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Matthew P. Romaniello

Russian imperialism continues to leave a strong imprint on indigenous cultures across Siberia, and throughout the Russian Federation and the post-Soviet republics. Imperialism is invasive and persistent, and it might be impossible to escape its consequences. In 1986, African novelist and postcolonial theorist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o published his influential essay collection, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. One of his arguments is that no postcolonial subject could be free from the constraints of imperialism until she or he succeeded in freeing the mind from the trap of an imposed (and foreign) language. Ngũgĩ’s experience was based on his own life growing up in Kenya, but his lesson is as applicable to Siberia as it is for East Africa. For indigenous Siberians, language and education are at the forefront of the ongoing postcolonial struggle to maintain their cultural identities in modern Russia.

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Giovanni A. Travaglino and Benjamin Abrams

Since its inception, Contention has aimed to illuminate our understanding of activism and political behavior across a full variety of contexts and settings. By examining political behavior across multiple geographical and social sites, we can explore unique opportunities to expand the horizon of our theoretical frameworks, test the generalizability and applicability of our claims, and gain a stronger grasp of how different structural arrangements and historical trajectories might shape political action.

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Eyes wide shut

Il/legality and solidarity in housing struggles in (post)socialist Sofia and Caracas

Mariya Ivancheva and Stefan Krastev

This article presents the results of a collaborative ethnographic inquiry in contemporary Sofia and Caracas. Combining historical research and ethnography, we compare the ways in which a former and a current left-wing regime treat urban squatting. In both cities, squatters tend to be poor families escaping homelessness. In Sofia, “squatters”—usually of Roma origin—inhabit unregulated spaces deemed illegal after 1989. In Caracas, homeless families have been officially encouraged to squat but not declared legal occupants. A historical comparison shows both socialist governments turn a blind eye to extralegal housing practices. Benign, informal housing arrangements function to display solidarity with marginalized groups as a form of popular legitimacy. Yet, without formalized state protection, such arrangements produced a “surplus” population, vulnerable vis-à-vis global processes of capitalist reorganization.

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Cat Moir

This article argues that G. E. Lessing should be viewed as one of the German Enlightenment’s foremost thinkers of peace alongside his contemporary Immanuel Kant, whose contribution to thinking peace in the eighteenth century is already well recognised. It makes this case by examining two of Lessing’s late works: the 1779 drama Nathan the Wise and the 1780 essay The Education of the Human Race. The dialogue between faith and reason characteristic of Enlightenment discourse is at the heart of both texts, but here it is argued that peace is a crucial third moment. While in Nathan Lessing asserts the need to find peace between the forces of faith and reason in a literary register, in the Education essay he does so in a more explicitly theoretical mode.

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Fascism at eye level

The anthropological conundrum

Douglas R. Holmes

Fascism in our time is emerging not as a single party or movement within a particular nation-state but rather as a dispersed phenomenon that reverberates across the continent nested within the political contradictions of the European Union. Rather than focusing on a specific group to determine whether it is or is not “fascist,” we must look at how diverse parties and movements are linked together in cross-border coalitions revealing the political ecology of contemporary fascism and the intricate division of labor that sustains it. Underwriting contemporary fascism is an “illiberal” anthropology that can colonize every expression of identity and attachment. From the motifs and metaphors of diverse folkloric traditions to the countless genres of popular culture, fascism assimilates new meanings and affective predispositions.

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Hugh McDonnell

This article examines the 1994–1995 controversy surrounding President François Mitterrand’s past involvement with Vichy France through the concept of “the gray zone.” Differing from Primo Levi’s gray zone, it refers here to the language that emerged in France to account for the previously neglected complicity of bystanders and beneficiaries and the indirect facilitation of the injustices of the Vichy regime. The affair serves as a site for exploring the nuances and inflections of this concept of the gray zone—both in the way it was used to indict those accused of complicity with Vichy, and as a means for those, like Mitterrand, who defended themselves by using the language of grayness. Paying attention to these invocations of the gray zone at this historical conjuncture allows us to understand the logic and stakes of both the criticisms of Mitterrand and his responses to them, particularly in terms of contemporaneous understandings of republicanism and human rights.

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A FRENCH PARADOX?

Toward an Explanation of Inconsistencies between Framing and Policies

Henri Bergeron, Patrick Castel and Abigail C. Saguy

The French news media has framed “obesity” largely as a product of corporate greed and social inequality. Yet, France has—like other nations including the United States—adopted policies that focus on changing individual-level behavior. This article identifies several factors—including food industry lobbying, the Ministry of Agriculture’s rivalry with the Ministry of Health and alliance with the food industry, and competition with other policy goals—that favored the development of individual-level policy approaches to obesity in France at the expense of social-structural ones. This case points to the need to more systematically document inconsistencies and consistencies between social problem framing and policies. It also shows that national culture is multivalent and internally contradictory, fueling political and social struggles over which version of national culture will prevail at any given moment.

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From Security to Peace and Concord

The Building of a Free Commonwealth in Spinoza's Political Treatise

Stefano Visentin

The aim of this article is to discuss how Spinoza’s Theological- Political Treatise and Political Treatise deal with the development of a free and pacific commonwealth, taking into account both a comparison with the irenic tradition of Erasmus and the original position of Spinoza’s republicanism within the Dutch context of that period. To approach this issue, comparing Spinoza’s idea of security with the Hobbesian one can also be useful in order to demonstrate that security and freedom are not antithetical in Spinoza (differently from Hobbes) but rather support each other. Consequently, the role of peace and concord within the Political Treatise shall be considered the result of a collective self-emendation process of social interactions and political institutions. In this perspective, Spinoza’s concept of peace seems a very original attempt to build a free political community, where democratic institutions are both the cause and effect of pacific (i.e., rational and harmonious, although not necessarily irenic) relationships among citizens.

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Richard A. Lee Jr.

In Defensor Pacis Marsilius of Padua grounds the legitimacy of the kingdom, or the state (civitas), on the peace that rule provides the citizens. Looking at Aristotle’s claim that the civitas strives to be like an animal in which all parts in the right proportion for the sake of health, Marsilius argues that ‘the parts of the kingdom or state will be well disposed for the sake of peace [tranquilitas].’ Marsilius goes on to define peace as the agreeable ‘belonging together’ of all members of the kingdom or the state. In this way, Marsilius moves away from a theological ground of the legitimacy of the state towards one that is entirely secular. However, the ground is an unstable one in that it acknowledges the fact that the ‘members’ of the body politic are characterised by difference. As such, the ground of legitimate authority will be characterised as much by force as by peace or by the relation of force to peace.

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The Good Enough Quarto

Hamlet as a Material Object

Terri Bourus

This article challenges A.W. Pollard’s foundational distinction between good and bad quartos, which confuses ethical and bibliographical categories. Some quartos are badly inked, or printed on poor-quality paper. But Q1 Hamlet is a professional, well-made commodity. Zachary Lesser has conjectured that Q1 sold poorly, and has claimed that the similarity of the title pages of Q1 and Q2 supports that hypothesis. But both title pages are typical of Ling’s books, and their similarities are no more remarkable than those in Ling’s different quartos of Michael Drayton’s poems. Q1 Hamlet apparently sold more quickly than Q2. Using D.W. Winnicott’s theories about the ‘good enough mother’ and ‘transitional objects’, we can identify Q1 as a ‘good enough quarto’.