Αρχική > πολιτική, φιλοσοφία > In search of eutopia

In search of eutopia


Monte Rosse on the SeaMax Pechstein - 1913

Monte Rosse on the Sea, Max Pechstein – 1913

Eurozine Review

Index on Censorship discerns shades of McCarthyism in global threat to academic freedom; New Eastern Europe speaks to Ukrainian historian Andriy Portnov about Europe’s reinvention; Krytyka assesses the chances of success in negotiations between Kyiv and the Donbass; Letras Libres speaks to Tzvetan Todorov; in Multitudes, Antonio Negri and Raúl Sánchez Cedillo respond to the rise of Podemos; A2 dips into Kenyan, Franco-Senegalese and Afropean literature; NLO considers untameable words and animals; in Syn og Segn, Shabana Rehman Gaarder rejects the notion that animals are created for humans; and Vikerkaar watches The Wire.

Index on Censorship 2/2015

Index on Censorship (UK) prints a special report on how academic freedom is coming under enormous pressure throughout the world.

Kaya Genç‘s opening contribution about the struggle for academic freedom in Turkey, entitled «Silence on campus», sets the tone for subsequent articles. Genc draws attention to the view that «the curbing of academic freedoms goes hand in hand with an even more crucial shift from a state-driven education system to one based on neo-liberal principles». Recognized qualifications may therefore prove hard to come by for those who can’t afford access to private education.

Eurozine Review

Every two weeks, the Eurozine Review rounds up current issues published by the journals in the Eurozine network. This is just a selection of the more than 80 Eurozine partners published in 34 countries.

All Eurozine Reviews

Branded education: Thomas Docherty is of the opinion that a branded education hardly guarantees freedom, but rather goes against the spirit of intellectual enterprise: «Conformity to the brand is now also conformity to a specific tone of voice; and the tone in question is one of supine compliance with ideological norms.» Docherty is one of a raft of scholars and writers to have signed an open letter published on Index‘s website, objecting to threats to academic freedom worldwide and urging its protection.

Ireland’s industrious academics: Michael Foley reports on the concerns of Irish academics about choices being «narrowed to reflect subjects that will help the country’s economic recovery». These were expressed in an open letter toThe Irish Times earlier this year, signed by 800 scientists. «There is also major concern, continues Foley, «that the companies attracted by Ireland’s famously low corporation tax are dictating the content of academic research.»

Also: Suhruth Parthasarathy provides the low-down on Amartya Sen’s resignation from his post as chancellor of Nalanda University, a response in Sen’s own words to the Indian government «undermining the autonomy of academic institutions»; and Mark Frary provides a concise account of one hundred years of attacks on US academic freedom.

The full table of contents of Index on Censorship 2/2015

New Eastern Europe, 15 June 2015

In an interview published online in New Eastern Europe(Poland), Andriy Portnov contends that it is not only events in eastern Ukraine and the Greek crisis that will force the European Union to reinvent itself – but also domestic political landscapes in Germany, the United Kingdom and France. «It will be the sum of these factors that will force the EU to change», concludes the Ukrainian historian and essayist.

Needless to add, Portnov has a special interest in the outcome, for: «If Ukraine has no clear perspective of EU membership», he says, «the next question should be: what’s next? What is the alternative? There is no alternative. At least I do not see any alternative in Ukrainian debates about the political future of the country.»

More on New Eastern Europe

Krytyka 3-4/2015

In an article in Krytyka (Ukraine), Oksana Forostynaconsiders issues of modernization and anti-modernization in the latest works by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie; which lead her to reflect on the possibility of dialogue between «mainland» Ukraine and the eastern Ukrainian territories (part of the Donbass).

Calls «to listen to the Donbass» seem problematic to Forostyna. «Under Yanukovych (and right up until the uprising on Maidan)», she writes, «people from Donetsk were appointed to the most important positions in the country precisely on the basis of clan membership»; and it is generally still these regional elites who have the loudest voices. There again, «indulging in and constructing ‘uniqueness’ imprisons our fellow countrymen in a ‘special’ status», ultimately stigmatizing the population of the Donbass as the Other.

Nonetheless, reading the works of Somalian-born Dutch-American activist and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali leads Forostyna to conclude: «The civilizational jump is incompatible with clan ethics – whether we’re talking about Ukraine or Somalia. And the fact that Somalia has already become a synonym for ‘failed state’ should make us more decisive. In the end, we are all nomads, merely traveling at different speeds.»

The poet Taras Shevchenko: Harvard scholar of Ukrainian literature George Grabowicz discusses the canonization of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861; see this issue’s cover art). During his lifetime, Shevchenko himself successfully foregrounded «an image of a poet who was entrusted with a sacred task to open and bring to the people the Word that would change their perceptions».

Today, one can understand his poetry «only as a comprehensive and totalizing experience», continues Grabowicz, drawing attention to the «archetypal and mythic structures of Shevchenko’s poetry – which was characterised by the reign of affective and psychological cathexis, as well as a dramatic structure that imitated certain aspects of oral narrative».

Also: A highly readable article by Enda O’Doherty on histories of the book, published previously in Eurozine.

The full table of contents of Krytyka 3-4/2015

Letras Libres 6/2015

«We should distrust those uses of memory that suit us, personally or collectively, because in reality every people, like every individual, has both dark and glorious pages in their history, and one should not reduce the past to a single element», says the French-Bulgarian writer Tzvetan Todorov in interview withLetras Libres (Spain).

On the question of how to deal with the traumas of the past, Todorov sees the experience of former Communist countries that tried to prosecute members of the Communist elite after 1989 as negative. For, he argues, «totalitarianism lasted for decades […] no one who lived outside prison in the Communist countries was free of making concessions to power».

Todorov also criticizes the «ultra-liberalism» now current in eastern Europe. «In eastern European countries there is a particularly pronounced rejection of any sort of concern for the common good, because it recalls a rhetoric that was nothing more than hypocrisy, an illusion.»

Memories of civil war: The issue’s focus on managing memory continues with José Carlos Mainer showing how memories of Spain’s Civil War became thoroughly interwoven with social and political changes in the country. First, Francoism portrayed the war as a «joyous opportunity for heroic martyrdom, as well as a perpetual justification for its political power»; while painting its opponents as «anti-Spain», to be regarded with «hatred and rancour». For opponents of Francoism, «any memory of the past was blocked by a fatalism imposed by the present».

But during the transition to democracy, «Spanish attitudes fundamentally changed with regard to virtually everything (sex, freedom, the rights of minorities), and the country’s ‘cultural memory’ was vigorously reconstructed». This applied particularly to the history of the Left and the pre-Civil War Republic. In today’s post-crisis Spain, any consensus has given way to «disorder» in bitter disputes over «historical memory». «Ignoring the advice of Habermas», Mainer observes, «we have tended towards a kind of political ‘privatization’ of memory.»

The full table of contents of Letras Libres 6/2015

Multitudes 59 (2015)

In Multitudes (France), Antonio Negri and Raúl Sánchez Cedillo respond to the rise of Podemos in Spain. In an article first published in Publico and theThe Huffington Post, they emphasize the importance of «(re)creating a flow of political movement, an open system of governance from below that, through continuous consistent debate and the constant extension of this debate to the citizens, holds together movement and government. It is possible to build this bridge, this coming-together», they say, asserting: «This is the empowerment that is decisive».

Colonialism, Islam and secularism: A dossier covers the relationship between colonialism, Islam and secularism. In a brief history of French attitudes to Islam, Seloua Luste Boulbina shows how the roots of modern prejudices are to be found – paradoxically? – in the Enlightenment. Boulbina reminds us that when Islam was first registered by European philosophers, Voltaire saw Muhammad as a political enthousiaste ultimately deluded by his own ideas; whilst Montesquieu, deploring the violence that he saw as characteristic of proselytizing Islam, created the figure of the «oriental despot».

The spiritual and the temporal: Mohamed Amer Meziane stresses what he considers to be the colonial roots of today’s calls for the reform of Islam, so that Muslims can be assimilated into secular European societies. In France, Meziane relates these calls back to the Saint-Simonianism of the Second Empire (1852-1870) and the writings of Ismael Urbain. This adviser to the Emperor considered all races and religions to be subject to the law of human progress.

However, Meziane also explains how colonists considered it necessary to distinguish the spiritual from the temporal in the Qur’an, because Muslims themselves were unable to do so. The spiritual was to be respected whilst the temporal was to be subjected to the secular code of law – an argument commonly used to legitimize the expropriation of lands by the colonists.

Also: Albert Ogien and Sandra Laugier stress the importance of «understanding the many forms of domination imposed upon ‘minorities’, which cannot be reduced to mere ‘post-colonial’ issues».

The full table of contents of Multitudes 59 (2015)

A2 12/2015

A2 (Czech Republic) presents three contemporary (Pan-)African writers. Literary historian Pavel Korinek profiles Ngugi wa Thiong’o, an acclaimed Kenyan novelist, theatre practitioner and professor of literature. A leading advocate of the «decolonization of African mind», Ngugi switched from writing in English to his native Gikuyu and Swahili, drawing heavily on Kenyan oral tradition.

Ngugi believes that African writers have a duty to create literature in their own languages, although this «will not itself bring about a renaissance in African cultures, if that literature does not carry the content of our people’s anti-imperialist struggles to liberate their productive forces from foreign control».

Senegal: Senegalese novelist, playwright and poet Pape Samba Sow talks to Hana Geroldová about his writing, teaching and dreams of visiting Prague. Sow feels that, as inhabitants of the most assimilated sub-Saharan colony, all Senegalese are a little bit French, and refuses to blame the colonial past for his country’s woes. Indeed, he embraces the «fertile duality of which I am not in the least ashamed».

Cameroon/France: Mila Janisová introduces the Cameroon-born Léonora Miano, a resident of France since 1991, who describes herself as «Afropean» or «global Panafrican». However, although she writes exclusively in French and publishes exclusively in France, French media stubbornly refer to Miano as a Cameroonian author. And though most of her novels focus on experiences of immigration, only those set in Cameroon are widely available in France.

Janisová wonders if this is because Miano «seems to enjoy poking into hornet’s nests, consciously annoying readers and revealing skeletons in the cupboards of the colonial past?» However, Miano counters: «I may be radical but if I had to censor myself and write under the watchful eye of society, I’d rather give up writing altogether.»

Also: In interview, Slovak writer Marek Vadas talks about Cameroonian culture and his haunting and hallucinatory short stories, recently translated into Czech.

The full table of contents of A2 12/2015

New Literary Observer 132 (2015)

NLO (Russia) features a series of articles on (failed) attempts to «domesticate» language and animals. Indeed, Konstantin Bogdanov sums up language itself as «an evolutionary process of mastering ‘words’ and ‘objects'». In Ancient Greek pedagogy one example of this form of control, Bogdanov continues, is the chreia – the witty and educationally useful anecdote.

But when the study of rhetoric was introduced to Russian education in the eighteenth century, its Europeanized style conflicted with students’ everyday language. Notwithstanding intellectuals’ enthusiasm for fresh ideas and technological innovation, the word chreia came to express bombastic and empty discourse.

Thus: «A rejection of the rules of ‘domesticated discourse’ came to be expressed through spontaneous forms of speech reflecting freedom of thought and feeling», says Bogdanov. «In the context of pedagogical arguments setting the obscurantism of antiquity against aspirations for social change, Russian literature represents a body of ‘free’ writing, in which the laws and flourishes of rhetoric look alien. Its history should be written as a chronicle of public opinion, in which the values of language and social reality are constantly equalized.»

Uninvited animals: Oxana Timofeeva links the theme of domestication to theories of the unconscious, with particular reference to Kafka’sMetamorphosis. «The subject (though not the substance) of the unconscious is an animal», argues Timofeeva. The cockroaches, ants or rats that introduce themselves into human homes are often imagined in terms that suggest the fearsome and the uncanny. They embody dislodged, hidden aspects of human personality. «Uninvited animals, those with whom it is hardest to identify, restore what has been ousted […] in the form of a ghost or creature with which we must share the sinister cosiness of our homes». «The emptiness of space watches us from the dark corners of the unconscious, concludes Timofeeva, «shrouding in its images and transmutations the almost unbearable truth that we have never had, nor ever will have, a home.»

The full table of contents of New Literary Observer 132 (2015)

Syn og Segn 2/2015

«I have rejected the notion that animals are created for humans. The way we exploit them makes us inhuman», writes Norwegian stand-up comedian and columnist Shabana Rehman Gaarder in the latest issue of Syn og Segn (Norway).

«What right do we have to cause so much suffering for millions of animals, something that we don’t need to do at all in order to survive?» Gaarder explains how growing up in a Muslim home where pork was never eaten made her reflect on cultural differences and taboos concerning food. When she started to eat pork sausages, she made jokes about it on stage, challenging the Muslim norm.

But then Gaarder got her first dog, a Samoyed: «I was touched by the way my dog showed feelings, needs and instincts.» And her whole attitude toward animals changed. As to why people, especially in western cultures, cannot let go of meat-eating? Gaarder concludes that «we eat meat because it’s tradition, because it’s culture, because it’s ideology. Meat industry ideology».

Children’s rights: «There is something symbolic about being a part of a greater world society but choosing not to», says child psychologist and scientist Kerstin Söderström in interview. In 2012, Norway refused to sign an additional protocol to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. The protocol gave children the right to submit a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. This despite Norway being the first country in the world to introduce a children’s ombudsman, and one of the first to sign the convention on children’s rights.

«I think it looks bad now that Norway appears to be above certain principles […] when we are constantly telling others how to act», states Söderström. She urges instead more «faith in the international system». The Norwegian government has until the end of 2015 to submit a report to parliament on the matter.

The full table of contents of Syn og Segn 2/2015

Vikerkaar 4-5/2015

«The withering of utopian imagination», writes Jaak Tomberg in an article in Vikerkaar (Estonia), «has become a favourite topic of culture criticism over the last 15 years», to the extent that, as someone once said, «it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism».

Not that we should allow this to stand in the way of a new era of utopian realism, Tomberg argues. Even putting confusion as to the etymological roots of the word «utopia» aside (with utopia meaning no-place and eutopia good place), classical visions of utopia are likely to strike the reader as static and distant. And, in a sense, modern economic and social crises have brought utopian impulses closer. Meanwhile, the cultural imagination has undergone a technological intensification, such that genres once clearly opposed to one another, like science fiction and literary realism, «begin to merge indistinguishably».

Nowhere are these trends more prescient than in the TV series The Wire, which ran for five seasons between 2002 and 2008.Contending notions of utopia and realism have already been thrashed out between Frederic Jameson in an article entitled «Realism and utopia in The Wire» (2010) and Slavoj Zizek in a text entitled «The Wire, or, what to do in non-evental times» (2012). As Jameson wrote in 2010, the «future and future history have broken open both high- and mass-cultural narratives in the form of dystopian science fiction and future catastrophe narratives. But in The Wire, exceptionally, it is the utopian future that here and there breaks through, before reality and the present again close it down».

The Occupy movement may not have made a world of difference to this dynamic, but a contemporary desire «to see a better socio-economic order functioning not on a distant island, but in the here and now» remains. Tomberg concludes with reference to Dennis «Cutty» Wise’s boxing club, among other examples, «nowadays, utopianism consists not in a comprehensive imagination portraying fictional worlds with stubborn attention to every detail, but incompletely real successes, no matter how small or temporary, that are born with the support of a collective initiative».

The full table of contents of Vikerkaar 4-5/2015

Published 2015-07-01

Original in English

© Eurozine


Max PechsteinAgrópoliDimensions:  Ca. 34 : 51,5 cmMedium:  Watercolor, black chalk and pencil on vellumCreation Date:  1952

Max Pechstein, Agrópoli

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