Issue 97: Winter 2008
Table of Contents
Abstract: This article explores a key trope of economic stagnation and chronic joblessness in postcolonial Senegal: the image of "lazy" young men in the public sphere. This civic and moral discourse is critical of young men who allegedly drink tea "all day." But this attitude elides the long history of youth protest against injustice, and excuses a state that has displaced the most strident critics of Senegalese neoliberalism by bribing them with overseas scholarships and government positions. This suggests that what some see as political and economic inactivity is manufactured through state-sponsored encadrement: techniques of trapping, quartering, and containing youth.
Abstract: This essay argues that the public utility, particularly electricity supply, signifies powerfully as a form of social recognition, a basic human right, and a model of civic inclusion and citizenship in the modern and postcolonial Bildungsroman. James Joyce's A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN, Henry Roth's CALL IT SLEEP, Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN, and centrally, Patrick Chamoiseau's TEXACO all connect with one another through a preoccupation with electricity as an akasic medium for the creation of urban imagined communities. The essay further deals with public utilities as a terrain of political struggle from the megacities of the global south (what Mike Davis calls the "planet of slums") to the banlieues of Paris. That struggle is embodied in the emergent practice of parkour, whose expressions this essay analyzes via their popular dissemination in films such as DISTRICT B13 and CASINO ROYALE.
Abstract: Saartjie Baartman's story has become central to black feminist theory and politics, serving as the primary analytic vehicle for explaining the violence that the dominant visual field inflicts on black female bodies. The re-telling of Baartman's story has also provided black feminists with tools for grappling with racialized pornography, which is thought to re-enact Baartman's violent exhibition by rendering black women objects for white male spectators' consumption. This article argues that the constant invocation of Baartman's story has allowed an anti-pornography formation to flourish within black feminism, masked as racial progressivism. Ultimately, this strain of anti-pornography politics has promoted a black feminist sexual conservatism which systematically ignores questions of black women's pleasure, sexual agency, and desires, and has generated a normative - rather than analytical - engagement with racialized-sexualized imagery. In place of normative readings of racialized pornography, this paper offers a new reading practice - racial iconography - which examines the ways that pornography mobilizes race in particular social moments, under particular technological conditions, to produce a historically contingent set of racialized meanings, pleasures, and profits.
Abstract: This article argues for a different academic practice in relation to social movements, asking scholars to be more deliberate about acknowledging the specifically intellectual contributions of activisms. It notes that much of the new theoretical work in the United States on neoliberalism neglects the strong critiques of neoliberalism emerging out of the Central American left in the late eighties and early nineties, as well as the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico beginning in 1994.
Abstract: This essay moves to investigate the co-constitution of "the child" and "the secular." Twins of modernity, "the child" and "the secular" underwrite moral claims about progress, the universal human, and the ordering of time itself. These moral claims are carried forward by dominant narratives of secularism and European Enlightenment. This dominant story aligns secularism with universalism, reason, progress, freedom, and peace "versus" an irrational and atavistic religion. Though narrated as a universal project, secularism, in its dominant form, remains tied to a particular religion, Christianity, and a particular history of origins in Enlightenment Europe. Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini have termed this dominant formation "Christian secularism." How does "the child" come to function in the gap between "the religious" and "the secular"? This essay pursues these connections via a close analysis of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's February 2008 proposed educational initiative to teach the meaning of the Holocaust to every French fifth grader. Sarkozy calls upon the specter of dead Jewish child-victims in order to produce a supposedly universal social body in the present and for the future. This unexpected lamination of pedagogy and necrophilia reveals that the survival of the body politic happens not by keeping death at bay but by soliciting it. As site of this solicitation, the Christian secular child uneasily straddles past and future, death and life. Lee Edelman may be right that "the child" summons the fantasy of a future. Nevertheless, we must critically supplement his analysis by asking, which child, whose fantasized future?