Webb Keane, The Semiotics of Stance in Everyday Ethics



Webb KeaneWebb Keane

The propensity for evaluation saturates everyday life but cannot be fully captured by the dictates of explicit moral precepts. Nor can ordinary ethics be reduced to psychological foundations, although it draws on their affordances. This talk looks at one crucial site for the emergence of ethics: in social interaction. It is in social interaction that people are summoned to account for themselves to one another. In the process, the affordances of first-person experience and the third-person perspective of morality systems are brought into articulation.


Webb Keane is the George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. His writings cover a range of topics in social and cultural theory and the philosophical foundations of social thought and the human sciences. In particular, he is interested in semiotics and language; material culture; gift exchange, commodities, and money; religion, morality, and ethics; and media and public cultures. His latest book, Ethical Life, addresses morality, ethics, and virtue as special, even constitutive, problems for social science, exploring the points of intersection and divergence between ethnography and its borderlands with psychology, on the one hand, and social history, on the other.

Free and open to the public. Light reception following.

This event is made possible by additional support from the Notre Dame Department of Anthropology.