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The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts pres.

Professor Webb Keane, George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professorship in Anthropology Inaugural Lecture

Can Ethical Critique Change Society? Lessons from Ethnography

We often say the purpose of the liberal arts is to foster critical thinking. This rather vague expression allows a wide diversity of scholarly disciplines and pedagogical styles to cohabit more or less peacefully. But what about the world beyond the academy? Drawing on anthropology’s “ethical turn,” this talk looks at how social interaction prompts people to reflect critically on their ethical intuitions and bring them into a public realm. It considers examples from American feminism, eighteenth century Mongolia, and Vietnam’s anti-colonial struggle to show the ethical underpinnings of political thought.

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