W/S-001 Aspects of Personhood (Africa, Melanesia)

W/S-001 Aspects of Personhood (Africa, Melanesia)


The seminar consists of five thematic sections.

Section 1: ‘Person’, ‘self’, and ‘individual’. Definitions and analytical distinctions.

The first section offers definitions of ‘personhood’, ‘self’ and ‘individual’. Its aim is, first: to outline a coherent terminology out of the plethora of definitions and analytical distinctions of/between these three terms/concepts found in most of the anthropological writings on the topic; second: to underline the fact that these concepts are – to a great extent – socially, culturally and historically determined.

Section 2: Personhood, kinship, and gender.

The analytical category of personhood has it has been used by social anthropologists has led to a renewal of kinship studies. Thus, for example, the focus upon the ways personhood is conceptualized and constituted in different societies triggered a shift from a static, normative view of kinship to approaches underlying the practices of kinship and its processual nature. Conversely, the focus on gender and exchange transformed our view of personhood and self in so-called ‘primitive societies’.

Section 3: Personhood, ritual/exchange, and gender.

This section is a sequel to the section 2, with gender as their common denominator. It examines how initiation rituals and exchanges constitute the gendered self in both sub-Saharan and Melanesian societies so as to pinpoint the similarities and the differences between a Melanesian and an African variety of personhood. This gives us the opportunity to juxtapose two anthropological approaches of ritual and show that the theoretical perspective adopted by anthropologists greatly influences the way they define their object.

Section 4: Cultural encounters: the ‘person’, the ‘self’ and the ‘individual’ in their historical contexts.

Fourth section places personhood and its derivatives (‘self’ and ‘individual’) into their wider historical contexts so as to examine how they evolved through the historical experiences of the slave-trade, forced labor (under colonialism), and the market economy, all of which have afflicted and still afflict Europe’s African and Melanesian ex-colonies.

Section 5: Personhood, humanity and Animality: toward a reassessment of the nature/culture divide.

Section 5 investigates the interrelations between personhood, humanity and animality. More specifically, it examines cases in which the distinction between humans and animals is blurred. Under which circumstances and to what extent can a human substitute for an animal and can animals be vested with attributes of personhood and, therefore, humanity? How does this blurring impinge upon the nature/culture divide? We will draw on ethnographic work from South America, North America and Siberia.


Social Sciences

Academic Unit:

Social Anthropology and History

Level of studies:


Course code:



Independent teaching activities


Weekly teaching hours




Course type:

Prerequisite courses:


Language of instruction and examinations:


Is the course offered to erasmus students:


Course website (URL):


Τρόπος Παράδοσης:

Πρόσωπο με πρόσωπο

Χρήση Τεχνολογιών, Πληροφορίας & Επικοινωνιών:

Παρουσιάσεις σε Power Point, προβολή σύντομων βίντεο μέσω διαδικτύου, επικοινωνία μέσω eclass

Οργάνωση Διδασκαλίας: 

Δραστηριότητα Φόρτος Εργασίας Εξαμήνου
Σύνολο Μαθήματος 140
Διαλέξεις 40
Ασκήσεις στην τάξη 15
Εκπαιδευτική εκδρομή 10
Αυτόνομη μελέτη στην διάρκεια του εξαμήνου 45
Μελέτη προετοιμασίας για τις εξετάσεις 30

Αξιολόγηση Φοιτητών:

Η αξιολόγηση των φοιτητών/ριών γίνεται μέσω εξετάσεων με ερωτήσεις ανάπτυξης και αποκλειστικά στην ελληνική γλώσσα. Τα κριτήρια είναι προσβάσιμα για τους φοιτητές/ριες στην ηλεκτρονική πλατφόρμα του μαθήματος (e-class).