3 June 2008
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Index on Censorship predicts protests beyond Beijing 2008; Mute explores sport's utopian potential; Ny Tid dribbles through the aesthetics of ice hockey; Blätter looks to the right of Berlusconi; Arche reports on one man's challenge to the Belarusian military; Arena removes the veil; Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) wonders why some women are more equal than others; Edinburgh Review watches women in Cuban film; Artistas Unidos Revista begs for a break; and Kulturos barai calls for an open discussion about the Vilnius Guggenheim.

Index on Censorship 2/2008

In Index on Censorship, football writer Brian Glanville recalls the Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico City in 1968. There to cover the Olympics, Glanville was told by his paper, the Sunday Times, to report on the student protests on the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. Assurances from demonstrators that nothing was going to happen were misleading: a few days later police opened fire on the crowd, killing three hundred.

“Meanwhile, at the Villa Olimpica, all was unawareness and indifference, as the athletes concentrated on their events. Sitting on the steep green bank above the training track, I tried to tell what had happened to the pretty, blonde Lillian Board, the English 800-metres contestant. ‘I know it sounds terrible’, she rejoined, ‘but I’m more interested in that girl down there. You see, I’m running against her.”

Beijing 2008: Parallels between Mexico City and Beijing are all too clear. According to writer and economist He Qinglian, “The Chinese government’s fondest hope is that the Olympic games will pass off quietly. Top priority has been given to extinguishing the various incipient resistance activities and dissident voices before they have a chance to bud. Things are not going as hoped, however; incidents of resistance continue to occur.”

While the resistance in Tibet has drawn the most attention, two other forms of protest are making life increasingly uncomfortable for the Chinese government: dispossessed landowners and environmentalists. Until now, both have been unorganized and hence made up of “so many nothings”. “Yet should someone emerge to organize the peasants […] those nothings could well become something very major indeed.”

China’s dark secret: Alim Seytoff on the suffering of the Uighurs, hundreds of thousands of whom have been arrested, tortured, and executed by China since 1949, treatment that has worsened in the aftermath of 9/11. “The Beijing Olympics will soon end, but the problems in Tibet and East Turkistan will continue if the Chinese leaders do not have the political will necessary to resolve them.”

The full table of contents of Index on Censorship 2/2008

Mute 8 (2008)

In Mute, Benedict Seymour notes a growing convergence between art and sport, at least from the perspective of cultural policy-makers: “The fact that art and sport could swap places in the government’s funding priorities reflects a utilitarian conception of culture” that “may benefit some ‘communities’ but rarely the ones named on the funding application forms”.

Cultural policy aside, could it be that the approximation of art and sport carries a utopian potential? Seymour cites C.L.R. James’s writings on the “social aesthetic” of cricket, an unusual position for a writer within a Marxist tradition that tends to see sport as a distraction from politics. Similarly, James saw in Melville’s descriptions of the crew in Moby Dick a “new type of human activity” that, writes Seymour, was not “a socialist-realist celebration of accelerated production” but “the collective development of a full individuality rather than its subsumption under party, state, and punch card”.

Nevertheless, the liberating potential of collective sporting activity has been battered almost beyond recognition by “the prolonged contraction of social reproduction”:

“The Thatcher-era liberation of the star player from the team marked the beginning of a new phase of repression of working class activity in sport. The rise of an individualized and increasingly beautiful game coincides with an eruption of apparently de-politicized crowd violence (‘hooliganism’); an ‘ugly game’ whose supporters’ bad spectatorship is both a symptom of the destruction of class-based individuality-in-collectivity and the ‘anti-social’ obverse of socially sanctioned vicarious consumption as a mark of prestige and aspiration.”

Also to look out for: In a discussion of radical pedagogy, Stewart Martin argues that the autonomy of labour is being instrumentalized across higher education and the flexibilized workplace; and Thomas Campbell and Dmitry Vorobyev on resistance to the architectural mega-projects besieging St Petersburg.

The full table of contents of Mute 8 (2008)

Ny Tid 22/2008

While everyone else warms up for the upcoming European football championships, Helsinki-based Ny Tid zooms in on the coolest of sports: ice hockey. In the literary supplement Kontur, art theorist Max Ryynänen laments the unwillingness of intellectuals to talk about the aesthetic aspects of hockey:

“It is easy to talk about the aesthetics of football. Apart from the fact that football players are better looking, you will not have to go out of your way to find intellectuals that speak openly about their interest in football. Football is chic and to verbalize one’s insights into the game has a ‘continental’ flair”.

Ice hockey, in contrast, comes with a white trash-label. Yet there is so much to say about its artistic aspects. Players such as Peter Forsberg, Alexander Ovechkin, and Wayne Gretzky are individual artists, writes Ryynänen. The classic players of the Soviet Union created collective art: “The first line played like a Chinese acrobat group – or like AC/DC. It looked simple but was anything but”.

Finnish design: Last weekend, Kiasma, the Helsinki museum of contemporary art, celebrated its tenth anniversary. A new chair was presented for the jubilee, designed by Vesa Honkonen. “A shapeless, snot-green plastic seat mounted on a patinated leg construction that more than anything else looks like a crooked stick”, wrote a critic. “It’s not beautiful, but you’ve got to love it.”

One of the most important aspects of the chair is its relation to light. “You have to come here on a sunny day and watch the light shine through the transparent seat”, Vesa Hankonen tells Ny Tid. “Then you have to come back in the evening when it’s dark and see the chair glow as if it had an inner light source.”

It remains to be seen if Hankonen’s “Kiasma” chair will conquer the world in the same way as Alvar Aalto’s modern classics.

More about Ny Tid

Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 6/2008

With Silvio Berlusconi’s election victory, the Italian far-Right is once again in a position to influence parliamentary politics, writes Karin Priester in Blätter. Among the various movements on the far-Right, the most successful is the “centrist” Forza Nuova. Priester records in detail the long career of its leader, Roberto Fiore. In 1979, Fiore founded the Terza Positione and a year later, implicated in the Bolgna Train Station bombing, fled to London. There he set up a number of businesses and charities – at least one of which still exists – while cultivating links with the British National Party. With BNP leader Nick Griffin, Fiore set up the International Third Position, which later fell under the influence of the hardline Catholic group the Society of St Pius X.

Today, the Forza Nuova advocates national renaissance via demographic growth, the criminalization of abortion, and the “humane repatriation” of immigrants. Its favoured recruiting ground: the football stadium. “It will be important to observe whether the far-Right succeeds in bringing its populist anti-capitalist critique to bear on the new rightwing parliamentary coalition,” writes Priester. “Berlusconi has proved he is able to amalgamate the most varied of ideas all too often.”

Lust for the masses: Whether the European football championship or the Olympics, one thing is for sure: “lust for the mass”. Regine Igel analyses “the mass” with Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud – from the modern “event crowd” to the ever-growing star and leader cult.

Also to look out for: Albrecht von Lucke charts the German Green party’s shift from left to centre, amid growing signs that the unimaginable might happen: a CDU-Green coalition after the German general elections in 2009. And Daniel Leisegang reports on an attempt by a regional amateur football league to force fan film footage off the net.

The full table of contents of Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 6/2008

Arche 4/2008

In Arche, Piotra Rudkouski analyzes the image of Belarusian civil activists in official propaganda. Traditionally portrayed as the intellectual descendants of the Nazis, they are now also being represented as “neo-Stalinists” or as “Islamists” who “attack the very foundation of European identity”.

Rudkouski focuses particularly on the case of Zmicier Zaleznichenka, who was expelled from Homiel University for political reasons and sent to the Belarusian army. Zaleznichenka refused to take the military oath and wouldn’t obey orders unless they were given in Belarusian. According to Rudkouski, this was “the first ever incident of the Belarusian military system being seriously challenged”.

The blackmail state: A round-table discussion with Valeryja Kasciuhova, Vital Silicki, Janau Paleski, and Valer Bulhakau is devoted to the events in March 2008, when secret service agents conducted searches of the offices of the independent media and NGOs along with flats of journalists and civic activists. The Lukashenka regime has always used blackmail against Belarusian society; now, however, it is trying to blackmail the West. If economic sanctions on Belarus persists, it warns, civil society will be under constant threat.

Also to look out for: Dzianis Mieljancou considers the advantages and disadvantages of Belarus joining the EU; Jauhien Miranovich explains why Europe did not need Belarus as a political subject until 1991; and reviews of a collection of essays on the relation between Belarusian and European ideas and discourses.

The full table of contents of Arche 4/2008

Arena 3/2008

In Arena, two Swedish academics who converted to Islam in the 1980s see more and more Muslim women removing the veil as a reaction to the “Islamization wave”. As young converts, Anne Sofie Roald and Pernille Ouis wanted to be “more royal than the king”, to be better than other Muslim women by wearing the veil. It was a difficult time, they say, with people reducing them to “the one with the veil”. To cope, Anne Sofie Roald sought strength in the thought that she was part of a minority, a common reaction, as she can now see:

“It is above all this group that isolates itself. This has to do with the perception of many Muslims that they belong to a global minority, to an exposed group, even though there are millions and billions of them.”

Both took off the veil, Pernille Ouis because she felt that “the two opposed worlds were no longer reconcilable. [Š] I couldn’t teach gender theories and say that sex is socially constructed and then go home, where the roles were God-given.”

Male honour: Italian journalist and author Livia Sennis takes a critical look at the concept of honour and finds that, far from being exclusively southern European or oriental, it still determines thinking and law in many other European countries. She quotes an Amnesty International survey from 2005 showing that the most common cause of death for women between 15 and 40 is violence by a father, husband, boyfriend or another close male aquaintance. “Men are more dangerous than cancer, traffic accidents, and depression.”

Sennis sees a crucial difference in the perception of honour killings: “When a Muslim woman gets killed […] the whole of the Muslim world is criminalized. Whereas an Italian woman always gets killed by a criminal or someone who is mentally ill. The offender alone carries the responsibility.”

Also to look out for: A themed section on HIV and AIDS. In an analysis of Swedish information campaigns, Anna Bredström notes that HIV is often represented as something foreign, located in other cultures and countries. “The strategy of associating the virus with a place is full of pitfalls. It gives the impression that taking risks is about where you have sex rather than how. It also cultivates perceptions of certain ethnic identities as particularly ‘hazardous’.”

The full table of contents of Arena 3/2008

Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) 5/2008

Women make up 51.2 per cent of the population of the EU but are discriminated against in every area of life, excluded from leading positions in business and politics, and subjected to a specific type of violence. In France a woman is killed by her partner every three days.

Referring to an inequality index, Violaine Lucas and Barbara Vilain ask why gender equality varies so greatly throughout the EU. Why, they ask, should not all women be treated equally in all European countries? In one of the most advanced areas of the world as far as rights for women is concerned, the EU is dragging its heels over legislation that implements any real improvement. “A top-down harmonization of citizens’ rights in all areas will benefit everyone.”

May ’68 in film: Arnstein Bjørkly looks at French film of the 1960s in conjunction with May ’68. The sacking of Henri Langlois as the director of La Cinémathèque française created bad blood between the film industry and the government of de Gaulle and became one of the points of reference for the May uprisings. From then on, French filmmakers were forced to take a closer look at the political dimension of their films. The demonstrations, concludes Bjørkly, changed le cinema français for good.

The full table of contents of Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) 5/2008

Edinburgh Review 123 (2008)

“Let us, for a moment, assume that the American government really does have Cuba’s best interests at heart,” writes Will Brady in an issue of Edinburgh Review focusing on the Caribbean. “Are we then also to accept that the United States has the right to intervene in another nation’s domestic affairs?”

“Until the latter decades of the nineteenth century, an abundance of material resources allowed America’s entrepreneurs to flourish, helping to perpetuate faith in the idea that diligent perseverance of the individual would invariably be rewarded with material gain.” However, explains Brady, once the domestic market had been exploited to the full, business interests had to look further afield. And thus, in the late nineteenth century, the American gaze turned to other countries.

In his address to the nation after 9/11, President George W. Bush said that Americans were hated for their “freedoms… of religion… of speech… to vote and assemble and disagree with each other”. “This, emphatically, is untrue,” writes Brady. “If Americans are hated, it is not because they practise democracy and value freedom, but because their government claims to want to bring these things to people in countries whose resources are coveted by multinational corporations.”

Women in Cuban film: Brigida Pastor analyzes two Cuban films, Isabel and Zoë, which introduce a new feminist discourse within the male gaze. Zoë, in particular, “shows that reversing gender roles is not progressive in feminist terms. It is destructive in that it perpetuates the roles designed in patriarchal society. […] Nevertheless, both female characters are striving for self-realization, questioning their submissive roles, trying to etch out a new identity for themselves as women in post-revolutionary Cuba.”

The full table of contents of Edinburgh Review 123 (2008)

Artistas Unidos Revista 20 (2007)

“I’ve been writing the same play for ten years, effectively, and it’s taken me ten years to get a bit of confidence to write an interval,” says playwright Enda Walsh in a talk with Jorge Silva Melo at the Irish Literature Festival. The play graced with an interval is The Walworth Farce, about an Irish father and his two sons living in a high-rise flat on London’s Walworth Road.

The father and sons get up each morning, put on false moustaches and wigs and costumes and play a farce which begins to break down. It becomes about why they are playing a farce, and eventually we see that the father is bullying the boys into playing a version of his past that is a lie. But the lie has been told so many times it has developed into the rhythm of a farce, though it is in reality a tragedy.

“I don’t know why I had never written a play with an interval before, but I suppose the structures of farce demand that fifteen minute break – and certainly in this play, in terms of its themes, its language and rhythm, the audience so needed to get out of the theatre for fifteen minutes.”

Walsh sees himself as an Irish writer and feels lucky to have had Roddy Doyle as his English teacher in school. And he wonders why Paul Mercier with his breadth of plays isn’t done more widely, but puts that down to the luck of the draw. In The Walworth Farce, Walsh can see the influence of past writers: “I suppose they’ve been filtered through my very inane, ridiculous, stupid brain and then sort of spattered on the page in another form.”

The full table of contents of Artistas Unidas Revista 20 (2007)

Kulturos barai 5/2008

Following Skaidra Trilupaityte‘s critique of the plans to build a Guggenheim museum in Lithuania’s capital, Almantas Samalavicius notes that the former mayor of Vilnius, Arturas Zuokas, seems to be the only one interested in making this “fantasy” come true. Zuokas, who has already invested a considerable amount of money into the lobbying campaign and a feasability study, obviously has his own private reasons; but what about the rest of political and intellectual Lithuania? At a recent meeting with former Guggenheim director Thomas Krens and architect Zaha Hadid, who won the competition for the Vilnius Guggenheim project, Lithuanian intellectuals hoped to be able to voice their opinion. However, Zuokas did what he could to silence critique. Instead of an open discussion, “a farce”, writes Samalavicius.

Also: In the “Literary perspectives” series, Tymofiy Havryliv describes how the demand for engagement with the recent past has produced a series of autobiographical novels in the Ukraine. And Antony Todorov on “National populism vs. democracy”: “Populism cannot be defined either as leftwing or rightwing, social or conservative. Contemporary populism is rooted in the disappearance of previously important political distinctions, and especially the distinction between Left and Right.”

The full table of contents of Kulturos barai 5/2008

Published 3 June 2008

Original in English
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