Get access

The Masque of Undergrounder and Spy: Ubiquitous Addressivity, Dependent Social Roles, and Panopticism among Nineteenth Century Mormon Polygamists

Authors


Department of Anthropology
University of Alabama at Birmingham
322 HHB
1407 University Blvd.
Birmingham, AL 35294
day2mon@gmail.com

Abstract

As newspapers and rumors reported the presence—apparent, actual, or potential—of federal agents charged with surveillance of polygynous Mormons, the undergrounder emerged in the 1880s as a figure sharing the spy's metapragmatic register: namely, concealment of role-indexical signs. Seeming ubiquitous address by unseen but always possible agents of the law riveted the spy to the body of undergrounder. Bound to a spiraling play of reveal-and-conceal, the undergrounder's presence also summoned an “abduced” imaginary called “the underground.” Here suspicion was general; forms were questioned, disarticulated, assigned provisional indexicalities. Every sign could suggest an observer, a secret code, a warning to hide. The paranoid undergrounder thus was discursively incarcerated and panoptically triangulated as a modern subject. The underground ironically splintered the Mormon resistance, and realized the Supreme Court's decree that, in short, the citizen's body be severed from the colonized subject's imagination. [panopticon, mass media, secrecy, paranoia, modernity]

Ancillary