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"It's not a Collective; It's a Personal Experience that Happens to be Shared": How Philosophical Systems of Individualism are Sustained through Masonic Collaboration.
AuthorWilhelm, Laura Michele
AdvisorForline, Louis C.
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This dissertation examines the experience of Freemasonry, as practiced in the United States, Colombia, and through Masonic literature, from an anthropological perspective. The Freemasons are a fraternal society with a global presence. In this work, the experience of Freemasonry, as both an individual/personal journey and a shared/collective activity is discussed. The work utilizes a number of methods and theoretical bases, including, but not limited to, a reliance on both primary and secondary textual sources which enhance both an understanding of Freemasonry from Masonic perspectives as well as presents anthropological and interdisciplinary context and analyses. Theoretical discussions include, but are not limited to, a reconsideration of what constitutes a field site, how scholarship on secrecy can enhance the study of a society which generally does not consider itself a true secret society, and how texts can act both as reference and as a set of participants. The core inquiries of this project discuss how philosophical systems of individualism can be sustained through specific forms of collaboration, and how the simultaneity of the shared and the individual experience of Masonry constitutes a culture in its own right. Contributing to work done within the anthropology of Freemasonry, along with a range and combination of disciplinary and interdisciplinary orientations, such as an “activity-based approach”, and including elements of variation and consensus, this project provides a dialogue on themes of belonging, individualism, knowledge production, access, “activity”, and experience.