for poetry. In five extended, scholarly essays—on Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Frank Bidart, Frank O’Hara, and Louise Glück—Chiasson looks specifically to bridge the chasm between formal and experimental poetry in the United States. Regardless of form, Chiasson argues that recent American poetry is most thoughtful when it engages most forcefully with autobiographical material, either in an effort to embrace it or denounce it.


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Pattern and Person
Ornament, Society, and Self in Classical China
Martin J. Powers
Harvard University Press, 2006

In Classical China, crafted artifacts offered a material substrate for abstract thought as graphic paradigms for social relationships. Focusing on the fifth to second centuries B.C., Martin Powers explores how these paradigms continued to inform social thought long after the material substrate had been abandoned. In this detailed study, the author makes the claim that artifacts are never neutral: as a distinctive possession, each object—through the abstracting function of style—offers a material template for scales of value. Likewise, through style, pictorial forms can make claims about material “referents,” the things depicted. By manipulating these scales and their referents, artifacts can shape the way status, social role, or identity is understood and enforced. The result is a kind of “spatial epistemology” within which the identities of persons are constructed. Powers thereby posits a relationship between art and society that operates at a level deeper than iconography, attributes, or social institutions.

Historically, Pattern and Person traces the evolution of personhood in China from a condition of hereditary status to one of achieved social role and greater personal choice. This latter development, essential for bureaucratic organization and individual achievement, challenges the conventional opposition between “Western” individuals and “collective” Asians.


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Person and Act and Related Essays
Karol Wojtyla
Catholic University of America Press, 2021
The Catholic University of America Press is honored to announce the publication of the first volume of the critical English edition of The Collected Works of Karol Wojtyła/John Paul II. In conjunction with an international editorial board, the English Critical Edition will comprise 20 volumes, covering all of his writings and correspondence both in the years before and during his papacy. What makes this collection so important is that access to his writings have been a significant challenge. Except for official papal addresses and documents preserved and disseminated by the Vatican, his works have been scattered and limited, or in need of a new translation. Finally, English-language audiences have faced the challenge, even in the case of published texts, of working across multiple languages and translations and of dealing with textual idiosyncrasies. The inaugural volume of this collection is Person and Act, together with related essays, which is in many respects constitutes Karol Wojtyła’s most profound and well-known philosophical work. Originally published in 1969 as Osoba I czyn, this work of metaphysics and philosophy is widely influential even though it is highly challenging intellectually and has heretofore posed difficulties for translators.

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Person and Myth
Maurice Leenhardt in the Melanesian World
James Clifford
Duke University Press, 1992
Originally published in 1982, James Clifford's analytical biography of Maurice Leenhardt (1878–1954)—missionary, anthropologist, founder of French Oceanic studies, historian of religion, and colonial reformer—received wide critical acclaim for its insight into the colonial history of anthropology. Drawing extensively on unpublished letters and journals, Clifford traces Leenhardt's life from his work as a missionary on the island of New Caledonia (1902–1926) to his subsequent return to Paris where he became an academic anthropologist at the École Practique des Hautes Études, where he followed Marcel Mauss and was succeeded in 1951 by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Clifford sees in Leenhardt's career a foreshadowing of contemporary anthropological concerns with reflexivity, cultural hybridity, and colonial and post-colonial entanglements.

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Person and Psyche
Kenneth L. Schmitz
Catholic University of America Press, 2009

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Person, Being, and History
Michael Baur
Catholic University of America Press, 2011
the various essays in this volume by colleagues and former students of Schmitz examine his thought and the subjects of his teaching. In addition to an overall exposition of his own thought, the collection treats themes such as gift, faith and reason, culture and dialogue, modernity and post-modernity

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The Sacredness of the Person
A New Genealogy of Human Rights
Hans Joas
Georgetown University Press, 2015

What are the origins of the idea of human rights and universal human dignity? How can we most fully understand—and realize—these rights going into the future? In The Sacredness of the Person, internationally renowned sociologist and social theorist Hans Joas tells a story that differs from conventional narratives by tracing the concept of human rights back to the Judeo-Christian tradition or, alternately, to the secular French Enlightenment. While drawing on sociologists such as Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Ernst Troeltsch, Joas sets out a new path, proposing an affirmative genealogy in which human rights are the result of a process of “sacralization” of every human being.

According to Joas, every single human being has increasingly been viewed as sacred. He discusses the abolition of torture and slavery, once common practice in the pre-18th century west, as two milestones in modern human history. The author concludes by portraying the emergence of the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 as a successful process of value generalization. Joas demonstrates that the history of human rights cannot adequately be described as a history of ideas or as legal history, but as a complex transformation in which diverse cultural traditions had to be articulated, legally codified, and assimilated into practices of everyday life. The sacralization of the person and universal human rights will only be secure in the future, warns Joas, through continued support by institutions and society, vigorous discourse in their defense, and their incarnation in everyday life and practice.


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Saint Thomas Aquinas
The Person and His Work
Jean-Pierre Torrell, OP
Catholic University of America Press, 2022
The presentation of the life and work of any great thinker is a formidable task, even for a renowned scholar. This is all the more the case when such a historical figure is a saint and mystic, such as Friar Thomas Aquinas. In this volume, Fr. Jean-Pierre Torrell, OP, masterfully takes up the strenuous task of presenting such a biography, providing readers with a detailed, scholarly, and profound account of the thirteenth-century theologian whose works have not ceased to draw the attention of both friend and foe! In this volume, Fr. Torrell, an internationally renowned expert on St. Thomas, speaks to neophytes and experts alike: for those new to Thomas’s works, he paints an engaging human portrait of Friar Thomas in his historical context; for specialists, he provides a rigorous scholarly account of contemporary research concerning Thomas’s life and work. This new edition of Fr. Torrell’s widely-lauded text involved significant revision, expansion, and bibliographical updates in light of the latest scholarship. The Catholic University of America Press is pleased to present such an eminent specialist’s mature synthesis concerning Friar Thomas Aquinas.

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The Soul of the Person
A Contemporary Philosophical Psychology
Adrian J. Reimers
Catholic University of America Press, 2006
The Soul of the Person is a contemporary account of the metaphysical basis for the transcendence of the human person. In being directed toward truth, beauty, and goodness, the human person transcends the physical order and reveals himself as a spiritual, as well as a material, being.

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The Three Ages of Government
From the Person, to the Group, to the World
Jos C.N. Raadschelders
University of Michigan Press, 2020
It is only in the last 250 years that ordinary people (in some parts of the world) have become citizens rather than subjects. This change happened in a very short period, between 1780 and 1820, a result of the foundations of democracy laid in the age of revolutions. A century later local governments embraced this shift due to rapid industrialization, urbanization, and population growth. During the twentieth century, all democratic governments began to perform a range of tasks, functions, and services that had no historical precedent. In the thirty years following the Second World War, Western democracies created welfare states that, for the first time in history, significantly reduced the gap between the wealthy and everyone else. Many of the reforms of that postwar period have been since rolled back because of the belief that government should be more like a business. Jos C.N. Raadschelders provides the information that all citizens should have about their connections to government, why there is a government, what it does, how it does it, and why we can no longer do without it. The Three Ages of Government rises above stereotypical thinking to show the centrality of government in human life.

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What Is a Person?
James W. Walters
University of Illinois Press, 1997
      At a time when technology can sustain marginal life, it is ever more
        important to understand what constitutes a person. What are the medical,
        ethical, moral, mental, legal, and philosophical criteria that determine
        protectable human life?
      Following immediately on the publication of his highly praised book Choosing
        Who's to Live, James Walters addresses with depth and wisdom another
        ambitious and complicated matter: determining the nature of personhood.
        By providing a much-needed religious/philosophical context for the discussion--examining
        contemporary thinking on just what constitutes valuable life--Walters
        broadens his inquiry beyond the human to include other animals and deals
        with the phenomenon of anencephalic infants, those who are born without
        higher brains.
      Searching for a measurable and humane standard of personhood, Walters
        looks at the current definition of it and declares it inadequate--offering
        instead the idea of proximate personhood, with criteria for helping to
        determine which individuals possess a unique claim to life.

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What Is a Person?
Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up
Christian Smith
University of Chicago Press, 2010

What is a person? This fundamental question is a perennial concern of philosophers and theologians. But, Christian Smith here argues, it also lies at the center of the social scientist’s quest to interpret and explain social life. In this ambitious book, Smith presents a new model for social theory that does justice to the best of our humanistic visions of people, life, and society.

Finding much current thinking on personhood to be confusing or misleading, Smith finds inspiration in critical realism and personalism. Drawing on these ideas, he constructs a theory of personhood that forges a middle path between the extremes of positivist science and relativism. Smith then builds on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, and William Sewell to demonstrate the importance of personhood to our understanding of social structures. From there he broadens his scope to consider how we can know what is good in personal and social life and what sociology can tell us about human rights and dignity.

Innovative, critical, and constructive, What Is a Person? offers an inspiring vision of a social science committed to pursuing causal explanations, interpretive understanding, and general knowledge in the service of truth and the moral good.


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