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How Lifeworlds Work

Emotionality, Sociality, and the Ambiguity of Being

How Lifeworlds Work

Emotionality, Sociality, and the Ambiguity of Being

Michael Jackson has spent much of his career elaborating his rich conception of lifeworlds, mining his ethnographic and personal experience for insights into how our subjective and social lives are mutually constituted.
In How Lifeworlds Work, Jackson draws on years of ethnographic fieldwork in West Africa to highlight the dynamic quality of human relationships and reinvigorate the study of kinship and ritual. How, he asks, do we manage the perpetual process of accommodation between social norms and personal emotions, impulses, and desires? How are these two dimensions of lived reality joined, and how are the dual imperatives of individual expression and collective viability managed? Drawing on the pragmatist tradition, psychology, and phenomenology, Jackson offers an unforgettable, beautifully written account of how we make, unmake, and remake, our lifeworlds. 

240 pages | 9 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2017

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Philosophy: Philosophy of Society


How Lifeworlds Work is an intellectually compelling and beautifully written book that weaves together a lifetime of rich ethnography and philosophical reflection. Jackson captures the quality of life in an African society like no one else.”

Michael Lambek, University of Toronto, Scarborough

“Jackson is one of the most important voices in the field of anthropology. In a world where hyperbolic claims are becoming the norm of academic writing, How Lifeworlds Work, with its classic elegance and clarity, is a gem to be widely shared and savored. It will contribute richly to pedagogy in a deep sense.”

Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University

Jackson produces an empirically and conceptually dense account which only a seasoned anthropologist would be able to produce.

Anthropological Forum

Table of Contents


Part 1

Ritual, Affect, and Transitional Phenomena
The Wedding Haka
Spoken Emotions
Making Palaver
Crossing the Water
Positions, Dispositions, and Transpositions
The Raw Material of Ritual
Initiation and Rebellion
The Weather of the Heart
Surviving Loss and Remaking the World
Death’s Aftermath
Role Reversals and Mimetic Rites
Being a Part of and Being Apart From
Coping with Crisis

Part 2

The Dynamics of Kinship
Kinship and Scarcity
Relative Distance
Husbands and Wives
Elder Brother–Younger Brother
Joking and Avoidance
Existential Inequity: Favoritism, Fathers and Sons, and Fadenye
The Emotional Life of Stories
Force Fields
Political Emotions
The Ferensola Story
Words and Deeds

Coda: Emotions in the Field


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