Accepted paper:

Introducing boredom

Author:

Julie Billaud (Graduate Institute in Geneva)

Paper short abstract:

This introduction provides an overview of the literature on boredom and explores the added value and potentialities of an anthropology of boredom.

Paper long abstract:

This introduction provides an overview of the literature on boredom and explores the added value and potentialities of an anthropology of boredom. The topic of boredom has attracted the attention of philosophers, from Pascal, to Heidegger, Kierkegaard and more recently Lars Svendsen. Philosophers seem to agree with the idea that boredom constitutes a central feature of modernity, marked by the decline of spirituality, the triumph of cold rationalism and more generally, loss of meaning in a metaphysical sense. In contrast with these writings, historian Peter Toohey argues for the benefits of boredom and explores how over the centuries it has proven to be a stimulus for art and literature. These opposite conceptions of this universal phenomenon force us to think of boredom in terms of its polarities: Is the feeling of boredom the reflection of a loss intimacy to oneself, fed by a fantasy of the 'good life' that is disconnected from the actual experience of life in crisis, as historian of emotions Lauren Berlant argues? Is boredom the effect of a new type of governmentality through which restraint, self-control, self-government are celebrated, as Ghassan Hage suggests? Or is there something more positive to read in this widely shared sentiment: a sense of 'being together' that creates consensus and provides the conditions for unthreatening encounters?

panel P068
Boredom, intimacy and governance in 'normalized' times of crisis