Traitors: Suspicion, Intimacy, and the Ethics of State-Building

By Tobias Kelly; Sharika Thiranagama | Go to book overview

Afterword: Questions of Judgment

Stephan Feuchtwang

In their Introduction, Tobias Kelly and Sharika Thiranagama draw two themes from the chapters of this book. One is the intimacy of accusations of treachery. The other is what is performed by accusations of treachery, the re-creation of the boundaries of an object of greater loyalty: a people and its sovereignty.

Most of the chapters that follow dwell on the construction of figures of treason and betrayal and their realization in the persecution of actual populations. They focus on the intimacy of these greater loyalties and betrayals. But beside them, equally as figures in media and mind, and realized in actual conduct, are representations of what is immediately intimate, the local, the familial, the neighborly, and the friend. They are the originals that are projected and enlarged by analogy to country, state, and people. They are landmarks and features, loved trees or houses, often in more than one place, often across borders, graves or other locations of the recently dead, or of neighbors, or of friends. We each entertain several such figures to which we count ourselves as answerable and to which we are attached. Together and separately they become homelands by analogy and by extension. In reverse, patriotism or partisan passion in a civil war recruit into sacrifice of life, into fighting together, a selective and vivid commitment to fellow-soldiers as friendsin-extremity, another intimacy derived from the larger figure of loyalty and its leaders; both the iconic and charismatic figure of a leader and the immediacy of comrades may be invoked at the same time. This amounts to an earnest and deadly as well as an enlarging and ennobling play between the local, the familial, and their analogues, a play between two intimacies. The analogues become the intimacy of comradeship (female, male, and both) tearing into the intimate relations of locality, neighborhood, friendship, and family, breaking families or cleansing them into communities of people and their betrayers.

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