A general conundrum for the Khmu of northern Laos is the persistent unknowability of spirits. The locals gauge the potency of spirits by keeping track of spirit stories. Spirit narratives can be conceived of as transient traces of intangible spirit phenomena, as will be exemplified by the story of a young man’s spirit affliction. Sharing and silencing spirit stories are a means of determining the strength of spirits, as well as an efficacious way to evoke them. Using works that embark from the fragmentary and experiential character of animist cosmologies, it will be shown that approaching spirit stories as traces of spirits will be a suitable way to address the perspectives of those who navigate a world that is not inhabited by humans alone.
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The Allure of Israel’s Desert Landscapes
Amelia Rosenberg Weinreb
This article explores the trope of desert desolation in the Zionist state-building project. It traces the strategic uses of desolate imagery in the pioneer narrative (1880s–1920s), by the New Hebrew culture (1923–1948), during the ‘golden age’ of urban and regional planning (1948–1956), and through marketing the Negev desert town of Mitzpe Ramon to tourists (1993–present). These eras highlight the tension between desolation as reflecting the alienated ‘outsiders’ gaze’ versus desolation as energizing and inspiring place making. I argue that since unproductive, desolate landscapes pose an economic threat, both Israel’s collectivist and capitalist settlement projects have confronted the challenge of strategically rebranding desolation to promote its allure.
The Integration of Arabo-Islamic Culture in Pre-state Palestine
This article examines the ways in which Zionist intellectuals interacted with Arabo-Islamic culture in the Yishuv by looking into the cultivation of Islamicate knowledge pertinent to land and nature and its impact on the construction of the Jewish cultural landscape. I argue that in establishing a connection between Jews and the natural landscape of Palestine/ Israel, Jewish intellectuals relied on Arabo Islamic culture and its centuries of knowledge about the flora and the land itself. In their search to comprehend the flora and place names of the land of the Bible, Jewish individuals consulted Arabo-Islamic sources, finding them instrumental to their national enterprise. The culmination of these endeavors is that, in addition to Jewish and Western sources, Islamicate culture was one of the wellsprings from which Jewish intellectuals drew in shaping the emergent culture in the Yishuv and the early decades of the State of Israel.
Negotiated Being and Urban Jouissance in the Streets of Beirut
In this article I begin by noting a certain jouissance in Beiruti urban culture that co-exists with an ongoing history of intercommunal conflict and the failure of centralized planning. I then examine the irreverent celebration of this ‘outside-the-law’ culture by a group of middle-class immigrants who have returned to Beirut to enjoy its free spaces. I argue that these outside-the-law spaces are characterized by a particular form of sociality that I define as ‘negotiated being’. It is a dyadic and horizontal relation typified by a permanent state of relating and being attuned to the other without involving the law as a mediating third party. This makes for a more particularist and libidinal sociality that explains the forms of jouissance emanating from it.
Populist and Peasant Conceptions of Entitlement in Rural Nicaragua
Since the Sandinistas returned to power in Nicaragua in 2007, ideas about rights have been central to the governing party’s populist project. The rights in question are understood to require the production of ‘organized’ citizens who become integrated into the mechanisms of popular governance. But for rural Sandinistas who participated in the revolutionary agrarian reform of the 1980s, rights are about land. For some, realizing rights has required disentangling themselves from local organs of organized life, resulting in their exclusion from the government’s populist model of rights. Contending ideas about how to legitimately ground the rights that result—and the effort of these excluded Sandinistas to make revolutionary ‘struggle’ the basis of entitlements— trouble a standard anthropological model that views abstract rights as subsequently particularized in practice.
Yoram Peri and Paul L. Scham
It cannot have escaped the notice of any Israel Studies Review readers—or, indeed, of much of the world’s literate population—that 2018 marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. Academics commemorated the anniversary in their usual way, with a host of conferences in Israel, the US, and plenty of other places on innumerable topics relating to everything Israeli.
The Social Democrats at the Crossroads
Andreas M. Wüst
With a vote share of just 20.5 percent, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) 2017 Bundestag election result was a disaster. Despite initially deciding not to continue the Grand Coalition (GroKo), when negotiations on forming a Jamaica coalition failed, the Social Democrats found themselves back in coalition talks they never wanted. Although a strong minority of party members remained opposed, in the end the coalition agreement proved to be the best strategic alternative and is a Social Democratic success, especially concerning the level of social expenditures. In light of the election outcome, the success of the new GroKo is highly important for the coalition parties, as well as for Germany and its people.
Episodic Memory and Mnemonic Aids in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival
Hannah Chapelle Wojciehowski
Puzzle films like Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016) present challenges not only for viewers, but also for scientists seeking to understand brain functions such as memory formation, because these films deliberately scramble the temporal and spatial contexts that viewers normally rely on to create mental narratives and to form episodic memories. The strategic shuffling of multiple plotlines and chronologies in Arrival ultimately builds to an illusion of clairvoyance in the viewer, the imaged sensation of being able to see into the future, alongside the protagonist, Louise Banks. In order to create this “special effect” within viewers’ memories—a false memory of the narrative’s future—Villeneuve seeds the film with key pieces of information that viewers must hold in memory before ultimately solving the puzzle at the end and enjoying a special form of catharsis in the process.
Travel, Travel Writing, and Old Age
This article offers preliminary thoughts on travel writing from a gerontological perspective. Gender, race, and sexuality have provided important analytical frames for travel writing studies, but age has yet to function as a topic or point of reference. Through a consideration of five travel books by respected modern authors—Jan Morris, Dervla Murphy, V. S. Naipaul, Paul Theroux, and Colin Thubron—the article asks what motivates travel writers to stay “on the road” into their seventies and beyond, and what the distinctive features of travel narratives written at this life stage might be. The article aims to demonstrate the intrinsic fascination of travel books in which a strong abiding curiosity about the world coexists with an acute—and often melancholy—awareness of the passing of time and personal mortality.
Memorialization, War, and Democracy in the United States
Stephen J. Rosow
Contestation over war memorialization can help democratic theory respond to the current attenuation of citizenship in war in liberal democratic states, especially the United States. As war involves more advanced technologies and fewer soldiers, the relation of citizenship to war changes. In this context war memorialization plays a particular role in refiguring the relation. Current practices of remembering and memorializing war in contemporary neoliberal states respond to a dilemma: the state needs to justify and garner support for continual wars while distancing citizenship from participation. The result is a consumer culture of memorialization that seeks to effect a unity of the political community while it fights wars with few citizens and devalues the public. Neoliberal wars fought with few soldiers and an economic logic reveals the vulnerability to otherness that leads to more active and critical democratic citizenship.