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Michael Carrithers

Seriousness is achieved when a speaker effectively moves the audience according to his or her intentions. But seriousness is fragile and subject to countless vicissitudes, as illustrated in an encounter with the television evangelist Oral Roberts. I interrogate one of the means used to counter such vicissitudes-hyperbole. Hyperbole may include exaggeration and amplification of all kinds, and may be manifest in deeds as well as words. I first follow hyperbole through 9/11 and the competing ideologies of Salafi jihadists and the Bush administration to show how 'absolute metaphors' are enlisted hyperbolically. I examine too how epic narratives are created as a similar form of hyperbole. Finally, I show how sacredness, another allied form of hyperbole, is attributed to the Holocaust in present-day Germany. Throughout I argue, and illustrate, how anthropological writing is of necessity ironic, such that irony is better than 'cultural relativism' as an understanding of the anthropological enterprise.

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Elliot Neaman

The epigraph seems to border on hyperbole: were the debates in the

fall of 2001 really “exclusively” subsumed by domestic politics? But

Bassam Tibi, one of the hundreds of experts who made the rounds

on the endless talk shows and conferences in Germany, may be on to

something. In a recent book about how the public intellectuals, religious

leaders, and celebrities reacted to the terror attacks of September

11th, Der Spiegel essayist Hendryk Broder made a similar point as

he aimed his bittersweet satirical wit at the navel-gazing, self-righteousness,

and hypocrisy of Germany’s public intellectuals.2 Broder’s

book is a self-conscious example of that timeless German genre, the

Streitschrift, an erudite polemic in the service of both noble edification

and less high-minded settling of scores with one’s intellectual

opponents. Although exaggerated, one-sided, and terribly funny,

Broder’s analysis of the German public discourse of the fall of 2001

does contain some serious arguments that anyone interested in the

European perception of America cannot ignore. In this essay, I will

sketch the contours of that reaction by focusing first on the kinds of

issues that preoccupied German intellectuals in the wake of the

attacks of September 11th; second, I will contrast that reaction to how ordinary Germans and government officials perceived those

events; third, I will explore the role that anti-Americanism played in

the intellectual debates of fall 2001; and finally, I will reflect on the

significance of September 11th for German society in general.