1st Edition

The Concept of Tragedy Its Importance for the Social Sciences in Unsettled Times

By Sam Han Copyright 2023
    172 Pages
    by Routledge

    172 Pages
    by Routledge

    Events in the world today appear to be increasingly uncontrollable and unknowable. Climate change, refugee crises, and global pandemics seem to demonstrate the limits of human reason, science, and technology. In light of this, the terms "tragedy" and "tragic" have come into greater use. What does the register of the tragic do? What does its deployment in the contemporary context and other times of crisis mean? In addressing such questions, this book also argues for a "tragic vision" embedded in the history of social thought, demonstrating the relevance of the ancient tragedians and Aristotle as well as Shakespeare and modern dramatists to the most pressing questions of agency and collectivity in the social sciences. Developing a theory of "tragic social science," which is applied to topics including global inequality, celebrity culture, pandemics, and climate change, The Concept of Tragedy aims to restore "tragedy" as a productive analytic in the social sciences. As such, it will appeal to scholars of sociology, anthropology, social theory, media and communications, and literary criticism with interests in tragedy, suffering, and modernity.


    1. Introduction: Why tragedy? Why now?
    2. Part I

    3. Beyond intentionality: the will, agency, and subjectivity in ancient and classical tragedy
    4. The tragic individual: catharsis, the hero, and the flaw in Aristotle and beyond
    5. Modern tragedy and its subjects: Shakespeare, Freud, and post-Christian metaphysics
    6. Part II

    7. The theodicy of suffering: abjection under capitalism
    8. From hero to celebrity: Fame, familiarity, and redemption
    9. Tragedy of the commons: genre and collective agency amidst climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic
    10. Toward a tragic social science: responsibility, critique, and thinking diffractively



    Sam Han is Lecturer in Sociology at Brunel University, London. He is the author of (Inter)Facing Death: Life in Global Uncertainty, Technologies of Religion: Spheres of the Sacred in a Post-Secular Modernity and Digital Culture and Religion in Asia (with Kamaludeen Mohamed Nasir), and other works.