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Losing Real Life

James Baldwin and the Ethics of Trauma

Mikko Tuhkanen

This essay proposes that we turn to James Baldwin’s work to assess the cost of, and think alternatives to, the cultures of traumatization whose proliferation one witnesses in contemporary U.S. academia. Beginning with some recent examples, the essay briefly places these cultures into a genealogy of onto-ethics whose contemporary forms arose with the reconfiguration of diasporic histories in the idioms of psychoanalysis and deconstructive philosophy in 1990s trauma theory. Baldwin speaks to the contemporary moment as he considers the outcome of trauma’s perpetuation in an autobiographical scene from “Notes of a Native Son.” In this scene—which restages Bigger Thomas’s murderous compulsion in Native Son—he warns us against embracing one’s traumatization as a mode of negotiating the world. In foregoing what Sarah Schulman has recently called the “duty of repair,” such traumatized engagement prevents all search for the kind of “commonness” whose early articulation can be found in Aristotle’s query after “the common good” (to koinon agathon). With Baldwin, the present essay suggests the urgency of returning to the question of “the common good”: while mindful of past critiques, which have observed in this concept’s deployment a sleight-of-hand by which hegemonic positions universalize their interests, we should work to actualize the unfinished potential of Aristotle’s idea. Baldwin’s work on diasporic modernity provides an indispensable archive for this effort.

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“He Gave Me the Words”

An Interview with Raoul Peck

Leah Mirakhor

I Am Not Your Negro (2016) takes its direction from the notes for a book entitled “Remember this House” that James Baldwin left unfinished, a book about his three friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.— their murders, and their intertwining legacies. The film examines the prophetic shadow Baldwin’s work casts on twentieth- and twenty-first-century American politics and culture. Peck compiles archival material from Baldwin’s interviews on The Dick Cavett Show, his 1965 Cambridge lecture, and a series of banal images indexing the American dream. Juxtaposed against this mythology is footage of Dorothy Counts walking to school, the assassination of black leaders and activists, KKK rallies, and the different formations of the contemporary carceral state. Our conversation examines Peck’s role as a filmmaker and his relationship with the Baldwin estate. Additionally, we discussed a series of aesthetic choices he fought to include in the film’s final cut, directing Samuel L. Jackson as the voice for the film, the similarities and shifts he wanted to document in American culture since the 1960s, and some of the criticism he has received for not emphasizing more Baldwin’s sexuality.

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Michaël Neuman, Fernando Espada and Róisín Read

lack of institutional support from the very institution that tasked her with defining those policies. She also warns of the contemporary trend to shift the use of risk management from enabling operations and facilitating access to populations to protecting the organisation from legal or reputational risks. All the contributions demonstrate that a reliance on international humanitarian law (IHL) and humanitarian principles to ensure the security of humanitarian teams and projects might well be unfounded. Rony Brauman offers his own historical perspective

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Frédéric Le Marcis, Luisa Enria, Sharon Abramowitz, Almudena-Mari Saez and Sylvain Landry B. Faye

heterogeneity, the cases constitute what can be termed comparables , in reference to the work of the French historian Marcel Détienne (2002 , 2009 ). They are emblematic of the interactions at play during emergency encounters. They speak to each other as they highlight the contested nature of legitimacy, its roots both in the longue durée and in contemporary issues. They shed light on the important role played during epidemics by the too often ignored intermediaries of the international intervention. Comparative anthropology of the kind we develop here has the potential

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Post-Humanitarianism

Governing Precarity through Adaptive Design

Mark Duffield

change in world-experience. What is often called post-humanism ( Braidotti, 2013 ) brings several contemporary positivist stands together. These include the new empiricism, speculative realism and actor network theory. Post-humanist thought draws on process-oriented behavioural ontologies of becoming. These privilege individuals understood as cognitively limited by their unmediated relationship with their enfolding environments ( Galloway, 2013 ; Chandler, 2015 ). An individual’s ‘world’ reduces to the immediate who, where and when of their

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All Lives Are Equal but Some Lives Are More Equal than Others

Staff Security and Civilian Protection in the Humanitarian Sector

Miriam Bradley

Introduction In contemporary crises, a key aim of international humanitarian action is the protection of the civilian population. In the same contexts in which the protection needs of the local population are greatest, staff members of international humanitarian agencies may also come under threat themselves. Thus the organisations that seek to keep the local civilian population safe from physical violence are at the same time seeking to keep their own staff safe from physical violence. Despite the same broad objective, two distinct labels are used

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Cinema, democracy and perfectionism

Joshua Foa Dienstag in dialogue

Series:

Edited by: Joshua Foa Dienstag

This book engages in a critical encounter with the work of Stanley Cavell on cinema, focusing skeptical attention on the claims made for the contribution of cinema to the ethical character of democratic life. In much of Cavell's writing on film he seeks to show us that the protagonists of the films he terms "remarriage comedies" live a form of perfectionism that he upholds as desirable for contemporary democratic society: moral perfectionism. Films are often viewed on television, and television shows can have "filmlike" qualities. The book addresses the nature of viewing cinematic film as a mode of experience, arguing against Cavell that it is akin to dreaming rather than lived consciousness and, crucially, cannot be shared. It mirrors the celebrated dialogue between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Jean D'Alembert on theatre. The book articulates the implications of philosophical pessimism for addressing contemporary culture in its relationship to political life. It clarifies how The Americans resembles the remarriage films and can illuminate the issues they raise. The tragedy of remarriage, would be a better instructor of a democratic community, if such a community were prepared to listen. The book suggests that dreaming, both with and without films, is not merely a pleasurable distraction but a valuable pastime for democratic citizens. Finally, it concludes with a robust response from Dienstag to his critics.

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The end of Irish history?

Critical reflections on the Celtic Tiger

Edited by: Colin Coulter and Steve Coleman

Sexual images and innuendo have become commonplace in contemporary advertising; they often fail to register in any meaningful way with the audience. This book examines the essentially racist stereotypes through which Irish people have conventionally been regarded have been increasingly challenged and even displaced perhaps by a sequence of rather more complimentary perspectives. The various developments that are signified within the figure of the Celtic Tiger might be considered to have radically altered the field of political possibility in Ireland. The enormous cuts in public expenditure that marked this period are held to have established a desirable, stable macroeconomic environment. The Celtic Tiger shows that one can use the rhetoric about 'social solidarity' while actually implementing policies which increase class polarisation. The book discusses the current hegemonic construction of Ireland as an open, cosmopolitan, multicultural, tourist-friendly society. The two central pieces of legislation which currently shape Irish immigration policy are the 1996 Refugee Act and the Immigration Bill of 1999. The book offers a critical examination of the realities of the Celtic Tiger for Irish women. Processes of nation state formation invariably invoke homogeneous narratives of ethnicity and national identity. To invoke a collective subject of contemporary Ireland rhetorically is to make such a strategic utopian political assumption. For the last few hundred years, the Gaeltacht has exemplified the crisis of Irish modernity. Culture becomes capital, and vice versa, while political action increasingly consists of the struggle to maintain democratic autonomy in the face of global market forces.

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Laura Chrisman

chapter3 21/12/04 11:14 am Page 51 3 Empire’s culture in Fredric Jameson, Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak Aijaz Ahmad’s landmark 1992 book In Theory argues that materialist and postcolonial cultural studies are fundamentally incompatible projects.1 Whatever Ahmad may aver, relations between materialism and postcolonialism are more complex than mere incompatibility. For instance, Said’s essay on empire in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park appears in a recent book titled Contemporary Marxist Literary Criticism, where the editor Francis Mulhern defines Said as

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Journeying to death

Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic

Laura Chrisman

of these at once; a black Atlantic culture whose themes and techniques transcend ethnicity and nationality to produce something new and, until now, unremarked. Political energy animates Gilroy’s academic challenge. He sets out to expose the dangers as he sees it of contemporary nationalism: whether academic or popular, implicit or explicit, black or white in focus, Gilroy sees it as socially and politically undesirable. Gilroy’s concept of a black Atlantic is then offered as a political and cultural corrective, which argues the cross-national, cross-ethnic basis