Accepted Paper:

The "dividual" in anthropology: Lateral development of "personhood"  


Yoko Taguchi (Kyoto University/JSPS)
Moe Nakazora (Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences/Kyoto University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores “dividual” personhood, focusing on Indian and Melanesian anthropology. While the concept of dividual is considered the counterpart of the Western bounded individual, this paper examines the development of the idea through a comparison of two non-Western conceptual areas.

Paper long abstract:

To deepen anthropological understandings of "individual" persons, this paper considers the "dividual" nature of the person characterized in contradiction to the Western bounded individual. Focusing on the anthropological works on India and Melanesia that elaborated an understanding of dividual personhood, this paper aims to explore (and broaden) one of the main queries of this panel: a proper conception of individuals for anthropology.

Marilyn Strathern and other Melanesianist anthropologists popularized the concept of the "partible" person, arguing that Melanesian persons are composed out of relations. In claiming this, they referred not only to the "indigenous theory" of Melanesian people but also to the studies of Indian personhood and castes developed by scholars including McKim Marriott and Valentine Daniel. They argued that Indian dividual personhood is dependent on the constant transactions and material influences of "substance-codes" (blood, food, knowledge, etc.) with other persons, deities, and the natural environment.

Previous research has noted the differences between these two areas; while Melanesian persons are internally divided and partible, South Indian persons are internally whole but fluid with permeable bodily boundaries. However, the conceptual interactions and borrowings of analytical terms between the two areas must be further examined. By following how the notion of the "dividual" made its way from India to Melanesia, later being "extracted" back to India, this paper attempts to develop an analytical framework to evoke new understandings of personhood not through a comparison between the West and a non-Western society but through a lateral comparison of non-Western societies.

Panel P029
The individual in anthropology: a future paradigm in anthropology?