This article looks again at the figure of the Pardoner in the Canterbury Tales and reconsiders the possibility that ‘he’ is a woman passing as a man. The importance of such a reading is revealed by exploring the anxieties this raises over the relationship between outward appearance and inner substance or reality, and demonstrating parallels with medieval anxieties over the authenticity of relics and the validity of religious speech acts, including those involved in the transubstantiation of the elements of the Eucharist.
Gender, Relics and Speech Acts
Alex da Costa
The Patronage of Lao Buddhism and the Reconstruction of Relic Shrines and Temples in Colonial French Indochina
From 1893 onward, French colonialism sponsored and restructured Lao and Khmer Buddhism in order to create an ‘Indochinese Buddhism’. Over a span of several decades, the French promoted monastic education, reconstructed the major temples in Vientiane, and renovated the That Luang, the most important Buddhist relic shrine of Laos. This article explores the motivations and strategies for this endeavor, specifically focusing on French efforts to ‘re-materialize’ Lao Buddhism’s religious architecture. I argue that the renovation of these monuments as symbols and centers of power under the auspices of the École française d’Extrême-Orient was based on mimetic processes that should be understood as a form of ceremonial governmentality and colonial politics of affect, whose goal was to win the ‘sympathies’ of the colonized.
Western representations of the Other are criticized by anthropologists, but similar hegemonic classifications are present in the relationships between anthropologists who are living in the West and working on the (post-socialist) East, and those working and living in the (post-communist) East. In a hierarchical order of scholars and knowledge, post-socialist anthropologists are often perceived as relics of the communist past: folklorists, theoretically backward empiricists, and nationalists. These images replicate Cold War stereotypes, ignore long-lasting paradigm shifts as well as actual practices triggered by the transnationalization of scholarship. Post-socialist academics either approve of such hegemony or contest this pecking order of wisdom, and their reactions range from isolationism to uncritical attempts at “nesting intellectual backwardness“ in the local context (an effect that trickles down and reinforces hierarchies). Deterred communication harms anthropological studies on post-socialism, the prominence of which can hardly be compared to that of post-colonial studies.
Tangled Histories and Changing Contexts of the Burnett River Rock Engravings
Brit Asmussen, Lester Michael Hill, Sean Ulm and Chantal Knowles
This article discusses changing obligations toward objects from an archaeological site held by the Queensland Museum, through a long-term, 40-year case study. Between 1971 and 1972 a selection of 92 stone blocks weighing up to 5 tons containing Aboriginal engravings were cut out of the site and distributed to multiple locations across Queensland by the State Government under the provisions of the then Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act 1967. The site was subsequently flooded following dam construction and the removed blocks became part of the Queensland Museum’s collection. This article chronicles the history of the site and its “salvage,” the consequences of fragmentation of the site for community and institutions, the creation of 92 museum objects, the transformation from immobile to mobile cultural heritage, and community- led requests for their repatriation back to country.
This article discusses the corpi santi, or whole skeletons of saints, which were brought to Malta from the catacombs of Rome in the eighteenth century. Here they had a diff erent meaning than they had in northern Europe. Malta was not aff ected by the Thirty Years’ War and therefore did not have to replace relics destroyed by the Protestants. The Maltese church also had no need to emphasize its connection with Rome. These saints were honored in Malta because they were heroes, having died for Christ as martyrs. Parishioners also perceived corpi santi as patrons, explaining why they were fully integrated within the parish. They rendered the churches in which they were exhibited centers of local devotion, thereby according prestige to the parish and intensifying rivalry between parishes. The saints also gave identity to the parish, so that parents even named children after them.