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Being inside and outside simultaneously

Exile, literature, and the postcolony: On Assia Djebar

As an Algerian novelist writing in French, Assia Djebar had to find a way to Arabize the language of the former colonizer; in doing so, she has cut the “umbilical cord” to her country of origin. Her writing, says Seloua Luste Boulmina, in an article based on her speech at the 20th European Meeting of Cultural Journals in Sibiu 2007, turns the tables on the post-colony. The question now is not, “Can the subaltern speak and write?”, but “Can the non-subaltern hear and read?”

Anyone at home?

In pursuit of one's own shadow

Novelist and broadcaster Zinovy Zinik left his native Russia in the 1970s and moved first to Israel and then to Britain. Speaking at the Eurozine network conference in Sibiu in September 2007, he traced the history of the shadow as metaphor for exile through Evgeni Shwartz’s play “The Shadow” back to earlier fables by Hans Christian Andersen and Adelbert von Chamisso. The sum effect: a web of intermeshed émigré biographies and fictions spanning two centuries of political change.

Zimbabwean poet, novelist, and journalist Chenjerai Hove left Zimbabwe after falling foul of the Mugabe government. Here he recalls two incidents typical of the censorship that forced him into internal exile; and how, in exile outside his home country, he discovered new creative perspectives.

The demolition of Star Ferry Pier

Urban reclamation versus cultural heritage in Hong Kong

After the handover, Hong Kong has sought to brand itself as “Asia’s World City”. Several historical features have been demolished – or “reclaimed” – to make way for shopping malls, high-rise apartment blocks, traditional Chinese architecture, and tourist kitsch. The result, says Huilary Tsui, is just another Asian megalopolis. Nevertheless, a new culture of public opposition to heritage-hostile urban planning is taking root.

From "big character posters" to blogs

Facets of independent self-expression in China

Despite predictions to the contrary, the Internet has not brought about abrupt political change in China and is not likely to do so anytime soon. Its significance and implications for Chinese society lie elsewhere, writes Martin Hala.

In the global free-market economy, both conservatives and social democrats are attempting the impossible. No less hopeless is the doctrine of the self-regulating market. Yet the biggest illusion of them all is “democratic capitalism” – an inherently contradictory notion. The gap between rhetoric and reality in today’s politics is there for all to see, writes Audrius Dauksa: so why aren’t politicians looking?

Between national Church and religious supermarket

Muslim organizations in Germany and the problem of representation

A recent conference in Germany intended to build bridges between the federal German state and the German Muslim population raised questions about conservative Muslim organizations’ claims to represent “the” Muslim community. Individuals defining themselves as “cultural Muslims” have challenged the influence of such groups. Existing German Muslim organizations in some cases advocate restrictive practices that contravene the German constitution; yet, paradoxically, they have emerged in conformity with Germany’s corporatist system of representation. Meanwhile, the globalization of religion indicates that the “supermarket” principle, such as exists in the US, will increasingly become the norm in Europe too.

The “American Century” only began 60 years ago. But it seems already to be over, with the disaster of Iraq forcing some of the United States’ ruling elites to realise that its hegemony has been severely weakened. But nobody seems to know what to do next, or even how to behave.

The Europe of the Cold War has disintegrated. Instead of two once homogeneous regions – “the East” and “the West” – there are now fragments, enclaves, and islands. Yet disintegration is a form of renewal, a time both of disillusionment and enlightenment. Thus writes Karl Schlögel in an excerpt from his book “Marjampole, or Europe’s return from the spirit of the cities”, translated into English here for the first time.

The origins and elements of imitation democracies

Political developments in the post-Soviet space

Throughout the territory of the former Soviet Union, diverse regimes have established themselves behind a democratic façade while concentrating power in the hands of a president. A comparison of the Eastern Slavic states with those of Central Asia and the Caucasus shows not only that these imitation democracies have the same source, but that these one-man regimes also draw on the same elements and practices of political rule. Contrary to their purported power and stability, they are dysfunctional in their claims of control, their means of creating legitimacy, and their socio-economic productivity. They all contain the seeds of their own downfall.

In order to understand modern Catalan nationalism, it is necessary to examine the emergence of “anti-Catalanism” in Castilian Spain during the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, writes Antoni Simon.

Bathroom tales

How we mistook normality for paradise

The death of toilet paper may not have been the sole reason for the collapse of communism, but it’s an apt metaphor for a regime unable to fulfil its subjects’ basic needs. Although Slavenka Drakulic’s bathroom is better stocked these days, she’s still prone to doubt: was the normality she and her fellow eastern Europeans longed for just another false paradise?

Normality or normalities?

From one transition to the next

For eastern Europeans, the myth of a free and prosperous West, of western normality, has been replaced by the observation of normalities, writes Mircea Vasilescu. Now that Romania is an EU member, it turns out that the West has problems of its own, problems by no means as exotic as once believed.

Expansion without enlargement

Europe's dynamism and the EU's neighbourhood policy

The European Neighbourhood Policy was designed as an alternative to enlargement that would allow the expansionary dynamic of the EU to continue without the burden of acquiring new member states. Rather than offering membership to its neighbours, the EU offers a special relationship in exchange for these countries maintaining stability on the periphery. How successful the ENP is depends on the periphery’s readiness to cooperate. Are the neighbouring states willing to make the same amount of effort as they would in the framework of the enlargement policy for a distinctly lower return from the EU?

Perpetrators, victims, and art

The National Socialists' campaign of pillage

Between 1933 and 1945, privately and publicly owned works of art, books, and archives were extorted, “aryanized”, “secured”, and stolen, first in Germany, then throughout Europe. Special offices and organizations were involved and the victims of these campaigns of pillage were political opponents: union officials, socialists, freemasons, and priests. The Jewish population was hit especially hard. With the attack on Poland and the invasion of the Soviet Union, the peoples of eastern Europe, categorized as “racially inferior”, were plundered. The National Socialist campaigns of pillage for cultural assets are not just a subject of historical research. They continue to hinder the search for mutual understanding within Europe to this day.

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