The Jaguar and the Anteater: Pornography Degree Zero

By Bernard Arcand ; Wayne Grady | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION ON THE DIFFICULTY OF THE SUBJECT

Deep down, only degree zero can combat myth.

ROLAND BARTHES

Mythologies

Come to think of it, the beginning of this story is not very exciting. Imagine the dean of a social-science faculty declaring that the Department of Anthropology was attracting too few students to have even a hope of covering its expenses, and that anyway, anthropology was not a discipline that was really appropriate "in this day and age." A quick reaction was called for: a newspaper was consulted to see what it was that was preoccupying this "day and age" that the dean seemed to know so well. The year was 1983, and the section of the newspaper given over to the letters and opinions of its readers was largely occupied by the controversies surrounding the political control of pornography. Most of the readers were denouncing the constant increase in the marketing of pornography, which ranked as one of the scourges of modern society and was perceived as the reflection of a general degradation of the social, cultural, and moral environment; a kind of pollution, comparable to the degradation of nature. Since the passion which these debates exhibited indicated that they concerned a matter of great importance, and since sex remains a very useful and effective advertising tool, the subject seemed ideally suited.

So the first goal of this book is to show how anthropology can

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