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War Mementos and the Souls of Missing Soldiers: Returning Effects of the Battlefield Dead

Simon Harrison
The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Vol. 14, No. 4 (Dec., 2008), pp. 774-790
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20203740
Page Count: 17
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War Mementos and the Souls of Missing Soldiers: Returning Effects of the Battlefield Dead
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Abstract

This article discusses acts of restitutive giving, a range of practices similar to the gift except that they express sociability by reaffirming between donors and recipients the existence of social boundaries rather than connections. The particular case discussed concerns military personnel in the major wars of the twentieth century, who took personal items from the enemy dead as battle trophies. Focusing on the Pacific War, the article explores the meaning of these objects for the servicemen who kept them, and the ways in which this meaning altered during their later lives. In particular, the article seeks to explain why some veterans in old age, or their families after their deaths, traced the original owners' surviving kin and returned the objects to them. /// Le présent article discute des actes de restitution, des pratiques proches du don à ceci près qu'elles expriment la sociabilité en réaffirmant entre celui qui donne et celui qui reçoit l'existence de frontières sociales plutôt que de liens. Le cas particulier discuté ici concerne des militaires ayant participé aux grands conflits armés du XXème siècle, qui avaient emporté comme trophées de guerre des biens personnels de leurs ennemis morts au combat. Dans le cas plus précis de la guerre du Pacifique, l'auteur explore la signification de ces objets pour les militaires qui les ont gardés, et la manière dont cette signification a changé par la suite au fil de leur vie. Il s'agit en particulier d'expliquer pourquoi certains anciens combattants, devenus vieux, ou leur famille après leur mort, ont recherché les parents survivants des anciens propriétaires de ces objets pour leur rendre ceux-ci.

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