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The Potter's Field

  • Graham Denyer Willis (a1)
Abstract

I unpack the “potter's field” as an everyday practice and a category, especially as it operates in the material treatment of bodies as a mirror of life. I examine this space of “worthlessness” as it exists in liberal capitalism. From the potter's fields of São Paulo, Brazil, I consider how these are, in fact, mundane mass graves, made politically useful as a means to obscure important bodies alongside those who are, today, the subjects of terror. I then ask how the rise of the uncertified potter's field—a burial field for disposable bodies, not made legal by the state—is inseparable from recent historical and contemporary conditions of political abandonment. The uncertified field is made easy by a politics of abandonment, and becomes useful to state institutions as a material invocation of responsibility, interred elsewhere, while nonetheless advancing a larger logic of governance and political will in our times.

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Corresponding author
gdw27@cam.ac.uk
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