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Death of the Father

Death of the Father: An Anthropology of the End in Political Authority

Edited by John Borneman
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Death of the Father
    Book Description:

    The death of authority figures like fathers or leaders can be experienced as either liberation or loss. In the twentieth century, the authority of the father and of the leader became closely intertwined; constraints and affective attachments intensified in ways that had major effects on the organization of regimes of authority. This comparative volume examines the resulting crisis in symbolic identification, the national traumas that had crystallized around four state political forms: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and East European Communism. The defeat of Imperial and Fascist regimes in 1945 and the implosion of Communist regimes in 1989 were critical moments of rupture, of "death of the father." What was the experience of their ends, and what is the reconstruction of those ends in memory?

    This volume represents is the beginning of a comparative social anthropology of caesurae: the end of traumatic political regimes, of their symbolic forms, political consequences, and probable futures.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-715-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vi-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Theorizing Regime Ends
    (pp. 1-32)
    John Borneman

    The death of authority figures such as fathers or leaders can be experienced as either liberation or loss. Liberation because relations to such figures constrain through the exercise of authority, loss because these relations bind through emotional ties. In the twentieth century, the authority of the father and of the leader became closely intertwined; constraints and affective attachments intensified in ways that had major effects on the organization of regimes of authority. Fathers and leaders sent their sons and followers to die in gruesome wars of mass destruction and lured them into internal purification campaigns in the name of the...

  6. Chapter 1 From Future to Past: A Duce’s Trajectory
    (pp. 33-62)
    Maria Pia Di Bella

    At the dawn of the twentieth century, groups of dashing young European men propelled themselves to the front of the political scene to play a role that would have been beyond their reach if genealogical rules had to be followed. Thus an era of effervescence started, breaking normative ties that seemed to be everlasting. Nowhere was this breach brought about in a more fruitful way and in more spheres of the intellectual, political, and artistic life than in Austria. Names such as Sigmund Freud, Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig, Robert Musil, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Oskar Kokoschka, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schönberg, and so...

  7. Chapter 2 Gottvater, Landesvater, Familienvater: Identification and Authority in Germany
    (pp. 63-103)
    John Borneman

    After months of heavy fighting outside the city, the Russian army finally surrounded Berlin, where Adolf Hitler was sheltered in the bunker of the Reichskanzlei. Sometime during the day of 29 April 1945, Hitler had been informed about Mussolini’s fate: shot along with his mistress and hung by their feet in a gas station in central Milan where crowds kicked and spit at the bodies. Rather than face such humiliation, he ordered two hundred liters of gasoline to be brought to the bunker and to be used, following his suicide, to burn his body and make it unrecognizable. In preparation,...

  8. Chapter 3 Two Deaths of Hirohito in Japan
    (pp. 104-122)
    Kyung-Koo Han

    This chapter examines the two deaths of Hirohito: one in 1945/1946, and the other in 1988/1989. In it, I will focus on three themes.

    First, the emperor system, and perhaps the emperor’s life, was saved by the negation of the Emperor-Father’s divine nature and his Fatherhood of the Japanese nation after Japan’s defeat in 1945. Discarding his strong father image, Hirohito transformed himself into a gentle, friendly, and vulnerable figure. This elimination of the strong father at the national level was paralleled by the decline of the father’s authority and marginalization of the father in the postwar Japanese family.


  9. Chapter 4 The Undead: Nicolae Ceauşescu and Paternalist Politics in Romanian Society and Culture
    (pp. 123-147)
    David A. Kideckel

    One day, to discover what people really thought of him, the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu disguised himself as a poor peasant to travel among the masses. At the Bucharest train station he asked an old man his opinion of Ceauşescu. The old man looked to make sure no one was listening. Then he beckoned the disguised Ceauşescu to follow as he led him through labyrinthine twists and turns on Bucharest streets. Arriving at a place far “off the beaten path,” and again after making absolutely sure they were alone, the old man whispered in Ceauşescu’s ear, “I like him!”


  10. Chapter 5 The Peaceful Death of Tito and the Violent End of Yugoslavia
    (pp. 148-200)
    Tone Bringa

    This chapter places the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) and the subsequent wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the context of the leadership and death of Yugoslavia’s post–World War II leader, Josip Broz Tito. The violent destruction of Yugoslavia beginning in 1991 contrasted starkly with the peaceful passing of its creator eleven years earlier. Yet while the actual death of Yugoslavia and of its leader were very different, the slow weakening and disintegration preceding the death of both the leader and the state he had ruled were similar and interconnected. Furthermore, the violent death of...

  11. Chapter 6 Doubtful Dead Fathers and Musical Corpses: What to Do with the Dead Stalin, Lenin, and Tsar Nicholas?
    (pp. 201-219)
    John S. Schoeberlein

    The Soviet experience is replete with authoritarian bodysnatching. Either the body must be rendered eternal, like Lenin’s waxy remains lying forever in state on Red Square, or the body must be spirited away, like Stalin’s corpse taken to commune with the Kremlin wall after a short joint residence in Lenin’s tomb. Actually, a sly combination of posterity and oblivion is the ideal: simultaneous extermination and resuscitation. Eliminating the god-king while seeking to retain the symbolic structure of his authority. Political patricide and visitation of the shrine to the dead father.

    That Stalin has been difficult to kill off is a...

  12. Notes on Contributors to the Death of the Father Project
    (pp. 220-221)
  13. Index
    (pp. 222-240)