Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Bergson's essay on politeness is a rich exploration of the dispositions animating politeness, the values and ends toward which it is directed and the combination of art, virtue and know-how of which it consists. It also distinguishes several varieties of politeness, of mind, heart and manners. It makes a bracing contrast to much of the linguistic anthropology of politeness, which has tended to focalize strategy, formal systems and the indexical fields in which they are deployed. Bergson's focus on durable dispositions and habits foreshadows the idea of habitus in practice theory, while his emphasis on civility and civilizing anticipate Elias, all the while echoing much earlier European concepts such as sixteenth century Spanish policía. My paper will think with Bergson to imagine a larger conceptual space for comparative research.