From its traces in cryptic images on the dollar bill to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, Freemasonry has long been one of the most romanticized secret societies in the world. But a simple fact escapes most depictions of this elite brotherhood: There are women Freemasons, too. In this groundbreaking ethnography, Lilith Mahmud takes readers inside Masonic lodges in contemporary Italy, where she observes the many ritualistic and fraternal bonds forged among women initiates of this elite and esoteric society.
Offering a tantalizing look behind lodge doors, The Brotherhood of Freemason Sisters unveils a complex culture of discretion in which Freemasons simultaneously reveal some truths and hide others. Women—one of Freemasonry’s best-kept secrets—are often upper class and highly educated but paradoxically antifeminist, and their self-cultivation through the Masonic path is an effort to embrace the deeply gendered ideals of fraternity. Mahmud unravels this contradiction at the heart of Freemasonry: how it was at once responsible for many of the egalitarian concepts of the Enlightenment and yet has always been, and in Italy still remains, extremely exclusive. The result is not only a thrilling look at an unfamiliar—and surprisingly influential—world, but a reevaluation altogether of the modern values and ideals that we now take for granted.
In Citizens of Scandal, Vanessa Freije explores the causes and consequences of political scandals in Mexico from the 1960s through the 1980s. Tracing the process by which Mexico City reporters denounced official wrongdoing, she shows that by the 1980s political scandals were a common feature of the national media diet. News stories of state embezzlement, torture, police violence, and electoral fraud provided collective opportunities to voice dissent and offered an important, though unpredictable and inequitable, mechanism for political representation. The publicity of wrongdoing also disrupted top-down attempts by the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional to manage public discourse, exposing divisions within the party and forcing government officials to grapple with popular discontent. While critical reporters denounced corruption, they also withheld many secrets from public discussion, sometimes out of concern for their safety. Freije highlights the tensions—between free speech and censorship, representation and exclusion, and transparency and secrecy—that defined the Mexican public sphere in the late twentieth century.
JFK, Karl Marx, the Pope, Aristotle Onassis, Queen Elizabeth II, Howard Hughes, Fox Mulder, Bill Clinton--all have been linked to vastly complicated global (or even galactic) intrigues. In this enlightening tour of conspiracy theories, Mark Fenster guides readers through this shadowy world and analyzes its complex role in American culture and politics.
Fenster argues that conspiracy theories are a form of popular political interpretation and contends that understanding how they circulate through mass culture helps us better understand our society as a whole. To that end, he discusses Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics, the militia movement, The X-Files, popular Christian apocalyptic thought, and such artifacts of suspicion as The Turner Diaries, the Illuminatus! trilogy, and the novels of Richard Condon.
Fenster analyzes the "conspiracy community" of radio shows, magazine and book publishers, Internet resources, and role-playing games that promote these theories. In this world, the very denial of a conspiracy's existence becomes proof that it exists, and the truth is always "out there." He believes conspiracy theory has become a thrill for a bored subculture, one characterized by its members' reinterpretation of "accepted" history, their deep cynicism about contemporary politics, and their longing for a utopian future.
Fenster's progressive critique of conspiracy theories both recognizes the secrecy and inequities of power in contemporary politics and economics and works toward effective political engagement. Probing conspiracy theory's tendencies toward scapegoating, racism, and fascism, as well as Hofstadter's centrist acceptance of a postwar American "consensus," he advocates what conspiracy theory wants but cannot articulate: a more inclusive, engaging political culture.
"Fenster, a lone writer (the literary equivalent of a lone gunman, perhaps), segues from the novels of Thomas Pynchon to the Clinton Death List. . . . Conspiracy Theories is a dangerous book. I suspect 'they' (and you know who I mean, of course) will take care of this lone writer any day now."--Bookforum
"Fenster makes a powerful argument for regarding conspiracism as an integral product of the political system, reflecting inadequacies the establishment itself is blind to and expressing strong desires for the realization of frustrated ideals. Conspiracy Theories is a fascinating look at an important, little-studied topic. Informative and thought-provoking." --Philadelphia City Paper
"Fenster culls the liveliest counterintelligences out there--the Michigan Militia, religious millennialists, Chris Carter, even Oliver Stone--and sets them up as the last idealists. They might be obsessive and maniacal, but they're after a transparent political system, where big business and the government can be held accountable. Their 'paranoid style,' according to Fenster, is just old-school populism refitted for the media age." --Voice Literary Supplement
"Fenster makes a powerful argument for regarding conspiracism as an integral product of the political system, reflecting inadequacies the establishment itself is blind to and expressing strong desires for the realization of frustrated ideals. Conspiracy Theories is a fascinating look at an important, little-studied topic. Informative and thought-provoking." Philadelphia City Paper
"Fenster's careful examination of conspiratorial beliefs as evidence by right-wing groups, by various media, and even by those who devise such theories as a form of ludic or satiric endeavor (like Robert Anton Wilson) is revealing. And his articulation of the set of political-rather than pathological-reasons for their behavior is salutary." --American Book Review
"Fenster's extensive and impressive research provided a means of coming to terms with the radical disjunction between the interpretive framework which I used to understand events such as the one at Littleton, and a framework at odds with my own which was now confronting me on a daily basis." --Canadian Journal of Communication
"In this lively and wide-ranging critique, Fenster argues that conspiracy theories are attempts to engage in a more inclusive political culture." --Religious Studies Review
"Mark Fenster has provided a solid and illuminating study of the public's fascination with conspiracy theories and sets forth a stimulating correlation between the popularity of such theories and the social and political values of our society. This is a comprehensive and intriguing analysis of our often obsessive interest in conspiracy theories." --Gerald Posner, author of Killing the Dream : James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Case Closed : Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK
"I find the issue of conspiracy theory compelling and appreciate Fenster's fruitful approach to what has been mysteriously ignored by the academy." --Barbie Zelizer, author of Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and the Shaping of Collective Memory
"Fenster shines a powerful light on the fantasies of secrecy that pervade American culture, illuminating both the way they originate and how they work. His analysis is theoretically acute, his criticism of previous scholarly studies is compelling, and he offers razor-sharp readings of an impressive array of movements, events, and cultural practices. He stands out, above all, for his ability to capture the power and appeal of conspiratorial understandings of politics even as he explains their fundamental political limitations. The only thing that can keep this book from having the impact it deserves is a vast, academic conspiracy." --Mark T. Reinhardt, Williams College
Mark Fenster received his Ph.D. in communication from the University of Illinois and his law degree from Yale University. He currently lives in Denver.
This special issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies examines the connections between secrecy, domesticity, subjectivity, and gender. The issue considers a variety of different sources and contexts, from gossip to the confessional, and from gynecological texts to court records. One article considers the trial and execution of a woman charged with "female sodomy," and another analyses the linguistic dyads that helped define gender roles and norms. Finding that ideas about secrecy and privacy are inextricably linked to notions of gender, the articles collected here tackle the intricacies surrounding social, intellectual, sexual, literary modes of inclusion and exclusion.
During its secret war in Laos (1961–1975), the United States recruited proxy soldiers among the Hmong people. Following the war, many of these Hmong soldiers migrated to the United States with refugee status. In History on the Run Ma Vang examines the experiences of Hmong refugees in the United States to theorize refugee histories and secrecy, in particular those of the Hmong. Vang conceptualizes these histories as fugitive histories, as they move and are carried by people who move. Charting the incomplete archives of the war made secret through redacted US state documents, ethnography, film, and literature, Vang shows how Hmong refugees tell their stories in ways that exist separately from narratives of U.S. empire and that cannot be traditionally archived. In so doing, Vang outlines a methodology for writing histories that foreground refugee epistemologies despite systematic attempts to silence those histories.
In Darkness and Secrecy brings together ethnographic examinations of Amazonian assault sorcery, witchcraft, and injurious magic, or “dark shamanism.” Anthropological reflections on South American shamanism have tended to emphasize shamans’ healing powers and positive influence. This collection challenges that assumption by showing that dark shamans are, in many Amazonian cultures, quite different from shamanic healers and prophets. Assault sorcery, in particular, involves violence resulting in physical harm or even death. While highlighting the distinctiveness of such practices, In Darkness and Secrecy reveals them as no less relevant to the continuation of culture and society than curing and prophecy. The contributors suggest that the persistence of dark shamanism can be understood as a form of engagement with modernity.
These essays, by leading anthropologists of South American shamanism, consider assault sorcery as it is practiced in parts of Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, and Peru. They analyze the social and political dynamics of witchcraft and sorcery and their relation to cosmology, mythology, ritual, and other forms of symbolic violence and aggression in each society studied. They also discuss the relations of witchcraft and sorcery to interethnic contact and the ways that shamanic power may be co-opted by the state. In Darkness and Secrecy includes reflections on the ethical and practical implications of ethnographic investigation of violent cultural practices.
Contributors. Dominique Buchillet, Carlos Fausto, Michael Heckenberger, Elsje Lagrou, E. Jean Langdon, George Mentore, Donald Pollock, Fernando Santos-Granero, Pamela J. Stewart, Andrew Strathern, Márnio Teixeira-Pinto, Silvia Vidal, Neil L. Whitehead, Johannes Wilbert, Robin Wright
A broadly interdisciplinary study of the pervasive secrecy in America cultural, political, and religious discourse.
The occult has traditionally been understood as the study of secrets of the practice of mysticism or magic. This book broadens our understanding of the occult by treating it as a rhetorical phenomenon tied to language and symbols and more central to American culture than is commonly assumed.
Joshua Gunn approaches the occult as an idiom, examining the ways in which acts of textual criticism and interpretation are occultic in nature, as evident in practices as diverse as academic scholarship, Freemasonry, and television production. Gunn probes, for instance, the ways in which jargon employed by various social and professional groups creates barriers and fosters secrecy. From the theory wars of cultural studies to the Satanic Panic that swept the national mass media in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gunn shows how the paradox of a hidden, buried, or secret meaning that cannot be expressed in language appears time and time again in Western culture.
These recurrent patterns, Gunn argues, arise from a generalized, popular anxiety about language and its limitations. Ultimately, Modern Occult Rhetoric demonstrates the indissoluble relationship between language, secrecy, and publicity, and the centrality of suspicion in our daily lives.
Philosophical esotericism—the practice of communicating one’s unorthodox thoughts “between the lines”—was a common practice until the end of the eighteenth century. The famous Encyclopédie of Diderot, for instance, not only discusses this practice in over twenty different articles, but admits to employing it itself. The history of Western thought contains hundreds of such statements by major philosophers testifying to the use of esoteric writing in their own work or others’. Despite this long and well-documented history, however, esotericism is often dismissed today as a rare occurrence. But by ignoring esotericism, we risk cutting ourselves off from a full understanding of Western philosophical thought.
Arthur M. Melzer serves as our deeply knowledgeable guide in this capacious and engaging history of philosophical esotericism. Walking readers through both an ancient (Plato) and a modern (Machiavelli) esoteric work, he explains what esotericism is—and is not. It relies not on secret codes, but simply on a more intensive use of familiar rhetorical techniques like metaphor, irony, and insinuation. Melzer explores the various motives that led thinkers in different times and places to engage in this strange practice, while also exploring the motives that lead more recent thinkers not only to dislike and avoid this practice but to deny its very existence. In the book’s final section, “A Beginner’s Guide to Esoteric Reading,” Melzer turns to how we might once again cultivate the long-forgotten art of reading esoteric works.
Philosophy Between the Lines is the first comprehensive, book-length study of the history and theoretical basis of philosophical esotericism, and it provides a crucial guide to how many major writings—philosophical, but also theological, political, and literary—were composed prior to the nineteenth century.
Secrecy and Insurgency deals with the experiences of guerrilla combatants of the Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes (Rebel Armed Forces) in the aftermath of the peace accords signed in December 1996 between the Guatemalan government and guerrilla insurgents.
Drawing on a broad field of contemporary theory, Silvia Posocco’s Secrecy and Insurgency presents a vivid ethnographic account of secrecy as both sociality and a set of knowledge practices. Informed by multi-sited anthropological fieldwork among displaced communities with experiences of militancy in the guerrilla organization Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes, the book traces the contours of dispersed and intermittent guerrilla social relations, unraveling the gendered dimensions of guerrilla socialities and subjectivities in a local context marked by violence and rapid social change.
The chapters chart shifting regimes of governance in the northern departamento of Petén; the inception of violence and insurgency; guerrilla practices of naming and secret relations; moral orders based on sameness and sharing; and forms of relatedness, embodiment, and subjectivity among the combatants. The volume develops new critical idioms for grappling with partiality, perspective, and incompleteness in ethnography and contributes to new thinking on the anthropology of Guatemala.
Secrecy and Insurgency will be of interest to social and cultural anthropologists, human geographers, and scholars in Latin American studies, human rights, women’s studies, and gender studies.
The powers of political secrecy and social spectacle have been taken to surreal extremes recently. Witness the twin terrors of a president who refuses to disclose dealings with foreign powers while the private data of ordinary citizens is stolen and marketed in order to manipulate consumer preferences and voting outcomes. We have become accustomed to thinking about secrecy in political terms and personal privacy terms. In this bracing, new work, Hugh Urban wants us to focus these same powers of observation on the role of secrecy in religion.
With Secrecy, Urban investigates several revealing instances of the power of secrecy in religion, including nineteenth-century Scottish Rite Freemasonry, the sexual magic of a Russian-born Parisian mystic; the white supremacist BrüderSchweigen or “Silent Brotherhood” movement of the 1980s, the Five Percenters, and the Church of Scientology. An electrifying read, Secrecy is the culmination of decades of Urban’s reflections on a vexed, ever-present subject.
Secret Spaces of Childhood
Elizabeth Goodenough, Editor University of Michigan Press, 2003 Library of Congress PN6071.C5S43 2003 | Dewey Decimal 808.894282
Whether it's real or imaginary, every child has a secret space, and this remarkable book explores them all. For some it's a treehouse or a hidden spot beneath a bush; for others it's a private psychic refuge--a favorite book, or a dollhouse that becomes a stage for a young imagination. As the more than four dozen pieces collected here reveal, such spaces play a key role in a child's development and retain a symbolic power that resonates throughout our adult lives. No reader will put this book down without experiencing a rush of familiar memories and new insights into that bygone world.
Poet Diane Ackerman evokes that "parallel universe behind the eyes / which no one shared, or dare discover"; Paul Brodeur recalls the "fort" where he and his brother defended Cape Cod against invaders in World War II; Nobelist Wole Soyinka offers a poignant verse portrait of Africa's lost children; and Paul West remembers youthful encounters with his eccentric neighbors Edith and Osbert Sitwell. Elsewhere, Robert Coles summons up memories of his first years as a doctor and a wise young patient who taught him a lesson he has never forgotten, and Mary Galbraith shows how childhood loss is transformed into art in Ludwig Bemelmans's classic Madeline. And these are just a few of the gems in a treasury that includes Anne Frank, the controversial photographs of Sally Mann and the crudely eloquent drawings of young South African refugees, clinical case studies and profoundly personal imagery.
A perceptive, thought-provoking work for general readers, Secret Spaces of Childhood opens a wonderful window on the world of the young.
Elizabeth Goodenough is Lecturer in Comparative Literature, the Residential College, University of Michigan.
In this swiftly paced and lyrical novel about British expatriates at the time of Indian independence, Paul Scott grapples with the themes of race, possession, and history that dominate all four novels of his masterpiece, The Raj Quartet, especially The Jewel in the Crown. As always, Scott fills his book with vivid characters: the seductive, bigoted war widow; the sophisticated, wily Hindu politician; and the athletic young American who only gradually begins to understand the legacy of pain and hatred veiling the woman he has come to rescue. Set against the backdrop of a nation in violent transition—a climate of exhilaration and shifting loyalties—Six Days in Marapore unfolds amidst the possibility of reconciliation, freedom, and healing.
"Scott's brief characterizations are as important to Six Days in Marapore as the basic plot . . . This is not primarily a novel of India, but rather more of frightened foreigners living there at the end of their era."—New York Times
"Intense, abrasive, the many conflicts and telltale stigmata of Hindu and Moslem, white and off white, give this its uncertain temper and certain suspense."—Kirkus Reviews