Adrien Douchet, Taline Garibian, and Benoît Pouget
The aim of this article is to shed light on the conditions under which the funerary management of human remains was carried out by the French authorities during the early years of the First World War. It seeks to understand how the urgent need to clear the battlefield as quickly as possible came into conflict with the aspiration to give all deceased an individualised, or at the very least dignified, burial. Old military funerary practices were overturned and reconfigured to incorporate an ideal that sought the individual identification of citizen soldiers. The years 1914–15 were thus profoundly marked by a clash between the pragmatism of public health authorities obsessed with hygiene, the infancy of emerging forensic science, the aching desire of the nation to see its children buried individually and various political and military imperatives related to the conduct of the war.
The case of the management of the dead related to COVID-19
This article studies one of the humanitarian challenges caused by the COVID-19 crisis: the dignified handling of the mortal remains of individuals that have died from COVID-19 in Muslim contexts. It illustrates the discussion with examples from Sunni Muslim-majority states when relevant, such as Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Pakistan, and examples from English-speaking non-Muslim majority states such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and Australia as well as Sri Lanka. The article finds that the case of the management of dead bodies of people who have died from COVID-19 has shown that the creativity and flexibility enshrined in the Islamic law-making logic and methodology, on the one hand, and the cooperation between Muslim jurists and specialised medical and forensic experts, on the other, have contributed to saving people’s lives and mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Muslim contexts.
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, in the Kabye country, some heads of enemies – those of men foreign to the group – were buried in a mound of earth referred to as hude, meaning ‘manure’. In each locality, this mound is situated inside a wooded sanctuary where the spirit of the mythical founding ancestor resides. In order to understand this practice, this article examines how it fitted within the overall logic of the male initiation cycle, contextualising it in relation to past and present practices. Because it was a highly ambivalent element of the bush, the head of an enemy renewed the generative power of this original ‘manure’ prodigiously, so as to ensure the group’s survival in their land. The burial of the heads of strangers appears to be an initiatory variant of other forms of mastery of the ambivalence of wild forces, entrusted in other African societies to the chief and his waste heap.
The Atlantic slave trade was a violent institution. What is more important
than cataloguing the everyday and extraordinary violence in the Atlantic
slave system – which began in the mid fifteenth century, before Columbus’s
voyages to the New World, and which lasted until 1888, when Brazil became
the last society to abolish slavery – is to analyse the meanings for
planters, traders, and enslaved people of the constant violence that
enveloped this system. This chapter uses violence as an analytic category in
order to demonstrate how brutality, violence, and death were not mere
by-products of the extremely lucrative early modern plantation system, but
were the sine qua non of that plantation world.
The two sides of provincial violence in early modern Burma
Michael W. Charney
The chapter examines the use of spectacular violence by provincial officials
in early modern Burma during the reign of King Bodawhpaya (1782–1819).
Villagers in outlying provinces that fit James Scott’s definition of
non-state space obeyed state officials only because of the threat and
implementation of execution. Coercive violence probably always remained an
important part of the everyday life of the early modern Burmese state in the
provinces, however much its enactment and the threat of its imposition was
invisible to or misunderstood by the royal centre. In the royal court, the
king watched over the people and judged the good and the bad, and the eyes
of all in the kingdom were upon the throne. This royal imaginary gave
cohesion to the kingdom within a moral system that emphasized unity,
harmony, and peace. It blinded the court to the everyday activities of
centrally appointed officials who abused the local populations under their
charge for their own benefit. Abuse led to resistance and flight, which led
to more violence, and in the end undermined the security of the royal
imaginary. Political centralization in early modern Burma, by replacing
locally responsible royal and noble families with temporary central
appointees, encouraged, at least to some degree, increasing violence of this
kind over time.
This chapter argues that levels of collective violence in early modern
Spanish America were remarkably low, especially when compared with
contemporary Europe. Organized around the concept of a ‘Pax Hispanica’, the
chapter explains the conditions that made long-term political and social
peace possible until the early nineteenth century, when the collapse of
Spanish rule promoted an unprecedented upsurge of collective violence.
Several questions are considered. First, what was the incidence and
character of collective violence in early modern Spanish America, and why
were war and rebellion rare? Second, how and why was the Pax Hispanica
affected by international warfare and colonial rebellion during the later
eighteenth century? Third, how and why did the Pax Hispanica break down
after 1810 and what were the main patterns, causes, and consequences of the
collective violence that emerged during the Spanish imperial crisis of the
1810s and 1820s?
This chapter explores the concept and experience of ‘brotherly love’ in its historical context. A focus on military comradeship and middle-class brother–sister bonds has overshadowed fraternal relations. Many men expressed deep feelings of closeness and affection for their brothers. Quieter masculine values of kindness, unity and sympathy, instilled by parents and reinforced by moral instruction, infused brotherly practices. Within the confines of modern warfare, brothers and sisters strove to maintain their sibling ties, maintaining practical and emotional support through correspondence or, when possible, in person. Addressing the archival bias against young men of serving age, sibling letters reveal distinct patterns of brothering or sistering at a distance. Displaying the relational nature of correspondence, they reflect shared interests and concerns. Narratives of brotherly meetings show the solace of sibling bonds during wartime. Some men went to extraordinary lengths to track down and visit their siblings. Face-to-face meetings fulfilled many functions: the comfort of the touch of a fraternal handshake or embrace, the opportunity to relax and talk to a trusted confidante, and relaying reassurances to anxious family members back home.
This chapter, with its specific focus on loss, forms the heart of this study. Focusing on the nexus of emotional codes shows men’s intricate negotiation of conflicting duties to family and nation. Brotherly loss unleashed a gamut of powerful emotions, including anger, hate and guilt. Fighting and weeping were not mutually exclusive. Men and women often registered the profundity of their loss in isolation, seeking out private spaces in their desire to hide strong and unsettling emotions. Shouldering responsibilities to families and comrades was a way of demonstrating manly love and dedication. Adherence to these codes led to grieving soldiers being treated sympathetically by their comrades and officers. Shielded by the respect and sympathy accorded to the loss of close kin, blood ties provided men with a much-needed safety valve – a permit to grieve openly. Exploring the language adopted by bereaved brothers and sisters demonstrates the difficulties they faced when trying to express their feelings while upholding normative emotional codes. Instances where siblings returned to this subject in later life allow us to trace subtle shifts over time. Surviving siblings’ determination to mark the deaths of their childhood companions emotionally and factually overcame their reluctance to expose their grief.
Amid the horrors of trench warfare, many men derived strength and comfort from serving alongside, or in close proximity to, their brothers. Blood ties prevailed over the traditional comradeship of the fighting unit. This often improved the efficacy of soldier-brothers, increasing their bravery under fire and acting as a stabilising influence at moments of high tension. Proximity came at a price as men witnessed the woundings and deaths of siblings. The trauma of fraternal casualties shattered men’s emotional armour, sometimes bringing them to breaking point. While empathising with their predicament, men’s comrades were discomforted by brotherly grief. Letters conveyed graphic details to siblings of mechanised warfare and the strain this inflicted on their soldier-brothers. In this important way siblings supplemented the support provided by mothers, while also sharing the filial duty of shielding mothers. When men’s nerves shattered, brothers intervened to remove them to safety or to ensure that they received all due care and attention. With medical treatment varying considerably according to men’s class and financial means, sufferers welcomed any influence brought to bear by brothers. Fraternal interventions were an effective shield against complete psychic breakdown.
Drawing on a broad range of personal accounts, this is the first detailed study of siblinghood in wartime. The relative youth of the fighting men of the Great War intensified the emotional salience of sibling relationships. Long separations, trauma and bereavement tested sibling ties forged through shared childhoods, family practices, commitments and interests. We must not equate the absence of a verbal language of love with an absence of profound feelings. Quieter familial values of kindness, tolerance and unity, instilled by parents and reinforced by moral instruction, strengthened bonds between brothers and sisters. Examining the nexus of cultural and familial emotional norms, this study reveals the complex acts of mediation undertaken by siblings striving to reconcile conflicting obligations to society, the army and loved ones in families at home. Brothers enlisted and served together. Siblings witnessed departures and homecomings, shared family responsibilities, confided their anxieties and provided mutual support from a distance via letters and parcels. The strength soldier-brothers drew from each other came at an emotional cost to themselves and their comrades. The seismic casualties of the First World War proved a watershed moment in the culture of mourning and bereavement. Grief narratives reveal distinct patterns of mourning following the death of a loved sibling, suggesting a greater complexity to male grief than is often acknowledged. Surviving siblings acted as memory keepers, circumventing the anonymisation of the dead in public commemorations by restoring the particular war stories of their brothers.