Mauss' seminal essay about the historically highly conditioned nature of the western notion of person stands at the beginning of a distinct strand of anthropological studies concerned with alternative ways of being in the world (Fortes, Middleton, Carithers et. al., Dumont, Strathern, Alvi). A similar debate is an integral part of African philosophy which has made strong recourse to oral sources, such as the referral to the Akan-understanding of personhood by Kwasi Wiredu and Kwame Gyekye (1992).
Notions of personhood not only determine self-understanding but also are normative foundations of concepts such as human rights, democracy and economics as well as their related socio-political institutions. The panel aims at discussing the epistemological and political implications that arise when local concepts of personhood are taken seriously. What is more, it tries to explore the either disruptive or emancipating potentials and asks what forms different models of a participatory society in Africa are conceptualized contemporarily.
We think that local notions and practices do transform not only in response to the forces of a globalizing world and the encroachments of the (post)colonial state but out of internal dynamics, too. Furthermore, these transformations conceptually go beyond hybridity or even ideas of a simple replacement of local notions by global ones.
We invite paper that explore the field of these transformations of local concepts of personhood philosophically and/or anthropologically. One possible approach to test is the praxeological concept, because it avoids essentialism by emphasising the complementarity of (local) agency and (global) structure. Examining those transformations of local notions of personhood gives us a chance to determine whose basic terms of personhood are at the centre of the debate.