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Corpses of atonement

The discovery, commemoration and reinterment of eleven Alsatian victims of Nazi terror, 1947– 52

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Devlin M. Scofield

In April 1947, a mass grave containing the bodies of 11 Alsatians executed by the Offenburg Gestapo in December 1944 was uncovered in Rammersweier. In the following days, the bodies were exhumed, placed in coffins and, after a two day vigil by local residents, solemnly and publically reburied after a two confessional service in the presence of school children and a wide cross-section of local and state authorities. A roadside memorial was constructed for the victims in 1948. The bodies of the murdered Alsatians played a central symbolic role throughout the process of exhumation, commemoration, and response to the later vandalism of the erected monument in their name.

This chapter argues that the meticulous attention to the remembrance activities surrounding the reburial and memorialisation of the Alsatians and the intensity of the vandalism investigation demonstrates that Badenese officials were convinced that their responses contained a symbolic resonance beyond giving eleven more victims of Nazi terror a proper burial. In effect, contemporary Badenese authorities and their Alsatian counterparts came to view the dead bodies as representative of the larger crimes of the Nazi regime, particularly those perpetrated against the population of Alsace.

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Chained corpses

Warfare, politics and religion after the Habsburg Empire in the Julian March, 1930s– 1970s

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Gaetano Dato

The chapter deals with the role of corpses in public memory during the Age of the World Wars in the North Adriatic borderland, where human remains had a momentous role in the clash among the area’s main collective identities: Italian, Slovenian and Croatian nationals, Habsburg authorities, Communists, Nazis, Fascists and new Fascists, and the Jewish community. In particular, corpses were actors in political-religious representations and a driving force in the period’s war propaganda. After 1945, human remains were contentious among conflicting factions and later became involved in trials against Nazi war criminals – regular public opinion has since underlined their fate. The analysis begins by recalling the public display and long spanning funeral of the mummified corpse of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his spouse, on the brink of the Great War in July 1914. The paper then explores other examples in use of corpses in the public discourse and pays careful attention to three case studies: the Redipuglia WW1 shrine, the pictures shot in winter 1943–44 of exhumed partisans’ enemies, and the victims’ ashes of the San Sabba Rice Mill lager.

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A Beothuk skeleton (not) in a glass case

Rumours of bones and the remembrance of an exterminated people in Newfoundland - the emotive immateriality of human remains

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John Harries

This chapter tells the story of the Beothuk people in Newfoundland, hunter-gatherers indigenous to this northern island. The Europeans, mostly English and Irish, came in the 18th and 19th centuries. With the coming of the settlers the Beothuk dwindled and finally, in 1829 they were declared extinct. The exact cause of this extinction is still debated, but there is no doubt that the ancestors of many of those still living in Newfoundland were the agents of extermination of a people, whether by disease or genocidal violence.

Since their extermination Beothuk bones emerged from the earth and were sometimes taken away and stored and displayed in museums in Newfoundland, Edinburgh and elsewhere. These bones still exist, now withdrawn from display, but intermittently receiving the attention of oesteoarchaeologists and physical anthropologists, as well as a handful of activists petitioning for their return. This chapter addresses the capacity of bones to speak, to give testimony and, in giving testimony, to make “old acts indelible”. How do these bones trouble and haunt contemporary articulations of settler identity and our ethical engagement with the absent presence of those who have been violently dispossessed?

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Saltwater horizons

Seas, oceans and civilisations

Jeremy C.A. Smith

This chapter aims to interrogate the relationship between oceans, seas and civilisations. It contends that maritime civilisations reach out to saltwater horizons and are animated by oceanic imaginaries. Europe's empires of the seas created global visions by signifying claims over oceanic space in order to extend their imperium. Oceanic civilisations and the states and empires that they instituted had a large-scale reach. Portal civilisations were more modest and had a thalassic imaginary. Though their 'headquarters' was a port city, portal civilisations were more than states with working harbours and open sea-fronts. Islands were the distribution points of many portal civilisations. While islands were crucial in the creation of oceanic and portal civilisations, it is also worth thinking about them as separate entities. When the imperial expansion of European states was at its height and the conflicts it engendered were the greatest, islands were incredibly important strategically, economically and culturally.

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Pacific imaginaries

Ontologies of connection, reconstruction of memory

Jeremy C.A. Smith

The Pacific's past is polycentric and its forms of memory embrace connected centres, a continuous mythology (both temporally and spatially), particular historicities and an unusual mode of inter-cultural engagement. The Pacific has had migratory routes favoured by intertidal systems that created a rim of sorts. Migration has entailed interaction with seas and the ocean that became a model for interaction between peoples. It is indicative of a first Pacific imaginary. Pacific societies are characterised by a paradigm of organisation of material and moral life that empowered trade and exchange across greater distances and involving encounters of more clearly differentiated cultures. The confrontation of European and Pacific imaginaries that came with colonialism has brought contrasting civilisations into contact, conflict and dissonance of understanding. Traditions formed in colonial and then federated Australia has entailed the subjugation of indigenous memory.

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Jeremy C.A. Smith

When it comes to the specific field of contemporary civilisational analysis, Johann P. Arnason, Robert Bellah and S. N. Eisenstadt have produced in-depth monographs and numerous essays on Japanese civilisation. For Eisenstadt, Japan was an unusual de-axialising civilisation (1996). In its digestion and relativisation of the world religions, Japan had a foundational moment in which a pattern of ontological dualism was established. Worldwide cultural exploration of many other countries, along with an outgrowth of trade, stimulated an overhaul of the conceptual apparatus of Japan's political culture. The commitment to international knowledge by the Meiji elite had oriented the Japanese to an outside universality and situated their society in an international order that included a normative standard of civilisation. New perspectives emerged after linguistic consolidation of a discourse of civilisations and after the heightening of consciousness around the standard of civilisation.

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Inter- civilisational engagement

Imaginaries, power, connected worlds

Jeremy C.A. Smith

This chapter outlines the conceptual framework of inter-civilisational engagement. It presents four dimensions of inter-civilisational engagement: migration, deep engagement in economic relations, cultural exchange and creation, and political reconstruction of civilisational models. Labour migration included slaves forced into the flow of emigrants departing Africa, Europe and India. Like migration, economic relations are about movement. Inter-civilisational engagement constitutes economies as relational in the uneven and unequal spread of trade and money, and in commercial networks based on the practices of trust-building. The chapter argues that the transformation of patterns of long-distance trade, the growth of money, the codification of trust and the expansion of imagined connections provided complex and early spurs to the imaginary institution of capitalism. In the epoch of modern colonialism, fourth dimension of engagement almost invariably involves imperial hierarchies of relations between states and broad-ranging constructions of power.

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Engagement in the cross- currents of history

Perspectives on civilisation in Latin America

Jeremy C.A. Smith

This chapter explores Latin American experiences that shed light on the engagement of civilisations. Cultural and political engagement began in earnest for independent Latin American societies in the 1880s. Latin America's modernism mostly pre-dated the Second World War. After the Second World War, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes joined Jorge Borges in renewing modernist themes in Latin American literature, essays and poetry. The thread of Romanticism runs through Latin American modernism as a whole. Writers and philosophers strived for a place in Universal History for Latin America on grounds that are typically Romantic. Liberation theology found a collective voice in Latin America, even though liberation theologians were never more than a minority at the episcopal level. Apart from providing cultural and political expression of the suffering of the lived present, liberationists have borne witness to class and civilisational memories.

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Debating civilisations

Interrogating civilisational analysis in a global age

Jeremy C.A. Smith

Contemporary civilisational analysis has emerged in the post-Cold War period as a forming but already controversial field of scholarship. This book focuses on the scholarship produced in this field since the 1970s. It begins with anthropological axioms posited by Ibn Khaldun, Simon Bolivar and George Pachymeres. Three conceptual images of civilisations are prominent in the field. First, civilisations are conceived as socio-cultural units, entities or blocs in an 'integrationist' image. They emerge out of long-term uneven historical processes. Finally, in a 'relational' image civilisations are believed to gain definition and institute developmental patterns through inter-societal and inter-cultural encounters. The book traces the history of semantic developments of the notions of 'civilisation' and 'civilisations' coextensive with the expansion of Europe's empires and consubstantial with colonialism. Early modernities are more important in the long formation of capitalism. Outlining the conceptual framework of inter-civilisational engagement, the book analytically plots the ties instituted by human imaginaries across four dimensions of inter-civilisational engagement. It also interrogates the relationship between oceans, seas and civilisations. Oceanian civilisation exhibits patterns of deep engagement and connection. Though damaged, Pacific cultures have invoked their own counter-imaginary in closer proximity to past islander experiences. Collective memory provides resources for coping with critical issues. The book also explores Latin American and Japanese experiences that shed light on the engagement of civilisations, applying the model of inter-civilisational engagement to modern perspectives in culture and the arts, politics, theology and political economy.

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Jeremy C.A. Smith

The key contention is that contemporary historians and comparative sociologists have posited integrationist, processual and relational images of civilisations. The three images apply to a more diverse range of viewpoints and perspectives than prevailed in earlier studies of civilisations in anthropology, archaeology, history and sociology. This chapter aims to articulate the insights and limitations of each image by setting out how each image shapes approaches to civilisations. In the 1990s, S. N. Eisenstadt spearheaded major research enterprises by defining the agenda for contemporary civilisational analysis, where a conflation of religion and civilisation. Norbert Elias's historical sociology of the civilising process reconstructs the emergence of social constraint towards self-constraint in observable daily habits and behaviour over the course of the long European Middle Ages. Urging problematisation of conceptions that postulate the internal unity of civilisations, Arnason expounds a 'stronger emphasis on and better understanding of differences and differentiation'.