Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 2005


Volume 31 Issue 2
    • 265W. J. T. Mitchell and Wang Ning
    • June is the month for academic conferences in China. In just one week (7–15 June 2004): a conference on globalization and indigenous cultures in Zhengzhou; in Beijing, a conference on literary theory and on “Fred Jameson in China” at Renmin University; and a four‐day conference at Tsinghua University on critical inquiry (both the journal and the practice for which it is named), organized by Wang Ning with the cosponsorship of the University of Chicago.

      The critical inquiry conference was subtitled “the ends of theory,” with a pun on the goals or purposes of theory and the oft‐reported death of theory. In these two ways, the conference was a continuation of the 2003 gathering of the CI editorial board in Chicago to discuss the future of criticism and theory (see the winter 2004 issue for the proceedings of that conference). Convened during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in April 2003, the Chicago conference was haunted by questions about the seeming impotence of theory and criticism in the face of folly and ignorance driven by fanaticism, greed, and hubris. Critical theory seemed outmatched in 2003 by a superior form of ideological theory hitched to the power of the U.S. military, the crusading sense of mission in the misbegotten “War on Terror,” and the active compliance of mass‐media institutions in leading a reluctant American populace into the war.

      W. J. T. Mitchell is the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and art history at the University of Chicago and editor of Critical Inquiry. His newest book, What Do Pictures Want? will appear in 2005. Wang Ning is professor of English and director of the Center for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at Tsinghua University. He is also editor of the Chinese edition of Critical Inquiry. Apart from his numerous publications in Chinese and English, his most recent English publications include Globalization and Cultural Translation (2004) and, coedited with Jean O’Grady, Northrop Frye: Eastern and Western Perspectives (2003).

    • 286Vincent B. Leitch
    • The picture here is of a stratified academic workforce where increasing numbers of part‐timers and TAs reside at the bottom of the heap with fewer assistant, associate, and full professors further up the scale—a scale topped off by distinguished and endowed chairs. This resembles a caste system occupied at its top by Brahmins and its bottom by untouchables. While the profession used to resemble a broad middle class having some short‐term apprentices and adjuncts, it now consists of a large and growing proletariat, a shrinking middle class, and a tiny yet stratified elite.

      See also: Vincent B. Leitch, The Lateral Dance: The Deconstructive Criticism of J. Hillis Miller  ·  Vincent B. Leitch, Late Derrida: The Politics of Sovereignty

      Vincent B. Leitch is Paul and Carol Daube Sutton Professor in English at the University of Oklahoma, where he teaches criticism and theory. He is the author of Deconstructive Criticism (1983), American Literary Criticism from the 1930s to the 1980s (1988), Cultural Criticism, Literary Theory, Poststructuralism (1992), Postmodernism—Local Effects, Global Flows (1996), Theory Matters (2003), and general editor of the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2001). The present article is part of a history in progress that covers U.S. criticism since the 1980s, supported by a fellowship during 2005 from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    • 302Hans Belting
    • Images are neither on the wall (or on the screen) nor in the head alone. They do not exist by themselves, but they happen; they take place whether they are moving images (where this is so obvious) or not. They happen via transmission and perception. The German language ignores the difference between picture and image, which, though it seems to be a lack of distinction, nicely connects mental images and physical artifacts to one another—which also is my intention in this essay. It may, however, be a cause for disagreement among us to identify images in a continuing history, which has not ended with the rise of the digital era. Only if one shares this position does my approach to iconology make any sense. Otherwise, any such attempt would be left to an archaeology of images whose meaning no longer applies to contemporary experience.

      See also: Giulio Carlo Argan, Ideology and Iconology  ·  Jaś Elsner and Katharina Lorenz, The Genesis of Iconology

      Hans Belting acts as director of the Internationalen Forschungszentrums Kulturwissenschaften (IFK) in Vienna. His recent books include Art History after Modernism (2003) and Bild‐Anthropologie: Entwürfe für eine Bildwissenschaft (2001). He is the editor of Quel Corps? Eine Frage der Repräsentation (2002) and Jerome Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights (2002). Two forthcoming books are to be entitled Face and Mask: Their View as Images and The Spectacle of the Gaze: Image and Gaze in Western Culture.

    • 320Vilém Flusser
    • When we were forced to see geography as the surface of a globe rather than as the description of a flat area, we ran into problems: Do the occupants of the southern hemisphere stand on their heads? We must strain our imaginations even more now than they did back then. Admittedly, we have images of equations that make things easier. We are accustomed, for example, to see the solar system as a geographic place in which individual bodies orbit around a larger one. We see it as such because it has been shown to us in images, not because we have perceived it with our own eyes. However, today we also have other images at our disposal.

      See also: Jacques Rancière, The Order of the City

    • 329Hans Robert Jauss
    • The word modernity, which is meant to distinguish, in epochal terms, the self‐understanding of our era from its past, is paradoxical. If one looks back over its literary tradition, it seems evident that it has always already forfeited, through historical repetition, the very claim it sets out to make. It was not coined specially for our period, nor does it seem in the least capable of designating, unmistakably, the unique features of an epoch. It is true that the French noun form la modernité is, like its German counterpart die Moderne, a recent coinage. Both words make their first appearance at a time when our perception of the familiar historical world is separated from a past that is no longer accessible to us without the mediation of historical knowledge. Romanticism, as both a literary and a political period, can be considered remote in this sense, a past that has been sundered from our modernity.

      See also: Hans Robert Jauss, Poiesis

      Hans Robert Jauss was emeritus professor of romance languages at the University of Constance. His publications include Toward an Aesthetic of Reception.

    • 365W. J. T. Mitchell
    • On the morning after Edward Said’s death, Homi Bhabha and I had a phone conversation about the ways in which Critical Inquiry might best respond to this tragic and untimely event. The pace of a scholarly journal does not make for timely utterances of grief, and Edward’s many friends, colleagues, former students, and readers were casting about for a way to honor his legacy as an activist intellectual. We discussed the possibility of assembling a special issue on Edward’s work but found ourselves baffled by the enormous range of choices. Should we stress his literary, humanistic writing and teaching? His musical criticism and his work as a musical activist in collaboration with Daniel Barenboim? His role as a cultural theorist, from his early assessments of French theory in Beginnings to his latest reflections on postcolonial theory? Or should we stress his importance as a political commentator, an engaged intellectual who emerged as the most eloquent spokesman for (and acerbic critic of) the Palestinian movement in the last quarter century? So many topics! So little certainty about what was needed right now.

      See also: W. T. J. Mitchell, Secular Divination: Edward Said's Humanism

      W. J. T. Mitchell is the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and art history at the University of Chicago and editor of Critical Inquiry. His newest book, What Do Pictures Want? will appear in 2005.

    • 371Homi Bhabha
    • When you are so severely out of place, your recovery may also seem somewhat slow, out of time, bit by bit, part upon part. And at that point, in the paradoxical style of humanist thinking, you are forced to ask: Who sets the pace of my historical recovery of land, rights, and respect? are these partial moments, and movements, a kind of regrouping of forces, or do they yield to a dominating strategy of divide and rule?Said asks himself questions like these in the mid‐1980s, and his response to them is mixed. Since 1967 there has been a growth of “smaller, more varied configurations,” institutions of Palestinian civil society committed to the ideal of sumud (both the principles of and the group of Palestinians willing to stay in the Occupied Territories, being steadfast in their desire to stay on against the odds) that disrupt or disturb “the blanket of power over us.” These efforts have led to alternative civic institutions like cultural centers that serve as networks for schools, women’s groups, cooperatives, and NGOs. The destruction of tribal and clan‐based leaderships has created a new cadre of leaders who have grown in confidence because they combine popular grassroots support with a genuine wish for an equitable coexistence with Israel.

      See also: Homi Bhabha, Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority under a Tree outside Delhi, May 1817

      Homi Bhabha is Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature at Harvard University, Distinguished Visiting Professor, University College, London, and a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellow for 2004–5. His two forthcoming books are entitled A Measure of Dwelling and The Right to Narrate.

    • 381Lila Abu‐Lughod
    • Sitting on the thatched terrace of a house made of mud brick, watching children chase birds out of the ripening wheat fields while their mothers harvest clover for sheep and water buffalo, listening to a distant clang announcing the seller of bottled gas, and enjoying the winter sunshine through the eucalyptus, I can hardly conjure the world you inhabited. Even though you spent your boyhood in Egypt, it was north, in a different part of this country. There, your school was so exclusive that being an Oriental in it carried a stigma. There, your apartment was furnished with antiques and dusted by servants. Here, children march off to school in crumpled beige uniforms and recite from dog‐eared government textbooks.

      Lila Abu‐Lughod is professor of anthropology and director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Columbia University. She is the author of Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain (2002), Writing Women’s Worlds: Bedouin Stories (1993), and Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society (1986). Her most recent book is Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt (2005).

    • 389Akeel Bilgrami
    • Vico had spoken of how the very notion of a chosen people, by the privilege it bestowed on them, protected them from the acts of imagination and intellect by which they might probe their own origins. These acts, which since his time came to be described in terms of genealogy but which Vico himself described as divination, were acts that acknowledged a fundamental fact about those who are allowed their indulgence—that they were always in history, stuck in it, outside of the privilege of the sacred domain, and therefore these probings were essentially the Gentile acts of an enforced secularity. The discipline of history (and indeed of philosophical anthropology and the very idea of what later came to be called Geisteswissenschaften) therefore was by its nature a secular one.

      Said’s use of this distinction is suggestive and varied. In this brief paper, I will only be able to explore one strand of suggestion, ignoring many other more familiar and well‐mined Saidian themes, such as the contrasts he draws between filiation and affiliation, repetition and departure, social constraint and individual talent, and ignoring too his vast range of references from Marx and before to Auerbach and after.

      Akeel Bilgrami is Johnsonian Professor of philosophy and director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the author of Belief and Meaning (1992) and two forthcoming books: Self‐Knowledge and Resentment and Politics and the Moral Psychology of Identity.

    • 399Paul Bové
    • Edward Said’s presence made complacency impossible. From the first time I heard him lecture on Islamic theories of history and rhetoric to our last conversation about a trend in British historiography that admires imperialists’ suffering more than is good for us, through those meetings, emails, phone calls, interviews, and occasional exchanges of offprints, Edward made it impossible to be satisfied. We should not misunderstand: he took and gave great pleasure. His learning, wit, even his angry rhetoric and relentless analysis exist within the world of intellectual pleasure, of commitment to forming oneself and one’s society as occasions to live well. Moreover, he made people around him—me, at least—come to love criticism as his great teacher Blackmur had taught us: criticism is an act of love, and like writing it is the response to what has come before, to what is coming into being even now.

      Paul Bové is professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and editor of Boundary 2. He is the author of, most recently, Early Postmodernism: Foundational Essays (1995) and the editor of Edward Said and the Work of the Critic: Speaking Truth to Power (2000).

    • 406Timothy Brennan
    • Today I am reminded again, Edward, of how much I miss your personal and intellectual presence. The U.S. government’s unspeakable actions abroad are busily revealed and rationalized, exposed and explained by various media specialists. In glancing at the daily dose of doublespeak, I found my eyes drawn to the Books in Brief section of the New York Times featuring your latest book, Humanism and Democratic Criticism. After reading the review’s cursory attempt to reconcile your humanism with the antihumanist assertions of the Foucault you took to task as long ago as 1975, I could not help recalling our many conversations in which you both wittily and angrily expressed your opinions about the dishonesty of that paper’s coverage of the Middle East and gave vent to your dismay at being taken to be a thinker you yourself could not always recognize.

      Timothy Brennan is professor in the department of English and the department of cultural studies and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. He is the author At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now (1997) and editor and cotranslator of Alejo Carpentier’s Music in Cuba (2001).

    • 419Noam Chomsky
    • Edward Said and I were very close friends, but like most of my friends I barely see them, we’re just too busy. So I didn’t see Edward a lot, we didn’t meet frequently. But we met often enough, and in interesting situations, and some of them were ones nobody ever talked about. It started in the late 1970s. Edward became very much concerned about the direction the PLO was taking. Which was highly self‐destructive. In fact, it was the most self‐destructive national liberation movement I’ve had anything to do with, and I’ve had to do with plenty of them. But I think partly it was they were coming out of some kind of a feudal background, which made them incapable of understanding the way a democratic society works. Every Third World movement, I mean even the North Koreans, crazy as they are, recognized that they better try to develop some support in the United States, otherwise they were in deep trouble. I mean, you can’t look at the world and not understand that. The only ones who never understood it were the PLO.

      Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor (retired) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he has been on the faculty since 1955. He has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, and international affairs. Among his recent books are Middle East Illusions and Hegemony or Survival.

    • 425Ranajit Guha
    • In The Question of Palestine (1979) Edward Said speaks of 1967 as “a watershed year” for his people. The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel helped to crystallize their sense of a common Palestinian identity grounded in the bitterness of dispossession. Years later he would describe himself in his memoir as “no longer the same person after 1967.” A carefree wanderer until then he was seized, like his compatriots, by the anguish of displacement. For the first thirty years of his life he had moved from home to home, school to school, and to some extent job to job, commuting between cultures and communities in several countries and two continents. Cosmopolitan itinerancy doesn’t seem to have worried him too much. In fact, his recollection of those days leaves little doubt that he enjoyed the open and expansive life not cast in concrete at any particular site. But the events of 1967 changed all that and made him realize, as never before, that once he had a home to call his own, but was homeless now. This loss, the latest in a series of dislocations suffered by his family and relatives, was assimilated to “the dislocation that subsumed all other losses,” namely, the loss of Palestine. Henceforth this would be a point for time and place to intersect in his work and coordinate a many‐sided engagement with literature, history, and politics in some of the most memorable reflections on the human predicament.

      Ranajit Guha held various research and teaching positions in India, England, the United States, and Australia before his retirement in 1988. He is the founding editor of Subaltern Studies and the author of A Rule of Property for Bengal and Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India.

    • 431Harry Harootunian
    • What appears to have been an official mourning period following the death of Edward Said is over, a death the magnitude of which managed to proliferate numerous services around the country and even enlist celebrities and generate a professional class of mourners on occasion. It is now time to revisit his diverse achievements and begin the task of reassessing their meaning for the scene of humanist disciplines and contemporary political intervention. Said’s death puts an end to an energetic activity motivated by the necessity of always keeping alive the tense but asymmetrical relationship between culture and politics and the almost impossible task of resisting the temptation, at least for American academics, of slipping into the former as if it were a more than adequate substitute for the latter. In fact, I’ve always felt that his writings, ranging from elevated forays into classical music to the everyday politics of the Palestinian quest for national independence, must have created an insurmountable tension that challenged and threatened the limit of his capacity to withstand stress.

      Harry Harootunian is professor of East Asian studies and history at New York University. His most recent work is titled The Empire’s New Clothes: Paradigm Lost and Regained (2004), and he is coediting with Hyun Ok Park a special issue for Boundary 2 called “Problems of Comparability/Possibilities for Comparative Studies” (2005).

    • 443Saree Makdisi
    • “The fact of the matter,” wrote Edward Said in 1979, “is that today Palestine does not exist, except as a memory, or, more importantly, as an idea, a political and human experience, and an act of sustained popular will.” What I want to propose in this essay is that this complex vision of Palestine not merely as a place but as an idea, an experience, and a will—inexorably tied to a living people—not only animated Said’s work on behalf of the Palestinians. It also provided the conceptual and political foundation for his understanding of humanism as well as for his enormous contributions to critical theory and the field of colonial studies, a field that was inaugurated by his work on Orientalism.

      Saree Makdisi is professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (2003) and Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity (1998).

    • 462W. J. T. Mitchell
    • Any continuation of the conversation with Edward Said would have to include the question of humanism and its many discontents. Humanism for Said was always a dialectical concept, generating oppositions it could neither absorb nor avoid. The very word used to cause in him mixed feelings of reverence and revulsion: an admiration for the great monuments of civilization that constitute the archive of humanism and a disgust at humanism’s underside of suffering and oppression that, as Benjamin insisted, make them monuments to barbarism as well.

      W. J. T. Mitchell is the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and art history at the University of Chicago and editor of Critical Inquiry. His newest book, What Do Pictures Want? will appear in 2005.

    • 472Aamir R. Mufti
    • It is famously (and perhaps notoriously) the case that in his major works at least, Edward Said seems to be concerned chiefly, if not entirely, with the canonical literatures of the modern West, either bracketing off the cultural production and trajectories of non‐Western societies or bringing to them modes of attention distinct from, and far less compelling than, those he has developed for a critical reengagement with the Western tradition. This appears to be especially true of literatures produced in languages of non‐Western origin. I claim that elements of a consideration of the conditions under which such literatures may and must be brought into the purview of contemporary humanistic knowledge are present in relatively developed form in his work. It may even be argued that a concern with these languages and literatures, especially of course Arabic, and their place in literary studies animates his work even when its explicit preoccupation appears to be elsewhere. It is my goal to point to some of these elements and suggest a number of ways in which they may be put into articulation. My larger concern, whose fuller elaboration must be postponed for another occasion, is to reopen the old question of what I shall call the Eurocentrism of the knowledge structures we inhabit, a question of enormous significance facing the humanities today but one whose serious exploration is tripped up by its easy insertion into a polemical mode.

      Aamir R. Mufti is associate professor of comparative literature at University of California, Los Angeles. He is the editor of “Critical Secularism,” a special issue of Boundary 2 (2004).

    • 490Roger Owen
    • I am writing to you while looking at the photograph Sulayman Khalaf took of us sitting on a bench at the University of Mainz during the WOCMES conference in 2002. We are obviously in the middle of a conversation, but it’s difficult to tell who is talking.

      One thing the photograph brings to mind is that, although we always took great pleasure in our, often accidental, meetings we were probably discussing personal matters interspersed with a certain amount of academic gossip. It was as though our rare conversations were too precious to spoil with reference either to that week’s news from the Middle East—reactions to which I think we always assumed we shared—or to our thoughts about what each was then writing or had just written.

      Roger Owen teaches Middle East history at Harvard University. He is the author of several works on Middle East political and economic history as well as, most recently, Lord Cromer: Victorian Imperialist, Edwardian Proconsul (2004).

    • 498Gyan Prakash
    • Edward Said’s passing away left many conversations and projects unfinished, not the least of which is the struggle for an independent Palestinian homeland. But Edward was not a one‐dimensional intellectual; an impressive range of intellectual undergrowth nourished even his single‐minded and resolute political commitments to the cause of Palestine and to anti‐imperialism. My conversation with him on the city, cut short so abruptly by his death, reflected this quality of his intellectual and political interests and their enormous range.

      Gyan Prakash is professor of history and director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University. He is the author of Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India (1999) and Bonded Histories: Genealogies of Labor Servitude in Colonial India (1990) and coauthor, with Robert L. Tignor, of Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the Modern World from the Mongol Empire to the Present (2002). He is the editor of After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements (1995), among other volumes.

    • 505Dan Rabinowitz
    • The late 1980s and the 1990s stand out as one of the most fateful phases in the history of the conflict over Israel/Palestine. It is also the one least properly understood. Starting in late 1987 with the intifada, the first significant Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967, it was initially shaped by the resolution of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) in Algiers (1988) to adopt a formula for a two‐state solution for Israel/Palestine. Edward W. Said, who was a close adviser to Yasir Arafat at that stage, played a crucial role in bringing the PNC to make this historic leap. In many ways this resolution represents the zenith of Said’s power to influence major political processes as they unfolded.

      Dan Rabinowitz is senior lecturer in the departments of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University. He is the author of Overlooking Nazareth: The Ethnography of Exclusion in a Mixed Town in Galilee (1997).

    • 512Jacqueline Rose
    • ‘Why should the Palestinians make the effort to understand Zionism?’ The question came from a young woman in the audience at one of the many memorials held for you, this one in London last November under the auspices of the London Review of Books. It was not your priority, responded Ilan Pappé. And Sara Roy simply and powerfully told the anecdote of how she had witnessed Palestinians flooding with joy onto the curfewed streets of the West Bank where she was living when the possibility of a Palestinian state was first acknowledged by Israel, while the soldiers stood by in silence and just watched. There will be understanding enough, I heard her saying, when there is justice.

      Jacqueline Rose is professor of English at Queen Mary University of London. Her books include The Haunting of Sylvia Plath, States of Fantasy, On Not Being Able to Sleep: Psychoanalysis and the Modern World, and her novel, Albertine. She was the writer and presenter of the Channel 4 TV documentary ‘A Dangerous Liaison—Israel and America’. The Question of Zion, first delivered as the Christian Gauss seminars at Princeton University in 2003, will be published in spring 2005.

    • 519Gayatri Spivak
    • Towards the end of his life, he and Mariam went to India, where Edward received two doctorates. His account of the trip to me did not seem to come from the friend who knew my deep and little‐advertised concern for social justice in India. Early on in our friendship, looking back upon himself critically, he had described himself as a “playboy” before he woke up to the question of Palestine. (Who knows where one’s stereotypes for oneself are hatched?) That word came to mind as I heard him speak about India. At any rate, our friendship (by then carried on as if Columbia University did not exist) received a dent from this. I was uneasy. In a while I sent word to him through our common friend Jacqueline Rose during what turned out to be the last days. He sent this back: “Ask Gayatri to make a gesture.” There wasn’t time.

      Gayatri Spivak, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities and director of the Center for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University, teaches English and the politics of culture. Her most recent book is Chotli Munda and His Asnow (2002).

    • 526Daniel Barenboim
    • Edward Said was many things for many people, but in reality his was a musician's soul in the deepest sense of the word.

      He wrote about important universal issues such as exile, politics, integration. However, the most surprising thing for me, as his friend and great admirer, was the realization that, on many occasions, he actually formulated ideas and reached conclusions through music; and, along the same lines, he saw music as a reflection of the ideas that he had regarding other issues.

      This is one of the main reasons why I believe that Said was an extremely important figure. His journey through this world took place precisely at a time when the humanity of music, its human value, and the value of thought, the transcendence of the idea written in sounds, were and regrettably continue to be concepts in decline.

      Daniel Barenboim, currently the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, coauthored with Edward Said Parallels and Paradoxes (2002). In the same year they jointly received the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord in recognition of their endeavors towards peace. In 2004, Barenboim was awarded the Tolerance Prize by the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, the Order of the Federal Republic of Germany by President Johannes Rau, the Buber‐Rosenzweig Medal, the Wolf Prize for the Arts in the Knesset in Jerusalem, and the Haviva Reik Peace Award in Berlin.

    • 530W. J. T. Mitchell
    • Critical Inquiry mourns the passing of Jacques Derrida on 8 October 2004.

      Derrida was one of the greatest philosophers of the late twentieth century, a massively influential figure in all the arts and human sciences, and a thinker of unrivalled brilliance and originality. He was also a frequent contributor to this journal and a cherished friend. His essay “Justices” will appear in our spring 2005 issue.