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Michael Carrithers

Seriousness is achieved when a speaker effectively moves the audience according to his or her intentions. But seriousness is fragile and subject to countless vicissitudes, as illustrated in an encounter with the television evangelist Oral Roberts. I interrogate one of the means used to counter such vicissitudes-hyperbole. Hyperbole may include exaggeration and amplification of all kinds, and may be manifest in deeds as well as words. I first follow hyperbole through 9/11 and the competing ideologies of Salafi jihadists and the Bush administration to show how 'absolute metaphors' are enlisted hyperbolically. I examine too how epic narratives are created as a similar form of hyperbole. Finally, I show how sacredness, another allied form of hyperbole, is attributed to the Holocaust in present-day Germany. Throughout I argue, and illustrate, how anthropological writing is of necessity ironic, such that irony is better than 'cultural relativism' as an understanding of the anthropological enterprise.

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Ethics in Context: The Art of Dealing with Serious Questions, by Gernot Böhme (transl. by Edmund Jephcott). Cambridge: Polity, 2001. Reviewed by Deane-Peter Baker

9-11, by Noam Chomsky. Johannesburg: M&G Books, 2001. Reviewed by Derek Hook

The Politics of Lying: Implications for Democracy, by Lionel Cliffe, Maureen Ramsay and David Bartlett. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000. Reviewed by Ralph Lawrence

Feminism and Emotion: Readings in Moral and Political Philosophy, by Susan Mendus. London: Macmillan, 2000. Reviewed by Pamela Anderson

Stupidity, by Avital Ronell. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002. Reviewed by Patrick Lenta

Norbert Elias and Modern Social Theory, by Dennis Smith. London: Sage, 2001. Reviewed by Volker Wedekind

The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For?, by Slavoj Zizek. Verso Press, 2000. Reviewed by Clayton Crockett

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Alice Cooper

In 2008 the first state-level CDU-Green coalition was formed in Hamburg. Drawing on the literature on party goals (vote-, office-, policy, internal cohesion- and democracy-seeking), this article examines the GAL's decisions to join and to end the coalition. It examines the trade-offs between party goals as they evolved in different phases of “schwarz-grün,” with particular reference to the Greens' education reform agenda. While policy- and vote-seeking complemented each other during the election campaign, vote-, office- and party unity-seeking conflicted with each other in the Greens' decision to enter a coalition with the CDU. Later, policy- and democracy-seeking conflicted with each other when a referendum organized by a citizens' initiative defeated the Greens' education reform, a defeat that contributed significantly to the premature end of the CDU-Green coalition. New elections led to defeats for vote-, office-, and policy-seeking when the SPD achieved an absolute majority.

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Art to Table

The Power of Aesthetics in Women’s Cookbooks of the Belle Époque

Samantha Presnal

Abstract

Throughout much of the nineteenth century, men enjoyed hegemony in the French culinary arts, an entitlement enshrined in the books they wrote about cooking and gastronomy. The Belle Époque brought the first challenge to this absolute authority with the publication and popularization of cookbooks written for women, by women. Through the close reading of a selected corpus from the period, this article considers the implications of this shift in authorship. Women cookbook writers infused aesthetic discourse and principles into both the content and style of their texts. While male chefs had also drawn parallels between the culinary arts and the fine arts in order to augment their professional status, female authors evoked this relationship in as well as on di?erent terms. I argue that women cookbook writers engaged with aesthetic theory in a way that legitimized the labor of the private sphere and contested normative ideas about the inferiority of the feminine.

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Gilberte Furstenberg

Globalization requires the ability to work and interact with people of many different nationalities and cultures. Such interaction further involves the ability to communicate more effectively across these different cultures, whatever one’s field or discipline. This implies the absolute necessity for all of us to understand the languages, values and attitudes of other cultures so that misunderstandings and misconceptions are reduced. The events of September 11 greatly increased the public’s awareness of this issue. As a professor of linguistics wrote in the New York Times shortly thereafter, we need to “understand the words of our enemies—not to mention those of our friends.”1 The Cultura project seeks precisely to develop in-depth understanding of a foreign culture, by first looking at specific words that will provide access to the heart and core of another culture.

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Irwin M. Wall

The French elections of 2012 resulted in an unprecedented and overwhelming victory by France's Socialist Party, which gained control of the presidency and an absolute majority in the National Assembly to go with the party's existing domination of most of France's regions and municipalities. But the Socialist Party remains a minority party in the French electoral body politic, its victory the result of a skewered two-ballot electoral system. The Socialist government, moreover, remains hampered in its action by its obligations toward the European Union and its participation in the zone of countries using the Euro as it attempts to deal with France's economic crisis. As a consequence of both of these phenomena the government may also be sitting atop a profound political crisis characterized by the alienation of a good part of the electorate from the political system.

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Alessandro Chiaramonte

The Italian general elections held in February 2013 ended up in stalemate. The center-left coalition won the absolute majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies but not in the Senate, making it impossible to form any homogeneous governing majority. In the end, the only available opstion to support the new cabinet was a “grand coalition” of parties from different political sides. This chapter analyzes this destabilizing outcome, taking into account a number of factors: the success of a new anti-establishment party, the Five Star Movement, which has become the largest party in the country; the significant loss of votes by the center-left and especially by the center-right, compared to the previous elections of 2008; the peculiar nature and functioning of the electoral system; the extraordinary level of vote shifts; the “new” electoral geography; the crisis of the bipolar setting; and the transformation of the party system.

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The Editors

Our journal did not come into the world with authority and certainty but did so, instead, with some hesitation and tentativeness. The narrator of Jonathan Swift’s eighteenth-century satire on modern learning, A Tale of a Tub (1704) claims for himself “an absolute authority in right” as the “last writer” and “freshest modern.” We make no such claim. At this point we may be both new and fresh, but we need to feel our way, to discover what is out there and what we might realistically expect to come into our own purview. But tentativeness is good. It allows us to be responsive to a variety of articles so long as they satisfy our goal of exploring film and mind. Tentativeness also allows us a sustained and continuing debate.

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Lynn Hunt

Robert R. Palmer exemplified the best that historians have to offer. He wrote with conviction, empathy, and at times passion, yet he always managed to maintain balance and portray both the good and the bad in the people and events he brought to life for his readers. Because he wrote with conviction, he also wrote with exceptional clarity. He never displayed the impulse to hide behind highfalutin language, contorted prose, or excessively specialized topics. He believed that democracy was an absolute good, that it had its origins in European history, and that its rise provided one of, or even perhaps the principal theme of all of modern history. As a consequence, he never lost his sympathy for the French revolutionaries of 1789–1794, however terrible their actions, however much they fell short of living up to their ideals.

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(Dis)Connected Rail

Infrastructural Suspension and Phatic Politics in Romania

Adrian Deoanca

The political force of infrastructures is often attributed to their functioning as designed, while their political afterlives remain underexplored. In this article, I explore ethnographically the phatic force of ruins of infrastructure, by dwelling on a liminal railroad segment in Romania that remains unrehabilitated many years after its breakdown. Such an open-ended state of suspension allows the isolation of infrastructure’s political and affective dimensions. The Giurgiu-Bucharest railroad met its demise in 2005 in the wake of heavy floods, producing an infrastructural gap that impacts local mobility and unravels the postsocialist social contract. State authorities and citizens engage in tactics of remediation that, while unsuccessful in resuming traffic, maintain a sense of phatic connection that kindles nostalgia for the past and frustrates anticipation of the future. These tactics make the railroad a medium for hope and at the same time a symbol for the absolute impossibility of hope.