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Testimonio and secrecy in a traumatic past

The “times of danger” in the visual art of Sarhua

Olga González

This article discusses the fate of dangerous memories of war associated with the “internal armed conflict” in Peru. It focuses on the Andean community of Sarhua in Ayacucho and their experiences with political violence as depicted in a collection of paintings, Piraq Causa (Who Is Still to Blame?). A close examination of this visual testimonio reveals that some dangerous memories have been denied representation. I suggest that these become silences and absences that give expression to a “traumatic gap”, which includes memories of fratricidal violence and the community's initial endorsement of the Maoist Shining Path. I argue that Piraq Causa reflects the magnified secrecy around events that the community agreed to deliberately “remember to forget”. In so doing, I also propose that the perceived gaps in the pictorial narrative provoke the unmasking of what is “secretly familiar” in Sarhua. To that extent, Piraq Causa exposes as much as it affirms the secrecy around traumatic memories of war.

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The correct secret

Discretion and hypertransparency in Chinese biosecurity

Katherine A. Mason

exercising what Lilith Mahmud (2012) calls discretion in deciding what information to disclose, to whom, and when. In differentiating discretion from secrecy, Mahmud defines the former as “characterized not by an exclusive preoccupation with concealment

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Introduction

Why Revisit Intimacy?

Sertaç Sehlikoglu and Aslı Zengin

Intimacy is tightly bound up with notions of privacy, sexuality, proximity and secrecy, and with dynamics of sensual and affective attachments and forms of desire. It is therefore integral to the formation of human selves and subjectivities, as well as communities, publics, collectives and socialities. The articles in this Special Section all offer an anthropological inquiry into intimacy, seeking a conceptual formulation that might capture its actual operations, the ways intimacy is done in talk and action. They thus contribute ethnographically to ongoing anthropological debates about intimacy, and explore how multiple domains and forms of intimacies are defined, shaped, constructed and transformed across different social worlds.

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Exchanging Skin

Making a Science of the Relation between Bolivip and Barth

Tony Crook

This article proposes a theory of what knowledge is and a method of how knowledge comes about. To separate epistemology from knowledge provides the starting point for questioning epistemology in two ways. Firstly, the analytical relations by which anthropologists claim that they have gained ethnographic knowledge are examined and compared to the claims to knowledge made by male initiates in Bolivip, Papua New Guinea. Secondly, these aesthetics of epistemology are compared with the social relations by which anthropologists and Bolivip men come to know through other persons. The article then takes up Wagner's 'relative objectivity' and considers how it enables an ethnographic comparative method between Bolivip and Barth's interpretive paradigm of 'secrecy'. Having unhinged epistemology from knowledge, the article closes by reconnecting them, with a different view of each appearing as a result.

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The Red and the Black

A Practical Experiment for Thinking about Ritual

Michael Houseman

This essay reports on the performance of an initiatory rite of the author’s invention, undertaken as a practical experiment for thinking about certain recurrent features of ritual action and, specifically, of (male) initiation. In keeping with an approach that sees ritual as the enactment of special relationships, this initiation, The Red and the Black, was designed to demonstrate the importance of interactive patterning both for the structuring of ritual performance and for the participants’ commitment to the relationships they ritually enact. Its meaningfulness, as well as its capacity to affect the participants’ perceptions and ideas, is shown to derive less from the (minimal) explicit symbolism it employs, the beliefs it presupposes, or the social functions that can be attributed to it than from the relational entailments of the coordinate interactions it involves. Framing, simulation, secrecy, imposed suffering, symbolism, ceremonial efficacy, ritual condensation, and the complex interplay of in-group and out-group perspectives are among the issues that are illustrated and discussed.

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Niklas Hultin

This article examines the discourse surrounding the circulation of legal information in urban Gambia. It argues that ideas of information sharing suggest that Gambian law is fundamentally opaque, not simply in that it is not transparent but that it is only partially known. Drawing on the insights of Marilyn Strathern and other 'Melanesianists', the article further proposes that information sharing is a kind of relation and that opacity is a way of cutting relations. This in turn presents a way of apprehending African law that differs from the current emphasis on illegality and sovereignty in Africanist legal anthropology and focuses instead on emendation as a modality of engaging the law.

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The Shadows of Knowability

Reading between Opaque Narrative and Transparent Text

Younes Saramifar

secrecy would then be sustained in another manner. Her notion is based on an analysis of secrecy and transparency in documentation and texts, which she links to the realities of everyday life. I would argue, however, that she does not dwell enough on what

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Mobility

Geographies, Histories, Sociologies

Peter Merriman, Rhys Jones, Tim Cresswell, Colin Divall, Gijs Mom, Mimi Sheller and John Urry

This article is an edited transcript of a panel discussion on “mobility studies“ which was held as part of a workshop on mobility and community at Aberystwyth University on September 3, 2012. In the article the five panelists reflect upon the recent resurgence of research on mobility in the social sciences and humanities, emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary debates, and the ways in which established fields such as transport history, migration studies, and sociology are being reshaped by new research agendas. The panelists discuss the importance of engaging with issues of politics, justice, equality, global capital, secrecy, and representation, and they encourage researchers to focus on non-Western and non-hegemonic mobilities, as well as to produce “useable“ studies which engage policy-makers.

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Sezin Topçu

This article adduces evidence of the central role played by scientists in the 1970s and “lay persons” in the post-Chernobyl period in the production and legitimation of alternative types of knowledge and expertise on the environmental and health risks of nuclear energy in France. From a constructivist perspective, it argues that this shift in the relationship of “lay persons” to knowledge production is linked not only to the rise of mistrust vis-à-vis scientific institutions but also, and especially, to a change in the way they have reacted to “dependency” on institutions and to “state secrecy”. Counter-expertise is constructed as a politics of surveillance where alternative interpretations of risk are buttressed by a permanent critique of the epistemic assumptions of institutional expertise. The identity of “counter-expert” is socially elaborated within this process.

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Where Is the Public Sphere?

Political Communications and the Morality of Disclosure in Rural Rajasthan

Anastasia Piliavsky

The public sphere has been centre stage in celebrations of India's political triumphs. Leading commentators tell us that the astonishing post-independence surge of democracy has been contingent on the rise of a new kind of sociopolitical formation: the public sphere. This article takes a closer look at the popular deliberative terrain in North India to question this claim. Drawing on research conducted in a provincial town in the North Indian state of Rajasthan, we see that where metropolitan political theorists see 'transparency' as promoting discursive and political possibilities, Rajasthani villagers see an exposure which prevents expression, communication and the making of political choices. In their view, it is secrecy and social seclusion that enable political interactions and elicit political judgments. 'The public sphere' is an unfit heuristic for locating popular politics within (and beyond) Rajasthan, where it obscures much more than it reveals.