“‘Now the island lies in ruins, it is partially occupied, untold refugees have been created, and the American Ambassador has been killed.’ Thus wrote the late Greek American James Pyrros, political aide to Congressman Lucien Nedzi, in his diary as tensions of the island of Cyprus between Greece and Turkey reached their zenith on 19 August 1974. Since then, a political impasse has existed. Is Cyprus on the cusp of a significant political change in the situation that has existed more or less since the summer of 1974, when the island experienced a Greek-inspired coup followed by two Turkish military offensives that have left it divided?”
—excerpt from the Introduction, by Constantine A. Pagedas in “Cyprus after Forty Years: Moving beyond the 1974 Crisis,” a special issue of Mediterranean Quarterly, volume 25 and issue 1, Winter 2014.

"This forum takes the term ‘remediation’ beyond its typical use within the field of comparative literary studies. The intent is to consider remediation both in its broader lexical function as remedy, repair, removal, and rectification and in relation to a number of other discourses where the term takes on meanings quite different from those commonly associationed with its application to comparative literature. If remediation in comparative literature has tended to focus on the question of translation across media, where media are understood as modes of communication, this forum considers remediation in relation to other ways of mediating and in full awareness of the term’s other uses."

- excerpt from the Introduction, in “Remediation: An ACLA Forum,” a special issues of Comperative Literature, volume 66 and issue 1.

In our own previous work, we have taken up this challenge on a number of different fronts, not least in our investigation of Asian medicines as living traditions. Our argument, in brief, is that historical accounts that seek to distinguish sciences from traditions on account of the former’s forward orientation and built-in drive toward ongoing reconstitution and refashioning are fundamentally problematic. This is because traditions, at least those that are “living,” are characterized by many of the same qualities those authors see as demarcating science. We defined such living traditions as “sites of contestation” where anything that composes and defines that tradition, so to speak, is always and forever up for grabs. This includes knowledge claims, practices, phenomena engaged with, institutions, entitlements, self-definitions, social relationships, and much more. And yet, such living traditions consistently manage to maintain a sense of identity that emphasizes continuity over time. They succeed in doing so because the processes of transformation that reshape them tend to proceed in piecemeal rather than revolutionary fashion. That is, some things change while others remain the same. Hence, even if after a while everything has changed, social actors at any given moment in time can, if they so wish, experience a sense of continuity with respect to whatever it is they are engaged in. It is this perception and the sense of security it bestows that have permitted physicians, scholars, researchers, and other stakeholders in the various Asian medical traditions to modernize, scientize, regularize, and otherwise transform what they do through consistent engagement with science and the West for several centuries and yet claim that they are still embodying the essence of their tradition as it was defined hundreds or even thousands of years ago.”

- excerpt from the Introduction, “Beyond Tradition: Asian Medicines and STS,” a special issue of EASTS: East Asian Science, Technology, and Society, volume 8 and issue 1 (March 2014)

litrant:

See what you wanna see

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Latino Art by Ilan Stavans and Jorge J.E. Gracia (Duke University Press, $22.95).

Ilan Stavans, a professor of Latino studies at Amerherst College, and Jorge J.E. Garcia, a professor of philosophy and comparative literature at SUNY-Buffalo, brought the tools of their distinct disciplines—as well as their personal histories and aesthetics—to bear on thirteen contemporary works of art by Latinos.

These works are as varied as the famous “La Reconquista” triptych by Einar and Jamex de la Torre; the Latino graffiti of Bear TCK (“Chicano Grafitti”); the Latino-Afro-Caribbean intersection of Jean-Michel Basquiat (“Untitled (Skull)”); a photograph by Mariana Yampolsky (“Elva”); and Andres Serrano’s well-known “Piss Christ.”

Conducted as wide-ranging conversations about the way that Latino experience is expressed in contemporary artworks, the book as a whole is casual but intellectually solid, accessible by non-specialists, but not dumbed-down. It is refreshing and eye-opening, though it would benefit if more of the thirteen artists represented were women.

Top to bottom: “La Reconquista”; “Elva”; “Chicano Grafitti”; “Untitled (Skull).”

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"As will be evident from the pages of this issue (if not evident before), Small Axe takes history seriously. We are forever quarreling with, quarreling about, history. We have never been content with the idea that the past is a self-evident or neutral or passive domain that will supply us with ready-made answers to our questions in the present or our hopes for the future. Much—perhaps everything—depends on what we ask, andhow. Much—perhaps everything—depends, in other words, on the historiographical questions that shape and drive, that animate, our preoccupations. Small Axe seeks to make us more reflexively aware of these questions and their assumptions so that we can better discern what they enable (perhaps politically) and what they do not.”

- excerpt from “Preface: Debt, Redress" by David Scott in "Caribbean Historiography," a special issue of Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism (volume 18 and issue 1, number 43)

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“The Soviet Union collapsed more than twenty years ago: this is how long it takes for an infant to become and adult. In Russia, twenty-one years used to be a significant period: twenty-one years after Leon Trotsky led the revolution of 1917, for example, Joseph Stalin led the terror of 1938. The unprocessed memory of the catastrophic Soviet past keeps Russia in its interminable post-Soviet condition. This is a time of melancholy, the work of mourning that remains incomplete and unsuccessful: the loss has been incorporated into the subject, who cannot (meaning that he does not want to) free himself from it. For some, the loss is the unburied millions of victims of the Soviet regime; for others, by contrast, it is the grandeur of the Soviet empire. One person finds these two sorrows incompatible; another sees them reinforcing each other.” 

— excerpt from “Post-Soviet Russia: The Land of the Oil Curse, Pussy Riot, and Magical Historicism,” by Alexander Etkind in “Second-Hand Europe,” a special issue of boundary2 (volume 41 and issue 1, Spring 2014), edited by Wlad Godzich and Anita Starosta

Indeed, if freedom is not equality, then either it is superiority—mastery—or it is subjection and dependence on some power, which is absurd. Thus, correlatively, equality must be thought as the general form of the radical negation of all subjection and all mastery, that is, as the liberation of freedom itself from an external or internal power that takes it over and transforms it into its opposite.

Étienne Balibar, Equaliberty: Political Essays (Duke University Press, 2014), p. 49.

The newest issue of American Literature explores technology in the context of American literary history. It was partly produced on Scalar, a website that publishes peer-reviewed multimodal pieces formed by new media. Essays touch upon a range of topics, from the letters of Thomas Jefferson to contemporary independently produced video games. For more information, or to view the Scalar pieces, which are open access, click here.

"New Media and American Literature," a special issue of American Literature, edited by Tara McPherson, Patrick Jagoda, and Wendy H. K. Chun, volume 85 and issue 4, December 2013

“What we could call jazz’s constellation of multiple technologies of the body is further reified by its distinction from other modes of dance music. One vice investigator, reporting on his experience at a jazz-filled dance hall, describes the wildly uneven distribution of sexual energies and emotions that emerged in response to distinct musical forms: “While dancing with Helen a second time a waltz was suddenly struck up by the orchestra and I observed about 25 men leaving the floor. I said ‘What is the matter, the dance is not over is it?’ She replied ‘No, the cops are here.’ I said ‘How do you know that?’ She said ‘That’s the signal. Just as soon as they come we get that and we are ordered to immediately break into a waltz.’” According to the same report, the “six piece colored orchestra” had been playing jazzy fox-trots before breaking into the staid waltz after the unexpected arrival of the police. The quick-time rhythms and looser motions of the fox-trot are themselves the reason for unwelcome surveillance; the waltz, on the other hand, though at an earlier time considered shocking for its mandated embrace, had become respectable and morally faultless… Performing a waltz was intended to cleanse the dance hall and its patrons in the eyes of authority.

                Jazz thus transmitted a series of codes for rebellion—against respectable sexuality, racial segregation, and even civilization—though these codes often had a troubling provenance. Furthermore, its kinetic music was seemingly infectious. Jazz threatened to spill forth from the nightclubs and cabarets, seeping onto the street but also stimulating and entering the body. Jazz was thus perceived as a primitivizing, uncivilizing technology of the body, inasmuch as the body would be compelled by its music toward promiscuous movements, emotions, desires, and pleasure across boundaries of a multiple nature.”

From Imperial Blues: Geographies of Race and Sex in Jazz Age New York by Fiona I.B. Ngô (Duke University Press, 2014)

When did you begin to identify as an anarchist?
Some of it has to do with a cousin of mine who I never knew all that well, but I think he considered himself an anarchist and suggested that I look into the thing. As a late teenager, I hadn’t really thought of myself as having a specific political identity. I was sort of default radicalism. The cousin said I should read up on Spain. I asked my dad, and he was trying to be fair, so he gave me George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia. Dad cautioned me, “Bear in mind that the guy has a total bias, and a lot of what he says is bullshit. But it’s a good place to start.” And my father was brought in by the very antianarchist people, and he propagandized against them all the time. But he knew many anarchists personally when he was there and they got along. The position he ended up taking on Spain was that it was necessary to build a modern army to fight the Fascists, but suppressing the actual revolution was insane and suicidal. The anarchist military structure wasn’t going to work, but the anarchist social structure and political economic structure [were]. When they shot that down, that was the beginning of the end. So I read Orwell and I read up on Spain and politics, and, you know, I came around to the realization that anarchism is a reasonable position.

-excerpt from “Finance Is Just Another Word for People’s Debts: An Interview with David Graeber,” by Hannah Appel in “The Fictions of Finance,” a special issue of Radical History Review, number 118, Winter 2014.