Conceptions of persons are neither self-evident nor immutable building blocks of society. What kind of person(s) are made evident in anthropological descriptions of diverse people and places as well as in academic practice?
Conceptions of persons are neither self-evident nor immutable building blocks of society (see Lury 1998). There is no natural one-to-one correspondence of persons around the world: different persons might be found in different places. Nevertheless, through diverse starting points, anthropologists are always brought back to the person: this panel is interested in the kinds of person(s) we encounter. For example, in Emily Martin's (1995) study of Americans' changing ideas about health and immunity, persons emerge as 'flexible', in Marilyn Strathern's (1988) description of Melanesia the person is partible and multiply constituted, and in Nigel Rapport's (1997) description, the person is a transcendent individual willing to make judgements over and against others. Is there ever a failure to discover persons - or a particular type of person? This panel examines the conceptual and practical places from where anthropologists start their explorations of personhood, places such as engineers and road construction in Peru, the right to know in Scotland, human rights and water pricing in Costa Rica, the politics of climate change in Manchester, UK, transparency and agenda setting in South Korea, and the Argentine law courts, and asks what kinds of person(s) emerge? In a moment in which there appear restrictions on resources within the academy (financial or otherwise) and the need to produce a particular kind of knowledge, this panel also reflects on the academic enterprise as one that produces a particular kind of academic 'person'.