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Ritual Gone WrongWhat We Learn from Ritual Disruption$
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Kathryn T. McClymond

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199790913

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199790913.001.0001

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When Ritual Systems Collide

When Ritual Systems Collide

The Execution of Saddam Hussein

(p.139) 5 When Ritual Systems Collide
Ritual Gone Wrong

Kathryn T. McClymond

Oxford University Press

Throughout most of Saddam Hussein’s trial and the execution, three ritual paradigms were consistently competing to control the narrative: (1) the traditional national Iraqi political-judicial system; (2) an international system of justice; and (3) a distinctive religious worldview as crafted by Saddam and his followers. None of these ritual systems successfully established itself as the authoritative lens through which Saddam’s execution should be interpreted. Instead, these ritual systems undercut one another, highlighting an authority “vacuum.” The inability of any particular stakeholder to assert control over the Saddam trial and execution narrative reflected—and possibly contributed to—a destabilization of authority concerning the political situation following his capture. Saddam’s execution put individual and institutional stakeholders’ competition for political and social control on display on a global stage. The inability of any definitive interpretation of the execution to take hold reflected a general sense of uncertainty and insecurity at an international level.

Keywords:   Iraqi Tribunal, trial, Id (Eid) al-Adha, capital punishment, United States, invasion, sectarianism, cell phone footage, martyr, authority

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