Tradition in fragments: Inherited forms and fractures in the ethics of south India



“Tradition” is a vital concept for anthropology, framing cultural and ethical life in the present as a field of inherited possibilities. The work of Alasdair MacIntyre yields useful means for understanding the concept, but certain of his postulates concerning the necessary coherence of moral traditions may be queried and loosened. I explicate this argument with evidence drawn from a fragmentary tradition of moral virtue in south India, one that persists through scattered forms of moral argumentation, rival narratives and images of a moral selfhood, and diverse domains of ethical practice through which such arguments and narratives find articulation. [tradition, ethics, selfhood, fragment, narrative, practice, India]