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6. Warrior Theatre and the Ritualized Body

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub



The body of a warrior is both an aesthetic locus and a site of signification, bridging what often appears to be a conceptual discontinuity by blurring the structurally imposed boundary between nature (the body experienced as an anatomical fact) and culture (the body as aesthetic object and signifier). Moving from artisan back to warrior again, this chapter explores the issue of how not only certain objects (masks, spears) but also the decorated, mutilated, or sexually androgynous body as an artifact of culture acquires meaning in relationship to the institution of warriorhood. Both Idoma and Samburu warriors were deeply enmeshed in their own ritual systems and their respective systems of objects that structured cultural practice at the beginning of the twentieth century. These two systems were linked through a series of performative practices that included dancing and masquerading for the Idoma, dances and lmugit ceremonies for the Samburu, and of course warfare itself, also a type of performance. The most ritually marked objects were (at least so far in this reading) Samburu spears and Idoma enemy heads and mimetic carved representations of such heads.

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Medium 9780253353801

16 Professor Dude: An Inquiry into the Appeal of His Dudeness for Contemporary College Students

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Richard Gaughran

On the first day of classes in the fall of 2006, I walked into a James Madison University class of fifteen students, none of whom I’d met before. I had the usual plan for the first day: a short welcome and introductions, the distribution of a syllabus, followed by explanations and answering of questions. Before any of this, however, I planned to distribute a questionnaire to anyone who has seen the Coen brothers’ film The Big Lebowski. But I had left the surveys in my office, so I placed my other books and papers on a table and mumbled something about having to return to my office to retrieve some forms I wanted the students to complete. When I returned about two minutes later, I asked, “How many of you have seen The Big Lebowski?” For some reason the room erupted in laughter. I didn’t think much of that until some weeks later, when one of these students, in my office for a conference, told me what occurred when I was gone from the classroom. After I had dropped my belongings on the table and left for my office, she asked the rest of the students if they had seen The Big Lebowski, and didn’t I remind them of the Dude? No wonder they thought my question to them, moments later, was funny.

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Medium 9780253008145

SEVEN Invoking Hijab: The Power Politics of Spaces and Employment in Nigeria • HAUWA MAHDI

Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

The fact that changes in dress styles are taking place in Nigeria reflects perhaps the normal processes of change which occur in all societies. Yet these transformations, at both the macro-national and micro levels, differ as each reflects a unique experience. In Nigeria, women’s dress has increasingly become an object of contention at the macro level, more so in the last three decades than it had in previous years. State actors and some civil society organizations (CSOs) alike have become active in the discourse of and attempts to legislate how women should or should not behave as a moral imperative. In 2007, Senator Ufot Eme Ekaette, one of only nine women in the 109-member Senate chamber of the National Assembly, gained some notoriety for her proposed bill, which in the light of Nigerians’ penchant for nicknames soon became known as the Nudity Bill (Adaramola 2008). There are other politicians who share the title of morality police with Ekaette. The senator and former governor of Zamfara State Ahmed Sani introduced the death penalty on sexual offences during his governorship, on 27 January 2000. (He later went on to enhance his moral authority by his marriage to an Egyptian girl in her early teens.) Second, some twenty-six senators (two of whom are women) sponsored the Same-Sex Bill, which prohibits sexual relations and marriage among same-sex partners in Nigeria (Obende et al. 2011). In all these morality bills female and male senators of all backgrounds have come together without a sectarian—religious or ethnic—hitch. In the last thirty years, an era of increasing economic hardship in Nigeria, women have been blamed for anything from droughts to a rise in delinquency among children. Public discourse in the media is filled with debates and arguments that support curtailing women’s rights and freedom, often in the name of religion or tradition. The “Nudity Bill” and other morality legislation must be seen in the context of the general social disorder in Nigeria and attempts by the political elite to grope for answers to unfulfilled yearnings for basic human rights and demands for “progress,” particularly in such things as the provision of electricity and running water.

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7 Lebowski and the Ends of Postmodern American Comedy

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Matthew Biberman

What kind of humor is Coen comedy?

The question is difficult in no small measure because comedy itself is difficult to explain. In this essay I offer a reading of The Big Lebowski that situates the film in a tradition of Jewish humor animated by social anxieties about nonconformity and collective psychotic behavior. My thesis is that Coen comedy ceaselessly dramatizes such anxieties and presents them as a kind of psychological training ground for surviving the future.

The standard argument about classifying Coen humor argues that it is best categorized as an instance of “postmodern parody” or “postmodern pastiche.” Clustering Lebowski with such “dark” 1990s comedies as The Cable Guy (1996), The Truman Show (1998), Serial Mom (1993), and Pulp Fiction (1993), Christopher Beach, for example, asserts that such films display “a mastery not only of the comic tradition but also of various other film and television genres, any of which are fair game for its postmodern pastiche” (205, emphasis mine). Similarly, Peter Körte and Georg Seesslen argue that “Coen films positively encourage us to use words like ‘post-modern’ or ‘manneristic’ to describe them” (260). The film is, they write, “a parody of plot twists of so many films noir or contemporary cop movies” (196) and, further, that “Coen country . . . has always been a pastiche,” and in this case, they produce a filmic landscape in which “the 1960s and 1970s almost simultaneously return as parodies of themselves” (200–201). Underscoring this point, R. Barton Palmer has a chapter in his study of the Coens simply called “The Coen Brothers: Postmodern Filmmakers,” where we again learn that “The postmodernist’s characteristic mode is pastiche, the so-called flat parody famously first identified by Fredric Jameson as one of the most distinguishing features of the aesthetic” (58).

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20 Brunswick = Fluxus

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Aaron Jaffe

The image of man is always intrinsically chronotopic.

This chapter considers the cultural meaning of “wood” in The Big Lebowski.

There are unusual quantities of wood in the film: paneling, floors, bowling alley lanes, furniture, numerous props, and so on. From the opening sequence of exquisitely shot bowling balls casting down wooden runways to the final encounter between the Dude and the Stranger bellied up to the wooden bowling alley bar, Lebowski makes the uncanny “cultural power of wood” conspicuous, as Harvey Green puts it in his book on this subject (xxii).

In Coen films—and in Lebowski especially—design takes on a degree of agency that moves its significance from the background into the foreground. The role of wood, in particular, underscores a decisive concern in the plot and a cultural innovation the film makes concerning it: the role of genealogy—as in the genealogical tree. The Lebowski family tree (Jeffrey, Bunny, the Dude, Maude, the little Lebowski on the way) is decidedly not arborescent in the sense Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari criticize in A Thousand Plateaus, because it’s hardly unidirectional, patrilinear, patrimonial, or branching ever vertically. Nor is it rhizomatic, the more famous alternative the pair propose to designate the non-hierarchical, heterogeneous, and horizontal. The Lebowski family wood might be more adequately described as lumberescent—cultural wood that functions no longer as a signifier of vertical or horizontal growth but as a plasticized gift and plaything of design.

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Medium 9780253013873

8 Zombie Race

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Profit, Profit, nigga I got it

Everybody know I’m a motherfucking monster

I’m-a need to see your fucking hands at the concert

I’m-a need to see your fucking hands

Kanye West, “Monster”

It begins with a thump, or rather, a scrape and a thump. Shhh-thump. The monster appears first as sound and then rhythm, or, rather, counter-rhythm. Its presence is made known, paradoxically, by its double absence, one physical and the other temporal.

It lags, behind itself, drags itself, before itself, somewhere in back of you, in front of you, over your shoulder—always where it is not. Shhh-thump. Its second beat is scarier than the first, not just because it is louder, closer, but because it recalls the first. The monster is always in two—two spaces, two times. It approaches as it recedes. It coheres as it falls apart. Each step revives as it destroys. Each step is the death of death, the death of death, over and over again.

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Medium 9781603444668

4. Another Colorado: The Highland Lakes and Lady Bird Lake

Margie Crisp Texas A&M University Press ePub


“Who knew,” the ruddy-faced man seated in front of me whispered to his wife, “that bald eagles are really bald? That one doesn’t have a single feather on its ugly red head.” His wife lowered her binoculars and said doubtfully, “That’s a bald eagle?” Meanwhile, the enthusiastic birdwatcher had pushed her way out of the cabin and onto the foredeck of the Eagle II to misidentify more birds. I scanned the sky, “Oh look!” I called and pointed. A dozen sets of binoculars snapped to the section of sky above the limestone canyon. “Oh heck, it’s just another turkey vulture.” I announce. The couple murmurs to each other. “Bald eagles aren’t bald,” she says with satisfaction. “But turkey vultures are,” he replies.

I’m on the Vanishing Texas River Cruise1 with a group of birdwatchers and tourists; we are cruising up the limestone canyons at the head of Lake Buchanan, the first of the Lower Colorado River Authority’s (LCRA) Highland Lakes. Our boat, the Eagle II, is a big, broad vessel with a shallow draft and a glass-enclosed cabin protecting us from the raw January day. A few hardy souls stand outside in the drizzle and wind scanning the skies for bald eagles, osprey, and other winter residents of the canyons. Ferns embellish the cliffs near the waterfalls. Slender trees and shrubs, cactus, yucca, clumps of wiry grasses, and other determined survivors knot their roots into crevices and narrow pockets of soil along the rock face.

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Medium 9780253009036

7 Mexico 1968 and the Art(s) of Memory

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub


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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Medium 9780253011596

5: Creating a Market for Landscapes Fall 1897–Summer 1904

Rachel Berenson Perry Indiana University Press ePub

Fall 1897–Summer 1904

PART OF HIS RELUCTANCE TO RETURN TO THE CITY had to have been Forsyth's tender romance with his new bride. Alice Atkinson, eighteen years her husband's junior, was born in Oxford in Benton County, Indiana, on May 5, 1872. Her ancestors were Quakers who emigrated from England to America in 1699 and originally settled in Philadelphia. Later moving to Clinton County in Ohio, Alice's grandfather, Thomas Atkinson (1806–92), went to Benton County to herd cattle in 1830. He liked the area and returned with his family eighteen years later. Two of his twelve children, Cephas and Robert Atkinson (1826–81), bought acreage and thrived as farmers. They founded the town of Atkinson (now extinct), which became an important shipping station for the Big Four railway.

After his first wife's early death, Robert Atkinson married a widow, Nancy Crosson, and they had seven children together. Alice was the fifth child, and the youngest died in infancy. Combined with children from both her parents’ previous marriages, the family included thirteen children who lived.1

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17 Abiding (as) Animal: Marmot, Pomeranian, Whale, Dude

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

David Pagano

Non-human animals do not get much screen time in The Big Lebowski. We do see two domestic, misnamed mammals, one that Walter calls a Pomeranian and another that the Dude calls a marmot, but they are onscreen for only seconds. Other animals appear even less prominently, but before the film is over we hear the songs of humpback whales and the cries of seagulls, encounter a woman named Bunny, and apprehend references to bears, camels, walruses, steers, and pigs (in a blanket). It seems, then, that though they are not often visible in the film, animals manage to leave their tracks or traces in the possibilities of meaning that the movie generates. The question is, can we follow those tracks, master these traces, or do they constitute too many strands to keep in our heads? A little of both, I suggest: animals are an essential component of the Dude’s journey or anti-journey, but because they speak insistently to the question of language in the film—more specifically, the question of how or whether language can cross boundaries and establish communication—they must to a certain extent escape our snares. In a word, in this film, animals abide, both with and within the Dude and his friends. Although I do not have time to address all of the species cited in the film, I show that animality, if there is such a thing, is a central concern for the Dude and for the human comedy he inhabits.

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Medium 9780253340481

Chapter One The Pinkas

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253349118

16. The Study of Body Art

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

AT THE HEART OF THIS BOOK is the belief that individuals shape their lives in relation to both the material environment and the social world, finding a place where personal desires are made manifest by the careful negotiation of resources and responsibilities. Individuals exist simultaneously in a state of self-expression and social connection, communicating personal artistry in ways that are constrained, encouraged, and appreciated by the people they live among. The individuals in this book—the weaver Hashim Ansari, the merchant Hemant Khanchandani, the housewife Mukta Tripathi—locate themselves in conflicting social and physical contexts in which they interact with others, some of whom help them express themselves artistically while others hinder their wishes. All acts of creation in the realm of adornment—the crafting of jewelry, the tailoring of clothes, the selling and buying of bangles—are governed by desire and situated socially. The outcome of action—the sari woven, the sari worn—is like all art a merger of will and circumstance. The women in this book make decisions. They express themselves by working within the rules of tradition that are influenced by history and geography, by religious and social norms.

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Chapter Four On Father’s Side: The Baks

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253340481

Chapter Thirteen Closure

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253013873

12 Zombie Arts and Letters

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Then the idea hit him. Moses ran into his apartment and removed a leaf from the Book Isis had given him. He returned to the balcony where below the crowds had taken trees and were now using them to pound on the Palace gate. Moses uttered The Work aloud. 1st there was silence. Then the people turned toward the Nile and they saw a huge mushroom cloud arise.

A few minutes later, screaming of the most terrible kind came from that direction. The crowd dispersed, trampling 1 another as they rushed for the shelter of their homes. This was a turning point in the Book’s history.

Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo

Genre fiction is project-based art. Whether cowboy Western or inter-galactic sci-fi, genre writing entails a double inventiveness according to the set of directives imposed upon each story in advance. On the one hand, by definition such writing exercises a creative function following explicit conditions of constraint, whether formal, aesthetic, historical, moral, or economic. From the pulps to the remainder bin, genre fiction necessarily knows its limits; this is part of its “project.” On the other hand, it also recognizes and formalizes these limits as constraints in the first place, a gesture as constitutive of a genre’s artistic project as any subsequent improvisation or “genre bending” that arises in tension with these constraints. “Write a detective novel,” someone might say, and we already know what this means. It’s no different with zombie stories. The zombie genre, which began to take shape in the 1930s, reaching a kind of market saturation during the past decade, resembles virtually all other popular modes of genre fiction in the necessary restriction of its imaginative conditions. Every genre story, after all, must at once name and confront the exhaustion—or at least the exhausting familiarity—of its conventions. And keep on pursuing the project.

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