Rolf Scott,

The Event of Charlie Hebdo; Imageries of Freedom and Control and comments from Angelique Haugerud in American Anthropologist

In September 2015, the Egalitarian group produced a volume at Berghahn Publishing in their series Critical Interventions titled; “The Event of Charlie Hebdo, Imaginaries of Freedom and Control”. The Critical intervention series, has as a purpose to rush out publications on important current events. It would therefore only take 10 months from the tragic and violent massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris (that sparked an enormous discussion among citizens and intellectuals from around Europe and beyond), before the Egalitarianism group had commented on the event as a publication. By analyzing the effects the attacks had in various spheres of social life, including the political, ideology, collective imaginaries, the media, and education, the essays had as goals to contribute a critical response to that discussion. The volume observed that the events being attributed to Charlie Hebdo went beyond sensationalist reports of the mainstream media, transcending the spatial confines of nation states, and lent themselves to an ever-expanding number of mutating discursive formations. The collection of essays were edited by Allessandro Zagato, while the introduction was written by Bjørn Bertelsen and Allesandro Zagato named; The Event of Charlie Hebdo – Imaginaries of Freedom and Control. The following chapters were by Knut Rio titled; The Barbariat and Democratic Tolerance, 2. Axel Rudi; Hebdo: The West and the Sacred  3. Maria Dyveke Styve; Thought Crimes of an Eight-Year-Old, 4. Alessandro Zagato; Images of Violence and Surrogates for Politics , 5. Mari Hanssen Korsbrekke, Were You, Charlie? Contesting Voices of Political Activism in the Wake of a Tragedy , 6. Jacob Hjortsberg, All-Too Moral: Satire, Morality, and Charlie Hebdo , 7. Theodoros Rakopoulos, Blasphemy: The Paradoxes of Protecting and Mocking God. The final chapter or afterwords was by Bruce Kapferer and named “When a Joke is Not a Joke? The Paradox of Egalitarianism”.

Critical Interventions, September 2015

The publication was received well, but it is of special interest to read the positive comments by Aneglique Haugerud in “American Anthropologists, Year in review on public Anthropology (2016, vol 118, 585-601)” titled; “Public Anthropology in 2015: Charlie Hebdo, Black Lives Matter, Migrants, and More”. Here she comments on how anthropologists have addressed the very public issues of the Euripean refugee crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the attack on the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. As such, she emphasizes in particular how anthropologist of today counter grand narratives such as to quote Haugerud (2016:586); “the “clash of civilizations”; how they grapple with risky popular misconceptions of culture, difference, and suffering; and how they surface less visible forms of compassion, care, and solidarity that have long sustained our species”. Haugerud gives a lot of space to comment on the Hebdo reflection by the Egalitarianism group, and how they have contributed to open up the analyses of the event rather then settling the issue into a hardened debate of how western values are incompatible to Islam (ibid: 587-588). Thus she also concludes that (ibid) how; “the challenges of this era of growing polarization and anti-intellectualism appear to have energized rather than quieted public anthropology”.

Americal Anthropologist

AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, Vol. 118, No. 3, pp. 585–601, ISSN 0002-7294, online ISSN 1548-1433