The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon, the Death of Teddy's Bear, and the Sovereign Exception of Guantanamo

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Each Thanksgiving, the president of the United States symbolically pardons one turkey from the fate of serving as a holiday dinner. In this pamphlet, anthropologist Magnus Fiskesjo uncovers the hidden horrors of such rituals connected with the power of pardon, from the annual turkey to the pardoning of the original Teddy Bear. It is through these ritualized and perpetually remembered acts of mercy, Fiskesjo contends, that we might come to understand the exceptional--and troubling--status of the "War on Terror" prisoners being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay.

"In The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon, Swedish anthropologist Magnus Fiskesjo, see in the annual presidential reprieve of an otherwise doomed turkey something much more than a lark. (Just ask a vegetarian; it's no joke.) 'It is really a symbolic pardoning act which, through public performance, establishes and manifests the sovereign's position at the helm of the state by highlighting . . . his power to control matters of life and death.' That observation leads Fiskesjo to some troubling thoughts on the exercise of U.S. sovereignty, from Teddy Roosevelt's big-stick era to the holding of prisoners at Guantanamo."--Jennifer Howard, Washington Post Book World

Publication Date: 
October 1, 2003