Accepted paper:

Toward a theory of exemplarity


Dorothy Noyes (Ohio State University)

Paper short abstract:

To follow an example is to commit body and self. What makes exemplarity different from ordinary social reproduction and transmission? What kinds and conditions of exemplary performance foster mimesis? What sustains exemplarity as political strategy and ideal, given its frequent failure in practice?

Paper long abstract:

This paper will conclude the panel in a comparative discussion of the case studies presented. Ancestors, elected officials, celebrities, and martyrs provide referents for assessing the political conduct of individuals. Under what circumstances do they also provoke active emulation? How do the reach of mass and social media interact with the ethical imperatives of face-to-face communication? What is the relationship between a single striking gesture and conduct over the long term? And how can we assess the agency and efficacy of exemplars, positive or negative? Beginning with vernacular understandings of exemplarity and its vitality as political ideal and strategy, the paper begins to lay out a theory of exemplarity as a practice marked out from ordinary social reproduction and cultural transmission.

panel Body002
Gesturing toward utopia: the politics of exemplarity