This article examines the role of smiling as a performative gesture at the northeast border between Russia and China. It argues that the border is a place where ‘myth’ in the sense proposed by Roland Barthes is manifest in the comportment of people when they see themselves as representing the civilization of one side or the other. In this situation, smiling and not smiling are elements of particular communicative registers that enact political myths in life. Highly gendered, these agentive-performative gestures exist amid other functional and affective registers, which can override them. The article also discusses the ‘helpers’ who mediate in cross-border trade, whose image is also sometimes subject to mythic imagination.
Mythic Gesture at the Russia-China Border
Reflections from an AAA Teaching Workshop
James S. Bielo
Good teaching is a craft. It requires constant honing. While perfection eludes most of us most of the time, our best days are intellectually generative, meaningful, and often quite fun. I intend this essay as a gesture in that same spirit.
Every film has its moment. Be it an unforeseen glance, an unmotivated gesture, or a startling sequence unnecessary for narrative progression, such a "moment" reveals in a flash what's at stake—then and now. In the following, I analyze such a moment in Karl Grune's Die Strasse (The Street), a film that Siegfried Kracauer considered one of the defining documents of German modernity. Produced and shown in fall of 1923, the film inaugurated the so-called Strassenfilm genre, which combined the visual language of expressionist cinema (oblique angles, harsh lighting, heavy shadows, painted backdrops, distorted spaces, stylized gestures) with an urban setting. In its gritty exploration of sex, crime, morality, and madness, the street film became the prototype for American film noir of the 1940s. The Street has its "moment" in a brief sequence that discloses the film's underlying theoretical project—the nexus between urban modernity and the disciplining power of vision.
Institutional planning in Kuala Lumpur
This article considers the complexity of contemporary urban life in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, through an analysis of planning and the plan itself as a thing in this environment of multiplicity. It argues that the plan functions as a vehicle for action in the present that does not require a singular vision of the future in order to succeed. Plans in the context of governance and urban development gesture to “the future,” but this gesture does not require “a future” in order to function in a highly effective manner. The evidence presented indicates that the primary effectiveness of the plan largely relates to its status as a virtual object in the present. Such virtual objects (plans) bind subjects to the conditions of the present within the desires and limits asserted by the institutions seeking to dominate contemporary life in the city, but this domination is never absolute, singular, or complete.
Mihaela Miroiu argues that there was/is ‘a deep incompatibility between feminism and communism’ and that the proclaimed communist measures of gender equality were not feminist in intention and meaning. She insists also that one should differentiate between feminism as an ideal and feminism as ideology. Miroiu further claims that, even if there were some individual feminist gestures under ‘communism’, they didn’t have political consequences.
A Call to Peace, Dialogue and Understanding Between Muslims and Jews
Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Rahim
This letter is intended as a gesture of goodwill towards rabbinic leaders and the wider Jewish communities of the world. Our aim is to build upon existing relations in order to improve mutual understanding in places where this is required to further the positive work in building bridges between Muslims and Jews. In the face of the negative and destructive tensions in the Middle East, this letter is a call to positive and constructive action that aims to improve Muslim–Jewish relations.
FOOL: There was once a man who had three daughters. (Gestures towards the tableau scene, makes a slight bow, and moves to exit stage; Lear, Goneril and Regan stir slightly without moving from their positions, glance nervously at each other, aware that there is something amiss with the staging as presented; Fool notices and immediately returns to middle of stage.) Ah, right. I guess I should clarify. So this man does have three daughters. Well, not this man exactly. (To Lear) Alfred, how many daughters do you have?
Considering Social Science and the Production of Island Vulnerability and Opportunity
This article argues that climate change has influenced the way in which small island nations are viewed and understood by the international climate community. Climate change has become an internationally recognized and specific language of vulnerability that is deployed in requests for international aid to fund adaptation and mitigation measures in some small islands, for population relocation plans and human rights advocacy in other islands, and for overhauling the 'tourism product' and creating new markets for travel in others. Vulnerability is a powerful idiom, especially in the contemporary climate context that has come to imply crisis, change, uncertainty, and immediacy. Importantly, vulnerability also gestures unambiguously toward seemingly limitless scientific and even commercial opportunity. These developments come with new forms of expertise in the natural and social sciences and the travel industry, as well as with new or reinstated forms of inequity. As the areas of small island expertise increasingly overlap, they come to reproduce the very context and form of small islands themselves.
Performativity, Subversion and the AIDS Poetry of Rafael Campo and Mark Doty
According to Judith Butler, gender, although seemingly essential and fixed, is a series of corporeal acts and gestures which iterate or repeat cultural norms. She argues, in fact, that it is the very citationality of gender that makes it appear natural, inherent and internal. Drawing on Jacques Derrida’s ‘Signature, Event, Context’, an article which argues that the performative speech act is not a singular act but instead ‘a reiteration of a norm or set of norms’, Butler therefore poses the notion of gender as ‘performative’. She is always quick to point out that this does not mean gender is performance, in the sense of being a conscious and optional act. In an Althusserian vein, Butler instead sees the subject as compelled and interpellated into subjectivity through the compulsory imitation and continual citation of gender. Drag, according to Butler, reveals this performativity by its parodic play on gender roles, and she argues that drag can serve a ‘subversive function’
Looking back on my first public expression of interest in Peter Porter and his work – an interview published in Westerly in 1982, based on discussions with him in London the previous year – I notice in some of my questions the gestures of a proto-biographer. Yet I had come to Porter entirely through his work – from teaching poems in Alexander Craig's anthology 12 Poets and reading in London The Cost of Seriousness (1978) and the then newly minted volume English Subtitles (1981). It would be another nine years, with visits by me to London and Peter to Perth before Spirit in Exile: Peter Porter and his Poetry was published by Oxford University Press in 1991.