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Introduction : Fantasy and the real in the work of Begoña Aretxaga
Yael Navaro-Yashin Anthropological Theory 2007 7: 5 DOI: 10.1177/1463499607074286 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Jane Cowan urged us to publish these articles in Anthropological Theory and worked most actively in co-editing the special issue with at Koc University on April 18. and brother Koldo Aretxaga for making her essays available for us all to read. the passing of Bego has meant the loss of a dear friend who was also my closest intellectual comadré. which was the title that Aretxaga had in mind for the book manuscript she was preparing at the time of her terminal illness. Subjectivities. Kay Warren. The issue in your hands is the result of an extended editing process through which the anonymous reviewers of Anthropological Theory read. This special issue. colleagues. a tribute to her. we have cited States of Terror. This special issue is composed of original articles written in dialogue with Aretxaga’s work.Anthropological Theory Copyright © 2007 SAGE Publications (London. New Delhi and Singapore) http://ant.sagepub. and students. is offered as replacement for an unrealized collaborative project on the psychical and the political. 2012 . Jim Fernandez and Joseba Zulaika for their encouragement to pursue this project and their assistance in organizing it at different stages. With States of Terror. I would like to express special gratitude to her here as well.sagepub. provided feedback on and recommended to us the publication of these selected articles written in dialogue with Aretxaga’s work. UK This special issue has been prepared in memory of a dear friend and colleague. when referring to Aretxaga’s essays. We would therefore like to also thank Begoña Aretxaga’s mother Mertxe Santos.1177/1463499607074286 Introduction Fantasy and the real in the work of Begoña Aretxaga Yael Navaro-Yashin University of Cambridge. We hope that with this special issue we assist in assuring the longevity of Aretxaga’s 5 Downloaded from ant. Begoña Aretxaga. we have also found the opportunity to access Aretxaga’s unpublished essays. Pauline Turner Strong and I organized a panel at the American Anthropological Association meetings to commemorate Aretxaga’s work and the inspiration which her scholarship and friendship left behind as a legacy. friends. rather than the journals in which some of her essays were previously published. Los Angeles. who tragically passed away on 28 December 2002. The panel was entitled ‘Rethinking Political Vol 7(1): 5–8 10. Special thanks are due to James Brow. and Imaginaries: Papers in Memory of Begoña Aretxaga’. For me. For the sake of consistency. We present this issue in honour of Aretxaga and as an illustration of the sorts of anthropological imagination which her scholarship and presence encouraged. with contributions by Aretxaga’s teachers. evaluated. Joseba Zulaika and Kay Warren edited Aretxaga’s essays and published them as States of Terror. In 2005. In November 2003 James Brow. sisters Arantxa and Amaia Aretxaga.

Instead. 2012 . through imaginary conversations. tangible. He called it the Real (with a capital R)’ (2005: 128). absences in conversations. ‘in the space some would regard as the unreal materialized. says Jesus. Walking through the alleyways of Bilbao with a young Basque man whom she names Jesus. She then goes on to explain how she. the domain of trauma and fantasy’ (1997: 231). by attending to rumours in the Basque country. she writes. things said in whispers. the dream-like quality of existence. Distant from searches for reality in that which is solid. to bring her back to life. whispered from ear to ear. Aretxaga detects the emergence of ‘the real’ through the cracks of a normalized quotidian reality. a contribution which began with the publication of her book Shattering Silence (1997). viscera. grafitti suddenly appearing on unexpected walls. Against the social realism and positivism of an older genre in political anthropology. referring to the Basque police’s use of violence (2005: 234). in a public space filled with the dense materiality of words and images. and then the official discourse about terrorism. referring to gestures. Aretxaga then draws attention to what she calls ‘this sensual apprehension of the political’. Aretxaga urges a sensing of ‘the real’ in glimpses of fear. or that others might consider to be inapprehensible reality. ‘In the Basque country’. With our articles and words we have wanted. murals. posters. remarks made between-the-lines. There is a critique of the tradition of realist description in documentary-style ethnography here. Politics is never just experienced as political or social reality tout court. In the work of Jacques Lacan. Aretxaga writes: ‘I would consider political culture to be analogous to a dream’ (2005: 132). she writes. Aretxaga writes. ‘the inexpressible terror I experienced when I realized the threatening violence that lurked in the materiality and space of the quotidian. Begoña Aretxaga wrote: Growing up during the dictatorship was growing up with mysterious fragments of life. through her anthropological work on politics. and facial expressions. constant and visible. leaflets. In such expressions of excess. Basque terrorism. in kitchens and corners. * * * Reflecting on her youth in the Basque country under Franco’s regime. understands ‘the Real’: 6 Downloaded from ant. banners and all sorts of signs’ (2005: 194). in bars and streets. or sudden eruptions in the seeming everyday order of things. ‘a traumatic political real surfaces as rumorfilled stories erupting suddenly in the density of public life.ANTHROPOLOGICAL THEORY 7(1) scholarship and the permanence of her contribution to anthropology. and the senses (2005: 132).sagepub. (2005: 131) Recounting the lives of young Basque at Koc University on April 18. Aretxaga opens up another domain for the anthropological study of politics. To articulate the power of the surreal in the making of political experience. unarticulated feelings. murmurs. repressed reality. The surreal. she finds an idiom for the sensing of that other. she describes such a moment of the sudden appearance of what she calls ‘the real’: ‘The Ertzaintza are crazy’. bits of information here and there. We are led to another apprehension of ‘reality’ here. leaflets too dangerous to be picked up. ‘[This story] is about things that happen somewhere midway between dream and reality’. she stresses ‘the centrality of fantasy to the political’ (2005: 133). ‘Lacan articulated conceptually’. and the fantasy-structure built into political life are at the heart of Aretxaga’s work and contribution.

or the psychical reality. an incongruence in the tale that we tell ourselves about life. and illusions are not simply conceptual tools of analysis. and stuttered words. one which one both instantly understands and does not comprehend at all. Taking a cue from artistic representations of magical realism in fiction. appearing and disappearing.NAVARO-YASHIN Introduction The Real is. but to discover what was beyond understanding. frame. hidden yet terrified glances. ‘The Real’ momentarily presented itself. Phantasmatic moments are never construed against any notion of hard-core reality. Begoña Aretxaga’s work 7 Downloaded from ant. in fact. Suddenly. but to explore what was not readily available to knowledge. Reading Lacan as a commentator on ideological forms. fantasies. exposes herself. only to be concealed. But what might be traumatic of such encounters with the Real might well be the unbearable lucidity of being.sagepub. Following Freud’s dictum that all realities are psychical. Aretxaga. or explain. For Aretxaga. . tout court. Her work urges a radical reconceptualization of what we perceive and analyse as political at Koc University on April 18. ‘as if everyday life had been ripped apart. spectral and phantasmatic qualities. then. . as well as psychoanalysis. 2012 . in these spaces of phantasmatic reality Aretxaga actually studies reality itself. Instead. then. we could say that ‘the Real’. Aretxaga studied ‘the Real’ in what was glossed behind masks of political normality. allowing us to catch a glimpse of a hidden side of the Real’ (2005: 171). dreams. her body. almost like ‘an accident’ (as she called it) or a shock. a contradictory wavelength through ordinary perceptions of the social order. for Aretxaga. a residual space or psychical reservoir which she construed as the actual ‘reality’ underneath discursive narratives of social or political reality. (2005: 128) This taking on board of ‘the Real’ has the potential to shift our notion of reality itself. once again. the realm of the imagination is given its due value: it is not only the domain in which the political is experienced. it is a tear in the fabric of everyday life. studies of socially and politically motivated conflict or the ethnography of political context did not provide a way into the inarticulable and unsitable shapes in which the political presented (or covered) itself. Aretxaga’s ethnography traces just such appearances of ‘the Real’ in unexpected turns of conversation. It also demands another understanding of ethnographic description and a different mode of writing. an irruption within the symbolic system that gives sense to our everyday world. Begoña Aretxaga studied the political in its apparently unlikely forms and manifestations: she did not search to understand. they are rather spaces in which she is able to co-experience the political with her subjects. Such a sensing of ‘the Real’ requires another positioning from the anthropologist. unsymbolizable and which therefore has a shocking effect . was the actual political reality itself. Nor did she study to situate or locate. spectres of the imagination. but the mode of expression in which Aretxaga also writes. a series of pieces which did not have shape before. ‘The Real’ symbolized. Such a rupture forces us to see a dimension of the real that we do not generally see and which seems intolerable and inexpressible. She did not research to site. but to follow the political through her senses into its ever hidden and unseen. her subjectivity. The conventional tools of political anthropology. come together in a single picture. instantaneously. as well as her writing to the very affectivities that influence the subjects of her research. another kind of engagement with one’s subject-matter. and a different sort of standing vis-a-vis one’s subjects of research. for Aretxaga.

References Aretxaga. as Zilberg calls it. emerges as a key trope in this study of El Salvadoran politics. Fantasy emerges as a central organizing principle in this ‘war without senses’. NJ: Princeton University Press. this article analyses documents as affectively charged phenomena. The contribution by Elana Zilberg engages with Aretxaga’s work on mimicry between state and non-state actors. carrying this analysis into a query of documents as objects with agency and energy. there is an organic relation between Aretxaga’s subject of research and her style of writing.sagepub. likewise in dialogue with Aretxaga’s work on the power of fiction and fantasy in the making of everyday political reality. The focus on Aretxaga’s fieldnotes unfolds as an analysis of ‘knowledge production and representational strategies’. Passionate States’ to reflect some of Aretxaga’s core contributions to anthropology. 2012 . (2005) States of Terror: Begoña Aretxaga’s Essays. but she allowed her mind. Peterson studies violence in El Salvador as it has been engendered through mimetic appropriation and enactments between the state and rebels. ‘Doble cara’. which she studied. studies the enduring force of the 1932 massacre and the haunting image of the Indian in post-civil war El Salvador. and her writing to be open to ‘the passions’. University of Nevada Press. The articles in this issue engage with different aspects of Aretxaga’s work in this vein. or ‘the double-faced’. fantasy appears as a ground for an economy that promises care and hope for the elderly. My own article engages with Aretxaga’s work on the affective force of political metaphors and representations. (1997) Shattering Silence: Women and Political Subjectivity in Northern Ireland.ANTHROPOLOGICAL THEORY 7(1) was about the passions in politics. her scholarly sensibility. some emphasizing certain dimensions more than others. Here. We hope that our contributions to this issue will encourage further readings and engagements with the innovative and inspiring work of Begoña Aretxaga. especially her correspondence with a woman prisoner. We have entitled this special issue ‘Phantasmatic Realities. where the author imaginatively studies mimesis between state and counter-state actions and practices. B. Brandt Peterson’s article. ‘Haunting’ comes up as a central motif in this analysis of the phantomic effect of past atrocities in the making of contemporary violence. Geeta Patel’s article carries Aretxaga’s interest in affect as a central force of politics into a novel arena. Studying Turkish-Cypriots as they inhabit several complexes of law and statecraft. as Warren calls them. studying insurance technologies and pension policies as affective regimes. and rumours of one another. Princeton. basing itself on Aretxaga’s fieldnotes from the time she conducted research in Northern Ireland. as well as in US and Salvadoran discourses of illegality. Reno: Center for Basque Studies. Aretxaga. where gangs and death squads cyclically reproduce a reality of violence by reference to their fears. studying mirroring between gangsters and guerillas in Salvadoran politics of violence. at Koc University on April 18. behind the making of ethnographic work. Her lyrically expressive style captures well the passionate states. in politics and subjectivity. The article by Kay Warren is a first-handed reflection on Aretxaga’s work on ‘the intimacy of violence’. This should be read as a study that highlights political engagements as ‘profoundly dialogical anthropological ways of knowing’. in Warren’s words. too. 8 Downloaded from ant. conspiracies. suspicions. In this sense.

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