Rheumatic Irony

Questions of Agency and Self-deception as Refracted through the Art of Living with Spirits

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  • 1 University of Toronto lambek@utsc.utoronto.ca
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The story of a young man from the Western Indian Ocean island of Mayotte who was prevented from a career in the French army by an illness sent by a spirit who possesses his mother inspires reflection on the nature of agency. I suggest that spirit possession and the ill- nesses it produces are intrinsically ironic. The prevalence of irony implies not that we should disregard agency but that perhaps we should not take it too literally.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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