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Why plumage matters

This book presents the rich fabric of language, clothing, food, and architecture which forms the diverse religious, political, cultural and ethnic identities of humanity. The colour of a scarf, the accent of a conversation, can unite people or divide them, and the smallest detail can play its part in signalling who are allies and who are enemies, as much for elites as for citizens in a democracy. Human identity is neither rigidly determined nor unpredictable and spontaneous, but between those two extremes is the forum on which the public life of humanity is generated. After a century in which an assumption was held across the ideological spectrum from left to right and from Marxists to economic individualists that the rational pursuit of material gain underlay social and political activity, the fundamental importance of the cultivation and preservation of identity is re-emerging across the whole spectrum of politics in which Britain is one example only. Yet while identity is the dimension in which public life is conducted, it is inherently paradoxical: on the one hand people cultivate their identity by association with a group, or religion, or nation, whilst on the other hand they distinguish themselves from their associates within those groups by presenting an intensified or purer form of the qualities which otherwise unite them. So identity simultaneously generates equality and inequality, between identification by association, and identity by exclusion and differentiation; it is both the engine of public life, and the cause of its confusion and conflict.

This Open Access edition was funded by London School of Economics and Political Science.

This article considers the contexts and processes of forensic identification in 2004 post-tsunami Thailand as examples of identity politics. The presence of international forensic teams as carriers of diverse technical expertise overlapped with bureaucratic procedures put in place by the Thai government. The negotiation of unified forensic protocols and the production of estimates of identified nationals straddle biopolitics and thanatocracy. The immense identification task testified on the one hand to an effort to bring individual bodies back to mourning families and national soils, and on the other hand to determining collective ethnic and national bodies, making sense out of an inexorable and disordered dissolution of corporeal as well as political boundaries. Individual and national identities were the subject of competing efforts to bring order to,the chaos, reaffirming the cogency of the body politic by mapping national boundaries abroad. The overwhelming forensic effort required by the exceptional circumstances also brought forward the socio-economic and ethnic disparities of the victims, whose post-mortem treatment and identification traced an indelible divide between us and them.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal

Exhumation may be defined as the legally sanctioned excavation and recovery of the remains of lawfully buried or – occasionally – cremated individuals, as distinct from forensic excavations of clandestinely buried remains conducted as part of a criminal investigation and from unlawful disinterment of human remains, commonly referred to as bodysnatching. The aim of this article is to review the role of exhumation – so defined – in the activities of CEMEL, the Medico-Legal Centre of the Ribeirão Preto Medical School-University of São Paulo, in international, regional and local collaborations. Exhumations form part of routine forensic anthropology casework; scientific research in physical and forensic anthropology; and forensic casework conducted in collaboration with the Brazilian Federal Police; and are carried out as part of humanitarian investigations into deaths associated with the civil–military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985. This article aims to offer a non-technical summary – with reference to international comparative information – of the role of exhumation in investigative and scientific work and to discuss developments in their historical and political context.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Regional elections and political parties

FAD6 10/17/2002 5:45 PM Page 92 6 Federalism and political asymmetry: regional elections and political parties Elections As we noted in chapter 1, ‘Competitive elections are one of the cornerstones of democracy. Without freely established political parties battling in honestly conducted elections, democracy by most definitions does not exist’.1 Since the adoption of the Russian Constitution in December 1993 Russian citizens have been given the opportunity to engage in numerous rounds of national and local level election campaigns. There have now been three

in Federalism and democratisation in Russia
A discourse view on the European Community and the abolition of border controls in the second half of the 1980s

background, the EU is often turned into a benevolent actor. Such was the message by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman van Rompuy in response to the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to the EU in October 2012: ‘this Prize is the strongest possible recognition of the deep political motives behind our Union: the unique effort by ever more European states to overcome war

in Security/ Mobility

In discussions of conflict, war and political violence, dead bodies count. Although the politics and practices associated with the collection of violent-death data are seldom subject to critical examination, they are crucial to how scholars and practitioners think about how and why conflict and violence erupt. Knowledge about conflict deaths – the who, what, where, when, why and how – is a form of expertise, created, disseminated and used by different agents. This article highlights the ways in which body counts are deployed as social facts and forms of knowledge that are used to shape and influence policies and practices associated with armed conflict. It traces the way in which conflict-death data emerged, and then examines critically some of the practices and assumptions of data collection to shed light on how claims to expertise are enacted and on how the public arena connects (or not) with scholarly conflict expertise.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Crafting authoritarian regimes in Russia’s regions and republics

FAD9 10/17/2002 6:03 PM Page 157 9 From constitutional to political asymmetry: crafting authoritarian regimes in Russia’s regions and republics Russia’s constitutional asymmetry has prevented the development of universal norms of citizenship and human rights in the federation. As long as republic and regional leaders pledged support for Yeltsin and ‘brought home the bacon’, in the way of ethnic stability, tax revenues and electoral support, federal authorities have been quite happy to turn a blind eye to the flagrant violations of the Russian Constitution by

in Federalism and democratisation in Russia
Discourses, contestation and alternative consumption

chap 8 13/8/04 4:24 pm Page 176 8 The political morality of food: discourses, contestation and alternative consumption Roberta Sassatelli Anthropology and sociology have been keen to show that consumption is a social and moral field, and that consumer practices are part of an ongoing process of negotiation of social classifications and hierarchies. Food consumption in particular has been associated with symbolically mediated notions of order (Douglas and Isherwood 1979). We know that particular foods are identified with annual festivities, set apart for

in Qualities of food
Open Access (free)
The oddity of democracy

aspiring politicians would have questioned the desirability of democracy, however much they might have sought to evade, undermine, or destroy it in practice, this formal or merely compliant accord obscured rather than addressed the problems of democratic government and politics. For there to be government, by the people or by anyone else, there has to be someone to be governed. Even ‘self-government’ by an individual depends on there being a divided self, the rebellious id and the controlling super-ego. Though democracy is government by the people it is also government

in Cultivating political and public identity
Open Access (free)

relationship is likely to be qualified by others, so that its contribution will be just that, a contribution, not a determinant. This makes a universal science of human conduct unlikely or unreliable, and predictions dangerous. It is better to expect unexpected and creative identities. This limits the usefulness of both Marxism and utilitarian rational-choice accounts. The jibe has been made that social history was no more than the history of the crinoline. But that underrates, entirely misses, the character of identity both individual and social or political. People will

in Cultivating political and public identity