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Death of the Father
the book -- coming in 1999!

Death of the Father
Toward an Anthropology of Ends in Political Regimes

Introduction synopsis

Dead Again? Nicolae Ceausescu and Paternalist Politics in
Romanian Society and Culture

The Death of Tito and the Sacrifice of Bosnia-Hercegovina

Doubtful Dead Fathers and Musical Corpses: What to Do With the
Dead Stalin, Lenin and Tsar Nicholas?

From Future to Past: A Duce's Trajectory

Gottvater, Landesvater, Familienvater: Identification
and Authority in Germany
The Two Deaths of Hirohito in Japan

Synopsis of Introduction

The death of authority figures like fathers or leaders is usually experienced as both liberation and 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 have become closely intertwined, and the constraints and affective attachments have intensified in ways that have major effects on the organization of regimes of authority. Fathers and leaders have 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 social body. The sovereign's exercise of power has been more intimate and invasive in everyday life than ever in recorded history. In those cases where the exercise of sovereignty by fathers and the leader has involved events such as arbitrary and widespread killing, torture, and repression, domestic authority and national political leadership have produced trauma-a temporally delayed and repeated suffering of these events that can only be grasped retrospectively. We now find ourselves in a critical moment of rupture and dissolution of regimes characterized by national trauma. Most self-representations of this rupture reconstruct the dissolution as both liberation and loss. I am calling this end "Death of the Father." This comparative project takes up the end of an authority crisis, a crisis in symbolic identification, that had crystallized around four state political forms: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the State Socialist regimes of East Germany, Yugoslavia, Romania, and the Soviet Union. These political forms produced overwhelming experiences of the nation, or, we might say, of national trauma. Variously called "Fascist," "Nazi," "Imperial," "Cult of Personality," "Totalitarian," "Patriarchal," "Paternalistic," or "State Socialist", these regimes resist reduction to a common name and, even after their end, the nature of their identifications retains for us mystical and mysterious qualities. This should be no surprise as in whose name authority is exercised and what kind of identification authority requires are two of the key mechanisms necessary for the enchantment that authority generally deploys to legitimate itself. Rather than focus on the origin and operation of these forms, about which much has been written, we are looking at their ends: on the modes of death-hanging, suicide, execution, old age-and the sequence of events following the collapse of authority. How do people come to represent themselves as having ended, or departed from, a specific leader and regime of authority? And, if symbolization of the leader's living body was central to tyrannical authority, is the public symbolization of his mode of death and the dead body now central to the successor regime? I am calling this study of ends and the sequence of events following them an "anthropology of closure." - John Borneman, December 1998
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(c) 1999 by John Borneman & Linda Fisher, All Rights Reserved