Seriousness, Irony, and Cultural Politics: A Defense of Jorge Portilla

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This essay discusses Jorge Portilla’s phenomenological analysis of values and freedom in his essay, “The Phenomenology of Relajo.” Portilla argues that genuine freedom requires seriousness and sincerity; it requires wholehearted participation in cultural practices that one finds truly valuable. To support his argument, Portilla examines the ways that values and freedom are undermined when cultural practices are disrupted and break down as a result of the antics of the so-called "relajiento," a kind of “class clown” figure in Mexican culture who refuses to take anything seriously. Carlos Sánchez has criticized Portilla's rejection of the relajiento, suggesting that the relajiento’s disruptive behavior may be a liberatory act of defiance against the legacy of colonialism. I argue, however, that Portilla was right to see the relajiento’s behavior as counterproductive in the fight for liberation from oppression.
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Archival date: 2017-03-13
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