The Poetics of "Madness": Shifting Codes and Styles in the Linguistic Construction of Identity in Matlab, Bangladesh

Essay Excerpt

This article considers the implications of evidence that the "mad" speak with "a thousand several tongues." I mean to imply neither that the discursive play of multiple identities is reducible even to such semantically challenging lines as those from the Beatles or Shakespeare nor that those lines arc mad ravings. Though I recognize the dangers of associating code switching with madness, I propose nonetheless that the unique speech labeled "mad"—and the processes whereby it comes to be labeled so—should attract more of the analytic attentions of anthropologists. For even the speech of the so-called mad is not strictly idiosyncratic but plays on recognized codes and styles. Perhaps more than for others, ludic and conflictual uses of language by these persons entail a personalized poetics or stylistics that is constitutive of their identies (3).

Wilce, James. "The Poetics of "Madness": Shifting Codes and Styles in the Linguistic Construction of Identity in Matlab, Bangladesh." Cultural Anthropology 15.1 (2000): 3-34.

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