Placing Personhood: Ontology, The Life Course, and Cemeteries

  • 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.

Author Biography

Cathrine Degnen