13 Chapters
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11 Sensorial Techniques of the Self: From the Jouissance of May ’68 to the Economy of the Delay

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub

 

NOIT BANAI

Without elevating the French revolts of May 1968 to the status of mythical events that can be neither captured nor repeated, it is apparent that their power to connote new forms of governance and subjectivization has not waned. Especially in the last decade, contemporary art practitioners, such as Olafur Eliasson, have harnessed the participatory, democratic discourse that surrounded the events of May 1968 as a way of invigorating the public to generate forms of subjectivization within art institutions. This ostensible repetition raises important questions about the afterlives of 1968 as a particular (yet plural) historical confluence of political circumstances, material practices, and representational and textual artifacts that still resonate in the contemporary imaginary. Indeed, if the last forty years have seen diverse recuperations and reproductions of May 1968 as a global seismic shift, the one I would like to excavate revolves around the intersection of phenomenological experience and the democratic opposition to government power within the French context. Articulated as a critical paradigm for collective organization by diverse voices during the ’68 revolts, this particular history becomes all the more pronounced through its novel iterations in aesthetic manifestations such as Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project at the beginning of the twenty-first century.1 At the crux of this essay is the presentation of a microhistory that asks how the modality of participation, considered both a political manifestation of and resistance to biopower, has gone through a radical transformation since the “long ’68” to become a conceptual platform for contemporary aesthetics. My main focus is the way in which the discourse of revolutionary “spontaneity” that characterized the French revolts has been modified into an insistence on the ethical experience of the “delay” in Eliasson’s installation. To crystallize the implications of this conceptual and temporal reformulation, it is imperative to understand how the body and visual apparatus of the “participant” have been envisaged and deployed in these two disparate moments and to what ends. Through such an analysis, we can assess the continuing valence of 1968 and confront the complex methodological problems that come with evaluating such apparent paradigm repetitions.

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9 Bodies Count: The Sixties Body in American Politics

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub

ROBERT O. SELF

Historical discussions of feminism in the United States typically locate post-1968 women’s liberation as the origin of a new politics of the body in post–World War II American political discourse. By making the personal, especially the sexual and the reproductive, political, women’s liberationists redefined how the socially constructed body was understood. Constrained by male control of female bodies, they contended, women lacked the power to shape their sexual and reproductive destinies. Their bodies were not fully their own. After 1968, however, white women’s liberationists, Third World feminists, and other activist women of color politicized abortion and reproductive health, along with rape, sexual harassment, and other dimensions of “sexual politics.” The result was a new political language, a tide of new legislation, and a vibrant jurisprudence—forged by Supreme Court decisions in such cases as Roe v. Wade (1973), Craig v. Boren (1976), and Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986)—that were collectively transformative, if contested and incomplete. Ascribing these developments to post-1968 feminist activism is right, provided we acknowledge earlier precedents in European and U.S. feminisms in both the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.1

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7 Mexico 1968 and the Art(s) of Memory

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub

JACQUELINE E. BIXLER

2 de octubre no se olvida (October 2 is not forgotten).

—popular slogan, 1968–present

Like the mythical two-faced Janus, the words “Mexico 1968” conjure up two diametrically opposed historical images. For many, particularly those who reside outside Mexico, the mention of “Mexico 1968” brings memories of the XIX Olympics and of the two African American athletes who raised their black-gloved fists as a sign of Black Power upon receiving their medals. While most Mexicans know that the Olympics were held that year in Mexico City, the words “Mexico 1968” are much more likely to evoke memories of a long summer of marches and manifestations that ended on October 2, within days of the Olympic opening ceremony, with the death of an untold number of students and bystanders in the Plaza de Tlatelolco.

Memory, particularly as it relates to history, has been a subject of intense philosophical debate since the days of antiquity, when Plato described memory as a block of wax onto which we imprint perceptions and ideas. Key questions persist, however. What do we remember? How do we remember? Why do we remember? Recent years have produced a “memory boom” in both critical theory and cultural production as the result of the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, the Dirty War in Argentina, and other hauntingly unforgettable events of the not-so-distant past. According to Kerwin Lee Klein, “Academics speak incessantly of memory because our epoch has been uniquely structured by trauma.”1 In the case of Mexico, the twentieth century was rife with trauma, beginning with the Revolution of 1910, the deadly earthquake of September 19, 1985, and the 1994 Chiapas uprising and multiple assassinations of high-level political figures.2 But the deepest and most lasting trauma of all was inflicted on the evening of October 2, 1968, when Mexican army troops opened fire on thousands who were attending a peaceful student-led rally in the Plaza de Tlatelolco. On that day, twentieth-century Mexican history fractured into two eras: pre- and post-1968. As David William Foster notes, October 2, 1968, “marks a dividing line in Mexico’s socio-historical consciousness; and in many ways the enormous changes in Mexican society in past decades, including considerable erosion of the PRI’s [Partido Revolucionario Institucional] political authority and symbolic stature, are a consequence, if not directly of what happened in the plaza, of fault lines in Mexican society that became brutally evident with those events.”3 Indeed, it was the very awareness of these fault lines that later caused the residents of Mexico City to bypass the government and form the grassroots brigades that saved thousands of those trapped beneath the rubble of the 1985 earthquake.4 The year 1968 was to be the cornerstone of Mexico’s modern collective consciousness, a consciousness characterized by distrust of and resistance to governmental authority, whose weapons ranged from rifles to the manipulation of historical “facts.”

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6 Pushing Luck Too Far: ’68, Northern Ireland, and Nonviolence

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub

SIMON PRINCE

On October 5, 1968, police officers broke ranks to beat a small civil rights march off the streets of Derry. The young poet Seamus Heaney recognized this moment as a “watershed in the political life of Northern Ireland”: it was no longer possible to believe in “shades of grey.”1 On October 4, 2008, the commemorations marking the fortieth anniversary of the march opened in Derry’s Guildhall with an easy-listening version of Nina Simone’s “Free.” This was appropriate for an event that smoothed out the story of the past to suit the needs of the politics of the present. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, John Hume, and a former high-ranking member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Martin McGuinness, each laid claim to the movement’s legacy; the different Irish nationalist traditions—constitutionalism and physical force—each laid exclusive claim to continue the struggle of the Catholic minority.2

But the speech given by the journalist Nell McCafferty was played in a new key. She took out her medicine and encouraged people in the audience to talk about the drugs that they had been prescribed, for she felt that popping pills was the only proper response to the sight of elderly men parading onto the platform in acts of self-promotion. The late 1960s that McCafferty recalled were not about peaceful politics or the politics of the gun; they were about homeless families squatting in empty properties, the occupation of public buildings, and protesters challenging bans on marches. She talked about nonviolence, a democratic idea that is little heard of in the public discourse of Northern Ireland.3 It is an idea that questions the act of peacefully working within the system as much as violently trying to overthrow it. It is an idea that since the 1960s has helped end empires, topple dictators, and pull down barriers to equality. It is an idea that subversively suggests that even democratic states often have to be forced to concede change. The uneasy listening continued for the politicians when McCafferty asked and eventually bullied those who had also broken the law to raise their hands. A spontaneous round of applause sounded around the hall.4 In a reprise of what had happened four decades earlier, nonviolent confrontation had briefly offered the Catholic community something different from constitutional nationalism and militant republicanism.

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3 What’s Left of the Right to the City?

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub

JUDIT BODNAR

An undeniable legacy of 1968 is the proclamation of the right to the city. What happened in Paris, Prague, and many other cities, however, was merely the crystallization of long-existing conditions: even the concept was formulated earlier. Henri Lefebvre finished The Right to the City in 1967, on the centenary of volume 1 of Marx’s Capital, as Lefebvre himself noted, but it was not this temporal coincidence or the intellectual kinship that determined its significance. The concept of the right to the city came into its own with the events of 1968; it received justification in people reclaiming the streets for radical politics, people who acted as if they had all read Lefebvre and were staging his work in the streets of Paris. The right to the city has informed urban theory and inspired urban justice movements ever since. Some also note the radical transformation this notion has gone through since its conception, what with the “undeclared vulgarization” of some of Lefebvre’s ideas, and their circulation in severely abridged forms undermining their original meaning.1

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