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.
Questions of Agency and Self-deception as Refracted through the Art of Living with Spirits
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.
Recognition and Refusal
Proponents of irony can hardly propose a definite theory or even a definitive introduction to their subject. Here we intend merely to review the impetus for our volume and the suggestions we gave our bemused contributors.
This chapter engages both the irony of old age and the old age of irony. Building on an understanding of senility and dementia as reg- isters of voice, it makes three principal assertions: ﬁrst, that a form of listeningwe might term ironic may allow for less depersonaliza- tion of those we hear to be senile; second, that an ironic relationship to the biologization of everythingavoids a return to nature/culture binaries; and third, that irony for both Plato and for Vico is framed as a temporal register of the aging of things. Using Socrates as an example of a ﬁgure whose aging is outside of nature yet under the law, the essay explores the tension between living with the difﬁcult elderly and seeking to displace them in order to maintain the time- lessness of culture.
Sfar, Meyran and Delcourt Recount Voltaire
Since the millennium, bande dessinée artists have retold Voltaire's Candide three times. The first Candide is by Joann Sfar, the second by Philippe Meyran, and the third, by Gorian Delpâture, Michel Dufranne and Vujadin Radovanovic, is being published by Delcourt. This article begins with a brief presentation of the work. Taking our three Candides in chronological order, I then examine how Sfar, Meyran and the Delcourt version retell the story. Specific excerpts are studied, with emphasis on how far they convey Voltaire's irony. We shall see how Sfar finds new ways to infuse Candide with irony. Analogies with medieval illuminations intimate that the great iconoclast is being sanctified. Moreover, Sfar's grotesque artwork contrasts with Voltaire's elegant prose. Thus, Sfar adds a visual dimension to Voltaire's incongruities between what is said and what is meant. Sfar also jokes about ideas raised by Voltaire including philosophical optimism, anti-Semitism and Utopianism. Meyran depicts the hero's sequence of misfortunes with faux naïf caricature. Thus, he makes visible an incongruity between narrative developments and the manner of their recounting. Yet Meyran usually weakens (or eliminates) irony, while playing down philosophical and polemical issues. The Delcourt version employs elegant, technically accomplished artwork. The narrative is not without irony although engagement is intermittent. This work places emphasis on recounting a fast-moving adventure rather than elaborating upon the story's philosophical underpinnings.
This chapter examines the ironic reversals found in many psychoan- alytic interpretations, looking especially at their construal of the rela- tionship between illness and agency. Freudian interpretations take two different forms, one associated with the current uses of illness, the other with its infantile origins. I argue that these two ways of reading illness draw their structures from the two most inﬂuential forms of irony in Western literature. Interpretations stressing the cur- rent uses of neurotic symptoms follow a pattern laid down by rhetor- ical irony, in which the ironist’s seeming innocence or incapacity conceals a strategic aim. Those tracing neurosis to its infantile origins follow the pattern of dramatic irony; here the concern is with hidden forces shaping a victim’s destiny.
Kant and Contemporary Peace Politics
This article criticizes an empirical reading of On Perpetual Peace. It is also equally critical of the approach taken by philosophically minded scholars to give preference to Kant's philosophical outlook. Instead, it focuses on the peculiar oscillation between the philosophical and political aspects of the essay. Contrary to current concerns to update the conceptual framework of On Perpetual Peace—to rescue it from becoming obsolete—its salient irony, which mediates between both aspects, is singled out as a clue to an interpretation which seeks to account for both of them. Thus, the essay can still be a source of inspiration for peace research.
How can humor illustrate critical trends related to social, economic, and ecological sustainability? This article is based on a case study that focused on the film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) and two related short films—Rare Exports Inc. (2003) and Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions (2005). These fantasy films employ irony and dark humor that reverse the popular impressions related to Santa Claus and his elves and, more generally, exotic northern nature and culture. By representing the gentle Santa Claus as a savage hybrid creature brutally punishing those not adhering to certain social norms, these films break several conventional dichotomies between good and evil, human and animal, and society and nature. The use of dark humor and irony may compromise attempts to create public understanding based on best available scientific knowledge, but it also opens up complementary and potentially fruitful ways to discuss sustainability issues. Irony provides opportunities to identify and criticize unsustainable trends and to challenge and disclose dichotomies that may otherwise remain unnoticed.
During the nineteenth century, not only did the extraordinary development of the printed press transform the cultural environment, but it also brought about major formal changes in literature. This article explores these trasnformations through a focus on the contemporary use of the concept of “modernity.” The word dates back to 1688 at least, but it was mostly employed during the nineteenth century to describe post-revolutionary France and especially to criticize its consumerism and materialistic “bourgeoisie.” Nineteenth-century media culture embodied the triumph of “modernity,” especially in the form of the petite presse (“small press”). Born in a world where censorship still compromised the freedom of speech, the petite presse was an illustrated, satirical, ironical, and wisecracking medium. It aspired to a generalized non-seriousness which would, for a long time, be viewed as the “Parisian spirit.”
Indonesia seems perpetually condemned to “live in interesting times,” as the famous Chinese curse goes. The past decade has seen the country attract global notoriety as a land of recurrent economic shocks, ethnic conflicts, terrorist bombings, separatist rebellions, and natural catastrophes. Political authorities have appeared too corrupt and inept to respond effectively. Thus, when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), a retired general, scored a landslide victory in Indonesia’s first-ever direct presidential election in September 2004, the political rise of a military man was widely portrayed as a small blow for stability in a highly unstable nation.