Proposed AAA Session

Kendall Kroesen (
Sat, 19 Feb 1994 13:20:14 PST

Greetings anthro-l people,

The following abstract describes a proposed session for the 1994 AAA
meetings in Atlanta. We are currently accepting paper proposals for
this session. If you are interested in the topic and think you
would like to present a paper, contact one of us as soon as
possible. Thank you.

Elisa Sobo Ken Kroesen
(619) 297-8322

Session Abstract--Cultural Conceptions of Mind and Body
1994 AAA session proposal by Ken Kroesen and Elisa Sobo

The objective of this session is to explore local knowledge about
thinking and feeling, and to examine how people relate this
knowledge to understandings of the body, well-being, and illness.

In recent years an impressive literature has emerged on local
knowledge about the self and emotion, as well as local concepts of
illness and the body. Both ethnopsychology and medical anthropology
have made great strides in exploring the ways in which the members
of various societies configure their inner lives in relation to
their social context.

One of the debates pervading the literature is between those who see
culture as partly shaped by biopsychological constants, and those
who consider it a system autonomous from the body. Is local
knowledge about thinking, emotion, and illness most closely wedded
to historical and social-structural factors, or do people build much
of their knowledge of such things around their experience with their

The past decade has seen the publication of many ethnographies of
emotion. These have provided a new ground for debate. This
literature is rife with not ours but our informants' conceptions of
how thinking and feeling can cause illness, disinterest in eating,
or other phenomena (pathological or not) that they clearly locate in
the body. Some accounts focus on inner experience, others explain
the meanings of emotion terms or illness categories in relation to
local social and moral orders. But most, in one way or another,
speak to local conceptions of the connection between mental and
emotional phenomena, and bodily experience.

If our informants often speak of the relationship between thinking,
feeling, and the body, shouldn't we listen? This session is
designed to provide a forum for listening to what they have told us.
In doing so it welcomes debate on the way we describe our
informants' knowledge, as well as on the conclusions that can be
drawn about culture, discourse, and practice that involves
ethnopsychological or ethnomedical knowledge. We hope to explore
novel ways of analyzing such domains.