Through the fascinating late sixteenth-century legal battle over the inheritance of the Florentine nobleman Giovambattista di Bindaccio Ricasoli Baroni, in which the young Galileo Galilei appeared as a key witness, this article reflects on two key categories of emotion of the era: melancholy and terror (specifically, fear of death). In analyzing these emotions, which hounded the unfortunate Ricasoli throughout his life, the article shows that, far from being the private sentiments of a single pathological individual, these emotions reflected the mood of people living in an era when the shadow of the oppression of arbitrary power in this world and of the possibility of eternal suffering in the next were particularly salient. Moreover, seemingly perennial emotions like sadness or the fear of death or shame, far from being unchanging, can take different and unpredictable configurations in a precise historical context, based on impulses and conflicts related to the power relations and the mental patrimony of that society.
Symptoms, Sensations, Feelings
Transparency and Political Power in Uzbek Cyberspace
This article uses the example of Uzbekistan's national security services to consider how the psychic influence of a police state reveals itself online. What happens when the 'spectral double' of the police becomes a point of focus in a medium known for its transparency? I argue that although the Internet gives citizens the capability to organize and interact, it does not relieve their fears and suspicions; instead, it often intensifies them. Despite the 'transparency' that the Internet affords—and sometimes because of it—there are qualities bound up in the architecture of this medium that give rise to paranoia. Using examples from Uzbek online political discourse, I show how the Internet has fueled suspicion and fears about the state security services despite attempts to demystify and assuage them.
Fears of State Surveillance in Eritrea and in the Diaspora
Since 2005, the Eritrean state has implemented measures against the increasing desertion of conscripts by retaliating against deserters' families. This article explores the fears spread by this measure in Eritrea and analyzes how people have interpreted its erratic enforcement, including in those countries to which deserters have fled in massive numbers to seek political asylum. The retaliation has served to 'export' fears about the Eritrean state's surveillance abroad and has reshaped political imagination concerning the power of the Eritrean authoritarian state in the diaspora. I argue that imaginings about the state play a crucial role by curbing the political dissidence of new exiles and by giving rise to new fault lines in the diaspora communities in ways that are beneficial to the current Eritrean leadership.
Low-intensity conflicts, counter-insurgencies, and the so-called war on terror blur the boundaries between war and peace and, in doing so, collapse the distinctions between combatants and non-combatants. Scholars have used concepts such as `routinization of terror', `culture of fear', and `banalization of violence' to describe how fear regulates social life in places of extreme instability. These concepts often paint an overgeneralized portrait of violence that fails to examine the social relationships and institutional forms that give rise to terror and insecurity. This article examines the shifting qualities of war and peace in Colombia and argues that daily life in Barrancabermeja—a working-class city nominally `at peace' after a government-backed, paramilitary demobilization process—is a volatile arena of uncertainty in which some people are more vulnerable than others.
Thoughts from the Midan
On 25 January 2011, Egyptians took to the streets to protest against injustice and oppression. These public demonstrations lasted for three weeks, during which this peaceful tidal wave of people did not abate, culminating in the resignation of Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak. These field notes, taken during two days of the protests, register the pendulum swings from hope to fear as recorded by one Egyptian anthropologist.
Mary N. Hampton
This article analyzes the differences in U.S., EU, and German perceptions of threat. The secularist and cosmopolitan turns in EU European identity formation have had a tremendous impact on how security issues are interpreted, especially in Germany. The traditional conception of threat has been re-defined. Yet, recent events are threatening the success forged through a half century of EU elite-driven culture change. Renationalization and a return to defining threat as fear of strangers have emerged across the EU.
Transforming Fear, Violence, and Shame in Fourteenth-Century Provence
This article considers the crises of plague, civil war, and mercenary invasion that Provençal communities faced in the years between 1343 and 1363. Canonization inquest testimony reveals that both combatants and noncombatants prayed to the holy woman, Countess Delphine de Puimichel, to heal the spiritual sickness of violence. In their testimonies, witnesses relived moments of crisis when they had used Delphine's special relationship to God to escape death, fear, and humiliation.
Andrée Aeilon Brooks
One wintry day early in 1535, merchant banker Francisco Mendes Benveniste – the George Soros of his day – lay dying in his whitewashed, tile-roofed home near the Royal Palace in Lisbon. It was a pivotal moment for his elegant wife Beatrice, later known as Doña Gracia Nasi, and for their infant daughter, Anna. Not only were they losing a husband and father. The death of Francisco had larger implications that Doña Gracia, still in her twenties, feared almost more than widowhood.
Pamela Bettis and Brandon Sternod
Scholars claim that the six films comprising the Star Wars epic are the United States’ most important modern myth. The films have meaning for contemporary lives and serve as reflections of the fears, anxieties, and hopes surrounding what many perceive to be a crisis of masculinity manifested in the current boy crisis. This article describes how the films explore possibilities for a different kind of boyhood and how they contribute to understanding competing explanations for the boy crisis.
Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen, Liz Millward, Dorit Müller, Mimi Sheller, and Heike Weber
The fluidity of modernity has surely reached the outskirts of the earth when even the new Pope Franciscus admonishes his cardinals that “our life is a journey and when we stop there is something wrong. […] If one does not walk, one gets stuck.” The current economic crisis has enhanced the fear of congestion and the interruption of flows: the circulation of capital in the first instance, but also of people and stuff, and of ideas and knowledge. It is time to rethink mobility.