The ‘honour-shame syndrome’ is an anthropological model originally developed in the sixties to describe Mediterranean cultural unity. The model came under heavy criticism, producing a veritable ‘anti-Mediterraneanist’ backlash. There is, however, a renewed interest in the regional paradigm. This article attempts an analysis of concepts of ‘honour’ in Malta, contextualising it within the broader ethnographic and linguistic evidence from the region. The author argues that ‘honour’ is a salient moral concept, and in fact, Maltese has a rich and highly nuanced discourse of honour, which includes both sexualised and nonsexualised aspects. While the author criticises the simplistic ‘honour-shame syndrome’ paradigm, he argues that honour needs to be considered in its own right as an important key to analysing the contemporary Maltese moral economy as it engages with ‘modernity’.
Paradigms of Honour in a Mediterranean Moral Economy
A Review of Concepts and Literature
In this article I review concepts related to honour and shame and explore how these are understood within the context of the contemporary Moroccan Rif, a Berber-speaking region that is characterised by outsiders as closed and 'conservative', despite its long-established history of out-migration and transnational ties to Europe. The article argues that despite many changes to the political, economic and social landscapes of the Rif, understandings of honour and shame continue to shape gender hierarchies among Riffian Moroccans. As part of a broader system in which individuals negotiate status and respectability, honour and shame mediate relationships between individuals, families and 'honour groups' or moral communities in which they participate.
Honour at the Stake
How does Shakespeare represent war? Guest editor Patrick Gray reviews scholarship to date on the question, in light of contributions to a special issue of Critical Survey, ‘Shakespeare and War’. Drawing upon St. Augustine’s City of God, the basis for later just war theory, Gray argues that progressive optimism regarding the perfectibility of what St. Augustine calls the ‘City of Man’ makes it difficult for modern commentators to discern Shakespeare’s own more tragic, Augustinian sense of warfare as a necessary evil, given the fallenness of human nature. Modern misgivings about ‘honour’ also lead to misinterpretation. As Francis Fukuyama points out, present-day liberal democracies tend to follow Hobbes and Locke in attempting to ‘banish the desire for recognition from politics’. Shakespeare in contrast, like Hegel, as well as latter-day Hegelians such as Fukuyama, Charles Taylor and Axel Honneth, sees the faculty that Plato calls thymos as an invaluable instrument of statecraft.
Relative Painlessness in Shakespeare’s Laughter at War
How do we understand Shakespeare’s invitation to laugh in the context of war? Previous critical accounts have offered too simple a view: that laughter undercuts military ideals. Instead, this article draws on the Aristotelian description of laughable ‘deformity’ and Plato’s description of laughable ignorance in order to characterize Shakespeare’s laughter in the context of war more carefully as an expression of ‘relative painlessness’. It discusses how the fraught amusement of Coriolanus (Coriolanus), the reciprocality of Falstaff and Hotspur as laughable military failures (1 Henry IV) and the laughter of Bertram at Paroles (All’s Well That Ends Well) each engage with an ancient philosophical conundrum articulated poignantly by St. Augustine: the requirement that a Christian civilization engage in war to defend itself against honour-obsessed aggressors without turning into a like aggressor itself. Shakespeare’s laughter at war enacts the desire for that balance.
My ethnography of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon (2005–2010) points to a strong disposition towards suspicion associated with refugeeness. This, in turn, highlights politico-moral economies of trust, indexed by honour, that become what I call boundary-maintenance disciplinary practices. The dynamics of suspicion and trust, propelled by social crisis and uprooting, shape all groups, from their social support systems and marriages to collective political, ethnic and religious allegiances. Uprooting tends to be associated with displacement of the subject's social order, bringing about an intensified sense of intra-group bonds and a concomitant suspicion towards those outside this group. This, in turn, heightens a necessity on the part of refugee subjects to reflect and shape networks of trust, expressed in a moral idiom, even when decisions are known to be political. This article analyses some of the dynamic between suspicion and trust in conditions of social crisis and refugeeness.
Insights from Modern Greece
Thomas W. Gallant, Experiencing Dominion. Culture, Identity and Power in the British Mediterranean (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002), 252 pp., $19.00 (pb). ISBN 0-268-02802-8
Efi Avdela, ‘Dia logous timis’. Via, Sinesthimata ke Axies sti Metemfiliaki Ellada (‘For the sake of honour’: Violence, emotions, and values in post-Civil War Greece) (Athens: Nefeli Publications, 2002), 257 pp., n15.00 (pb). ISBN 960-211-656-0
Counterfeits, Comedy and the Supreme Court
Shakespeare uses the classical comic archetype of the miles gloriosus (braggart soldier) to probe social and ethical issues regarding military honour. These issues are still with us. This article takes as its point of departure the US Supreme Court’s 2012 decision finding the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 unconstitutional on free speech grounds. This high-profile case, centring upon a latter-day avatar of Falstaff or Pistol, suggests both continuity and change in how militarist societies address the challenge of distinguishing true and counterfeit valour. Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays and Henry V, like the Supreme Court opinions, stage a contest between classical epic ideologies of honour and comic recuperations of the coward or braggart. These literary and legal discourses are further contextualized through historical anecdote and Aristotle’s account of courage and cowardice. The Aristotelian figure of the alaz¯on (impostor) creates a complex interplay between ethics and poetics which plays out in theatre and courtroom alike.
W. S. F. Pickering and William Watts Miller
A few weeks before Durkheim was recommended for the chair as mentioned above, he was billed to give a lecture entitled ‘Du Sentiment de l’honneur’ on 8 May 1906.1 It was one in a series of public evening lectures in Paris, organised by the Ecole de la Paix. The Ecole, was a private institution founded in 1905 by Horace Thivet, with the object of spreading pacifism. Among the advertised lecturers in the weekly series were Gustav Belot on ‘La Liberté’ and M. Izoulet on ‘L’Elite et la foule’. F. Buisson and D. Parodi also gave lectures in other years. The Ecole appears to have dissolved in 1912.
Shelley Stagg Peterson
J. L. Powers. 2011. This Thing Called the Future. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.
Tim Huntley, Alistair Rolls and David Drake
Helen Tattam, Time in the Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel Review by Tim Huntley
Rosemary Lloyd and Jean Fornasiero (eds.), Magnificent Obsessions: Honouring the Lives of Hazel Rowley Review by Alistair Rolls
Emmanuel Barot (dir.), Sartre et le Marxisme Richard Wolin, The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution and the Legacy of the 1960s Léo Lévy, A la vie Review by David Drake