Psychological Anthropology

An awkward hybrid?

Authored by: Andrew Beatty

The Routledge Companion to Contemporary Anthropology

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415583954
eBook ISBN: 9781315743950
Adobe ISBN: 9781317590675


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Psychological anthropology is that branch of the discipline concerned with things psychological—questions of mind, consciousness, cognition, emotion, memory, sanity, rationality, motivation, and personality—in diverse social and cultural contexts. The formula is deliberately vague: outside our own cultural comfort zone we cannot say in advance what should count as “psychological.” Indeed, the indeterminacy of the concept, cross-culturally, forces us to reflect on the validity of our own categories, few of which have exact equivalents in other traditions. If they do not straightforwardly apply everywhere, like the categories of natural science, what objectivity do they possess? Why is an analysis of Melanesian morality with reference to mind, we might wonder, any more valid than a Melanesian analysis of English morality in terms of mana?

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