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Deadly Theatre: Ethnicity as a Script for Violence
Unformatted Document Text:  having life. This “difference made real” helped to shore up the color line in ways that everyday forms of social control, such as etiquette rules or Jim Crow laws, could not. Arjun Appadurai also attempts to explain the use of atrocities between social intimates—people who have known each other as friends, neighbors, and family members. He explains brutal acts of violence between intimates as a way of creating certainty where uncertainty abounds. The forms of uncertainty that Appadurai considers include uncertainty about demographics—“how many persons of this or that sort really exist in a given territory?”; uncertainty about what state-sanctioned “megaidentities” really mean (by megaidentity, one might think of the ‘Yugoslav’ identity Tito tried to instill on the assortment of sub-nationalities he inherited after World War II); and uncertainty about authenticity—“about whether a person really is what they [sic] claim or appear to be or have historically been” (Appadurai 1998, 909). These forms of uncertainty are the result of globalization and the cross-national flows of people, things, and ideas that globalization has wrought. These multiplicities of uncertainty about who is who means that the ethnic body no longer points to a secure cosmology or world order, but reveals the extent of somatic slippage that has occurred as a result of these global changes. The ethnic body is no longer an accurate map of who is who, but has become deceptive and unreliable. Bodily signs are ambiguous if present at all. Not all Tutsi are tall; not all Hutu are short, for example. Violence thus becomes a way to remove the ambiguity that resides within and on the body. Violence creates certainty out of uncertainty. In this way, violence become not an act of elimination—of getting rid of the body—but a lurid form of “bodily discovery.” By “taking the body apart,” one can “divine the enemy within” (Appadurai 1998, 912-13). Applied to lynchings, Appadurai’s framework points not only to somatic slippage that has occurred (the result of sexual relations between blacks and whites), but also to 17

Authors: Fujii, Lee Ann.
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having life. This “difference made real” helped to shore up the color line in ways that
everyday forms of social control, such as etiquette rules or Jim Crow laws, could not.
Arjun Appadurai also attempts to explain the use of atrocities between social
intimates—people who have known each other as friends, neighbors, and family
members. He explains brutal acts of violence between intimates as a way of creating
certainty where uncertainty abounds. The forms of uncertainty that Appadurai considers
include uncertainty about demographics—“how many persons of this or that sort really
exist in a given territory?”; uncertainty about what state-sanctioned “megaidentities”
really mean (by megaidentity, one might think of the ‘Yugoslav’ identity Tito tried to instill
on the assortment of sub-nationalities he inherited after World War II); and uncertainty
about authenticity—“about whether a person really is what they [sic] claim or appear to
be or have historically been” (Appadurai 1998, 909). These forms of uncertainty are the
result of globalization and the cross-national flows of people, things, and ideas that
globalization has wrought.
These multiplicities of uncertainty about who is who means that the ethnic body
no longer points to a secure cosmology or world order, but reveals the extent of somatic
slippage that has occurred as a result of these global changes. The ethnic body is no
longer an accurate map of who is who, but has become deceptive and unreliable. Bodily
signs are ambiguous if present at all. Not all Tutsi are tall; not all Hutu are short, for
example. Violence thus becomes a way to remove the ambiguity that resides within and
on the body. Violence creates certainty out of uncertainty. In this way, violence become
not an act of elimination—of getting rid of the body—but a lurid form of “bodily
discovery.” By “taking the body apart,” one can “divine the enemy within” (Appadurai
1998, 912-13).
Applied to lynchings, Appadurai’s framework points not only to somatic slippage
that has occurred (the result of sexual relations between blacks and whites), but also to
17


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