Introduction

Ugly Emotions and the Politics of Accusation

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology

Ugly emotions like envy and greed tend to emerge ethnographically through accusations (as opposed to self-attribution), de-centring the individual psyche and drawing attention to how emotions are deployed in broader projects of moral policing. Tracking the moral, social dimension of emotions through accusations helps to account concretely for the political, economic and ideological factors that shape people’s ethical worldviews – their defences, judgements and anxieties. Developing an anthropological understanding of these politics of accusation leads us to connect classical anthropological themes of witchcraft, scapegoating, and inter- and intra-communal conflict with ethnographic interventions into contemporary debates around speculative bubbles, inequality, migration, climate change and gender. We argue that a focus on the politics of accusation that surrounds envy and greed has the potential to allow for a more analytically subtle and grounded understanding of both ethics and emotions.

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