“WHERE WILD WOMEN GROW”: NATURE, WILDNESS, AND THE SEARCH FOR IDENTITY IN TONI MORRISON’S JAZZ

This paper presents wildness as an agent that can free African-American characters from the toxic, controlling ‘tracks’ (e.g., rail, subway, exploitative record labels) of the City (Harlem). Although critics have explored the ways in which the City in Toni Morrison’s Jazz is oppressive, I discuss the oppression of citified tracking as a contradiction of the natural, spontaneous, and wild form that mimics jazz music. Although the characters face exploitation in the City, their deterioration is not a result of the City itself (sometimes a site of possibility and hope for African-Americans migrating North) but of the toxic ways in which they interact with the City. Ultimately, Morrison demonstrates the importance of maintaining one’s African-American Southern rural roots and of creating one’s own tracks. By examining the exploitation and subsequent healing the characters experience in the City, this paper suggests that African-Americans in present-day cities can overcome some of the oppression of capitalist urban centres by avoiding the toxic, urban ‘tracks’ that seek to control them. By discussing African-American issues of identity and individuality, especially in terms of their connection with nature, this paper contributes to narrative inclusivity and the merging of disciplines.

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CITIES OF SALT: SLOW VIOLENCE AND THE EMERGENCE OF ISLAMIC RADICALISM IN ABDEL RAHMAN MUNIF’S PETROFICTION

Abdul Rahman Munif’s quintet Cities of Salt sketches an image of the ecological destruction triggered by America’s oil-driven interference in the gulf region, which consequently became a triggering factor for the emergence of Islamic authoritarianism and political conflicts. The events of Cities of Salt start around the 1930s in the undisturbed environment of the oasis of Wadi al-Uyoun, destined to be devastated by the emergent oil industry, where Munif creates a parallel image of homogenous society which is also to be divided by a chasm that separates the beneficiaries from the uprooted masses. This article focuses on Munif’s depiction of the built environment which brings the two images of environment and society together. The vernacular architecture of Wadi al-Uyoun homes, built from its natural materials and by the collective efforts of its people, is also destroyed and replaced by constructions that neither belong to Wadi al-Uyoun’s natural environment nor reflect the identity of its people. Munif connects creatively two parallel shifts: the shift from an almost egalitarian community into a capitalist one and the shift from a spiritual Islamic society into a radically authoritarian Islamic state. This article aims at illustrating the enforced degradation of the inherited architectural identity and the demolition of the original urban fabric that reflected the ecological harmony for the sake of distorted architectural identity and imposed urban plans that reflect the new capitalist and authoritarian nature of the Gulf States.

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AFFIRMING DECAY: TOWARDS THE POSSIBILITY OF A FUTURE-ORIENTED DIAGONAL LEFT FOR DETROIT’S ABANDONED POPULATION

This paper introduces the concept of ‘selective acceleration’ in light of the economic and social history of Detroit. To begin, Detroit is treated as a case study used to diagram the relative deterritorialization of the economic system by neoliberalism. Deleuze and Guattari’s metaphor of addiction is used in order to understand unregulated neoliberal capital as an addiction of the metropole. This addiction enables the acceleration of neoliberalism in the city, which aligns with Virilio’s concept of the suicidal State. This ‘addict’ ignores and abandons those it determines it has no use for: the precariat. Drawing upon Deleuze’s ‘Dionysian yes’ or a ‘yes with a no’, this article presents a potential movement on the diagonal to allow the precariat a means of re-appropriating the technologies and developments used against them through the process of affirming the very structures they have already been developing outside of the capitalist machine. By selecting what elements of the process to accelerate, this abandoned population could be granted the keys to its own future.

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“WE ARE ALL IN OUR PRIVATE TRAPS”: TRANSPHOBIA IN HITCHCOCK’S PSYCHO

One of Alfred Hitchcock’s most well-known movies, Psycho (1960) continues to instigate debate and academic scholarship. While this movie was the precursor of many trends, such as the slasher horror genre, it has not escaped controversy. According to John Phillips, Psycho “[provided] the original model of the mentally disturbed cross-dressed murderer” (87) by equating cross-dressing with a form of mental illness so severe that its only logical manifestation is violence. Norman’s gender bending, expressed by dressing and living as his mother, threatens gender binaries, and thus creates a veritable monster. In this article, I will argue that Psycho promotes a transphobic rendering of its main villain, Norman Bates, in order to understand how the movie tries to contain Norman’s transgender identity. Using film studies and queer studies, I will examine Norman as a transgender character, Lila as an embodiment of the Law, and the psychiatrist at the end as a repressing force. Mainly, I will argue that Lila and the psychiatrist function to normalize Norman and to contain his non-normativity.

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DISABILITY’S ‘PINOCCHIO STORY’: A MODERN CRISIS OF THE DISABLED IDENTITY

“Disability’s `Pinocchio Story`: A Modern Crisis and How to Begin its End” will express an understanding of the disabled identity as internally and eternally schismatic and suggest the disabled occupy a fascinating position of alterity. Like Pinocchio, however, the desire to be something other than what we are, as disabled, is continually threatening our future as an identity group. Part of this threat arrives from inside ourselves, and another hails from technological innovation in a digital world. These threats are expressed in the desire to `pass` or hide our disabled reality in both online and personal spaces, as well as in the question of birthing ethics and designer children. As such, this paper will complicate a recent study on the capacity for disability to be minimized or hidden online (by Bowker and Tuffin) while interrogating whether or not this tendency ought to be viewed with positivity. It will also offer a view of the disabled future that faces potential deletion via technological change. After clarifying this modern crisis, this work will seek to offer a different entry point into understanding the disabled identity which may summon new forms of empowerment. By utilizing analysis of James Burger’s notions on the relationship between disabled birth and identity catastrophe, this paper will work to embrace the unique position of the disabled as that which already faces ends, decay and damage and rises up from it rather than stealing away from its realities. Additionally, utilizing notions of the body helmed by Gilles Deleuze, as well as an understanding of exilic experience brought on by Mimi Thy Nguyen, I will come to the conclusion that the disabled identity has the capacity to operate from positions of damage, exile and potential deletion to advance powerful philosophical conceptions of the self.

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“SILENCE: ON JOUAL!”: LITERARY VIOLENCE IN AN OTHERWISE ‘QUIET’ REVOLUTION

Behaviors toward language and language users – by which is meant a wide range of gestures, actions or value judgments made towards a variety of language or its speakers, from violent assault to demeaning joke and everything in between – are not just headline material, they are also the spark from which originate many political fires. Language is more than a way to communicate with other human beings; it is a matter of cultural survival, of life and death.
The Canadian province of Québec provides a clear example of how behaviors toward language and language users can be recuperated extra-linguistically to support a larger social or ideological discourse. There, language has been a cornerstone of a national and individual identity in perpetual construction since the very beginning of European settlement. The most intense linguistic debate to take place in Québec occurred in the 1960’s, a period of enormous and uncharacteristically fast political and social changes. This debate focused almost exclusively on the slang of poor, uneducated French-Canadians, commonly known as joual, which quickly became conceptualized as a dual linguistic entity that was both the symptom of a cultural oppression and a potential tool to destroy this very oppression. This period also marked the first use of joual in the literary field as part of a political and stylistic movement aiming at creating a true “littérature québécoise”. The theorizations of joual by its enemies and supporters, in both literary and political works, has contributed to the larger discourse and praxis of cultural change that was affecting Québec society during the so-called Quiet Revolution.

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STUDYING OUTSIDE THE LAW: KAFKA AND THE QUESTION OF BENJAMIN’S POLITICS

This essay will develop an important thread in Benjamin’s work, namely, a conception of politics capable of resisting the mythical foundation of the authority (or the law). This will be done by arguing that an affinity exists between his early writings on politics and violence (1920-21) and his 1934 essay on Kafka (“Franz Kafka: On the 10th Anniversary of his Death”)—an essay generally not considered relevant in considerations of Benjamin’s political theory. It will be shown that Benjamin reads Kafka as descriptive of the ‘mythical’ foundation of authority, while also elaborating possible modes of resistance to such a foundation. This will be shown as a fusing of theological and materialist domains, more generally a gesture at the heart of Benjamin’s thinking. This can be expressed as a certain ‘cunning of theology’: a ‘practical’ theology by which one is able to reclaim a sense of the political in the present moment, allowing for the ability to ‘study’ or act beyond the law. As will be demonstrated, this relates to Benjamin’s broader attempt to employ theology to political ends, or rather to fuse the influence of Scholem with that of Brecht.

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