CBS Professor Sandy Ott`s Living with the enemy: German occupation, collaboration and justice in the Western Pyrenees 1940-48 was reviewed in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Below are excerpts from the review, and a link to the full text. Zorionak, Sandy!
“One of the book’s great achievements is its vindication of an ethnographic approach to history. Ott fills the fragmentary evidence of trial dossiers with cultural commentary, engaging with eminently anthropological themes such as social structure, neighbourhood, and kin relationships in rural French Basque society; the shifting meanings of commensality and gift‐giving; the culture of letter‐writing; the challenges of wartime parenthood; and ritual shaming techniques such as the public shaving of the heads of women who had engaged in ‘horizontal collaboration’. She also reflects on the ethics of her own research with, and observations of, the surviving witnesses.
Duplicity and ambivalence pervade the book and provide its reigning mood. Boundaries blur between occupiers and occupied, victim and victimizer, friend and enemy. Ott applies Pierre Laborie’s concept of ‘double‐think’, and from the trial narratives there emerges an archetype that war and dictatorship breed everywhere: that of the ‘dual man, who is both one thing and the other’ (p. 18). A symptomatic aspect of the ambiguous mode of wartime existence was that clarity was almost never achievable. It was possible for a man`s status to shift several times and Ott gives the following example:
from his arrival in January 1939 as an exiled Spanish Republican (an outsider), to his entry into the French army (as a transitional insider), to his work in 1943 as a clandestine guide (an ‘enemy’ to the German occupiers, a ‘patriot’ to supporters of the Resistance), to his alleged ‘double game’ in 1943‐1944 as a passeur and a paid informer (an ambiguous status with the occupiers, a traitor to the FFI), to his victimization in 1944 by the Nazis (an adopted insider who had suffered deportation for France), to his victimization by the postwar French authorities in 1944‐1945 (a seemingly treacherous outsider who had endangered the lives of French patriots and Allied supporters), and finally his exoneration in 1946 (as a ‘loyal servant to France’ and thus more of an insider than ever). López was not a dual man; he had a multiplicity of ‘faces’. (p. 190)
‘It’s too soon to talk about the war’, Ott was told in the late 1970s, when she first conducted ethnographic fieldwork in the Basses‐Pyrénées. Almost thirty years later, they told her it was getting too late – people were dying. There is a sense in which addressing historical trauma remains chronically inconvenient, as we see in other post‐authoritarian settings such as former communist countries which struggle to come to terms with their own dual men: informers, many of whom still live alongside the informed. Living with the enemy reminds us of the urgency of catching the last witnesses before it is too late, and provides an excellent model for how to do it.”
For the rest of the review, please visit: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1467-9655.12929