Morality and Personal Experience: The Moral Conceptions of a Muscovite Man



Abstract Use of the concept of morality allows anthropologists to avoid the difficulties of their traditional concepts of culture, society, and power, and provides an intimate perspective on the everyday lives of subjects and interlocutors. Yet the very concept of morality remains undertheorized by anthropologists. As a result there is little agreement or coherence among those anthropologists who study moralities regarding what it is they are attempting to study and how to do so. In this article I contribute to the current debate by presenting a moral portrait of a Moscow man, in which I hope to show that life-historical methods and hermeneutic analysis of narratives allow for a deep and rich description of individuals' moral conceptions as emergent within their social milieu. This is so because the narratives reveal the ways in which personal experiences play a significant role in shaping personal morality. This methodological approach is supported by an anthropological theory of morality that posits a distinction between morality and ethics, and focuses on moral breakdowns as the primary context that makes possible the experiences that shape personal morality. [morality, ethics, experience, narrative, life history, Russia]