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Perspectives from anthropology and history

This book examines the importance of rules for many of the world’s great moral traditions. Ethical systems characterised by detailed rules – Islamic sharia and Christian casuistry are notable examples – have often been dismissed as empty formalism or as the instrument of social control. This book demonstrates, on the contrary, that rules often enable, rather than hinder, personal ethical life. Here anthropologists and historians explore cases of rule-oriented ethics and their dynamics across a wide range of historical and contemporary moral traditions. Examples of pre-modern Hindu ethics, codes of civility from early modern England and medieval Christian casuistry demonstrate how rules can form an essential element of what Michel Foucault called ‘the care of the self’. Studies of Roman exemplary ethics, early modern Christian theology and the calculation of sin and merit in contemporary Muslim Palestine highlight the challenges posed by the coexistence of moral rules with other moral forms, not least those of virtue ethics. Finally, explorations of medieval and modern Islamic sharia, Christian moral theology and Jewish halakhah all highlight how such traditions develop complex meta-rules – rules about rules – for managing the tensions and dilemmas that the use of rules can entail. Together, these case studies and the theoretical framework proposed in the book’s Introduction offer a more nuanced, cross-cultural appreciation of the role of rules in moral life than those currently prevalent in both the anthropology of ethics and the history of morality.

Islam and divine bookkeeping in Nablus (Palestine)
Emanuel Schaeublin

the afterlife. Such accountancy-mindedness is a specific kind of a ‘technology of the self’. In Michel Foucault’s ( 1997 : 225) definition, ‘technologies of the self … permit individuals to effect by their own means, or with the help of others, a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality.’ Foucault ( 1997 ) roughly distinguishes between such

in Rules and ethics
Liene Ozoliņa

places (Collier and Ong 2005), the self-work that they promoted could also be recognised as a particular cultural and historical expression in the long lineage of technologies of the self, a contemporary form of such historical techniques as ‘the physical exercises that the Greeks pursued in the interest of sustaining their personal vigour and military skill …; the Stoic collection of hypomnemata, “notebooks” or “jottings” through which one might “make one’s recollection of the fragmentary logos transmitted through teaching, listening or reading a means of establishing

in Politics of waiting
Self-formation and the multiplicity of authority in Polish conversions to Judaism
Jan Lorenz

could thus be seen as a ‘technology of self’ (see Foucault 1988 ), emergent not solely in theological precepts or rabbinical responsa, but in the actual practice of conversion. The halakhic framework of giyur was adopted by Poles wanting to become Jews in order to fulfil individual projects of transformation, which are not necessarily contrary to the halakhic model of the process, but often extend its boundaries. My notion of ‘technologies of the self’ derives from what Michel Foucault ( 1988 : 18) defined as

in Rules and ethics
Karmen MacKendrick

-seeking, demanding the very failure that this doubleness sustains. Michel Foucault, in one of his many revisitations of the connections between knowledge and power, notes that Christianity imposes two distinct kinds of ‘truth obligations’. The first is the obligation to believe. He writes in ‘Technologies of the self’: Christianity … imposes very strict obligations of truth, dogma, and canon, more so than do the pagan religions.… The duty to accept a set of obligations, to

in Painful pleasures
Open Access (free)
Religion and spirituality in environmental direct action
Bronislaw Szerszynski and Emma Tomalin

of spirituality emerges within the direct action movement. As Deudney suggests, ‘appeals to higher selfinterest or long-run self-interest may be insufficient to motivate sufficient action. The appeal of Earth religion is that it helps motivate behaviour respectful of the Earth that otherwise would be difficult to achieve’ (1995: 290). We believe that religious resources such as myths, quasi-religious self-understandings and ritual action operate partly as what Michel Foucault (1988) calls ‘technologies of the self’. Although much of Foucault’s work analyses the

in Changing anarchism
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James Laidlaw

particular kinds of admirable person, and the ‘technologies of the self’ they employ for doing so. All forms of ethical life have some of both kinds of formulation, but the relative weight they are given varies. Like Williams, Foucault thought that our modern thinking about morality had come to be dominated to an unusual degree by rules that aspired to universality in application, and tried to specify permitted and prohibited acts in a law-like fashion. When anthropologists began, from around the beginning of this century, to

in Rules and ethics
Exploring the introduction of the smoking ban in Ireland
Eluska Fernández

the ‘interconnection between “top-down” power (technologies of domination) and “bottom-up” power (technologies of the self)’ (Petersen, 2007). Technologies of domination make reference to forms of external government, such as policing, surveillance and regulation. Technologies of the self are defined as techniques that allow individuals to effect change in the forms in which they govern their body, thought and conduct ‘so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality’ (Foucault, 1988: 18). As a

in Reframing health and health policy in Ireland
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Mission medicine and Bhil modernity
David Hardiman

technology, that of biomedical practice. In these ways, an environment was created that provided the conditions to lead people towards a new way of life and being. In Foucault’s terms, the missionaries provided the ‘technologies of the self, which permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way

in Missionaries and their medicine
Introducing the governmentality turn
Claire Edwards and Eluska Fernández

mentalities of rule, which describe the aspirational visions of governmental projects and programmes; and the actual practices, techniques or technologies through which processes of governing are rendered actionable and operable (Rose and Miller, 1992). In the context of advanced liberal governmentality, moreover, technologies of the self have a key role to play in the creation of the autonomous and self-determining liberal subject. Defined as techniques that allow individuals to effect change in the forms in which they govern their body, thought and conduct ‘so as to

in Reframing health and health policy in Ireland