nl en

Archaeology, personhood and identity


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Admission to the RMA-programme.


Personhood and identity are amongst the most used, but also most abused, concepts in Archaeology. Burial gifts, regionally specific material culture, personal objects, and much more is interpreted in terms of identity. We use terms such as local identity, regional identity, ancestral identity, collective identity, etc. The use of these terms very often is unconscious, that is without giving it any thought what it actually means.
What is identity, how is it created, how can we analyse it? Personhood, person or persona, is also a concept that is often used. Now we have interesting approaches such as the dividual person and relational personhood.

The course aims to make students of Archaeology aware of the ways in which these concepts are used, of their theoretical background and their position in other disciplines such as Anthropology and Sociology. The idea is that we learn to use these concepts critically and conscious of their meaning. In learning to do so, we also hope to get a better understanding of personhood in the past (and the present).

The course will consist of reading relevant literature, the formulation of discussion points, and lectures by guest speakers. The course will end with a two-day international (ARCHON) workshop in these issues will be discussed. A final assignment will be connected to the workshop.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the recent theoretical debates concerning personhood and identity;

  • Ability to evaluate and discuss the concepts of personhood and identity in different contexts;

  • Ability to present one’s view in writing.

Ects distribution

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 280 pages literature (2 ects);

  • Workshop and assignments (2 ects).


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Interactive lectures;

  • Workshop.

Assessment method

  • Discussion assignments (40%);

  • Final paper (60%).

Assessment deadline

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

  • C. Fowler, The Archaeology of Personhood. An Anthropological Approach. London/New York: Routledge (2004);

  • M. Mauss, “A Category of the Human Mind: The Notion of Person; The Notion of Self” (1985) in: M. Carrithers, S. Collins & S. Lukes, The Category of the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History. Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-25.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. H. Fokkens.