Volume 3   Number 1      Fall 2008

Personhood, Self, Difference, and Dialogue (Commentary on Chaudhary)
Susan Rasmussen
University of Houston, USA
pp. 31-54   (pdf)

ABSTRACT. The “self,” or “person” is an intriguing but challenging topic in the social sciences. Relationships and interactions among self/person, body, mind, and sociality are universal cultural preoccupations, although these categories are not delineated in identical ways across cultures, or even within the same culture, and they do not remain the same over time. Local concepts of personhood or “self” are notoriously difficult to detach from the culture-bound analytical classifications and a priori assumptions of researchers. Chaudhary’s essay on self-other dynamics in India (Chaudhary, 2008) paves the way toward opening up new theoretical spaces to explore the concept of person contextually and dynamically, revealing more nuanced aspects of self/other negotiations in dialogical constructions. Here, the person or “self” emerges not as a reified, static attribute, but as part of a dynamic process. This commentary takes up Chaudhary’s article, exploring ways in which it resonates with anthropological discussions of personhood/self and more general theorizing on culture.


Keywords: intersubjectivity, interobjectivity, family,  nucleus of self, dividual, Africa, Asia, Melanesia, Tuareg healing, egocentric/sociocentric societies