"People don't meet in the street"

19 December 2006
Only in en
Wespennest pinpoints the places of globalization; Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) disassembles IKEA's worker-friendly image; Arena takes apart the life puzzle; Esprit zooms in on post-colonialism's past; Varlik senses the culture of fear that connects Turkey and Europe; Osteuropa reveals the not-so-hidden aims of Polish anti-corruption laws; Zeszyty Literackie features a leading figure of Polish film; and Helicon pieces together the mosaic of Israel.

Wespennest 145 (2006)

“Even if we don’t expressly buy anything, we consume images, opt for one of the lifestyles that have all long been available off the peg, we buy passions, perhaps we treat ourselves to something nice from the marketplace of experience – in other words, we purchase ourselves.” Thus writes Robert Misik in the latest issue of Wespennest, entitled “Places of globalization”. So if “shopping is the last remaining form of public activity”, as Rem Koolhaas has remarked, why does sociology look down upon it as a preserve of banal pop theory and window dressing manuals?

Shopping malls, or “Urban Entertainment Centres”, simulate the buzz of city centres and create an atmosphere appropriate for consuming. Everything is controlled, writes Misik; appropriation or adaptation of the space by passers-by is both impossible and forbidden. This rebounds on city centres: prettified, scrubbed, and tidied, they increasingly adopt the mall aesthetic. And in a final twist, malls have begun building reconstructions of city streets. The shopping mall could be called the DNA of our times, he concludes.

Also in the feature: Robert Rotifer on the pop-musical codes between the local and the global; Klaus Zeyringer on literature in the age of the Internet café; Erwin Reiss and Andreas Grosz on the fate of two nineteenth-century industrial plants; and Corinna Milborn on Vienna Westbahnhof as transit point for global migration.

Polemic: The Natascha Kampusch kidnapping was the logical extension of the ideology of romantic love, writes Rainer Just. Had Priklopil – the kidnapper – “been a sadist, he would have raped, tormented, and killed Natascha Kampusch and soon moved on to his next victim. But Priklopil wanted normality: he was looking for a little girlfriend whom he could train to be a wife for life. His project failed, just like all projects that seek the man/woman for life are destined to do, without the ideology that hides behind it even beginning to be questioned.”

The full table of contents of Wespennest 145 (2006).

Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) 12/2006

Things are going well for IKEA, write journalists Olivier Bailly, Jean-Marc Caudron, and Denis Lambert in the German edition of Le Monde diplomatique. Sales are better than ever and the furniture giant has found a booming market in China and Russia. But are its workers in places like India and Bulgaria benefiting from this success?

Although IKEA claims to adhere to its IWAY Standards (“Minimum requirements for environmental, social, and working conditions when distributing home furnishing products”), little seems to have changed in terms of social issues. “Sure, the workers have clean water, protective gloves, separate toilets, and sometimes even tea breaks. But drinking tea doesn’t help them to get by till the end of the month. And as soon as it comes to important social questions – salaries, union organization, and overtime – the outlook worsens.”

White-collar blues: “Few observers think about the possibility that a Europe-wide rebellious génération précaire could emerge, a new class in which ‘the burger flippers of the fast-food chains demonstrate with the freelance graphic designers'”, writes sociologist Ulf Kadritzke. The job market is becoming ever more unstable for the middle class, who are finding that there’s no place for them in the “last plane” out of the rising economic crisis.

Saudi control of the media: Political scientist Mojammed El Oifi finds the media perception of the Arab world false: “In crisis situations the opinion of a few lead articles [from newspapers under Saudi-American control] is again and again marketed as the opinion of the majority of the Arab world. In this way an ‘imaginary Arab world’ emerges, which was in favour of the US war against Iraq in 2003 and the Israeli assault on Lebanese Hezbollah in 2006.”

Also to look out for: Under Stalin’s rule, hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars were deported to Central Asia. Since 1989, 250 000 of these Turkish-speaking Sunni Muslims have returned to Crimea, but they are still made to feel like a minority in their own homeland, writes Alexandre Billette. Problems include a lack of Turkish-language schools, under-representation in politics, difficulties in regaining citizenship, and the impossibility of getting homes back that were given to Russians during Soviet times.

The full table of contents of Le Monde diplomatique 12/2006.

Arena 6/2006

In the cover story, editor Karolina Ramqvist asks why the new conservative Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt disseminate photos of himself standing by the washing machine, doing the dishes, or picking up a film for his children at the local video store. In feminist Sweden, the elevated sovereign is obviously out and the ordinary family man is in. In fact, “ordinary” is the keyword for any politician wanting to gain popularity – male or female. And being ordinary means struggling with the “life puzzle”, trying to fit all pieces into a limited frame of time: children, career, sex…

The “life puzzle” has become the new buzzword among Swedish politicians. But the concept is not feminist, says Ramqvist. It is a post-feminist, national, and heteronormative family project that works as “a security valve for all the anxiety and embitterment still left after women entered the job market and betrayed the family.”

The city: In a themed section on cities and metropolises, Håkan A. Bengtsson asks why Stockholm has taken a political turn to the Right while most other big cities in Europe lean to the Left. His conclusion: the Swedish Left is not urban.

While Magnus Linton accuses today’s urbanist intellectuals of being “metrophobic”, Lars Mikael Raatamaa stages a furious attack on “metronormativity” and calls for the revolt of the periphery against the centre. “People don’t meet in the street”; “the city is not a European invention”; “the wall is more characteristic of the city than the square”; “SPRAWL – that’s the hope” are only a few of the strong statements in Raatamaa’s hard-hitting essay.

Also of interest: sociologist Zenia Hallgren on the movement “Papeles para todos” (Papers for all), which has pressured the Spanish government to legalize almost a million immigrants since 2001; former Brazilian prostitute and star author Raquel Pacheco (alias Bruna Surfistinha) in interview; and Ulf B. Andersson’s scary survey of human rights violations in the wake of the War on Terror – not in the US, but in Europe.

The full table of contents of Arena 6/2006.

Esprit 12/2006

What is actually at stake in the debate on post-colonialism? ask the editors of Esprit. They don’t want to discuss post-colonial thought in its militant form, which only recycles an old Third-Worldist ideology that places blame on the West. Instead they ask how post-colonialism responds to earlier intellectual traditions represented by Léopold Senghor, Frantz Fanon, or Aimé Césaire.

Philosopher Achille Mbembe retraces the genealogy of postcolonial thinking. In interview, he talks about the flaws in European universalism, especially when confronting its colonial past. Post-colonial thinking looks original, he says, but it developed in a transnational, eclectic vein, combining the anti-imperialist tradition with “subaltern studies” and a specific take on globalization.

“Which colonial legacy are we talking about?” ask Jean-François Bayart and Romain Bertrand. In order to better assess the past’s influence on current relationships between former imperial powers and post-colonial nations, it is necessary to take stock of the continuity between the colonial past and the present. In contrast, Fabien Eboussi Boulaga, philosopher and founder of the African cultural journal Terroirs, considers Africa a “novel concept” and affirms African identity against anything that could undermine it.

Also to look out for: clinician Nicolas Peraldi on when exclusion turns into seclusion – the case of homeless people in a long-term shelter. And native Algerian Mohamed Benrabah, upon his return after ten years in France, reflects on failed hopes in Algeria. The state continues to build up currency reserves through its oil resources, but the living conditions remain unchanged.

The full table of contents of Esprit 12/2006.

Varlik 12/2006

The December issue of Varlik features a themed section on “Multiculturalism and the culture of fear”. Drawing on the Eurozine conference “Friend and foe. Shared space, divided society”, the Istanbul-based journal publishes Les Back‘s “Phobocity. London and the War on Terror” and Irena Maryniak‘s “The Polish plumber and the image game” in Turkish translation.

Commenting on Les Back’s essay, author and editor Süreyyya Evren notices that the culture of fear is something that Turks have in common with the rest of Europe: “We pretend not to see the bad apples that come out of the reality of Europe, a continent that we tend to regard as a basket full of best practices, utterly different from the totalitarian practices in Turkey. This observation seems to make the struggle against totalitarianism here essentially impossible, but it is actually this kind of anxiety that is discouraging. Whenever you meet Europe’s own dissidents, they will tell you how the pile of bad European apples grows bigger by the day. The struggle against the omnipresent totalitarian structures – of varying shades – thus becomes a shared topic.”

Orhan Pamuk and literary prizes: In an article entitled “A taboo cannot be repaired”, Semih Poroy, cartoonist at the daily Cumhuriyet, comments on the controversy over this year’s Nobel Prize in literature, which has divided the Turkish public: “Orhan Pamuk received the Nobel Prize. That’s all well and good. But even before he was able to hold the award in his hands, we tried to grab it from him. We want to throw it to the ground and stamp on it, as we used to do with Italian products.” (When the PKK leader “Apo” was held under protection in Italy, many Turks boycotted Italian goods.)

Varlik‘s section on current literary affairs also deals with literary prizes, or more accurately “The plethora of awards”. The editors have asked Turkish authors what role awards and prizes play in contemporary culture. In response to the question of whether literary prizes have come to replace the institution of criticism, Sabit Kemal Bayildiran says laconically: You cannot replace something that does not exist…

The full table of contents of Varlik 12/2006.

Osteuropa 11-12/2006

In October 2006, the Polish parliament passed a law on lustration (anti-corruption), stipulating the publication of files compiled by the communist secret services. The law is estimated to affect around 400 000 people. In Osteuropa, political journalist Janina Paradowska writes that the question is not of lustration but of the publication of lists.

Journalist Bronislaw Wildstein published online the names of 150 thousand alleged former secret service agents in January 2005. But many were people who had been approached by the secret service and had refused to collaborate. Widstein’s list served the Kaczynski brothers during their 2005 election campaign as proof of the necessity of a moral purge in Poland.

It is primarily national conservative politicians of a generation too young to have taken part in the democratic struggle who are calling for lustration. Why is a political, and to a lesser extent social reckoning with the past now the order of the day? For no other reason than an unconcealed desire to replace the old Solidarity elite, writes Paradowska. Lustration is the founding myth of the “Fourth Republic”, which the current government has taken upon itself to inaugurate.

Also in Osteuropa‘s focus on Poland: Jadwiga Staniszkis writes that given Polish society’s pragmatic attitude to EU membership, the recent election success of the PiS was merely pyrrhic; Andrea Huterer exposes the irony of the Kaczynskis’ Manichean rhetoric, which owes more to Communist tradition than they would like to admit; and Gertrud Pickhan describes jazz in communist Poland as a “weapon of the Cold War”.

The full table of contents of Osteuropa 11-12/2006.

Zeszyty Literackie 95 (2006)

The autumn issue of Zeszyty Literackie is devoted to Polish film director and writer Antoni Bohdziewicz (1906-1970). He was a teacher at the Lodz Film School and one of the founders of the Polish School of Cinematography. Bohdziewicz, who took a stand against Socialist Realism, counted among his students Andrzej Wajda and Kazimierz Kutz.

Elias Canetti, Ernst Jünger, and death: Literature may be our chief defence against death. In his essay on Elias Canetti and Ernst Jünger, Sebastian Kleinschmidt, editor-in-chief of the German literary journal Sinn und Form, writes about two authors who didn’t shy away from the destructive element. Canetti was outraged by the very idea of war and death and even rejected Tolstoy as a model for “having struck a kind of pact with death”. Jünger would have none of this. His praise of war accorded with his taste for violent passion. Mawkishness was for him associated with a general disorder of emotions. And under the title “Elias Canetti, the Mysterious Face of a Genius”, Claudio Magris tells of Canetti’s masterpiece Die Blendung (Auto-da-Fe).

Also to look out for: Barbara Torunczyk interviews Jerzy Giedroyc, the founder and editor of the journal Kultura; and Tomasz Cyz talks to Polish musicologist Michal Bristiger.

The full table of contents of Zeszyty Literackie 95 (2006).

Helicon 73 (2006)

The latest issue of Israeli poetry journal Helicon is entitled “Here, in Israel” and tries to piece together the almost impossible mosaic of Israeli memory, politics, history, language, and cultures.

From the archives: Helicon publishes a letter with newly gained relevance by Jewish philosopher Gershom Sholem (1897-1982) to Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929), founder of The Free Jewish House of Teaching in Frankfurt. Sholem warns of the dangers of having Hebrew as the Israeli national language:

What will be the result of modernizing Hebrew? Has not a deep abyss opened before us, as a result of educating our children in the dialect of the holy language? It’s true, people don’t understand the result of their actions. They assume that they have managed to transform Hebrew into a secular language, from which the apocalyptic sting has been removed. But that is not true. You can’t empty these dense, almost imploding words of their meaning without endangering the language itself. Will not the same language turn against its users some day and reveal its volatile religious nature? And what will come of this generation, towards which the language will turn its accusing finger?

Poetry: Azaria Alon observes the Israeli landscape through the works of poets Shaul Tchernichovsky, Yehuda Amihai, and A. Hilel. Rather than acting as a critic, Alon simply interlaces his reading of the poetry with personal anecdotes about the poets. And Richard Jackson’s “The Lesson of Samson”: “What do you do when your shadow is more exact than / Your own self? When your own secrets sleep in your throat? / […] A life is not a life until you die.”

The full table of contents of Helicon 73 (2006).

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Published 19 December 2006

Original in English
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