"The pleasure and the pain"

20 June 2006
Only in en
Osteuropa joins the dots between politics and football; Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) talks to a Syrian Mujahid; Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) fears the Panopticon of surveillance society; Wespennest confronts Rwandan reality; Esprit pays homage to Daniel Arasse; Multitudes continues the Deleuzian adventure; Kritika & Kontext explores consciousness; Zeszyty Literackie takes a literary journey; and Passage writes the literary history of anti-Americanism.

Osteuropa 5/2006

Contrary to popular belief, European football clubs rarely turn over a profit: the competition for top players is too costly. Why, then, do clubs continue to attract massive investments? asks Stefan Wellgraf in Osteuropa.

An owner who treats a football club as purely an economic asset will meet strong resistance – witness Manchester United fans’ opinion of Malcolm Glazer. Alternatively, pouring money into a club can win owners valuable symbolic capital. Whether the club functions as prestige object à la Silvio Berlusconi (AC Milan) or as recruiting ground for soldiers à la Arkan (Red Star Belgrade), it’s in the owner’s interests to look beyond the balance sheets.

Nowhere does this apply more than in Ukraine. Oligarchs whose shady accumulation of wealth during the initial phase of independence exposes them to legal attacks from political opponents can gain legal immunity by entering politics. The oligarch is “condemned to deliver to the electorate something in return for its vote”. But what? Among other things, ostentatious investment in football: a case in point being Rinat Akhmetov – informal “governor” of the Donbass region and owner of FC Shakhtar Donetsk.

Turning to Russia: The Putin regime, keen to promote a patriotic political climate, has been giving its youth work a modern look, writes Ulrich Schmid. In 2005, it set up Nasi (Ours), a youth movement that combines structures of the Komsomol with political “Soz-Art” events of the 1970s and 1980s: symbolic public “happenings” loaded with ideological pathos. However, “while Soz-Art pursued an artistic end via the re-staging of political symbols, post-communist youth organizations appropriate the formal and conceptual language of Soz-Art and subordinate it to a political goal.”

Also to look out for: Ervin Csizmadia on the recent Hungarian elections. The unprecedented second term victory for Ferenc Gyurcsány was down to successful political communication and a campaign tailored to the president. Nevertheless, writes Csizmadia, the MSZP won’t get around to significant political changes in the next few years. Meanwhile, the rightwing opposition FIDESZ faces an upheaval in personnel and policies.

The full table of contents of Osteuropa 5/2006.

Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) 6/2006

“What America does is even worse”, says 30-year-old Muslim fundamentalist Chalid, justifying the international Mujahideen’s bloody revenge in Iraq.

Chalid was himself a Mujahid. Talking with journalist Maria A. Kalbazyk in his home in Syria, he remembers how he went with a group of friends on a journey to Iraq, motivated and supported by the Imams and the Syrian government, to defend Arab soil against the US invasion. And how he returned as the only survivor. War fascination alternates with trauma in his narrative, as he oscillates between his conviction of having exterminated some evil and the pain of seeing friends die. And for him, being back home is almost as dangerous as being abroad – the Syrian Muhabarat regime, under pressure from the US, is now persecuting those who once went to war with government support.

The West Bank is currently in a situation similar to that of Iraq during the UN embargo, reports Wendy Kristianasen. The lack of daily needs after the EU and US cut financial support in response to the recent election of Hamas is causing growing anger among the population and the government; many believe that the West’s intention to bring Hamas to their knees will lead to even more radicalization.

“We have to defend ourselves against the West’s indoctrination. People have elected Hamas and we have to respect their choice”, says non-religious women’s rights activist Soraida Hussein. Two main problems stand in the way of a positive development in the future: Hamas’s cooperation with the West depends on Israel returning land (“Israel must take the first step”), and the party’s ability to form a stable political system with other political groups.

Elsewhere: Africa is increasingly turning away from France, say Delphine Lecoutre and Admore Mupoki Kambudzi. Why? The young, internationally educated African elite is interested in establishing a clear-cut relationship rather than seeing France hide its economic interests behind paternalist rhetoric, thereby even supporting dictatorships. If France wants to continue a relationship with Africa, it must redefine its interest in the continent and clearly point out advantages for Africa.

The full table of contents of Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) 6/2006.

Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) 6/2006

Wendy Kristianasen’s long piece on Hamas and the burden of power is also printed by the Norwegian edition of Le Monde diplomatique, here accompanied by a report on the collapse of the Palestinian healthcare system by Norwegian journalists Simon Hansen and Frederik B. Ohsten. The number of patients at Sheik Zayed Hospital has decreased by 50 per cent – not because the people of Ramallah got healthy all of a sudden, but because they don’t have money to pay for the bus journey to the hospital. In the hospital itself, only really urgent operations are performed. But doctor Samil Saliba is confident that the patients will come back: “Sooner or later many will develop complications that will force them to come anyway, or they will die.”

Foucault and surveillance: Norwegian diplo editor Truls Lie looks at the new EU directive on telephone and Internet surveillance through the lens of Michel Foucault’s theory of the Panopticon. Humanity is getting a new self-image, writes Lie, formed by the information, control, and network societies. He sees a “third human form” emerge:

This is a human form which we ourselves are unable to gain an overview of, let alone ‘monitor’. This situation will be significant for the ways in which we interpret private life – between protecting ourselves from others and willingly disclosing ourselves. It will also be significant for how we understand property, copyright, family, school, defence, prisons, nations – institutions in ever-spiralling crisis and therefore flux. It is not necessarily the experience of terrorism alone that drives the EU’s directive. Just like the Panopticon, it would not have been possible without the mentality the third human form has produced.

More Foucault: an original contribution on “Foucault at work” by Daniel Defert, long-time partner of the French philosopher: “He wrote every book three times”.

The full table of contents of Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) 6/2006.

Wespennest 143 (2006)

During a period of 100 days in 1994, extremist Hutu killed between 800 000 and 1 million Tutsi in Rwanda. In its latest issue, Wespennest devotes its focus to the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath. Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman follows developments in Rwanda, looking at economic obstacles and the new constitutional ban on “divisionism”.

By removing the words “Hutu” and “Tutsi” from identification cards, the government has called on every person to forget their origins and to create a new citizenship for themselves. “At the moment, this goal is still far away, because everyone knows who they are and where they come from, and the existence of ethnicities, which is being concealed by the law, is omnipresent in people’s minds.”

Rwandan Augustin Twagirayezu looks at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, located in Arusha, Tanzania. Having observed the proceedings on location for eight years, he provides a thorough analysis of how the tribunal works, who is being prosecuted, and the details of some innovative rulings. For example, the tribunal has recognized rape as a form of genocide, and has handed life sentences to heads of radio stations and newspapers for inciting hatred.

Alfredo Jaar’s photo series of Newsweek covers illustrates the delay in the Western reaction to the Rwandan genocide: the genocide began on 6 April 1994, Newsweek waited until 1 August to report on it. And Benjamin Sehene returns to Rwanda after growing up in exile and realizes “the inevitability of ethnicity and family loyalties for the Rwandese. That to be a Rwandese is a full-time occupation. It is to constantly categorize and be categorized and classed at each and every encounter. […] The shape of one’s nose, his height, his father’s name, the place of birth, are proof of his identity, his worth, the distinction and separation of oneself, the proof of one’s position and function.”

Elsewhere: translations of Eurozine articles by Göran Rosenberg on “Freedom of expression and its limits” and Yann Moulier Boutang on “The old ‘new clothes’ of the French Republic”.

The full table of contents of Wespennest 143 (2006).

Esprit 6/2006

Esprit pays homage to French art historian Daniel Arasse, who died in December 2003. “Daniel Arasse was not just an ‘art historian’. He was one, to be sure, but he did not limit himself to erudition (which he mastered better than all others), to the problem of style, or iconological questions. He was also a theoretician and critic, passionate about cinema and contemporary art,” writes Benoît Chantre in his introduction. “Although an undisputed specialist of the Italian Renaissance, to which his major works were devoted, he also wrote about such things as The Guillotine and the Terror or about German contemporary artist Anselm Kiefer.”

Bertrand Rougé, professor of American literature and culture, shows how Arasse employed the “close-up” method to the history of painting, uncovering details that were not meant to be seen, providing an intimate view of any picture, thus revealing the “thinking” behind the painting. Véronique Goudinoux highlights Arasse’s comments on Cindy Sherman’s photographs and his preoccupation with contemporary art. Thierry de Duve, addressing Arrasse, employs his method of close description to unveil a detail in a painting by Manet.

The focus also includes a piece by Arasse himself on a detail in Montaigne’s Essais that Montaigne crossed out. “The extreme diversity of his research, together with his passion as a teacher to share his discoveries, made him a key personality,” concludes Chantre, “an intellectual freed of the disciplinary yoke, a discrete but gourmand aesthete, capable, solely by revisiting the art works, to bring about a revolution in the way we look at and perceive ‘what the painting is thinking’.”

Also to look out for: Olivier Mongin on Iran’s nuclear strategy and the increasingly repressive stance towards the country’s intellectuals as shown by the arrest of Iranian writer Ramin Jahanbegloo; Stéphane Breton on the new Musée du Quai Branly in Paris and its first exhibition, “What is a body?”; and an interview with Patrick Mignon and Christophe Pettiti on how law is enforced in the football stadium.

The full table of contents of Esprit 6/2006.

Multitudes 25 (2006)

“We believe that philosophy will not emerge unharmed from the Deleuzian adventure, but we know that it is up to us to show it and to bring it about”, wrote François Zourabichvili in the introduction to his book Deleuze. Une Philosophie de l’événement. This is an apt motto for the new issue of Multitudes, which focuses on “Masoch avec Deleuze”.

Four authors take up an article by Gilles Deleuze, first published in 1961 in the journal Arguments and reprinted for the first time now in Multitudes: “De Sacher-Masoch au masochisme” (From Sacher-Masoch to masochism). Christian Kerslake presents a very original inquiry into Deleuze’s first encounter with the concept of the unconscious and psychoanalysis, focusing on the track that leads from Bergson to Jung in Deleuze’s work. In his article entitled “Anti-Masoch”, Régis Michel, an art historian and restorer at the Louvre, proposes a “cartographie phantastique” of that which manifests itself in a “maso/miso analyse”, as he calls it. Masoch, he claims, undermines the epistemological apparatus of the Freudian unconscious, which was able to reinvent sex, but not the world: it gives way to the old demons of metaphysics, where the death drive triumphs.

François Zourabichvili, who died unexpectedly in April this year, conceives of masochism as the place where Desire, Art, and Law are articulated in the wake of Kant – and against him. Éric Alliez, who compiled the focus, follows the masochienne line at its most extreme: the annulment of the Name of the Father. For Deleuze, this is connected to an account of life of literature liberated from the passion of the signifiant and of combat against psychoanalysis, that “inhibits all production of desire”.

A second focus on “activist hoaxes” features articles by André Gattolin on a theory of hoaxes and their subversive potential; Erwan Lecoeur on the Yes Men and the hit to Dow Chemicals; and Andrea Natella, who gives an overview of the hoax in Italy, from Censor (1975) to Luther Blissett.

The full table of contents of Multitudes 25 (2006).

Kritika & Kontext 3/2005

The latest issue of Slovakian journal Kritika & Kontext – title: “On consciousness” – takes its cue from Michaela Martinovka’s study of her highly gifted, eight-year-old autistic son Matej. His drawings, maps, and diagrams, a fascinating combination of complexity and childishness, illustrate the issue. Accompanying Martinovka’s study are articles approaching the “mystery” of consciousness from standpoints of psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science.

“The single most important ‘unreported’ (or at least, unpublicized) story of the decade. I predict that mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology”, writes neurologist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran. These cells, recently discovered by Italian neurophysicist Giaccamo Rizzollati in the frontal lobes of monkeys, may be what enable humans to “read” the actions of others.

Mirror neurons may also allow the cultural transmission of knowledge. Their development might explain why, almost forty thousand years ago, there was a sudden explosion in human technological sophistication, even though the brain had achieved its present “modern” size almost a million years earlier.

“Without the genetically specified learnability that characterizes the human brain, Homo sapiens wouldn’t deserve the title ‘sapiens’ (wise). But without being immersed in a culture that can take advantage of this learnability, the title would be equally inappropriate. In this sense human culture and the human brain have co-evolved into obligatory mutual parasites – without either the result would not be a human being.”

Elsewhere: Philosopher John Searle, in conversation with parapsychologist Susan Blackmore, rehearses his controversial “Chinese room argument”. Searle proposes placing a non-Chinese-speaking person in an empty room and giving them questions in Chinese. The person then uses a manual to find the appropriate response, also in Chinese. What you’ve got, says Searle, is a model of artificial intelligence, but not human consciousness.

“I can imagine that you really are a wind-up mechanism and that you’re not conscious,” he goes on. “It’s a good thought experiment to imagine the difference between ourselves, who have both consciousness and coherent organized behaviour, and the zombie that appears to have the same organized behaviour but does not have any consciousness, has no feelings.”

The full table of contents of Kritika & Kontext 3/2005.

Zeszyty Literackie 93 (2006)

The Polish literary quarterly Zeszyty Literackie has dedicated its spring issue to the art of travel. In “Auto Mirror”, poet Adam Zagajewski offers what Czeslaw Milosz once called “probably the shortest poem on the twentieth-century mania of visiting places”.

In the rear-view mirror suddenly
I saw the bulk of the Beauvais Cathedral;
great things dwell in small ones
for a moment.

The focus continues with Andrzej Stasiuk writing about a car journey through Hungary and Slovakia, excerpts from Bruce Chatwin’s book In Patagonia (1977) in Polish, and an essay by Claudio Magris in which he argues that travelling allows us to experience the basics of our existence: that we are like most of our fellow men, and that we want solitude but at the same time loathe it.

Also to look out for: Adam Zagajewski on Emil Cioran, the great pessimist, who he admires for his philosophical bon mots; and extracts from works by classic authors such as Laurence Sterne, Hugo von Hoffmansthal, and Jerzy Stempowski in translation.

The full table of contents of Zeszyty Literackie 93 (2006).

Passage 55 (2006)

Danish Passage translates two of the greatest living American writers in an issue oscillating between the historic and the contemporary, the public and the private, between America and Europe. In “The road to 1984”, Thomas Pynchon engages with George Orwell’s old novel about the future, and finds several discrete parallels to the current historic situation. And setting out from Gerhard Richter’s famous picture series about the Baader-Meinhof group, Don DeLillo describes how the logic of terror enters the private sphere.

Richter’s simultaneously attractive and alienating pictures are also the point of departure in Anja Møller Pedersen’s essay on art, memory, and repression.

The most interesting original contribution, however, is Jesper Gulddal’s “The land of decline”. As a counterpoint to the texts by the two American greats, literary scholar Gulddal takes on the anti-Americanism of European literature. European culture has a core of hatred, he writes, and it is constantly trying to define itself in contrast to the rest of the world. Since the 1960s, the disclosure of European culture’s arsenal of chauvinist discourse has been at the centre of culturologists’ attention: anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, and nationalism, as well as “the culturally institutionalized contempt directed against certain forms of religion, ethnicity, and sexuality.”

But, Gulddal claims, one fully-fleged manifestation of European chauvinism has remained almost uninvestigated: the tradition of contempt for the US and Americans.

To remedy this, Gulddal makes an encyclopeadic attempt to write the literary history of “the last of the big European chauvinisms”. With examples ranging from D.H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, Bertolt Brecht, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline, to Danish writers such as Jacob Paludan, Poul Henningsen, and Otto Gelsted, he shows that the interwar period is “one of the absolute peaks in the history of European contempt for America, not only because of its high intensity, but also because of its discursive inventiveness”.

The full table of contents of Passage 55 (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 20 June 2006

Original in English
First published in

© Eurozine


recommended articles