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Open access

The Artistry of Critical Thought

A Conversation on Adorno, Baudrillard, Braidotti and Marcuse

Siphiwe I. Dube

This article provides an analysis of the way in which contemporary forms of intelligence discourse (Jean Baudrillard), in similar fashion to political art (Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse), function by delimiting critical thought. The intelligence discourse critiqued is extolled through things such as progressive intelligence acquisition (Flynn effect) and the supposed indispensability of Democratic reason (Hélène Landemore), amongst other qualities. In support of its argument, the article focusses specifically on Baudrillard’s analysis of the notion of the intelligence of evil, as well as on the Frankfurt School’s critique of massification. However, the article also notes limitations in these thinkers’ recovery and defence of critical thought in response to the delimitation posed by intelligence and massification, and argues for Rosi Braidotti’s evaluation of thought as nomadic as a necessary corrective.

Open access

Dawid Rogacz, Donald Mark C. Ude, and Tshepo Mvulane Moloi

Douglas L. Berger, Indian and Intercultural Philosophy: Personhood, Consciousness and Causality. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021, 240 pp.

Joseph C. A. Agbakoba, Development and Modernity in Africa: An Intercultural Philosophical Perspective, Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2019, 405 pp.

Adekeye Adebajo (ed.), The Pan-African Pantheon: Prophets, Poets and Philosophers, Auckland Park, South Africa: Jacana Media, 2020. 655 pp.

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Paul Stock

In recent years, it has become commonplace to argue that space is an important topic in the humanities and social sciences. But what does space do? Can we speak of space as having agency? Historians’ responses to these questions are strikingly varied. Some propose an almost deterministic role for spatial characteristics, while others deny that space can have any causal function at all. This article seeks to navigate a path between these unsatisfactory extremes. It uses insights from material culture studies and actor-network theory to discuss ways of re-framing agency as an assemblage of human and non-human affects. Agency can thus be defined not in terms of first causes and definitive outcomes, but instead as a coincidence of occurrences. This allows historians to speak of “spatial agency” as the emplacement of affective elements, the gathering of agencies at a particular site and moment.

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Illyria Remembered

On Some French Memoirs of the Illyrian Provinces 1809–1813

David McCallam

This article examines how four French memorialists recall and represent the former imperial territories of the Illyrian Provinces (1809–1813) on the eastern Adriatic seaboard. It explores how their memoirs deploy Enlightenment ethnography and Romantic exoticism in distinct ways while problematizing these approaches in light of lived experiences in the region. The article thus sheds light on the evolving character of tropes about the western Balkans in early nineteenth-century France, highlighting the influence the landscapes, cultures, and peoples of the territories had on the French officials posted there, including on their later self-presentation as memorialists.

Open access

Gal Gerson

While aligned with John Neville Figgis’ pluralism and Marxist socialism, Harold Laski endorsed liberal and democratic values. However, he synthesised several elements from older liberal theories in a way that diluted the division to which these theories had adhered, namely that between the private and the political spheres. The resulting combination preserves privacy’s status as the realm where individuals are free to pursue their separate ends, but enables essentially private activities based in voluntary social spaces to infuse the space of politics. From this emerged a vision of liberal democracy, in which freedom plays out in multiple private spaces that do not require an autonomous civic arena to complement them. The combination was reached within the contexts of mid-century thinking about the welfare state and a broader project of reformulating democracy by reducing its equation with representation.

Open access

Machiavelli and Spartan Equality

The Image and Function of Lycurgus’ Heritage

Filippo Del Lucchese

In this article, I explore the meaning and function of Lycurgus in Machiavelli’s thought. While the exemplarity of the mythical Spartan legislator progressively fades in Machiavelli’s thought in favour of the Roman model, Lycurgus’ reforms are central in Machiavelli’s works on two issues of primary importance: wealth and land distribution. First, I analyse Machiavelli’s use of the ancient sources on both Lycurgus and other Spartan legislators to show how the former builds a selective and strategically balanced reading of the ancient sources to build an image of the latter as a pro-popular ruler and of the subsequent Spartan reformers as followers not only of the mythical legislator generally, but also of his most controversial and popularly oriented attempts to reform property ownership in ancient Sparta. Lycurgus reveals how Machiavelli, far from seeing mixed government as the best form of government, promotes a strongly anti-aristocratic model. Second, I show that in Machiavelli’s thought the Spartan question can largely be seen as a background for his reading of Roman history, particularly its most crucial, conflictual and controversial period – that in which the Gracchi brothers’ attempted to achieve agrarian reform.

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Ordinary Violence, Emotion, Information, and Anxiety

Some Themes in Recent Work on Colonial Violence

William Palmer

The study of violence has emerged as an important analytical category for historical analysis, especially in the areas where Europeans attempted to establish either dominance or colonies, such as Ireland, North America, Asia, and the Middle East. This article surveys some recent work on colonial violence, in which historians have tried to distinguish between different types of violence and have pointed to the importance of intelligence gathering, fear, and emotion as analytical tools for understanding the nature of colonial violence.

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Pays des brumes

The Persistence of Poetic Realism in French Cinema of the Occupation

Barry Nevin

Whereas the aesthetics and politics of poetic realism in French prewar cinema have been analyzed in depth, the extent to which poetic realism persisted in French cinema of the Occupation and the textual space that it created for spectators within this cultural context remain comparatively neglected. Responding to this critical oversight, this article analyzes Christian-Jaque’s Voyage sans espoir (1943) and Jean Grémillon’s Lumiére d’été from three perspectives: first, it evinces iconography in each that was central to the 1930s poetic realist films directed by figures such as Marcel Carné, Jean Renoir, and Jacques Feyder; second, it illustrates how poetic realism’s characteristic focus on gender was reconfigured during the Occupation; third, it determines how these aesthetic and social aspects spoke to French society under occupation. This article ultimately argues that poetic realist praxis persisted during the war years and constituted a major vector of resistance against German rule and the Vichy government.

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Posesión de Tiempo Inmemorial (Possession of Time Immemorial)

Tenants in Court and Proprietary Formalization. Rengo, Chile, 1820–1830

Víctor Brangier and Mauricio Lorca

This study focuses on disputes between small and medium tenants, who sought to formalize old land rights. The context under study is Rengo Valley, Chile, between 1820 and 1830, where there was increasing pressure to clarify rights over possessions. The analysis of a sample of 31 trials showed the relevance of the judicial use of the figure Posesión de Tiempo Inmemorial (Possession of Time Immemorial). This was a resource derived from the value of possession in the Hispanic American agrarian legal culture, one that the litigants used strategically. This study’s findings provide new data on the use of socially valued legal figures in justice to defend possession, thus contributing to the discussion on the dispossession of peasants in contexts of proprietary formalization.

Open access

Umer Jan

As a population is subject to necropolitics, what are the ways in which they resist the exposure to this systematic, deliberately inflicted death? Encompassing the case of India-administered Kashmir region, this article seeks to understand and examine this question. As the Indian state continues to enact insidious and expansive forms of necropolitics in Kashmir, the population has also turned death into a form of counter-conduct – a necroresistance to subvert the state’s necropolitics. Exploring this enactment of necroresistance, this article seeks to reveal the forms that it takes in India-administered Kashmir as well as the transformations that it brings to the socio-political milieu. Conversely, it also looks at how necroresistance in Kashmir acquires a contextual sacred dimension.