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Selfishness and Selflessness: New Approaches to Understanding Morality

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Volume 10

WYSE Series in Social Anthropology

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Selfishness and Selflessness

New Approaches to Understanding Morality

Edited by Linda L. Layne

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274 pages, 25 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-549-7 25% OFF! $134.99/£94.99 $101.24/£71.24 Hb Not Yet Published (April 2020)

eISBN 978-1-78920-550-3 eBook Not Yet Published

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This is a fascinating and timely collection that throws a much-needed light on the idea and practice of selfishness and selflessness. In so doing, it follows the moral turn in the humanities and the social sciences to its logical conclusion: the writing of a social history and an ethnography of moralities.” • Mark Roodhouse, University of York


We are said to be suffering a narcissism epidemic when the need for collective action seems more pressing than ever. Selfishness and selflessness address the ‘proper’ and ‘improper’ relationship between one’s self and others. The work they do during periods of social instability and cultural change is probed in this original, interdisciplinary collection. Contributions range from an examination of how these concepts animated the eighteenth-century anti-slavery campaigners to dissecting the way middle-class mothers’ experiences illustrate gendered struggles over how much and to whom one is morally obliged to give.

Linda L. Layne is the author of Home and Homeland: The Dialogics of Tribal and National Identities in Jordan (1994, Princeton University Press) and Motherhood Lost: A Feminist Account of Pregnancy Loss in America (2003, Routledge) and co-producer of a television series on pregnancy loss. She has edited or co-edited numerous volumes on motherhood, parenting and consumer culture. She now studies heterosexual single mothers by choice, lesbian moms and gay dads.

Subject: General Anthropology Gender Studies


List of Illustrations, Figures and Tables

Introduction: Self, Selfish, Selfless
Linda L. Layne

Chapter 1. Taking the Measure of ‘Selfishness’ and ‘Selflessness’
Linda L. Layne

Chapter 2. ‘Sentiment has Struggled with Selfishness’: Selfishness, Sensibility and Gender in the Late Eighteenth Century British Antislavery Campaign
G.J. Barker Benfield

Chapter 3. Selfless advocacy? Pro-feminist Men’s Movements in Late Twentieth Century Britain
Lucy Delap

Chapter 4. ‘Doing the Right Thing for My Child’: Self Work and Selflessness in Accounts of British ‘Full Term’ Breastfeeding Mothers
Charlotte Faircloth

Chapter 5. Sexism, Separatism and the Rhetoric of Selfishness: Single Mothers by Choice in U.S. and U.K
Susanna Graham and Linda L. Layne

Chapter 6. Selfish Masturbators? The Experience of Danish Sperm Donors and Alternatives to the Selfish/Selfless Divide
Sebastian Mohr

Chapter 7. Inroads into Altruism
Marilyn Strathern

Chapter 8. On Being Selfish – Or Not: Explorations of an Idea from The Mountains of Oaxaca and the Alaskan Tundra
Barbara Bodenhorn

Conclusion: Starting Points: Modest Contributions to the History and Anthropology of Moralities and Ethics
Linda L. Layne


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