Tricks, Confidence Schemes and the Basis of Social Trust
This project will study the tricks played by tricksters, characters in stories who can read minds and manipulate others for their own ends, across cultures and across time, but with a particular focus on collections of precolonial African oral tales, postcolonial African literature, and North American literature. Examining how tricksters win trust will reveal the nature of the trust that is the basis for collective life in different societies. Examining how trust is abused in trickster stories will reveal the attitudes of story-tellers, novelists, dramatists, and their audiences toward the basis of social trust. Student RAs will collect trickster tales, films, and contemporary novels and examine them to ask: How does the trick work? What does the trickster assume about other people? What aspect of ordinary interactions does the trick take advantage of? When is the trickster admired and when is he feared and denounced?
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