Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 2022

Volume 49 Issue 1
    • 1Ranjodh Singh Dhaliwal
    • This article argues against the conflation of digital and computational that ails contemporary critical discourse. Searching for a common logic among the three modes of computing (namely analog, digital, and quantum), it ends up finding an answer in the individuating backbone that runs through histories of postal, civic, and technological addresses. Borrowing the concept of addressability from computer science and adapting it to explain procedures of identificatory mapping at large, the article theorizes addressability as a cultural technique that can be traced back to the origins of the modern disciplinary state. In doing so, it not only posits addressability as one of the core operational logics for all computation and an alternative analytic to the digital but also suggests a longer arc of computation that considers the ubiquitous digitality as a mere subset of modern state apparatuses and their urban infrastructures. The article concludes by reflecting on this computational addressability and its relationship with ideological interpellation, proposing computation as a multiscalar assemblage of political techniken.

    • 28Rachel Galvin
    • This article argues that a recent wave of creative self-translations by Latinx poets marks a significant turn in Latinx literary history. In contrast to the conventional view of translation as a derivative, subsidiary craft, these self-translations serve as a creative practice (for composing innovative literature), a trope (for cultural and linguistic multiplicity and self-decolonization), and a theoretical framing (attuned to colonial relationships and power differentials between languages and cultures). What does this reconceptualization of self-translation mean for Latinx poetry and for translation studies? What are its contexts and antecedents, its aesthetic forms and modes of inventiveness, its social and theoretical implications? I consider these questions in relation to the work of two Puerto Rican poets, Urayoán Noel and Raquel Salas Rivera, arguing that their practices are illuminated by the decolonial theory of “transcreation,” or creative translation, developed by Haroldo de Campos. Their poetry is related to but distinct from the tradition of Spanglish and code-switching in Latinx poetry, for English and Spanish coexist in their self-translations in novel ways that do not necessarily correspond to ordinary speech patterns. At the same time, traditional values in translation are supplanted by an emphasis on creativity, criticality, and the translator’s discernable presence. I contend that transcreative self-translation reflects, critiques, and queers the process of transculturation ongoing in the US and its colonies on linguistic, cultural, and social levels.

    • 55Alan Mikhail
    • During the Little Ice Age of the early modern centuries, close to a third of the globe’s population perished. Because this period serves as the most recent example of the global impacts of climate change, historians and others interested in developing conceptual and methodological tools for understanding contemporary climate change regularly look to the historiography of the Little Ice Age for direction and inspiration. This article adds to this toolkit by arguing for the place of gender and sexuality in analyses of climate change, something environmental historians have seldom done. It does so through the discussion of a seemingly fantastical account of a young woman who gave birth to an elephant in the Ottoman Empire in the 1640s. Focusing on the experience of one woman, her rape by an elephant from India, the sad fate of her child, and her community’s social and economic hardships shows how individuals both experienced and interpreted the environmental calamities of the Little Ice Age as a species crisis. Her story furthermore analogizes the political fortunes of the Ottoman Empire in a moment of weakness. By connecting the literatures of environmental and natural history, women’s history and histories of sexuality, empire and science, this article centers the roles of women as prime agents of population, history, and culture.

    • 77Shaoling Ma
    • Undergirding China’s Belt and Road Initiative’s lofty promise of global connectivity are existing connections between the PRC’s implementation of planetary-scale observation systems for environmental sustainability and the recognizably nefarious policies of localized, colonial surveillance of Turkic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). My article examines how the recently alleged genocide in XUAR becomes the afflicted topos where both the rhetoric and practices of monitoring differently complex systems come together. Such complex connections require a recursive analysis, one which further distinguishes between recursion as an actual technique used in remote sensing and algorithmic processes and recursion as a heuristic in discourses about these computational processes and their effects on controlled populations and territories. This article, following recent interest in the intersections of geopolitics, computational design, digital capitalism and colonialism, argues that the Chinese government’s multipronged investments in environmental sciences-related sensing and imaging technologies do not simply help track its own citizens and foreign populations but also how these groups are increasingly monitored by them. I examine how the Digital Belt and Road’s Science Plan frames the environment, including sovereign territories, peoples, and natural resources as data assets. The rest of my discussion turns away from state-sponsored Earth sciences to examine Anglophone media and human rights groups’ use of satellite imageries and databases to evidence the state’s construction of internment facilities and other surveillance mechanisms in XUAR. Alleged algorithms of oppression enclose the XUAR as a black box of the police state, but digital infographic interfaces like the Xinjiang Data Project, which attempts to expose the PRC’s relegation of Uyghurs to biometric and surveillance data, only furthers a recursive datafication of XUAR.

    • 102Peter Schwenger
    • The fiftieth anniversary edition of the Petit Robert dictionary has an unusual feature: color inserts of paintings that attempt to depict the force fields shared by twenty-two pairs of words. This interposition is the result of a two-year collaboration between the dictionary’s editor, Alain Rey, and the artist Fabienne Verdier. Together, they are perversely resisting the usual project of dictionaries: to separate words from each other through precise definitions. Verdier’s work combines the practices of Eastern calligraphy, which she studied for ten years in China, with large-scale Western abstraction. Each of the Petit Robert paintings emerges from a long process of research, pondering, and drafting. The final painting, though, is made in an instant. In that moment, Verdier, with the full force of her body, swiftly moves a giant brush over a carefully prepared canvas. If the result does not capture the power she seeks, the canvas is discarded. There are no second thoughts or touch-ups. In a way, then, she is painting blind. Jacques Derrida’s ideas in Memoirs of the Blind apply both to painting and to writing: what comes to pass in both arts does so in the moment by means of forces that are never wholly under control or predictable. In contrast to the limiting act of a definition, the force field between words is generative, even while it must necessarily elude our understanding.