Farhan Samanani

Grant Type

Workshop Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Max Planck Institute

Grant number

Gr. CONF-843

Approve Date

February 14, 2020

Project Title

Samanani, Farhan (Max Planck Institute) "Politics on the Edge: Irony and Ambivalent Commitments in Transforming Times"

Set against growing disillusionment with formal politics, a range of actors have increasingly come to challenge the status quo through an ironic register. To date, the anthropology of irony has explored irony as a representational practice, but these new movements pose a further, urgent, question: how does irony drive political action and commitments? The meme-drenched politics of the global alt-right, the forging of everyday solidarities through the mockery of BJP nationalism in India, or the insincere reworking of climate science by climate-change activists and deniers alike, all provide examples of ironic commitments, which have had outsized impacts and which challenge distinctions between mainstream and marginal politics. Positioned between sincerity and disavowal, irony is used to shift what is politically sayable, thinkable, acceptable, or even necessary, in transformative ways. How is it that irony is capable of problematizing and reworking ideals, ideologies? How does our understanding of the political change, when irony holds together political and anti-political claims and spaces, simultaneously? Through a two day workshop we will investigate what it is about the multiple, interlinking crises of the current political moment – austerity, climate change, automation, the disillusionment with liberal democracy and rise of autocracies – that seems to lead to the emergence of ironic commitments in certain cultural contexts, and how irony is capable of fostering transformative action and commitment.