What makes the eye into the paradigmatic transmitter of evil, envy, malevolence, disease, and many other types of ills? Why is it so susceptible to the uncanny and repressed? In discussing these questions, the presentation argues that the evil eye is no mere superstitious practice. The various phenomena of looking it comprises fall under a cultural technology that can be discussed in rational terms. The talk begins by examining malocchio in the southern Italian context from phenomenological and psychoanalytic vantage points. Various literary texts relate the evil eye to forms of looking whose basic function is one of desire. What malocchio shows most of all is the meaning of other people’s glances. This is a matter of fundamental importance. For without being looked at by others we would lack a complete image of ourselves. Yet those very looks threaten our self-image, turning us into sub-jects.
Christian Breuer began to think about the evil eye in 1994, shortly after he earned a degree from the University of Vienna, with concentrations in theater studies, philosophy, musicology, and sociology – and stays in Palermo and New York. He completed his Ph.D. in 2014 under the guidance of Thomas Macho at the Humboldt University’s Institut für Kulturwissenschaft. He lives in Berlin, where he works as a freelance translator – his resume includes Benvenuto, Esposito, Fachinelli, and Vattimo – and as a musician.