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The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was founded on the basis of the Helsinki Act of 1975, the first international agreement on human rights. Today, a major part of the OSCE’s work is in ensuring the independence of democratic institutions, including monitoring election processes and the press. As an inter-governmental organization, anti-terrrorism is inevitably included among its activities, above dealing with internet hate-speech. Here, opinion is divided within the organization about the appropriateness of filtering systems. A recent publication by the OSCE Representative of the Freedom of the Media proposes avoiding intervention.

International cooperation became a key feature in politics with the growth of global communication networks and globalization of trade in the 1990s. After 9/11, international cooperation hit a new level, with all the major international bodies supporting cross-border anti-terrorism measures. Agreeing was so easy that governments increasingly have policies that are unpopular on the domestic front ratified at international gatherings, then re-introduce them at home, where they can be justified as fulfilling international standards. Civil society and democratic procedures meanwhile are left out of the picture entirely. The process has become known as “policy laundering” and has made inroads into daily life more than is generally known. An overview of the new political landscape.

Lithuanian novelist and playwright Marius Ivaskevicius is highly rated in the Baltic States, Poland, and Hungary for his humorous observations of contemporary life. Now Eurozine publishes, in English translation, his seven-part Scandinavian travelogue. Here, he journeys to the north of Finland, stopping off at Kajaani, where a play reminds him of his father’s childhood in Lithuania. Pressing on, he reaches Rovaniemi on the edge of the Arctic Circle. But Lapland is showing signs of the times: climate change and fresh-air tourism.

The Hungarian Writers’ Union has been informed by a source in Brussels that, after a series of confidential conferences, an agreement is imminent on obligatory literary standards for all EU member states. Our correspondent has been able to obtain this draft copy of the chapter relating to the novel only.

Surrounding the anniversary of the end of WWII were arguments that national experiences are suffocated by the dominant discourse of the West. By implication, the memory of the Holocaust is a hegemonic discourse within the EU, rather than its binding principle. Here, it is not so much that national myths are suppressed, argues Isolde Charim, but that a new myth is in the making: that of victimhood divorced from political context.

ruins Lisbon earthquake

Theology of tidal waves

A post-humanist interpretation

The tsunami disaster in southeast Asia in January 2005 prompted a leading Swedish political scientist to publicly declare his return to the Christian Church. He was by no means alone – a remarkable reversal of the public reaction to the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which for Voltaire and others implied that the Church no longer possessed exclusive insight into the human condition. But the man-made catastrophes of the twentieth century undermined the enlightenment enterprise: for Adorno, “nature” could no longer be banished to the non-human. This undermines the truth claim of the humanities, which in the twenty-first century are stranded between theology and the natural sciences.

Myth, word, and writing

An interview with Jack Goody

The Cambridge anthropologist argues that in seeking to expose the “structures of the mind”, Levi-Strauss and the Structuralists projected the categorized worldview of literate cultures onto simpler societies. In analysing oral cultures, a more flexible approach must be employed to take in the inconsistencies in myth-making, something made apparent by modern recording technology in the 1960s. In the second half of the interview, Goody discusses language development and the pitfalls of the genetic approach; the processes of “naming” and “discovering” in relation to western ideological concepts such as “freedom” and “slavery”; and the reception of western religion in non-western and formerly colonized cultures.

Neighbourhoods

The 18th European Meeting of Cultural Journals

This year’s European Meeting of Cultural Journals is organized by Eurozine and its Turkish partners Cogito and Varlik. More than 60 editors and intellectuals from Europe’s leading cultural journals will participate in this event, and the programme includes seminars and debates as well as an exhibition displaying journals from more than 30 countries.

By looking at the construction of modern cities and the “other”, Esra Akcan analyzes the meaning of melancholy: “In a world where modernization is defined as the ‘universal’ processes guided by the ‘West’, in a world where the ‘West’ is perceived as the subject of history, while the ‘non-West’ as its inferior translation, the ‘others’ that are excluded from this definition of ‘universality’ live through a loss or lack of a natural right. This is the natural right of being a part of this history, of belonging to the process of modernization that is conceived as the inevitable ‘universal’ achievement. This is what I would like to call the melancholy of the geographical ‘other’.”

Memory of evil, enticement to good

An interview with Tzvetan Todorov

An interview with the emigré Bulgarian philosopher in March 2005 about his book Mémoire du Mal, Tentation du bien, in which he discusses historical interpretation and its uses. Todorov discusses how the French understanding of communism is linked with its positive associations with the Resistance movement. The World War II anniversary celebrations provide eastern Europeans with a chance to convey their own very different experiences of communism.

Plastic ferns, ABBA, and intoxicated Russians: over 50 grams of brandy, the seedy charms of the old-fashioned kafejnica seem infinitely preferable to Riga’s new generation of oh-so-trendy coffee houses, finds Tim Ochser.

Strangeness, the state of being a stranger, pervades the fiction of Imre Kertész. As a child and as a Jew in wartime Budapest, his early years were blighted by segregation, deportation, and liquidation. After the camps, there was socialism and the compulsion to conform. Authors faced the spectre of the censor; now, when travelling is possible, the isolation brought by writing in Hungarian is the obstacle. Helga Leiprecht travels to meet Imre Kertész in his native Budapest.

Imre Kertész and his time

Not Jewish. Not Hungarian. Not anti-German enough.

Although in Hungary during the Kádár regime of the 1960s the literary climate was more open than in other eastern bloc states, the censorship system ensured that politically independent writers did not rise above obscurity. Imre Kertész’s first novel, Fatelessness, was published to mild acclaim in 1975; but Kertész was not able to break into the closed circles of literary eminence, nor to dispel the distrust of the public. Now, Kertész offends Hungarian nationalists, as well as those who feel that, as a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, he should be more anti-German.

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