Distributed Agency presents an interdisciplinary inroad into the latest thinking about the distributed nature of agency: what it's like, what are its conditions of possibility, and what are its consequences. The book's 25 chapters are written by a wide range of scholars, from anthropology, biology, cognitive science, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, geography, law, economics, and sociology. While each chapter takes up different materials using different methods, they all chart relations between the key elements of agency: intentionality, causality, flexibility and accountability. Each chapter seeks to explain how and why such relations are distributed-not just across individuals, but also across bodies and minds, people and things, spaces and times. To do this, the authors work through empirical studies of particular cases, while also offering reviews and syntheses of key ideas from the authors' respective research traditions. Our goals with this collection of essays are to assemble insights from new research on the anatomy of human agency, to address divergent framings of the issues from different disciplines, and to suggest directions for new debates and lines of research. We hope that it will be a resource for researchers working on allied topics, and for students learning about the elements of human-specific modes of shared action, from causality, intentionality, and personhood to ethics, punishment, and accountability.
N.J. Enfield is Professor and Chair of Linguistics at the University of Sydney, Australia. Paul Kockelman teaches linguistic anthropology at Yale University.