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A Confederation of Defences: A Postcolonial Study of Intercultural Projection

Medhat, KT; (2013) A Confederation of Defences: A Postcolonial Study of Intercultural Projection. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The ethnographic study of organisational dynamics and bureaucratic process in an Indian Health Service mental health clinic and a tribal alcohol rehabilitation programme is approached through a reframing of dichotomous notions of function and dysfunction and order and disorder. Bureaucratic stricture in healthcare protocol contrasts with the rapacious ‘dysfunctionality’ that propels team relations, which are variously broached by staff through bureaucratic complaints procedures, strategic manipulation and witchcraft accusations. Bureaucracy and group (dys-)function represent modes of processing post-colonial discontent while also manifesting the carnivalization and hybridisation of cultural mores. The projective dynamics that are apparent in historical developments and that continue to feed current intercultural relations remain largely unacknowledged. They become evident however in the conceptualisation of hierarchy and its responsibilities, in attitudes towards bureaucracy, and in particular around the cultural construction of alcohol and ‘Indian Drinking’. Alcohol is a mutable spirit, an ‘object of desire’ and a destructive foe: it offers cathartic release, empowerment and occasion for hedonistic enjoyment. By some of the survivors of colonialism it is also perceived in effect as a biological weapon: a colonially imported, intentionally employed inter-generationally active toxin that has invaded and corrupted Native genes. The notion of corruption, loss and change is explored in the context of how culture, ‘traditions’ and language are shaped, reduced, manipulated and mediated in ways that conveniently fit into the strictures and structures of contemporary official frameworks. In its conclusion the study proposes a relational theory of ‘adversarial intimacy’, an idea inspired by Roger Caillois’ exploration of mimicry as symbiotic drive akin to sympathetic magic, where rivalrous organisms are propelled towards a compulsive emulation of each other in homage to the greater system they are part of.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: A Confederation of Defences: A Postcolonial Study of Intercultural Projection
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1416820
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