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Undergraduate and Graduate Programs 2023-2024

POLS 646 Politics of the Self

This course aims to provide an in-depth understanding of divergent perspectives in the social sciences on selfhood, with a particular focus on the challenges that individuals face in forming themselves as autonomous subjects in modern societies. Part of the course will be devoted to a historical and cross-cultural analysis of 'self practices' - i.e. socially transmitted activities through which individuals try to give a shape to their existence. These include a vast number of activities such as dietary regimes, bodily and cognitive exercises, hygienic techniques, methods of self-adornment, various forms of self-discipline and auto-critique, spiritual meditations, and so on. These practices show great variation across different societies and often play a critical role in shaping a person's relation to others and his/her society. Among the topics that will be discussed in the course are: the relationship between ethics and politics; identity politics in modern societies; the role of reflexivity in the formation and transformation of social structures; alternative types of subjectivity; individualism; and, the role of modern technologies in changing contemporary individuals' self-perception. The literature covered in the course will mainly consist of major contributions to social theory (e.g. Durkheim, Mauss, Simmel, Goffman, Adorno, Giddens, Archer, Butler, Latour, Foucault) but some attention will also be given to classical texts (e.g. Plato, Stoics, Kant, Nietzsche). Credit units: 3 ECTS Credit units: 5.

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