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Aesthetics of Slowness, Aesthetics of Boredom

Productivity and Tedium in the Cinema of Tsai Ming-liang

Giulia Tronconi


Within the contemporary discourse on slow cinema and independent arthouse filmmaking, emerges the figure of Malaysian-born, Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-liang. His works, situated at a crossing between different forms of expression—film and installation, narrative film and ethnography—have often been deemed tiresome, boring. The following article explores where and how boredom may be identified in his films, and questions whether the languid feeling can be considered an aesthetic achievement. In particular, the article offers close textual analysis of I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006) and Days (2020). Leveraging on the personal quality of felt duration, these films attune the viewer to the possibility of wonder and encourage considerations of the embodied representation of profound emotions such as solitude, alienation, and melancholy.

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Affect and Empathy

The Phenomenology of Perception and Spectatorship in Screen Media

Andrew J. Ball

Our summer issue begins with a three-part special section on phenomenologies of perception in screen media. These articles focus on novel technological means of representing embodied, lived experience, as well as ways that visual media can impact embodied spectatorship. Each examines media artworks that attempt to represent the seemingly intangible, such as loss, decay, and temporality. The authors in this section offer nuanced and ethically oriented phenomenologies of vision, motion, and time. In “Projecting the Colors of Vision,” Wendy Haslem discusses how artists working in animation, cinema, and virtual reality use visual media to represent the lived experience of sight loss. Haslem analyzes the “haptic optics” of Yoav Brill's Ishihara (2010), Derek Jarman's Blue (1993), and James Spinney and Peter Middleton's Notes on Blindness (2016) to show how these artists use technological tools and experiments with color to represent diverse, embodied experiences of visual disability, and to encourage “empathic awareness” in viewers. In his article, Yifei Sun critiques the analog-contingent theories of movement put forward by Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze. Sun modifies aspects of Deleuze's Cinema 1: The Movement-Image to offer a theory that accommodates the qualities of digital film. Sun considers the possibilities for software art to produce what he calls “voyeuristic authorship” and applies his “ontology of decay” to Marc Lafia and Fang-Yu Lin's The Battle of Algiers (2006). In “Aesthetics of Slowness, Aesthetics of Boredom,” Giulia Tronconi examines slow cinema's phenomenology of time. Tronconi offers an incisive reading of Tsai Ming-liang's films I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006) and Days (2020) that reveals how the filmmaker uses “felt duration” as a strategy to cultivate “empathic contemplation” and “respectful observation” in viewers. The author engages with the work of Schopenhauer and Heidegger and with Deleuze's Cinema 2: The Time-Image to explain the political and ethical potential of delaying movement in film.

Open access

Afterlives of depopulated places

Development through extractivism and rural tourism

Dragan Đunda


Emptiness appears as a condition of possibility of two common visions of rural development in Serbia—extractivism and rural tourism. This article investigates the underlying sociocultural mechanisms of this relationship. It compares two mountainous villages in Serbia that were depopulated during modernization of Yugoslavia and included in hydropower investment schemes during the current energy transition yet ended up within different models of development and contrasting articulations of emptiness. In Rakita, emptiness takes the form of yearning for defective or absent infrastructure and serves as an asset in extractive projects. In Dojkinci, rural tourism has emerged as an alternative to extractivism. While both local communities and institutions take it as the last hope for depopulated but naturally exceptional localities, tourism brings commodification and increasing social differentiations.

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Soheila Shahshahani


All different sciences are defined in a specific way. It is not enough to define anthropology as a science that has studied human beings at all times and all places. It is the methodology of anthropology that is unique and increasingly appreciated by other fields. With the spread of COVID-19, as displacement became a problem, for the researcher and for those s/he had to be with, this methodology was temporarily put into question: social media or simply telephone contacts to gather data was used. The collection of articles in this issue reconfirms that it is through participant observation that the researcher can diligently and exhaustively study a topic or shine new light upon well-studied topics. Our topics are varied this time, some papers are from different fields, our methodology remains the same.

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Becoming Other, Becoming More

Ontological Continuity in Fictional Feminist Transsexual Autobiography

Jasper Lauderdale


This article examines how continuity is dealt with in fictional feminist texts that depict gender or sexuate transition, via surgical intervention or transmogrification, in terms of naming and pronoun use, self-image, and perceived image. The texts here examined—literary and filmic works by cis artists Angela Carter, Sally Potter, and Octavia Butler, principally—all pastiche the familiar narratological mode of transsexual autobiography, aping the convention of internal focalization, though each elides the wrong-body formula that frequently accompanies such narratives to justify access to medical treatment and care. I situate each alongside scholarly engagements with transsexual embodiment, surgery, and lived experience, with particular focus on flesh as that which both contains and determines gendered and sexed readings, to ground these fictive accounts of becoming.

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Between loss and opportunity

The fate of place after postsocialism

Dace Dzenovska, Volodymyr Artiukh, and Dominic Martin


Many places in the post-socialist world undergo emptying: a loss of their constitutive elements—people, infrastructure, services, and futures past. Some people see this emptying as a loss, others as an opportunity. We argue that the shift from loss to opportunity—or vice versa—is a site of the political, that is, a moment of decision about the place of the present in a framework of meaning that gives form and direction to life. Drawing on contributions to the theme section, as well as on literature on hegemony, the political, and Anthropocene, we identify a potential tension between re-politicization on the scale of geopolitics and de- politicization on the scale of the planetary.

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Between Two Worlds

The Dybbuk, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and Reparative Tragedy

Lisa S. Starks


This article examines how S. Ansky's 1918 play The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds and its subsequent adaptations on stage and screen appropriate Romeo and Juliet, transforming Shakespeare's tragedy, through Kabbalah and Jewish folklore, into one that ‘repairs’ the story of star-crossed lovers and the material world that they seek to escape. The Dybbuk is a ‘reparative tragedy’, one that intersects multiple levels of restoration, healing and repair. Generically, the play and its later stage and screen adaptations recuperate and refigure Shakespeare's tragedy; materially, it calls for the repair of past and impending trauma, suffering and severed human relationships. These levels, as well as others, culminate in the play's overriding spiritual one: the play follows the ‘reparative’ narrative of Kabbalah itself, with its goal of tikkun olam – to repair the world.

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Beyond (Un)Stable

Chars as Dynamic Destabilisers of Problematic Binaries

Jenia Mukherjee, Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, and Raktima Ghosh

Abstract: Until recently, river islands have been neglected in island studies and river/water scholarship. We address this research gap by focusing on the ‘fluidscape’ of the Lower Ganga Basin, West Bengal, India. Drawing empirical insights on chars (river islands) of the River Ganga, located upstream and downstream of the Farakka Barrage, we present lives and livelihoods in this ‘ever-shifting landscape’ and demonstrate how the barrage project led to transplantation–obliteration-resurrection of chars in repetitive cycles and activated ambivalence among choruas (communities inhabiting chars). Our fluid tales of everydayness in the volatile river islands show how these ‘muddyscapes of hazards’ become ‘muddyscapes of opportunities’ along ‘situated adaptive practices’ and contingent adjustments pursued by choruas. We establish chars as the most significant metaphor of destabilisation, dislodging widely held ideas about rivers, vulnerability, adaptation, among others. The deployment of ‘volatility’ as the theoretical-conceptual traction allows us to perceive chars beyond vulnerability and instead as viablescapes.

Résumé : Jusqu’à récemment, la littérature académique des rivières et espaces aquatiques s’est peu intéressée aux îles fl uviales. L’existence de ce qui est « fluide » - c’est-à-dire, au-delà de la démarcation entre le « solide » et le « liquide » - en Asie du sud deltaïque n’est pas reconnue comme legs du savoir hydrologique colonial. Afin de combler ce vide, cette article présente les résultats d’une enquête empirique conduite sur les îles du bas Gange, en amont et en aval du barrage Farakka. En proposant la notion de « fluidscapes », nous nous attacherons à décrire les vies et modes de vie dans ces espaces toujours en mouvement et montreront comment le projet de barrage a provoqué une rupture sans précédent dans l’écologie de la rivière qui a transplanté, oblitéré et ressuscité des îles fluviales en cycles répétitifs. Il fera également écho à l’attitude ambivalente des Choruas, ces communautés qui habitent les îles fluviales. Ces histoires fluides de la vie quotidienne dans des îles fluviales volatiles nous permettent de mieux comprendre comment ces « espaces boueux dangereux » peuvent devenir des « espaces boueux d’opportunité » par la mise en œuvre de pratiques d’adaptation et d’ajustements contingents de la part des Choruas. Nos enquêtes ethnographiques nous ont conduits à voir dans ces îles fluviale une métaphore de la déstabilisation signifi cative, renversant largement les idées préconçues sur les rivières, la vulnérabilité, l’adaptation, etc. Le recours à la « volatilité » comme concept théorique est fécond dans la perception de ces espaces insulaires spécifi ques comme off rant un au-delà du vulnérable vers des espaces de vie qui sont bien viables, au contraire.

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Elisabeth C. Macknight

Giovanni Tarantino and Charles Zika, eds. Feeling Exclusion: Religious Conflict, Exile and Emotions in Early Modern Europe. London: Routledge, 2019. Chapter endnotes and index. 296 pp. (Hb) ISBN 9780367367060; (eBook) ISBN 9780429354335. Hb $184.80; eBook $37.02.

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Joseph Derrick Nelson

Reigeluth, Christopher S. 2022. The Masculinity Workbook for Teens: Discover What Being a Guy Means to You. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications