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.
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.
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.
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.
The call for papers for the 20th annual graduate conference in Comparative Literature, Hispanic Studies, and Theory and Criticism at Western is now open! This special edition of the conference is […]
“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.
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.
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.
Being different marks distinctiveness in plurality, especially in a homogenous society. But can this hypothetic difference operate on an internal level? Can the subject perceive a distinctive “I” in the own sense of self? The figurative implications behind these initial assumptions and rhetorical questions about otherness and selfhood signal a concetual shift to the sphere of philosophy. Emphasizing the philosophical repercussions of the concept of Otherness, this paper focuses on exposing the meanings of the notion in connection with identity and selfhood. Accordingly, the critical skeleton of the paper is delineated by Emmanuel Levinas’ analytical thinking and ethical remarks on the notion of Otherness. Starting from the rimbaudian philosophy of the “other” (“I is an Other”), the focus will be on the different connotations on the self in contemporary ethics. Following Levinas’ and other theoreticians’ lines of thought, the focus gradually shifts to the applicability of their theories to the concrete textual dimension. As for Oryx and Crake, in order to better understand the rise of the dystopian fiction and its significance, an insight into the theoretical conventions of Postmodernism is necessary. Contrasting the Postmodern worldview with the Modernist poetics, the change of perception on the issue of the Otherness becomes clearly perceivable. Concepts and phrases such as “defamiliarization”, “dedublation”, “self-transcendence”, “artificiality”, “digital clones”, “denied Other”, “technological apocalypse” occupy a crucial role in deciphering Atwood’s otherness(es). More specifically, using these concepts, I will argue that there are three main manifestations of Otherness in the novel: the Other as doppelganger, the denied Other, and the digitalized embodiments of Otherness. All these variations reflect a peculiar aspect of the dystopian narrative. Therefore, uncovering the mystery of Otherness in Atwood’s masterpiece also becomes a personal journey towards understanding the aesthetics of atypicality in dystopian fiction.
In this essay I examine the status of political representation in Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (La bataille d’Alger, 1966, ITA) and Nagisa Oshima’s Death by Hanging (Koshikei, 1968, JAP) through the political theories of Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Rancière. Death by Hanging, I argue, is a direct response to the aestheticizing of politics in The Battle of Algiers, a film that Oshima provocatively called a “trashy” melodrama. The two films present radically different ways of approaching political subjectivity and alterity, thus both works take “fight or flight” as a central theme. Within the films, terms such as “criminal,” “terrorist,” “Korean,” “Algerian,” “citizen,” and “nation” are uttered, performed, and explored to uncover the ways each word produces conflicting meanings and effects dependent upon the spaces in which protagonists appear. Ultimately my analysis finds that Habermas’s approach to politics falls short of its lofty ideals. Habermas’s political theory does not aid the protagonist of Algiers in his fight against colonialism. Rather, by placing Algiers against Oshima’s absurdist film, and finding the latter’s parallels in Rancière’s theory, I uncover new ways to cinematically represent individuals who have no formal role to play in state politics.