John Mark Mathias

Grant Type

Workshop Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Florida State U.

Grant number

Gr. CONF-906

Approve Date

October 3, 2022

Project Title

Mathias, John (Florida State U.) "Building an anthropological approach to motives"

Anthropologists have long questioned assumptions about motives implicit in much social science. Through ethnography, they have challenged presumptions that humans are self-interested maximizers, ovine rule followers, or atomized amalgams of judgment and will. Yet they have rarely put forward proposals for how best to study and theorize motives. This workshop lays the groundwork for anthropological treatments of motives by facilitating dialogue across three areas in which assumptions about motives have faced critique: economic anthropology, the anthropology of ethics, and linguistic anthropology. We deploy the term motive as a boundary-crosser, an analytic capacious enough to gather together the distinct stakes of conversations in these three areas: conversations in economic anthropology about interests and value (Munn 1992; Guyer 2004); in the anthropology of ethics about judgment and virtue (Lambek 2015); and in linguistic anthropology about intentions, responsibility, and stance (Hill & Irvine 1993; Duranti 1994). Bringing together scholars working on these issues, we seek to clarify how an anthropology of motives might work: its analytics, its methods, and how it might grapple with ethical dilemmas. During two days of in-person meetings at Florida State University, participants will discuss these foundational issues and workshop pre-circulated papers that concretize the problem of motives in ethnographic examples. After the workshop, participants will then revise their papers for a touchstone volume on the anthropology of motives.