Café Matinal au Goût de Nomadisme

« L’étroitesse d’esprit, le dogmatisme, l’intolérance, le fanatisme sont, à des degrés divers, des formes d’enfermement dans un schéma mental. Pour y échapper, il faut accéder à la « pluralité interprétative » : devenir capable de « manipuler » ses propres représentations et ses idées pour adopter, au moins temporairement et en imagination, d’autres points de vue que le sien. Mais quelles sont les bases cérébrales et mentales d’une telle capacité chez l’enfant et chez l’adulte ? À travers quelles formes historiques – culturelles, religieuses, artistiques – s’est-elle incarnée et développée ? Peut-on l’enseigner aux enfants, et comment ? Organisé les 12 et 13 juin 2008 au Collège de France, le colloque La pluralité interprétative. Fondements historiques et cognitifs de la notion de point de vue a tenté de faire le point sur ces questions. »

– BERTHOZ, Alain (dir.) ; OSSOLA, Carlo (dir.) ; et STOCK, Brian (dir.). La pluralité interprétative : Fondements historiques et cognitifs de la notion de point de vue. Nouvelle édition [en ligne]. Paris : Collège de France, 2010

Disponible sur Internet : <http://books.openedition.org/cdf/1421&gt;. ISBN : 9782722601321. DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/books.cdf.1421.

« Two hundred and fifty years after Beethoven’s birth, we’re faced with something of a paradox: his music is known and beloved all over the world, probably more than that of any other composer, even as its real significance is hardly ever remarked on except in critical studies largely unread by the public. Familiarity, it seems, has bred not contempt but ignorance. We hear the famous melodies for the thousandth time, whether in movies, commercials, or concerts, from the third, fifth, sixth, or ninth symphonies or from piano concertos and sonatas or pieces of chamber music. But the cutting edge of this music has been dulled through overuse. That is, we have forgotten, and no longer seem to hear, the intensely political nature of Beethoven’s music—its subversive, revolutionary, passionately democratic, and freedom-exalting nature.

In the year of the great composer’s 250th birthday, it would be fitting to recapture this essence, to retune our ears to pick up the music’s political and philosophical message. This is especially appropriate in our own time of democratic struggles against a corrupt and decaying ancien régime, with its parallels to the Beethovenian era of revolution, hidebound reaction, and soaring hopes to realize “the rights of man.” Beethoven belongs, heart and soul, to the political left. Centuries after his death, his music still retains the power to transform, transfigure, and revivify, no matter how many political defeats its partisans and spiritual comrades suffer.

We might start with the most famous of Beethovenian motifs: the opening notes of the Fifth Symphony (1808). We’ve all heard the legend that they represent “fate knocking at the door.” The source of this idea is Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s notoriously unreliable secretary. Sir John Eliot Gardiner, world-renowned conductor, has a different interpretation: he detects the influence of Luigi Cherubini’s revolutionary Hymne du Panthéon of 1794. “We swear, sword in hand, to die for the Republic and for the rights of man,” the chorus sings, to the rhythm of da-da-da-duuum. Beethoven was a great admirer of Cherubini, not to mention a devoted republican, so Gardiner’s theory is hardly far-fetched. In the stultifyingly conservative and repressive Vienna of 1808, Beethoven issued a clarion call to revolution in the very opening notes of one of his most revolutionary, Napoleonic symphonies. No wonder conservatives detested his music!

Beethoven was a child of the Enlightenment and remained so his whole life. Late eighteenth-century Bonn, where he was born, was steeped in the most progressive thought of the age: Kant, the philosopher of freedom, was a lively subject of discussion at the university, as was his follower Friedrich Schiller, the poet of freedom, impassioned enemy of tyrants everywhere. The young Beethoven was heavily influenced by Eulogius Schneider, whose lectures he attended. One of the most important of German Jacobins, Schneider was so radical that in 1791 he was kicked out of the liberal University of Bonn, whereupon he joined the Jacobin Club in Strasbourg. (There, he was appointed public prosecutor for the Revolutionary Tribunal, enthusiastically sending aristocrats to the guillotine—until he lost his own head a couple years later.) Schneider’s republicanism stayed with Beethoven, but it was Schiller whom Beethoven worshiped.

Schiller’s poem “An die Freude”—“Ode to Joy”— impressed Beethoven immensely. He planned early on to set it to music and finally did so in the Ninth Symphony. But he was just as enamored of Schiller’s idealistic, heroic plays, such as The RobbersWilliam Tell, and Don Carlos. Of the latter play, he jotted down his own thoughts as a young man: “To do good whenever one can, to love liberty above all else, never to deny the truth, even though it be before the throne.” Decades later, we find him exclaiming in a letter, “Freedom!!!! What more does one want???” He once wrote in a letter, “From my earliest childhood, my zeal to serve our poor suffering humanity in any way whatsoever by means of my art has made no compromise with any lower motive. . . . I am thoroughly delighted,” he continued, “to have found in you a friend of the oppressed.” The historian Hugo Leichtentritt concludes, “Beethoven was a passionate democrat, a convicted republican, even in his youth; he was, in fact, the first German musician who had strong political interests, ideals, and ambitions.”

Indeed, his first significant composition was his Cantata on the Death of Joseph II, a heartfelt and moving tribute to the enlightened reformer who died in 1790. Beethoven, who always disliked hierarchy, was wholly in sympathy with Joseph’s attacks on the power of the Catholic Church and the Austrian aristocracy. His contempt for aristocrats was such that, years later, he was able to write an insulting note to one of his most generous benefactors, Prince Lichnowsky: “Prince, what you are, you are by circumstance and birth; what I am, I am through myself. There are, and always will be, thousands of princes; but there is only one Beethoven.” Even his fashion sense was democratic. A woman who knew him wrote a reminiscence of his behavior in aristocratic Viennese salons: “I still remember clearly Haydn and Salieri sitting on a sofa . . . both carefully dressed in the old-fashioned way with wig, shoes, and silk stockings, while Beethoven would come dressed in the informal fashion of the other side of the Rhine, almost badly dressed.” He behaved “without manners in both gesture and demeanor. He was very haughty. I myself saw the mother of Princess Lichnowsky . . . go down on her knees to him as he lolled on the sofa, begging him to play something. But Beethoven did not.”

Beethoven maintained a decades-long fascination with Napoleon, in large part because the “little corporal” who had conquered Europe by his own efforts was not an aristocrat. “He admired Napoleon’s ascent from such a low beginning,” remarked a French officer he befriended in 1809. “It suited his democratic ideas.” Napoleon’s crowning himself Emperor, however, did not suit Beethoven’s ideas, as we know from the anecdote of how he furiously tore up the title page of the Eroica Symphony (1804), which he had originally intended—incredibly, given the political repression in Vienna—to title Bonaparte. “So he is nothing more than an ordinary man!” Beethoven raged. “Now he too will trample underfoot all the rights of man . . . and become a tyrant!” Twenty years later, in the thick of the Restoration, his views had softened: “earlier I couldn’t have tolerated him [Napoleon]. Now I think completely differently.” However bad Napoleon was, he wasn’t the despised Emperor Francis II—or, even worse, the Austrian Empire’s Chancellor Klemens von Metternich.

The Eroica is arguably the most revolutionary of Beethoven’s symphonies, which may be why it remained his favorite, at least until the Ninth. John Clubbe, author of Beethoven: The Relentless Revolutionary (2019), believes the Eroica’s famous first two chords, which crash like cannon shots, represent the cannons fired by Napoleon’s armies as they marched across Europe. “The chords recall the world of the [French] Revolution: exuberant, over-the-top, colossal. They are wake-up calls to jolt [the] somnolent audiences” in Vienna and elsewhere. Beethoven loathed the complacent, apolitical, frivolous Viennese of his day, intimidated by repression and censorship into sybaritic silence. The symphony is full of his quintessential techniques of disruption, including sudden dynamic contrasts, extreme dissonance, colossal noise, massive dimensions, density of ideas, bursting of forms and conventions, and even an extra French horn to conjure the atmosphere of revolution. It all serves to communicate the abiding essence of Beethoven’s music: struggle, ending in triumph. It is not mere personal struggle, such as his struggle against deafness; it is collective, universal, timeless struggle, a war against limits, so to speak—artistic, creative, moral, political, even spatial and temporal. John Eliot Gardiner’s characterization is apt: Beethoven represents the struggle to bring the divine down to Earth. (Gardiner contrasts this with Bach and Mozart, the first representing the divine on Earth, the second giving us the music you would hear in heaven.)

If we listen to Beethoven and do not hear anything of the revolutionary bourgeoisie—not the echo of its slogans, the need to realize them, the cry for that totality in which reason and freedom are to have their warrant—we understand Beethoven no better than does one who cannot follow the purely musical content of his pieces,” wrote Theodor Adorno. Beethoven was so political that, by the end of his life, some of his friends refused to dine with him: either they were bored of his constant politicizing or they feared police spies would overhear him. “You are a revolutionary, a Carbonaro,” a friend of his wrote in his conversation book in 1823, referring to an Italian secret society that had played a role in various national uprisings. Well past the point that it had become (to his contemporaries) anachronistic, Beethoven kept the Enlightenment faith.

It is beyond the scope of this article to trace Beethoven’s hortatory humanism through all its musical permutations, from the bucolic poetry of the Sixth Symphony (he had a nearly pantheistic love of nature) to the “peace that passeth understanding” of the final piano sonata, with the dazzling variety of forms and content in between. We can hardly ignore, however, the one opera he wrote, whether in its initial form (as Leonore) or its final form almost ten years later (1814) as Fidelio,which he wanted to dedicate to the Greek freedom fighters in their war against the Ottoman Empire. Here was a chance for the great democrat to express his convictions in words. And the words, music, and plot of the opera are unambiguous: in them “the Revolution is not depicted but reenacted as in a ritual,” to quote Adorno.

Fidelio gives free rein to Beethoven’s unalloyed idealism, as the choral movement of the Ninth Symphony would do a decade later. The plot is simple (and ostensibly based on actual events that occurred during the French Revolution). Leonore, disguised as a young man named Fidelio, gets a job at a prison where she suspects her husband Florestan is being held for political reasons. He is, in fact, being slowly starved to death in the dungeon for having denounced the crimes of the prison’s governor, Pizarro. The minister Don Fernando will arrive the next day to investigate accusations of cruelty in the prison, so Pizarro resolves to kill Florestan in order to keep his existence and unjust imprisonment a secret. Fidelio and a few others are sent to the dungeon to dig a grave; meanwhile, they set most of the prisoners free, at least temporarily, to gather in the courtyard and see the sun once again. When the time is come for Pizarro to kill Florestan, he approaches with a dagger, but Fidelio leaps between him and Florestan and reveals herself, to everyone’s shock, as Leonore. She threatens Pizarro with a pistol, but at that moment a distant bugle is heard, announcing the arrival of the benevolent minister. Pizarro ends up imprisoned himself, as Leonore frees Florestan from his chains and is celebrated for her heroism by the crowd of emancipated prisoners.

The symbolism and allegorical meanings of the opera are not hard to discern. Beethoven believed in the courage and heroism of women just as much as men, and was just as affected by its contemplation and depiction. All his life he remained as sincere and pure in his values—as well as in his “utterly untamed personality” (quoting Goethe)—as a naïve boy reading Schiller for the first time. Doubtless it is this quality that so moves audiences, that inspires flash mobs with millions of views on YouTube, and that has made his music immortal. The greatest art is always affirmative in spirit, and no one is more profoundly affirmative—or more entitled to affirmation, in light of his terrible suffering—than Beethoven.

The spirit of his music is as simple as the spirits of his models (he insisted) Socrates and Jesus: good will triumph over evil; cherish freedom but live with moral seriousness, always challenging authority; love your fellow human beings, not parochially, as in the mode of nationalism, but universally; never compromise your ideals or integrity; and above all, struggle for emancipation. “Freedom remained the fundamental motif of Beethoven’s thought and music,” Clubbe writes. For Beethoven, this meant the republican freedom to participate actively in politics, or the freedom to create and think and speak what you will, where you will. Politics “as the art of creating society, a society that will express a richer and fuller life,” was his favorite theme, according to his biographer W.J. Turner.

There is something incongruous about the attendance of the lavishly dressed, moneyed elite at public concerts of Beethoven symphonies or concertos, given his music’s expression of such a revolutionary, democratic, humanitarian spirit. Such are the ironies that result when the historical specificity of art is denied or forgotten and all that is left is a vague feeling of aesthetic enjoyment. Still, even the pure aesthetic enjoyment is significant. The music is exquisitely beautiful in the mode of invigoration: no composer in history is more humanistic than Beethoven. As Leonard Bernstein once said,

No composer has ever lived who speaks so directly to so many people, to young and old, educated and ignorant, amateur and professional, sophisticated and naïve. To all these people, of all classes, nationalities, and racial backgrounds, this music speaks a universality of thought, of human brotherhood, freedom, and love.

That even reactionaries today can love Beethoven, however perversely, suggests just how universal his music is.

Let us, then, turn again with fresh ears and open minds to “the first great democrat of music,” in the words of Ferruccio Busoni. Let us draw inspiration from him in our own struggles to humanize and democratize the world. And let’s be sure not to forget, in the cultural wasteland that is twenty-first-century America, the nobler aspects of our civilization’s heritage.

Richard Wagner called his own music the “Music of the Future.” Let’s hope that Beethoven’s is the real Music of the Future, and that humanity one day will be free. »

The Revolutionary Beethoven, by Chris Wright 

« Léonora Miano: «L’Afrique doit se réhabiliter à ses propres yeux»

Rien ne vaut deux mains plongées dans la pâte à beignets à 2h du matin, dans le silence d’une cuisine, pour structurer une pensée sur le monde: c’est Léonora Miano qui le dit. «Faire du sport ou s’atteler à des préparations longues, nécessitant malaxage ou pétrissage, permet d’organiser ses idées», précise-t-elle, port altier et jupe longue en wax, assise sur un fauteuil de velours vert d’un quatre-étoiles parisien.

A quoi tient le respect inspiré aux autres? A une droiture sans rigidité. Une voix qui dit sa puissance sans qu’on ait à l’élever. Mais surtout: au respect que l’on se porte à soi-même. Voilà ce qu’enseigne par sa présence comme par son œuvre l’autrice, qui sort cet automne un essai intitulé Afropea. Utopie post-occidentale et post-raciste (Ed. Grasset). Pour en parler, elle enlève son masque chirurgical et commande un thé vert. Sur les murs, les portraits à l’huile de notables européens d’un autre temps l’observent depuis leurs cadres dorés.

A qui s’adressait «Afropea» au moment où vous en avez conçu le projet?

Ayant longtemps vécu en France, où j’ai mis au monde et élevé une enfant française, il était normal de me soucier de la minorité afro-européenne. Je voulais voir ma fille s’épanouir dans un monde offrant à tous les mêmes possibilités. Le livre s’adresse donc à une société devenue mienne en raison de cette maternité, et surtout aux jeunes issus de groupes minorés. Leur impatience et leur colère sont compréhensibles.

D’où vient cette colère?

Du manque d’écoute dans une société où chacun veut être entendu sans faire l’effort de comprendre l’autre. La colère, cependant, peut se révéler mauvaise conseillère. Il faut imposer sa place, sa légitimité, mais pour ça, il faut aussi de l’amour. Si tu hais ceux qui t’entourent, si tu ne reconnais pas une partie de toi en eux, tu ne peux pas les transformer. Considérer son vis-à-vis comme son semblable est un impératif pour formuler à son endroit la moindre exigence.

Que nommez-vous «Afropea»?

Ce maillage humain constitué par les personnes européennes d’ascendance subsaharienne, mais aussi tous les groupes minoritaires qui existent dans les sociétés occidentales et qui ne trouvent pas leur place. Ils sont principalement issus de l’histoire coloniale. Toute une partie de la population est là parce que, dès la fin du XVe siècle, l’Europe de l’Ouest s’est lancée à l’assaut du monde. Voulant se l’approprier, elle s’est livrée à lui et doit accepter des altérations diverses résultant des conquêtes coloniales.

Que sait-on du rôle de la Suisse dans cette entreprise?

On peut parler d’histoire coloniale y compris dans les pays comme la Suisse, qui n’ont pas directement eu de colonies, parce que l’Europe de l’Ouest constitua et forme encore un écosystème. Des solidarités anciennes existent entre puissances économiques. La Suisse a été, au moment des déportations transocéaniques d’Africains, un fournisseur de produits – on disait alors «marchandise de traite». Des Suisses pratiquèrent le trafic humain et l’esclavage colonial. Lorsque les Danois firent face à une importante révolte d’esclavisés sur l’île de Saint John, ils firent appel à des troupes françaises et suisses basées en Martinique. L’insurrection de Saint John, qui eut lieu en 1733, est méconnue dans l’espace francophone. Il est pourtant intéressant de l’étudier pour apprécier la réalité de solidarités européennes en matière de prédation et de réification.

La grande époque conquérante de l’Europe est la matrice du monde actuel. Les sociétés occidentales et celles qui s’en inspirent sur le plan industriel notamment, dépendant de ressources dont elles ne disposent pas. Plus de deux tiers des richesses minières indispensables au bien-être des pays du Nord se trouvent exclusivement en Afrique. Partout en Europe, le premier geste du matin est de se faire un café, un thé, un chocolat. Ces habitudes nous parlent de rencontres anciennes avec d’autres peuples et de mutations induites par elles. C’est l’histoire de tous.

Une fois qu’on l’a dit, comment «faire société» avec ce passé?

L’enjeu est de construire un monde où l’association des uns avec les autres ne mime plus celle du cavalier et du cheval. Abolir la domination est un choix. On n’est pas obligé d’écraser les autres, de les dépouiller, pour prospérer. On peut faire le choix du partage, du mélange. Pour les sociétés européennes, ce rééquilibrage des rapports passe aussi, bien sûr, par la manière dont elles prennent en charge les suites internes de l’histoire coloniale, c’est-à-dire la présence afrodescendante notamment.

Quel regard portez-vous sur les mobilisations du printemps 2020 autour du slogan «Black Lives Matter» (la vie des Noirs compte)?

Ces mobilisations étaient particulièrement intéressantes à observer depuis l’Afrique de l’Ouest où je réside. Il sera aisé de mesurer bientôt l’importance de la vie des «Noirs» aux yeux d’Occidentaux épouvantés par un crime atroce, mais dont le mode de vie repose encore sur le braquage institutionnalisé et la mise à mort stylisée. Ces personnes mobilisées contre le racisme votent régulièrement pour des régimes politiques dont le but est de dépouiller les peuples du Sud global et de faire de leurs pays des dépotoirs.

S’agissant des Afrodescendants citoyens de pays occidentaux qui les marginalisent et les brutalisent encore trop souvent, je comprends l’élan protestataire. En revanche, le slogan me déplaît. Je pourrais l’accepter comme témoignant de pratiques d’amour de soi indispensables à instaurer au sein de communautés devant affronter des sociétés hostiles. Hors du cadre communautaire, ces mots exposent la continuation de la défaite: le jour où nos vies auront de l’importance, à nos propres yeux d’abord, je vous assure qu’il sera inutile de le clamer. Ce jour-là, nous aurons fait en sorte qu’une puissance se tienne derrière le plus petit des nôtres. Alors, nul ne se permettra de nous tuer en plein jour comme des chiens. Il est donc urgent de recouvrer sa puissance propre. Pour moi, c’est en grande partie de l’Afrique qu’elle doit émaner. L’ostracisation des Afrodescendants est en rapport avec la place qu’occupe notre continent dans l’imaginaire du monde et sur l’échiquier géopolitique.

Que peut la transmission d’une histoire plus juste?

Face à un crime contre l’humanité aussi massif que celui des déportations transocéaniques et face à l’ampleur des blessures qui persistent, il serait tout à l’honneur des nations européennes de se concerter pour savoir quoi faire afin de réparer et de transmettre au mieux l’histoire. Il importe de mettre en valeur le point de vue des opprimés et les actions diverses qu’ils menèrent pour préserver leur dignité humaine et se libérer. Il faut dire toute l’horreur mais aussi la résilience, la créativité, la noblesse de ceux que l’on crut déshumaniser. La formation des enseignants est primordiale pour ne pas enfermer les uns dans le statut de bourreaux, les autres dans celui de victimes.

Cet été, «Valeurs actuelles» a été mis en cause pour avoir représenté en esclave la députée française Danièle Obono…

Les auteurs de la fiction incriminée ont voulu faire un coup en parlant de la responsabilité des Africains et des Arabes dans l’esclavage. Nul ne le nie. Mais ce n’est pas l’esclavage pratiqué par les Arabes qui a façonné le monde. Ensuite, en choisissant le cadre d’un crime contre l’humanité pour y placer la figure d’une femme contemporaine, avec son nom, ils l’ont mise dans une situation où sa propre individualité lui échappe. Ce n’est plus à elle que l’on s’en prend, mais à des millions d’autres. On ne peut avoir fait cela uniquement pour régler ses comptes avec une élue dont on souhaitait critiquer la parole publique.

Que dit cet épisode à propos de l’époque?

Il révèle le caractère pitoyable de ce néonationalisme qui, au fond, n’assume pas l’héritage qu’il prétend valoriser et transmettre. Accepter la succession de ses pères, c’est toujours avoir à en solder le passif. En France, on s’y refuse, ce qui dévalue la totalité du legs, puisque l’on se focalise sur ce qui l’entache.

Que peut la littérature pour nous aider?

Elle pourrait être une de ces «armes miraculeuses» qu’évoquait Césaire, à condition qu’un sérieux travail sur les représentations de l’autre ait été effectué. Dans mes romans, je travaille beaucoup les pensées des personnages, leur intimité, leur dimension universelle. Mais le simple fait que l’histoire se déroule en Afrique est, pour nombre de lecteurs, un frein à l’identification. Les Européens doivent réapprendre à être des humains parmi les autres.

«Rouge impératrice», une dystopie qui se déroule dans une Afrique fédérale souveraine et prospère, a quand même reçu un accueil hyper-chaleureux, liste du Goncourt et tout!

Oui, et je ne m’y attendais pas du tout. Comme quoi, il ne faut pas tout à fait désespérer de l’Europe, de notre capacité à créer un monde différent. Il faut juste proposer des pistes pour y accéder. Beaucoup voudraient changer mais ne savent pas comment faire. En dépit des violences de l’histoire, nous sommes là. Nous pouvons décider de faire autre chose. Les circonstances nous y contraignent. On sait que le climat se réchauffe, que les ressources sont limitées. Les espaces les plus tempérés vont devoir accueillir les peuples qui migreront. Les gens ne vont pas se laisser mourir sans avoir tenté leur chance ailleurs.

Beaucoup de gens ont envie d’un monde différent également en matière de tolérance, de rapports apaisés entre hommes et femmes, de sortir des jugements et des étiquettes. Vos personnages ont là aussi quelque chose à proposer?

Oui, ces ambiguïtés, on peut les ressentir à l’intérieur de soi. On est tous un peu doubles, on est tous multiples. Dans la pensée subsaharienne, en tout cas chez les Bantous, on pense que chaque être humain abrite les énergies féminine et masculine. J’entends aujourd’hui que certains veulent abolir non plus seulement les catégories de genre, mais aussi celles du sexe. Je n’en suis pas là, mais l’idée d’une pluralité de genres, au-delà des deux connus, m’intéresse.

Finalement, «Afropea» peut être lu comme un manifeste. La politique vous tente?

Non, je définis cet essai comme une méditation politique. Ce n’est pas à moi de rédiger le manifeste afropéen et j’en ai passé l’âge… La politique me passionne, mais je serais incapable de m’attacher à un espace unique. Mes appartenances sont multiples et je préfère être à un endroit où je peux travailler pour les ressortissants de plusieurs continents.

Dans «Crépuscule du tourment», un de vos personnages, une guérisseuse nommée Sissako, demande à la jeune Tiki: «Qu’attends-tu de la vie? Qu’offres-tu à la vie?» Et vous?

Ce que j’attends de la vie, c’est la réhabilitation de l’Afrique à ses propres yeux. C’est ce à quoi je travaille. Quand elle aura redécouvert une manière de se regarder qui soit plus positive, elle pourra récupérer son pouvoir et voir de quelle manière l’exercer. Qu’est-ce que j’offre à la vie? Beaucoup de joie! Je suis très heureuse d’être là, j’attends impatiemment mes 50 ans.

Et alors, qu’a pensé votre fille d’«Afropea»?

Elle est en train de le lire. J’attends qu’elle me le dise…

Questionnaire de Proust

Une heure à tuer à l’aéroport, que faites-vous?

Je vais acheter du chocolat et un journal.

Un podcast à recommander?

«Les couilles sur la table», même si la petite-bourgeoise en moi trouve ce nom vulgaire et, surtout, mettant plus en valeur les hommes, d’un certain point de vue.

Un vers de poésie?

«There is a no place for a soft black woman».

De Sonia Sanchez dans Present. Pour moi, c’est une déesse. Si je devenais un grand écrivain un jour, je voudrais être Sonia Sanchez.

Votre dernier cauchemar en une phrase.

Le portail de ma maison au Togo était tombé. Je devais être un peu stressée de laisser ma maison et mes hibiscus, mes roses du désert…

Le titre d’une de vos compositions musicales.

Fantasy, une de mes rares chansons d’amour.

Un mot pour qualifier l’époque?

Je vais être très audacieuse: féconde – en dépit des apparences.

Octobre 1991 Arrivée en France du Cameroun.

Septembre 1995 Naissance de sa fille.

Eté 2004 Signature du premier contrat d’édition.

Automne 2004 Réinscription à l’université pour travailler sur l’œuvre de Toni Morrison.

Automne 2005 Parution du premier roman. »

– par  Célia Héron

« I loved the beat generation. Then I realised it has no place for women » – Lynnette Lounsbury

« « I realize my work as a fusion between the traits that denote the real characteristics, which then go beyond the conventional limits, forming strips of movement and somehow escape from reality »Eric Centeno

Imagine a lightning that suddenly electrifies the purest darkness. A ghostly figure, full of life, magically materializes in front of our eyes, a glimpse of an alternative dimension. This is the magical scribble art of Erick Centeno. Born in Peru, he now lives in Genoa, from where he is conquering the art world. With multiple awards and exhibitions, his work is getting global recognition. »

« Le roman Funérailles molles aborde le sujet sensible et dérangeant de la Réforme agraire. Ayant précédé d’une dizaine d’années la Révolution culturelle, c’est l’un des épisodes les plus meurtriers de l’histoire récente du pays, très peu traité dans la littérature chinoise en raison des tabous qui lui sont attachés. Inspiré d’une histoire vraie, le récit part d’allusions voilées aux événements douloureux qu’a vécus une jeune femme et qu’elle a occultés sa vie durant car le souvenir en était insupportable. Devenue âgée, elle voit soudain le passé resurgir violemment et, le choc ayant provoqué chez elle un état d’apparente prostration, revit intérieurement à l’envers, étape par étape, les drames disparus de sa mémoire tandis que son fils s’évertue à les reconstituer — jusqu’au moment où il y renonce, l’oubli lui semblant préférable. »

Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet

Au début des années 1950, lors de la Réforme agraire, une famille de propriétaires terriens se suicide pour échapper aux séances d’accusation publique, dites « séances de lutte », qui l’attendent. Les corps sont enterrés sans linceuls ni cercueils dans des fosses creusées à la va-vite. La jeune Daiyun est désignée pour les combler, traumatisme – parmi d’autres – qui lui fera occulter le passé.
 
Fang Fang, née en 1955, compte parmi les grands écrivains contemporains chinois. Encore peu traduite en français, elle décrit dans ses œuvres la misère du prolétariat urbain dans la Chine du miracle économique – misère qu’elle a bien connue. Publié en août 2016 aux très officielles éditions Littérature du peuple, Ruan mai (le titre chinois de Funérailles molles) a été bien reçu et n’a pas suscité de critique majeure jusqu’à ce qu’il soit couronné du prix Lu Yao, en avril 2017. Il a alors fait l’objet de vives attaques de la part d’une frange ultraconservatrice du Parti.

« Léonora Miano n’est pas une Afropéenne (afro-européenne). Ceux qui se définissent ainsi ont grandi en Europe. Ceux qui se sont donnés un nom – Afropéens – dans lequel Afrique et Europe fusionnent, s’ils sont fidèles aux implications de cette association plus qu’à leur amertume, peuvent incarner un projet de société fraternel, anti-impérialiste et anti-raciste. 

A l’origine, le terme « Afropea » a été créé pour définir des musiques qui refléteraient l’influence de l’Afrique sur les sensibilités européennesC’est devenu l’appellation d’un maillage humain pour parler de cette population européenne avec une ascendance africaine. 

Dans une France en proie aux crispations identitaires, la perspective afropéenne apparaît encore comme une utopie. De part et d’autre, la tentation du rejet est puissante.

Pour l’autrice, « le français n’est pas une langue coloniale. Le français a précédé la colonisation, il peut donc lui survivre« . 

« La racialisation des corps n’est pas quelque chose d’amical, on a incarcéré les personnes noires dans quelque chose de négatif, il faut construire autre chose« 

Léonora Miano explique qu’elle regarde attentivement la société française, et dit-elle, « je n’ai pas l’impression qu’on veuille débattre,  j’ai le sentiment qu’on veut faire mordre la poussière celui d’en face« .

Le « racisme cordial », c’est un racisme de l’intimité, explique-t-elle : « on peut coucher ensemble, on peut être « amis », mais on ne sera pas ensemble dans les espaces de pouvoir. »

Concernant les défis actuels qui se posent aux sociétés occidentales, comme celles des migrations, elle estime que « dans les décennies à venir, il y aura des déplacements de population, il faut se préparer à accueillir et à fraterniser. On ne fraternise pas en soumettant les autres« .

Sur la polémique sur le déboulonnage de statues en France, elle prend l’exemple de celle de Colbert, « cette demande est faite par des descendants d’esclaves, ce n’est pas n’importe qui, ce sont des personnes qui existent car ces populations ont été construites par le crime contre l’humanité, on leur doit quelque chose de particulier, il faut comprendre que ce sont des frères qui demandent à leur frères de les apaiser. Alors Colbert c’est le sacrifice, il ne faut pas juste dire non, ni dire qu’on va donner des compensations à la place d’un sacrifice« . 

Réagissant au discours d’Emmanuel Macron, elle dit : « j’ai trouvé cela irresponsable, on n’oppose pas une fin de non recevoir à des gens issus d’un crime contre l’humanité. C’est faux, en plus, [que la République ne déboulonne pas], car il n’y a pas de statue de Pétain nulle part, car il y a eu crime contre l’humanité. Ce n’est pas juste, ce n’est pas très correct« . 

Pour l’écrivaine, le fait de mettre une statue dans l’espace public, « c’est commenter l’histoire, et c’est célébrer ces figures-là. Je comprends l’importance de Colbert dans l’histoire de France, mais est-ce que le crime contre l’humanité ne mérite pas un sacrifice« . 

À la place de Colbert, elle verrait mieux la statue de Louis Delgrès, colonel guadeloupéen de l’armée française. Il s’est opposé au rétablissement de l’esclavage en 1802 par Napoléon. »

Léonora Miano : « c’est faux de dire que la République ne déboulonne pas : il n’y a plus de statues de Pétain »

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is one of the most important African intellectuals writing about the politics of colonialism and post-colonialism in the twenty-first century. His book Decolonising the Mind (1986) was prescient in alerting scholars and activists to the importance of interpreting the links between race, culture, and language in order to understand imperialism in postcolonial Africa — and its implications for the wider world.
Arjun Chaturvedi met with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o to discuss the relationship of his writings to the politics of today’s Black Lives Matter movement. In this interview, he connects his experiences of racism and violence in Kenya to his political and literary work — and the civil strife unfolding today. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. How did your writing change when you shifted from English to Gikuyu?
NWT
That was important. Why did I decide to write in Gikuyu first of all? As I told you earlier, I made that decision after I was arrested and imprisoned by an African government for writing in an African language — and that struck me as being very odd! I asked myself: How is it possible that I can write fairly political works in English and nothing happens to me, but the moment I write a similar thing in my mother tongue, I am put in prison?
That’s when I started thinking about the politics of language in a colonial process, not only in Kenya, but also in India, in Europe, in America, all over the world. I started thinking about it: How did they come to be? In my cell — number sixteen — I decided fiction for me will now be written in my mother tongue, drama as well, poetry as well.
I can tell you that since 1978, all my novels, plays, and poetry have been composed in Gikuyu. The only texts I write in English are either academic stuff or memoirs. It was a very important turning point for me, that decision to write in an African language, because it created a connection with my Kenyan environment. It was a moment of my own enlightenment. It was a moment of personal liberation intellectually, emotionally, psychologically — everything.

« Qui était Louis Delgrès, dont Léonora Miano parlait ce matin avec Nicolas Demorand et Léa Salamé
sur France Inter ? La Fondation vous en dit plus » – Fondation pour la Mémoire de l’Esclavage

« Né le 2 août 1766, Louis Delgrès est un métis “libre de couleur” issu d’une mère mulâtresse et d’un père fonctionnaire du roi de France aux Antilles. Il grandit entre les possessions françaises de Martinique et de Tobago. Eduqué, il devient militaire en 1783, et s’illustrera dans les rangs des armées révolutionnaires lors des combats contre les Anglais aux Antilles, notamment à Sainte-Lucie où il est grièvement blessé en 1795. Il est plusieurs fois fait prisonnier. Républicain et anti-esclavagiste, il fait partie des officiers locaux qui se révolteront contre la décision de Napoléon de rétablir l’ordre ancien dans les colonies françaises suite à la révolution haïtienne. Le 6 mai 1802, le général Richepance débarque sur l’île pour exécuter la mission que lui a confiée Napoléon, à la tête d’un corps expéditionnaire de plus de 3500 hommes.

Soupçonnant Richepance de vouloir rétablir l’esclavage, et fidèles à leurs idéaux révolutionnaires, Delgrès et son ami Joseph Ignace préfèrent déserter l’armée. Le 10 mai 1802, Louis Delgrès publie une déclaration rédigée avec Monnereau, un Blanc créole de Martinique placé sous ses ordres, dans laquelle il refuse de se rendre. Il y écrit : “À l’univers entier, le dernier cri de l’innocence et du désespoir.

C’est dans les plus beaux jours d’un siècle à jamais célèbre par le triomphe des lumières et de la philosophie qu’une classe d’infortunés qu’on veut anéantir se voit obligée de lever la voix vers la postérité, pour lui faire connaître lorsqu’elle aura disparu, son innocence et ses malheurs(…)… toi, postérité ! accorde une larme à nos malheurs et nous mourrons satisfaits.” Le combat armé est inévitable.

Delgrès et ses hommes se retranchent dans le fort Saint-Charles (aujourd’hui Fort-Delgrès). Après dix jours de combats, ils quittent le fort et se répartissent en petits bataillons à travers l’île. Mais les forces de Richepance sont supérieures.

Le 28 mai 1802, acculé avec ses hommes, Delgrès préfère mourir plutôt que de se rendre : les quelques 300 hommes se font sauter avec leurs barils de poudre à Matouba (commune de Saint-Claude). Quelques jours plus tard, le 16 juin 1802, l’esclavage est rétabli en Guadeloupe.

Longtemps oubliée, la mémoire de Louis Delgrès est aujourd’hui célébrée comme celle d’un combattant de la liberté. De nombreux monuments et bâtiments publics lui rendent hommage en Martinique et en Guadeloupe. Il est désormais honoré au Panthéon d’une inscription, et un timbre a été émis à son effigie par la Poste en 2005. Sa geste inspire aussi les artistes : outre les oeuvres de fiction qu’il a inspirées, le groupe de blues Delgrés est ainsi nommé en son honneur.

Pour aller plus loin :

1802, L’épopée guadeloupéenne, film de Christian Lara

Résistance-Reconstruction, pièce de Kannida et Mario Coco.

Delgrès, pièce de théâtre écrite par Aline Kancel.

La rébellion de la Guadeloupe 1801-1802, édition et mise en forme : Hélène Servant. Éd. Gourbeyre, 2002.

déclaration de Louis Delgrès : http://www.cnmhe.fr/spip.php?article191 »

Fondation pour la Mémoire de l’Esclavage

The experience of getting clear on a thought, with the help of language, has received surprisingly little scrutiny. Philosophers of knowledge influenced by René Descartes have focused almost exclusively on cases in which our knowledge of our thoughts is effortless and instantaneous. For example, turning the key, I might think to myself that the door is shut. No sooner than I have this thought, I know that I think it. While I could be wrong about the door (my lock might be broken), not even a throng of neuroscientists could shake my conviction that I am having this thought. Impressed by the special security of our knowledge of our thoughts in such cases, philosophers have sought to understand it and use it to lay the foundation for all our knowledge. The hard cases, in which we must work to get clear on our opaque thoughts, have gotten far less attention.
These cases were similarly neglected in other fields. Linguists, who have studied the abstract rules of grammar and meaning that allow us to comprehend a boundless range of novel thoughts, have uniformly evaded the question of how we apply such rules to produce utterances. Noam Chomsky, who revolutionised the study of the principles that underlie our grammatical competence, wrote in 1986 that ‘with regard to the far more obscure production aspect … it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that serious problems are touched on here, perhaps impenetrable mysteries for the human mind.’ Those who did dare to investigate the process of turning thought into speech – such as the psycholinguist Willem Levelt in his pioneering Speaking: From Intention to Articulation (1989) – have largely done so by analysing common slips of the tongue (eg, ‘left’ instead of ‘right’, ‘wish’ instead of ‘fish’) in cases where articulation is quick and devoid of any sense of discovery. Without a comparable method to investigate the hard cases, the prospect of studying them didn’t even arise.
And yet, venturing to investigate these cases can illuminate the deeper challenges that we face in articulation, transform our conception of ourselves and our relation to our own thoughts, and help us develop our ideas in other creative pursuits. Familiar as these cases are, they invite some basic questions: what is it for a thought to be clear? What made our initial thought unclear? And how do we make a thought clear, in the relevant sense? These questions engage fundamental issues about the relation between thought and language, and between the unconscious and conscious mind. Our way into them starts with two observations that seem to contradict each other. The first observation is that articulating our thoughts, in the hard cases, is our way of discovering what we are thinking. The philosopher Daniel Dennett in 1991 quoted E M Forster’s quip ‘How do I know what I think until I see what I say?’, affirming that ‘we often do discover what we think … by reflecting on what we find ourselves saying.’ Whether or not I have found a genuine flaw in the government measure from my initial example, I feel that I have gained some insight into what bothered me about it.
The second seemingly contradictory observation is that articulating our thoughts, in the hard cases, is a purposive activity that doesn’t simply consist in producing words mechanically, in a kneejerk way. The words that immediately come out of us when we are struck by our thoughts (eg, ‘How outrageous!’, ‘What a mess!’) might hardly reflect what we think at all. They could come to us as a result of habit, their repetition by other speakers, or just our affinity for the way they sound. The danger of giving in to the mindless flow of such words was highlighted by George Orwell, who in ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946) warned that the buzzwords that fly in most readily will ‘construct your sentences for you – even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent – and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.’ To succeed in articulation, we need to chisel away at imprecise formulations, while guarding against any words that would blur or change what we think.
The careful selection that we exercise in the process stands in tension with the ignorance that we hope it will remedy. The point of searching for words, in the hard cases, is to clarify what we’re thinking; and the clarity that we’re after seems to consist in the knowledge that we’re thinking some specific thought. At the same time, our choices of words make sense to us, and so it seems that we must make them for a reason. But it is hard to see how we could have a reason to accept or reject any words if we don’t already know which thought we’re trying to express.
Compare: in describing a picture or translating a sentence into another language, we have the picture or sentence clearly in mind and search for the words that would fit it. We can’t select the appropriate words unless we know what the picture depicts or the sentence says. So, if our goal is to express a particular thought, it’s unclear how we could select the appropriate means for achieving it, if we’re ignorant of what we’re thinking. We can’t identify our words as correct without comparing them with the thought, and we can’t compare them with our thought unless we know what thought we’re trying to articulate. Jean-Paul Sartre alludes to this paradox, which we might call the ‘paradox of articulation’, in Being and Nothingness (1943):
This is indeed what linguists and psychologists have perceived … they believed that they discovered a circle in the formulation of speaking, for in order to speak it is necessary to know one’s thought. But how can we know this thought as a reality made explicit and fixed in concepts except precisely by speaking it?
And even if we serendipitously stumble on the right formulation – eg, in the mouth of a friend or on an internet discussion forum – how will we know that it captures what we had in mind?
To try to resolve the paradox, one might point out that language functions not only as a medium for expressing thoughts but also as a means for developing them. The act of expression often exposes gaps and sloppiness in our thinking: ideas, once spoken or written down, can turn out to be less compelling than they first appeared. As soon as we try to articulate these thoughts, our confusion becomes apparent. This common experience could naively tempt one to think that, in all cases where articulation is hard, the formulations that we eventually arrive at add something new to our initial thoughts. Clarifying what we think, according to this view, might not lie in expressing our settled thought but in making up our minds about an issue, by constructing a thought that is more definite and coherent. If our goal is not to produce words that match our thought, there doesn’t appear to be a paradox in accounting for how we manage to recognise the correct words to voice our thoughts.
Things are not so simple, however. While it might, in some cases, dissolve the paradox to view the process of reaching clarity as the construction of thoughts, it is, at best, only half the picture. Our thoughts can be more definite than what we can readily articulate. 

« In this paper, I outline a certain landscape of the judicialization of health in South Africa. The “judicialization of health” refers to ways in which claims to health are made through the law (Biehl and Petryna 2011). This has happened with increasing frequency and significance in the so-called “global South” over the past two decades. South Africa has emerged as an exemplary locale for the manifestation and shaping of this phenomenon, in ways that have exceeded mere contractual dispute in order to adjudicate fundamental ethical, moral or constitutional principles, often taking recourse to discourses of rights. The judicialization of health is part of a more general contemporary global Southern phenomenon of the judicialization of politics, as diagnosed by Jean and John Comaroff (2006). I will briefly read four important post-apartheid South African cases pertaining to health: Minister of Health v. Treatment Action Campaign, Dudley Lee v. Minister of Correctional Services, Mankayi v. AshantiGold Private Ltd., and Nkala v. Harmony Gold Mining & Others. I will not, however, read them evenly. Non-similar, complex issues of fact, law and judgment emerge in each of these cases, and each is worthy of more extensive consideration in its own right. There are also similarities between the cases: in one way or another, all of them involve the explicit adjudication of constitutional principles, especially Section 27 of Chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights, which guarantees the right to health as a socio-economic right. However, what is at stake is no mere formal application of a “right”, as something that is given, to a “case”, as something that is presented. Rather, each case presents an ethnographic question of its situation: what does one need to know in order to understand each case, historically and politically, in a conjuncture of transition from an apartheid regime to post-apartheid democracy? This is a question both of situating the South African Constitution politically in the country’s post-apartheid transition, and of situating its Constitutional Court as an institution mandated with the task of ensuring that constitutional principles are adhered to in post-apartheid governance. »

Just Health? : Law, Constitutionalism and Postcolonial Dis-ease, by Kaushik Sunder Rajan ( via Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research)

« Shortly before reopening their doors on 27 August 2020, the British Museum removed a bust of its slave-owning founding father, Sir Hans Sloane, from a pedestal to a glass cabinet. This cabinet now serves to acknowledge Sloane and the Museum’s historic links to colonialism, though it falls short of contextualising the museum’s continued complicity. The fact that many of Britain’s museums serve as storehouses for colonial loot is of course no great secret. Yet the British Museum, like other institutions, has tended to obscure the colonial origins of its artefacts in order to keep both its collections and reputation intact. Where these origins are acknowledged, the violence that lies behind the museum’s acquisitions is often glossed over on gallery labels as though the horrors and atrocities of British imperialism are footnotes of minor importance. Although museums have, in recent years, begun to return some artefacts to the nations and communities from which they were stolen, this process has been generally unequal and inadequate. On many occasions, museums have produced research and put forward neo-colonial arguments, so as to discredit repatriation and restitution requests, and justify their permanent ownership of looted objects.

Alice Proctor’s The Whole Picture: The Colonial Story of the Art in Our Museums and Why We Need to Talk About It, is thus a welcome and timely intervention that makes a compelling case for the decolonisation of museums. As its title suggests, the book confronts the colonial legacy of museums–and Britain’s imperialist history–through the artworks, artefacts and plunder they display. In addition to presenting a critique of the relations between museums and imperialism, which serves as ‘an introduction to being a critical museum visitor’ for a popular audience, Proctor also offers practical recommendations for the museum sector (12). At a time when museums are beginning to talk more openly about their colonial past, yet still refuse to return stolen artworks, Proctor’s book reveals the steps they need to take if they are sincere about the decolonisation process.

Museum spaces are neither innocent, nor politically neutral, Proctor warns; rather, they tend to mirror the hegemonic, politico-historical ideologies of the nations they represent (9, 10, 258). Since 2017, the author has led groups around London’s national museums on her unauthorised Uncomfortable Art Tours, as a means of deconstructing such discourses and revealing the hidden histories of colonial-era artefactsThe Whole Picture is somewhat like a virtual museum visit in her company. Each of its four sections represent a different type of museum space (i.e. the Palace, the Classroom, the Memorial, the Playground), and each chapter is staged as an encounter with artefacts that reveal their entanglements with colonial history.

The first of the book’s four parts discusses the ‘Palace’ as an early type of museum, comprised by the private collections of the ruling class. Where once these collections were ‘accessible only to an invited elite’, they were usually sold or bequeathed to the nation, either by being directly converted into museums or preserved within larger institutions (21). Although Palaces are seen as precursors to modern museums, they seem to be more akin to curiosity cabinets (though on a much grander scale), and are often organised today in the rather haphazard, ahistorical and eccentric manner in which they were originally displayed (Ibid.). As such, Proctor argues, these collections tend to celebrate the wealth, tastes and personalities of their collectors, over the cultural value of the artefacts they contain.

This section recounts the dealings of men like Sir William Hamilton, who supplemented his diplomatic income by illegally excavating, exporting and selling antiquities from his post in Naples. Proctor argues that Hamilton’s example as a collector, dealer and popular tastemaker came ‘to shape the idea of collecting art as a national duty’, paving the way for others like Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, to acquire (or rather, steal) ‘cultural treasures’ for the British public (35). In addition to revealing the fascinating genealogies of museum artefacts in subsequent chapters, Proctor also turns her attention to British oil paintings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A painting by Roma Spiridione, for instance, tellingly entitled The East Offering its Riches to Britannia, is shown to portray imperialism as a ‘consensual and benevolent’ force (57). This work was commissioned for the ceiling of the Revenue Room in East India House, the former London headquarters of the East India Company, which is now, ironically, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. With Proctor, one might marvel that a painting with a blatant imperialist aesthetic, which depicts ‘racialized stereotypes’, is still ‘on display in a building dedicated to foreign policy’ (62). Then again, one might not be too surprised.

In contrast to the private space of the Palace, the ‘Classroom’ is said to be designed with the intention of educating and ‘improving’ the public (73). Proctor contends that the curriculum of Classroom museums was written by ‘[w]hite, wealthy, educated, European men’, who were themselves ‘the makers, explorers, collectors and authors, the creators of knowledge that it celebrates’ (75, 84). Consequently, the first modern museums tended to display their objects according to an Enlightenment schema of socio-evolutionary progress, which classified non-European cultures and peoples as ‘barbarous’ in distinction to a European ideal of ‘civilisation’. ‘The same systems that organize plants and animals into families and groups’ Proctor points out, were ultimately ‘turned onto people, creating the arbitrary and fictional lines of race and nationality, “civilised” versus “savage”’ (75). Although this racialised narrative is, to some extent, no longer overtly displayed in contemporary Classroom museums, Proctor insists its traces can still be detected, nonetheless.

An illustrative example of the neo-colonialism of today’s Classroom museums is the British Museum’s present ownership and display of the ‘Gweagal shield’. The shield is currently in the museum’s Enlightenment Gallery, where it is connected to Captain James Cook and the history of British ‘exploration’. Its display label reads that ‘When Cook landed at Botany Bay in 1770, two men came forward with spears. Cook fired shot, hitting a man in the leg, the men retreated, dropping a shield’ (129). The label goes on to carefully suggest, yet without confirm, that this is the said shield, and closes with the admission that ‘[f]irst contacts in the Pacific were often tense and violent’ (ibid.). Proctor reads this closing sentence as ‘a stunning understatement’: one ‘that erases the aggressive invasion of Indigenous lands, skips over the violence of White colonisers against Aboriginal people that continued well after first contact, and entirely ignores the long and ongoing history of Indigenous resistance to imperialism’ (132).

In the British Museum, then, this shield is valued precisely because it was ‘touched by a White man’, yet for Aboriginal communities it has much deeper resonances and meanings (Ibid.). In the words of a Dharawal Elder, Shayne Williams, the shield symbolises ‘Aboriginal resistance. And not just resistance back then, but resistance to the destruction of our culture right up until now’ (134). In response to calls for the shield’s restitution, the British Museum changed its gallery label in 2017 to include the uncertainty of its origins and also commissioned research to further cement its unverifiability, and hence the legality of the museum’s acquisition (130, 134).

Following the Classroom, the book’s third part reflects upon the ‘Memorial’: museum spaces, artworks and objects that in some way commemorate history’s victims. In contrast to the Palace and the Classroom, which celebrate the personalities and ideals of the ‘great and the good’, Memorials remember ‘those with a smaller legacy’, ‘primarily, the lives of people without power’ (142). They are viewed as ‘sites of conscience’: spaces ‘that carry a kind of hauntedness, more concerned with the humanity and lives of their subjects than the material or aesthetic qualities of the objects they keep’ (142, 143). Such spaces and artefacts, Proctor argues, require their viewers to not only understand the past events they memorialise, but also their repercussions for the present (Ibid.).

In addition to the descriptions of museum spaces visited and artworks encountered in this section, Proctor presents a trenchant critique of the ownership and display of human remains. She discusses, in particular, the ‘tsantas’ (‘shrunken human heads made by Shuar communities in what is now Peru and Ecuador’) displayed in Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum, and ‘mokomokai’ (‘the mummified heads of Māori people’), which are still owned (though now rarely displayed) by several museums (144, 154). The grotesque means by which human remains were collected by Europeans, then acquired and exhibited by museums, is recounted as a violent ‘history of objectification’ in which museums ‘were [and in some cases, continue to be] complicit in the dehumanization of colonized and racialized communities’ (158, 161). It is indeed one thing to display a stolen artwork from a formerly colonised people, and quite something else to own and exhibit the remains of the people themselves. One may consider this practice the most extreme form of museological objectification. Although many museums have begun to return the remains of ancestors to indigenous communities, there are still those like the British Museum (still in possession of seven mokomokai) that have denied repatriation and restitution requests (160). The problem seems to be one of perspective: where the Māori people view mokomokai as ancestors, and indeed the remains of human beings, the museum appears to regard them merely as objects.

In the book’s concluding gallery, the ‘Playground’, Proctor reviews contemporary artworks that interrogate the role of museums and public monuments. This gallery-type is so named since humour and parody are seen to play an important role in the artists’ work (189). Three chapters in this section are devoted to commemorative public statues, and some of the ways contemporary artists such as Yinka Shonibare, Kara Walker and Michael Parekowhai have reimagined this form to recognise the anonymous victims of colonialism. As Proctor notes, public statues in the cultural West predominately commemorate ‘people with inherited power’, particularly ruling-class men from the colonial era (215, 216). It is unsurprising, then, that many of the statues that have long looked down from plinths in public spaces are of slave traders, imperialists and racists. Of course, as Proctor argues, monuments do not last forever: ‘one person’s hero is another’s oppressor’, and as public sentiment changes one can expect the symbols of former oppression to be torn down (216).

In the short space of time since this book was published, such monuments have been dismantled the world over. The murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer has given rise to a momentous renewal of civil rights protests under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. Accompanying the rising public demand to dismantle racist state-political structures, a renewed attention has been drawn to the traces of colonialism in public spaces. Following these developments, some of the statues Proctor discusses–such as that of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College in Oxford (217), and Edward Colston in Bristol (218)–have either been toppled or targeted by protestors, otherwise removed, or in the stages of being removed, by city councils and public institutions across the globe.

Although many museums have recently removed such statues from their buildings, there appears to be little indication that looted artworks will be returned in earnest. Dr Hartwig Fischer, the British Museum’s director, recently defended the transfer of Sloane’s bust as part of proposed changes that aim to acknowledge the Institution’s colonial history, but stressed this will not include the return of stolen artefacts (Bakare 2020). With this in mind, Proctor’s claim that the decolonisation of museums cannot be left to museum leadership teams alone, seems quite right (261). On the one hand, she contends that this process needs to ‘originate […] outside’ of museums; but on the other, and in order for this to be successful, she stresses that museums have ‘to unlock themselves, relinquish some of their control, [and] open out their narratives’ (Ibid.). This call for greater openness is crucial if museums are to become more democratic, trustworthy and relevant for the twenty-first century. »

Review of Alice Proctor The Whole Picture: The Colonial Story of the Art in Our Museums and Why We Need to Talk About It

« “I think maybe another thing to say as regards femicide and the deaths of LGBTQ people is that, their deaths are all homed within their communities of belonging. These deaths happen at home, these deaths happen in bedrooms, these deaths happen on the streets at the hands of their own.”@njokingumi on the systemic violence on the femme and queer. »

African Mobilities 2.0

« The Governing Intimacies Project of Wits University and the Centre for Studies in Gender and Sexuality – Ashoka University will bring together scholars from Africa and South Asia to debate the politics of intimacy in relation to sexualities, gender dnd governance in the postcolonial world. The purpose of the research meeting […] is to generate interest around the project, while bringing together its grantees to reflect on their work in conversation with scholars, writers, and activists working in the field. »

Governing Intimacies

« Ma sœur entre dans ma chambre. 

« Est-ce que je suis correcte? », m’interroge-t-elle en pointant son pantalon propre et son chandail à l’effigie d’un événement caritatif.

Ma soeur me demande mon avis pour ses habits pour son entrevue d’embauche.

Je la regarde, un peu blasée par notre prochaine discussion. Je vais devoir lui expliquer pourquoi ses habits vont être inadéquats pour sa première expérience d’entrevue professionnelle.

Méganne a 16 ans. Elle est passionnée par les animaux, elle se classe parmi les meilleures élèves de sa classe. Méganne adore le « cheerleading », est arachnophobe, sensible, a la larme facile, est susceptible, adore les mangues, a des pieds creux, fait de la physio. Méganne est une femme, Méganne est une Québécoise afrodescendante des Caraïbes…

Méganne est noire.

Nous avions une conversation troublante sur le racisme qu’elle va subir, particulièrement celui qui se concentre dans les milieux professionnels. Je dois lui expliquer pourquoi elle ne pourra pas se permettre de faire des erreurs, de perdre son calme, de perdre patience; pourquoi elle doit s’efforcer de sourire le plus souvent possible, d’adoucir son ton, de vouvoyer, même si ce n’est pas nécessaire à mon avis; ne pas crier, ne pas s’offusquer, ne pas se plaindre; pourquoi il faut avoir l’attitude qui démontre le plus de gratitude possible, faire un travail qui frôle la perfection et s’habiller d’une façon ultra-professionnelle, faute de paraître comme « pauvre » ou de se faire « guetto-iser ».

La réalité afrodescendante fait qu’un habit, un geste, une phrase de trop, peut faire toute une différence entre l’obtention d’un emploi et un refus clair et net.

Elle me répond « je sais ». Je ne sais pas si son ton est morne pour soutenir la conversation qui ne donne aucune envie d’être une personne racisée à la recherche d’un gagne-pain. Je continue à lui donner la sinistre liste des obstacles qu’elle devra surmonter. Je sens qu’elle m’écoute attentivement, même si ce que je lui dis l’affecte, visiblement. Elle finit par grommeler qu’elle doit se changer. C’est seulement quand les dernières mèches de ses cheveux crépus quittent mon champ de vision que je me rends compte de mon propre étourdissement. 

Entre le fameux discours que ma famille m’a tenu et celui, presque verbatim, que j’ai récité à ma sœur, je n’ai jamais pris le temps de regarder mes propres traumatismes en tant que femme noire, travaillant depuis déjà six ans dans le milieu du travail étudiant.

Quand j’avais cinq ans, j’ai volé un KinderSurprise. Ma mère m’avait interdit de prendre des objets sans sa permission, mais l’entêtement que j’avais pour les surprises avait eu raison de moi; je l’ai pris. 

 Je n’aime même pas le chocolat.

Arrivée dans la voiture, ma mère m’a surprise avec l’œuf dans la main. Je me rappelle encore de sa réaction que je trouvais, à mon jeune âge, très disproportionnée. J’avais volé dans le lieu de travail à ma mère, et je crois qu’elle a surtout eu peur d’être elle-même accusée d’un crime qu’une enfant naïve avait commis.

Encore aujourd’hui, je me demande si j’aurais pu être l’enfant de #IeshaHarper

Quand j’avais 16 ans, j’ai obtenu ma première job en restauration. J’avais une table de clients assez réguliers qui m’appréciaient particulièrement. Je recevais des bons tips, des tips généreux, des tips « faciles ». Un jour, un client de la table, appréciant particulièrement mon service, m’avait tapé les fesses en me disant « que j’étais une belle négresse qui faisait bien sa job ». Il m’avait donné un généreux pourboire. Je suis allée immédiatement en parler à mon gérant, qui m’avait conseillé « d’encaisser et d’ignorer ».

J’ai gagné beaucoup de pourboire, cet été-là.

Deux ans plus tard, je travaille dans la vente au détail. Je me débrouille bien, je me sens vraiment mieux dans mon milieu. Mes gérant·e·s m’adorent, mes collègues et moi formons une véritable équipe, et je me sens dans un endroit que l’on veut « inclusif ».  Je reçois des critiques passives-agressives des client·e·s qui trouvent que j’ai un ton brutal, j’adoucis mon grain de voix, je ris à toutes les blagues, qu’elles soient déplacées ou non, je me permets d’en faire moi-même. Parce que je veux absolument me sentir à ma place, parce que je veux avoir des augmentations, parce que si je prends ça pour de « l’autodérision », c’est peut-être ce que ça va finir par devenir. Je finis par avoir une augmentation, j’ai une place plus importante dans l’équipe, j’entends des insultes sur mes cheveux crépus, sur « notre façon de marcher » sur « notre ressemblance avec nos cousins hominidés ». Sur « nos bouches » sur « notre teint ». Je pense avoir répliqué une ou deux fois, mais je me souviens beaucoup plus des sourires complices que j’échangeais, des rires qui apaisaient la conscience de celles et ceux qui m’oppressaient.

Entre les directives maladroites sur la coiffure la plus appropriée à la job, entre les regards solidaires que les employé·e·s racisé·e·s et moi échangions, entre une clientèle incroyablement condescendante ou incroyablement raciste, je ne me suis jamais arrêtée pour craquer. Pour décompresser. Prendre le temps de me permettre de gérer tout ce qui m’arrivait. Pour m’occuper de moi et prendre conscience de mes propres comportements.

Il y a un an, quand j’ai eu le pouvoir de choisir ma propre équipe, j’ai milité pour une diversité ethnique et raciale. Je crois que j’ai essayé, subconsciemment, de réparer les erreurs que j’avais moi-même commises par le passé en ne m’imposant pas assez. Honnêtement, ça n’a pas vraiment fait tomber ma culpabilité. Mais je crois que chacun·e des employé·e·s s’est senti·e à sa place, quelque part dans tout ça. Je pense avoir fait de mon mieux, avec les responsabilités que j’avais. 

Je repense souvent à la colère, à la peur et à l’anxiété qui suintaient du corps de ma mère pendant qu’elle me ramenait à l’endroit où j’avais volé mon KinderSurprise. La frustration qu’elle dégageait pendant qu’elle m’expliquait à quel point c’était mal, surtout POUR NOUS, de voler. Ce qu’elle a dû expliquer à son gérant, le lendemain. Je pense que mon traumatisme est venu beaucoup plus tard, quand j’ai compris que j’aurais pu nous mettre en danger, ou donner un bon prétexte au gérant de renvoyer ma mère. Parce que je trouvais ça cool, à cinq ans, un œuf en chocolat. Même si je n’aime pas le goût. 

J’entends le bruit de la porte qui s’ouvre. Ma sœur revient de son entrevue, elle me dit qu’elle ne pense pas être admise. En observant ses traits, je réalise qu’elle semble… soulagée. Probablement parce qu’elle vient de gagner du temps avant de s’engager dans ses premières expériences professionnelles. 

Je pousse un long soupir de contentement. »

Kinder Surprise, par  LAÏKA OTHELLO

« Youth Masculinities, Peacebuilding, and the National Agenda

Age is central to the exercise of masculinity in Zimbabwean cultures, such as those of the Shona and Ndebele people, in which social relations are organized around rule by elders or gerontocracy. Rule by elders is also an integral aspect of national politics in the country.2 In this context, youth masculinities refer to deferential masculinities exercised by young people in their interaction with older men in all spheres of life. However, this deference does not necessarily mean that young people always agree with the elders. In as much as there are youths who perpetrate political violence at the behest of party elders, there are also youths who disagree with these elders and exercise alternative masculinities such as those that denounce and shun political violence and promote peaceful political change.

Peacebuilding in Zimbabwe deals with a wide range of conflicts that are domestic, communal, and political. The latter places people who are involved in peacebuilding at loggerheads with the government, which deems such peacebuilders enemies of the state. In this regard, peacebuilding in Zimbabwe is highly politicized and dangerous. The risks that peacebuilders face in such a hostile environment require selflessness, courage, and leadership, which are among the quintessential attributes of masculinity in Zimbabwean cultures. The masculinity exercised by youths in the peacebuilding arena gains social approval by eschewing and censuring violence perpetrated by other young men who are susceptible to manipulation and exploitation by senior and powerful politicians. This social approval derives from this masculinity’s consistency with cultural principles of equity, fairness, and justice.4 For instance, young people advocating peaceful political change such as Pastor Evan Mawarire of #ThisFlag successfully mobilized Zimbabweans to stay at home in July 2016 in protest against corruption, poverty, and injustice.

Peacebuilding also provides a platform for young men to invest their energy in activities that are conducive for national development and also have global resonance. Youths who engage in peacebuilding create platforms that transcend local politics and challenge the older generation’s localized mind-set, which has led to Zimbabwe’s continued isolation as a pariah and crisis-ridden state. The performance of a form of masculinity that focuses on the common good as opposed to individual politicians’ interests has global relevance at a time when many young people are using information and communication technology (ICT) to create civic space.5 This technology facilitates the transcendence of localized and individualized politics and connects people with shared values around the world. The youth have an advantage spreading their message of peaceful political change within Zimbabwe and on global platforms such as Facebook and Twitter because they are technologically savvy and can comfortably navigate virtual space unlike most of the older politicians whose skills in this space are basic and minimal. For example, groups such as #ThisFlag, Tajamuka/Sesjikile, and #This Gown utilize these media to share their messages of political participation and peaceful protest.6

Young men involved in peacebuilding contend that their future lies not with older politicians who anchor their power on violence, repression, and self-interest, but with a peaceful Zimbabwe driven by the youth. They express this view under the banner of “generational consensus,” which calls for youth participation in the economic, social, and political spheres of life in Zimbabwe. For example, a youth league leader in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), Godfrey Tsenengamu, stated that he was now “joining hands with other young men and women to rescue our future and that of our children from these corrupt cartels.”7 He was expelled from the ruling party for referring to the existence of “cartels” that he accused of corruption and for criticizing President Emmerson Mnangagwa for failing to fulfil his election promises. Weeks after his expulsion from the party, Tsenengamu issued a public apology to Zimbabweans in which he stated:

“Today, I humble and submit myself [sic] before you all my fellow countrymen, especially those Zimbabweans whose activities, views and opinions I would not appreciate, tolerate or accept and all the Zimbabweans in general, to say I am sorry for all the negative things I ever said, did or caused on you and your loved ones in any way that you may remember or have experienced.”8

Tsenengamu’s renunciation of his past political activities and statements resonates with the message advocated by young men in citizens’ movements such as #ThisFlag and Tajamuka/Sesjikile. The masculinity exercised by youth peacebuilders subverts the masculinity exercised by politicians especially in the ruling party whose leadership is male and elderly. In traditional Shona and Ndebele cultures in Zimbabwe, it was the elders who had the responsibility to keep the hubris of the youth in check, for example, through lessons provided in the male space called dare in Shona.9 In contrast, the current situation shows role reversal in which it is the youth who rebuke older politicians for behavior that defies hunhu/ubuntu or humanity –the cornerstone of Zimbabwean cultures. Young men who engage in peacebuilding have thus converted their political marginalization from a weakness to a strength in which youthfulness as the antithesis of old age has turned the tables on the latter by appropriating the very values that traditionally legitimized rule by elders.

Conclusion

The masculinity exercised by young men in peacebuilding is anchored on the idea that Zimbabwe needs leaders rather than rulers and an ethos that promotes selflessness rather than self-centeredness. There is a generational gap between young men who are concerned about the country’s status in Africa and the world at large and an older generation, which is inward-looking. The global orientation and the position that the youth are the future inform rejection of a system that benefits the few and elderly at the expense of the majority and young. The masculinity that is observable among young men in peacebuilding organizations and citizens’ movements focuses on the common good or national interest. It is opposed to individual and narrow selfish interests, and has the potential to move Zimbabwe towards a positive trajectory. However, it remains to be seen whether the youth espousing peace will eventually wrestle the reins of power from the elderly male ruling elite, and realize their vision of a prosperous Zimbabwe for all citizens regardless of political affiliation. »

Youth Masculinities, Marginalization, and Peacebuilding in Zimbabwe

by Rose Jaji

(via African Peacebuilding Network)

« « Des révélations, nous en avons tous eu : tranchant sur l’insignifiance quotidienne, elles seules, inoubliables, décident de notre vie réelle. Mais nous ne savons pas ce que signifie une révélation, parce qu’elle ne peut ni se commander ni se reproduire, donc jamais s’objectiver. Ainsi restons-nous muets devant ce qui nous caractérise le mieux. Les ignorant, nous nous ignorons. Ce livre voudrait nous les rendre accessibles.

Le lieu privilégié de la révélation se trouve dans ce que la tradition juive et chrétienne a reçu et médité à partir des deux Testaments. Nous y sommes donc allés voir, malgré leur technicité et les limites de toute science.

Pourtant il faut d’abord déconstruire, car aucun terme biblique ne correspond exactement au concept moderne de Révélation. Plus étonnant encore : ce terme ne s’est imposé que tardivement (Thomas d’Aquin) dans l’opposition de la connaissance rationnelle à connaissance inspirée de Dieu. La modernité (les Lumières jusqu’à Kant) n’eut donc aucun mal à récuser la Révélation biblique au nom de sa trop étroite appréhension de la rationalité.

https://reviews.ophen.org/…/jean-luc-marion-dailleurs…/ »

Phenomenological Reviews

#VendrediLecture📚| (Re)découvrez le livre « Femmes en armes » de Camille Boutron, chercheur Sociologie du genre et des conflits à l’Irsem – Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l’Ecole Militaire, qui retrace différents itinéraires de vie de femmes ayant pris les armes pendant le conflit armé péruvien. – IRSEM – Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l’Ecole Militaire

« Flesh, Bones, and Spirits

Presenting: Volume 10, Number 1

All articles of this new issue remain free to download for one month starting today

https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/toc/hau/2020/10/1

The themes of life, suffering, healing, and recycling have a special resonance for this issue of HAU, which is reaching its ninth year, amidst the global coronavirus epidemic. Along the way, the journal has seen several ups and downs, peaks and troughs that have nearly buried it. But it persists, partly because of the strength of the vision to encourage theory produced out of ethnography rather than philosophy books; partly because it has extended its reach to exceptional thinkers and broadened its base with new voices and scholars from the South; and partly because it has reflectively and vigorously embraced change, and been repurposed with a new editorial collective and organizational structure to suit a challenging publishing landscape. »

HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory

Past and Curious

« Femmes en armes

Itinéraires de combattantes au Pérou (1980-2010)

Proposant de dépasser l’effet de cristallisation qu’inspire l’image de la militante du Sentier Lumineux au Pérou, cet ouvrage rend compte des multiples facettes de l’expérience combattante féminine. En retraçant différents itinéraires de vie de femmes ayant pris les armes pendant le conflit armé, il illustre les grands bouleversements ayant marqué la société péruvienne et offre un nouvel éclairage sur les moteurs de la violence politique. L’analyse de l’expérience combattante féminine ainsi présentée rompt avec les approches classiques sur la guerre et les conflits armés, en situant les rapports de genre au cœur de sa problématique.« 

Fossil capitalism, and the calamitous consequences of our dependence on coal and petroleum, is central to any understanding of life in the Anthropocene. Bret Gustafson offers up an original and compelling take on the oft-told tale of oil wealth, petroviolence, and the so-called curse of oil dependency by reinterpreting the colonial and postcolonial history of Bolivia through the country’s relation to natural gas, what he calls the gaseous state. Gustafson draws together the temporalities, spaces, and excesses of a world built through the exploitation of gas and in so doing takes the reader on an exhilarating ride through US imperialism, the Bolivian state, Indigenous territoriality, the hard-edged world of pipelines, wellheads, violent corporate capital, and of course the rise and fall of Evo Morales. A book for our time.” — Michael Watts

« Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, won reelection three times on a leftist platform championing Indigenous rights, anti-imperialism, and Bolivian control over the country’s natural gas reserves. In Bolivia in the Age of Gas, Bret Gustafson explores how the struggle over natural gas has reshaped Bolivia, along with the rise, and ultimate fall, of the country’s first Indigenous-led government. Rethinking current events against the backdrop of a longer history of oil and gas politics and military intervention, Gustafson shows how natural gas wealth brought a measure of economic independence and redistribution, yet also reproduced political and economic relationships that contradicted popular and Indigenous aspirations for radical change.

Though grounded in the unique complexities of Bolivia, the volume argues that fossil-fuel political economies worldwide are central to the reproduction of militarism and racial capitalism and suggests that progressive change demands moving beyond fossil-fuel dependence and the social and ecological ills that come with it. »

anthropologyworks

« In the drama of neoliberalism’s rise, intellectuals, businessmen, and policymakers moved to center stage. They left records, speeches, and personal papers. They were persuaders, and proud of what they had to say.

Yet those who played the lead roles in social conflict—workers, trade unionists, social activists—were quieter. If we want to understand the neoliberal turn, we also need to look at them.

Take the case of two countries with strong welfare systems and solid workers’ movements. In Argentina during the dictatorship that lasted from 1976 to 1983, workers and unionists were the target of state terrorism. They were threatened, executed, disappeared. Without their leaders, unions crumbled. Neoliberal reforms could have not taken place against their opposition.

Something similar happened in Chile under Pinochet’s dictatorship. The military regime dismantled the welfare state that Chile had begun to build after the 1930s. To do so, the regime attacked any form of political organization that stood with workers.

In both cases, the Chicago Boys of the world had a role, although not a crucial one. Behind the imperative to defeat unions and dismantle social protection were local businessmen—just as in Lilienthal’s CVC—who were eager to increase their wealth.

Yes, there was a conservative revolution happening in the 1970s and 1980s: neoliberalism did take over, with new ideas and new plans. But as deep as this transformation was, the neoliberal turn did not alter the modern political economy’s essential contradiction between businessmen and workers. It only reinforced the power of the former over the latter.

This contradiction has deep roots. For example, the robust welfare state of the 1950s and 1960s wasn’t just an idea of New Dealers and gracious businessmen. Rather, years of struggles by workers throughout the Americas led to better living conditions. The welfare state targeted by neoliberalism should be seen as a compromise in the conflict between unions and social movements, on the one hand, and private companies looking for extra profit, on the other. Struggles between private companies and workers affected the public policies that, in turn, would regulate social conflict.

Therefore, the age of the welfare state and the age of neoliberalism express not simply competing models concocted by experts and policy makers, but, indeed, different outcomes of social conflict. Moreover, neoliberalism could be seen as a reaction: not against developmental plans, but against the balance of power—that is, the power of workers in relation to the power of capital—that underpinned the welfare state.

Mixture got remixed, and, under neoliberalism, a new blend of state regulation and pro-market mechanisms reflected a new compromise between capitalists and workers. What changed was the balance of power behind the always precarious way in which politics and markets are embedded.

Contrary to a naive free-market narrative, the new order did not disentangle the market; instead, the state imposed new kinds of regulations and, most of all, produced new kinds of profit opportunities—such as, of course, the CVC and privately built public housing. The circulation of capital, the fragmentation of the labor market, and tax cuts for the rich were among the ways in which the state changed the game, but without changing the fundamentally mixed nature of the economic model.

Offner’s book has left us better equipped to understand this past, and to look ahead toward future turbulence. Nowadays, resurgent nativism and economic protectionism have thrown the state and the market back into the blender. And so it is worth asking: What new social compromises—and conflicts—will reconfigure the markets and states to come? »

HOW THE WELFARE STATE BECAME THE NEOLIBERAL ORDER, by PABLO PRYLUKA

« Représenter les organes génitaux dans la Méditerranée antique

Ce projet met en lumière un ensemble de sujets que les générations précédentes ont étroitement gardés sous silence : le sexe et la sexualité, les organes génitaux (vulve, vagin, utérus ; phallus, testicules), et le sein nourricier. Bien que ces sujets soient essentiels à la compréhension des perceptions anciennes du sexe, de la sexualité et du cycle de vie humain, une grande partie du matériel pertinent – notamment les statues, les fresques, les peintures sur vase, les piliers hermaïques, les offrandes votives et les figurines, les pierres précieuses et les amulettes, et les tire-lait en céramique, entre autres – reste caché dans les entrepôts des musées, non catalogué et non publié. Ce projet vise à identifier, cataloguer et publier dans une base de données en ligne des documents jusqu’alors inconnus et peu étudiés concernant la sexualité, les organes génitaux et la procréation, des aspects du cycle de vie humain qui ont été jusqu’à récemment insuffisamment intégrés dans les reconstitutions scientifiques des anciennes cultures méditerranéennes. »

« Tribal attorney and activist Tara Houska writes about the importance of diversity of thought on the frontlines of the climate movement.

Wild rice makes a tiny exploding sound when it is struck by a cedar knocking stick. A burst, followed by the sounds of rice falling into a canoe below.

It’s the sound the universe made when it began,” I was told by my long-time teacher. It’s the sound of life beginning, life continuing. Wild rice, what we know as manoomin, is the food that grows on water, the staple that lies at the heart of my people’s culture. It’s what I’ve given my heart, mind, and body to protect against yet another proposed tar sands pipeline, this time Enbridge’s Line 3, set to cut through Ojibwe territory in northern Minnesota.

It’s what sits in my heart as I push through room after room of decision-makers, legislators, financiers, corporate representatives, fellow advocates, climate scientists, climate deniers, and the rest of the cast of characters in the so-called environmental movement. Here, our sacred manoomin becomes a number, a statistical data point. The land that sustains every life on earth becomes a sum of degrees Celsius, carbon emissions, forest acreage, and economic impacts. Water is reduced from our literal lifeblood to a policy concern, a partisan issue up for debate.

The language of climate is part of the distancing we’ve broadly internalized, as far as I can tell. It’s a piece of the world full of invisible barriers and entrenched pathologies. The story of our self-destruction and what to do has been mostly told in cold, statistical analysis recited by a handful of mostly male, mostly non-POC, almost entirely non-Indigenous voices. The language of land is largely absent or relegated to the category of pitiable platitudes.

When Dr. Katharine Wilkinson and Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson approached me about an anthology of women from many walks of life grappling with the crisis unfolding all around us, I was immediately drawn to being part of a less-familiar story, a narrative curated by women thinking in non-square shapes. Surely a crisis at the scale of eradicating all life requires diversity of thought, but I’ve heard nuclear, renewables, carbon offsetting and electoral politics presented as solutions more times than I can count. All We Can Save is something different.

Everything from climate grief to self-care to risking personal safety for those to come exists in its pages. Women discuss making new life during crisis; they imagine economies steeped in empathy and life in balance with the natural world. “The world is on fire” is right next to coping with trauma and taking action.

I’ve lived on frontlines for years at this point. My days in a D.C. office have morphed back into the forests I grew up with and an off-grid existence that challenges and shapes my perspective every day. I’ve faced down the banking industry behind Line 3 in their board rooms, I’ve trained young people about how to exercise their rights and challenge the systemAll We Can Save offered space to question the efficacy of comfortable, well-worn advocacy routes and suggest we collectively assess our values lest we mimic the same structures that are killing all life.

Here in the wild rice, life’s truths are clear. We will knock, parch, roast, jig, and winnow to reach the place we can eat this delicate, nourishing plant. It’s hard work made easier by more hands.

Humans are not a plague on nature but integrated into manoomin cycles. Poling canoes through a floating field of rice so thick you cannot see a shoreline is carefully done, so as not to break the stalks for the next canoes, the next generation. We reseed as we go, by the falling rice that misses the canoe and by rice chiefs who will drop mud balls packed with rice seeds in the lakes at harvest end. Rice is weighed and tracked, to prevent over-consumption. Here, balance as a value is in practice.

Still, like for so many of the world’s inhabitants, life here is fragile. Disruption of water quality can wipe out an entire lake’s crop. Earlier this week, I looked up through the rice at the hazy red sky, praying for all the beings burning and fleeing out west. I thought of the piles of pipeline stacked a few miles north of this lake, desperately clawing at a chance to expand the tar sands. I wondered where we will go, whether human beings will pull it together to put survival ahead of personal comfort. I listened to the softly rustling rice and lifted up my cedar knockers, as my ancestors have for millennia. There’s work to be done.

Tara Houska—Zhaabowekwe, JD, is Couchiching First Nation Ojibwe, an attorney, environmental and indigenous rights advocate, and founder of Giniw Collective. She lives in a pipeline resistance camp in Minnesota. »

What the Climate Movement Can Learn From Indigenous Values, by Tara Houska

« Occam’s Razor is a widely valued principle in science and beyond. But as the exceeding complexity of our world becomes increasingly apparent, is it time to give up on the virtue of simplicity when it comes to understanding the universe, asks Angela Potochnik.

Simple explanations are widely valued. Occam’s Razor, named for a medieval philosopher, urges us to adopt the simplest theory the evidence allows. Customarily, this is understood as the idea that simple theories are more likely to be true. This idea has been widely influential, and perhaps especially so in science. 

But here’s the problem. It’s increasingly clear that the world we inhabit is exceedingly complicated. Germs cause disease, but it turns out that exposure to germs isn’t the only relevant factor to whether you get sick, and so-called “lifestyle diseases” such as heart disease and strokes aren’t caused by germs at all. 

In 2003 the Human Genome Project completed a full account of human genes, but it has been hitting home since then that human genes are tremendously variable and the influence of individual genes frustratingly difficult to identify. The former observation spurred the 1000 Genome Project, while the latter is such a serious problem it has been named: missing heritability. Scientists now also appreciate that humans are significantly influenced by the genes of the bacteria we host, which outnumber our own cells. Getting to the bottom of this influence is the aim of the Human Microbiome Project. Your health is also influenced by your mother’s and grandmother’s lived experiences, including their stress levels: this is one element of what’s called epigenetics. 

Even physics isn’t immune to all of this complexity. Most work in physics focuses on only the simplest systems, but the physical world is just as complex as living organisms. Just think of all the considerations that influence where a dollar bill lands when you let go of it in the wind on a busy street: not just gravity, but also wind conditions, temperature gradient, building placement, the speed and frequency of vehicles driving by, and so on. 

Our world is defined not by simplicity but by complexity. 

If simple explanations aren’t more likely to be true, why do we seek them? I suggest it’s because of the cognitive value—the “aha!” moment—we experience from grasping a simple explanation. The feeling of having gotten to the bottom of something, to have figured out a clear answer. 

We are willing to compromise some accuracy in order to achieve such simple answers. Some cognitive psychology research suggests that people value general explanations, explanations that feature broad patterns. What is more, it seems people tend to overgeneralize—to take broad patterns too seriously and to ignore exceptions to the patterns. There is a basic mismatch between this craving for simple explanations and the complicated world around us. Simple explanations are not more likely to be true—they are usually more likely to leave out important considerations. 

The cognitive value of simple explanations thus seems to be best understood as a focus on how one or a few salient factors influence a complex phenomenon. This is both enlightening and also an effective guide to exerting control over the world around us. 

The germ theory of disease neglects nuance and has led to some misunderstandings of disease, but it also has saved many lives by motivating a search for specific sources of disease—historically, John Snow removing the Broad Street pump handle in London’s Soho district in the midst of a cholera epidemic, and Ignaz Semmelweis urging doctors delivering babies in Vienna’s General Hospital after performing autopsies to wash their hands between tasks. Eventually, it led to the breakthrough of antibiotics and vaccination. 

Quantum mechanics and Einstein’s relativity theories give deep insight into the nature of our world. They are also inconsistent with each other and don’t have all the answers about physical events. To explain ion absorption under magnetic charge, an example philosopher Alisa Bokulich has discussed, physicists still cobble together ideas from quantum mechanics and classical mechanics—the old atomic theory from before quantum mechanics took over. 

Throughout science, this mismatch between the complicated world we live in and our yearning for simple explanations is accommodated with the judicious use of idealizations—assumptions made without regard for whether they are true and often with full knowledge they are false. You’re probably familiar with some of these. Physicists regularly find it useful to assume that planes (flat surfaces) are frictionless and that gases are ‘ideal’, that is, point particles with no forces among them. Economists have famously assumed that humans are perfectly rational agents. And many biologists assume a simple relationship between genes and physical traits even though they know the truth is much more complicated. 

Idealizations like these make it possible for scientists to focus in on one or a few factors in a sea of complexity in order to get a handle on how those factors are relevant and perhaps to use them as “levers” for change. 

Where we go wrong—and “we” here includes many scientists, philosophers, policy-makers, and others—is in assuming that our simple explanations provide the full story. 

Controlling germs is a magic bullet for many diseases, but it’s mistaken to presume we will find a similar solution for diabetes or psychological illnesses. And it’s mistaken to overlook the various complications this magic bullet itself has introduced, such as antibiotic resistance, as well as to underestimate the potential for different successful approaches to managing disease. 

Knowledge of the human genome is significant scientific knowledge, but this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding human traits and variability. That genome is also tremendously variable, with many rare variants for most genes. We are deeply influenced by the microbes that inhabit us (without which we would not survive for long—another limitation of the germ theory of disease). We are also influenced by how our lives play out, by human development and our environments. And—as the surprising discoveries of epigenetics have revealed—we are influenced by how the lives of (at least) our mothers and grandmothers played out as well. 

Even as physics gives deep insight into the nature of our universe and the fundamental components of reality, there’s no clear promise of a unified physical theory on the horizon. Rather, just like in other fields of science, the insight physics yields into this complex world of ours is partial and limited in its range of applicability. 

Simple explanations are widely valued—and rightly so. They better yield knowledge and facilitate control of our world. But this is not because simple explanations are more likely to be true. Rather, perhaps surprisingly, it is in part due to the ways in which they are false.

 

Angela Potochnik’s Idealization and the Aims of Science is published in paperback this September by University of Chicago Press. »

Constructing an ideal reality: Truth and understanding in science, by Angela Potochnik 

Intercultural creative practice is a topic that has attracted a lot of recent scholarly attention. As improvising musicians from very different cultures and traditions, we decided to analyse a recent collaborative performance that we were involved in to unpack the ways that we were interacting through music. As performers, we were interested primarily in the ways that such an analysis would help us to work more effectively in intercultural situations, but we also wanted to understand the synergies and dissonances that exist between improvising cultures more broadly. For the essay we adopt the musical form of a krithi, a Carnatic compositional form that allows for joint statements and improvised exchanges. Through this dialogic process, we propose improvisation as a kind of negotiation that occurs between musicians, and between musicians and their culture, highlighting some of the specific challenges and rewards that we faced.

« Des expériences sadiques de la CIA à Montréal

Article de: Clara Loiseau et MIchaël Nguyen, Le Journal de Montréal

Traitement avec des drogues hallucinogènes, électrochocs, privation de sommeil : pendant près de 16 ans, les gouvernements américain et canadien ont financé des expériences de la CIA dans le but de trouver un moyen de contrôler le cerveau humain.

Ces tests, plus connus sous le nom de Montreal Experiments liés au projet MK-Ultra de l’agence de renseignements américaine CIA, ont notamment été menés à Montréal, à l’hôpital Royal Victoria et à l’Institut Allan Memorial de l’Université McGill, entre 1948 et 1964, sur plusieurs centaines de personnes.

Elles étaient dirigées par le docteur Donald Ewen Cameron, un psychiatre écossais. Ce dernier a été notamment président de l’Association des psychiatres américains, de son pendant canadien et de l’Association mondiale des psychiatres.

Torture psychologique

Le but de ces expériences était en fait d’anéantir la personnalité du patient, pour lui en créer une nouvelle.

Selon des documents de cour déposés en janvier 2019 dans le cadre d’un recours collectif, on apprend que « ces expériences étaient une forme de torture psychologique infligée à des centaines de patients ne se doutant de rien, et qui ont mené à des dommages qui ont perduré toute leur vie ».

On peut y lire que plusieurs ont perdu la mémoire, d’autres ont dû « réapprendre les fonctions humaines les plus basiques, comme utiliser une toilette ».

Et les gouvernements américain et canadien étaient bien au fait de ces expériences, puisqu’ils ont participé financièrement. Selon les documents déposés en cour, ils ont injecté 221 673 $ entre 1950 et 1964. En dollars d’aujourd’hui, cela équivaut à 2,3 millions $. »

Amir Khadir

« Krithi: Cows at the Beach: Improvising Carnatic-jazz

Intercultural creative practice is a topic that has attracted a lot of recent scholarly attention. As improvising musicians from very different cultures and traditions, we decided to analyse a recent collaborative performance that we were involved in to unpack the ways that we were interacting through music. As performers, we were interested primarily in the ways that such an analysis would help us to work more effectively in intercultural situations, but we also wanted to understand the synergies and dissonances that exist between improvising cultures more broadly. For the essay we adopt the musical form of a krithi, a Carnatic compositional form that allows for joint statements and improvised exchanges. Through this dialogic process, we propose improvisation as a kind of negotiation that occurs between musicians, and between musicians and their culture, highlighting some of the specific challenges and rewards that we faced.

Read it online in the latest issue of CSI/ECI: Improvisation and the Liberal Arts: https://www.criticalimprov.com/…/csieci/article/view/4893 »

International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation

« In the 1940s, trailblazing physicists stumbled upon the next layer of reality. Particles were out, and fields — expansive, undulating entities that fill space like an ocean — were in. One ripple in a field would be an electron, another a photon, and interactions between them seemed to explain all electromagnetic events.

There was just one problem: The theory was glued together with hopes and prayers. Only by using a technique dubbed “renormalization,” which involved carefully concealing infinite quantities, could researchers sidestep bogus predictions. The process worked, but even those developing the theory suspected it might be a house of cards resting on a tortured mathematical trick.

“It is what I would call a dippy process,” Richard Feynman later wrote. “Having to resort to such hocus-pocus has prevented us from proving that the theory of quantum electrodynamics is mathematically self-consistent.”

Justification came decades later from a seemingly unrelated branch of physics. Researchers studying magnetization discovered that renormalization wasn’t about infinities at all. Instead, it spoke to the universe’s separation into kingdoms of independent sizes, a perspective that guides many corners of physics today.

Renormalization, writes David Tong, a theorist at the University of Cambridge, is “arguably the single most important advance in theoretical physics in the past 50 years.

A Tale of Two Charges

By some measures, field theories are the most successful theories in all of science. The theory of quantum electrodynamics (QED), which forms one pillar of the Standard Model of particle physics, has made theoretical predictions that match up with experimental results to an accuracy of one part in a billion.

But in the 1930s and 1940s, the theory’s future was far from assured. Approximating the complex behavior of fields often gave nonsensical, infinite answers that made some theorists think field theories might be a dead end.

Feynman and others sought whole new perspectives — perhaps even one that would return particles to center stage — but came back with a hack instead. The equations of QED made respectable predictions, they found, if patched with the inscrutable procedure of renormalization.

The exercise goes something like this. When a QED calculation leads to an infinite sum, cut it short. Stuff the part that wants to become infinite into a coefficient — a fixed number — in front of the sum. Replace that coefficient with a finite measurement from the lab. Finally, let the newly tamed sum go back to infinity.

To some, the prescription felt like a shell game. “This is just not sensible mathematics,” wrote Paul Dirac, a groundbreaking quantum theorist.

The core of the problem — and a seed of its eventual solution — can be seen in how physicists dealt with the charge of the electron.

In the scheme above, the electric charge comes from the coefficient — the value that swallows the infinity during the mathematical shuffling. To theorists puzzling over the physical meaning of renormalization, QED hinted that the electron had two charges: a theoretical charge, which was infinite, and the measured charge, which was not. Perhaps the core of the electron held infinite charge. But in practice, quantum field effects (which you might visualize as a virtual cloud of positive particles) cloaked the electron so that experimentalists measured only a modest net charge.

Two physicists, Murray Gell-Mann and Francis Low, fleshed out this idea in 1954. They connected the two electron charges with one “effective” charge that varied with distance. The closer you get (and the more you penetrate the electron’s positive cloak), the more charge you see.

Their work was the first to link renormalization with the idea of scale. It hinted that quantum physicists had hit on the right answer to the wrong question. Rather than fretting about infinites, they should have focused on connecting tiny with huge.

Renormalization is “the mathematical version of a microscope,” said Astrid Eichhorn, a physicist at the University of Southern Denmark who uses renormalization to search for theories of quantum gravity. “And conversely you can start with the microscopic system and zoom out. It’s a combination of a microscope and a telescope.”

Magnets Save the Day

A second clue emerged from the world of condensed matter, where physicists were puzzling over how a rough magnet model managed to nail the fine details of certain transformations. The Ising model consisted of little more than a grid of atomic arrows that could each point only up or down, yet it predicted the behaviors of real-life magnets with improbable perfection.

At low temperatures, most atoms align, magnetizing the material. At high temperatures they grow disordered and the lattice demagnetizes. But at a critical transition point, islands of aligned atoms of all sizes coexist. Crucially, the ways in which certain quantities vary around this “critical point” appeared identical in the Ising model, in real magnets of varying materials, and even in unrelated systems such as a high-pressure transition where water becomes indistinguishable from steam. The discovery of this phenomenon, which theorists called universality, was as bizarre as finding that elephants and egrets move at precisely the same top speed.

Physicists don’t usually deal with objects of different sizes at the same time. But the universal behavior around critical points forced them to reckon with all length scales at once.

Leo Kadanoff, a condensed matter researcher, figured out how to do so in 1966. He developed a “block spin” technique, breaking an Ising grid too complex to tackle head-on into modest blocks with a few arrows per side. He calculated the average orientation of a group of arrows and replaced the whole block with that value. Repeating the process, he smoothed the lattice’s fine details, zooming out to grok the system’s overall behavior.

Finally, Ken Wilson — a former graduate student of Gell-Mann with feet in the worlds of both particle physics and condensed matter — united the ideas of Gell-Mann and Low with those of Kadanoff. His “renormalization group,” which he first described in 1971, justified QED’s tortured calculations and supplied a ladder to climb the scales of universal systems. The work earned Wilson a Nobel Prize and changed physics forever.

The best way to conceptualize Wilson’s renormalization group, said Paul Fendley, a condensed matter theorist at the University of Oxford, is as a “theory of theories” connecting the microscopic with the macroscopic.

Consider the magnetic grid. At the microscopic level, it’s easy to write an equation linking two neighboring arrows. But taking that simple formula and extrapolating it to trillions of particles is effectively impossible. You’re thinking at the wrong scale.

Wilson’s renormalization group describes a transformation from a theory of building blocks into a theory of structures. You start with a theory of small pieces, say the atoms in a billiard ball. Turn Wilson’s mathematical crank, and you get a related theory describing groups of those pieces — perhaps billiard ball molecules. As you keep cranking, you zoom out to increasingly larger groupings — clusters of billiard ball molecules, sectors of billiard balls, and so on. Eventually you’ll be able to calculate something interesting, such as the path of a whole billiard ball.

This is the magic of the renormalization group: It helps identify which big-picture quantities are useful to measure and which convoluted microscopic details can be ignored. A surfer cares about wave heights, not the jostling of water molecules. Similarly, in subatomic physics, renormalization tells physicists when they can deal with a relatively simple proton as opposed to its tangle of interior quarks.

Wilson’s renormalization group also suggested that the woes of Feynman and his contemporaries came from trying to understand the electron from infinitely close up. “We don’t expect [theories] to be valid down to arbitrarily small [distance] scales,” said James Fraser, a philosopher of physics at Durham University in the U.K. Mathematically cutting the sums short and shuffling the infinity around, physicists now understand, is the right way to do a calculation when your theory has a built-in minimum grid size. “The cutoff is absorbing our ignorance of what’s going on” at lower levels, said Fraser.

In other words, QED and the Standard Model simply can’t say what the bare charge of the electron is from zero nanometers away. They are what physicists call “effective” theories. They work best over well-defined distance ranges. Finding out exactly what happens when particles get even cozier is a major goal of high-energy physics.

From Big to Small

Today, Feynman’s “dippy process” has become as ubiquitous in physics as calculus, and its mechanics reveal the reasons for some of the discipline’s greatest successes and its current challenges. During renormalization, complicated submicroscopic capers tend to just disappear. They may be real, but they don’t affect the big picture. “Simplicity is a virtue,” Fendley said. “There is a god in this.”

That mathematical fact captures nature’s tendency to sort itself into essentially independent worlds. When engineers design a skyscraper, they ignore individual molecules in the steel. Chemists analyze molecular bonds but remain blissfully ignorant of quarks and gluons. The separation of phenomena by length, as quantified by the renormalization group, has allowed scientists to move gradually from big to small over the centuries, rather than cracking all scales at once.

Yet at the same time, renormalization’s hostility to microscopic details works against the efforts of modern physicists who are hungry for signs of the next realm down. The separation of scales suggests they’ll need to dig deep to overcome nature’s fondness for concealing its finer points from curious giants like us.

“Renormalization helps us simplify the problem,” said Nathan Seiberg, a theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. But “it also hides what happens at short distances. You can’t have it both ways.” »

How Mathematical ‘Hocus-Pocus’ Saved Particle Physics, by Charlie Wood

Orientalism and orientalism in reverse – Sadik Jalal al-’Azm

« On a seemingly daily basis, we see attacks against the intellectual culture of the academic humanities, which, since the 1960s, have opened up spaces for leftists to develop critical theories of all kinds. Attacks from supposedly liberal professors and centrist op-ed columnists, from well-funded conservative think tanks and white supremacists on college campus tours. All rail against the evils of feminism, post-modernism, and something called “neo-Marxism” with outsized agitation.

For students and professors, the onslaughts are exhausting, and not only because they have very real, often dangerous, consequences, but because they all attack the same straw men (or “straw people”) and refuse to engage with academic thought on its own terms. Rarely, in the exasperating proliferation of cranky, cherry-picked anti-academia op-eds do we encounter people actually reading and grappling with the ideas of their supposed ideological nemeses.

Were non-academic critics to take academic work seriously, they might notice that debates over “political correctness,” « thought policing, » « identity politics, » etc. have been going on for thirty years now, and among left intellectuals themselves. Contrary to what many seem to think, criticism of liberal ideology has not been banned in the academy. It is absolutely the case that the humanities have become increasingly hostile to irresponsible opinions that dehumanize people, like emergency room doctors become hostile to drunk driving. But it does not follow therefore that one cannot disagree with the establishment, as though the University system were still beholden to the Vatican.

Understanding this requires work many people are unwilling to do, either because they’re busy and distracted or, perhaps more often, because they have other, bad faith agendas. Should one decide to survey the philosophical debates on the left, however, an excellent place to start would be Radical Philosophy, which describes itself as a “UK-based journal of socialist and feminist philosophy.” Founded in 1972, in response to “the widely-felt discontent with the sterility of academic philosophy at the time,” the journal was itself an act of protest against the culture of academia.

Radical Philosophy has published essays and interviews with nearly all of the big names in academic philosophy on the left—from Marxists, to post-structuralists, to post-colonialists, to phenomenologists, to critical theorists, to Lacanians, to queer theorists, to radical theologians, to the pragmatist Richard Rorty, who made arguments for national pride and made several critiques of critical theory as an illiberal enterprise. The full range of radical critical theory over the past 45 years appears here, as well as contrarian responses from philosophers on the left.

Rorty was hardly the only one in the journal’s pages to critique certain prominent trends. Sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant launched a 2001 protest against what they called “a strange Newspeak,” or “NewLiberalSpeak” that included words like “globalization,” “governance,” “employability,” “underclass,” “communitarianism,” “multiculturalism” and “their so-called postmodern cousins.” Bourdieu and Wacquant argued that this discourse obscures “the terms ‘capitalism,’ ‘class,’ ‘exploitation,’ ‘domination,’ and ‘inequality,’” as part of a “neoliberal revolution,” that intends to “remake the world by sweeping away the social and economic conquests of a century of social struggles.”

One can also find in the pages of Radical Philosophy philosopher Alain Badiou’s 2005 critique of “democratic materialism,” which he identifies as a “postmodernism” that “recognizes the objective existence of bodies alone. Who would ever speak today, other than to conform to a certain rhetoric? Of the separability of our immortal soul?” Badiou identifies the ideal of maximum tolerance as one that also, paradoxically, “guides us, irresistibly” to war. But he refuses to counter democratic materialism’s maxim that “there are only bodies and languages” with what he calls “its formal opposite… ‘aristocratic idealism.’” Instead, he adds the supplementary phrase, “except that there are truths.”

Badiou’s polemic includes an oblique swipe at Stalinism, a critique Michel Foucault makes in more depth in a 1975 interview, in which he approvingly cites phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty’s “argument against the Communism of the time… that it has destroyed the dialectic of individual and history—and hence the possibility of a humanistic society and individual freedom.” Foucault made a case for this “dialectical relationship” as that “in which the free and open human project consists.” In an interview two years later, he talks of prisons as institutions “no less perfect than school or barracks or hospital” for repressing and transforming individuals.

Foucault’s political philosophy inspired feminist and queer theorist Judith Butler, whose arguments inspired many of today’s gender theorists, and who is deeply concerned with questions of ethics, morality, and social responsibility. Her Adorno Prize Lecture, published in a 2012 issue, took up Theodor Adorno’s challenge of how it is possible to live a good life in bad circumstances (under fascism, for example)—a classical political question that she engages through the work of Orlando Patterson, Hannah Arendt, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Hegel. Her lecture ends with a discussion of the ethical duty to actively resist and protest an intolerable status quo.

You can now read for free all of these essays and hundreds more at the Radical Philosophy archive, either on the site itself or in downloadable PDFs. The journal, run by an ‘Editorial Collective,” still appears three times a year. The most recent issue features an essay by Lars T. Lih on the Russian Revolution through the lens of Thomas Hobbes, a detailed historical account by Nathan Brown of the term “postmodern,” and its inapplicability to the present moment, and an essay by Jamila M.H. Mascat on the problem of Hegelian abstraction.

If nothing else, these essays and many others should upend facile notions of leftist academic philosophy as dominated by “postmodern” denials of truth, morality, freedom, and Enlightenment thought, as doctrinaire Stalinism, or little more than thought policing through dogmatic political correctness. For every argument in the pages of Radical Philosophy that might confirm certain readers’ biases, there are dozens more that will challenge their assumptions, bearing out Foucault’s observation that “philosophy cannot be an endless scrutiny of its own propositions.”

Enter the Radical Philosophy archive here. »

The Entire Archives of Radical Philosophy Go Online: Read Essays by Michel Foucault, Alain Badiou, Judith Butler & More (1972-2018)

« For a long time, the human race has been concerned with how life emerges, its spatial distribution, the conditions of its evolution and resilience. Increasingly, the core question is framed in terms of the struggle to sustain life under catastrophic conditions as well as those under which it ends and how it ends. Using Western and non-Western traditions of thought, this seminar will reflect on the relationship between technological escalation and life futures. »

Life Futures – Achille Mbembe

“At Cornell University, my professor of European literature, Vladimir Nabokov, changed the way I read and the way I write,” she wrote in a 2016 Times op-ed. “Words could paint pictures, I learned from him. Choosing the right word, and the right word order, he illustrated, could make an enormous difference in conveying an image or an idea.”

In an earlier interview, part of a series in which “eight Supreme Court justices described how they write their opinions, what they look for in briefs and the art of legal writing generally” (FYI, Justice Kennedy thinks a good brief is like Hemingway, Justice Thomas thinks it’s like 24), she called Nabokov “an enormous influence” on her writing. “To this day,” she remembered, “I can hear some of the things Nabokov said. Bleak House was one of the books we read in his course. He read aloud the opening pages at our first lecture on the book—describing the location of the chancery court surrounded by persuasive fog. Those pages paint a picture in words.”

The essays collected in this volume expound and extend these efforts in exploring the outer fringes of understanding: the outer boundaries of conceivability, the limits of cognition, and the ramifications of ineffability and paradox. They join in exploring the lay of the land at the boundaries of knowledge.
The first chapters address basic facts regarding the conceptualization of knowledge. This is followed by a study on how to deal with problems relating to the affirmation and considerations of truth. The final chapters scrutinize the limits of demonstration and the inherent impossibility of realizing an ideal systematization of our knowledge of totalities. The book affords novel perspectives regarding the thought of a widely appreciated philosopher. It is an original work aimed for readers interested in the theory of knowledge and philosophy of cognition.

« Un homme parcourt les rues désertes et les jardins vides d’une petite ville proche de Fukushima, les poches remplies de nourriture pour les chats et les chiens livrés à eux-mêmes. Ce promeneur solitaire est revenu dans son pays natal pour prendre soin de sa mère, à la recherche de souvenirs éparpillés autour d’un amour d’enfance. Pour lui, la catastrophe a déjà eu lieu, il y a trente ans. »

Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet

Au cœur du roman surgit l’image magnifique d’un paon dont la beauté recèle un effroi mystérieux car il est associé à un drame dont l’homme porte la responsabilité – un secret de famille bouleversant. Le moment est venu pour lui de cesser de fuir pour tenter de réparer le passé et se réconcilier avec soi-même.

Les commentaires sont fermés.

Ce site vous est proposé par WordPress.com.