Faculty of Arts Holds Lecture on “Tabooing Insults: Why the Ambivalence?”

The worldwide attitude of ambivalence towards the creation and usage of insult is not double standards but rather a delicate balancing act for the attainment of psyco-social goals such as catharsis and entertainment on one hand and the moderation of the social conflicts caused by verbal and non-verbal insults.

This  statement was made by Dr. Moses Nii-Dortey and Dr. Edward Nanbigne of the University of Ghana when they jointly delivered a paper on the topic “Tabooing Insults: Why the Ambivalence?” at the Faculty of Arts Lecture Series held at the Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang Auditorium at Amissah-Arthur Language Centre.

The presentation examined both verbal and non-verbal, on the premise that societies the world over had adopted an ambivalent attitude towards the creation and use of insult. They noted that the ambivalence argument was grounded in the sheer preponderance of both institutionalised and informal usages of verbal and non-verbal insults, through the arts as well as the tabooing regimes of insults in the same societies.  They cited various festivals and other traditional rites where insults played major role to convey messages to caution those in leadership or society to desist from certain immoral practices. They mentioned “Apoo” festival of the people of Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region, where a day was dedicated for the people to have the free will to insult the Paramount Chief without any punitive consequence. They also mentioned similar traditional rites among the Ga, Ewe and certain tribes in the three Northern Regions where insults were allowed.

They said there were enough evidence to show that societies the world over had some trend of ambivalence towards insult. In the context of their research, they said “ambivalence suggests a state of indecision or having either or both of contrary or similar values.”

They argued that “since neither the sanctioned uses of insult nor its tabooing do fully guarantee the attainment of the psycho-social necessities mentioned, the ambivalent attitude provides the needed framework for managing the creation and usage of insult as a necessary evil.  They further indicated that social navigation between sanctioned usages and tabooing of insults seem to be guided by the principles of ‘context’ and ‘intent’ of creation and usage of insult.