206 Slices
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Medium 9780253353801

21 Enduring and Abiding

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Jonathan Elmer

By the time I delivered the ideas in this chapter, in September 2006, in a dowdy wood-paneled “conference room” in a bowling alley in Louisville, Kentucky, during the annual Lebowski Fest held in the city and at those lanes, everything had been said. Mine was the final paper, and during the previous two days the film had been turned upside down and shaken, and then carefully situated with regard to fluctuations in the L.A. real estate market, the subgenre of bowling noir, the Brunswick color palette, nihilism and fluids, Paul de Man and Rip Van Winkle. Everything had been said, some things multiple times, and everyone was happy. Most people were happy. It became apparent to many of us that the film did not suffer from this critical vulturism, that the conversation could go on, potentially forever, without it being a problem that we were repeating ourselves and offering quite obviously contradictory views on many important aspects of the movie. The chatter did not exhaust the film, did not debase it or use it up, but it did not really exalt it either. The ability of the film to sustain such conversation was not due to its being a “classic,” timeless or otherwise. It seemed, rather, that the film was not so much full of a complexity that needed endless “unpacking”—this despite the fact that The Big Lebowski, like all the Coen brothers’ movies, lavishes loving, even obsessive, attention on all its details—than it was offering itself as genially underdetermined, available for any and all projections, investments, analyses, even mimicries.

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Medium 9780253349118

11. Neelam Chaturvedi

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

WHEN I FIRST TALKED to Neelam Chaturvedi in the spring of 1996, she was an art teacher in the Sunbeam private school in Banaras. Unlike Nina, a Sindhi living in a Sindhi household, Neelam is a Punjabi married into a Brahmin family from Banaras. Being born in India to Punjabi parents who were displaced from their native Pakistan, Neelam has developed an adaptive personal style. Constant adjustment to different contexts is a main theme of her choices in life and adornment, a pattern evident in our interviews. My main tape-recorded conversations with her, which lasted several hours, took place in Neelam’s bedroom, upstairs in her mother-in-law’s house a few blocks from the vast red temple dedicated to Durga in Banaras.1

When she was growing up in Banaras, Neelam spoke Punjabi at home with her parents, yet she was exposed to Hindi at school and to the local Bhojpuri dialect of the servants. Neelam learned Hindi and Bhojpuri, and, though she was scolded for speaking these ill-regarded languages in the presence of her parents, she grew up speaking what she calls a “mix” of languages. Her shifting between Punjabi and Hindi, choosing one or the other in different contexts, is like the double-coding used by immigrant children who grow up in America, adapting and conforming to two cultures simultaneously.

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Medium 9780253013064

1 • Nako’s Sociopolitical History and Artistic Heritage

Melissa R. Kerin Indiana University Press ePub

The western Himalayan region is situated in the most extreme mountainous landscape in the world, claiming such mountain ranges as Ladakh, Zangskar, and the Great Himalaya. Despite the demands of this high-altitude, semiarid environment, village life in the western Himalaya has long existed and is less isolated than one might think. Villages are linked to one another via intricate trade and pilgrimage routes, which have allowed for the exchange of various commodities and the sharing of religious images, texts, and teachings over centuries.1 Even now, during the summer months, many of these old routes still serve as primary thoroughfares and trade corridors. It is within this geographic context and along these paths that this book is situated.

Poised at the lower end of the Spiti valley, approximately 3,637 meters (11,932 feet) above sea level, is the village of Nako. This once-prosperous settlement, which boasts eight functioning temples, is set within the district of Khu nu (Kinnaur), one of the twelve administrative districts of Himachal Pradesh formed in 1960. Since the 1962 Sino-Indian Border Conflict—when China invaded India’s Himalayan border regions and claimed them as part of Tibet, and therefore Chinese territory—travel to this region of Kinnaur has been restricted. Only with an Inner Line permit is one allowed to visit places that lie between Jangi and Sumdo (see fig. 1.1). It is this stretch of approximately eighty kilometers that is known as the Upper Kinnaur region, which is less an official or administrative term than it is a descriptive one.

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Medium 9780253014092

4 Conceptual Fashion: Evocations of Africa

Victoria L. Rovine Indiana University Press ePub

A runway in New York, 1998: Models wearing garments that range from sheath-like dresses made of loosely knitted yarn to denim jackets with large fake fur collars stride the runway to the strains of Jimi Hendrix, and then suddenly to no soundtrack at all. Loose threads dangle from the seams of some garments; others have labels sewn outside their collars.

A loading dock in Johannesburg, 2003: At an event planned by two fashion designers, attendees stand on concrete floors in an industrial building in a gritty downtown neighborhood. They watch as performers wearing large plastic bags dance and interact, pantomiming a story of trials and perseverance. The two designers work behind the scenes, holding the lanterns that illuminate the space and manipulating shadow puppets.

A workshop in Paris, 2007: Women from the Goutte d’Or, a neighborhood known for its large African population, participate in training programs led by a designer from the Comoros. They learn sewing techniques that will help them find employment. The designer and a group of participants create an exhibition at the Musée du Petit Palais that features the garments they have produced, which are made of recycled clothing, displayed on mannequins along with bales of used clothing.1

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Medium 9780253008145

TWO Veiling without Veils: Modesty and Reserve in Tuareg Cultural Encounters • SUSAN J. RASMUSSEN

Edited by Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

In this chapter, I analyze the power and vulnerability of a gendered cultural value that not only involves the literal wearing of veils, but also incorporates a more general respect, shame, and modesty, called takarakit in Tamajaq, the local Berber (Amazigh) language of the Tuareg residing in oases and towns of Niger, Mali, Algeria, Libya, and Burkina Faso. This concept conveys several related yet distinct sentiments or attitudes. Most Tuareg are Muslim, semi-sedentarized, socially stratified, and until recently, predominantly rural and nomadic, but now semi-nomadic.1 Local mores permit much free social interaction between the sexes, and most women enjoy high social prestige, can independently own property, and are not secluded or veiled; rather, it is men who are veiled. During evening festivals, social occasions, and courtship between the sexes, takarakit and “veiled” sentiments with indirect expression are traditionally encouraged, albeit with some social license. In the pre-colonial stratified, endogamous social system, persons who were forbidden to marry were allowed to flirt at the evening festivals. Despite some degree of relaxation permitted under cover of darkness, takarakit has long been particularly important there, with highly stylized etiquette, stricter for men than for women. More generally, men are supposed to always respect women, whether during informal sociability, in courtship conversation, or at the evening musical festivals, and are not supposed to boast of or discuss openly their relations with women. Men ideally should be modest, even self-effacing, in women’s presence. They should not be aggressive or coercive toward women. Thus there is some coincidence between takarakit and respectful conduct more generally. There is also an overlap between takarakit and some other values, such as imojagh (dignity or honor) and eshshek (decency). As anywhere, not everyone follows this ideal conduct. Takarakit is both asserted and violated, a “flashpoint” for debate.

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Medium 9781603444668

5. Living Downstream: East Austin through the Blackland Prairies

Margie Crisp Texas A&M University Press ePub


The river pours out of Longhorn Dam and starts a series of lazy, looping curves on its way to the coast. It changes in temperament and character. The way people look at it alters; there can be no mistaking that it is a river again, in name and nature. Just downstream from the last dam (for the present), the river glides underneath the soaring buttresses and pillars of the Montopolis Bridges. The river feels like an anachronism after the high-priced estates and manicured lawns bordering the reservoirs upstream. City of Austin parks bordering the river on either side (Guerro Park on the south and the Colorado River Preserve on the north) are not akin to the mowed and maintained hike and bike trails just upstream around Lady Bird Lake. Erosion eats at the banks of Guerro Park. In the Colorado River Preserve, eroded trails score the woods, heaps of dumped household and construction trash clog the gullies, and debris washed downstream laces the brush.

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13 “Fuck It, Let’s Go Bowling”: The Cultural Connotations of Bowling in The Big Lebowski

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Bradley D. Clissold

In The Big Lebowski: The Making of a Coen Brothers Film, William Preston Robertson reads bowling in The Big Lebowski not only as an important social activity and a serious lifestyle commitment, but also as a highly stylized aesthetic and part of an allusive tradition in classic film noirs. The back cover copy for Robertson’s book describes Lebowski as “classic Coen noir,” “a razor-sharp comedy-thriller of mistaken identity, gangsters, bowling, kidnapping, and money gone astray.” This synoptic blurb identifies the film’s stylized participation in the cinematic traditions of film noir and provides a list of generically recognizable noir motifs as proof of this participation: “mistaken identity,” “gangsters,” “kidnapping,” and “money gone astray.” This list, however, also includes “bowling” as one of the film’s governing motifs. Buried, as it is in the middle of this list, “bowling” becomes at once the odd term out in this list of conventional noir thematics and the syntactic centering term around which these other more identifiably noir descriptors ironically pivot. More to the point, this list of filmic motifs directly follows the labeling of Lebowski as a “comedy-thriller” and, in effect, serves rhetorically as evidence of such generic hybridity: the distinctively noir subjects support its generic designation as a “thriller,” and, by (cultural) default, the filmic motif of “bowling” (in 1997) marks its status as “comedy.”

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Medium 9780253009036

10 Beginning 9 Evenings

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub


The artist’s work is like that of a scientist. It is an investigation which may or may not yield meaningful results; in many cases we only know many years later.

—Billy Klüver, “The Great Northeastern Power Failure”1

Its ambition was matched only by its scale: 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering was a colossal enterprise, a performance series that lasted, appropriately, nine evenings in October 1966 in New York and was attended by over ten thousand people. Thirty engineers from the AT&T Bell Laboratories campus in Murray Hill, New Jersey, worked together with ten artists; their fervent struggles against and with one another brought the working methods of the postwar laboratory and studio into unprecedented intimacy. These travails have been chronicled widely as both pinnacle and nadir of the neo-avant-garde aspirations of the 1960s. But the historical reception of the event is much more complex than its contemporary traces indicate. Indeed, 9 Evenings moved collaboration toward a peculiar kind of organization and production, a vital shift that fundamentally altered modes of collective action, disciplinary bounds, and the terms of performance.

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Medium 9780253340481

Chapter Two How All This Writing Began

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253009036

5 Invisible Humanism: An African 1968 and Its Aftermaths

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub


One of the premises of this volume is that the full significance of what we call “1968” can only be grasped by attending to a wide range of ideas and events that unfolded at more or less the same time in many different locations around the world. This entails a recognition that there is not a single 1968 (with its epicenter in, for instance, Paris in May). The mood and moment of ’68, this volume insists, was irreducibly plural and meant different things in different places. To this it is necessary only to add that the same is true of Africa’s 1968s. This is why the title of this essay refers to “an” African 1968, not “the” African 1968. As I will argue, there were many African 1968s.

We do live in a world of centers and peripheries, and France was undoubtedly a center from which many things reverberated in those heady years (the United States was no doubt another). But the 1968 phenomenon is generally reckoned to be so significant precisely because it swept across (as it is often put) “the whole world.” It was never just a matter of Paris but also of Saigon and Hanoi. Czechoslovakia was in the middle of it, but so was Tokyo. In Mexico City as in Chicago “the whole world was watching.” In dealing with a set of events whose significance rests on their claimed globality, peripheries turn out to be surprisingly central.

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Medium 9780253009036

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

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub


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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2 A Once and Future Dude: The Big Lebowski as Medieval Grail-Quest

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Andrew Rabin

Although medieval allegory might seem distant from Lebowski’s “parlance of the times,” references to the Middle Ages—and to the Grail-quest in particular—form a crucial component of the film’s narrative world.1 Like the Old French Queste del Saint Graal, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzifal, or Malory’s Morte Darthur, The Big Lebowski recounts the adventures of three companions seeking to restore a lost fetish-object. This quest leads them through a contemporary wasteland to the castle of a crippled king whose paraplegia marks him as both sexually and politically impotent. Here, the object is found and lost again, and the goal now becomes to restore the king’s potency, as well as to recover the original object of the search. On his journey, the principal Grail knight experiences allegorical visions and confronts the temptations of the flesh. He encounters both Jesus (Quintana) and Arthur (Digby Sellers) and receives dubious aid from an “Irish monk” (the “brother Seamus,” Da Fino). In perhaps the most obvious Grail allusion, the Dude’s second meeting with the “Big” Lebowski takes place in a neo-Gothic great hall with Wagner’s Lohengrin, an opera based on Wolfram’s Parzifal, playing in the background. The adventure finally ends with the death of the most innocent of the questers and the return of his two companions, sadder yet wiser men. However, despite such obvious similarities between the medieval and modern narratives, the inhabitants of the Dude’s world remain as ignorant of their Arthurian analogues as they seem to be of the Iraq War beginning around them. In this film, the voice of history is that of “a Stranger.” Like the child who wanders in in the middle of a movie, they have, as Walter tells Donny, “no frame of reference.”

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Medium 9780253011596

3: Munich Painting School and Private Studio Fall 1883–Fall 1888

Rachel Berenson Perry Indiana University Press ePub

Fall 1883–Fall 1888

AS SUMMER DAYS SHORTENED, FORSYTH FOUND HIS outdoor work exceptionally gratifying, but he again anticipated his return to the smoky rooms of the Academy with wistful reluctance. “You can't get up too early in the morning and you can't work too late at night,” he wrote. “Days fly too fast for you and as the vacation draws to a close you become almost feverish in your eagerness to accomplish much in a small space of time. You count the days as a miser counts his gold. When you wake some crisp October morning and find the fields white with frost,…you feel like a condemned man whose warrant has been signed and whose pleasant days are over.”1 This pattern of grudgingly leaving a preferred fall painting ground to face a winter of studio painting repeated itself throughout Forsyth's life.

The American Artists’ Club organized an exhibit of summer work where several colleagues praised Forsyth's watercolors, but his stylistic inclinations appeared to be conflicted. “In watercolor I'm a rank ‘impressionist’; in oil I lean toward ‘realism’—the two contrive to keep me pretty lively and sometimes get me down.”2 A firm believer in accurate drawing, at the time he judged impressionistic paintings to be unfinished.

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3 Dudespeak: Or, How to Bowl like a Pornstar

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Justus Nieland

What condition is the Dude’s linguistic condition in? Obviously, it’s fucked. But how? We might start with the fact that the Dude’s language, more often than not, is not his own, but a stoned mimesis of the phrase making of others. Dudespeak is mimicry, a compulsive borrowing from the stylized tissue of verbiage whose repetitions, loopings, and displacements constitute the film’s linguistic world. Examples abound: “This aggression will not stand, man”; “Her life was in our hands, man”; “In the parlance of our times, you know”; “Johnson?”; “You mean, coitus?”; “Beaver? You mean vagina?” All are citations, increasingly absurd sound bites whose discrepant reappearance in other contexts becomes so much linguistic grist for the Coens’ comic mill. Even what has come to be the Dude’s signature phrase, the linguistic encapsulation of an ethos—“The Dude abides”—is a rescripting of the purported limits of Jeffrey “the Big” Lebowski’s tolerance, his refusal to “abide another toe.” So, while the Dude, “quite possibly the laziest man in Los Angeles County,” may be prone to such mimetic locutions, Dudespeak exemplifies the broader expressive world of the film: “sometimes there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place, he fits right in there . . . and that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles.”

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Medium 9780253015976

1 The Critical Present: Where Is “African Literature”?

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Eileen Julien


For borrow we certainly must if we are to elude the constraints of our immediate intellectual environment.

Edward Said, “Traveling Theory”

WE ARE ALL agreed that conditions for the production of literature, cinema, and visual arts by Africans continue to evolve rapidly in the era of intense globalization1 and are today quite different from those of yesterday, the period of decolonizing nationalism. One symptom of the “unevenness” of the current context is that vast numbers of African artist-intellectuals live in metropolises outside of Africa where they typically have greater access to readers and spectators worldwide and to prestigious invitations, awards, and grants.

What happens, then, to “African” literature, film, and arts when African artist-intellectuals reside and produce their work abroad?

Is there a vast difference between the texture of texts produced by those living and working in Africa and that of texts produced by those living and working abroad? Does old-style realism remain the dominant literary mode on the continent? Are explicit depictions of sexual acts or queer sexualities, postmodernist and avant-gardist experiments, which are rife elsewhere, eschewed in Africa? These are the questions highlighted in Ken Harrow and Frieda Ekotto’s call for papers that framed a lively discussion at the 2010 Michigan State University–University of Michigan workshop on critical theory and the production of African literature and cinema. There are important assumptions behind these questions: first, an artist’s location would seem to be a critical determinant of his or her creative work, and second, scholars and readers in search of effective critical approaches should take their cues from thematic and formal shifts in literary and film texts that are a result of artists’ new locations.

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