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Identify and SortHow Digital Power Changed World Politics$
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Josef Teboho Ansorge

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190245542

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190245542.001.0001

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The Ritual

The Ritual

(p.55) 5 The Ritual
Identify and Sort

Josef Teboho Ansorge

Oxford University Press

This chapter studies ritual as constitutive and symptomatic of a political order and a mode of technics of politics. In such an approach, ritual rules and classifications are understood to fulfill practical purposes in the production of order and legibility. The chapter considers the rituals of the Incas and Aztecs, which should be understood as technics of politics that worked to regulate the circulation of “capital” and goods, and the identification and sorting of individuals. It gives particular attention to the khipu, assemblages of cotton or wool strings used by the Incas to store data in the form of binary codes. The discussion of the khipu illustrates four related points about the centralization and retention of data. The first is that the number reigns in these systems of information retention. The second is that context is everything. The third is that these systems are most useful and needed in situations that are not legible, such as newly conquered territories. The fourth is that although artifacts characterize these systems they always require a particular class of individuals to operate them.

Keywords:   rituals, politics, technics, political system, artifacts, Incas, Aztecs, khipu

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