Every camera a surveillance camera

25 June 2014
Only in en
Mittelweg 36 squares the legacy of feminist Shulamith Firestone with modern social movements; Nuori Voima insists on celebrating film in an age of media convergence; in Merkur, Edith Lynn Beer reassembles a transatlantic family history that began in Bukovina; Letras Libres discerns in Gabriel García Márquez a tragic victory of imagination over reality; Vikerkaar lists the elements of Estonian masculinities; Lettera internazionale celebrates its 30th; Esprit contemplates the end of days; Ord&Bild will never be a slave to fashion; Syn og Segn thinks the agrarian movement should face up to its antisemitic past; and Arena paraphrases Horkheimer: if you don’t want to talk about capitalism then you had better keep quiet about football!

Mittelweg 36 3/2014

The latest issue of Mittelweg 36 (Germany) is devoted to the legacy of radical feminist Shulamith Firestone (1945-2012), author of the landmark 1970 manifesto entitled The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. In a portrait of Firestone first published in The New Yorker, Susan Faludi quotes from the book to show just how provocative it was at the time to suggest that the traditional family structure was at the core of women’s oppression:

“Feminists have to question, not just all of western culture, but the organization of culture itself, and further, even the very organization of nature. Many women give up in despair: if that’s how deep it goes they don’t want to know.”

And yet, as Faludi points out, by the time the book appeared in bookstores, Firestone was already six months into her self-exile from the movement she had helped set in motion. Heated debate and internal rivalries had all but torn it apart. And Firestone’s passing in 2012, writes Faludi, became entangled with the memory of “a whole generation of feminists who had been unable to thrive in the world they had done so much to create”.

Recognition, performance and identity: Princeton anthropologist John Borneman takes the history of women’s and gay liberation movements up to the present. The “emancipatory goals” that these movements may have shared in the 1970s and, at least in the West, achieved in the interim, no longer provide any kind of common ground. Instead, a discourse that tends to be driven by divergence has taken root:

“A language of subversion and everyday resistance replaced one of liberation and revolution. Queer performance of identity markers was seen as more subversive than marching through the institutions. As many scholars have argued, a politics of recognition, performance and identity trumped the politics of class.”

The full table of contents of Mittelweg 36 3/2014

Nuori Voima 1/2014

Nuori Voima (Finland) celebrates the centenary of the birth of French writer and film director Marguerite Duras with an issue on film and the politics of images, whether still or moving.

In his editorial, Martti-Tapio Kuuskoski portrays Duras and her contemporary Pier Paolo Pasolini as filmmakers who contributed massively to the culture of an epoch. Though their works are of course situated in a specific historical time and place, these are “artists who work with metahistorical time in a multi-temporal age”, writes Kuuskoski. “They attach themselves firmly to the materiality of history while at the same time achieving a transhistorical quality.”

Film time: In an article entitled “Metaphors in film”, Kristian Blomberg lyrically evokes a time in which the photographic image was beginning to emerge as a widely used medium:

“1915, the prophetic nature of film becomes apparent: soldiers leaving for World War I are photographed using a slow shutter speed. Their marching prevents the human forms from being captured in their entirety, the buildings shine through them as if they’d already fallen. As if they were already ghosts, the city already desolate.”

Every camera a surveillance camera: The transition from film to digital has brought about fundamental change, writes Antti Nylén. Pictures that were previously collected in private albums are now “uploaded”, “liked” and “shared”. But when pictures go online, they not only form an archive but they also become someone else’s property.
“The great capitalist who controls today’s Internet is the only one in the culture of surveillance cameras who has something of their own”, contends Nylén. The distinction between private and public shifts as people increasingly share the intimate and the private: the public sphere is expanding. “People are constructing a new reality of surveillance cameras. Every camera is a surveillance camera”.

The full table of contents of Nuori Voima 1/2014

Merkur 6/2014

In Merkur (Germany), journalist and author Edith Lynn Beer holds up a mirror, in the form of her own family history, to the short twentieth century: an era in which peoples, cultures, languages and place names came and went as one did what one could to avoid the fall out from the clash of warring parties.
Beer’s narrative begins in Bukovina, an administrative division of the Habsburg Monarchy until the end of World War I. From here her mother’s family fled for Budweis in Czechoslovakia during the Russian invasion in WWI. Though they returned to Bukovina, her mother lost her Austrian passport, so was pleased to exchange her new Romanian passport for a Swiss one upon meeting and marrying Beer’s father. Beer and her brother were born in Zurich. Concern as to whether Swiss neutrality would outlast Nazi Europe drove the family to emigrate to New York on the pretence of visiting the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Code-switching and culture shocks ensued. Beer writes: “I stubbornly answered my parents in English. It was only when we argued that I spoke German, in the hope of being able to appeal to their feelings.” Equally, Beer’s mother never completely left her roots behind:

“When my mother went with me to the opera, she was always compelled to tell me about the beautiful opera in Chernivtsi and the wonderful main streets with their elegant buildings, attractive cafés and cake shops. How could New York have such a dismal opera. In order to alleviate the culture shock, after the opera, she took me to Eclair’s on Upper West Side where, together with other Europeans, we ate dishes prepared by Austrian and Hungarian cooks. I wondered about my chicken paprika though, and why we didn’t eat at Schrafft’s like normal Americans.”

World history goes big and deep: Sebastian Conrad casts a sceptical eye over recent trends in “big” and “deep history”, recently popularized by ventures such as The Big History Project sponsored by Bill Gates. Publications like Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond and Why the West Rules – For Now by Ian Morris may have helped make debates about Eurocentrism public, concludes Conrad, but ultimately leave “little room for a politics that aims to overcome inequality and hardly any leeway for the actions of individuals.”

The full table of contents of Merkur 6/2014

Letras Libres 6/2014

In Letras Libres (Spain), Enrique Krauze has difficulties comparing Gabriel García Márquez with Cervantes in the same way that Gerald Martin does in a biography of the Colombian literary great who passed away in April. In contrast to Márquez, who backed his friendship with the dictator Fidel Castro with political actions, Cervantes lived in poverty for his ideals, upholding a quixotic morality all the while.

Krauze will not pardon García Márquez:

“The beauties of the fiction of Gabriel García Márquez will survive the twisted loyalties of the man who created them. But it would have been an act of poetic justice if, in the autumn of his life and at the zenith of his glory, he disassociated himself from Fidel Castro and asserted his influence on behalf of the Cuban boat people. There was no point in hoping for such a transformation, of course. That kind of thing only happens in García Márquez’ novels.

Political passions: “It’s not what the philosophers of the Enlightenment dreamt of as the foundations of our representative democracies”, but there’s no doubt that emotions play a relevant role in political life, argues Manuel Arias Maldonado. The rise of anti-European parties, xenophobia, populist and separatist tendencies: all these phenomena point “towards a movement of aggressive introversion dominated by emotions rather than by reason, or at least guided by reasons that don’t seem reasonable. Even the most extrovert, like Beppo Grillo, lean towards a subtle irrationalism whose most obvious characteristic is the search for scapegoats: bankers, politicians and the rich.”

Arias Maldonado is well aware of the dangers of cultivating emotions in political life. Nonetheless, he contends that liberalism has become too cold to articulate political passions and is clearly disadvantaged next to other ideologies that have no scruples about instrumentalizing political emotions. Together with Martha Nussbaum, Arias Maldonado speaks for an “emotional liberalism able to overcome its original coldness in order to offer itself to the people as a passionate form of doing politics.”

The full table of contents of Letras Libres 6/2014

Vikerkaar 4-5/2014

In Vikerkaar (Estonia), Barbi Pilvre lists the elements on which the dominant view of masculinity in Estonia is based: “neoliberal values, the cult of economic success, glorification of power and rationality, callousness and disregard for other people’s opinions, military attitudes and a weird flirtation with Christianity or rather, its attributes”.

The myth of the man as breadwinner persists in tandem with the ideal of the housewife dependent on her husband, concludes Pilvre, even though in reality things are far more diverse.

Men’s health: Margus Punab discusses Estonian men’s health. While indicators of reproductive health are among the best in Europe, the life span of Estonian men is, on average, ten years shorter than that of their western European counterparts.

“The main factor affecting men’s health”, Punab finds, “is long-term social instability leading to the instability of values and to risky behaviour.” He also compares the annual growth of GDP with changes in male life expectancy, finding that each year of rapid economic growth has precipitated a decline in life expectancy.

Also: Klaus Theweleit, author of Male Fantasies (and the best book on football ever written: Tor zur Welt) writes on “the ways men are born”.

The full table of contents of Vikerkaar 4-5/2014

Lettera internazionale 119 (2014)

On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, Lettera internazionale (Italy) re-publishes articles from the archive under the title “30 years European construction site”. The issue is dedicated to Federico Coen (1928-2012), who founded the journal in 1984, the same year that Antonin Liehm founded the French Lettre Internationale.

European civil society: In an article as relevant now as when first published in 1988, Hans Magnus Enzensberger lauds the European civil society that was “oppressed, torn apart, weakened” but accomplished what nobody believed possible in the 1940s: “a life after death – after the moral, political and economic total catastrophe that the Germans inflicted on this continent.”

However, already then, long before his eurosceptical pamphlet Brussels, the Gentle Monster, Enzensberger deemed civil society to be more developed than the institutions of the European Union, its parties and political apparatus. He therefore asks if we really deserve this pre-democratic Europe that represents only a toy of the lobbies?

Europeanism vs Euroscepticism: In 2001, three years before Slovenia entered the European Union, Slovenian poet and essayist Ales Debeljak expressed his concern over the isolation of the post-communist countries and their absence in European debates. His nuanced analysis of what exactly would make for a desirable Europeanism still resonates today:

“Europeanism as an attitude may help us in the effort to find egalitarian, democratic and vibrant communities that render individual lives secure and meaningful, but Europeanism as a requirement ‘from above’, as a pro forma cosmopolitanism, is more likely to rob us of our concrete and lived immediacy, unlocking a potential that may ultimately benefit the less wholesome aspects of yearning for community and identity.”

The full table of contents of Lettera internazionale 119 (2014)

Esprit 6/2014

“Apocalypse: The unthinkable future” is the title of the dossier in this month’s Esprit (France). Contributions derive from working in partnership with the Louvre on a lecture series exploring the idea of “the end of days” as reflected in the arts, literature, the press, philosophy and religious tradition.

Apocalyptic thought: François Hartog traces the history of apocalyptic thought, as distinct from prophecy. Whereas the prophet sees the possibility of change that may avoid catastrophe, apocalypse is to be understood as the logical fulfilment of the past, the arrival at an inevitable terminus that will change everything by destroying it. Hartog draws attention to the effort invested throughout the ages in calculating the time remaining before this terminus.

No more consolation: Michaël Foessel pursues the idea that the imminence of the end of days can be consoling, as implied in the psalmist’s cry: “How long, o Lord, how long?” For the end of days also amounts to the end of evil.

However: “It is the delay in the Second Coming that makes consolation problematic. How can we live in a world whose end we are told is nigh and yet seems to be forever postponed? And how can we reconcile living and waiting, the exceptional and the everyday, once we conclude that the supreme consolation will not come in our lifetime? Such questions go far beyond the religious framework in which they originate. In western philosophy, they will continue to arise for as long as the world […] is perceived as no more than a transitory reality.”

Here, there are parallels with the philosophy of revolution: consolation for the oppressed is always in the future. Foessel goes on to argue that the new imagery of nuclear or climatic catastrophe changes the picture totally: consolation can no longer lie in time as an ally, in the eventual but delayed arrival of justice in the world; we must accept responsibility for facing up to the apocalypse.

The full table of contents of Esprit 6/2014

Ord&Bild 1-2/2014

Fashion is about much more than the latest clothes or the latest technological gadgets according to Meira Ahmemulic and Kristoffer Folkhammar, editors of Ord&Bild (Sweden). Fashion is creativity: to make, to create, to form – to fashion. More specifically, fashion can create resistance and fuel change but also discipline bodies.

Society’s self-conception: Fashion scholar Lisa Ehlin draws attention to how fashion can be read as the non-linguistic articulation of a society’s self-conception. “Health apps, pulse watches and other tools monitor our bodies”, Ehlin notes. At the same time “we can see, from a fashion perspective, the type of disciplinary activity that is also taking place.” As technological gadgets assist us in our everyday lives, we might want to consider “what kinds of bodies we are trying not to be, with the help of those technical tools?”

Chains of imitation and friction: In an excerpt from a forthcoming publication on fashion and resistance, the activist writer-researchers Otto von Busch and Per Herngren spin a thought-provoking dialogue on the topic of fashion, activism and civil disobedience.

“Friction”, Herngren states, “freed us from the idea that resistance is a property of the activist group” and “it became a key to think resistance and political change”. Resistance as friction, Herngren continues “is co-production, and reaction, between the activist group and its counterpart. Resistance does not emerge in a political group that is discrete from the powers under critique.” Instead, through a logic of contamination, “civil disobedience mutates and contaminates the organizations that use the mode of resistance in new creative ways.” Imitation, contamination, copying and dissemination are keywords in this dialogue on power and resistance.

Also: Amaila Ulman’s YouTube lecture YouTube lecture “Buyer, rover, walker” in article format, and a photomontage “Vague terrain” by Vague Research Studios.

The full table of contents of Ord&Bild 1-2/2014

Syn og Segn 2/2014

The latest issue of Syn og Segn (Norway) is devoted to agriculture, a hot potato on the current Norwegian political agenda.”Before knowing where we are headed, we need to know where we are”, writes Svenn Arne Lie: “An often repeated myth is that food is too expensive and farmers are ineffective, lazy and fully reliant on the government for funds. This is far from the truth.” In fact, the sector’s productivity has doubled since the 1990s, but farmers are forced to sell their produce at half the price compared with 25 years ago.

Moreover, there are fewer but larger farms. The production of grains has declined as imports, particularly of animal feed, has increased. Self-sufficiency is therefore at an all-time low, hence a high level of dependency on government funding. “The Norwegian agricultural crisis is systemic, and the road to finding a solution is going to be a tough one”, concludes Lie.

Antisemitism: Researchers Terje Emberland and Kjetil Braut Simonsen point to a dark side of the Norwegian agrarian movement’s history: “In the 1930s, negative portrayals of stereotypical Jews were common throughout the political spectrum. But antisemitism was especially strong in the agrarian movement.” The political party then known as the Farmer’s Party (now the Centre Party) was born of this movement in 1920. It was through this party’s lines of communication that anti-Semitism surfaced most aggressively.

“The Norwegian farmers also got noticed in Germany. In a letter to Heinrich Himmler, the head of the German Ministry of Agriculture, Richard Walther Darré suggested that the Germans should make use of young Norwegian farmer girls in order to bring some new, pure blood home to Germany”, Emberland and Simonsen state. The idea of the healthy and strong Nordic farmer as the original Aryan was deeply rooted not only in the agrarian movement itself, but also in other parts of Norwegian and European society.

Today’s Norwegian Centre Party stands for something far from its predecessor and yet: “One would have thought that the agrarian movement would feel the need to make up for wrongdoings during the war and face its past. This has, to a certain degree, not yet happened.”

The full table of contents of Syn og Segn 2/2014

Arena 3/2014

In Sweden, the death of a football supporter, beaten to death at a match between Helsingborg and Djurgården, has triggered a discussion about the connection between violence and the masculine ideals of football culture. In Arena (Sweden), Erik Berggren notes that many people turn a blind eye to the reality that hides behind the “love of the game”:

“A recent report by the International Trade Union Confederation claims that 4000 workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are expected to die building football stadiums – working for slave wages and completely without any form of workplace health or safety – as the filthy rich country Qatar is preparing to host the World Cup in 2022. Another report, also from the UK, shows a significant increase in domestic violence in connection with Premier League matches and internationals. ‘Men watch football at home or at the pub and then act out their disappointment on their families’, says the criminologist Stuart Kirby.”

One does not even want to imagine what happened after England was kicked out of the World Cup by Uruguay earlier this week. However, focusing only on the violence misses the point, concludes Berggren: “Under all the love, the cancelled ecstasy, the repetition, violence and hatred, there are strong economic interests dictating the terms. But as long as those discussing football violence keep hiding this fact – the connection between the million-euro business and the psychological dead end offered by the male identity as a supporter – we should probably just fob it off with a paraphrase of one of Max Horkheimer’s one-liners: ‘If you don’t want to talk about capitalism then you had better keep quiet about football’.”

Fortress Europe: In a café in Tanger, Rebecka Bülow talks to a Liberian refugee set for Europe: “Sometimes when friends head off in a boat everyone is lost. But we keep trying. Why? Because we have already left our countries behind to get into Europe.” Neither barbed wire nor new regulations will change this simple fact, concludes Bülow.

The full table of contents of Arena 3/2014

Published 25 June 2014

Original in English
First published in

© Eurozine


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