Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 2012

Volume 39 Issue 1
    • 1W. J. T. Mitchell
    • If journalism is the first draft of history, these three essays might be described as a stab at a second draft. It is an attempt by three scholars from different disciplines, with sharply contrasting methodologies, to provide an account of the protest movements of 2011, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. We deploy the perspectives of ethnography, political thought, and iconology in an effort to produce a multidimensional picture of this momentous year of revolutions, uprisings, mass demonstrations, and—most centrally—the occupations of public space by protest movements.

      W. J. T. Mitchell is professor of English and art history at the University of Chicago and has been editor of Critical Inquiry since 1978. He is the author of Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (1987), Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation (1995), and What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images (2006), a loosely linked trilogy on media, visual culture, and image theory. His most recent books are Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9–11 to the Present (2011) and Seeing through Race (2012).

    • 8W.J.T. Mitchell
    • Is there a dominant global image—call it a world picture—that links the Occupy movement to the Arab Spring? Or (to narrow the question quite drastically) is there any single image that captures and perhaps even motivated the widely noticed synergy and infectious mimicry between Tahrir Square and Zuccotti Park?

      W. J. T. Mitchell is professor of English and art history at the University of Chicago and has been editor of Critical Inquiry since 1978. He is the author of Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (1987), Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation (1995), and What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images (2006), a loosely linked trilogy on media, visual culture, and image theory. His most recent books are Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9–11 to the Present (2011) and Seeing through Race (2012).

      See also: W. J. T. Mitchell, Holy Landscape  ·  Richard Halpern, Theater and Democratic Thought  ·  Michael Taussig, I'm so Angry I made a Sign

    • 33Bernard E. Harcourt
    • Occupy Wall Street is best understood, I would suggest, as a new form of political as opposed to civil disobedience that fundamentally rejects the political and ideological landscape that has dominated our collective imagination in this country since before the cold war. Civil disobedience accepts the legitimacy of the political structure and of our political institutions but resists the moral authority of the resulting laws. It is “civil” in its disobedience—civil in the etymological sense of taking place within a shared political community, within the classical Latin framework of civilitas, within an art of civil government. Civil disobedience accepts the verdict and condemnation that the civilly disobedient bring upon themselves. It respects the legal norm at the very moment of resistance and places itself under the sanction of that norm. If it resists the legal sanction that it itself entails, it is, in effect, no longer truly civil disobedience. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” “an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and will- ingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.” Civil disobedience does not aim to displace the law-making in- stitutions or the structure of legal governance but rather to challenge the governing laws by demonstrating their injustice.

      Political disobedience, by contrast, resists the very way in which we are governed. It rejects the idea of honoring or expressing the “highest respect for law.” It refuses to willingly accept the sanctions meted out by the legal and political system. It challenges the conventional way that political governance takes place, that laws are enforced. It turns its back on the political institutions and actors who govern us all. It resists the structure of partisan politics, the traditional demand for policy reforms, the call for party iden- tification, and, beyond that, the very ideologies that have dominated the postwar period.

      Bernard E. Harcourt is the Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and Criminology and professor and chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago.

      See also: Slavoj Žižek, A Plea for Leninist Intolerance  ·  Judith Butler, Sovereign Performatives  ·  Nasser Rabbat, The Arab Revolution Takes Back the Public Space

    • 89Susan Fraiman
    • Pioneering work in interdisciplinary animal studies, much of it under the rubric of ecofeminism, dates back to the 1970s.  Yet animal studies remained an idiosyncratic backwater until its twenty-first-century reinvention as a high-profile area of humanities research.  This essay ties the soaring cachet of the new animal studies to a revamped origin story—one beginning in 2002 and claiming Derrida as founding father.  In readings of Derrida and leading animal studies theorist Cary Wolfe, I examine the gender politics of animal studies today, especially that affiliated with Wolfe’s formulation of posthumanism.  In addition to slighting important ecofeminist precedents, this approach to animal studies is remarkably anxious to distance itself both from emotional attachments to animals and from scholars working on gender, sexuality, and race.  I attribute this anxiety in part to the gendered opposition, longstanding in academia, between scholarship frankly motivated by feeling and scholarship whose prestige depends on claims to “masculine” objectivity and theoretical rigor.  To counter this logic, I turn to animal studies foremothers Carol Adams and Donna Haraway; despite disagreements on several key issues, Adams and Haraway share a readiness to own their debt to feminist thinking and to see their theoretical work as inseparable from emotional and political commitments to animals.

      Susan Fraiman is professor of English at the University of Virginia and the author of Cool Men and the Second Sex (2003). She is currently writing about marginal versions of domesticity (including queer, posttraumatic, feminist, and homeless).

      See also: Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am  ·  Stefan Helmreich, What Was Life?  ·  Simon Schaffer, Self Evidence

    • 116Heather Keenleyside
    • This essay begins from Michel Foucault’s famous claim that life did not exist until the end of the eighteenth-century, and considers how eighteenth-century experiments with the literary genre of the “life” might be related to emerging ideas of life as a distinct form of being. It does this by focusing on one of the period’s most well known lives, and on one of its most prominent philosophers: Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, and John Locke. Readers have looked to Locke for many things—a labor theory of property and value, an incipient liberalism, an empiricist model of mind—but not, typically, for a philosophy of life. Sterne helps us to see the foundations of such a philosophy where we would little expect it, in Locke’s reflections on personal identity.

      Heather Keenleyside is an assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is at work on a book manuscript tentatively titled Animals and Other People: Forms of Life in Eighteenth-Century Literature.

      See also: Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am  ·  Stefan Helmreich, What Was Life?  ·  Jonathan Lamb, Modern Metamorphoses

    • 142Amit Pinchevski
    • Since its establishment in 1979, the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University has given rise to numerous studies on history, memory and trauma in the wake of the Holocaust. While acknowledging its audiovisual nature, previous accounts have nevertheless failed to consider the significance of this novel archival formation and how it shapes the production and reception of survivors’ testimonies. This article occasions an unlikely encounter between the trauma and testimony discourse as developed by Dori Laub, Shoshana Felman, Lawrence Langer in the context of the Yale archive, and the theory of “technical media” as developed by German media theorist, Friedrich Kittler.  It argues that the trauma and testimony discourse has a technological unconscious in the form of videotape technology, which crucially conditions the way trauma is conceived in this discourse.  It is only with an audiovisual medium capable of capturing and reproducing evidence of the fleeting unconscious that a discourse concerned with the unarticulated past becomes intelligible.

      Amit Pinchevski is a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University. He is the author of By Way of Interruption: Levinas and the Ethics of Communication (2005) and coeditor, with Paul Frosh, of Media Witnessing: Testimony in the Age of Mass Communication (2009).

      See also: James E. Young, The Holocaust as Vicarious Past  ·  Michael Rothberg, Between Auschwitz and Algeria  ·  Warwick Anderson, The Case of the Archive

    • 167Jens Hanssen
    • In October 1917 Martin Buber published an animal story by Franz Kafka in his monthly review Der Jude. Kafka's friend and literary executor, Max Brod, recommended it, assuring Buber that Kafka's work was among the most Jewish documents of our time. Kafka wrote “Jackals and Arabs” during the war-induced hiatus in Jewish immigration to Palestine, only half a year before the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917 committed the British government to support a Jewish national home in Palestine. The polyvalent story and its multilayered context crystallize Kafka's relationship to Zionism and Palestine as well as his German, Jewish, and Arab scholarly reception. The current revolutionary moment in the Arab world allows us to rethink Kafka and Arabs and, at the same time, the Palestine conflict. As such, this essay contains an intellectual affinity with the revision of Kafka scholarship offered in Critical Inquiry following the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as Achmat Dangor's haunting postapartheid novel Kafka's Curse.

      Jens Hanssen is associate professor of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean history at the University of Toronto. His book publications include Fin de Siècle Beirut (2005) and two coedited volumes: Arab Provincial Capitals in the Late Ottoman Empire (2002) and History, Space, and Social Conflict in Beirut (2005). He is coediting the Handbook of Contemporary Middle Eastern and North African History. During his visit to Baghdad in June 2003, he filmed a short documentary on academic life in Iraq after the US invasion. He is currently conducting research on intersections between German-Jewish and Arab intellectual histories.

      See also: Hannan Hever, The Post-Zionist Condition  ·  Edward W. Said, Invention, Memory, and Place  ·  Ariella Azoulay, Thinking Through Violence

    • 198Nasser Rabbat
    • The two potential public spaces of political expression in the city, the (remembered) mosque and the (imported) plaza, were denied their civic function for anywhere between thirty and fifty years of despotic rule across the Arab world depending on the country. Abrupt and violent revolts sometimes managed to stage their protests in one or the other for a short moment, but the reprisal of the regime was usually swift and ruthless (the 1964 and 1982 religious uprisings in Syria, the 1977 “Bread Riots” in Egypt and elsewhere, the 2000 Shi‘ite revolt in southern Iraq).

      Nasser Rabbat is the Aga Khan Professor and the director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. His books include The Citadel of Cairo: A New Interpretation of Royal Mamluk Architecture (1995), Thaqafat al Bina' wa Bina' al-Thaqafa (The Culture of Building and Building Culture) (2002), Al-Mudun al-Mayyita: Durus min Madhih wa-Ru'an li-Mustaqbaliha (The Dead Cities: Lessons from Its History and Views on Its Future) (2010), Mamluk History through Architecture: Building, Culture, and Politics in Mamluk Egypt and Syria (2010), which won the British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize in Middle Eastern Studies in 2011, and an edited book, The Courtyard House between Cultural Reference and Universal Relevance (2010). He coauthored Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition (2001) and coedited Making Cairo Medieval (2005). A forthcoming book, L'Art Islamique à la recherche d'une méthode historique will be published this year. He is currently finishing a book on the fifteenth-century historian Taqiyy al-Din al-Maqrizi.

      See also: W. J. T. Mitchell, The Arts of Occupation  ·  Bernard Harcourt, Political Disobedience  ·  Lisa Weeden, Notes from Syria