Issue 101: Winter 2009
Table of Contents
Abstract: This essay is a personally and politically implicated account of the December 2008 youth uprising in Greece, by an academic who, along with a group of her colleagues, participated actively in "street action" and followed closely the discourses articulated around it, struggling to make the events intelligible to themselves and debating the main issues that this rebellion raised: the absence of political claims and the production of violence against material symbols of the current regime of power. It is an attempt to make sense of the "events" while they were still resonant with the puzzlement, predicament, and ambivalence of the moment. It is also part of the effort by a section of Greek intellectuals of radical and leftist background to oppose the attempt by dominant political forces and social science to classify these events as a moment of disorder produced by small groups of troublemakers to be repressed and condemned to oblivion. It is part of the effort to provide a witness for them, instead, as a rebellion, as a story telling us something about Greek youth, politics, and society that must be listened to, understood, and interpreted, and as an "event" creating new potentialities in Greek political processes that remain to be revealed.
Abstract: This essay inquires into the relationship between translation and empire in the United States. It argues that such a relationship cannot be understood apart from a critical appreciation of the Americanization, which is to say, translation of English from an imperial into a national language that required the reorganization of the nation's linguistic diversity into a hierarchy of languages resulting in the emergence of a monolingual hegemony. However, this American notion of translation as monolingual assimilation was always contested, and we can see its limits in the context of the recent U.S. occupation of Iraq. As an examination of the vexed position of Iraqi translators working for the U.S. military shows, attempts to deploy American notions of translation in war have devolved instead into the circulation of what in fact remains untranslatable and so unassimilable to U.S. imperialist projects.
Abstract: This essay considers the phenomenon of the global university, particularly the trend of setting up satellite campuses, or "outposts," in Asia and the Middle East. It tracks the global university as part of the Western university's international knowledge system and its connection to both colonial legacies and transnational capital. Joining conversations about the university's rabid corporatization, the essay uses the arts, and particularly the theater department, as a case study of how the bifurcation of professional training and scholarship, form and content, theory and practice may be deployed in the service of university transnationalism. Theater's "Edifice Complex" (the rampant infrastructural expansion of theater facilities and MFA-driven ethos since the late 1960s) is comparable to the global university's "Outpost Complex" (the construction of overseas campuses geared toward professional degrees amid billion-dollar architectural projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi). The history of theater's institutional formation points to its complicity or vulnerability to the capitalist regime of the global university. This means that we have to view its disciplinary fissures, both past and present, as a corollary of institutional corporatization, and heed the call for a more sincere alliance between theater and performance studies. The essay is also a call for the arts and humanities in general to confront the market and global logics of knowledge production; it argues that we have to link a critique of epistemic recidivism in disciplinary formations to an institutional critique of university neocolonialism in the corporate ventures and values of the global university.
Abstract: This essay examines the "Line of Control" (LOC) dividing the region of Jammu and Kashmir into two parts controlled by India and Pakistan, respectively. It does so to establish the LOC as a symptom and marker of what I term "cartographic irresolution." Through theoretical arguments for the creation of a borderland of uncertainty around the LOC, I claim that this LOC borderland should be regarded as constituting a set of epistemological and material effects distinct from those produced by the official Indo-Pak border, which resulted from the Partition of 1947. I also examine select Pakistani, Kashmiri, and Indian texts that are marked, in form and content, by the irresolution produced by the LOC, in order to illustrate how this irresolution might affect the nationalisms concerned. In particular, a short story by Kashmiri author A. G. Athar enables me to conclude the article by considering, through the idea of a "critical melancholia," the ethical dimension of cartographic irresolution. I end by suggesting that we might also use this approach in thinking about recent geopolitical developments such as the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus route.
Abstract: Proceeding from Robyn Wiegman's call for a transition from questions of "why" to "how" with regard to formations of race, this article proposes a heuristic, the "scriptive thing," to analyze ways in which racial subjectivation emerges through everyday physical engagement with the material world. The term scriptive thing integrates performance studies and "thing theory" by highlighting the ways in which things prompt, structure, or choreograph behavior. A knife, a camera, and a novel all invite--indeed, create occasions for--repetitions of acts, distinctive and meaningful motions of eyes, hands, shoulders, hips, feet. These things are citational in that they arrange and propel bodies in recognizable ways, through paths of evocative movement that have been traveled before. I use the term script as a theatrical professional might, to denote not a rigid dictation of performed action but, rather, a necessary openness to resistance, interpretation, and improvisation. A "scriptive thing," like a play script, broadly structures a performance while unleashing original, live variations. Like the police in Louis Althusser's famous scenario, scriptive things leap out within a field, address an individual, and demand to be reckoned with. By answering a hail, by entering the scripted scenario, the individual is interpellated into ideology and thus into subjecthood. I conduct close readings of scriptive things, including a photograph of a light-skinned woman posing in about 1930 with a caricature of a young African American man, a set of twentieth-century arcade photographs, a viciously racist 1898 alphabet book by E. W. Kemble, and a black doll called "Uncle Tom" that was whipped in the 1850s by a white girl who would grow up to write best-selling children's books. These readings show how interpellation occurs through confrontations in the material world, through dances between people and things.