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A Comparative Anthropology of Conscience, Ethics and Human Rights

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






Project "AnCon" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
postcode: EH8 9YL

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country United Kingdom [UK]
 Project website
 Total cost 1˙457˙869 €
 EC max contribution 1˙457˙869 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2014-CoG
 Funding Scheme ERC-COG
 Starting year 2015
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2015-08-01   to  2020-07-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 
1    THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH UK (EDINBURGH) coordinator 1˙312˙752.00


 Project objective

This project is a comparative anthropology of conscience, ethics and human rights. Numerous international human rights documents formally declare their commitment to protect freedom of conscience. But, what is conscience and how do we know it when we see it? How do we distinguish it from self-interest or fanaticism? And what happens when the concept, often associated with a distinct Christian or liberal history, travels across cultural boundaries? The project will examine the cultural conditions under which claims to conscience are made possible, and the types of claims that are most persuasive when doing so. The project addresses these issues through the comparative analysis of three case studies: British pacifists, Sri Lankan activists, and Soviet dissidents. These case studies have been carefully chosen to provide globally significant, but contrasting examples of contests over the implications of claims to conscience. If claims of conscience are often associated with a specifically liberal and Christian tradition, mid-twentieth century Britain can be said to stand at the centre of that tradition. Sri Lanka represents a particularly fraught post-colonial South Asian counterpoint, wracked by nationalist violence, and influenced by ethical traditions associated with forms of Hinduism and Buddhism. Soviet Russia represents a further contrast, a totalitarian regime, where atheism was the dominant ethical language. Finally, the project will return specifically to international human rights institutions, examining the history of the category of conscience in the UN human rights system. This project will be ground breaking, employing novel methods and analytical insights, in order to producing the first comparative analysis of the cultural and political salience of claims of conscience. In doing so, the research aims to transform our understandings of the limits and potentials of attempts to protect freedom of conscience.


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2019 Kelly, Tobias
The Intimate Life of Dissent, special collection
published pages: , ISSN: , DOI:
American Ethnologist blog 2020-04-03
2018 Kelly, Tobias
The Ashers Case Raises Questions Over the Weight We Should Give to Deeply Held Convictions in Public Life.
published pages: , ISSN: , DOI:
Holyrood Magazine 2020-04-03
2018 Kelly, Tobias
Include Us Out.
published pages: , ISSN: , DOI:
Scottish Review of Books 2020-04-03
2019 Kelly, Tobias
Dissenting Conscience.
published pages: , ISSN: , DOI:
American Ethnologist blog 2020-04-03
2019 Kelly, Tobias
Introduction: Anthropological Perspectives on the Intimate Life of Dissent.
published pages: , ISSN: , DOI:
American Ethnologist blog 2020-04-03
2019 Maunaguru, Sidharthan
Being a Friend and Being an Enemy
published pages: , ISSN: , DOI:
American Ethnologist Blog 2020-04-03
2019 Amarasuriya, Harini and Jonathan Spencer
Tracing Conscience in a Time of War: Archiving a History of Dissent in Sri Lanka, 1960s-2000s.
published pages: , ISSN: , DOI:
American Ethnologist Blog 2020-04-03
2019 Oustinova-Stjepanovic, G
One is the Biggest Number: Dissent as Estrangement from Totality
published pages: , ISSN: , DOI:
American Ethnologist blog 2020-04-03
2019 Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic
End of organized atheism. The genealogy of the law on freedom of conscience and its conceptual effects in Russia
published pages: 1-18, ISSN: 0275-7206, DOI: 10.1080/02757206.2019.1684271
History and Anthropology Online first 2020-04-01
2018 Tobias Kelly
A Divided Conscience
published pages: 367-392, ISSN: 0899-2363, DOI: 10.1215/08992363-6912091
Public Culture 30/3 2020-01-24
2018 Tobias Kelly
Beyond ethics: Conscience, pacifism, and the political in wartime Britain
published pages: 114-128, ISSN: 2575-1433, DOI: 10.1086/698431
HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 8/1-2 2020-01-24
2018 Sharika Thiranagama, Tobias Kelly, Carlos Forment
Introduction: Whose civility?
published pages: 153-174, ISSN: 1463-4996, DOI: 10.1177/1463499618780870
Anthropological Theory 18/2-3 2020-01-24
2018 Tobias Kelly
The potential for civility: British pacifists in the Second World War
published pages: 198-216, ISSN: 1463-4996, DOI: 10.1177/1463499617744475
Anthropological Theory 18/2-3 2020-01-24

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