Words and Worlds

A Lexicon for Dark Times

Words and Worlds

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: Published: June 2021

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Politics > Political Theory, Sociology > Social Theory

Born in a time of anxiety, Words and Worlds examines some of the disquieting challenges that societies now face. Through an inquiry into a political lexicon of commonsense words, ranging from democracy and revolution to knowledge and authority, from inequality and toleration to war and power, the contributors to this book trouble the self-evidence of these terms, bringing into view the hidden transcripts and unexpected trajectories of many settled ideas, such as the human sense of belonging or the call for openness and transparency in research and public life. The case studies conducted over five continents with the tools of eight different disciplines challenge the ethnocentric assumptions, false moralism, and cultural prejudices that underlie much discussion on corruption or even the virtue invested in resilience. The critique of the ubiquitous use of crisis to characterize our times shows how this framing obscures the unjust conditions of existence and the violence of everyday life. Together the essays in this volume offer a fresh look at the deeply connected worlds we inhabit in solidarity and in discord.

Contributors. Banu Bargu, Veena Das, Alex de Waal, Didier Fassin, Peter Geschiere, Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Caroline Humphrey, Ravi Kanbur, Julieta Lemaitre, Uday S. Mehta, Jan-Werner Müller, Jonathan Pugh, Elizabeth F. Sanders, Todd Sanders


“Emphasizing that words rest within social actions and social worlds and are woven into the fabric of the conceptual backdrop of contemporary politics, economics, and social worlds, this volume will have a major impact on our thinking about the fate of liberalisms and democracy.” — Elizabeth A. Povinelli, author of The Inheritance

“Veena Das and Didier Fassin have assembled an arresting, methodologically innovative, and utterly relevant political lexicon. They have brought together a world-class group of authors who—with great sensitivity and insight—illuminate some of the concepts most urgently required for political understanding.” — Alice Crary, author of Inside Ethics: On the Demands of Moral Thought


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Veena Das is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. She is the author of several books, including Textures of the Ordinary: Doing Anthropology after Wittgenstein.

Didier Fassin is James D. Wolfensohn Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Professor to the Annual Chair in Public Health at the Collège de France. He is the author of various books, including Life: A Critical User's Manual.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction: From Words to Worlds / Didier Fassin and Veena Das  1
1. Knowledge / Veena Das  19
2. Democracy / Jan-Werner Müller  39
3. Authority / Banu Bargu  61
4. Belonging / Peter Geschiere  83
5. Toleration / Uday S. Mehta  103
6. Power / Alex De Waal  123
7. War / Julieta Lemaitre  143
8. Revolution / Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi  166
9. Corruption / Caroline Humphery  185
10. Openness / Todd Sanders and Elizabeth F. Sanders  205
11. Resilience / Jonathan Pugh  225
12. Inequality / Ravi Kanbur  243
13. Crisis / Didier Fassin  261
Bibliography  277
Contributors  299
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1416-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1325-9