Panel 31

Locating the individual, understanding the social. Ethnographies of the subject as a collective person

Panel 31 / Quarto Convegno Nazionale SIAC “Il ritorno del sociale”, Sapienza Università di Roma, 21-22-23 settembre 2023

Proponenti: Francesco Vacchiano (Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia), Gianmarco Marzola (Universidade de Lisboa)
Discussant: João Pina-Cabral (Universidade de Lisboa)


In the anthropological debate, the social has sometimes been understood as a sphere which both encompasses and determines the individual: in particular, the attention for the ways in which our interlocutors evaluate, make decisions and try to construct themselves is often understood, still today, as a result of methodological individualism, psychologism or neoliberal tendencies. In particular, approaches that focus the individual – psychological anthropology, phenomenology, anthropology of ethics and morality – are still sometimes accused of losing sight of the forces of history and the cogency of social constraints, those related, for instance, to gender, class and racialization processes. This panel aims to explore the relationship between the individual and the social, with the aim to promote a more appropriate understanding of a dialectic which is fundamental for social theory. How do people relate to complex and plural collective values? To what extent are they able to produce changes in society? How is it possible to combine freedom and adherence to social values? We welcome proposals that, with the aim of interacting with such questions, use ethnography to focus the relationship between individual experience and everyday constraints, historical dynamics and processes of ontogenic transformation, theories of the person and ways of understanding society and sociability.

Keywords: person, subjectivity, relationships

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