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Under the Sign of the Gun

Welcome to the Postmodern Melancholy of Gordimer's Post-Apartheid World

Simon Lewis

Raymond Chandler used to say that whenever he got stuck writing a novel he would get going again by having a character come through the door with a gun in hand. Reading the opening pages of Nadine Gordimer’s new novel with its account of a sensational murder, one might wonder whether South Africa’s 1991 Nobel laureate, faced with the end of apartheid and the consequent lack of a subject, was operating according to Chandler’s principle. The House Gun, however, indicates not so much the lack of a subject as a new way of looking at an old subject facing new circumstances – the old subject being the psychological and material effects of white racism on whites, the new circumstances being those of post-apartheid South Africa. Moreover, the apparent narrowing of focus from the macropolitics of Gordimer’s three most recent preceding novels, None to Accompany Me (1994), My Son’s Story (1990), and A Sport of Nature (1987), to the micro-politics of The House Gun suggests that we can read South Africa’s transition to full democracy as a paradigmatic change from a modern to a postmodern condition. Gordimer’s post- 1994 publications, and The House Gun in particular, lend themselves to being read as illustrative of two of Michel Foucault’s central insights: the ubiquity of power, and the consequent idea that given that ubiquity, care of one’s self (‘souci de soi’) becomes a new kind of political obligation.

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Travel as Imperial Strategy

George Nathaniel Curzon Goes East, 1887-1894

Geoffrey Nash

Sometimes a travel theory is enunciated with such transparency as to seem almost a caricature. A key aspect of the debate surrounding Edward Said’s Orientalism has been the argument, adduced by such writers as Reina Lewis (1996), Lisa Lowe (1991), Billy Melman (1992), Dennis Porter (1991) et al., that Said’s construct disallows a space for multivalent positionings within the discourse of Orientalism. In this essay it is not my intention to rescue Said’s thesis from these critics, or to attempt a revision of his correlation of Orientalism with imperialism. My subject can be seen to justify Eurzon’s inclusion, alongside contemporaries like Balfour and Cromer, within that bloc of imperial patronage that sought to inscribe the East within the construct of Western knowledge/power which Said termed Orientalism. As enunciations of an aesthetic of travel, or codifications of imperial administration, Curzon’s writings rarely digress from Foucault’s equation of knowledge and power. But I intend also to problematise the confidence of imperial mastery in Curzon’s Orientalism by articulating the interior anxieties it seeks to cover by its political/racial logocentrism.

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The Art of Re-Interpretation

Michel de Certeau

Peter Burke

After a certain time-lag, the Jesuit Michel de Certeau (1925-86) has come to be recognized as one of the most creative cultural theorists of the late twentieth century, in the same class as his more celebrated contemporaries Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault. The secondary literature on Certeau is increasing at a remarkable rate. A Certeau reader was published in 2000 and an intellectual biography in 2002.2 A remarkable polymath, Certeau practised at least nine disciplines (history, theology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, literature, geography and psychoanalysis), and he has been discussed from many points of view. All the same, as this article will attempt to show, one of the various contexts in which his thought developed has been relatively neglected

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The Discipline of Sympathy and the Limits of Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Journalism

Hazel Mackenzie

Nineteenth-century literary journalism is often read in the light of Michel Foucault's disciplinary paradigm as articulated in his seminal work Discipline and Punish: The Birth of a Prison (1975). Contextualising the growth of literary journalism within the evolution of the modern, urban society, this article explores the ways in which journalists in this period manipulated generic conventions to both enact and resist their role in creating a more transparent, disciplined society. Looking at the journalism of Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, Charles Dickens, Charles Collins, John Hollingshead and William Makepeace Thackeray, this article will argue that their use of a limited, first-person perspective and their emphasis on feeling and sympathy attempts to resist a passive and disciplinary spectatorship and yet paradoxically it is the most significantly disciplinary aspect of their texts.

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L'expérience, le désir et l'histoire

Alain Corbin ou le «tournant culturel» silencieux

Dominique Kalifa

Il est de nombreuses façons d’envisager l’oeuvre d’Alain Corbin dans le paysage historique contemporain. On peut partir des divers objets élaborés par l’historien jusqu’ici (les sociétés et les comportements ruraux, l’histoire des sens et des appréciations, le paysage, etc.) et montrer l’étonnante capacité d’invention ou de renouvellement dont il fit preuve dans leur mise en forme. Souvent privilégiée, cette approche est évidemment pertinente, mais elle peine parfois à se dégager du simple panégyrique. On peut, de façon plus synthétique, insister sur la cohérence du projet d’ensemble (l’histoire des sensibilités), le penser dans le temps long de l’historiographie et l’inscrire dans une série de filiations (la psychologie historique de Lucien Febvre, l’histoire des mentalités façon Robert Mandrou, l’ombre portée de Michelet et du projet romantique de réanimation du passé), elles-mêmes infléchies par l’apport de sociologues comme Norbert Élias ou de philosophes comme Michel Foucault.

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Indigenous resurgence, anthropological theory, and the cunning of history

Terence Turner

Why has the recent period of global centralization of capital, from the 1970s to the present, also been a period of resurgence of indigenous movements and of forms of global civil society that have supported indigenous rights? This article argues that tackling this question can only be done by using concepts that emphasize what Hegel called the 'cunning' of history: the fact that the same historical process can on the one hand bring devastation to indigenous habitats and on the other hand create opportunities for political leverage by indigenous societies to gain recognition of the legitimacy of their different social, cultural, and economic systems within their ambient nation-states. Politically engaged anthropological theory, it seems, needs concepts that emphasize these contradictions—which in a nutshell means more Marx and less Foucault.

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The Politics of Memorial Representation: The Controversy Over the German Resistance Museum in 1994

J. David Case

The study of historical memory in its various forms is a burgeoning

area of inquiry among historians. The debate over public, official,

government-supported memory and private individual memories

reveals a complex dynamic among myth, memory, and history,

which as Michel Foucault and others have argued, is simply the dominant

form of memory in a society at a given time.1 Some of the most

revealing instances of the intersection between public and private

memory are commemorations and memorial sites where personal

memories are created and sustained within the context of the official

representation of the event and those involved. The constant need to

locate memories within a larger social frame of reference ensures

that supporters of different memories of the same event will directly

and forcefully link images from the present with their memories of

the past, no matter how incongruous these images may appear.

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War, Politics and Race

Reflections on Violence in the 'War on Terror'

Saul Newman and Michael P. Levine

The authors argue that the 'war on terror' marks the ultimate convergence of war with politics, and the virtual collapse of any meaningful distinction between them. Not only does it signify the breakdown of international relations norms but also the militarization of internal life and political discourse. They explore the 'genealogy' of this situation firstly through the notion of the 'state of exception'—in which sovereign violence becomes indistinct from the law that is supposed to curtail it—and secondly through Foucault's idea that politics is essentially a form of warfare. They suggest that these two ways of approaching the question of violence can only be understood through a racist dimension, which forms the hidden underside of the 'war on terrorism'. In other words, our contemporary situation is characterized by the mobilization not only of fundamentalist and conservative ideologies, but, increasingly, racial antagonisms and prejudices directed towards the Muslim other.

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The Discipline of Discovery

Reflections on the Relationship between Internal and External Conditions of Knowledge Formation

Ulrike Kistner

Starting with Foucault's articulation of factors in the formation of an order of discourse, and Ludwik Fleck's ideas on the structures of thought collectives and thought styles, this article mounts some reflections on the relationship between internal and external conditions of knowledge formation. In particular, it will look at the productive function of thought constraints – discipline – in the formation and transmission of knowledge, and bring this consideration to bear on some perils besetting the humanities not only 'from without', but also 'from within', notably the turn from academic teaching to externally oriented professional training, and an uncritical, general-programmatic proclamation of 'Multi-, Inter, and Trans-Disciplinarity' ('MIT') reorganising discourses, disciplines and orders of knowledge.

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Queen Mathilda of Saxony and the Founding of Quedlinburg

Women, Memory, and Power

Helene Scheck

This essay examines the memorial practices at the tenth-century Saxon community of canonesses at St. Servatius, Quedlinburg, to consider what is gained—and what lost—in the remembrance of key figures of the Ottonian dynasty. A memorial foundation established by Queen Mathilda of Saxony in honor of her husband, King Henry I, this community provides a particularly effective way to explore the relationship between memory, gender, and power in Ottonian culture, since the architecture, ritual practices, institutional rules, daily and intellectual life of the inmates, and literary works possibly produced by them function together as a complex memorializing machine. Reading this community's contributions to the constitution of dynastic memory through Michel Foucault's notion of power, the essay considers the effects of memorializing practices on women in Saxony at the time, who, I argue, never come to be fully present and therefore leave their successors, women writers to come, a legacy of loss.