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Expert: Thanksgiving Turkey and the Power of Presidential Pardon

Released: 16-Nov-2012 1:10 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
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Magnus Fiskesjö, professor of anthropology at Cornell University and author of “The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon, The Death of Teddy’s Bear, and the Sovereign Exception of Guantanamo,” comments on the annual presidential pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey.

He says:

“The annual presidential pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey is a full-feathered ritual which is once again upon us, as the president ceremonially pardons yet another big fluffy turkey that would otherwise end up on the Thanksgiving dinner table. This solemn act, early in the Thanksgiving week, will signal the beginning of all that feasting on those turkeys that were not so lucky.

“Some Americans dismiss the whole affair as a joke, or as some kind of agro-industry hype, or they feel they cannot square this ‘tribal’ ritual with modern American democracy. But for an anthropologist, especially a foreign one, the spectacle is asking to be decoded. It is pregnant with deep significance. It provides a window on the contentious issues of how modern nations delegate the power over life and death and over war-making, and on how that power is justified and couched in the language of ‘us’ versus ‘them.’”

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