"Encounters in Cosmopolis"

7 March 2006
Only in en
Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) populates the cosmopolis; Samtiden estimates the price of the War on Terror in Norway; Wespennest looks at South Africa through the lens of the Drum generation; Transit considers Europe's options; Akadeemia travels back along the road to Estonia's independence; Kulturos barai finds Lithuania's growing desire for a strong hand shocking; Cogito hears about an intellectual trajectory on the British New Left; and du explores the cosmos Bach.

Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) 3/2006

At a time when everyone else is going tabloid, the newest Eurozine partner, Le Monde Diplomatique (Oslo), publishes its first broadsheet issue. In a tribute to Hannah Arendt in her centenary year, editor Truls Lie develops a distinction made by Arendt between politics – something done by free individuals – and power-play – something done by interest groups. Transferred to the present day, says Lie, Arendt’s Greek polis of participating equals becomes the “cosmopolis”:

The cosmopolites are the heirs to the anarchistic noblemen of old, on their way from one revolution to the next. They would have reckoned with the Dominican immigrant, the Kurdish refugee, the stateless Palestinian, or the proletarian Indian. To have a cosmopolitan mindset is to live in an open and inclusive world-society in which one develops a community spirit, an awareness of the collectivity or the community of senses – whether this is cultural, artistic, or socially ethical.

Author Eland Kiøsterud writes that the concept of a “multicultural community” belies the fact that the European metropolis hasn’t been a physical meeting place for at least a century. People have withdrawn into hermetically sealed spaces, telecommunicating selectively: “These days, the city is an ad-filled, humanly neutral, airport-like shopping centre, where we pass each other on the way to and from our selected – and segregated – pursuits.”

As immigration shapes modern European cities, writes Kiøsterud, people must open themselves to encounters with people of other cultures, encounters that will be real rather than virtual, concrete rather than notional: “The battle for Europe will take place in the public spaces we all frequent on a daily basis: workplaces, canteens, taxis, shops, schools, nurseries, voluntary organizations, political parties, businesses and local government, the media and artistic institutions. It will happen in the places in which we have yet to meet: the church and the mosque, the café, home, kitchen, living room, bedroom, bed – in other words, in all the nooks and crannies that host the formation of concrete values and the exchange of symbolic ones.”

The full table of contents of Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) 3/2006.

Samtiden 1/2006

In a recent Eurozine Review, we reported on an article in Swedish Arena on the aftermath of US-led attempts to hit the financial base of al-Qaeda, involving three Swedish citizens of Somali origin. Oslo-based Samtiden now focuses on a similar case in Norway.

In October 2001, less than a month after the terror attacks on the World Trade Center, the Oslo police raided the homes of seven Somalis working at the alternative money-transfer systems al-Barakaat and Dahabshiil. They were suspected of supporting the terror activities of Osama bin Laden. Four years later, the final verdict was passed down by the High Court, sentencing two of the seven arrested in 2001 to one year in prison. Not for financing terror activities, but for failing to abide by commercial law and currency regulations.

Radio journalist Ole Jan Larsen, who has followed the case from the start, says that the verdict implicates the Norwegian authorities for not working together with these organizations to make sure that their activities – helping private persons as well as the UN and international help organizations to get money into and out of Somalia – comply with the law. In other countries, this happened a long time ago.

Larsen also holds that the terrorist label that has been attached to the Norwegian Somalis ever since the raid in 2001 is a hard punishment in itself. In the neighbourhood where one of the accused lives, people still talk about “the guy who helped Osama bin Laden”, and the press helps to keep this misconception alive. Newspaper reports on the final verdict in the High Court, four years after the initial raid against the Somalis, give the clear impression that suspicions of terrorist involvement remain.

Further articles on Norwegian integration issues: Shoaib Sultan asks if there is a difference between “honour killings” and “jealousy murders”, and accuses the Norwegian press of campaigning against Muslims. Iffit Qureshi describes how ethnic minority women are let down and demonized by the Norwegian authorities: “It is high time to stop using cultural interpretations to explain the situation of ethnic minorities.”

In a section on totalitarian religion and totalitarian politics: Gun Hild Lem on the Charismatic Christians establishing themselves in Norway; and a translation of Jan Philipp Reemtsma’s “Must we respect religiosity?”.

The full table of contents of Samtiden 1/2006.

Wespennest 142 (2006)

“It sometimes feels as if I grew up wrapped, like a child from a poor family, in the thick, off-white, cosily newsy pages of Drum. Its images seem to have rubbed off on me, like the ink on those reams of cheap newsprint might rub onto the readers’ hands, so that, looking back over those flaking pages many years down the line, I have a sense of walking down old familiar streets all over again – which is impossible, because I was too young to have walked down those streets in those times. And yet it is all burned in my memory.”

So writes John Matshikiza about South African magazine Drum, “a fast and fashion-conscious read, something adults dipped into and out of with wolf-whistles, guffaws, or bitter comments, depending on what caught the eye”. His father, Todd Matshikiza, was a regular contributor to Drum, and raised John in exile. For John, says filmmaker Jyoti Mistry, Drum “offers a social memory of growing up with affirmative images of blackness during an extremely oppressive period”.

As guest editor of Wespennest‘s section on “Sophiatown – photography and film in South Africa”, Mistry offers an “insider’s perspective” of “the state of a nation in the process of self-determination and testing the boundaries of its democracy”. Where black artists during the Drum period were seen not as individuals, but instead as “interchangeable agents who recorded historical events, documenters rather than creative or visionary interpreters”, the South Africa of today offers artists freedom to express their personal interests and to explore the past through personal narratives and subjective experiences.

The current shift in South African art has also created a distinct moment in contemporary film. However, says Bheki Peterson, writer and producer of Zulu Love Letter, filmmakers still face the challenge of a dominant “whiteness”. This can only be remedied by steps in the following direction:

For a start, the industry needs to be guided by more internal and modest aspirations that are not paralyzed by either the desire to make the South African film or to conquer the world […] Secondly, greater appreciation has to be ceded to the moral, cultural and political imperatives of filmmaking, none more so than the importance of South Africans being able to create and see images of themselves and their experiences in their own languages on South African screens.

South Africa is also the focus of the upcoming literary festival “Literatur im März”, with readings and an exhibition of photos at the Kunsthalle in Vienna (9-12 March); and with film screenings at the Österreichisches Filmmuseum (15-27 March).

The full table of contents of Wespennest 142 (2006).

Transit 30 (2005/2006)

The crisis highlighted by the failure of the European constitutional project is not the first in the process of European unification. This time, however, the crisis is structural, writes Jacques Rupnik in Transit, which devotes a main part of its new issue to reflection on the Union’s self-understanding, its international responsibility, and its perspectives for the future.

The causes of the crisis lie deeper than the flaws in the wording of the constitutional convention, Rupnik says. What is more, the failure of the project of a political Europe threatens to block the dynamic of European integration. “Just when the long-divided Europe reunites, its members’ views on the political, economic, and social future of Europe, its international stance towards the US, and its borders are divided like never before.”

A way out, Rupnik suggests, might be to bid farewell to the myth of a political union. Alternatively, one could start to think in terms of a “network Europe” that would exert almost no pressure internally and would exclude hardly any neighbour. This would mean forming pragmatic agreements within the Union and stabilizing those countries outside the EU that belonged to the peripheries of the Soviet-Russian or Ottoman Empire.

Further articles dealing with the topic include Ivan Krastev’s argument that, in view of the continuing instability of the situation in the Balkans, the European Union faces the choice of becoming either a reluctant empire or bravely taking the next step in enlargement.

A second focus compiles articles on “History and memory in Europe”, including articles by Norman Naimark, “The killing fields in the East: Then and now”; Philipp Ther, “The burden of history and the trap of memory”; and Eva Kovacs on “The memory of Communism in Hungary”.

The full table of contents of Transit 30 (2005/2006).

Akadeemia 3/2006

In Estonian journal Akadeemia, Hellar Grabbi, an émigré author living in the US, recalls his journey around Estonia in 1988. This was a turbulent time when Estonian national independence movements – The Popular Front, the National Independence Party, the Estonian Heritage Society – were getting off the ground. Grabbi’s travels take him from Kurgja, the home of C.R. Jakobson (1841-1882), a leader of national awakening in the nineteenth century and the first Estonian politician in the modern sense, to Tallinn, where he visits the editorial offices of the cultural journals Vikerkaar, Looming, and Keel ja Kirjandus.

On 16 November 1988, three weeks after Grabbi left Estonia, the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR proclaimed itself the highest authority in Estonia and declared the supremacy of Estonian laws over the laws of the Soviet Union. This sensational act attracted the world’s attention and marked the beginning of the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Elsewhere in the issue, Maris Saagpakk writes about changes in Baltic Germans’ attitudes to Estonians and Latvians in the revolutionary years of the early twentieth century, basing his observations on unpublished memoirs held in archives in Marburg and Lüneburg. In Baltic Germans’ accounts of the nineteenth and turn of the twentieth century, Estonians and Latvians are minor characters introduced solely to show the peculiarities of local life, writes Saagpakk. After WWI and the proclamation of independence by Estonia and Latvia, Baltic German authors’ self-image as mentors of the indigenous population is dented, and their tone changes to one of embitterment.

And what may turn out to be the most unusual Eurozine partner article this year: Marika Mikkor, “Placenta eating in present-day Estonia and the world tradition”. New-age trend or age-old tradition? Findings from twenty years’ worth of data on birth rites among Estonians, Mordvinians, Izhorians, and Ingrian Finns.

The full table of contents of Akadeemia 3/2006.

Kulturos barai 2/2006

Almost half of all Lithuanians say they would prefer to be ruled by a leader who acts independently of parliament or a party. This comes as no surprise, says sociologist Aine Ramonaite, examining statistics of recent opinion polls. This sentiment has been apparent in the past, but it is still shocking to see how high the percentage of people who want to be “ruled with a strong hand” has risen.

On music: usually, a musical performance is thought of as a one-way communication system, moving from composer to listener through the medium of the performer. The composer’s idea is seen as an absolute, and the performer is often supposed to remain as transparent as possible. But what and how, asks Lina Navicaite, does the performer actually mediate? Rather than taking on the complex relationship between composer and performer, she focuses instead on performance practices and the media in which they operate.

Also of interest: with elections in neighbouring Belarus fast approaching, Lithuanian media have focused their attention on analyzing the country’s political and social problems. But, says Stasys Katauskas, amidst these discussions of Belarusian national identity lies a gap when it comes to predicting Belarus’s future.

The full table of contents of Kulturos barai 2/2006.

Cogito 44-45 (2006)

In Istanbul-based journal Cogito, British feminist and psychoanalyst Juliet Mitchell talks to editors E. Efe Çakmak and Bülent Somay about her role in the British New Left in the 1960s. Mitchell was at the centre of the movement: as editorial board member of the “New Left Review”, as participant in Third World and anti-psychiatry movements, and as co-organizer of grassroots initiatives, including the “anti-university”, founded on the steps of Shoreditch Church in East London, and the famous Compendium Bookshop in Camden Town.

Mitchell outlines her intellectual trajectory from her early Marxism, to feminism of the mid-1960s, and to psychoanalysis in the 1970s. About her “conversion” to Freudianism, she says:

I thought: this is where you could add a social analysis of sexuality to a wider social analysis of economy, social actions, classes, and so on. Through psychology, you could get to ideology […] How we think of what we are, how we think ourselves in the world, is an ideological question. This is also what psychology is, how we think ourselves, particularly unconsciously. We don’t wake up every morning thinking “Ugh, God, I’m a man, ugh God, I’m a woman”. We know it without thinking about it, at a pre-conscious, but also deeply unconscious level. But how? This question takes us to the unconscious knowledge of gender.

Elsewhere in this issue: “Deep under the skin” – authors theorize the skin; Catherine Pinguet on the construction of the Occidental other; and papers presented at the 18th European Meeting of Cultural Journals in November 2005: Etyen Mahçupyan on “The neighbour and the state”, Tomislav Longinovic on “The post-Oriental condition: Serbs and Turks revisited”, and Marc-Olivier Padis on “The democratic neighbour”.

The full table of contents of Cogito 44-45 (2006).

du 2/2006

Johann Sebastian Bach. “Jazzers fall back on Bach (like Keith Jarret), authors can’t live without him (like Maarten ‘t Hart), and heart surgeons can’t operate without him (like Christian Barnard)”, writes musicologist and journalist Wolfram Goertz in du‘s new issue dedicated to the composer. In twenty-three attempts, he tries to fathom the cosmos Bach and his enigmatic musical order – from the womb to eternity (the first time he heard Bach’s Matthäus Passion was in his mother’s belly, listening to his father sing as a member of the choir).

Fourteen further authors approach Bach from a variety of angles, all offering personal encounters with the maestro who for the greater part of his life was Thomaskantor in Leipzig. Viola player Volker Hagedorn travels with Bach by bus through Albania and Mexico; music journalist Martina Wohltat reflects on the effect of the often exotic cantata texts on Bach’s contemporaries and on us; and Helga Leiprecht reads Ossip Mandelstam’s interpretation of Bach’s polyphony as salvation from despair: for the Russian-Jewish poet, polyphony was just another word for poetry and, especially, for culture – coexistence and equality of voices instead of enforced conformity and monotony.

The rich and readable issue is beautifully illustrated by Laurenz Berges’s quiet photos from central Germany, landscapes where Bach spent his formative years.

Also in this issue: an interview with American novelist Paula Fox. In 1996, Jonathan Franzen called her novel, “Desperate Characters” (1970), the best American novel written after WWII. His remark led to her late discovery in Europe.

One question remains that you may keep asking yourself: why is du called du (you)? In the editorial of the first issue, which appeared exactly 65 years ago, in March 1941, and is reprinted in this issue, editor-in-chief Arnold Kübler explains: being founded in the middle of WWII, the editors wanted to stress the fact that “You are not alone! You do not exist only for yourself. You have responsibilities and duties beyond your personal likes and dislikes. Our title is about all this.”

The full table of contents of du 2/2006.

This is just a selection of the more than 50 Eurozine partners published in 32 countries. For current tables of contents, self-descriptions, and subscription and contact details of all Eurozine partners, please see the partner section.

Published 7 March 2006

Original in English
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