Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Spring 2010

Volume 36 Issue 3
    • 371Marshall Sahlins
    • I have to make a double apology: first for framing my homage to Claude Lévi‐Strauss in autobiographical terms; and then for compounding the impropriety by repeating a reminiscence of his seminar that I have recently put in print. I come dangerously close to the old quip about the professor who said, “that's enough talking about me. Let's talk about you. How did you like my last book?” My excuse is the extraordinary value Lévi‐Strauss's work has had for me, and in particular the productive value of the tension between structuralism and the various species of materialism and economism prevailing in the late 1960s, when I had the privilege of being associated with the Laboratoire.

      Marshall Sahlins is the Charles F. Gray Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the British Academy. His latest works include Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa (2004) and The Western Illusion of Human Nature (2008).

      See also: Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan, Lévi-Strauss and the Cybernetic Apparatus  ·  Anca Parvulescu on Lévi-Strauss and European kinship  ·  Arif Dirlik, Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism

    • 386Tzachi Zamir
    • The new focus on performance and theater within contemporary aesthetics should prompt us to delve into forms of performing art that have hardly been discussed by philosophers.2 Adult puppet theater is not a good starting point for such inquiries. The philosophical issues that puppetry raises—as this essay will aim to demonstrate—are complex; some of them have altogether been eschewed by Anglo‐American aesthetics due to its marked disinclination to incorporate metaphysical nomenclature. The difficulty for advocates of the well‐defined and the rigorously argued is that when one turns a cool and dispassionate philosophical eye on puppets, objects imaginatively endowed with life, any analysis that attempts to circumvent some of our deepest and vaguest thoughts—our experience of matter, or what infusing life into it might imply, or what the visibility of control over an animated object can induce in its spectator—is destined to be superficial.

      2. Paul Thom, For an Audience: A Philosophy of the Performing Arts (Philadelphia, 1993) used to be the only book‐length work on the aesthetics of acting. We now have James Hamilton, The Art of Theater (New York, 2007); Paul Woodruff, The Necessity of Theater (New York, 2008); and Staging Philosophy: Intersections of Theatre, Performance, and Philosophy, ed. David Krasner and David Z. Saltz (Ann Arbor, Mich., 2006). Several papers by David Osipovich are part of this renaissance as well. For Continental thought on theater (which, like its Anglo‐American counterpart, says virtually nothing about puppets), see Mimesis, Masochism, and Mime: The Politics of Theatricality in Contemporary French Thought, ed. Timothy Murray (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1997).

      Tzachi Zamir is a philosopher and literary critic affiliated with the Department of English and the Department of General and Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His publications include Double Vision: Moral Philosophy and Shakespearean Drama (2006) and Ethics and the Beast (2007).

      See also: Joan DeJean, Fictions of Sappho  ·  Jonathan Lamb, Modern Metamorphoses  ·  Margret Schaefer, Psychoanalysis and the Marionette Theater

    • 410Garrett Stewart
    • They are everywhere in contemporary galleries, regularly uncategorized, commonly ironic if not downright comic, sometimes edgy, outrageous, frequently enthralling—namely (though there is no established name for them) those foreclosed book forms that manifest a no longer viable work in any verbal oeuvre. In their often amusing refusal of all normal use, such sculptural rather than functional books work against themselves when isolated for display. They subtract meaning from their own vehicles. In so doing, they sacrifice text on the self‐imposed rectangular altar—the reductive material slab—of geometric form. For what kind of aesthetic thinking is this neutered textual shape a conceptual platform? Addressing this question means sorting through a proliferating mode of museum object, whether solo or lodged in installations or tableaux—an objet d'art for which there is as yet no good, or at least no going, term. But in search of designation, we may in fact get closer to the conceptual instigation at hand. Or not at hand: that's more to the point—held off in most cases like no book typically is, permanently shut tight, linguistic content in every sense shut up.

      Garrett Stewart, the James O. Freedman Professor of Letters at the University of Iowa, is the author most recently of Framed Time: Toward a Postfilmic Cinema (2007) and Novel Violence: A Narratography of Victorian Fiction (2009). Complementing The Look of Reading: Book, Painting, Text (2006), the present essay is drawn from a forthcoming study, Bookwork: Medium to Object to Concept to Art.

      See also: Philip Fisher, Strategies for Making and Effacing Art  ·  Donald Preziosi, The Question of Art History  ·  Warwick Anderson, The Case of the Archive

    • 458Aamir R. Mufti
    • In the current revival of the concept of world literature, something of considerable importance appears to be largely missing: the question of Orientalism. Despite the reputation of Edward Said's Orientalism as a sort of foundational text for concern with cultural relations on a planetary scale, the specifics of that book's conceptual armature or the archive with which it engages do not seem to play a significant role in this renewed discussion and intensification of interest in the effort to comprehend literature as a planet wide reality.

      Aamir R. Mufti is associate professor of comparative literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Enlightenment in the Colony: The Jewish Question and the Crisis of Postcolonial Culture (2007) and coeditor of Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives (1997).

      See also: Aamir R. Mufti, Global Comparativism  ·  Aamir R. Mufti on Edward Said and minority culture  ·  Gil Anidjar, Secularism

    • 494Dan Rabinowitz
    • The Palestinian claim for the right of refugees to return to places from which they were displaced in 1948 and the notion that return, if implemented, might bring them back to areas now part of Israel within the Green Line touch raw nerves for Palestinians and Israelis alike.1 Measures to redress the tragedy of Palestinian refugees, once implemented, could have far‐reaching practical consequences for many and could redefine the way many others see historic justice, individual and collective choice, identity, morality, and destiny.

      This essay follows two trajectories. One explores the cultural, historical, and political origins of the metanarratives that inform Palestinian and Israeli mainstream views of return. The other is a thought experiment that seeks to bridge theory and practice. Cognizant of the merits of transitional justice and skeptical about the feasibility and efficacy of closure, it presents a formula for settlement that could transform the lives of a substantial proportion of the 1,360,000 million refugees most urgently in need of such a change. Working from Julia Kristeva's theory of abjection, I propose the right to refuse as a viable alternative to the elusive and impractical quest for universal return. This attempt to fuse theory and practice invites some humbling thoughts on the role of intellectuals in political negotiations.

      1. The Green Line is, by and large, the demarcation of the territory controlled by Israel at the end of the 1948 hostilities with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt respectively. This boundary, which encloses some 20,500 square kilometers, was traced in the cease‐fire agreements that were signed in Rhodes in 1949 and 1950 and was subsequently recognized as the international border of Israel.

      Dan Rabinowitz is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University. He is the author of Overlooking Nazareth: The Ethnography of Exclusion in Galilee (1997) and, with Khawla Abu‐Baker, Coffins on Our Shoulders: The Experience of the Palestinian Citizens of Israel (2005).

      See also: Dan Rabinowitz on globalization and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict  ·  Dan Rabinowitz, Edward Said’s Critique of the Oslo Process  ·  Edward W. Said, Invention, Memory, and Place

    • 517W. J. T. Mitchell
    • In the spring of 2009, Critical Inquiry received an article from Saree Makdisi critiquing the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation's proposed Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. Designed by Frank Gehry, the proposed museum has been the subject of controversy since it was first proposed. The chosen site was on one of the oldest Arab cemeteries in the Middle East, and the project has been the focus of impassioned debate and legal action since its inception.

    • 519Saree Makdisi
    • Morally speaking, the museum makes a mockery of the usual understanding of tolerance. It is best, however, to understand this gesture not simply in moral terms—as an act of hypocrisy or grotesque self‐satisfaction, for example. That may be in part what it is, but there is much more at stake in the project as well, both symbolically and politically speaking. For one thing, as with everything connected to this project, the act of exclusion and erasure of the Palestinian other is so clean, pure, and total that it is no longer recognizable as such; in fact, it is an act of erasure that—far more successfully than Israel's Independence Park or its West Bank wall—erases itself in turn. This double erasure leaves the Jewish self alone in a homely space whose condition of possibility is the removal of the other (a sense of self‐isolation perfectly conveyed in the closing shot of Eran Riklis's recent film Lemon Tree). The particular has become the universal because, once the other is gone, literally all that remains is the particular self, albeit a self constituted first through an act of cleansing and displacement and then by the secondary erasure (forgetting, foreclosure) of that primary act.

      Saree Makdisi is professor of English and comparative literature at University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Romantic Imperialism (1998), William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (2003), and, most recently, Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (2008). He is presently completing a book on the civilizing mission and the culture of empire in Britain from 1798 to 1870, the working title of which is Civilizing Empire. His webpage is

      See also: Saree Makdisi, Said, Palestine, and the Humanism of Liberation  ·  W. J. T. Mitchell, “Christo's Gates and Gilo's Wall  ·  Ariella Azoulay, Thinking through Violence

    • 560Frank Gehry
    • When I was eight years old I lived in a town in northern Ontario—Timmins—and there were only thirty Jewish families. It was a mining town of thirty thousand people. My family name is Goldberg. I was the only Jew at the elementary school I attended. I was beaten up regularly on the way home from school for killing Christ. This went on for a couple of years; I would come home bloody. There were unfair numbers against me. At some point I gathered up the strength to fight back and prevail. And for the next couple of years I did prevail by fighting back. At the end, the last year I was in Timmins, I became friends with my enemies. So this experience ingrained in me a model of how to deal with anti‐Semitism at a very young age.

      Frank Gehry has built an architectural career that has spanned five decades and produced public and private buildings in America, Europe, and Asia. His work has earned several of the most significant awards in the architectural field, including the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture, the Pritzker Prize, the Wolf Prize in Art (Architecture), the Praemium Imperiale Award, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award, the National Medal of Arts, the Friedrich Kiesler Prize, the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, and the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal. Among many other projects, Gehry is also completing design work on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Foundation Louis Vuitton Museum in Paris, France.

      See also: Saree Makdisi, The Architecture of Erasure

    • 563Raphael Israeli,, Shmuel Berkovits,, Jacques Neriah and and Marvin Hier
    • Although cloaked as a scholarly work, replete with footnotes and citations, Saree Makdisi's essay, “The Architecture of Erasure,” is in reality a political diatribe, in which he utilizes the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance now under construction in West Jerusalem as a proxy for attacking the policies of the State of Israel toward its own Arab citizens, as well as the Palestinian residents of the disputed West Bank. It is Makdisi's thesis that the museum reflects Israel's “uneasy” relationship with the Palestinian community and a desire to keep the Palestinians in its midst out of sight and out of mind, in effect to “erase” their presence and to disregard their history. Throughout his article, Makdisi implicitly assumes that the museum is de facto an instrument of Israeli governmental policy, and he draws no meaningful distinction between the Los Angeles‐based Simon Wiesenthal Center, the sponsor of the museum project, and the government of the State of Israel. Nor does he make any particular effort to ensure the accuracy of the so‐called facts upon which his argument is predicated. While Makdisi's article is elegantly written, as one might expect from a prominent professor of English literature, the author is prone to speculation and outright fabrication and seems more interested in promoting the Palestinian political agenda and discrediting Israel than ensuring a fair and balanced presentation of this important project in the heart of the Israeli capital.

      Raphael Israeli is professor of Islamic, Middle Eastern, and Chinese history at Hebrew University, Jerusalem; his email is Shmuel Berkovits is an Israeli lawyer and a lecturer on Jerusalem and the holy sites of Israel in the Diplomacy and Security Program of the Political Science Division at the University of Tel Aviv. Jacques Neriah is the former diplomatic and political adviser to the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and served as a member of the Israeli negotiating team for the Oslo Accords. Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles.

      See also: Saree Makdisi, The Architecture of Erasure

    • 595Jeremy Gilbertā€Rolfe
    • I remember when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine shot dead a Likud minister named Ze'ev and gave Sharon the opportunity to step up his campaign of violent subjugation. The European press described Ze'ev as a notorious racist who referred to the Palestinians as insects; the American press just said he was the tourism minister. Erasure is indeed the issue, and I agree with everything that Saree Makdisi says about Israel, its history, and the preposterously named Museum of Tolerance, except for the part where he discusses Frank Gehry's architecture. There it seems to me he goes astray. I am a friend of Gehry's, I've written about his work. I wish he wouldn't let himself ever get involved with anything promoted by Rabbi Hier, whose Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles has no place for the suffering of the Palestinians. Nor do I care whether Zionism was always racist or just became so; nationalism did not need to turn into National Socialism either, but in Germany it did. I don't want, then, to say anything in defense of Gehry's participation in this project. Makdisi's description of Gehry's approach to architecture is, however, something else.

      Jeremy GilbertRolfe is a painter and theorist, whose writing about art and related topics includes Frank Gehry, The City and Music (2000), which was written collaboratively with Frank Gehry and some other, shorter, pieces about the architect. He is chair of the Graduate Art Program at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California.

      See also: Saree Makdisi, The Architecture of Erasure

    • 601Daniel Bertrand Monk
    • The Israel/Palestine conflict does not reward those who would seek to interpret its premises rigorously. This may seem an extravagant claim in light of the terabytes of intellectual production that have been dedicated to explaining this tragic struggle. And yet, in the way those terabytes organize themselves in relation to one another, one encounters how the conflict as a whole prizes the perpetuation of contentions about contentions—an epistemological conventionalism—over a reasoned examination of its own interpretive order. Ruthlessly extirpating from consideration as so much garbage any critical analysis of its own logic, the Israel/Palestine conflict relegates to the status of mere ideology any investigation that might be offered as‐if from the standpoint of those who might have no stake in its perpetuation.

      Daniel Bertrand Monk holds the George R. and Myra T. Cooley Chair in Peace and Conflict Studies at Colgate University, where he is a professor of geography. He is the author of An Aesthetic Occupation (2002) as well as a number of other studies on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Together with Mike Davis he has edited Evil Paradises: The Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism (2007). Monk has been awarded MacArthur IPS and Woodrow Wilson Fellowships for his research on the history of strategic interaction in the Arab‐Israeli conflict and its attendant spatial practices. He is currently completing a monograph entitled The Era of Euphoria, which focuses on the immediate aftermath of the 1967 Arab‐Israeli war and more specifically on postwar debates as the origins of current consensus about the intractability of this conflict.

      See also: Saree Makdisi, The Architecture of Erasure

    • 609Saree Makdisi
    • I assume that when you invited others to respond to my essay what you had in mind was the development of a conversation in a scholarly spirit—addressing the main arguments of the original piece, generating new approaches to the topic, offering critiques that might lead me to reconsider or modify my argument. I see no basis for a conversation in the responses that came in. Not only do none of the reactions actually engage the central argument of my article (indeed, they seem studiously to ignore it), none advances a serious alternative argument. In the whole set, there isn't a single credible challenge to what I wrote. And what's missing in terms of challenge seems to be made up for in terms of gratuitous unpleasantness.

      Frank Gehry unwittingly set the tone for all these responses. He might have taken this opportunity to show the world that he is capable of broadening the range of his sympathies to others. He doesn't. Nor does he seem aware that Jerusalem is not just a Jewish city but also a Christian and a Muslim one and of course the center of Palestinian life; nor is there a hint that he realizes that Jerusalem is not a sandbox that was just lying there inertly, waiting for him to come and work in it, but rather a city that is the focal point of the hopes and aspirations of millions of people.

      Saree Makdisi is professor of English and comparative literature at University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Romantic Imperialism (1998), William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (2003), and, most recently, Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (2008). He is presently completing a book on the civilizing mission and the culture of empire in Britain from 1798 to 1870, the working title of which is Civilizing Empire. His webpage is

      See also: Saree Makdisi, The Architecture of Erasure