The Banality of Agency: Bridging Personal Narrative and Political Economy.

  • Farmer P
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This article analyzes the papers about holocaust survivors that were presented at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in 2002. To start with, Barbara Rylko-Bauer's portrait of her mother, one wonders at what moment the author realized that her mother was also prisoner #32220 at Ravensbrück, #32049 in Gross Rosen, and so on, in other slave labor camps. This is recovered memory--in many ways not only for Rylko, Sr., but also for her daughter, who endeavored to reconstruct her mother's story and learn about it in what proved to be a very complicated and indirect process. It is worth noting that Rylko worked as a slave doctor to a slave labor force, hundreds of Jewish women who had to work for a private German firm. The effort of the slave laborers was being used to generate private profit in industry. Erika Bourguignon, who has led investigations in this arena for decades, has sought to make us understand the cognitive, psychological, and affective experience of these violences. What leaves a mark is not only the dramatic violence of the camps: Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, Flossenburg; or of the slaughter in villages and towns such as Jedwabne; or of the arrests, the detentions, and the threat of terror; but also the less spectacular violence that each of these people endured and survived, the accumulated blows that proved fatal to so many others.

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  • ISSN: 00035491
  • SCOPUS: 2-s2.0-17044386232
  • PUI: 40507078
  • SGR: 17044386232
  • DOI: Article


  • Paul Farmer

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