The project considers the specters of the collective in two parts:
- The first part presents for the first time in the anthropology of ethics a rigid exploration of notions of the collective in leading theoretical positions. Rather than refuting these positions, the aim is to (a) identify cases in which essential collective dimensions of ethical phenomena have been excluded, and (b) trace and bring to conceptual clarity the ambiguous “specters of the collective” where they unexpectedly crop up.
- On the basis of the critical groundwork of the first part, the second part programmatically presents a phenomenological terminology that both saves ethics from individualism and community from collectivism. In this respect a core distinction is that between (a) modes of communal life constituted in a substantive communality (be it cultural, social structural, a biological substrate (e.g. race, kin), a national identity, etc.) and (b) modes of communal life that occur at those thresholds where such substantive communalities end or become impossible.7 Here human finitude and intimately related phenomena (e.g. birth, death, the sacred, sexuality, gender, etc.) will provide the prisms for the conceptual exploration of communities that gather in response to existential predicaments the core of which remains categorically enigmatic; e.g. What is the good life? What is a human life? What is the human place in the world?