"A mask for a faceless power"

24 October 2006
Only in en
Multitudes finds talk of integration "senseless"; Glänta takes a multi-angled approach to multiculture; Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) revisits revolts; Mittelweg 36 debates Israel's secular myth; Host follows a Czech poet into the countryside; Sodobnost takes children's literature seriously; Nova Istra reads Europe; and Springerin reveals the deadly tactics in humanitarian military operations.

Multitudes 26 (2006)

In an issue of Multitudes focusing on postcolonialism and the politics of history, anthropologist Jocelyne Dakhlia writes on the history of French Muslims that has been “swept under the carpet”. It is senseless to talk of “integration”, writes Dakhlia, since the Muslim populations have been in France from the Middle Ages to the modern period. If they have been invisible, it is because Islam has long been the “unreflected” side of French politics (as well as anti-colonial activists): migrants from North and West Africa were never perceived as Muslims.

Liberal Western norms, writes sociologist Éric Fassin, equate human rights with “sexual democracy”. Intertwined with the norm of antiracism, “sexual democracy” acts as a trap to those postcolonial subjects who fall foul of it: they are accused of backwardness and sidelined. French girls of North African descent are aware of this in their choice to wear a headscarf and in their sexual behaviour.

Also: We have entered a new historical phase characterized by “memory wars”, writes political philosopher Olivier Le Cour-Grandmaison. Alongside mainstream “memory” exist prejudices geared towards maintaining public order; problems raised by those who no longer accept the “occultation” of colonial crimes are repressed and excluded. Political scientist Sandro Mezzadra takes another approach: the scant attention paid to the slave revolt in Haiti was at least partially inevitable, he writes, since recording and narration have their gaps – history and the multiplicity of stories cannot be so easily reconciled.

The full table of contents of Multitudes 26 (2006).

Glänta 3/2006

The Swedish government has declared 2006 a Year of Multiculture. The purpose is to “permanently increase the opportunities of everyone living in Sweden to participate in cultural life and to create cooperation between various cultural traditions” as well as “to create incentives for publicly financed cultural activities to clearly reflect and incorporate the ethnic and cultural diversity that exists in the Sweden of today” (from the official website of the Cultural Diversity Coordination 2006).

The initiative has been heavily criticized as a poorly funded alibi that diverts attention from the necessity of deeper structural changes in Swedish society. The whole thing is based, so say the critics, on benevolent but superficial concepts of identity, culture, and ethnicity.

Much of this critique is present in the new issue of Glänta, focusing on multiculture. But the journal’s take on the topic adds several important facets to a discussion that all too often gets bogged down in concepts of ethnicity and religion.

All empires have been built around a multicultural identity, claims art and literary critic Dan Jönsson in an essay on “Multiculture and barbarism” – from the Roman Empire, via the “multinational” Soviet Union and the American “melting pot”, to today’s European Union and its slogan “unity in diversity”. But these empires have also been founded on the conviction that multiculture must have an outer border and must be protected by a wall. Jönsson calls it a “multicultural mask”, a mask that hides a faceless power.

“Perhaps”, writes editor Göran Dahlberg in his introduction to this bulging and truly multi-angled issue, “all the talk about ethnicity and religion that characterizes the debate on multiculturalism only serves to hide a blatant lack of policy?”

Also to look out for: Stig Sæterbakken‘s portrait of the European as a dysfunctional nationalist: “My heart belongs to Europe. Therefore it is broken”.

The full table of contents of Glänta 3/2006.

Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) 10/2006

Denis Duclos, sociologist at the CNRS, casts a new light on the rioting in Parisian suburbs in 2005. They were not religious or racist clashes, as in other parts of the world, and there was almost no deadly violence. In France, he says, it is the government that provokes a climate of ethnic and religious hatred by disrespecting cultural multivocality.

“The fact that enthusiastic youths and some media professionals have made suburbian hip hop into a permanent phenomenon and an integrated element of French culture” shows that culture is not a fixed codex but situationally oriented and changing, grounded in the individual as an actor. Consequently, Duclos sees the rioters as “protagonists of an integration crisis, which we, at a later point in time, might see as […] an avant-garde laboratory that led to […] a new social solidarity.”

Youthful energy provokes institutional repression and sets in motion an inevitable mechanism of hate. On one side stands the need for cultural identification that goes along with the life of poor urban immigrants as part of French society; on the other is the French state’s need to maintain control.

In retrospect: 1956 was marked by a “double crisis” that French historian Roger Martelli sees as the starting point for the present global political constellation. The defeat of the Hungarian uprising made it clear that the USSR could only be held together by military force. In the Suez crisis, Roosevelt’s refusal to support France and Britain was a result of the US’s idea of the end of colonialism and a new global order. This became the central doctrine of the US, visible today in its self-appointed role as “global police force”. The USSR, meanwhile, took the chance to interfere in the Mediterranean area by supporting Nasser, and with this turned the world’s attention away from Hungary.

Also: Historian Edouard Glissant writes about “The necessary relation between here and there”.

The full table of contents of Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) 10/2006.

Mittelweg 36 5/2006

In Mittelweg 36, Haaretz journalist and historian Tom Segev talks to Lukasz Galecki, editor of Polish weeklies Forum and Polityka, about “Israel’s secular myth” – the memory of the Holocaust. Segev is interested in Israel’s changing relationship to the Holocaust, from the denial of it during the immediate postwar period to its emergence as founding myth. The Eichmann trial in 1961 marked this change: the Holocaust no longer meant the European Jews’ failure to defend themselves but the most recent chapter in the historical struggle against adversity and a link to secular Jewish tradition.

After the Six-Day War (1967), Israel discovered a new sense of vulnerability; fear of a repeat of the Holocaust was genuine. In this climate, to ask why European Jews had not defended themselves seemed tactless; the Yom Kippur War (1973) compounded this perception. In the 1970s, young Israelis began to identify with a heroism of daily survival rather than of violent resistance – be it in the Warsaw Ghetto or as settlers against the Arabs – and so were able to approach the history of the Holocaust more easily.

Elsewhere: Étienne Balibar unravels the genealogy of the term “monotheism”. “It can be considered fairly certain,” writes Balibar, “that already very early on the concept of polytheism had a relatively clear meaning. The conceptual history of monotheism, on the other hand, remains unclear, and there is much to suggest that the concept arose later and entered into use not without considerable resistance.” Monotheism, as antithesis of polytheism, emerged in Germany during the period of revolution, when Enlightenment ideas were colliding with those of early Romanticism; it is significant, writes Balibar, that this was the period that gave rise to orientalism.

Plus: Perry Anderson on Hervé Juvin’s essay on the future of body-politics; Richard Rorty’s Tehran speech on philosophy and democracy; Jan Philipp Reemtsma on violence as problem of sociology; and Heinz Bude on the contemporaneity of subsidization.

The full table of contents of Mittelweg 36 5/2006.

Host 8/2006

New to the Eurozine network is the Czech literary journal Host, which shares its name with two journals of the past: the journal Host published in the 1920s and Host do domu, one of the leading cultural periodicals in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, which was banned at the dawn of the “normalization period”. Present-day Host emerged in 1985 as a samizdat magazine. In 1990, it was officially registered as a bimonthly and has since become one of the best literary journals in the Czech Republic.

Featured on the cover of the latest issue is contemporary Czech poet Bogdan Trojak (1975), author of four collections of verses and winner of several literary prizes. In interview, he tells Miroslav Balastik about his life in a South Moravian village, where he has settled since making a break from city life: his toils in the vineyards, rustic life, connections between poetry and wine, and the destiny of his poetic generation.

Petra Pichlova looks at the unknown works of Brno-born poet Frantisek Halas (1901-1949). Rather than focusing her attention on the height of his career, she looks at poems preserved only in manuscript and journal editions. These represent his early work, devoted to social lyric and political satire, and have gone largely unnoticed.

Also to look out for: Ivan Pfaff looks at Czech intellectuals’ reactions to the Spanish Civil War; and in the eighth part of his series of reflections on the history and development of the novel, Jiri Travnicek analyzes the Tolstoy-Dostoevsky opposition.

The full table of contents of Host 8/2006.

Sodobnost 9-10/2006

In his editorial, “Sex on the beach”, Igor Bratoz asks, “Are Slovenian writers to be trusted?” Bratoz finds that far too many Slovenian writers are insufficiently critical of the policies of the present government and fearful of consequences that might follow outspoken criticism. He accuses many, if not all, of being sidelined in intellectual life by their own lack of courage to confront social issues with the vigour characteristic of previous times.

Appearing for the first time in this issue is an illustrated supplement entitled Mlada Sodobnost (Young Sodobnost), devoted to children’s literature – widely published and of exceptionally high quality in Slovenia but without regular critical evaluation. Sodobnost intends to fill this gap with a bi-monthly supplement that will publish professional reviews of children’s books, plays, radio and television plays, and works by talented young writers. This will be accompanied by advice for young people on how to write poems, stories, essays, novels, and plays.

Also: a tribute to Federico Garcia Lorca. Following the seventieth anniversary of his death, the issue features Ales Berger’s new translation of the Romancero gitano [Gypsy ballads] and an essay by Barbara Pregelj outlining the differences between the five different Slovene translations of Lorca.

The full table of contents of Sodobnost 9-10/2006.

Nova Istra 1-2/2006

“How to read Europe?” was the title of one of the panels at the “Third International Pula Essay Days” (October 2005). Croatian journal Nova Istra draws on this literary festival and presents essays by Italian, Hungarian, Macedonian, Slovenian, and Croatian authors and intellectuals, among them Ales Debeljak and Igor Grbic.

A special focus in the issue deals with Antun Soljan (1931-1993), one of the most prominent Croatian writers of the second half of the twentieth century. Famous for his poems, novels, plays, and especially translations, Soljan created literary works that in the 1950s and 1960s made a mark on public, cultural, and literary life in Croatia. Essays by Ivan Boskovic, Vinko Bresic, and Milan Miric, among others, illustrate his literary impact.

A translation of political theorist Saul Newman’s essay on “Derrida’s Deconstruction of Authority” rounds off the section on philosophy. In the essay, Newman argues that Derrida’s deconstructionist method, when applied to revolutionary politics, shows that revolution often culminates in the reaffirmation of authority. Derrida’s method also allows for the unmasking of the violence and illegitimacy of institutions and laws.

Also to look out for: Miroslav Bertosa, a leading contemporary historian from Croatia, reviews Croatian literature and selected translations; and translations of texts by Witold Gombrowicz, Ernst Jandl, and Sydney Lea.

The full table of contents of Nova Istra 1-2/2006.

Springerin 4/2006

Springerin‘s autumn issue is dedicated to “tactics/topographies”. In its political aspect, the editors write, it is surprising that tactical approaches, for instance against terror and external threats, operate with lethal precision even though they claim to be “humanitarian” – as shown by the architect, writer, and curator Eyal Weizman. Springerin features an excerpt from his current research project “Thanato-Tactics” on Israeli security and territorial politics.

With the same concern but from an aesthetic angle, editor-in-chief Georg Schöllhammer examines the photographs of the concentration camp Mauthausen in Austria taken by the Austrian author Heimrad Bäcker. Bäcker is one of the few authors that directly worked with the textual legacy of the Shoa: with the protocols and registers, files and timetables of the murderous administration. “His montage ‘Nachschrift’ [Postscript]”, writes Schöllhammer, “is the attempt to process direct political content with the means of concrete poetry by exhibiting these contents.”

Is modernity our antiquity? With several articles on the formal language of modernity and its applicability today, Springerin begins its engagement with the documenta 12 topic “Is modernity our antiquity?” Film critic Christa Blümlinger explores the topicality of Russian avant-garde filmmaker Dziga Vertov; curator Hedwig Saxenhuber writes about the rediscovery of Lee Lozano, “one of the most radical and libertarian, aesthetically fascinating artists of the New York avant-garde of the 1960s”; and artist Jason Simon indulges in the auteur-cinema and three exhibitions on prominent auteur-filmmakers in Paris: Jean-Luc Godard, Pedro Almodovar, and Agnes Varda.

Also to look out for: Toni Maraini’s article on the Moroccan magazine Souffles, which made an important contribution to modern Moroccan culture in the 1960s.

The full table of contents of Springerin 4/2006.

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Published 24 October 2006

Original in English
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