In Spanish America generally, national independence brought a liberation of public speech, manifested in the freedom of the press. Such freedom presented constant risks of assault on the personal honor of the objects of discursive criticism. The free press also leaned on invoking an imaginary citizen-reader, whose sentiments were allegedly represented in the pages of the press. Both of these phenomena: public discussion of public personages, and the emulation of the imaginary reader by journalists, favored the development of ironic distance as a predominant register in public discourse. Such irony was performed either by way of humorous lampooning, or through a journalistic penchant for horror and spectacle. Neither strategy co-existed easily with the public expression of sadness and grief, except in the context of death itself. This paper explores the connection between irony, sadness, and grief in public discourse, in pre-revolutionary and early revolutionary Mexico.
Claudio Lomnitz is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Columbia University. He works on the history, politics and culture of Latin America, and particularly of Mexico. 1987 Ph.D. Stanford. Lomnitz was a Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Committee on Historical Studies at the New School University. He has also taught at University of Chicago, New York University, El Colegio de México, and Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Iztapalapa (Mexico City). His publications include: Evolución de una sociedad rural (1982); Exits from the Labyrinth: Culture and Ideology in Mexican National Space (1992); Modernidad Indiana (1999); Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism (2001); Death and the Idea of Mexico (2005). He serves as editor of the journal Public Culture.