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The Art of Capture

Hidden Jokes and the Reinvention of Animistic Ontologies in Southwest China

Katherine Swancutt

Anthropology has, among its many accomplishments, become a ‘hyper-reflexive’ discipline that is mastered by anthropologists and their fieldwork friends. Today’s China offers an especially revealing lens onto anthropological reflexivity as it reintroduces animism among ethnic minorities and mobilizes a cosmological-cum-ecological ethos, replete with soul-searching and planet-saving behaviors. This article presents ethnography on the Nuosu of Southwest China, who use the ‘art of capture’ to reinvent local animistic ideas and the Chinese ‘ideology of animism’. In dialogue with a Nuosu ethnologist, rural Nuosu villagers, and a Nuosu anthropologist, I propose that ‘hidden’ knowledge and jokes underpin the expositions of native scholars, who interlace their academic work with local rituals. In this way, Nuosu academics, foreign anthropologists, and villagers all partake in the reinvention of Nuosu animism.

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Captured by Texts

Travel Tales of Captivity in Rabbinic Literature

Joshua Levinson

This article examines a travel narrative of sexual captivity in Rome from rabbinic literature of late antiquity. By comparing two textual versions, Palestinian and Babylonian, the article discusses not only the dynamics of cultural identity formation as negotiated in the “contact zone” of captivity, but also the tradition history of this tale as it migrated from late antique Palestine to the rabbinic circles in the Sasanian Empire. While the Palestinian version is a narrative about the reunification of space and identity disrupted by exile, the diasporic rabbinic community in Babylonia creates a fiction of identity despite place; de-territorializing the physical component of place in identity and replacing it with a textual self-fashioning.

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Ruptured pasts and captured futures

Life narratives in postwar Mostar

Monika Palmberger

In situations in which an entire population is affected by war and great political-economic transformations, as was the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina, generational differences exist regarding the extent to which people experience these events as disruptions to their lives. Even in a nationally divided city like Mostar after the 1992-1995 war, generational experiences-of past and present times as well as of future prospects (or the lack thereof)-are crucial for the way people rethink the past and (re)position themselves in the present. In the case of the generation of the "Last Yugoslavs", I argue that the disruption of their life course and the resulting loss of future prospects prevent people from narrating the local past and their lives in a meaningful and coherent way.

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Salvatore Lupo

On 11 April 2006, the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano—the last head of

the Corleonesi clan, which for 30 years has led the notorious Italian

criminal organization, the Sicilian Mafia—was announced. Eighteen

months earlier, on 15 October 2004, the Court of Cassation definitively

acquitted Senator-for-Life and former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti,

thus confirming the preceding sentence by the Court of Appeals in

Palermo. According to this latter judgment, there had been relations

in the past between the Mafia, also known as Cosa Nostra, and the

accused. Nonetheless, in public debate and particularly within political

circles, Andreotti came out very well. More generally, the sentence

appeared, or at least was presented, as the final act in the long saga

of trials concerning the links between politics and the Mafia and legal

proceedings against politicians accused of collusion.

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Steven Shaviro

André Bazin and Roland Barthes both theorize a cinematic realism based on the indexical ability of the photographic image (the ability of the image to indicate an original object). How are their arguments affected by the advent of digital, nonindexical cinematic technologies? The article considers how a nonindexical realism might be possible, by looking at three recent films: Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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Judith Rosen-Berry

Rabbi Sheila Shulman z’l was my teacher/mentor and friend. For years I spent many Friday afternoons in conversation with her. This article attempts to capture something of that time, and also something of the cadence and character of a conversation that I continue to have with her.

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Before and After Ghostcatching

Animation, Primitivism, and the Choreography of Vitality

Heather Warren-Crow

Primitivism gathers together several hegemonic lines of thinking about otherness as a function of underdevelopment vis-à-vis the Western, white male subject. This article presents an analysis of the animated dance video Ghostcatching (Bill T. Jones, Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar, 1999) that offers a framework for understanding the piece’s thoughtful relationship to the history of primitivism in animation. Positioning the dancing body and the motion-capture apparatus at the center of understandings of the supposedly pre-rational and uncivilized, I argue that Ghostcatching is an expert commentary on animation’s long-standing investment in notions of human origins and development. Ghostcatching and related animations (including its stereoscopic 3-D reworking, After Ghostcatching; Betty Boop cartoons of the 1930s; the Dancing Baby meme; and work by media artist Ian Cheng) provide a lens for examining technologies and discourses of motion capture, revealing the economy of vitality through which the energy of raced, infantilized, and animalized bodies are circulated.

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Ingolfur Blühdorn

“Liquid modernity” is a concept that Zygmunt Bauman suggested to

describe a certain condition in advanced modern societies where changeability,

unpredictability, and unreliability have become core features

determining individual life and social interaction.1 Diminishing party loyalty

and increasing voter volatility, erratic but often vociferous articulation

of political preferences and participation, and a marked shift towards populism

all belong to the political fallout from Bauman’s condition of liquidity.

With his notion of the “fluid five-party system,” Oskar Niedermayer has

further developed the metaphor.2 On the one hand, his concept attempts

to capture the new structural characteristics of the German party system,

i.e., its fragmentation and structural asymmetry. On the other hand, it

seeks to capture the changed relationship between the individual parties,

specifically their mutual demarcation and rapprochement in the context of

coalition strategies. Indeed, having to compete in a five-party system and

trying to optimize their strategic position in a context of high unpredictability

is the major new challenge Germany’s political parties are having

to confront.

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Joyce Marie Mushaben

Alfred Diamant, the Viennese son of a Jewish merchant couple, lost most of his

family during the Holocaust. Forced to flee in 1940, Diamant became a lieutenant

for the 82nd Airborne Division, only to be captured and shot behind

enemy lines during the D-Day invasion. Denied the right to attend university in

Austria, he made up for lost time, completing two degrees at Indiana University

and a Ph.D. at Yale, concentrating on French public administration.

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Benjamin Abrams and Giovanni A. Travaglino

When we think about protest, we often associate it with the notion of organized social movements, but studying organized movements only captures a small part of the realities of social protest. Dissent often takes alternative forms, and can be studied from myriad angles. The articles in this issue offer different perspectives on social protest, examining the roles of small activist collectives, organized policing efforts, local private politics, digital communities, and revolutionary vanguards in instances of collective action and political behavior.