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Abiding by Sri Lanka

On Peace, Place, and Postcoloniality

Qadri Ismail

The lack of peace in Sri Lanka is commonly portrayed as a consequence of a violent, ethnonationalist conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. Viewed in this light, resolution could be attained through conflict management. But, as Qadri Ismail reveals, this is too simplistic an understanding and cannot produce lasting peace. 

Abiding by Sri Lanka examines how the disciplines of anthropology, history, and literature treat the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Anthropology, Ismail contends, approaches Sri Lanka as an object from an “outside” and western point of view. History, addressing the conflict from the “inside,” abides by the place and so promotes change that is nationalist and exclusive. Neither of these fields imagines an inclusive community. Literature, Ismail argues, can. 

With close readings of texts that “abide” by Sri Lanka, texts that have a commitment to it, Ismail demonstrates that the problems in Sri Lanka raise fundamental concerns for us all regarding the relationship between democracies and minorities. Recognizing the structural as well as political tendencies of representative democracies to suppress minorities, Ismail rethinks democracy by redefining the concept of the minority perspective, not as a subject-position of numerical insignificance, but as a conceptual space that opens up the possibility for distinction without domination and, ultimately, peace. 

Qadri Ismail is associate professor of English at the University of Minnesota. He has also been a journalist in Sri Lanka.

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Abidjan USA

Music, Dance, and Mobility in the Lives of Four Ivorian Immigrants

Daniel B. Reed

Daniel B. Reed integrates individual stories with the study of performance to understand the forces of diaspora and mobility in the lives of musicians, dancers, and mask performers originally from Côte d'Ivoire who now live in the United States. Through the lives of four Ivorian performers, Reed finds that dance and music, being transportable media, serve as effective ways to understand individual migrants in the world today. As members of an immigrant community who are geographically dispersed, these performers are unmoored from their place of origin and yet deeply engaged in presenting their symbolic roots to North American audiences. By looking at performance, Reed shows how translocation has led to transformations on stage, but he is also sensitive to how performance acts as a way to reinforce and maintain community. Abidjan USA provides a multifaceted view of community that is at once local, national, and international, and where identity is central, but transportable, fluid, and adaptable.

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Abject Relations

Everyday Worlds of Anorexia

Megan Warin

Abject Relations presents an alternative approach to anorexia, long considered the epitome of a Western obsession with individualism, beauty, self-control, and autonomy. Through detailed ethnographic investigations, Megan Warin looks at the heart of what it means to live with anorexia on a daily basis. Participants describe difficulties with social relatedness, not being at home in their body, and feeling disgusting and worthless. For them, anorexia becomes a seductive and empowering practice that cleanses bodies of shame and guilt, becomes a friend and support, and allows them to forge new social relations.

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Abnormal Repetitive Behaviors

written by Leslie Heywood

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Abolishing Freedom

A Plea for a Contemporary Use of Fatalism

Frank Ruda

Pushing back against the contemporary myth that freedom from oppression is freedom of choice, Frank Ruda resuscitates a fundamental lesson from the history of philosophical rationalism: a proper concept of freedom can arise only from a defense of absolute necessity, utter determinism, and predestination.

Abolishing Freedom demonstrates how the greatest philosophers of the rationalist tradition and even their theological predecessors—Luther, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Freud—defended not only freedom but also predestination and divine providence. By systematically investigating this mostly overlooked and seemingly paradoxical fact, Ruda demonstrates how real freedom conceptually presupposes the assumption that the worst has always already happened; in short, fatalism. In this brisk and witty interrogation of freedom, Ruda argues that only rationalist fatalism can cure the contemporary sickness whose paradoxical name today is freedom.
 


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The Abolition of Slavery in Ottoman Tunisia

Ismael M. Montana

In this groundbreaking work, Ismael Montana fully explicates the complexity of Tunisian society and culture and reveals how abolition was able to occur in an environment hostile to such change. Moving beyond typical slave trade studies, he departs from the traditional regional paradigms that isolate slavery in North Africa from its global dynamics to examine the trans-Saharan slave trade in a broader historical context. The result is a study that reveals how European capitalism, political pressure, and evolving social dynamics throughout the western Mediterranean region helped shape this seismic cultural event.

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Abolition Of White Democracy

Joel Olson

Racial discrimination embodies inequality, exclusion, and injustice and as such has no place in a democratic society. And yet racial matters pervade nearly every aspect of American life, influencing where we live, what schools we attend, the friends we make, the votes we cast, the opportunities we enjoy, and even the television shows we watch.

Joel Olson contends that, given the history of slavery and segregation in the United States, American citizenship is a form of racial privilege in which whites are equal to each other but superior to everyone else. In Olson’s analysis we see how the tension in this equation produces a passive form of democracy that discourages extensive participation in politics because it treats citizenship as an identity to possess rather than as a source of empowerment. Olson traces this tension and its disenfranchising effects from the colonial era to our own, demonstrating how, after the civil rights movement, whiteness has become less a form of standing and more a norm that cements white advantages in the ordinary operations of modern society.

To break this pattern, Olson suggests an “abolitionist-democratic” political theory that makes the fight against racial discrimination a prerequisite for expanding democratic participation.
     

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Abolition’s Public Sphere

Robert Fanuzzi

Echoes of Thomas Paine and Enlightenment thought resonate throughout the abolitionist movement and in the efforts of its leaders to create an antislavery reading public. In Abolition’s Public Sphere Robert Fanuzzi critically examines the writings of William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, and Sarah and Angelina Grimke, and their massive abolition publicity campaign—pamphlets, newspapers, petitions, and public gatherings—geared to an audience of white male citizens, free black noncitizens, women, and the enslaved. Including provocative readings of Thoreau’s Walden and of the symbolic space of Boston’s Faneuil Hall, Abolition’s Public Sphere demonstrates how abolitionist public discourse sought to reenact eighteenth-century scenarios of revolution and democracy in the antebellum era.

Fanuzzi illustrates how the dissemination of abolitionist tracts served to create an “imaginary public” that promoted and provoked the discussion of slavery. However, by embracing Enlightenment abstractions of liberty, reason, and progress, Fanuzzi argues, abolitionist strategy introduced aesthetic concerns that challenged political institutions of the public sphere and prevailing notions of citizenship. Insightful and thought-provoking, Abolition’s Public Sphere questions standard versions of abolitionist history and, in the process, our understanding of democracy itself.

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Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa, and the Atlantic

Derek R. Peterson

The abolition of the slave trade is normally understood to be the singular achievement of eighteenth-century British liberalism. Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa, and the Atlantic expands both the temporal and the geographic framework in which the history of abolitionism is conceived. Abolitionism was a theater in which a variety of actors—slaves, African rulers, Caribbean planters, working-class radicals, British evangelicals, African political entrepreneurs—played a part. The Atlantic was an echo chamber, in which abolitionist symbols, ideas, and evidence were generated from a variety of vantage points. These
essays highlight the range of political and moral projects in which the advocates of abolitionism were engaged, and in so doing it joins together geographies that are normally studied in isolation. Where empires are often understood to involve the government of one people over another, Abolitionism and Imperialism shows that British values were formed, debated, and remade in the space of empire. Africans were not simply objects of British liberals’ benevolence. They played an active role in shaping, and extending, the values that Britain now regards as part of its national character. This book is therefore a contribution to the larger scholarship about the nature of modern empires.

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An Abolitionist Abroad

Sarah Parker Remond in Cosmopolitan Europe

Sirpa Salenius

Sarah Parker Remond (1826--1894) left the free black community of Salem, Massachusetts, where she was born, to become one of the first women to travel on extensive lecture tours across the United Kingdom. Remond eventually moved to Florence, Italy, where she earned a degree at one of Europe's most prestigious medical schools. Her language skills enabled her to join elite salons in Florence and Rome, where she entertained high society with musical soirees even while maintaining connections to European emancipation movements.

Remond's extensive travels and diverse acquaintances demonstrate that the nineteenth-century grand tour of Europe was not exclusively the privilege of white intellectuals but included African American travelers, among them women. This biography, based on international archival research, tells the fascinating story of how Remond forged a radical path, establishing relationships with fellow activists, artists, and intellectuals across Europe.

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