Awkwardness, Part 2

This is the reading for August 25.

In last week’s reading, we saw how awkwardness is a fundamentally social phenomenon.  Essentially, a situation is awkward when social norms break down in some way, revealing to us that all norms are constructed and changeable.  An individual may violate a social norm that is treated as known and knowable by everyone else, as in the case of everyday awkwardness.  Or, there may be a situation in which there are no agreed upon norms at all, such as when two cultures meet – this is radical awkwardness.  And sometimes, there is a sense that norms exist, but it is not entirely clear how to apply them in a given situation.  This is cultural awkwardness.

Judd Apatow’s movies portray male bonding as a way to avoid the cultural awkwardness of adulthood and marriage, though this strategy is ultimately self-undermining.  Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm shows a more radical awkwardness, one that may ultimately be emancipatory.

Continue reading

Awkwardness, Part 1

This is the reading for August 11.

Couples fighting at parties, teenagers in love and poorly told jokes are all terribly awkward phenomena.  Awkwardness is usually seen as the result of someone’s nerdiness, or lack of social skills.  Against this, Adam Kotsko argues that awkwardness reveals something fundamental about our relations with each other – and that there is something potentially emancipatory about it.

Continue reading