The emergence of human sense of self, i.e., the ability to become the object of one’s own reflection, is, arguably, among the most fundamental issues of human becoming. Yet, unlike other central aspects of human cognition it rarely occupies the focus of archaeological study.The proposed book, under contract for publication with The MIT Press in 2017, set out to meet this challenge by laying the foundation towards an archaeology of selfhood. The book asks questions of three major sorts: epistemological (how can we know about the self in the past?), ontological (what are the chief ingredients of selfhood?), and comparative (what, if anything, is unique about human self-awareness?). These are questions that cannot be answered from the perspective of a single discipline. In fact, they can hardly be described as interdisciplinary - too many assumptions need radical rethinking, if not ‘unthinking’ in order to tackle them. One distinctive feature of the book is the hard cross-disciplinary approach, a second is the explicit emphasis on the role of material culture and embodied cognition in the making of the human self. We often think of the human body as the locus of selfhood. That is, we think that we are a body and that we have a body. Many would prefer to see the self as something located ‘within’ that body. Others would prefer to describe this intimate association between the self and the body (especially the brain) as an identity. This book, adopting a deep time comparative archaeological perspective, will show that the topology of this close relationship between self and the ‘lived’ body as well as the mereology of its component parts is more plastic and reconfigurable than we might have thought. The book’s broader aim is to produce new ways of thinking about the varieties and evolution of human self-consciousness that will be useful to a broad audience within archaeology, anthropology, philosophy and the cognitive sciences.
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