"A taste of the other"

8 November 2005
Only in en
Glänta tastes the other within; Nuori Voima goes on a diet of forbidden fruit; Multitudes breathes life into Europe; Vikerkaar historicizes nationalism; Kulturos barai looks at the relationship between history and civil society; and Ord&Bild asks who the owner is.

Glänta 3/2005

Swedish Glänta is one of the most aesthetically appealing journals in Europe right now, and the new edition is no exception: the semi-transparent cover shows a detail from the artist Di Cavalcanti’s poster for the art week in São Paulo 1922, the mythical starting point of Brazilian modernism. This festival turns out to play a major part in an issue dedicated to anthropophagy.

Ever since the “New World” was discovered by Columbus, anthropophagy (or cannibalism) has been regarded as primitive barbarism. Even though Michel de Montaigne reversed this picture, claiming that it is civilization that should be seen as the real barbarism, thus opening the way for Rousseau’s myth about the noble savage, anthropophagy has remained a crucial concept in the formation of different representations (and misrepresentations) of the “other”.

Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, and the Swedish Nobel Prize laureate Selma Lagerlöf, are only a few of those to have explored this topic in literature. However, it found its most pronounced expression – as a motive and a metaphor – in Brazilian modernism.

Glänta 3/2005 presents several important and highly influential texts from this movement and its successors: Oswald de Andrade’s “The anthropophagic manifesto” from “Revista Antropofagia” 1928; Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s poem “To be born anew”; and Clarice Lispector’s “Eat, my son”, to mention but a few. And literary scholars and critics Stefan Helgesson and Jonatan Habib Engqvist dig deep into Brazilian modernism in general and Oswald de Andrade’s manifesto in particular.

But Brazil and its modernism is only part of a bigger picture painted in an issue that makes use of the concept of anthropophagy to problematize the dominating discourse about the “other”. Alongside classical texts – such as Jonathan Swift’s “A modest proposal” and George Bataille’s chapter on cannibalism from the book “L’Érotisme” – Glänta also publishes new contributions on Witold Gombrowicz and Goya.

Other articles of note: Irina Sandomirskaya’s “Anthropophagy without metaphors” (chilling reading about cannibalism during the siege of Leningrad in the 1940s); and an introduction to the work of Cameroon-born political scientist Achille Mbembe.

The full table of contents of Glänta 3/2005.

Nuori Voima 5/2005

On the cover of this month’s Nuori Voima, “The sin” takes the form of a grinning couch potato with horns. The issue begins with an editorial on “The forbidden fruit”; this is followed by a Finnish translation of Thomas Pynchon’s “Nearer, my Couch, to Thee”; shortcuts to the cultural psyche; and a critique of political art economy.

In his essay on the deadly sin of Sloth, Pynchon looks at the history and present state of acedia, or apathy. He pinpoints writers as the main victims of the affliction:

Writers of course are considered the mavens of Sloth. They are approached all the time on the subject, not only for free advice, but also to speak at Sloth Symposia, head up Sloth Task Forces, testify as expert witnesses at Sloth Hearings. The stereotype arises in part from our conspicuous presence in jobs where pay is by the word, and deadlines are tight and final – we are presumed to know from piecework and the convertibility of time and money. In addition, there is all the glamorous folklore surrounding writer’s block, an affliction known sometimes to resolve itself dramatically and without warning, much like constipation, and (hence?) finding wide sympathy among readers.

Turning his attention away from writers and towards technology, Pynchon looks to the infamous television set, perhaps the inspiration for this month’s cover: “Any discussion of Sloth in the present day is of course incomplete without considering television, with its gifts of paralysis, along with its creature and symbiont, the notorious Couch Potato.”

A look at the art scene: Art historian Anna-Mari Vänskä analyzes the works of French performance artist Orlan and Finnish photographer Heidi Romo. Orlan’s latest work of “Carnal Art” – “a self-portrait in the classical sense, yet realized through the technology of our time” – has been her own body, which she has attempted to transform through a series of plastic surgeries since May 1990. Vänskä claims that the body, food, and sex, and their representations in art, are shortcuts to the cultural psyche and its forms of repression. The attitude towards the body and its manipulations – through surgery and dieting – reveal the limits of culture and what is considered to be proper.

Can political art still have any significance, asks philosopher Jakke Holvas, if people are not exploited, but rather exploit themselves? In his search for a new form of radicalism in art, Holvas follows Baudrillard, Deleuze, and Guattari towards an art beyond meaning and value production.

The full table of contents of Nuori Voima 5/2005.

Multitudes 22 (2005)

The latest issue of French journal Multitudes turns to European politics: “One is obliged to point out the worrying absence of a European culture in the French political class in its entirety”, writes editor Jan Moulier Boutang. “The political parties in France (even the Greens) are not pro- or anti-European: more often they are a-European.” The articles in this issue, writes Moulier Boutang, are to be read bearing in mind the question of what a “living European culture” might be.

In 1978, Louis Althusser wrote that classic Marxism “has not yet provided the beginning of an analysis answering the question of what politics is about”. This statement is typical of how the late Althusser undermined the fundamental Marxist conceptions of politics, even that of class struggle, on which his own theories were based. François Matheron, who has edited parts of Althusser’s posthumous works, discusses the philosopher’s recourse to Machiavelli, which he considered to have enacted a “strange shaking up of politics”.

R.W. Emerson defined individualism as self-reliance. Sandra Laugier, author of a number of books on Wittgenstein and Cavell, attempts to rehabilitate this definition, proposing a radical democracy that is practised through linguistic expression and individual action. This allows, she writes, for a redefinition of democracy in terms of difficulty of expression and self-obscurity.

The “living Europe” is not monolothic but multiple: creoles, with their colonial origins, most closely embody this characteristic. A section on creoles includes philosopher Jean-Yves Mondon on the ways in which the poetry of Derek Walcott distances itself from the “native” language and fends off hybridization; Alexandre Alaric, a curator in Martinique, on the poetic anthropology of Caribbean intellectual Édouard Glissant; and novelist Madison Smartt Bell on creolization since the Haitian revolution.

“If the institutions of art are dead, then artists must become institutions! If the gaze has been liberated, it must be brought back under control! If traditional techniques are outdated, then digital art must take over!” Media theoretician Boris Groys discusses the artistic manifesto of über avant-gardist Peter Weibel. Also to look out for: Toni Negri on the multitude; Laurent Bové on liberalism; and Maurizio Lazzarato on biopolitics.

The full table of contents of Multitudes 22 (2005).

Vikerkaar 10-11/2005

The latest issue of Estonian journal Vikerkaar is devoted to the evergreen subject of nationalism. Czech historian Miroslav Hroch points out the similarities and differences between nineteenth-century and post-communist European nationalism, enumerating factors that have enhanced or hindered the relative aggressiveness of national movements. Hungarian MEP György Schöpflin presents a comprehensive view on the integral relations between nationhood, modernity, and democracy, arguing that the modern nation-state is the most effective guarantee of democracy. And Estonian sociologist Pille Petersoo describes the role of various “others” in the construction of national identity.

According to literary theorist Piret Peiker, post-colonial fiction’s interest in centre and margin, and its preference for parody and allegory, can also be found in the literature of communist and post-communist Europe. Peiker takes four examples of the eastern European Bildungsroman – Ferdydurk by Witold Gombrowicz (1937), Life is Elsewhere by Milan Kundera (1969), a Bildungspoem by Czeslaw Milosz (1983), and Border State by Tonu Onnepalu (1993) – to demonstrate how the Enlightment-Romantic model of self-fulfilment is subverted.

Also to look out for: Indrek Jääts describes potential threats to the nation-state inherent in ethno-regional cultural movements; Tiit Hennoste positions the development of Estonian literary scholarship in the context of the modernization of literary theory; and a translation of Pascale Casanova’s essay “Literature as World”, first published in the New Left Review 31/2005.

The full table of contents of Vikerkaar 10-11/2005.

Kulturos barai 10/2005

Leading the latest issue of Lithuanian Kulturos barai is an article by Darius Kuolys, culturologist and former minister of education, on the relationship between history and civil society. According to Kuolys, this relationship depends on the social functions that are consciously adopted by contemporary historical narrative. By obliging itself to truth – an old moral attitude of historiography not questioned until modernity – historical narrative protects and strengthens the foundations of its values, he claims. Historical narrative also has the power to create a common notion of collective identity. The striving for truth in historiography has a critical function: it controls the truthfulness of historical images, memories, and myths, and analyzes its genesis as well as explaining its functions.

In search for a model for a modern multicultural state, Virginius Savukaynas, research associate of the Lithuanian Institute of Culture, Philosophy, and Art, and editor-in-chief of the online daily Omni Laikas, looks into the tradition of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania once included what is now Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland within a unified multi-ethnic state with a relatively advanced system of state administration.

American historian Alfred Erich Senn, in “Baltic Battleground”, writes about the politics of the Soviet Union in occupying and annexing Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in 1940. “Moscow demanded that the Baltic States restructure their governments and accept additional Red Army regiments,” he writes. “Special agents of Moscow who came right after the army made ‘revolutions’ from above that incorporated Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia into the Soviet party state much earlier than they were really incorporated into the administrative structure of the Soviet Union.”

Further articles include a discussion of the prospects of Lithuanian cinema held on the occasion of a forum of Baltic documentary films in Vilnius in September. Like in other countries, the Lithuanians are struggling to finance and present Lithuanian cinema in other countries, as well as to establish a long-term cinema policy.

The full table of contents of Kulturos barai 10/2005.

Ord&Bild 2-3/2005

Mine? Yours? Ours? Theirs? Everyone’s? Ownership is at the centre of the new issue of Swedish journal Ord&Bild. The editors’ take on the subject ranges from politics and economics to literature and art; over almost 200 pages they present articles on copyright (or copyleft) in a digital environment, graffiti, utopian community ownership, and slavery and universalism.

In “Property as storytelling”, Carol Rose (professor of law at Yale) uses game, narration, and feminist theory to show why the usual theories about property and ownership are unable to explain the emergence of cooperation and altruism.

Stefan Granér, economic historian, criticizes the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto’s simple recipe for reducing poverty in non-Western countries: stronger ownership rights. Since it was published five years ago, de Soto’s book “The Mystery of Capitalism” has received world-wide attention, garnering praise from leading politicians, from George W. Bush and Margeret Thatcher to Bill Clinton, Lula da Silva, and Vicente Fox. Granér points to several problems with de Soto’s theory and accuses him of mystifying what has to be acknowledged as real social conflict. Focusing only on ownership rights will hinder redistribution of wealth on a global level, says Granér. The article is the first Swedish critique of de Soto since his book was translated last year.

Artist Sal Randolph writes about his project “Free Words”, a book made up of words collected by the artist and then printed without copyright. Copies of the book have then been placed – without permission – in bookshops and libraries, free to take for any one who finds them. Coinciding with the publication of this issue, a number of “uncopyrighted” copies of the book have been spread in Ord&Bild‘s hometown of Gothenburg.

In his classical essay on “Bibliomania”, Norman D. Weiner tries to get to grips with the boundless desire to touch, smell, display, and own books. Weiner tells a story about a man forced to sell his library at auction. Unable to stand it, he had to leave – only to return in disguise and bid for his own books. Strange or even perverse? Maybe, but no doubt some readers of the Eurozine Review will know the feeling.

The full table of contents of Ord&Bild 2-3/2005.

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Published 8 November 2005

Original in English
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