"Generation Zero"

20 September 2005
Only in en
Ji enters Ukrainian subculture; Wespennest translates Bulgarian authors; Samtiden debates the Norwegian Left; Reset screens the future of Italian cinema; Cogito and Rigas Laiks look at the human side of architecture; and Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) dedicates a dossier to the UN on its sixtieth anniversary.

Ji 38 (2005)

It is often said that the Orange Revolution in Ukraine owes its victory to the involvement and enthusiastic support of the generation socialized after the collapse of the Soviet system. Sure enough, the younger generation, widely believed to have been cynical, apolitical, and pragmatic, surprised Ukrainian society by its engagement. Anyone wishing to learn more about this generation would do well to read the last issue of Ji, which is devoted to youth subcultures in Ukraine.

This issue continues a discussion first started by Ji three years ago in issue 24 (2002). As the editors state in their introduction, the approach treats alternative youth cultures and generational differences not as a social anomaly, but as a characteristic of modern society. Translations are published alongside original contributions from Ukrainian authors on a broad range of subjects: from the youngest generation of literary writers and critics (Ihor Bondar-Tereschenko) to the Ukrainian skinhead phenomenon (Yefim Marmer, Eleonora Gavrylyuk).

Among the contributors are M. Midnight on the subculture of lesbians in Kiev; Lyubomyr Futorskyj on piercing and Internet chat rooms; Olena Kondratyuk on new forms of youth slang; and Maria Majerchyk on the parallels between hippy subculture and Ukrainian folklore traditions. Translations of studies by Jacques Rançière and Roland Barthes contribute to the development of a Ukrainian discourse on the rise and evolution of youth subcultures in the post-Soviet era.

As the introduction promises, rather than moralizing, the authors present a vivid picture of a contradictory reality, one which does not fit to a single explanatory model. Reading the contributions provides a detailed insight into how “East meets West”, and how global phenomena take root in the local cultural ground. In ten years time, Ukrainian society will be shaped by today’s generation of twenty-year-olds, the “heroes” of this issue. Grigorij Okhotin, himself in his twenties, calls it “Generation Zero” – free from Soviet stereotypes, and also from the traumatic experience of the Soviet collapse, it is a generation open to new social and political ideals.

The full table of contents of Ji 38 (2005).

Wespennest 140 (2005)

For western Europe, Bulgaria has always been, as the Berliners say, “Janz weit draußen” (“Way out there”). Not for much longer, this issue of Viennese magazine Wespennest goes to prove. “It appears to be a kind of law”, writes Sofia-based journalist Thomas Frahm in his editorial, “that whoever wants to succeed as an author of Bulgarian background must leave the country.” Not all are as renowned as Julia Kristeva, whose speech from 2002 on language, nation, and womanhood is published in this issue. Also the novelist Rumjana Zacharieva, resident of Bonn and author of two novels in German translation, has established herself as a writer of importance. Her piece “Transit Visa Through Life”, an epistolary short story, is taken from her forthcoming novel.

However, the situation for Bulgarian authors could be about to change, and not only because Bulgaria will join the EU in 2007. “If talk of the ‘polysemantic’ is ever called for, then it is with regard to eastern and south eastern European cultures”, writes Frahm. Wespennest‘s selection does justice to this variety: selected authors include Mirela Ivanova, whose poems are full of the images and rhythms of the everyday; Christo Saprjanov, whose short story “The Rag Doll” reads like Arthur Koestler reading Elmore Leonard; and Georgi Gospodinov, whose poems about men and women are deft explorations of narrative form and the relation between word and world. Essays include “The pluralization of language. Bulgarian literature after 1989”, by Ani Burova; and “The limping saint. An insight into the culture of the Bulgarian Roma”, by Thomas Frahm.

Elswhere in the issue, Alfred J. Noll calls Europe “that-which-is-not-yet”. “Only a politically constitutionalized, democratically structured Europe”, he argues, “is capable of adequately responding to political, economic, legal, and ethnic challenges. That may be contested by many. But then it should be declared openly that what is desired is definitive leave-taking from the European ideals of democracy and enlightenment.” Noll offers a definition of Europe as work-in-progress: “The realization of a particular possibility generates a new field of possibilities […] and lets another field of possibilities become impossibilities. What, then, is the possible Europe?”

Also to note: Austrian novelist Josef Haslinger, who with his family survived last year’s tsunami while holidaying in Thailand, describes the oddness of reclaiming his sodden possessions from the Viennese lost property bureau; publicist Isolde Charim delivers a critique of WWII commemoration culture; and Ricarda Löser, artist at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, experiments with typography, image, and text.

The full table of contents of Wespennest 140 (2005).

Samtiden 3/2005

In contrast to the Germans, Norwegian voters recently gave a clear mandate to a red-green coalition. However, even though the Norwegian Left won the elections, one major – internal – battle remains to be fought, at least if one believes the new issue of Samtiden.

In an article entitled “The struggle for the soul of the Left”, Halvor Finess Tretvoll, cultural editor of the weekly Ny Tid, calls for the renewal of the Norwegian Left. Today, writes Tretvoll, social liberals stand against conservative leftists. At policy level, this conflict is about biotechnology, homosexual marriage, and the relation between Church and State. Ideologically, it is a struggle between cosmopolitans with a liberal approach to culture, values, and rights, and those who consider the nation-state and the conflict between labour and capital to be the keys to successful leftwing politics.

There is no doubt what side Tretvoll is on. However, while harshly criticizing what he sees as an obsolete leftist and nationalist isolationism, he cannot help showing his disappointment in the social liberal camp: “One part of the Left turns the old narratives into holy invocations. The other part is not interested in narratives at all. Anti-intellectualism governs both wings.”

Norway is a “disgustingly rich” country, Tretvoll concludes; the Norwegian Left therefore has a responsibility to reflect on justice from the global perspective, and to ask to whom their solidarity really belongs. He thus opens up a debate that has been taking place in the other Scandinavian countries for several years, and which now seems finally to have reached Norway.

Also in this issue: three articles challenging widespread conceptions of what prostitution is and how it should be interpreted. Journalist Martin Gaarder tells the story of a Nigerian prostitute in Oslo: “Gina is a victim of trafficking, but in a rather different way than what we know from media reports on cynical male slave traders.” Sociologists Willy Pedersen and Camilla Jordheim Larsen take on a taboo in prostitution research: men who sell sex to men – and like it. And, Wencke Mühleisen, from the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research at the University of Oslo, asks if a prostitute can be seen as a feminist in exile.

The full table of contents of Samtiden 3/2005.

Reset 91 (2005)

Although this year’s Venice film festival is over, Reset looks to the future in its latest issue, with suggestions from some of Italy’s most prominent directors, producers, screenwriters, and film critics for reviving Italian cinema.

For editor-in-chief Giancarlo Bosetti and even the most pessimistic of critics, Italian cinema has not come to the end of the road. Looking back at the golden age of Italian cinema, Bosetti meditates upon the role the past can play in revitalizing the future: “These golden moments of the past are now being looked back upon to give inspiration with their energy; to help rekindle the lights along the road of cinema, to show how things can change at a certain point, reverse.”

In an interview, screenwriter Vincenzo Cerami, director Roberto Faenza, cinema critic Paolo Mereghetti, and producer Riccardo Tozzi, express their views on how Italian cinema can become an industry able to attract a public and critics, how the state can intervene, and how the production duopoly Rai-Medusa influences cinema.

Looking back on the last fifty years, Faenza comments: “If we examine Italian cinema from the post-war years to the present, we see that there never was a golden age. Our cinema became well-known for neo-realism, which had most success with critics, but was never actually popular.” Although there is disagreement on the gravity of the current crisis in Italian cinema, there is consensus on the remedy: more resources, less self-referencing by authors, more convincing stories, and a look at the French model.

Taking up this last suggestion, Reset holds an interview with Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and dedicates a section to the possibilities for Italian-French co-productions.

The full table of contents of Reset 91 (2005).

Cogito 43 (2005)

In this issue of Istanbul journal Cogito, British anthropologist Jack Goody talks to editor E. Efe Çakmak on issues of culture and civilization, including the western assumptions of structuralism; the pitfalls of cognitive theories of language development; and how “naming” processes in simple societies affect an understanding of the concepts of “freedom” and “slavery”.

Goody’s key concept is cultural variability, as opposed to the rigid “structures of mind” sought by the Structuralists. He explains how modern processes of recording, using tape instead of taking written notes, changed the way myth was perceived. “You would have to come to the conclusion that oral cultures were not simply repeating what they had learned; they were constantly inventing things.”

Also of note: Esra Akçan, of Columbia University, reads the architecture of the modern eastern city for symptoms of melancholy. Akçan takes Freud’s definition of melancholy, as opposed to mourning, as the pathological reaction to loss: “In a world where the ‘West’ is perceived as the subject of history […] the ‘others’ that are excluded from this definition of ‘universality’ live through a loss 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.”

Akçan traces two genealogies of the concept of melancholy: the first, from Aristotle to Richard Burton; the second, in modern French and Turkish literature, focussing on Orhan Pamuk’s recent autobiography, “Istanbul”. In Pamuk, Akçan recognizes “hüzün”, the Turkish for melancholy: “The ‘hüzün’ inscribed deeply in the urban landscape of Istanbul is a collective melancholy that unifies its residents. It is not a single individual who is melancholic, but the city’s landscape […] Pamuk sets melancholy caused by ‘poverty, defeat, and the feeling of loss’ as the prominent common emotion of Istanbul.”

Also in this issue: classic Turkish author Ebu Osman Cahiz introduces a thematic section “On Garbage”, followed by essays, criticism, and short stories on the pungent subject matter; and three female Turkish authors on feminism and law.

The full table of contents of Cogito 43 (2005).

Rigas Laiks 9/2005

This month’s issue of Latvian Rigas Laiks opens with three interviews. Editor Uldis Tirons talks to Cesar Pelli, architect of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, on the necessity for modern architecture to emphasize human presence: “Our life is fragile and temporary, and our buildings have to be fragile and temporary as well.” Arnis Ritups speaks to Robert Tenzin Thurman, father of Uma Thurman and the most “distinguished” American Buddhist.

Speaking on the fate of Afghan exiles in the West, Hila Najibullah, daughter of the former president of Afghanistan, gives a clear picture of her life in exile: “How do I feel? I don’t feel like a European, though I went to university in Europe, and most of my family have lived here since the war. I have the experience of two different cultures, and I consider it a benefit. What am I then? I’m a homeless person, I’m a vagabond, and I definitely feel like one.”

In her article “Colour Frida and Diego”, Latvian Minister for Culture Helena Demakova writes on the mass-cultural myth of Frida Kahlo: “Frida’s Mexicanized iconization started with the Chicano movement in America, which was preoccupied with searching for their ethnic roots; Frida’s artificial Mexican clothes appealed to the artificial US Mexicans, whereas her feminist canonization started with the physical, not the Mexicany-pseudomythological, imagery of her work.”

Also to look out for: an article by writer and historian William Dalrymple on madrasas, colleges for Islamic education, where he argues that there is no reason to consider traditional Muslim education to be the breeding ground for terrorist ideology.

The full table of contents of Rigas Laiks 9/2005.

Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) 9/2005

“Kefaya!” – Enough! was the demonstrator’s battle cry in Egypt during the final months leading up to the elections. Neither leftists nor Islamists wanted a fifth term in office for Husni Mubarak, who has been in power for a quarter of a century. But on 7 September, only 23 percent of the eligible voters made use of their right to vote. The September issue of Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) features two articles dealing with protest movements in Egypt.

Wendy Kristianasen, editor of the English edition of Le Monde diplomatique, portrays a new form of women’s movement in Egypt; and Cairo journalist and researcher Hussam Tammam looks into why the Muslim Brotherhood was unable to make use of the discontent indicated by this low voter turnout. The radical Islamist protest movement, which, though illegal, has been tolerated by the regime since the 1950s, and which once was a strong opponent of power with wide popular support, has lost its glory in a neoliberal Egyptian world, writes Tammam.

Le Monde diplomatique has compiled a comprehensive dossier for the UN’s sixtieth anniversary. After the “heroic epoch” of decolonization, and a long series of peacekeeping missions both failed and successful, the UN has come up against the limits of international law. Legal scholar Olivier Corten (Brussels) discusses how the powerful nations have used the UN to their own advantage; Samantha Power, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard, traces the well-known contradictions the organization has faced since its foundation; and Paris-based lawyer Nuri Albala takes a legal perspective on the difficulties of humanitarian intervention.

Also to look out for: Historian Karl Schlögel on “Archipelago Europa” – the fragments, enclaves, and islands out of which the new Europe is falling into place – an excerpt from his upcoming book Marjampole oder Europas Wiederkehr aus dem Geist der Städte; and the painted houses of Tirana by Albanian video artist Anri Sala.

The full table of contents of Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) 9/2005.

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Published 20 September 2005

Original in English
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