"When a lie becomes a fact"

25 July 2006
Only in en
Belgrade Circle Journal pleads for a community of memory; Osteuropa sees a clash of worldviews in the prostitution debate; Esprit sounds out the strengths and weaknesses of political participation; Springerin seeks alternatives to a "welfare art"; Revista Critica re-interprets modernism(s); Magyar Lettre Internationale reads migrant Europe; Lettre Internationale (Denmark) asks "which multiculturalism?"; Ord & Bild searches for hidden things; and Kulturos Barai celebrates 500 issues

Belgrade Circle Journal 1-4/2006

Introducing the first issue in a bilingual series entitled “Community of Memory”, the editors of the Belgrade Circle Journal write: “In countries undergoing the process of radical shift from repression towards democracy, the question of transitional justice cannot simply be absolved by a short-term settling of accounts with the misdeeds of the previous regime […] Programmatically, we will oppose each and every disputing of the traumatic past, which only perpetuates the international exile and internal agony in almost all parts of the former Yugoslavia.”

However, collective moral responsibility is by no means an uncontested concept, writes political scientist Nenad Dimitrijevic: even in collective crime, it can be argued that all that can be determined is the responsibility of the perpetrators, high-ranking officers, and political authorities. Dimitrijevic concludes that collective responsibility is less a matter of individual or collective guilt than a sense of duty towards the victims and their community:

The fact that my inclusion in the ideological pattern of the crime rested on ideological manipulation and an institutionalized lie, to which I perhaps consistently opposed, ceases to be of any importance in the face of what has been done. Once the innocent people were killed, the lie expressed in my name ceased to be a mere lie: it has become a fact. This is why the mere fact of my identity yields the victim’s right to demand from me an unambiguous, public demonstration of rejection of the crime.

And discussing the memory of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, editor Obrad Savic writes that Milosevic was guilty not only because he led a collective criminal enterprise, but also because he pretended “to enact national law in the name of ethnic justice, and even worse […] demanded that ethnic justice nest in allegedly sovereign national law, which he then turned against international law […] This criminal wanted to show that he was innocent by claiming that force is always-already essential to the very conception of justice as law.”

The full table of contents of Belgrade Circle Journal 1-4/2006.

Osteuropa 6/2006

Although the media publicized the trafficking of an estimated 40 000 women to Germany especially for the World Cup, after it began barely a word was spoken or written about prostitution. “Where the facts are weak and the data unstable,” write the editors of Osteuropa, “it is not surprising that the debate about prostitution, migration, and female trafficking is more strongly affected by worldviews than by sober analysis.” The issue fills this gap in research with insightful articles and concrete statistics.

Sociologist Julia O’Connell Davidson offers an overview of the two sides of the prostitution and human trafficking debate. The abolitionists see prostitution as a form of male sexual violence against women, something women cannot volunteer for. If there were no demand for prostitution, there would be no trafficking, therefore states should penalize the men. The liberals consider prostitution to be no different in moral or political terms from any other market in personal services. Both sides, says O’Connell Davidson, “gloss over challenges to their position posed by the body of empirical evidence on prostitution in the contemporary world.”

Where the focus of change should lie, she writesl, is in improving the situation for migrants: “Given that the conditions many migrants seek to escape are so bleak, violent, and degrading, it is hard to see why anyone genuinely concerned with protecting and promoting human rights would place measures to tackle consumer demand for commercial sex at the top of their policy agenda. Rather more urgent priorities are measures to address poverty, global disparities of income, unemployment, gender inequalities, ethnic/racial conflict, political instability, etc. in countries of origin, and to devise more humane, non-discriminatory, and rights-based migration policies in countries of destination.”

Further articles: Britta Schmitt compares the effects of religious belief on attitudes towards and legislation on prostitution in Sweden, Lithuania, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Greece; Christina Howe looks at the social reasons why men seek pleasure with prostitutes; and case studies from Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Germany.

The full table of contents of Osteuropa 6/2006.

Esprit 7/2006

Strengths and weaknesses of participation is the main focus of the July issue of Esprit. Urban sociologists Jacques Donzelot and Renaud Epstein look into the case of urban rehabilitation and community involvement. In a review of schemes implemented in the towns of Rheims, Nantes, and Dijon, as well as in Montferneil, a suburb northeast of Paris, they show that there is only token acknowledgement of resident’s views.

Daniel Mothé, former workers activist who started out in the early 1950s as a cutter and tool-maker at the Renault factories and later, after an accident, began an academic career, notes that direct democracy remains restricted to small groups of individuals, which is a problem. Instead, he proposes habitual and effective forms of deliberation, which he refers to as “small-scale” democracy, and asks how this could contribute to a revival of “large-scale” democracy.

The second focus in the issue is devoted to the ever-present European question. The focus includes texts by Timothy Garton Ash, who reviews the legitimacy of the EU under a variety of angles; Jacques Rupnik, who looks at the EU crisis from a Central European perspective; and Jan de Beus, who analyzes the reasons for the failure of the Dutch model of integration, which has drawn the Netherlands into a state of crisis – “not just with the economy and the welfare state, but a cultural and moral one as well, leading part of the population to shed the spirit of tolerance that had been a defining feature of the Dutch integration system”.

Also to look out for: Michel Marian, in “Armenians and Turks”, says that the time is ripe for dialogue in Turkey itself for reckoning with the past. And Jean Meyer writes about “the new Spanish Civil War”: the politics of memory in Spain over the civil war and the Franco era.

The full table of contents of Esprit 7/2006.

Springerin 3/2006

The latest issue of Springerin deals with the relevance of the concept of the “working poor” in the context of cultural representation. The themes of poverty and social exlusion are only marginal parts of contemporary art. Nevertheless, in the last ten years there has been an increase in socially committed approaches; these have created a “welfare” kind of art, rather than one that questions social conditions, write the editors in their introduction.

Beyond state and capital: Paulo Virno, an Italian theoretician and former member of the autonomous Left, talks with Klaus Ronneberger about intangible labour, pay as an independent variable, and post-fordism. What happens when we change from labour based-capitalism to knowledge-based capitalism? Virno tries to give an answer in his book Grammar of the Multitude by specifying Negri’s concept of “multitude”.

In action: “Angry sandwich people” perform Brechts poem “Lob auf die Dialektik” in celebration of the anniversary of the first Russian Revolution of 1905. The result of this staged action was as a slide show published by Springerin. The sandwich people convene and slide apart, with their body as the medium of text. The happening was organized by the Russian art group “Chto delat”, who define themselves as a “collective platform that opens a space between theory, art, and activism with the goal of politicizing all three types of praxis.”

Refering to Foucault’s concept of “parrhesia”, Turkish writer Sürreyyya Evren expounds art’s relation to the problem of poverty. He searches for the parameters of an art capable of dealing with the term “working poor”.

And in the net section: Vera Tollmann on the Internet in China; Alessandro Ludovico on current net-projects about cartography; Christina Nemec on the Viennese electronic label MOSZ; and Christian Fricke on the archive project “40Jahrevideokunst.de”.

The full table of contents of Springerin 3/2006 .

Revista Critica de Ciencias Sociais 74 (2006)

The new issue of Portuguese journal Revista Critíca de Ciêncas Sociais is devoted to “Modernism(s)” political and literary.

Vivian Liska, director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at the University of Antwerp, introduces the issue with a reflection on a modernism for the twenty-first century. A process of expansion is taking place that flouts the death warrant issued by postmodernism, she writes. The inclusion of different players, cultures, and locations are expanding the modernist pantheon, while contact with new registers, poetics, and periods is breaking down modernism’s boundaries.

Turning to political modernism, Houston Baker Jr, one of the leading figures in US African-American studies, writes on “Modernity and the Transatlantic Rupture”. His essay on the slave trade begins with a memoir centred in Coimbra (the home of Revista Critíca). His argument then expands to a discussion of the significance of sugar as commodity and the plantation as means of production and from there turns to an analysis of slavery’s implications in the US today.

Remaining in the US, professor of American studies Maria José Canelo writes on “The geopolitical dimension of modernism”. Focusing on the work of American Popular Front intellectual Carey McWilliams and his study of Mexican minorities in California, Canelo draws a connection between McWilliams’s theory of the unequal development of modernism and the contemporary concept of “countercultures of modernity”.

Also: literary scholar Ana Luísa Saraiva writes on Richard Wright’s return to Africa. The second phase of Wright’s career, in which he turned to non-fiction, contains a crucial paradox, writes Saraiva: “While Wright turns himself to the exterior, to a ‘global’ world, he simultaneously tries to inscribe himself as a reference to the place he could never fully escape: Africa”.

The full table of contents of Revista Critica de Ciencias Sociais 74 (2006).

Magyar Lettre Internationale 61 (2006)

The summer issue of Magyar Lettre Internationale, entitled “Europe of the migrants”, takes its cue from a symposium of the same name held at the Prague Multikulturny Centrum during the Prague Book Fair in May (organized by the Czech, Hungarian, and Finnish national committees of the European Cultural Foundation).

Ingeborg Kongslien, professor of the Oslo University, covers migrant literatures in the Scandinavian countries. Writing in their adopted language, migrant authors have introduced the themes of acculturation, transculturation, and integration into the Scandinavian national literatures, writes Kongslien. While they “look at society from […] the outsiders’ point of view, they are at the same time part of society and insiders; these texts are therefore examples of cultural interpretation.”

Among the authors Kongslien discusses is the Danish-Chilean Rubén Palma. In interview, Palma describes the challenge of writing in literary Danish and of overcoming the scepticism of the Danish literary establishment:

“In Denmark, the literature of immigrants is judged from the standards of people who are remote from the experience of exile and immigration. Denmark is a small and culturally very homogenous country. There is not a trace of publishers or literary critics with immigrant background. Given this situation, their attitude can be: you may come from far away and you may have a lot to tell, but that does not automatically make you a good storyteller.”

Writing on the Rushdie case, Swedish publicist and human rights activist Arne Ruth is no less critical of the British: “Conventional British wisdom holds that Rushdie was driven to challenge fate by arrogance and hubris rather than by artistic vision […] Public comment in Britain has an accusatory undertone, even from the lips of supposedly radical intellectuals. To me, however, Rushdie’s main problem seems to be that he has mastered the British style of writing better than most natives. He can be mistaken for an insider. This makes him an even more dangerous outsider.”

Also in the issue: translations of fiction by Norwegian-Pakistani writer and filmmaker Khalid Hussain; Maltese author Clare Azzopardi; and Franco-African authors selected by the Hungarian-French author Julia Langh.

The full table of contents of Magyar Lettre Internationale 61 (2006).

Lettre Internationale (Denmark) 11 (2006)

While the public debate questions the justification of multiculturalism altogether, in most parts of Europe, multicultural society is – for good and for bad – a clear fact, writes editor Andreas Harbsmeier in the summer issue of the Danish edition of Lettre internationale. “Multiculturalism is no longer just an ideology that for reasons of convenience can be swept from the field. It is instead a highly politicized and problematized cultural and social reality.” In order to escape the harsh conflict between on the one hand blue-eyed multi-culti utopias, and on the other reactionary nationalisms, Harbsmeier suggest that Europeans need to look at and learn from countries and regions outside Europe, places that have much longer experience – both good and bad – of multicultural co-existence.

By publishing economist and Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen’s “Chili and freedom”, Danish Lettre does exactly that. With a personal background in the multicultural and multi-faith history of India, Sen contributes refreshingly to a debate that otherwise tends to get lost in media hysteria and lack of new approaches.

In a large section on Latin America, Rigmor Kappel Schmidt, Maurice Lemoine, Carlos Monsiváis, Alberto Fuget, and Sergio Gómez write about a continent that can no longer be summed up in the keywords revolutionary romanticism, magic realism, and never-ending attempts to deal with the colonial past.

New media: In an excerpt from a forthcoming book, media theorist and Internet activist Geert Lovink writes about “Blogging, the nihilist impulse”. Lovink manages to formulate an embryo of a theory of weblogs that goes beyond the usual rethoric of citizens’ journalism. Blogs bring on decay, writes Lovink. What’s declining is the “Belief in the Message”. Instead of presenting blog entries as mere self-promotion, we should interpret them as decadent artifacts that remotely dismantle the broadcast model.

The full table of contents of Lettre Internationale (Denmark) 11 (2006).

Ord&Bild 1-2/2006

In February 1986, Sweden’s prime-minister Olof Palme was murdered on his way home from a cinema in Stockholm. More than 20 years later, and after two major trials, the case remains open. The unsolved murder of Olof Palme is often described as a “national trauma” and an “open wound” in Swedish society; the Swedish equivalent to the Kennedy assassination has turned the Swedes into a nation of “amateur detectives”. There is a multitude of more or less serious theories about who the murderer (or murderers) could be: from the semi-official claim that it was the accidental deed of a confused individual (the main suspect, Christer Pettersson, died recently), to a plot planned by officers in the Swedish police force, to fully-fledged, international, political conspiracies.

In Ord&Bild, Klas Gustavsson, sociologist and “amateur detective” himself, looks at two recent books about the Palme murder: one by journalist Lars Borgnäs, who sees a conspiracy of rightwing police and military officers, and one by politoligist Erik Åsard, who argues for the lonely maniac theory, and therefore against all the elaborated conspiracy theories.

Gustavsson’s reading of the two books is surprisingly sober. He does not take a stand on the basic issue, who killed Olof Palme, but argues strongly against Åsard’s anti-conspiracy atttitude. Gustavsson’s conclusion is simple: we don’t know. But as simple as this conclusion seems, it has important implications. Since we actually know so little, we cannot in advance dismiss all conspiracy theories solely on grounds that they are conspiracy theories.

Also to look out for: The network society theorist par preference, Manuel Castells, presents ground-breaking research into the impact of electronic communication – such as SMS, email, and Internet – on political mobilization and change; Norwegian author Stig Sæterbakken continues his auto-biographical notes on death; and Swedish translations of Tatiana Zhurzhenko’s Eurozine piece, “Roses, oranges… and coca” on what remains of revolutions in a globalized world and Jürgen Habermas on how television and Internet have changed the conditions of public debate and thefore also the role of the intellectual.

The full table of contents of Ord & Bild 1-2/2006.

Kulturos Barai 7/2006

Writing on the occasion of the 500th issue of Kulturos barai, Kazy Almenas finds that though conditions of existence have changed they are not easier today then they were when the journal started out. Almenas draws attention to the context in which the journal was called into existence and discusses the influence the journal has and has had on Lithuanian society: “any cultural phenomena of those times cannot be […] understood in isolation.”

Vytautas Kavolis, in his prescient 1988 article on “Civilization Theory and Collective Identity in the Postmodern-globalizing Age”, finds that the best way to grasp society and collective identity in today’s world of postmodernity and globalization is to work with the concept of “civilization”: “Sociologists who have taken civilizations rather than nation states, world-systems […] or interacting individuals as their units of analysis […] have opened up a way to explain the distinctive characteristics of contemporary life.”

Vytautas Rubavicius analyzes Lithuanian society from the perspective of national identity. In terms of collective identification, Lithuania is in a deep crisis, he writes. National identity has failed to attain a stable form since independence; now there is a danger that nationality and ethnicity will become commodified signs of difference – a side effect of globalization and European integration.

The full table of contents of Kulturos Barai 7/2006.

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Published 25 July 2006

Original in English
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