Lorenzo D'Orsi

Waves of fear

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: fear, risk, imaginaries of terror, anthropology.

This paper aims at contributing to the study of fear from an anthropological perspective. Its premise is that fears are mediated by moral frames, cultural categorizations and political discourses, and suggests to look at them in relation to local conceptions of risk and danger. It argues that the perception of risk is socially structured, and that risk is a morally oriented way of ordering reality. The paper also takes a stance against apocalyptic theorizations of contemporary fears, which emphasize – usually without solid empirical evidence – the degeneration of consumerism and new technologies as well as the pathologization of younger generations. Such totalizing views overlook how individuals assess everyday uncertainties and risks, and the ways these little uncertainties and risks give meaning to their lives. Finally, this contribution sheds light on the relation between power and fear, not reducing the latter to an ideological tool, passively accepted by people. Although social imaginaries of fear are often fabricated for instrumental ends and can be disconnected from «reality», they should not be thought as false or irrational, as they call into question people’s deep existential states. It is precisely in understanding the webs of meaning of these symbolic universes of daily anguish and terror that anthropology can contribute to the comprehension of contemporary fears.

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