Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pg. 99: "The Art of Surrender"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Robin Wagner-Pacifici's The Art of Surrender: Decomposing Sovereignty at Conflict's End.

About the book, from the publisher:
How do we know when a war ends? For many, the resolution of a conflict comes not with the last traces of smoke left on the battlefield, but with the formal ceremonies of surrender: possession and repossession, the signing of treaties, and the pomp and circumstance that mark them. Historically, most conflicts have ended with such rituals. But, as Robin Wagner-Pacifici reveals in The Art of Surrender, they should not be seen as merely a matter of giving up. They also offer ways of holding back and signal early fault lines that give rise to later undoings and conflicts.

The Art of Surrender explores these ritual concessions as acts of warfare, performances of submission, demonstrations of power, and representations of shifting, unstable worlds. Wagner-Pacifici analyzes three significant military surrenders in the history of warfare — the Thirty Years' War of the seventeenth century, the American Civil War, and World War II — through the use of period documents and forms, maps, literature, witness accounts, photographs, and paintings that were left as proof of victory and defeat. In her analyses of such archival material and iconic works of art, she considers the limits of sovereignty at conflict's end, showing how the ways we concede loss can be as important as the ways we claim victory.
Among the praise for the book:
"Robin Wagner-Pacifici shows that defeat is never simply the inability to go on fighting, but a form of social organization orchestrated by its own rules. She makes beautiful use of visual and textual evidence for three archetypal cases of the Western tradition of surrender - Breda, Appomattox, and Tokyo Bay - thereby making also an outstanding contribution on the politics of painting and photography. This is a book that would delight the ghost of Georg Simmel."
--Randall Collins, University of Pennsylvania

"This book is a fine piece of cultural sociology: smart, sound, and original. It is also particularly timely because it deals with sovereignty and surrender when the world political map and rights of self-government are matters of violent as well as political struggle. Robin Wagner-Pacifici peels away layer after layer of the arts of diplomacy, political ritual, and warfare as they come to light in critical moments of surrender."
--Chandra Mukerji, University of California, Davis
Robin E. Wagner-Pacifici is Gil and Frank Mustin Professor of Sociology at Swarthmore College. Her previous books include Theorizing the Standoff: Contingency in Action, (Cambridge University Press) and Discourse and Destruction: The City of Philadelphia Versus MOVE (University of Chicago Press).

The Page 99 Test: The Art of Surrender.

--Marshal Zeringue