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    Esmer, Tolga U. 2016. Notes on a Scandal: Transregional Networks of Violence, Gossip, and Imperial Sovereignty in the Late Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Empire. Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 58, Issue. 01, p. 99.

    Piliavsky, Anastasia and Sbriccoli, Tommaso 2016. The ethics of efficacy in North India'sgoonda raj(rule of toughs). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 22, Issue. 2, p. 373.

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    Jones, Graham M. 2014. Secrecy*. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 43, Issue. 1, p. 53.

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  • Comparative Studies in Society and History, Volume 53, Issue 2
  • April 2011, pp. 290-313

A Secret in the Oxford Sense: Thieves and the Rhetoric of Mystification in Western India

  • Anastasia Piliavsky (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 29 March 2011

Common sense commodifies the secret, alienating the value of its content from its social context. But a secret perfectly kept dies in its circle of initiates. Few secrets, however, are dead on arrival, since their seduction lies precisely in their revelation. Most things said to be hidden are in fact nurtured through the processes of calculated concealment, allusion, and revelation, the secrets propagating themselves through circles of conspiracy, rumor, and gossip. As Tim Jenkins observed, “What is concealed, and the reasons for its concealment, serve to distract attention from the dynamic of the secret: what at first sight appears to be static and indeed dead, possessed by and known to only a few, kept in some dark place, in fact has a life and movement of its own; the secret propagates itself through a structure of secret and betrayal” (1999: 225–26).

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