192 Chapters
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 BABA SY

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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Medium 9780253009036

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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Medium 9780253009036

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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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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ONE Veiling, Fashion, and Social Mobility: A Century of Change in Zanzibar • LAURA FAIR

Edited by Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

“The Veil” has never been a static thing, nor have its use and meaning been firm. In this chapter, I explore changes in veiling habits in Zanzibar over the course of more than a century, illustrating both how and why the veil has changed over time. Though “the veil” is often condemned in the West as a sign of women’s subordination, here I illustrate that in Zanzibar women have often used the veil to assert both their freedom and their economic might. The bulk of this chapter examines changes in veiling fashions over the course of the twentieth century, but I begin with a brief discussion of a more recent trend to illustrate that the uses and meanings attributed to the veil worn by women in the Isles of Zanzibar—which includes two large islands, Unguja and Pemba, and several smaller ones which came to be known collectively as Zanzibar—are often completely hidden from casual observers in the West.

At the turn of the twenty-first century a new veiling fashion was increasingly seen on the streets and in the markets of Zanzibar. Suddenly, it seemed, growing numbers of women were donning the niqāb, choosing to cover their faces entirely when in public rather than wearing the more common buibui, which left their faces open, or the more casual kanga,thrown over the top of the head and draped over the shoulders and chest. Where did this new style come from, I wondered? And what was the impetus for this change? (Plate 1).

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