Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 1996

Volume 23 Issue 1
    • 1Jacques Derrida
    • For a long time, for a very long time, I've feared having to say adieu to Emmanuel Levinas. I knew that my voice would tremble at the moment of saying it, and especially saying it aloud, right here, before him, so close to him, pronouncing this word of adieu, this word “à-Dieu,” which in a certain sense I get from him, a word that he will have taught me to think or to pronounce otherwise. By meditating upon what Emmanuel Levinas wrote about the French word “adieu”—which I will recall in a few moments—I hope to find a sort of encouragement to speak here. And I would like to do so with unadorned, naked words, words as childlike and disarmed as my sorrow.

      See also: Vincent B. Leitch, Late Derrida: The Politics of Sovereignty

      Jacques Derrida is Directeur d'Études at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and professor of French, University of California, Irvine. His most recent contribution to Critical Inquiry is “By Force of Mourning” (Winter 1995). Pascale-Anne Brault is assistant professor of French at DePaul University. She has written articles on contemporary French literature and drama and is currently working on a book on the revisioning of female identity in classical Greek literature. Michael Naas is associate professor of philosophy at DePaul University and author of Turning: From Persuasion to Philosophy (1995). Together they have translated, among other works, Derrida's Memoirs of the Blind (1993) and “By Force of Mourning.”

    • 11Marilyn Ivy
    • Mass media and crime have a relationship that is more than incidental, after all. At the same time, that relationship is not easy to specify. If crimes normally depend for their success on a certain degree of obscurity—on what resists being found out and thus representable in the media—that obscurity also becomes the narrative mystery that the media feel compelled to enlighten. Institutions of publicity—in Japan and elsewhere—need events, and crimes are crucial in forming a fleeting perception of eventfulness that both generates and dislodges a stabilized sense of the everyday.

      In the first instance, capitalist societies strive for uneventfulness on a grand scale. Stability is the familiar word; only stability can insure investments, economic and otherwise. But without the element of risk, of failure and danger, there can be no profit, as the entire complex of investment and profit that underpins capitalism relies on risk for its realization. Crime, as a daily counterpart to market risk, is similarly central to bourgeois stability. One role of mass media is to keep people perpetually aware of the possibilities of risk. What resists being mass mediated—crime—thus forms the supplementary foundation of media institutions themselves.

      See also: Mark Seltzer, The Crime System

      Marilyn Ivy, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Washington, is currently at work on a book about mysteries of the everyday, eventfulness, and machineries of inscription in late modern Japan. She is the author of Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan (1995).

    • 37Wu Hung
    • This short essay contemplates a large problem: What is a (traditional Chinese) painting? The answer seems so self-evident that the question often eludes either an intrinsic analysis of style and iconography or an extrinsic study of social, political, and religious contexts.1 Both kinds of scholarship equate a painting with a pictorial representation, which is alone reproduced in scholarly works as the object of discussion. Missing here are a painting's physical form—as a framed canvas, a piece of plastered wall, a scroll, an album, a fan, or a screen—and all concepts and practices related to its materiality. An alternative approach, the one advocated here, is that a painting must be understood both as an image-bearing object and as a pictorial image; the collaboration and tension between these two aspects make a work a “painting.” As commonplace as it seems, this approach is rarely practiced. When seriously pursued, however, it naturally breaks down the confines between image, object, and context and provides a new ground for historical investigation.

      · 1. For an introduction to these two types of scholarship in art history, see W. Eugene Kleinbauer, Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Writings on the Visual Arts (New York, 1971), pp. 1-107.

      See also: Esther Jacobson, Place and Passage in the Chinese Arts: Visual Images and Poetic Analogues

      Wu Hung is Harrie Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art at the University of Chicago. His book The Wu Liang Shrine: The Ideology of Early Chinese Pictorial Art (1989) won the 1990 Joseph Levenson Prize for the best book in Chinese studies. His most recent books are Monumentality in Early Chinese Art and Architecture (1995) and The Double Screen: Medium and Representation in Chinese Painting (1996).

    • 80Paul A. BovĂ©
    • Economy's dominance of society characterizes the postwar period; it takes the form of new industries and instruments of finance producing new worlds that effectively relegate not only prewar political institutions but the power of politics to organize society. Adams inherits the family belief that politics is all, that economics, in the form of personal money-making or market expansion, is secondary to morally informed political ordering of human affairs; but, during the way, entrepreneurial and proto-monopoly capital have cost statecraft its legitimacy. In the process, one form of intelligence, resting on the identity of reason and moral judgment, has transubstantiated itself into the intelligence of management, anticipation, and control. It is as if Spinoza were right, after all, about the universe—or, as we shall see, as if The Eighteenth Brumaire were to tell a story about a revolution or, to use the language of the later Adams, phase change precisely without politics and without political leadership, without, as it were, the need for a class-based party at all.

      See also: Paul Bové, Policing Thought: On Learning How to Read Henry Adams

      Paul A. Bové edits boundary 2 and is professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. The author of Destructive Poetics, Intellectuals in Power, in the Wake of Theory, and Mastering Discourse, Bové is completing a book on Henry Adams.

    • 109Ruth Ben-Ghiat
    • The association of modernity with spiritual imprisonment and standardization was a commonplace of cultural discourse in interwar Europe. Rapid technological change, shifting boundaries between public and private spheres, and the advent of mass consumerism raised anxieties among intellectuals that cut across confines of ideology as well as geography. For those living under Mussolini's dictatorship, as for those living in the democracies of France and Weimar Germany, mass civilization appeared as a destroyer of boundaries between individuals, social classes, nations, sexes, and races.2

      · 2. See, for example, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, Mesure de la France (Paris, 1922) and La Suite dans les idées (Paris, 1927); José Ortega y Gasset, La rebelión de las masas (Madrid, 1930); Karl Jaspers, Die Geistige Situation der Zeit (Berlin, 1931); Filippo Burzio, Il demiurgo e la crisi occidentale (Milan, 1933); and Emmanuel Berl, Mort de la pensée bourgeoise (Paris, 1929).

      See also: Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Border Crossings: Italian/German Peregrinations of the "Theater of Totality"

      Ruth Ben-Ghiat is assistant professor of history at Fordham University. She has published articles on Italian fascist culture and on the memory of Italian fascism. Her forthcoming book is entitled Fascist Modernities: Culture, Power, and the Nation in Italy, 1922-45.

    • 145Glenn W. Most
    • How can an artist represent pictorially an intellectual activity like philosophy? In The School of Athens, Raphael chooses to do so by depicting the manifold self of ratiocinative and discursive activities performed on a sunny day in a splendid building by a large number of adult male philosophers (see insert). The fifty-eight figures who occupy this architectural space impressive for its grandeur, luxury, and sobriety are all busily doing precisely what philosophers always do when they are acting as philosophers: they are reading, writing, lecturing, arguing, demonstrating, questioning, listening, pondering, admiring, doubting. If this seems to us a self-evident choice, it is only because Raphael's image has embedded itself so deeply in our visual unconscious. It requires an effort of the historical imagination to recognize that this was not an inevitable, or even a likely, way to represent philosophy in the first decade of the sixteenth century—indeed, that the fundamental conception of The School of Athens is entirely without precedent in the tradition of European art.

      See also: Pierre Hadot, Arnold I. Davidson and Paula Wissing, Forms of Life and Forms of Discourse in Ancient Philosophy

      Glenn W. Most is professor of classics at Heidelberg University and in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. He has written widely about ancient and modern poetry and philosophy and about the classical tradition and the history of classical scholarship.

    • 183Catherine M. Cole
    • I first encountered the Ghanian concert party in the Northwestern University library in 1992. It was there I found Efua Sutherland's small booklet The Original Bob, a biography of the famous concert party actor Bob Johnson.3 On the cover was a picture of Johnson in top hat and tails, wearing a plaid tie, his beaming smile broadly painted in white, his hands extended outward at his sides: a perfect evocation of Jolson exclaiming, “Mammy” (figs. 2 and 3). This picture of Johnson, so suggestive of the controversial and racially charged American minstrel genre, evokes questions about how and why blackface traveled to West Africa.

      The history of the concert party dynamically juxtaposes several complex and provocative issues. Questions about the political function of performance and the constitution of identity in a colonial setting converge with issues of aesthetic influence and cultural appropriation. Why did Africans wear blackface? Did this makeup, clearly influenced by American and British minstrelsy, signify ideas about race circulating during British colonial rule? Although, “race, class, gender, and ethnicity” has become a tired mantra of contemporary critical theory, these issues of identity arise organically from concert party history. It is a performance genre in which black men impersonated white “ladies,” Africans wore blackface, and Akans frequently made ethnic jokes about Liberian Krus and Muslim northerners.

      · 3. See Efua Sutherland, The Original Bob: The Story of Bob Johnson, Ghana's Ace Comedian (Accra, 1970).

      See also: Michael Rogin, Blackface, White Noise: The Jewish Jazz Singer Finds His Voice  ·  Kofi Agawu, Representing African Music

      Catherine M. Cole is a visiting assistant professor in the School of Theatre at Florida State University. She is presently at work on a history of the Ghanaian concert party.