Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Ethics
The papers in “Risk, Revelation, and the Truth” investigate the ways that social risk is both mitigated and produced through the pragmatics of revelation, especially as revelations are characterized as the “truth.” Emphasizing the ultimate uncertainty of the effects of utterances, or messages, or “acts” (broadly construed), the papers aim to further theorize the relation between the management of information (and its potential for circulation) and the management of interaction (and its potential for failure or contamination). Emphasizing risky discourse genres and media such as confession, gossip, secrecy, as well as non-denotational communicative practices, the papers draw upon broader anthropological treatments of effacement and disclosure, passing and exposure, containment and circulation. The perennial problem of the “truth” provides a powerful methodological way to examine the risk of revelation, because of the multiple, co-present, but often fundamentally different degrees of semiotic determinacy that interact—and even compete—in communicative interaction.
These papers trace and analyze revelations, exposures, and disclosures across communicative genres (e.g., pirated video cassettes, press releases, celebrity “call out” blogs, and group prayers), national contexts (Korea, Peru, Mexico, and the United States), and virtual spaces and the associated (counter)publics the interpellate (e.g., facebook users, news audiences, blog readers, groups of television viewers, and congregants). Throughout, the authors consider the different and shifting stakes and risks for those who expose or are themselves exposed, asking how subjectivities and group boundaries are reflected in and constituted by acts that rupture the security of semiotic enclosures. Here, enduring understandings of “truth” as rooted in intentionality and verifiability appear alongside ethnographic cases that show truth also to be what remains in the wake of revelation.