Monday, May 31, 2004

Robbing Peter to rob Paul

There are disturbing trends in Russia's (failing) actions against Chechen rebels. Kidnappings in provinces neighboring Chechnya have been attributed to the Russian secret police (successors to the KGB).
Experts have suggested that the Russian Federal Security Service could be behind the recent wave of unexplained kidnappings in the North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia. One theory is that the plan is to destabilize the area in order to flush out Chechen refugees.

Some observers, particularly human rights groups, have suggested that the kidnappings could be part of a government strategy to introduce fear and instability in Ingushetia. An unstable Ingushetia could prompt Chechen refugees to return home, while inducing fear among the Ingush themselves could prompt locals to attempt to stabilize the situation by themselves pressuring Chechen refugees to leave – especially if those abductions could be blamed on Chechen separatists.

Last weekend, an Ingush website ( published a statement allegedly from an FSB officer who had recently served in the republic, confessing to the torture and execution of people critical of the Ingush president or suspected of having links to Chechen separatists.

The Russian actions are having the expected humanitarian effect on Ingushetiya--destabilization. These accusations come at a time when Putin's plan for Chechinization--putting the government in the hands of economic elites who want stability--is failing. Rather than establishing a Chechen leadership that has local legitimacy, Putin merely replicated the pattern of authoritarian rule of Moscow and transferred it to Chechnya. As a result, Chechnya has become a totalitarian regime within the federation:
[Chechen President] Kadyrov demanded more authority from the Kremlin, and the Kremlin granted it, however reluctantly. He established a violent and cruel regime and was feared and hated by many in Chechnya. He purged his inner circle of potential rivals and put his son in charge of an armed force called the Chechen police, thus strengthening the clannish nature of the Chechen government.

Kadyrov's undisciplined and violent army harassed, kidnapped and tortured fellow Chechens suspected of collaboration with the fighters or those simply deemed disloyal. And while Kadyrov waged war against the Chechen fighters, his allies in the federal Russian forces were deeply distrustful of his armed men, and not without reason. Kadyrov had scores of enemies; several attempts had been made on his life.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Saratoga Springs

Given that little bunny Ollie had to go for more treatments, we curtailed our vacation plans even further. In fact, we spent one day in Saratoga Springs, New York just for a little day away.

Bunny update: Ollie had more radiation on Tuesday. The vets are happy to see that she was energetic and alert, and they notes that the mass is visibly shrinking. Blood tests showed that the lymphoma is likely the only source of the illness.

We spent most of our time in Saratoga walking around to look at the old houses. It was the first sunny day in almost a week, and the next day would be less forgiving. It was the perfect day for such a tour of the town. We saw a wonderful mix of mid- to late-nineteenth century styles: Classical revival, Second Empire, Italianate were all in evidence. Some houses were not kept in good condition, but were nonetheless interesting subjects. Rich red bricks are worked into the houses as much as possible; the red brick theme is further expanded along the main streets in shops and government buildings. Non-brick houses use striking color combinations, perhaps using traditional color schemes rather than white washing them. My favorite house was an Italianate house on Circular Street. My least favorite: a behemoth mansion that is being built on north Broadway–it is completely out of character of the rest of the neighborhood, and for its six-million dollar price tag, it shows no class.

We also visited the gardens at the artist colony Yaddo. The gardens are beautiful, but they do not justify the trip out to the estate. Yaddo has an important reputation in the New York cultural tradition, but too little of the estate is open to the public.

Pergola at Yaddo.

The main street of Saratoga Springs was relaxing and refreshing. No shops were exceptional, but they were all nice. My wife was correct to compare Saratoga Springs with Palm Springs–people should go their to simply exist, to relax and loosen up. Or simply “take the waters,” something which we forgot to do.

In an attempt to see some Dutch architecture, we tried to hit the Stockade in Schenectady. However, our strength was already sapped, and by the time we reached Schenectady we were more interested in heading home. Oh well, next time.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

The Kaplan Affair

Last weeks debacle in Germany concerned the failed Olympic bid of Leipzig because the city was too small. This weeks has greater gravitas. It involves the deportation of a radical Islamist cleric.

Metin Kaplan, an imam in Cologne, succeeded his father as the head of the group "Caliphate State" (Kalifatsstaat), which spread antisemitism and called for a coup d'etat against the secular regime in Turkey. They had come to Germany in 1983 as asylum seekers. The organization, founded by his father Cemaleddin (known as the Khomeini of Cologne), called for global domination under Islam under a Caliphate. (Conveniently, he called himself "the Caliph of Cologne"). He incited the assassination of a rival imam from Berlin, for which he served four years in prison. Turkey sought his extradition after 32 members of the Caliphate State planned to crash a plane into a monument to Ataturk (the secular founder of Turkey) in 1998.

In December 2001 the Caliphate State was banned (Vereinsverbot) by the federal republic as an "enemy to the democratic and constitutional state". In 2002 his asylum was rescinded, but his deportation to Turkey was blocked by the same court: it could not be guaranteed that Kaplan would be treated fairly in Turkey. Kaplan was under the surveillance of the police and the government, but he had freedom of movement throughout the city of Cologne.

This week a court in Muenster approved his deportation when sufficient guarantees were given by Turkey. Kaplan was asked to report to the authorities. But he disappeared. Germans were shocked that this fifty-one year old man could disappear so easily. With fingers pointing everywhere, the blame appears to be falling on the minister of the interior for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Fritz Behrens. Previously Behrens had promised the state parliament that Kaplan was no threat German security. Kaplan's disappearance has caused Germans to doubt their entire anti-terrorism apparatus.
The Social Democrat's parliamentarian from Cologne, Lale Akgün, agreed that the Kaplan case has undermined the authority of German officials. "Under such circumstances, people will find it difficult to believe that we're capable of passing good security laws," Akgün said.

Kaplan is now at his apartment, under surveillance, enjoying a few weeks before being deported.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Not looking for a 'new ' England

My thoughts on last night's Colonial House:

  • The colony was a low-end success but a high-end failure. The economics and society were on the money, the politics and culture were not.

  • The bad relations between colony and natives would have continued despite the good intentions of the colonists.

  • Governor Heinz's vision for the growth of the colony was too grand. Whereas Wyers failed on faith, housing, and trade relations, Heinz failed because he idealized how the colony would develop (and because he acted like a mayor in a court city rather than the mayor of a commercial city).

  • Wyers looks better with a beard.

  • Awareness of gender history is weak with respect to men.

  • The epilogue suggests that the experience forced the participants to re-evaluate their concepts of spirituality (everyone but the Vorhees).

  • Despite his anachronistic coming out, my favorite participant was Jonathan Allen. He gave the show an "Upstairs-Downstairs" feel. He could be very witty: he never strayed too far from character when he joked about the social hierarchy. His little scenario was funny.

  • Best moment: when the auditors revealed that the colonists had trouble with provisions of beer.

Reviving Urban Conviviality

One of two efforts to promote community identity and cohesion in urban environments took place yesterday in France.

Immeubles en fêtes hoped to bring together 3 million people to celebrate their neighborhoods by visiting and eating with one another in common. Founder Atanase Périfan got the idea when he found that an elderly woman died without being noticed by her neighbors. Wanting to combat urban disaggregation, he petitioned local and national government to promote local meals between neighbors in order to
recreate social connections [and] develop a sentiment of belonging to the same neighborhood (quartier), and to reinforce solidarity bproximityty.

(See photos from the event.)

Repas de quartier (meal for the district) will take place on June 4. The tradition of holding a larger community meal within cities began in Toulouse in 1990. The sponsoring organization, carrefour culturel Arnaud-Bernard , itself just a community organization, had convinced neighborhoods in other French cities to organize similar gatherings.

The organizers want to create new feelings of community where they had yet to be realized:
[The meals] are a prelude to other collective actions, independent of the efforts of the state and of institutional order: to battle against isolation--to create exchange between generations, communities, and people of different social, political and economic origins, all brought together by their own efforts.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The Respectable Colonials

Last night's episodes of Colonial House were fun. The departure of the Wyers was not as contentious as I had expected. Building a new home in order to relieve the housing pressures appears now to have delayed the economic progress of the colony, but that point was not emphasized. (BTW, has anyone discovered the circumstances of the accident in Temple, Texas?)

I like the new "Cape Merchant". However, Jack Lecza appears to be less a participant than an actor on the show.

The conditions with to faith are finally resembling the times. Wyers' attendance taking was excessive. But there were limits to how much a family could remain absent from church. The Vorhees took the modern approach to spirituality too far. The seventeenth century had its men and women who had little faith, but they never severed their ties with religion--especially if they hoped to ascend the social ranks and obtain political power (note Spinoza).

Monday, May 24, 2004

Provincialism in Afghanistan

The Washington Post had this article about how pressures to conform to national policies in Afghanistan are causing resentment within the provinces.

By most standards, Wardak province should be a model for the rest of Afghanistan. It is the only place in the country where militia disarmament, poppy eradication and voter registration -- three efforts backed by the United Nations and Western governments -- are taking place simultaneously.

But some residents say they feel this ruggedly beautiful, impoverished province is less a showcase than a victim. They complain that it has been singled out for unpopular projects demanded by international powers because it is close to Kabul, economically vulnerable and without a dominant leader to resist the pressure.

Some local officials and U.N. officers said the simultaneous launching of the anti-poppy and disarmament programs could sharpen anti-government sentiment. It also could undermine provincial support for national elections in September, they said, which to succeed will require accelerated voter registration in rural areas by July.

"We are getting increasingly concerned about Wardak, because everything is taking place there at once, and it's putting a lot of pressure on people," said one U.N. officer in the capital. "People see the international process as one thing, whether it's disarmament, poppy eradication or voter registration. If they get upset enough to boycott the elections, it could hurt everything." ...

The province has been largely free of Islamic terrorism, and its small armed factions have been far more willing to disarm than more powerful militia bosses elsewhere. Mohammed Musa Hotak, a local commander and Islamic cleric, volunteered to turn in his weapons and demobilize 100 fighters last month, earning high-level official praise.

Nevertheless, the simultaneous start of the disarmament and anti-poppy programs has aroused resentment in a region where poor farmers and ex-militia fighters are often one and the same, and where ethnic Pashtuns are suspicious of being abused by ethnic Tajik factions in the transitional government set up by the United Nations in 2001.

In most models for dealing with particularism the resistance of the provinces is often ascribed to cultural isolation. But pressure can also come from the modernizing mission of the state, especially as it is applied unevenly throughout the territories.

Random Items (May 24)

A Catholic Style, A German Style

This entry deals with one of the three elements that I claim make up the landscape of the Rhine. If it seems a little incomplete, it is because I am not sure yet how far I want to delve into the architectural discussion (being that it is not my field and that it is hard to read about it in another language).

A German Catholic Style

In the 1770s the center of the German literary world was Strasbourg, France. Writers like Goethe and Lenz took a trip down the Rhine to find themselves in the border city, where they found a strong circle of intellectuals, a university with all faculties, and an atmosphere of freedom and relaxation that they could find in no German city. They discovered the writings of Shakespeare and the thought of the Lumière (French Enlightenment). The circles of intellectuals and writers developed a new literary style–Sturm und Drang–that would form the basis for Romanticism.

In Strasbourg they discovered Gothic architecture. The Strasbourg cathedral (Münster) inspired them to think about architecture and its relation to German history (picture). The pink stone Münster with its rose windows and single spire in the middle of a French city represented German architecture. And more generally, Gothic architecture represented Germany.

The Sturm und Drang brought attention to the Gothic churches and cathedrals in the Rhineland. Citizens were inspired to repair (and in some cases complete) their religious patrimony. The initial phases of the French Revolution heightened interest in the Gothic. On the one hand, the occupying armies of the French Republic directly threatened cultural sites and collections of art. On the other, Germans were inspired to match the national elan of the French with their own Geist. One of these was Georg Forster (1754-1794), who regarded the cathedral of Cologne (the Dom) as a masterwork of Gothic architecture, even though it had not been completed. (Dom Cam) Less important than the accomplishment of the Dom was the vision of the artists: to offer a spiritual experience to those who walked inside. The grandeur and magnificence moved the spirit. The man who saw it could not help but be “petrified” (versteinern) from awe.

The habit of restoring Gothic buildings in the Rhineland continued after the defeat of Napoleon. The Prussians who moved into the Rhineland and annexed it in 1815 were at odds with the native populations. The Prussians were Protestant and spartan, the Rhinelanders Catholic and entrepreneurial. Prussian administrators were plied with requests for the completion of the Dom, something which had become a growing interest. Sulpiz Boisserée studied the development of the Dom and began interesting people in resuming construction. He had attracted important Cologners (like the Wallraf family), writers like Goethe and nationalists like Gorres. They petitioned the monarchy complete the construction of the Dom as an act of good will that would symbolize the effort to unify the territories and create a German nation. Prussian administrators saw a political expedient for the monarchy: bringing Rhinelanders to trust Prussia. Despite the will to complete the Dom, the project took decades (the new cornerstone was laid by Friedrich Wilhelm IV and Archbishop Johannes von Geissel in 1842; it was finally completed in 1880), and how to restore it could be a matter of controversy as well. Gothic buildings were more a part of the landscape of western Germany than eastern (where Baroque was more important), and they were closely associated with Catholicism.

In 1842 Johann Joseph von Görres made his pitch for a pure Gothic style for the completion. Görres was a veteran of the revolutionary era: he lead the Jacobin Club in the Mainz Republic. Later experiences with France soured him to revolution. He briefly turned into a German nationalist until he had a falling out with the Prussian government. After spending some time in exile in Strasbourg in the 1820s he turned his interests to Catholic mysticism and Romanticism, teaching in Bavaria. Görres argued that the Strasbourg cathedral should serve as the model for the restoration of the Dom. Both came out of the same milieu of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the Rhine. Ecclesiastical princes, small aristocrats and mercantile burghers competed for political power and influence. Görres noted the bishops of the Rhine, who acted as territorial princes and imperial electors as well as religious leaders. The large ecclesiastical territories added to the strength of the Catholic Church, giving the Rhine the reputation as a Pfaffengasse (alley of preachers). Gothic expressed the richness of German medieval culture, one that was in harmony with the spirituality of the times. More simply, the Rhine was the center of medieval German culture at its height, and its style should be used to express the greatness and unity of Germany in its diverse elements.
The Rhine was then, as it strives to be now, the great artery of German life.

Görres was keen on emphasizing that the Germanness of Gothic construction in the Rhine was also Rhenish and Catholic, all of which were meant to be counterweights to Protestant Prussian influence, but also were meant to express the desire to see all the elements of Germany balanced and represented rather than dominated by one state.

The completion of the Dom and the restoration of other Gothic buildings led to a revival of medieval architectural style in the Rhineland in contemporary building. However, Gothic would not be that style. Architects like Heinrich Hübsch preferred the earlier Romanesque. It was simpler, more restrained, more essential. The architects of Rundbogenstil appreciated Gothic for the essential elements used in construction which were better represented by the Romanesque (different definition). Furthermore, the simpler and less ornate style was more appropriate for the modest buildings that they designed. Rundbogenstil concentrated on the rounded arch rather than the pointed arch of Gothic buildings–indeed, Rundbogenstil means round arch style.

Historicism characterized German architecture of the nineteenth century as Germans searched for a national style. The general trend was to put buildings into a style that best represented their function. Assembly buildings were Classical, churches Gothic, palaces baroque. The most egregious example of historicism was Vienna, where the new government buildings represented nearly every era of architectural history.

Not everyone was interested in bringing different styles together. Various revival movements competed with one another for the imagination of the nation, Greek Classical and Romanesque/Gothic being most important. Some argued that the Classical style was the perfection of architectural rules, offering balance and beauty. Classical revivals were more popular in eastern Germany where religious life tended to be Protestant. They dismissed medieval styles because either Romanesque and Gothic were eccentric and emotional or they were representative of Catholicism. They reproached Gothic above all for excess of decoration. Proponents of Rundbogenstil retorted that neo-Classicism was dead imitation, that neo-Romanesque emerged from living impulses in design.

Hübsch, using the Dom and the Abbey of Maria Laach in Koblenz as examples, defended medieval styles, especially the neo-Romanesque impulse. Hübsch argued that medieval architects made technical improvements over what ancient Greeks and Roman had accomplished. They spanned larger spaces with less material, allowing them to create more magnificent structures that were more open than what the ancients built. The decorative elements were less important than the structural elements: the arches, the ceilings, the columns, the placement of doors and windows. The rounded arch allowed for more open space and the inclusion of more decoration. Hübsch also argued, moreover, that it was difficult to adapt Greek Classicism to the building materials available in Germany.

Rundbogenstil was a style that was a technological advance made under German culture. It was also an expression of the materials available in the German landscape. Gothic was a tangent from the Rundbogenstil–radical and inspired, but never formalized and ultimately immature.

What neither style had yet to confront was the introduction of steel. Until 1840 it was believed that no new style would develop unless new building materials were introduced. Steel held possibilities, but it was difficult for designers to imagine its potential. Steel spanned even larger spaces, creating airy structures and would give nineteenth century department stores their look.

This post is based on my own research. If you are interested in the sources, please contact me.

1913 and Euroregions

There are two items that I have posted at great length, only to delete those posts minute later. Here they are in brief:
  1. Mitt Romney's application of a 1913 law to prevent couples from using marital laws that are different in Massachusetts than in their own states. (See BRDGT and Johno on how hypocritical the law is.) This law is a slap in the face, but its application expresses an obvious reality: same sex couples cannot count on having their Massachusetts marriages recognized out of state. The advocates for same-sex marriage have chosen a state-by-state approach to winning recognition, and they have had success with this strategy. What should be of greater concern is whether or not the secretary of the commonwealth will send records to other states when they are requested, and whether or not the commonwealth will advocate for recognition of specific rights of Massachusetts couples (especially powers of attorney) when they are in other states.

  2. The effort to create a Euroregion between Strasbourg and communities across the Rhine in Baden-Wuertemberg has stalled. There is no specific problem, just that no one appears to be working on it. (Euroregions are unique in that they are alliances of communities on different sides of an international border. They do not involve the respective national governments. Most Euroregions are between Belgian, German and Dutch communities along their borders, the best example being Euregio Maas-Rhein.)

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Gasoline Tourism

As in the US, gasoline prices in Germany are exploding. A gallon of gas can cost more than 4.80 Euro (1.20 Euro/liter). Germans have found savings in the former eastern bloc states. But the most popular destination has been Wasserbillig, Luxembourg (population 2,300), where non-diesel gas can cost as little as 3.60 Euro/gallon. The discrepancy is the result of differences in taxes between Germany and Luxembourg.

German drivers take special trips out to Wasserbillig, where they wait in line at one of its ten gas stations (more than nearby Trier), all of which are along the same stretch of highway. The number of foreign cars that come into Wasserbillig each day have been numbered more than 20,000 at times of normal prices. Truck drivers from Cologne are instructed to skip German gas stations and fill up in Luxembourg. The small duchy receives more petrol than any other EU member, despite its size.

These gas stations have created a "gas tank tourism" for Luxembourg. A number of gift shops have appeared around these gas stations, selling jam, cheeses, cigarettes, sparkling wines--all of which are cheaper than in Germany. These trips to Luxembourg become gluttonous affairs of bulk purchases for Germans, who return home with full tanks and full trunks.

[Added on edit]: Wasserbillig means "cheap as water." Here are mapquest directions for the 108 mile trip from Cologne to Wasserbillig

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Random Items

  • Bunny update: Ollie is going back to Tufts on Tuesday for x-rays and, perhaps, another shot of radiation. She is looking better, but she keeps pulling out her fur. I wonder if it is falling out and is itching her?

  • It is our anniversary today. Not much blogging, just completing some unfinished posts.

  • I bought Van Lear Rose on Johno's recommendation. I would add to his review that there are definite touches of Ballad of Easy Rider, Joshua Tree, and Ragged Glory--especially in the expansiveness of the sound and its take on Americana. I did not have the same reaction as Johno (country has never made me cry) but this is damn good.

  • We bought a season pass for Look Park.

Decentralizing Kosovo


Without Milosevic, the Serbs have returned to being a nasty bunch of arrogant nationalists. According to an ISN report, the Serbian government plans to carve up Kosovo in order to reintroduce Serbian ethnic dominance in many areas:
The plan foresees, at a minimum, the creation of five Serbian autonomous districts, which would in effect be all but independent of Kosovo itself. More ambitiously, however, it also suggests that while it may not now be possible for displaced Serbs to return to areas where they once lived, then they should be given “just compensation”. It says that these Serbs should be “entitled to parts of the territory that links in a natural way Serb-dominated settlements, in which previously they did not make up a majority…” The fact that the Serbian plan aims, in effect, to carve out a very large area of territory for a very small number of Kosovo Serbs, is one reason why it has received a mixed reception from Western policymakers at best. Albanian leaders have, of course, just rejected it out of hand.

The negotiations, however, are moving more toward decentralization as a means of balancing existing ethnic elements:
The Kosovo Albanians, who dominate Kosovo’s government, or as it is officially called the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, will be given more competences, while in exchange they will have to move to allow some form of Serbian local self-government.

Report author Tim Judah notes that both Serbains and Albanians did not attend talks in Switzerland over their own status.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Ethnic Violence in an Indian State

In my first substantial post I dealt with a book on ethnic conflict in the states of India. The new prime minister of India is stirring up controversy as a member of an ethnic minority in a state rife with ethnic conflict. A Sikh, Manmohan Singh will be India's first minority prime minister (only days after India nearly had a foreign-born PM).

Map from Maps of India

In 2002 one thousand Muslims were killed by Hindu
The Gujarat riots were some of the worst sectarian violence in the history of independent India, which is mostly Hindu but where about 12 percent of the population is Muslim and about 2 percent Sikh. After 59 Hindu activists were burned to death in a train that had been surrounded by a Muslim mob, vengeful Hindus rioted for weeks, killing, raping and driving Muslims from their homes. The state government, which was controlled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., did not stop the attacks. The central government, also led by the party then, took no action against the state's chief minister, Narendra Modi, did nothing to ensure that Muslims received relief, and looked away - until the Supreme Court intervened - as the state failed to punish Hindu rioters.

Although his party did not hold the premiership at the time, Singh admits that his own party (Indian National Congress) has not done enough to stop outbreaks of violence when they occur. But Muslims in Gujarat are not satisfied: they are looking for more accounting of these massacres and for the central government to do more to prevent discrimination against Muslims. One activist, Shakeel Ahamad, expressed caution:
Certainly and naturally I feel very good [about the prime minister's remarks]. But I want to listen something from Manmohan about what he is doing for Gujarat now. What about the trials? What about Modi? What about the structural violence, the harassment of Muslims? There is still harassment going on.

900,000 people needed for a Boston Olympics

The ire of the German sports world is focused on its national Olympic committee, which failed to get one of the top four spots on the short list of possible venues for 2012. Applicant city Leipzig was sixth, with Moscow ahead of it in the second tier.

The reason has shocked Germans: Leipzig is too small. According to the director of the IOC, a city must have a population of at least 1.5 million in order to have sufficient accommodations to host the games. Leipzig, the capital of Saxony, had been as large as 750,000 before WWII, but fell due to the war. Conditions under the DDR did not allow for recovery. Today it stands at 500,000. (I am not certain, but I suspect that the city planned to pool resources with nearby Dresden, also 500,000). Leipzig was chosen on the strength of its financial planning, which was stronger than other applicant cities (Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Dusseldorf) (another source suggests that the committee memebers ties to the Stasi were damaging).

The vice president of the German Olympic committee, Dieter Landsberg-Velen, Germany "has been duped. This is grotesque. Had we known this before, we would have spared the effort." Knowing the criterion of the IOC, only two German cities could ever hold the games: Berlin and Hamburg.

This flies in the face of reason. 500,000 may be too few. The cities that were chosen by the IOC--Paris, London, Madrid and New York--are all cities of gigantic proportion. Metropolis is too small a word to describe them. But Munich, a city with a population of 1.3 million, held the Olympics. The major glitch of 1972 was security, a problem that all the larger applicants would be at pains to solve. Leipzig also has a significant cultural tradition that betrays its size.

According to the IOC criterion, only five US cities would be good candidates for the Olympics: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia. One American city that held the games, St. Louis (1904), would not qualify. New York is currently a top choice. Los Angeles has held them twice. Houston would never qualify for a variety of social and cultural reasons. Philadelphia would likely be at financial pains to mount the games. San Francisco--an international city of great renown, a former world capital, and recognized as having the best organized application of any US city (having lost to NY for sentimental reasons)--would not qualify. Boston would never qualify despite its international reputation.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Random Items

  • Bunny update: Ollie is feeling better. She had a large appetite and is hopping around a lot. We take her back to Tufts next week,

  • BMW intends to move more of its production to northeastern China. It will increase its production in that country to 100,000 cars per year, according to president Helmut Panke.

  • I hope to put up a post about Gothic architecture in the Rhineland and how it was coopted as a national style of architecture in the 19th C.

  • Colonial House has got me thinking about different ways in which the intellectuals have conceptualized the disciplining and civilizing of people in the western world. Essentially, Norbert Elias versus Michel Foucault (as well as some others). I might blog this out as well.

Tear me down

Last night my wife (aka Her Highness) and I saw the German film Good Bye Lenin. It was the second time I saw the film, the first time being in Mannheim with my friend Uli last year.

The film follows a family in East Berlin during the first year after the fall of the Berlin Wall as the two Germanies took tentative steps to reunite. The mother, who was left by her husband when he fled to the west, "married the Party"--she taught children to love the East German fatherland. Just before the Wall comes she sees her son Alex arrested in protests for freedom of the press. She suffers from a heart attack and falls into a coma. Germany changes around her. The old symbols of East Germany are taken down and are replaced by western consumerism. When she awakens, her family is warned that she cannot suffer from any shock and surprise. Alex decides that he must hide the truth about the fall of Honecker and the DDR from her. It puts him on a quest to find old brands of food, to produce fake television news programs, and to hide her with the apartment.

Alex confronts a world that is changing too rapidly. No one expresses loss for the old things that they had. But many of them feel disoriented as they are no longer needed for their labor. Furthermore, along with the western consumer goods, "Wessies" (West Germans who are unmoved by the loss of the everyday culture of the East) are taken up room in East Berlin. From her high-rise apartment the changes in Berlin cannot be seen: there are only other high-rises, and she has a clear view of the East German television tower (Fernsehturm) that was the symbol of progress. From up high, the city is still anonymous.

Progress cannot be hidden for long, and each new change must be explained by Alex through his fake TV programs, creating a counter-narrative in which East Germany opens itself up to teach the West about the society that they hand built--the Wall will no longer separate East Germans from West. Alex remarks that his fake DDR ended up being more like the East Germany he would have wanted, its end a more fitting death.

The film is a revision of German reunification. It is normally told that the Wall came down and Germans became one. Politically and economically, reunification was more complex. Helmut Kohl and the West Germans were arrogant, believing in the power of the Deutschmacht (a pun in which German power is associated with the German currency (Deutschmark)). Kohl did a number of things that seem reckless in hindsight:
  • Rather than negotiating unification, West Germany literally bought the East. This was so that the West would not be forced into any ideological compromises.

  • West Germany bought off the Red Army in order to send it home (perhaps a wise move).

  • West Germany bought East German currency at a rate of 1:1.

  • Kohl promised asylum to anyone who claimed German ancestry who lived in the USSR and Eastern Bloc.

  • Kohl promised to move the capital from Bonn to Berlin in order to show the commitment of the West to the East and to symbolize unity.

When reunification was formalized, Kohl said that all Germans would celebrate the anniversary of unity of Mallorca.

Kohl's reunification was too costly, and it hinders the German economy today. But this arrogance has persisted as Wessies care little for the problems of the Ossies (East Germans). The resulting division can be seen in the return of a socialist party for the east (PDS). The film shows that the speed of unification left many people behind, clinging to the culture of the East long after they had killed off communism by their own efforts. Something that was lost on the audience was that East Germany was a kind of consumer society. The Soviet Union used the East as a showplace of how great communism could be and that people under communism could have thing and be happy. In that respect East Germans were pampered with a rich consumer culture with cars and television, etc. Even when the "new Germans" admit that they prefer western products, they mourn not having the option of the cheaper East German variety. No one defends or resurrects communism, only the Germany that was left behind.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Genocide in Dafur

The Sudanese government has increased the level of systematic violence against ethnic minorities, now choosing to target African Muslims where they have persecuted Christians in the past.

Human Rights Watch characterizes the violence as a clear attempt by the government to change the demographic makeup of the Dafur region:
First, the government of Sudan is responsible for recruiting, arming, and participating in joint attacks with militia forces that have become the main instrument for attacks on and the displacement of the civilian population ...

Second, the attacks on Masalit and Fur villages by Sudanese government and militia forces follow clear patterns and were carried out in what appeared to be coordinated and planned operations. Villages were not attacked at random, but were emptied across wide areas in operations that lasted for several days or were repeated several times until the population was finally driven away ...

Third, many of the attacks were carried out in a similar manner: aerial support in bombing and reconnaissance by the Sudanese air force followed by ground attacks by government forces and Janjaweed [militia]. Janjaweed have been given explicit and implicit authority over areas vacated by those they have forced out. The Janjaweed man checkpoints on main roads and regulate the movement of goods and people ...

Fourth, the government and militia attacks on the Masalit and Fur villages appear intended to discourage continued habitation by the population ...

Fifth, government-supported militia forces have been deployed in and around destroyed villages, preventing the displaced population from returning. Militias continue to attack displaced civilians after they escape into camps and settlements, beating women and children who attempt to leave these settlements in order to collect firewood, wild foods or other essential items, and sometimes killing them; women have been raped. Men residing in camps and towns controlled by the Janjaweed have been tortured and killed.

Refugees have been fleeing western Sudan for Chad, creating a humanitarian crisis in that country that Medicins sans Frontieres has been at pains to treat:
The level of malnutrition is now climbing every week. In mid-April, we were admitting three or four children per week with severe acute malnutrition ... That number has now increased to nearly 25 children each week ... The camps that have been set up are operating way beyond capacity - several camps that were designed for 6000 people are now holding twice that number. This means that food supplies that were intended to meet the needs of 6,000 people now have to stretch much further and are not nearly enough.

Escape to Chad provides little security:
The tens of thousands of refugees who have still not been moved from the border area to refugee camps further into Chad remain at risk of attacks by Sudanese militias which frequently turn violent. The militia groups cross the border from Sudan into Chad to loot refugees' possessions and steal cattle.

No letter in the alphabet for that crime

Bunny update: Ollie had radiation therapy yesterday. She was fatigued yesterday, perhaps sore, but she is doing much better now.

I loved last nights episode of Colonial House (read first post)--people tried hard to develop the community spirit. There were two big issues: justice and deviance. Wyer's misapplication of law revealed more about his religious beliefs than 17th C English justice. No legal authority would have applied laws so vigorously, especially those that related to infractions such as profanity and dissembling. The sense that the community members got from Wyer's justice was that English justice was unnecessarily harsh--one person even referred to the N--- regime led by H----- in the 1930s and 1940s (subjects that I abhor talking about). Even if the members were to adopt Wyers vision of what it meant to come to the New World--to escape religious persecution--it must be accepted that they would look for alternatives to strict interpretations of English law.

However, in spite of Wyer's harsh justice, community members attended sabbath by the end of the episode. They found their reasons to go as a community, which was the most likely result anyway.

On the second issue, Allen's coming out would make no sense in the 17th C. Every man would want to be married--to be legitimized to the community and to have the labor of wife and children. The equating of spouse and love is a modern concepts.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Pastoral Dreams and Colonial Realities

I can't do much blogging today: I am taking little bunny Ollie to the animal hospital so that she can be shot with radiation.

Colonial House, the reality show in which people live like Americans decades after my ancestors reached the New World, was quite good, even if the participants "slipped out of character" often. I like Don Heinz, the real life scholar of religion and fictional preacher, as well as Michelle Rossi-Vorhees, real life seamstress (she can be bitchy, but she is still cool). Something thing that I find interesting: the participants are caught up in the way they think life ought to be. They are disturbed less by the amount of work they must do than by the fact that it takes all their time. They want to revert to primitive innocence more than experience how people of the era lived (swimming). I also wonder whether the fundamentalist Wyers, if they return, will clash with the more hippy-like Vorhees.

Catholicism, Liberty and Federalism

Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, Bishop of Mainz (1850-1877), founded German Social Catholicism. He was born in Westphalia to an aristocratic family. He was deeply influence by the Kölner Wirren (when the Archbishop of Cologne Droste-Vischering was imprisoned until his death because he would not confirm the marriage of Protestant men and Catholic women as “Protestant”.) Under his influence, Germans undertook social works on their own initiatives, supported by the efforts of the Catholic clergy, even to the point of forming their own labor unions.

It was in the 1848-1849 Revolution that Ketteler made his mark as a political figure. He was elected to the Parliament at Frankfurt that was charged with writing a constitution for the German state. Ketteler believed that he could keep focused on religious and education issues. However, He was quickly entangled in issues that dealt with the prerogatives of the state. In the district that he represented a Prussia bureaucrat began complaining that Ketteler was undermining the power of the Berlin government to set the priorities of education in the kingdom. In his letters, the bureaucrat argued that the state had exclusive rights over communal affairs because it was the community owed its existence to the state.

Ketteler reacted. He upheld his belief that the people of the community should establish the priorities of education, especially whether schools would be secular or religious and what religious instruction would be given in schools:
The majority of patriarchs of a community decide then over the spirit of the school wherein their children should be educated.

But Ketteler was forced into state-local relations:
The State is merely an institution which has its existence through the communities and without which it could not even be conceived.

Furthermore, individuals are not just subjects and citizens of the state but of all the communities and entities to which they belong:
To me the state is not a machine, but a living organism with living members, in which every member (Glied) had his own law, his own function, has made his own free life. Such members are for me the individual, the family, the community, etc.

This defense of both the rights of the individual and of the community (and every other sub-national entity) helped to characterize subsidiarity. Social Catholicism emphasized the social interdependence of men, but it also affirmed their autonomy. These seemingly contradictory beliefs, one socialist and the other liberal, combined as a commitment to diversity and the restraint of central authority. The society imagined by Social Catholics consisted of individuals, families, territorial states, social organization, the central state, the Church–all manner of groups and political bodies that came together organically and federally as a nation.

Subsidiarity justified the work of different organizations. The central government was just another actor that protected its members and helped them to advance. The central government was not synonymous with the nation. Instead, different groups cut across the nation and ministered to them. An individual was a member of several different communities, and the nationality of the individual was reflected in how these memberships merged with others.

Catholic social thought influence European federalism. Subsidiarity displaced the notion that an supranational organization must and will dominate its member states. Instead, it works side by side with them.

[This post is based on my own research. If you are interested in my sources, please contact me.]

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Shame of Being German

A new book by Jean-Paul Picaper, Enfants maudits (cursed children), many French men and women who were the offspring of French women and German soldiers during the Second World War are searching for information about their German fathers.

During the period of the occupation of Northern France, 200,000 children were born to mixed couples. Marriage between Germans and Frenchwomen was forbidden. But the French populations interacted with the Germans, especially in the villages areas (mostly along the Atlantic coast of France)where the German administrations relied on local workers. After France was liberated, the German soldiers left. The children were the but of jokes in their villages.

Many of the children are in retirement. Recent events have inspired them to look for German fathers:
The extraordinary revival of Franco-German relations has thrown out the last taboo: the shame of being the child of a Boche (derogatory term for a German).

Often they know nothing more than the given name of the soldier. Nonetheless, many have been united with half-siblings (their fathers more than likely having passed away) by combing over the records of the Wehrmacht

Alsatians don't figure into this phenomenon, even though they were directly annexed by Germany and saw a larger influx of Germans during the war. According to Picaper,
in this territory of the Reich, marriages were authorized between Alsatians, who were considered to be Aryans, and Germans. I suppose that these families left to establish themselves in Germany.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Amnesia Union

Anthropologist Marc Abélès of the Laboratory for the Anthropology of Social Institutions and Organizations attempts to understand the culture of the European Union. The EU has few symbols, no rituals, no festivals, no motivating slogans, and as a result, seldom inspires the imagination of European citizens, and then only with great difficulty. But it is still a community, one that can be observed for how it works. If we accept Abélès' description, the workings of the EU resemble the film “Memento” (in which the protagonist constantly loses his memories of his predicament).

The technocrats of the European Commission look at their work as acts of continual creation. The culture of compromise that has emerged makes looking at the past painful and defining its end goals impossible. They might reference the people who founded the union–people like Adenauer, Monnet and Schuman (my lecture on the roots of European integration). But these recollections distract from the technocrats work at best, raise memories of disagreements at worst:
Whatever the reason, the institution seems little concerned with managing its relations to time and this troubles its more lucid members. One seems to ignore the specific work of memory in such a way that each crisis is immediately enveloped in a cloak of forgetfulness. Reference to the past is usually limited to a brief remembrance of the founding fathers. Any references to tradition seems to be completely incongruous in the context of the European institutions.

Without making this history, the EU has no sense of its traditions–the values and ideals that motivate it. It has no narrative that describes the achievements of a united Europe and the mission that it will fulfill.

Instead, the EU moves in a forward flight of integration. Everyday, technocrats are consumed with realizing a new step in the process. But without tradition, the EU is forced to reinvent itself at every moment. Each step is another moment in which the union must be created, another moment in which its existence is in jeopardy:
No one waits for Europe to exist, one builds it up everyday.

Integration is not a goal. There are no clear goals to which the EU is working. It is the process of integration that it is sustaining, and the process that is ultimately affirmed. Furthermore, each step implicates the members into taking the next step:
engrenage’, an ‘action trap’ in which once the agents are set in a specific course of action, they find themselves obliged to take further actions.

This unusual culture makes the EU a unique community. Rather than working toward its own integration, it works towards harmonization of the disparate nations and peoples. Without a history and definable goals, it cannot motivate people the way that nations can. Conversely, the EU can do things that other types of communities cannot do. It is able to overcome the fractious relationships between nations or the divisiveness of their individual histories. The achievement of the EU is, and will be, to bring Europeans to work together rather than to mold them into a single people.

References from "Virtual Europe" in An Anthropology of the European Union (2000)

Friday, May 14, 2004

The City's City Planner

I used some of my birthday money to purchase a new book: Lisa Jardine's The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London.

Robert Hooke was a "Renaissance man" of seventeenth century of London. He researched in a number of scientific fields, including architecture and urban planning. He socialized with all the great thinkers of his day (including Newton), but he has remained in their shadow. However, four books have been written about him in the last two years.

I chose this book after seeing a lecture from Jardine that was broadcasted on CSPAN. Hooke was involved in rebuilding London after the Great Fire. Christopher Wren is given credit as the king's city planner for designing the new London and for using new techniques of planning. John Barnett (in The Elusive City: Five Centuries of Design, Ambition and Miscalculation)credits Wren with planning on a grand scale. He used a top-down perspective, looking at the city as a whole but preferring aesthetic elements in design. The older methods of planning, one building at a time and based on traditions within the community, were displaced. He preferred large boulevards. What Wren tried to represent was the glory of the kingdom. The architecture-driven aesthetic that Wren developed created a vocabulary of scale that influence the design of almost all capitals that followed.

Hooke, who was Wren's friend, was the planner for the city of London. He was hired to press the city's interests in remaking London--interests that did not always agree with what the crown wanted. One issue about which Jardine spoke was the design of the cathedral: the crown wanted a dome to represent the spirit of the times and the power of monarchy, the city wanted spires that could be seen far away and represent the power of the city oligarchy. The result was a massive dome, one that Jardine says is quite unnatural for the size of the building.

I have a tall pile of books that I must read first. This one will have to wait. On a side note, I received an interesting novel that is an artifact of the American civil rights movement: Sutton Griggs' Imperium in Imperio. It looks really good.

Celtic Culture in France

Several important French scholars and public figures (most notably historian Mona Ozouf, former European commissioner Yves Thibault, and musician Mano Chao) have put their signature on a petition "to safeguard the Breton Language". Brittany is in western France, situated on the Atlantic Coast. In the early Middle Ages it was settled by a mixture of Britain (indigenous and Roman citizens) fleeing the invasions of the Anglo-Saxons). The Breton dialect (patois bretonne) had its roots in Celtic languages, and their have been attempts to keep it alive for 150 years.

The petition protests the lack of support given to bilingual education and to education programs in Breton, specifically:
frequent refusal to open up bilingual classes, the constraining of the diffusion of the Breton dialect in the media, the precarious situation of the [Breton] schools, the discontinuation of optional paths of education in the Breton dialect in a number of institutions.

The signators claim that support and dispersion of Breton would enrich both French and European cultures and would help Brittany to come to international prominence.

One of the problems to which the petition refers is the lack of regional television in France. All programs a made in and come from Paris--all television stations are national. There is no news on television for the local level. Regional broadcasting is a problem that not only affects cultural survival, but the flow of information in general.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Metz Declaration of 1928

[This post deals with an issue directly from my research. If you would like to know the sources, please contact me.]

One theme of my research is how people can imagine the existence of a place that cannot be realized as a nation or state. Rhinelanders perceived the existence of something called "the Rhine" or "the Rhineland" or "the Rhenish world", they disagreed with each other on how to turn that landscape of culture, economy and politics into a state. They disagreed on how to draw the borders of states, where political power should be located, and how closely tied they should be to the national government. By 1933 they achieved nothing--no state, no autonomy, no separate republic. Nevertheless, the imagined landscape was an important force that motivated politics, especially when it came to reforming government nationally and locally.

Even in different parts of the Rhine, plans to create new territories under local control collapsed because people disagreed about how these new territories should look. Alsatian politicians called for autonomy in the 1920s. These politicians (like Zorn von Bulach) wanted to create an autonomous state in France composed of the territories that made up "Alsace-Lorraine" (Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen) when they were part of Germany. According to this plan, the three administrative units (départements of Bas-Rhin, Haute-Rhin and Moselle) would be dissolved, and Strasbourg would be invested as the capital of all three.

On January 12, 1928 the city council of Metz (in the Moselle Dept., which was part of Alsace-Lorraine) rejected this proposal. In their declaration, they insisted that the words "Alsace- Lorraine" should be suppressed from all administrative documents:
We do not authorize anyone in the neighboring departments to speak either directly or indirectly in our name or in the name of a so-called people of "Alsace-Lorraine", who have never existed in the history of France

Furthermore, they rejected the project of autonomy on the basis that no part of France should have particular privileges:
We want to be assured that we will enjoy the same independence as is enjoyed by every other department in France. (Emphasis mine)

The only way they would honor "Alsace-Lorraine" was as part of a common sacrifice during the period in which they were separated from the French republic. In the weeks that followed, other communities in the Moselle Department confirmed the Metz Declaration.

Politicians from Metz and Moselle were nevertheless active advocating for decentralization in France and giving more power to the departments. They would not tolerate any redrawing of the administrative map to create new entities or recreate old ones. And in a typically Rhenish fashion, they abhorred having special privileges and thus being different from the rest of France.

Underneath the Head Scarf

This cartoon appeared in Le Monde on Tuesday (May 11, 2004). It shows a school in which Muslim clerics are being educated in French. The bubble reads “What do you call a female imam?” (Literally: “what is the feminine of imam?”)

The issue of Muslims in France is more complex than the banning of head scarves and other religious symbols in public schools. France is struggling with the question of how to harmonize Islam with political culture.

France is known for its secularism. The clergy reacted poorly to the republic, and the republic retaliated in 1907. Even so, secularization means more than removing faith from public life. It means making a French version of Islam: one that confirms the values that the society holds, and one that does not look outside France for leadership. France is not hostile to faith: it just insists that all faiths be contained within the nation.

On the surface, the creation of a French Islam would appear to curtail the freedoms of Muslims to express their religion and spirituality. The cartoon suggests that the process can also empower Muslism. It is the opportunity to consider new relationships with the greater world and between members of the Islamic community. And more obviously, to give women important roles in faith.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Contemplating Place in Assam

Siddhartha Deb's Point of Return is the most fascinating work of fiction that I have read recently. It is set in the Indian state of Assam as tribal ethnic identities asserted themselves against those whom they considered not to be indigenous and against the Indian state itself. Here is History Guy's description of the conflict:
Assam Rebellion (1980-Present): The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) formed in April 1979 in response to an influx of non-Assamese from Bangladesh and parts of North East India. This movement seeks to evict those "foreigners" and seek greater autonomy from the Indian government.

The story deals with the relationship of a man with his son in this context, and how the ideals of the former are shattered by the rebellion. He is an administrator, veterinarian by trade, who deals with agricultural problems in Assam. He is typical of a Bildungsbuergertum: a man of education and culture who see himself as playing a critical role in building the nation. He dedicates his life to bringing modernity to India. After he is attacked and publicly humiliated, he suffers from a stroke that further complicates his ability to perceive how his world is changing.

Assam is a remote state within India. It is connected only by a narrow bridge of land that is serviced by poor roads. Many citizens were forced to relocated from East Pakistan/Bangladesh at the time of the partition. Because of the rebellion, the boundaries of the state changed. Assam was broken up (this map shows the new borders of the smaller state). The ethnic groups who demanded autonomy broke up the state: physically by partitioning it; culturally by asserting the dominance of indigenous from non-indigenous.

Changing boundaries and changing identities lead to dislocation within the story. As a man displaced within his own country, he is concerned a foreigner. India becomes more a fantasy than a useful image. He dreams of moving out of the city to retire. His plans to improve nutrition in the state are dismantled. Everywhere he is confronted as an outsider. What is left of his India is the buildings that were made: the state capital, the bureaucratic buildings, etc.

Deb's description of these changing perceptions of space effectively show how difficult identities can be. The sense of where one is changes from moment to moment, based on one's interactions with other people and experiences. There is no one place, rather a series of overlapping spaces whose borders cannot be fixed.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


For a while I have wanted to have a blog that is more academic, allowing me to talk about subjects that are broadly related to my dissertation research. I hope to keep this fresh, insightful, not to specifically about things Rhenish, and not directly political.