Engaging critically with literature on mimesis, colonialism, and the state in anthropology and history, this introduction argues for an approach to mimesis and imitation as constitutive of the state and its forms of rule and governmentality in the context of late European colonialism. It explores how the colonial state attempted to administer, control, and integrate its indigenous subjects through mimetic policies of governance, while examining how indigenous polities adopted imitative practices in order to establish reciprocal ties with, or to resist the presence of, the colonial state. In introducing this special issue, three main themes will be addressed: mimesis as a strategic policy of colonial government, as an object of colonial regulation, and, finally, as a creative indigenous appropriation of external forms of state power.
Mimetic Governmentality, Colonialism, and the State
Patrice Ladwig and Ricardo Roque
Medical Auxiliaries, Smallpox, and the Colonial State in the Communes mixtes
Compulsory smallpox vaccination was introduced to Algeria by decree on 27 May 1907. After World War I, the combination of public health crises, racialized fears of contagion, and the objective of mise en valeur prompted the colonial state to make Muslim villagers in the communes mixtes a more systematic target of smallpox vaccination. This was achieved in large part thanks to the efforts of Muslim medical auxiliaries. This article reconstructs the kinds of training, labor, and clerical skills embodied in these agents’ administration of vaccination. It also examines the accommodation and contestation of their presence by officials, politicians, and villagers. The author argues that the administrative bureaucracy generated by vaccination may have preceded and enabled the expansion of state registration in rural areas during the interwar period, but ultimately was more effective at disciplining the medical auxiliary than it was at controlling villagers or the smallpox virus.
Catholics and the Formation of Postcolonial Identity in Algeria
As French officials negotiated the terms of Algerian independence with the Provisional Government of the Republic of Algeria (GPRA) in 1961–62, among the issues discussed was the future of the Christian population. After colonial occupation and armed struggle, in which the defense of “Christian civilization” in Algeria had been a major ideological justification for French violence against the Algerian population, the future of Christianity in postcolonial Algeria was not self-evident. This article examines how European Catholics negotiated their position in post-independence Algeria. I demonstrate that Catholic attempts to “become Algerian” and decolonize the Church were intertwined with global religious politics, economic necessities, and colonial history. Yet their continued presence in Algeria demonstrates that the standard narratives of postcolonial rupture between the European and Algerian populations do not hold up, for, in the early years of post-independence Algeria, European Catholics played an active role in the construction of the postcolonial nation.
The comic book series La Vie secrète des jeunes is a sardonic account of French young people’s behaviours witnessed from the voyeuristic viewpoint of its author-illustrator, Riad Sattouf. Despite its caricatural and non-photorealistic visual style, the work conveys a strong sense of authenticity, mixing truth claims borrowed from established non-fiction traditions (journalism, autobiography and documentary). It is also a rare example of a non-fiction comic turned into live action. This article considers the comic and its TV adaptation, and discusses film’s ability to adapt an account of truth rooted in comics ontology. The article first provides a theoretical structure that details the intricacy of repeating the truth from comic to film. Second, it highlights the way in which the comic develops its authenticity by constantly reaffirming Sattouf’s presence and subjectivity. The article aims to show that the adaptation anonymises this viewpoint in order to re-construct the authenticity of its reality.
Castelao in Galician Graphic Biography
The multifaceted Galician artist, writer and politician Alfonso Daniel Rodríguez Castelao (1886–1950) has been considered a pioneer of Galician comics, or banda deseñada. This is because of his key role in the development of the medium from his early comic strips in the magazine Vida gallega [Galician life] (1909), to the cartoons that he published in the press in the 1920s and 1930s. Furthermore, Castelao has become a comics character in several graphic biographies since the end of the 1970s. This article not only addresses the reasons for the recurrent presence of Castelao in Galician comics, but it also looks at how the latter have contributed to the mythologisation of this important figure of Galician culture. In aesthetic terms, it will reveal the overlaps between adaptation, biography and comics by analysing all three of them as networks.
Agency, Representation, and Neoliberal Jewish Girlhood
The focus of the essay is the well known (and worn) stereotype of the Jewish American Princess or JAP. Spoiled, frigid, loud, defiant, the JAP refuses to behave in civilized ways even as she constantly transgresses the boundaries of civilized social spaces. Both an intimate insider, and an eternal outsider, the JAP is a boundary figure whose presence draws and redraws myths of assimilative ideals and citizenship rights in American culture. The complexity of these social relations, their apparent contradictions, and the possibilities they may offer for agency and resistance in both 'real' and fictive contexts are explored through close examinations of four high profile JAPS—Cher Horowitz of the film Clueless, Monica Lewinsky, Jessica Stein of the film Kissing Jessica Stein, and Lizzie Grubman.
Exporting New Habits to Siberia and Russian America
Russia transitioned from enforcing the world’s longest ban on importing tobacco in the seventeenth century to legalizing the product at the beginning of the eighteenth and ultimately becoming one of the world’s largest producers of tobacco by the nineteenth century. A part of this process neglected by historians is the way in which Russia distributed tobacco among the indigenous communities in Siberia, Kamchatka, and Russian America, creating new consumers where none had existed. This article discusses both the process by which Russia exported tobacco to its frontier and the manner in which tobacco consumption was localized among its diverse populations. Tobacco was not a single product experienced the same way throughout the empire but rather became a marker of difference, demonstrating the multiple communities and trade networks that influenced the nature of Russia’s colonial presence in Asia and the North Pacific.
Teyyam in Malabar
This article focuses on Muttappan and the practice of teyyam in Kerala, South India. The growing power and increasing presence of this ritual practice and its transition from traditional sacred spaces into modern public spheres, including cyberspace, are analyzed in order to understand its inner dynamics and potentialities. Engaged with the quotidian aspects of human existence, the male divinity Muttappan-teyyam is a being of the moment who overcomes any bounding or hierarchizing force in his path. I argue that Muttappan's modernity has a decentering and destabilizing fluidity that appeals to all social classes. The ritual practice has put the arts and the state at odds, with the latter co-opting it to serve the state's purposes through tourism and spectacles that encourage national solidarity.
The cosmologies implicated in sorcery practice are human-centric. Within them, human beings are at the heart of processes that are integral in the formation of their psychical, social and political universes. Sorcery fetishises human agency, often one which it magically enhances, as the key mediating factor affecting the course or direction of human life-chances. The fabulous character of so much sorcery practice, its transgressive and unbounded dimensions, a rich symbolism that appears to press towards and beyond the limits of the human imagination, is surely connected to the overpowering and totalising impetus that sorcery recognises in human agency and capacities. Sorcery is that magical additional force that unites with the intentional direction of human beings into their realities – a creative and destructive directionality. Such sorcery must needs affect the lives of others because of their co-presence, their ongoing involvement in each other’s life circumstances.
A Psychoanalytic Inquiry Into the Production of Moral Conscience
James M. Glass
This essay analyzes the psychological dynamic of disintegration anxiety by examining its presence in the tradition of political theory, its role in the development of group norms, and its impact on ideology. The author contends that whereas psychosis in individuals constrains and isolates them, in group settings psychotic behavior unites and energizes its members, relieving the collective of its anxieties. In looking at Nazi Germany, the author discusses the means by which not just the SS but the entire professional, academic, and scientific communities in the dominant group made mass murder possible. Radical insecurities and paranoiagenic phantasies of the group possess a logic and action component that distinguish them from their effect on the individual. Whereas for the individual, delusion is considered dysfunctional and crippling, on the political level, it becomes dynamic public policy. Psychotic group states, then, possess an instrumentality and consequence far different from psychosis in the individual.