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American stiob

American stiob was and remains a collaborative project in political anthropology with Alexei Yurchak from the University of California-Berkeley. It explores the “hypernormalization” of political communication in both socialism and liberalism. Some might say our 2010 article in Cultural Anthropology spotlighted the bankruptcy and overformalization of liberal political discourse in a way that anticipated the disenchantment of liberal veridiction and the rise of neo-fascist and neo-socialist movements later in the decade. Here is the (haunting) last paragraph of that article, which is also our point of departure for thinking about ecology of truth-telling today:


There are contexts when pure opposition may be inefficient, counterproductive, or impossible; and when another politics takes center stage. As we described at the outset, the parodic genre of stiob—based on overidentification with the dominant form of discourse and its performances—is an example of an alternative aesthetics and practice of political critique. And now it is drawing attention to important trends in the media and political cultures of late liberalism. We do not know yet whether American stiob will produce significant political effects let alone whether it could ever become the basis of a new, more familiar politics of opposition. But, we do know that it retains remarkable family resemblance to the stiob interventions that originated during late socialism in Eastern Europe; and, we also know that in that context the aesthetics and politics of stiob contributed significantly to the disenchantment of the dominant discourse and thus to socialism’s sudden and spectacular end.

American stiob also contributed much of the analytic apparatus for a spin off project of my own, focusing on Iceland’s Best Party and the anarcho-surrealist political performance of Jón Gnarr, the comedian who became Mayor of Reykjavík from 2010 to 2014.

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