This is a fascinating piece (with an irresistible title!). It reminded me of a documentary film called
Push Back (or Pushback?),Payback by Margaret Atwood. It’s a difficult film to remember because it’s a little all over the place, but one segment concerns a blood feud in Albania of all places. The consequences of the patriarch of this little family in the Albanian mountains having killed a neighbor over a dispute involving land was that every member of the family was marked for assassination if they left the property. The entire family, in other words, was serving the murder sentence. As “northier” says, this is not an anomalous form of justice; this is the apparent human default. Are there other animals that behave this way? Or is this sense of debt unique to us?
David Graeber touches on this in his history of debt. But northier makes an interesting observation about the collective guilt shared by the customer support staff operator (who’s often half a world away from the actual perpetrators of banking chicanery) with the whole corporation, at least in the view of the irritated customer.
Really interesting food for thought here.
…and of course that is when it gets really interesting.
By poking an eye out, I am of course talking about a special sort of moment one gets from time to time in the study of anthropology, at least I do. It’s the sort of moment when some cultural practice causes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and your stomach tries to dig its way to China (or Antarctica, as would be the case here in Barrow). I’m talking about that kind of moment when you encounter something in an ethnography that just seems like too much. So, you sit there and ask yourself, “How in the Hell could that be anything but wrong?” And for a little while anyway, your mind just doesn’t want to travel down that road, the one that leads to understanding the practice in its own context. You’d rather just say ‘no’. Hell, you’d…
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