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'A Wrong Port'

Colonial Havana under Northern Eyes

Bonnie Shannon McMullen

This article looks at Havana of 1820 as seen through the eyes of John Howison, a young Scottish surgeon. As well as his accounts of Havana in his travel book Foreign Scenes and Travelling Recreations (1825), Howison distilled his deepest impressions of the city in a short tale in Blackwood's Magazine in 1821 called 'An Adventure in Havana'. Howison's reactions to Roman Catholicism, slavery and colonial government corruption, as well as the coarseness and exploitative nature of many foreign residents and visitors, combine with his repulsion at the pervasive presence of disease and death to present a picture that moves from objective analysis to gothic horror.

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Ronald E. Santoni

By this time, most of us are only too familiar with the vehement denunciations of Benny Lévy and his allegedly manipulative, even pernicious, influence on Sartre during Sartre’s last ten years. In her biography of Sartre, Sartre: A Life, Annie Cohen-Solal highlights some of the attacks on Lévy: Roland Castro indicted him as “the least humanist of all leftists, a monster of cynicism and mysticism”; Olivier Todd charged him with the “corruption of an old man”; an ex-Maoist comrade characterized him as “a moralistic fool … capable of turning … an audience around with his perfect speeches and crushing intelligence.”

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Making a river of gold

Speculative state planning, informality, and neoliberal governance on the Hooghly

Laura Bear

This article examines the forms of state planning associated with neoliberalism, through a history and ethnography of the Kolkata Port Trust during liberalization. All state plans are promised futures which create a contested dialogue between bureaucrats and citizens. Neoliberal governance makes these interactions particularly ambiguous and opaque, because it relies on decentralized, speculative planning and the stimulation of public-private partnerships. These produce diverse, behind-the-scenes negotiations whose outcome is entirely different from the schemes initially outlined in textual state promises. It also places low-level bureaucrats in a liminal, Janus-faced role, in which they act both to create and to cross a boundary between public and private action. This new mode of rule is particularly problematic in settings such as the Hooghly River, where informality dominates in labor relationships. Bureaucrats deploy practices previously associated with “corruption” and patronage in order to enfold networks of unprotected labor into the revenue streams and plans of the state.

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Daniel M. Knight

The Greek economic crisis resonates across Europe as synonymous with corruption, poor government, austerity, financial bailouts, civil unrest, and social turmoil. The search for accountability on the local level is entangled with competing rhetorics of persuasion, fear, and complex historical consciousness. Internationally, the Greek crisis is employed as a trope to call for collective mobilization and political change. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Trikala, central Greece, this article outlines how accountability for the Greek economic crisis is understood in local and international arenas. Trikala can be considered a microcosm for the study of the pan-European economic turmoil as the “Greek crisis“ is heralded as a warning on national stages throughout the continent.

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Zaindi Choltaev and Michaela Pohl

This article discusses the hostage tragedy in Beslan (North Ossetia) and its connection to Russia's war in Chechnya and to Vladimir Putin's domestic policies. The authors argue that Russia is embracing the war on terror, but Russia's leaders are not really interested in putting an end to the terror. They have not made an effort to find out or tell the truth about its causes, to fight the all-pervasive corruption that is an important factor in all of the latest major attacks, nor to find convincing social and political solutions in Chechnya. The current initiatives leave society with lies and terromania and strengthen those who profit from a continuation of the war on terror and the war in Chechnya.

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Chaos in Siberia

New Scholarship on Exile in the Late Russian Empire

Jeffrey S. Hardy

This essay reviews new books by Sarah Badcock, Daniel Beer, and Andrew Gentes on Siberian exile in the long nineteenth century. Based on a wealth of memoirs and archival documents, all three studies shed new light on the aims, practices, and lived experience of exile, with Beer providing a broad overview and Gentes and Badcock focusing on specific episodes. Meticulously researched and well written, the books demonstrate the chaotic nature of exile, with corruption, violence, and the nature of the exiles themselves contributing to the system’s failures to achieve its often-conflicting goals. More context in terms of Siberian development and the Russian penal system and greater theoretical and comparative perspective would have further strengthened these important new books.

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Sergio Rizzo and Gian Antonio Stella

In this chapter, the efforts of the Italian ruling class to cut the costs of politics during 2012 are analyzed. An informal division of labor was established between Monti's executive, which was to take care of budgetary problems, and the Parliament, which was supposed to tackle the frequent scandals of corruption and public money mismanagement. The results of the latter's efforts were amply (and predictably) disappointing, justifying once more the low levels of trust that citizens display toward politicians. In particular, we consider five points: the expenditure cuts by the constitutional bodies, the failure to reduce the number of MPs, the effort to cut back on the public funding of political parties, the “anarchy” of regional expenditures, and the inability to decide about the abolition of provincial government.

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Hebrew Dystopias

From National Catastrophes to Ecological Disasters

Netta Bar Yosef-Paz

This article examines contemporary Hebrew dystopic novels in which ecological issues play a critical role, reflecting an increasing preoccupation of Israeli culture and society with the environment. The literary turn to dystopia is not new, but whereas Israeli dystopias published in the 1980s–1990s focused mainly on military apocalyptic visions, current novels combine these national anxieties with ecological dangers, following present-day trends in American literature and cinema. These contemporary dystopias either conjoin a national crises with an ecological disaster as the source of the catastrophe or represent environmental recklessness as evidence of moral corruption, linking ecological and social injustice to the emergence of a Jewish theocracy. Offering an ecocritical reading of these novels, the article pinpoints the American cultural influence on the narratives. This thematic shift in Hebrew fiction, I argue, reflects a rising environmental awareness and positions literature as a major arena in which these issues are raised.

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Kati Kelemen

'If God does not exist, and never existed, then why do we miss him so?' This question is asked by Istvan Sors-Sonnenschein, a young Hungarian Jewish ex-Communist of his grandmother, Valeria, just after his release from three years in prison in 1959. It is a scene in the much discussed, recent Istvan Szabo film Sunshine which chronicles the history of four generations of a Hungarian Jewish family from the late nineteenth century to the present. After having been imprisoned for speaking openly about the moral corruption of the Communist regime in which he served as a member of the secret police, Istvan has returned to the spacious, comfortable family home of his grandparents to find it filled with strangers.

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Black Market Fictions

Au bon beurre, La traversée de Paris, and the Black Market in France

Kenneth Mouré

Jean Dutourd's novel Au bon beurre (1952) and Claude Autant-Lara's film La Traversée de Paris (1956) offer the best-known depictions of black market activity in Occupied France, appreciated by audiences who had lived through the war. This article looks at the black market stories they tell and their reception in France in the 1950s. It focuses on the fictional stories in relation to the historical experience from which they were drawn, and analyzes their selective representation of behaviors and the key relationships on which black market activity relied. Both works capture widely shared Occupation experiences of food shortages and exploitation. They highlight popular resentment of profiteers, the ability of the wealthy to escape wartime hardship and postwar justice, and the corruption and incompetence of the state in managing shortages and postwar purges.