Placing Personhood: Ontology, The Life Course, and Cemeteries

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Cathrine Degnen


This article considers the challenge of teaching the anthropology of personhood to third year sociology and combined honours undergraduates at a British university. It draws on the experiences of the author in developing such a module, and in particular the difficulties of making the theoretical and empirical concepts at stake more tangible to this cohort of students. The article explores one solution, namely a seminar-based fieldwork exercise in a local cemetery. The exercise sought to bring personhood into view in the urban landscape and in everyday practices with a follow-up series of student presentations. The discussion here highlights the theoretical framing of personhood and ontology taken by the module; the dilemmas of finding real world and emplaced sites for the students to try out these ideas; and some of the reflections on teaching personhood via this exercise that resulted for both students and lecturer.

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DEGNEN, Cathrine. Placing Personhood: Ontology, The Life Course, and Cemeteries. Teaching Anthropology, [S.l.], v. 3, n. 1, may 2011. ISSN 2053-9843. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 july 2019. doi: