Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Spring 2013

Volume 39 Issue 3
    • 425Russ Castronovo
    • In short, the lesson of WikiLeaks may be a counterlesson. At the end of this network of “a high security anonymous drop box fortified by cutting-edge cryptographic information technologies” stands an identity conventional enough to be recognized by everyone from Palin to the celebrants of digital democracy.10 This conclusion at first seems contradictory. Encryption, digitally untraceable sources, and the use of mirroring sites would seem to mask individual identities, after all. Yet such technological misdirection encourages, not the evaporation of identity, but its protection from government reprisal. Likewise, electronic protocols of anonymization used by WikiLeaks do not render identity irrelevant but instead establish individuality as an endangered and therefore cherished political resource. In effect, networks do not so much disperse agency as consolidate and safeguard it. This counterlesson not only deflates some of the optimism that WikiLeaks signals the emergence of a new type of network actor, one whose digital subjectivity defies state inscription, since in the end this subject claims a legal and rhetorical status that closely resembles that of the traditional person of liberal democracy.

      10. “What Is Wikileaks?” Bodó Balázs argues that Wikileaks or Wikileakistan, as he calls it, re-creates the very sovereignty that it attacks; see Bodó Balázs, “Wikileaks and Freedom, Autonomy and Sovereignty in the Cloud,” 10 Mar. 2011,

      Russ Castronovo is the Dorothy Draheim Professor of English and American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and the Anarchy of Global Culture; Necro Citizenship: Death, Eroticism, and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth-Century United States; Fathering the Nation: American Genealogies of Slavery and Freedom; and his most recent edited work is The Oxford Handbook to Propaganda Studies (with Jonathan Auerbach). This essay is drawn from his forthcoming Propaganda 1776.

      See also: Peter Galison, Removing Knowledge  ·  Monroe E. Price, Free Expression and Digital Dreams  ·

    • 451Gregory S. Jackson
    • While the McLoughlin Brother's game was the earliest commercial board game to use Bunyan's title, it had precursors in the field of religious recreation. In the 1830s, Anne Abbott, a member of a family of influential New England Congregational ministers, designed the American The Mansion of Happiness, published by W. & S. B. Ives in 1843. Players moved their game tokens along sixty-six squares, advancing toward the Celestial City, figured as the “Seat of Happiness,” the throne Christ prepares for the faithful. As we will see, religious board games fostered an imaginative incorporation of the self into an interactive narrative of redemption and salvation integral to nineteenth-century Christian education and childhood play. The religious board game thus served as a heuristic for organizing childhood activity into an interactive and communal paradigm for seeing and narrating life as a journey through a material landscape encumbered by the moral snares that beset the individual's salvation in the world to come.

      Gregory S. Jackson is Interim Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, Rutgers New Brunswick and an associate professor of English. Author of The Word and Its Witness: The Spiritualization of American Realism, he is currently at work on a book on the American religious novel, 1800–1945.

      See also: Marc Shell, Babel in America  ·  Mark Seltzer, Parlor Games  ·  Mark Seltzer, The Official World

    • 486Charles Bernstein
    • Abstraction is already present from the first recorded history of art, on the Paleolithic cave walls of France and Spain. Marks in space. Perhaps protolanguage, perhaps protoart, no doubt something outside of the categories we now understand. Abstraction and patterning—visual marks unmoored from utility or representation—is a recurring impulse in the history of inscription whether we frame it as the unconscious or primitive. Abstraction at one cathected historical point echoes those other moments of abstraction or taps into abstraction as a dark pool, possibly a geyser, just under the surface of visual skin or appearance.

      Charles Bernstein is the author of Recalculating (2013), Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions (2011), and All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems (2010). He is Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

      See also: Robert B. Pippin, What Was Abstract Art?  ·  W. J. T. Mitchell, Abstract Painting and the Repression of Language  ·  Arts & Language, Reflections on Conceptual Art

    • 498Peter Goodrich
    • The ceremonial, triumphal, and sartorial dimensions of law are generally assumed, taken somehow for granted, and thus overlooked or at best seen as something glimpsed, lateral to legal action, heterotopic moments that are all the more effective for being unnoticed, everyday aspects of the reliquary of institutional routines. These are not nothing. They are structures of the visible, so embedded as to be presupposed, so familiar that they are unrecognized, so forbidding that they turn the gaze away and are less observed than looked past or looked through. Their presence, their visual jurisdiction and impact has, therefore, to be cautiously and appropriately reconstructed from the early common law sources that established the reign of legal emblems and the modes of visual governance that became the visiocratic regime that we myopic modern lawyers inherit along with the libraries and collections, the rule books and statutes that provide the first appearances of the arcana imperii, the antique and continuing secrets of law.

      Peter Goodrich is professor of law and director of the Program in Law and Humanities at Cardozo School of Law, New York. If all goes well, his forthcoming book on Legal Emblems will be published in 2013.

      See also: Barbara Hoffman, Law for Art's Sake  ·  Ronald Dworkin, Law as Interpretation  ·  Peter Goodrich, The New Casuistry

    • 532Warwick Anderson
    • Michel Foucault connected the emergence of clinical sciences toward the end of the eighteenth century with the “problem of the entry of the individual (and no longer the species) into the field of knowledge; the problem of the entry of the individual description, of the cross-examination, of anamnesis, of the ‘file’ into the general functioning of scientific discourse.” In closed institutions like prisons, asylums, barracks, schools, and hospitals, “the examination, surrounded by all its documentary techniques, makes each individual a ‘case’: a case which at one and the same time constitutes an object for a branch of knowledge and a hold for a branch of power.” The case becomes the “individual as he may be described, judged, measured, compared with others, in his very individuality; and it is also the individual who has to be trained or corrected, classified, normalized, excluded, etc.”2 Here I want to focus on one of these documentary techniques: the development of the hospital case file and its archive in the early twentieth century, more than one hundred years after the clinical sciences, according to Foucault, began making cases.

      2. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York, 1979), p. 191. See also On Record: Files and Dossiers in American Life, ed. Stanton Wheeler (New York, 1969), and John Forrester, “If P, Then What? Thinking in Cases,” History of the Human Sciences 9 (Aug. 1996): 1–25.

      Warwick Anderson is professor in the Department of History and the Centre for Values, Ethics, and the Law in Medicine at the University of Sydney. His books include The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health, and Racial Destiny in Australia (2002); Colonial Pathologies: American Tropical Medicine, Race, and Hygiene in the Philippines (2006); and The Collectors of Lost Souls: Turning Kuru Scientists into Whitemen (2008). With Deborah Jenson and Richard C. Keller he edited Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties (2011). He is currently completing a book on the conceptual history of autoimmunity, Intolerant Bodies: Autoimmune Disease and the Modern Self.

      See also: Michel Foucault, The Subject and Power  ·  Patricia Ticineto Clough, The Case of Sociology  ·  Jennifer L. Fleissner, Obsessional Modernity

    • 548Ariella Azoulay
    • At hand is not merely a description of the state of knowledge but of civil distress. Its basic form emerges when those who were trained by the regime not to identify the existence of a disaster as such begin to recognize it, but what they start to perceive clearly as a disaster continues not to be perceived so by others. This type of disaster is what I call a “regime-made disaster.”3 Its visible measures are expulsion, dispossession, and destruction related to “others.” These are inflicted by one population of governed—usually the citizens, the privileged ones—upon another; it makes itself invisible to this population of citizens who are mobilized to partake in it, especially because it is not perceived as a disaster; they do not perceive themselves as those who inflict such a disaster or are responsible for its outcome. This vicious circle enables regime-made disaster to last a long time and enables those who partake in it not to resist it because they are conditioned not to recognize it. Those who start to recognize it can usually do so only partially, as they see in it—in images from it—what was done to “others”—the Palestinians. When the majority of the Jewish Israeli population does not recognize the expulsion, dispossession, and destruction inflicted upon Palestinians as disaster, and views it as the consequence of reasonable and justified deeds, and when a tiny minority recognizes the disaster inflicted upon Palestinians and cannot recognize in it the Jewish population's own disaster, the need to reconstruct the discursive and archival conditions of a regime-made disaster becomes urgent.

      3. See Azoulay, “Regime-Made Disaster: On the Possibility of Nongovernmental Viewing,” in Sensible Politics: The Visual Culture of Nongovernmental Politics, ed. Yates McKee and Meg McLagan (New York, 2012).

      Ariella Azoulay is assistant professor of modern culture and media and comparative literature at Brown University. She is the author of Civil Imagination: The Political Ontology of Photography (2012), From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record of Destruction and State Formation, 1947–1950 (2011), The Civil Contract of Photography (2008), and coauthor with Adi Ophir of The One State Condition: Occupation and Democracy between the Sea and the River (2012). She is also the director of Civil Alliances, Palestine, 47–48 (2012), I Also Dwell among Your Own People: Conversations with Azmi Bishara (2004), and The Food Chain (2004).

      See also: W. J. T. Mitchell, Holy Landscape  ·  Ariella Azoulay, Declaring the State of Israel  ·  Saree Makdisi, The Architecture of Erasure

    • 575Eric S. Jenkins
    • As they enter a cultural scene, media adopt and adapt existent ideologies, and it is precisely in relation to ideology that this revised concept of the punctum offers the most insight. Disney has been the medium's most dominant representative, which has, throughout its history, repeatedly been critiqued for spreading a consumerist ideology. The company is, in fact, a privileged example, an almost too-easy target, for the purveyors of ideology critique. Yet certain issues persistently dog such criticism. For instance, why are Disney's consumerist messages so popular when consumerism is far from universally praised? Why does such consumerist ideology persist, faced with the mounds of critique leveled against Disney, from popular and scholarly sources alike? Furthermore, why do so many accept an ideology counter to their economic interests? Too often, the answers to these questions, from the perspective of ideology critique, must assume that audiences are either dupes, delusional, or powerless, that they are convinced to believe the ideology or that they are coopted by the hegemony or that they live in a false, imaginary relationship to reality. Cultural studies has continually demonstrated the inadequacies of these answers by pointing to the resistant, intelligent, crafty, and discerning interpretations of actual audiences.

      Eric S. Jenkins is assistant professor of communication at the University of Cincinnati. His research outlines modes of media perception and traces their connection to consumerism.

      See also: Carol Armstrong on Automatism and Agency  ·  Rosalind E. Krauss, Reinventing the Medium  ·  Michael Fried, Barthes's Punctum

    • 592D. N. Rodowick
    • In its classical formulation, the frontier between the sciences and the humanities is drawn by distinguishing practices of scientific explanation from hermeneutics, or interpretive understanding, or, in another framework, by establishing causes through the accumulation of data of which we have no prior knowledge, as distinct from giving and defending reasons from within commonly accessible repertoires of cultural knowledge. No doubt, the cultural value of the humanities has been diminished by the now near global acceptance of an ideology of scientism, whose powers are amplified to the extent to which it is entirely commensurate with the logic and value of neoliberalism. My goal, however, is not to return to and reinvigorate arguments defending the power of humanistic understanding with respect to scientific explanation and so to preserve a small island for the humanities within the university. Rather, in asking for a philosophy of the humanities, I want to claim that there is no philosophy that is not ab initio and de jure already a philosophy of the humanities, and indeed that there is no form of explanation, no matter how data driven and causally determined, that is free of subjective interpretation and value assessment.

      D. N. Rodowick is the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies and director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University. His most recent book, An Elegy for Theory, will be published in fall 2013.

      See also: Stanley Cavell, The Division of Talent  ·  Mario Biagioli, Postdisciplinary Liaisons  ·  Evan Kindley, Big Criticism

    • 614Wai Chee Dimock
    • Mark McGurl's plea for an expanded scale of analysis—expanded to acknowledge not only the modest time frame of our biological life but also the mind-boggling vastness of geology and astronomy—cannot be more welcome (see Mark McGurl, “The Posthuman Comedy,” Critical Inquiry 38 [Spring 2012]: 533–53). This is a moment in the history of the planet, and the history of the institution of literature, when a plurality of scale might turn out to be a matter of necessity rather than a matter of indifference. One possible outcome of scaling up is of course a quietism, if not nihilism—a resignation ahead of time—brought on by the near certainty of extinction from the standpoint of a cosmic longue durée. As McGurl points out, when the sun goes out, a spectacular heat-death implosion slated to happen some 4.5 thousand million years from now, the planet will most certainly go out with it. What we are faced with here is a script as determinate as any, its endpoint not much in doubt. Most of us, and most works of literature, have indeed been blind to this, going about our business blissfully short-sighted, never giving a moment's thought to the catastrophe projected far into the future, but guaranteed to happen.

      Wai Chee Dimock is William Lampson Professor of English and American Studies at Yale University. Her recent books include Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time and a coedited volume Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature.

      See also: Mark McGurl, The Posthuman Comedy

    • 632Mark McGurl
    • “We could also call it low epic,” notes Wai Chee Dimock, offering an alternative to my term for the appearance of the problem of scale in modern literary history (Wai Chee Dimock, “Low Epic,” Critical Inquiry 39 [Spring 2013]: 614–31). And so we could. It might even have some advantages over the term posthuman comedy. For example, it underlines the partial continuity of certain recent works of science fiction and other popular genres with the great epics of the distant past. While the realist novel eddies in an unheroic present, these works flow ever onward, refusing to scale themselves to the laws of probability and ordinary perception, refusing even to be confined to a single volume. Something about low epic demands a sequel or two or twelve, so much so that one begins to suspect, with apologies to Mikhail Bakhtin, that the term novel can no longer contain them or even adequately describe their parts.

      Mark McGurl is professor of English at Stanford University. He is the author most recently of The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing.

      See also: Mark McGurl, The Posthuman Comedy