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Between History and Histories

Between History and Histories: The Making of Silences and Commemorations

  • Book Info
    Between History and Histories
    Book Description:

    This collection of case studies from around the world uses a new approach in historical anthropology, one that focuses on heterogeneity within cultures rather than coherence to explain how we commemorate certain events, while silencing others.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7132-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-28)

    This book brings together anthropologists and historians to address questions of how commemorations and the silences that surround them come into being and are institutionalized. As the specific issue for interweaving anthropology and history, the focus on silences and commemorations expresses a subtle but pervasive shift in the two disciplines over the years. Here in the introduction we take stock of the past dialogue and use the essays in the volume to suggest new perspectives and methods. This part highlights some of the significant ways in which the conjunction of anthropology and history has changed over the years.

    One early...

  5. Part I History and Histories

    • Silencing the Past: Layers of Meaning in the Haitian Revolution
      (pp. 31-61)

      In the northern mountains of the Republic of Haiti, there is an old palace called Sans Souci that many urbanites and neighbouring peasants revere as one of the most important historical monuments of their country. The palace – what remains of it – stands on a small elevation between the higher hills surrounding the town of Milot. It is impressive if only because of its size, or what one can now guess to have been its size. It was built to instil a long-lasting deference, and it still does, in part because its occasional visitors expect fascination. One does not...

    • Against Experience: The Struggles for History, Tradition, and Hope among a Native American People
      (pp. 62-79)

      As Edward Thompson and Raymond Williams taught us to see, from (and, we will add, against) ‘experience’ come both ‘agency’ and ‘culture.’ But experience is more than the raw material from which an active life is fashioned. It is, to begin, social and relational: a person who stands on an assembly line stamping out a hundred or so small brass fittings an hour does not have a hundred or so experiences of stamping fittings each hour, hour after hour, day after day. What is experienced, rather, is a profusion of changing and repetitive conceptual and socialrelationships, between hurting knees...

    • Pandora’s History: Central Peruvian Peasants and the Re-covering of the Past
      (pp. 80-97)

      It is well known that the English poet Siegfried Sassoon spent much of the First World War recuperating from his experiences in the trenches and writing bitterly about the carnage. It is perhaps less well known that it was the anthropologist William Rivers who made it his job to persuade Sassoon and other young soldiers like him to come to terms with the unspeakable horrors that they had witnessed.² I want to take this observation as the point of departure for exploring the extent to which all intellectual pursuits like anthropology and history are, in the end, attempts to help...

    • Renaissance and Kaliyuga: Time, Myth, and History in Colonial Bengal
      (pp. 98-126)

      In texts written and printed in colonial Bengal between 1861 and 1916, two well-known intellectuals of high-caste origin, an obscure Brahman school teacher-cum-playwright, a member of a low-caste religious sect, and a recently widowed housewife who is known only through the autobiography that she composed are all thinking about their times. They evaluate in distinct ways the changes that they have lived through, and sometimes the language they use to conceptualize time itself differs: a new ‘dawn,’ a ‘Kaliyuga’ about which it does not seem to matter whether one uses the past, the present continuous, or the future tense. Kishorichand...

    • The ‘Day of National Mourning’ in Germany
      (pp. 127-146)

      The death of individuals has always caused survivors to search for collective cultural forms, in neighbourhoods and religious communities, in order to overcome these threatening experiences of insecurity, loss, and separation. Again and again, historical change has forced societies to reformulate their forms of cultural dominion over death and mourning. In the industrial societies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ever more specialized agencies became dedicated to the task of elaborating commemoration and the celebration of the dead according to their respective societal needs and economic possibilities. Increased mobility, advanced urbanization, and a universal acceptance of market relationships created the...

  6. Part II Silences and Commemorations

    • Histories of Mourning: Flowers and Stones for the War Dead, Confusion for the Living – Vignettes from East and West Germany
      (pp. 149-179)

      On 27 January 1993 the German federal government decided to set up in Berlin a national memorial to ‘those killed through war and violence’ during the Second World War.¹ The choice of site clearly referred back to a previous memorial, the ‘new guard house’ (Neue Wache) in the centre of the nation’s capital, Berlin. This modest classicist building of the 1830s² had been dedicated to a similar purpose in 1931. At that time, more than ten years after the end of the First World War, the Prussian state government had proposed erecting a memorial and called for a public debate...

    • Silences of the Living, Orations of the Dead: The Struggle in Kenya for S.M. Otieno’s Body, 20 December 1986 to 23 May 1987
      (pp. 180-198)

      On Saturday, 20 December 1986, Silvanus Melea Otieno, a prominent Nairobi lawyer, aged fifty-five, fell ill at his farm at Ngong near Nairobi. At 6 p.m. he was declared dead at Nairobi Hospital. Within a few days, Voice of Kenya radio carried the widow’s announcement that the body of S.M. Otieno would be buried at their Ngong farm on Saturday, 3 January 1987. But then on the same day the VOK carried Otieno’s brother’s message that the burial would take place at Nyamila village in Siaya district, western Kenya. Nyamila, Otieno’s birthplace, and Ngong, his residence for a number of...

    • Lords Ask, Peasants Answer: Making Traditions in Late-Medieval Village Assemblies
      (pp. 199-229)

      In the western parts of late-medieval Germany, subject peasants were invested with the authority to tell the local law (weisen). Sworn representatives of peasant communities declared the law at least once a year in the assembly, attended usually by all male full members of the community in question. The norms, rights, and rules that they expounded were claimed to have been handed down to them from their ancestors. As a rule, these norms were not read out from some record but reconstructed orally in a complex ceremonial dialogue between lords and peasant jurors. The lord or his representative put the...

    • From Peasant Wars to Urban ‘Wars’: The Anti-Mafia Movement in Palermo
      (pp. 230-262)

      Costantino Garaffa is an official in Palermo’s association of merchants and shopkeepers whose mission has been to break the system of thepizzo, or tribute, that mafiosi extort from merchants and industries as a price for doing business in their respective territories. His statement to a reporter for theNew York Timescaptures the frustration of many anti-mafia activists, who see themselves confronting a social world with no clean institutions, trade unions, or political parties – no obvious points of reference to anchor their struggle and deepen its social base. Rather, within each institution, union, and party they must discover...

    • Work and the Production of Silence
      (pp. 263-283)

      Lorraine and Maria, Hispana women workers employed at the newly built HealthTech plant in Albuquerque, echoed each other’s disillusion and sense of defeat in 1983, several months after they had participated in a union drive that resulted in a vote of 141 against the union and only 71 for it. The history of the union campaign, which we glimpsed at several different points, illustrates the process that encapsulates the exercise of power, the creation of resistance, and the production of silence in the workplace. The interviews conducted by Guillermo Grenier, a sociologist pursuing research for his dissertation in sociology during...

    • The So-Called Laichingen Hunger Chronicle: An Example of the Fiction of the Factual, the Traps of Evidence, and the Possibilities of Proof in the Writing of History
      (pp. 284-299)

      The document discussed in the following pages was published for the first time in theWürttembergische Jahrbücher für Statistik and Landeskundein 1917. The editor was a teacher, Christian August Schnerring, who was born the son of a hand weaver in the Swabian Alps in 1870 and died in Stuttgart in 1951. Schnerring published the document as an appendix to a longer scholarly treatise on ‘scarcity and famine in Württemberg in 1816–17’ (Schnerring 1917).¹ He had discovered the ‘handwritten record of an Alps dweller concerning years of expensiveness and starvation in 1816–17,’ as he described it,² during his...

    • Further Thoughts on the Production of History
      (pp. 300-310)

      Historians, together with anthropologists concerned with the past and with history, will in future years have to confront more directly the ways in which popular and official constructions of the past, as well as political suppressions of historical knowledge, shape and deform the processes of knowledge production – and also the general knowledge of the past – in the world. Historians have become aware that they must give attention not only to their traditional object – the reconstruction of the past – but also to the nature and work of their audiences. In looking at ways in which language and...

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 311-314)