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Matei Candea: “Counting to Two and Counting to Three: Comparative Imaginaries of Freedom of Speech”

March 28, 2022 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm PDT


About the Lecture

Debates over freedom of speech and its proper limits have become a recurrent feature of European and American public life in recent years. This talk examines the inherently comparative logics of these debates, the ways in which they figure and refigure differences between countries, legal systems, periods, generations, societies, cultures, sometimes ‘epochs’ or ‘civilisations’. Building on earlier work on the comparative logics of anthropology, this paper suggests that, while some forms of comparison can help us discover new objects and imagine new possibilities, others rehearse the same problems and assumptions over and over again to no clear benefit. Taking the example of debates which followed the Charlie Hebdo killings in 2015, this paper points to the limits of a recurrently binary comparative imaginary in these debates. By tracing a more entangled story of divergent and recombinant visions and versions of freedom of speech in contemporary France, the paper suggests that it might be worth learning to count to (at least) three.

About the Speaker


Matei Candea is a Professor of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University and a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. He has also taught at the University of Durham (2009-2013) and held the position of Velux Visiting Professor at the University of Copenhagen (in Summer-Autumn 2014). From 2013-2016, he was the honorary editor of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Candea’s most recent book is Comparison in Anthropology: The Impossible Method (Cambridge University Press, 2018). He is currently the principal investigator of the Risking Speech Project, a five-year ethnographic and comparative study of the ethical, practical, and material entailments of notions of freedom of speech in a range of locations in and beyond Europe, funded by a European Research Council (ERC) grant entitled ‘Situating Free Speech’ under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.


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March 28, 2022
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm PDT
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