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Poison and politics: toward a (pre-modern?) theory of community and communication

219 Aaron Burr Hall 219 Aaron Burr Hall, Princeton

The first task in this talk will be to suggest, by drawing on linguistics, literary texts, myth and scripture, that in many pre-modern cultures poison, hypocrisy, politics, and communication were intimately related concepts. In these cultures, communication could be thought of as profoundly ambivalent, capable of both deceit and revelation. The dangers of this ambivalence were often imagined in terms of poison, and specialists in communicative action often represented as poisoners.

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