Still being random
Ollie's feeling a little better.
And I finally bought a French press.
The nation's largest yarn store is near us, and they had a big sale today. It was madness. My wife bought a lot of stuff, and if I worry about the cost, I just think about how little I will spend on heating this winter.
Little bunny Ollie is suffering from another eye infection.
Natalie at Philobiblion is, apparently, moving in on my territory, blogging about "Alsatia"
. She refers to an area north of the Thames, and it was associated with Alsace based on the perception that both were lawless.
Frau Claire is hosting the next Early Modern Carnival
. Start inundating her with links (yes, this is also a plea to you Americanists). She also has some interesting posts about women's writing systems in medieval Japan
Geitner has a mixed post on slave hunters and horse-riding culture in colonial Latin America
. (He wrote me a long e-mail that in my laziness I have not responded to.)
BTW, has anyone set up a Carnival/Fastnacht/Mardi Gras Carnival yet?
It's halftime for The Amazing Race. I still love Gus and Hera, but I don't see how they can win. And I hate most of the other teams that are left. BTW, someone should tell Hayden to say no to crack: buy a pair of pants that fit, please!
Le Figaro has its list of best books of 2004. Some of the interesting books deal with the history of the Spanish Civil War
, a biography of Charles de Gaulle by his son
, Amos Oz's fictionalization of family history
, and the posthumously-published novel by Irene Nemirovsky about the early occupation of France
Something that is being lost under the Asian tidal waters: FBI documents that reference an executive order allowing illegal torture methods
About 260,000 people in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region will miss their food ration this month because the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) has been forced to suspend its relief convoys after rebels yesterday launched a large-scale attack on a nearby town and government forces retaliated.
How open is Europe?
Die Welt asks that question in reviewing the "year in Europe"
: how inclusive is Europe, either as a civilization or as a political entity? The Union had its largest expansion; a semi-Asian nation just reformed itself (and revoted) in the name of becoming more European; and the centrality of Christianity has come under scrutiny. As the definition of Europeanness is becoming more diffuse, resting on a constellation of political institutions, social relations, culture and religion, it must also deal with its own exceptionalism--and whether or not its exceptionalism allows for the proliferation and replication of its own example
The most obvious focal point is religion. The ascension of Turkey into the EU is finally being taken seriously (even if it is not universally popular). The Turkish prime minister asserts that the specifics of history, culture and faith are less important than the acceptance of political values that are currently valid in European countries:
The EU is neither a union of coal and steel, nor of geography, nor of only economies. It is a community of political values. It has to be an address where civilizations meet and harmonize.
Is part of the process learning to bridge differences rather than fortify them into divisions? Islam is not sufficiently un-Europe in order to exclude Turkey--or Muslims. However, this may be a Jabèsian impasse: the inclusion of Turks, and Muslims, may be nothing more than an accommodation with a people who have assimilated, and not inherited, European civilization.
But is the question about religion in particular or about faith and secularism? The place of the Church in the creation of European civilization has been controversial. The Papacy has argued (and I would agree) that Christianity, even Catholicism in specific, has been central to the emergence of European institutions as they are taking shape within the EU. The beatifications of Karl I and Robert Schuman are evidence of how willing the Papacy is to prove this point. And although secularism and suspicion of faith are not limited to Christianity (hence the war on the veil), the drive to dissociate modern society from religion impoverishes its inheritance of civilization
Et là est bien le problème : à trop vouloir refuser de parler de Dieu - ou de le voir, même dans les représentations d'une imagerie populaire -, au nom d'une prétendue laïcité, on en oublie notre histoire culturelle et les fondements de notre mémoire collective ... Etre laïque, c'est être indépendant de toute confession religieuse : indépendant, et non intolérant.
On a related note
, I want to draw attention to Daniel Riot's piece at Europeus
. He argues that anti-globalization movements, environmentalists in particular, that would oppose the creation of a constitution should consider that they would benefit from a unified European position on Kyoto and other matters of industrial emissions.
Learning the value of a dollar
Atrios may smirk because the dropping dollar has deflated nationalism over currency
, but for some of us the exchange rate directly reflects when we will graduate ... and get jobs.
It looks like the Bush administration supports Hollywood values, breaking down barriers to the proliferation of Friends episodes and Julia Roberts' movies around the world in places where faith and tradition rule and, in the process, weakening protection for cultural diversity
La culture, enjeu géopolitique. Depuis que les industries culturelles sont devenues le premier poste d'exportation des Etats-Unis, et au moment où se négocie à l'Unesco un projet de convention pour la diversité culturelle, la pugnacité des Américains à préserver leur pré carré et leur influence dans le monde est plus que jamais d'actualité. Du 13 au 18 décembre, un groupe de 24 délégations a peaufiné l'avant-projet de cette convention, qui devrait être votée en octobre 2005. Les luttes au sein de l'Unesco pour créer un instrument juridique contraignant et qui protégera la diversité culturelle reflètent clairement une bataille économique beaucoup plus vaste, menée quotidiennement par les Américains ...
... Pour Jean Musitelli, un des experts non gouvernementaux chargés de préparer l'avant-projet de convention, les Américains - qui avaient quitté l'Unesco en 1984 et l'ont récemment rejoint - "ont changé de stratégie" vis-à-vis de la future convention. "Après une phase de commisération au cours de laquelle ils ne croyaient pas à ce projet, ils l'ont attaqué frontalement quand ils ont vu que la mayonnaise commençait à prendre. Ce qui passe par des attaques en règle contre ce projet de convention, qu'ils qualifient de protectionnisme déguisé", explique l'ancien porte-parole de l'Elysée.
Les Etats-Unis ont ainsi présenté la semaine dernière des commentaires généraux et des amendements à l'avant-projet de convention, en cherchant notamment à diluer le texte pour le vider de sa substance. Au point de l'élargir aux "matières perçues comme religieuses"ou encore aux "langues et à la diversité linguistique". Sur ce point, ils n'ont pas obtenu gain de cause.
Plus nettement, les Américains considèrent dans leurs commentaires que "l'Unesco ne devrait pas s'occuper de politique commerciale, -ce- qui est du ressort de l'OMC". Ils ne veulent surtout pas que se crée un instrument juridique plus contraignant que l'OMC. Aussi souhaitent-ils la variante la moins sévère dans la rédaction de l'article 19 - très épineux puisqu'il concerne précisément les relations avec les autres instruments juridiques. Ce projet d'amendement, qui sera examiné ultérieurement, affirme : "Rien dans la présente convention ne modifie les droits et obligations des Etats parties au titre d'autres instruments internationaux existants."
Max Weber made me cry
Well, that is a slight exaggeration. Rather I find him annoying and frustrating. His writings have the poetry and organization of a dictionary, albeit a good dictionary.
The particular source of my frustration is Weber’s ideas after the November Revolution of 1918. The sociologist was definitely kleindeutsch
in his politics. He felt that the strength of the Reich flowed from the special role that the Prussian state played in German politics: the aristocracy was an important hinge between the powerful state bureaucracy and the dynasties of the other states. The unity of the Reich was based on the personal politics of a administrative-dynastic system that flowed through the Prussian monarchy. This odd mixture allowed for small measures of independent action on the part of the other states in the matter of their internal affairs, but unity based on the hegemony of Prussia in imperial affairs:
The member states of the German Reich, a federal state, were autocephalous. But in spite of this, within the sphere of authority of the Reich, they were heteronous; whereas within their own sphere, in such matters as religion and education, they were autonomous.
The abdication of the dynasties in 1918 through out the possibility monarchy as focal point of German federalism. Unfortunately, everything else that created Prussian hegemony was left behind: the bureaucracy and the large state. Weber admitted that the power of both would have to be severely delimited in order to found a democratic republic. That was easy: break up Prussia and separate the Prussia administration from the affairs of the Reich.
The problem: where to the competencies no longer exercised by the Prussian hegemony go. Weber’s solution was a repartition of powers in order to bring German federalism into balance on the basis of democratic principles (Repartitionsföderalismus
). Weber focused his attention on the three assemblies: the Reichstag (popularly elected lower house), the Reichsrat (representatives of the estates and corporations that included appointments from the states), and the Bundesrat (representatives of the states who met in order to discuss the implementation of laws passed by the legislative assemblies by the state administrations). On the surface it appears that Weber was becoming a committed democrat: he stood out in favor of the introduction of popular representation to both the Reichsrat and the Bundesrat. They would behave more like parliamentary bodies. Furthermore, they would take over responsibilities that were once overseen by the Prussian ministers, creating two bodies that would protect federalism based on the self-interest of the constituent parts.
Weber had little influence over these matters. Hugo Preuß
, another sociologist who was more liberal and had more of a sense of the struggle against Prussian hegemony, ended up writing the the constitution (with Weber's advice), and even his plans to reform federalism were rejected.
Interestingly, I think that Weber was naive about how the Reich worked under the Kaiser and how it could be reformed. As much as he would like to believe that the states had free reign in their internal affairs, Prussian policy usually set the agenda of other states’ administrations. Legislation was closely written by the Prussian ministers, who worked not to create a policy for Prussia alone but a masterplan for the entire Reich. Once the legislation was passed and implemented, the ministries of the other states replicated it. Each state varied slightly from Prussian practices, but for the most part there was a unified policy throughout the Reich. The only state that might deviate was Bavaria, which attempted to be independent (but was paralyzed by the influence of liberals in the administration).
His embrace of democracy was also half-hearted. He tended to look at the problem of political relations in terms of how rule functioned rather than how popular authority could be established. Most of his writings are based on his observations comtemporaneous states, few of which could be described as democratic. I cannnot remember him saying anything kind about France. He was not necessarily impressed with America. He seemed to have some affinity for Swiss federalism, but only because certain sectors of policy were conducted by a strong federal administration (limiting the influence of the cantons only to the formation of policy).
Weber was, therefore, not creative in conceptualizing how the republic would be built from the bottom up. It appears as if he wanted to reshuffle the deck of imperial politics, giving each piece a new relationship rather than reconsider the influence that they had. Weber would retain many features of the old system, adding more democratic features in order to compensate for the absence of Prussian hegemony. The layering of weak democracy over the old German system was exactly that which made the first republic so weak. All the Weber offered is that this system would be created as a means of reconciling the old and new, bringing them together in common purpose. The Weimar system that did emerge was, however, no compromise: it was an accommodation with those parts of the empire that refused to abdicate their authority, namely the bureaucracy and the Prussian hegemony.
Maneuvering the Francosphere
Nuno of Rua da Judiaria presents as useful set of links in his year-ending "Golden Stars of David"
: a list of exceptional blogs (this notice also acts as shameless self-promotion for yours truly). Many of them are Portuguese, which begs the question: why are Lusophonic bloggers so active ... and so successful?
One of the blogs that he singles out is the Francophonic Pointblog
, a self-described "magazine of blogging" by Emily Turrettini and Cyriel Fievet. It reviews and introduces blogs on a variety of subjects, which makes in an invaluable guide (better than taking shots in the dark on Technorati), as well as discusses the proliferation of technologies, platforms and uses for blogs. Among the new arrivals is EUROPEUS
, a group blog consisting of journalists and Euro-politicians from France dedicated to discussing the politics of the EU. Many of them, to my joy, are Strasbourgeoisies, which is probably logical considering the parliament meets in that city. Among them is Catherina Trautmann
, the former mayor of Strasbourg as well as minister of culture and Euro-deputy, who has been critical of cultural centralization in France. And better than Becker-Poser is Europe: pour ou contre la Constitution
(Europe: for or against the constitution), an offering by Le Monde.
Blog à part
, subtitled cartoons of recent events, is a visual treat of editorial humor by Julien Laurent. Here is his take on the recent, quasi-controversial ascension of Girard d'Estaing to the French Academy
(as much as he has been an important politician, his literary career has been meager).
Turrettini and Fievet also point out new features, like this one: Gnomz
, a site that allows you to create your own comic book!
Remains of the city walls of Maastricht
Colonizing Weimar Berlin
In my previous post
, I mentioned Carl Zuckmayer
's memoir. It is one of the best accounts of the Berlin arts scene in the 1920s. What makes it especially useful is Zuckmayer's own perspective as an outsider, a so-called provincial in a cosmopolitan milieu. But it is also a reflection of the exile that he experiences in his life. These issues made him sensitive to the formative aspects of place and the relationship between one's native landscape and experiences, especially in the diaspora from Nazism.
Birthplace is no fiction of the emotions, no intellectual construct. It governs growth and speech, sight and hearing; it animates the senses and opens them to the breath of the spirit.
For Carl Zuckmayer, place was neither trivial nor transparent. His Jewish ancestry and his politics made him a refugee who was never allowed a home. He left Germany in 1933 when Hitler came to power. He settled in a small village in western Austria, believing that he could remain there for the rest of his life. But the village made a sharp right turn, especially when Germany absorbed Austria in 1938. Zuckmayer left Europe entirely, settling on a farm in Vermont where he waited out the war.
His sense of place was also central to his writing. He was from Mainz, but he made no particular commitment to memorialize his home in his works. During the heady Weimar years he made several attempts to establish a reputation as a playwrights in Berlin in the expressionist vein: he failed miserably. His luck changed in 1925. Starting with The Merry Vineyard
, he started to give his plays more local flavor, placing them in specific milieu in order to frame his narratives and make them emotionally appealing. He modeled his characters on people familiar to him (both real and legendary). His plays became more raucous and bawdy. He started to write his dialogue in dialect: not just his native dialect, but dialects throughout Germany, and employing more popular stories and humor. (Zuckmayer's most visible work to English speakers was his script for The Blue Angel
His most popular play, The Captain of Köpenick
, had nothing to do with Mainz, the Rhine, or western Germany. The play was based on a bizarre mini-coup in a small Prussian town in 1910 by a shoemaker (description here
). Living in Berlin, Zuckmayer was able to capture the mentality of Prussians, employing their jokes in order to create what was effectively a political critique of the authoritarian turn that the Weimar Republic was taking.
The story was an image, a farcical mirror image, of the evil and dangers that were growing in Germany.
Zuckmayer was a particular thorn in the side of the Nazis: not just because he was Jewish, not just because he mocked militarism, and not just because he (admittedly) poked fun at Nazis in his plays. His use of place stole an issue that the Nazis felt was exclusively their own:
[The Nazis] rightly felt that they had been portrayed in the comic character of the play, into whose mouths I had put the old and new radical and anti-Semitic phrases. The Völkischer Beobachter, Hitlers paper, foamed. The Nazis were also outraged because the play took away from them something they thought they had a lease on: the German landscape and German folk life, but without any of the blood-and-soil nonsense.
Ultimately the Nazis were hostile to real local folk life, promoting a homogenized version of Bavarian culture in its place.
My digital Heimat
I must admit to this act of resistance that involved a library, 12-15 books, and two undergraduates reading economics texts. The books were old, at least in the sense that they were about a century old and I was allowed to remove them from the library. And they were obscure: some of them might never have been checked out. From the contemporary perspective the authors are unimportant. Books like these more often are lost and forgotten within the stacks.
In the old days the person who checked out books would simple remove the cards from the inner sleeve and photograph them with the ID of the borrower: he or she might never think about the book that passed through his or her hands. But the two students who checked out my books had to make a place for each of these books in the digital archive. The easy part was putting a barcode on the top of the page. They also had to type in the titles and authors. What made the scene amusing to me was that the two students of economics were confronted with old German typography. They had to wait while I read the names and titles to them. Leaving the library, I felt that the things I study and read suddenly had new value.
The books were all various examples of German regional literature. They could be described as Heimat
literature: an artform that connected the genius of the German spirit to tradition, land and community. In Max Weber's opinion, it was a reaction to the demystification of the world. These works are usually associated with anti-modernism and sentimentality; some studies try to connect the longing for tradition represented in these works with the eventual rise of Fascism (Hitler the art student was inspired by a Bavarian painter of rural life). It has been difficult to dissociate some writers from Nazism: the poet and pedagogue Rudolf Dietz of Wiesbaden has become the subject of controversy
: was his anti-semitism more than the racial attitudes held by Germans for the Third Reich? how involved was he in the part? is he a fitting figure to name a school after? (in Googl-English
Recent histories (like those written by Celia Applegate and Alon Confino) debunk this notion,showing how Heimat was less reactionary (city and industry were themes that writers tried to harmonize with their ideas of community) and how Nazi concepts of leadership (Führerprinzip
) were at odds with the explicit decentralization represented by the literature.
, as a field of cultural, social, and intellectual production, is difficult to define. Perhaps more scholarship has been dedicated to the complexity of the concept. As Peter Blickle puts it:
To have a Heimat and not know what Heimat is has been a dilemma of German thinkers for at least two centuries. [It is] and ideal thank makes scholars feel uncomfortable. When dealing with it, intellectually and rationally trained minds have to work with an idea that often seems to defy rational analysis.
In the middle of the nineteenth century ethnologists studied the people of Germany in the variety, attempting to understand how different communities, existing contiguously with one another, could form a nation. (Of course none said that there was no nation.) The ethnological momentum translated into local societies that explored local history, customs, and language. They were also at the forefront of architectural preservation. The Heimatvereine
sponsored festivals and poetry in dialect. But, as Applegate and Confino point out, they also tried to integrate modernity into their activities: they sponsored economic studies of the exploitation of natural and industrial resources; they tried to incorporate the urban workers into their activities; and the city itself could be understood as a type of Heimat
. They did not intend the world that they described to isolate itself--it was a point from which the Greater Germany could be understood.
As a movement, Heimat
literature took off around 1900 (even though there were works produced before this). The market for periodicals had become decentralized, allowing for the publication of more magazines of local and regional interest. The intellectual impetus came from Julius Langbehn, who encouraged German art to orient itself toward the local context. The first example of this was Die Rheinlande
: Wilhelm Schäfer originated the idea of a regional art periodical that also contributed to national concept of aesthetics. It was meant to be more than nostalgia and kitsch.
Many writers whose works presented place as a critical aspect of the narrative were lumped into this category as well. Moreover, some of these writers were not stylistically limited by Heimat
: they associated with other writers and contributed to other literary movements. Clara Viebig
(1860-1952) from the Eifel (between Aachen and Luxembourg) , one of the best, wrote books that were more in the symbolist and naturalist veins. She attended to the economic and social as well as the social dimensions of local life: nature was a complex, motivating force. Wacht am Rhein
, despite what the title suggests, is a story about post-Napoleonic Dusseldorf after the annexation of the territory by conservative Prussia. She even touched on feminism and sexuality in some of her novels. Josef Ponten (about whom I already wrote) probed the psychological dimensions of landscape beyond his region.
Many turned their interest of the place of man in the landscape toward expressionism. The Alsatian writers Ernst Stadler
, Emil Schickele
, and Otto Flake
were exceptional writers who, unfortunately, have no place in French literature. Schickele wrote excellent novels that explored hybrid identities. During the war, he fled to Switzerland and wrote Hans im Schnakenloch about brothers who fight on different sides. His novels reveal a growing awareness of the conundrum posed by national identity and show him reaching out for a Europeanness. In his trilogy Erbe am Rhein
(1925-1931) he tried to use family history (his father was German, his mother French) to resolve problems caused by international borders. Sometimes having foundations in Heimat was useful for exploring the foreign influences on Germany. Carl Zuckmayer
, who had an extensive career, wrote an exceptional biography that includes reflections on Weimar Berlin that I have not seen explored elsewhere:
There was the everlasting influence of the Eastern Russian temperament upon Berlin's cultural life, and that influence was more productive, more stimulating, than most of the things that came out of the West at the time. ... Thus Russian grandeur invaded a Prussian world that was narrow by tradition, and narrower still under the present condition of economic want. We never knew or cared whether the invasion was one of the Tsarist noblesse or Bolshevist libertarianism. We loved the Russians and felt a kinship with them in our intellectual and moral aspirations, and in our own libertinage.
Others produced novels of deep sociological insight on par with Emile Guillaumin and, sometimes, Zola. Rudolf Herzog, in several works, described the social and economic lives of cities. In Die Stoltenkamps
he produced the archetype of the industrialist, modeled on the Krupps, who cares for nothing but his own well being. He also produced an epic centered on Hanseatic merchants in Hamburg, a work on local culture far from his own home. Another Alsatian, Friedrich Lienhard, dealt with the tyranny caused by the cosmopolis (Großstadt or cité
) as it affected border areas. However, he was also a nationalist: provincialism would not solve social problems. Instead, he introduced a new category to describe an artistic middle road to replace Heimat
. Several writers formed a circle in Nyland, Berg
in the mining area south of the Ruhr to describe industrial life. One of them, Heinrich Lersch
, who eventually threw his lot in with the National Socialists, wrote poetry on the lives of workers.
[I must admit that I know little of the most prominent Heimat writer, Hans Friedrich Blunck of Hamburg.]
Heimat has become a hot subject (soon the third miniseries called Heimat will air on German television). It is obviously a concept that has no real equivalent in other cultures. By comparison, French regional literature is weak: a little Guillaux, Giono, a turn of a phrase by Daudet.
It is curious that these works, in a age that prides itself in rediscovering the obscure and restoring its place in history, would still languish. The original decision to purchase these books reflected the reputation that the authors held. Only over time did they become obscure--scholars focused on the Manns, Brechts, and Hesses. Moreover, many of these authors deal with problems that would resonate with scholars: problems of boundaries, identities, migration, integration, ... .
Drumsticks can also be chicken--eek!
You know that DVD
of Greg the Bunny
that my sister sent me as a present? I have watched it way too much. It has replaced my normal television watching (which is a good thing). There is, however, a bit of bad news: the puppet for Tardy the Turtle is missing, perhaps stolen!
It was lost after the show was canceled, and Dan Milano could not find it when he tried to retrieve the puppets from the set.
I hope to be back later today with something on regional literature in Germany at the turn of the century.
I just want to point out this review
of literary historian Paul Bénichou's new book, Romantismes français
, which describes Romanticism as "the paradox of a revolutionary terror leaving intact the frozen edifice of antiquity" of the Enlightenment that itself made its mark on the Revolution.
Héritier de siècles d'exils successifs, exilé lui-même et témoin de la férocité de deux modernes Rome, Paul Bénichou s'est senti fraternel du désarroi de la France post-révolutionnaire. Malgré son agnosticisme, il savait par l'expérience des siens quelle résilience la religion peut prêter aux infortunés. Homme de prose, il n'en était pas moins ouvert, comme Montaigne, au chant profond de la poésie. Dans son enfance, ses tantes l'avaient endormi en lui psalmodiant, dans l'espagnol de leur ancienne et ingrate seconde patrie, des fragments du Romancero transmis oralement depuis plus de quatre siècles. Il avait recueilli et noté cette version du poème anonyme. En Argentine, au Mexique et plus tard en Espagne, il la fit admettre par les philologues et musicologues au même titre que ses versions écrites et d'autres versions orales.
BTW, here is an excellent essay describing Bénichou's work
on the sacralization of the poet
: the freeing of poetry from the constraints of theology in the 18th century and the ascension of the poet as the premier critics of society.
Brittany on the offensive
The regional council of Brittany, fed up with the national government's dormancy
with regard to the protection of local culture and language, has decided that both Breton (the Celtic patois) and Gallo (the local Romance language) will be taught alongside French
in their schools. The decision, taken by the left-socialist coalition, is a reaction not only to French cultural policy but to the unwillingness to ratify the European Charter for Regions and Minority Languages
, which protects the rights of linguistic groups and works to preserve language (especially against homogenization of language throughout Europe, not just sub-national languages).
Breton, like other dialects, are disappearing as the population who speaks it is aging.
"Il y a urgence à intervenir. Le breton a été classé par l'Unesco comme langue en danger sérieux d'extinction", souligne Jean-Pierre Thomin. En 1983, on comptait encore 600 000 bretonnants (16,5% de la population des cinq départements). Ils ne sont plus que 300 000 locuteurs aujourd'hui , dont 64% ont plus de 60 ans, et 4% moins de 40 ans.
According to the loi Deixonne (1951), Breton can be taught in schools. However, state support for education has been weak, and most learning has occurred in special schools rather than within the larger state-sponsored schools.
In the larger sense, this decision may point to a larger shift within the politics of the French left. Recently, socialists took over many of the regional councils in France. It war, in part, a protest to the social reforms proposed by Chirac and Raffarin. Until now, it has not been clear that the left was interested in decentralization and deconcentration beyond using it as a position to critique Chirac's government. It appears that some socialists may be willing to develop the competencies of the French régions, stepping outside their historical interests in centralization.
On Wednesday I helped my wife sell the scarves and mittens that she knitted. Things went well: She sold almost everything. We were so happy that we bought a few books (Snow by Orhan Pamuk
and Stitch 'n Bitch Nation
), after which we ate sushi at my wife's favorite restaurant. Unfortunately, people called the next day to ask her to knit more stuff. Back to the yarn store ...
I am happy to say that I got a grant to do some research this summer. One month in Strasbourg: the dollar doesn't go that far anymore.
My mom sent me a DVD of Greg the Bunny
. I am going to sing "The Snowball Song" for the next week.
A few days ago I made a quick note about the discovery of a Spanish fort in the Appalachians. It inspired two great responses. Zid compares the wonder of this discovery with the banal excavations of older sites within European cities themselves
En Europe, ce genre de découverte aurait fait, dans le meilleur des cas, un entrefilet dans le journal local -en Italie, par exemple, on n'en aurait même pas parlé... Ici, pour les USA, c'est le National Geographic. La perception de l'importance du passé est bien différente selon les "cultures" dont l'"histoire" est plus ou moins ancienne. Ici aussi, aucun jugement de valeur ne doit être posé, rien que l'admiration devant la re-naissance (et non l'exhumation!) des hommes d'avant.
I should add to his comments that growing up in Los Angeles, the discovery of the remains of pre-historical animals became equally quotidien. Insouciance of the past is not merely European.
Geitner has a must read article about the excavations along the American east coast and the history of the Spanish presence in "Greater Florida"
(Juan Pardo Expedition). (He and I have thought a lot about what the Spanish influence has meant to contemporary America.) His own articles have been part of the larger process of uncovering the North Carolina's Spanish history. Among the many other things he writes, he offers this critique:
The National Geographic article suffers from a shortcoming, however. It is the same omission that characterized otherwise well-written newspaper articles by the Charlotte Observer (here) and Raleigh News & Observer (here): In explaining the overall context of the Pardo expedition, the writers neglected to mention the missionary work done by the Spanish soldiers at Joara and, more importantly, by a lay missionary who stayed a year and a half at Guatari, a major Indian settlement on the Yadkin River near present-day Salisbury, N.C.Bridget offers a look at the Shank-Biagioli debate
, a controversy concerning Mario Biagioli's Galileo, Courtier. It looks like a question of good research techniques versus fashionable theories.
More essential reading: Nuno's biography of Uriah Levy , the Sephardim who bought Monticello in order to preserve it
(version in Googl-English
). Nuno also describes the anti-semitism that Levy experienced in the military.
Sharon encourages us to do this
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Dont search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Do whats actually next to you.
And when he said that Big Cherry was the size of a boulder and I couldn't use her unless he could do switchies, I almost said, "Sure, do your switchies! I'll beat you anyway!"
From Burro Genius by Victor Villasenor
I also encourage everyone to make Sharon look for links on your favorite Early Modern subjects
. I think that she is getting off lightly ...
In a lonely place
I have been researching Josef Ponten
(1883-1940), a minor German writer of the Weimar and early Nazi periods. Ponten was born in Raeren, a town near Eupen. His ancestors came from the area between Aachen, Eupen-Malmedy, and Maestricht, living at different times in what would become different nations, and Ponten moved between Eupen and Aachen several times. He published at least one novella before he completed his studies in architecture and served in World War One.
After the war his writing activities intensified. However, he spread himself over several disciplines: novellas, travel, art and architecture. In 1920 he moved from Aachen (due to the Belgian occupation) to Munich. There he drew close to Thomas Mann, mostly because he felt that he should be considered a great writer. Mann was not entirely impressed with Ponten: he felt that Ponten could be excessively nationalistic at times. Conversely, Ponten could be critical of Mann's work, and he found The Magic Mountain
repulsive. Nevertheless, the two authors helped each other out in their careers: Mann was critical at getting Ponten an appointment to the Prussian Academy of Poetry, noting that Ponten expresses the "concept of the nation as the center and connection of art and thought." Ponten was also friends with Hermann Hesse, who contributed illustrations to one of Ponten's books.
His literary legacy is not impressive. He wrote numerous novellas, travel books, and some works on art and architecture (the most intriguingly titled being Architectur, die nicht gebauet wurde (Architecture that should not be built)
). Culturally, his most notable works were an epic series on the Volga Germans in Russia. In 1925 Ponten was invited by the communist government to participate in a gathering of European intellectuals (a trip designed to cast the Soviet Union in a favorable light). On that trip, Ponten met a teacher and bureaucrat from the Volga Republic
. (Geitner Simmons has several posts on these people (here
and elsewhere)). The meeting led Ponten to consider the larger problem of the Auslandsdeutsch
(Germans abroad), which became one of his major literary themes in the 1930s. He published a few books specifically on the Volga Germans themselves: Wolga, Wolga
(1930), Rhein und Wolga
(1931), and Im Wolgaland
However, the most impressing parts of his writing may have been more related to his travel writing. Ponten thought of the landscape as a formative element of the individual that could not be displaced. It was so personal that it could not be captured by geographers and planners. According to Ponten, the German landscape, as imagined and lived, was decentralized, still reflective of the German experience of fragmentation (Stammesdarstellung
: representation of the tribe).
The novel Die Insel
(1921) reflects Ponten's feelings about the affect that the landscape has on the mentality and behavior of individuals. The plot itself is somewhat mundane (and I will be brief on it because a summary would make the novel seem anti-clerical, and Ponten's object could easily have been the academy): the isolation of an island-cloister is disturbed by the arrival of a woman, leading to a predictable breakdown in the religious practices of the monks. Nature, in the novel, is a force that moves the characters and influences them to take different actions.
I find this novel interesting because it questions the extent to which autonomy is possible. The people who come to the island are trying to resolve the restlessness that they feel by isolating themselves in (what looks like) nature. The truth is that their longing is not for nature, but for home, and the island becomes another experience in lives that are physically, socially and culturally migratory
. Autonomy, whether the moral autonomy of the monks or the social isolation of the woman, does not satisfy: it is as artificial as the worlds they left behind.
Autonomy cannot be a strategy for cultural survival. I know that Jonathan Dresner considered this in the context of medieval Japan
. Ponten suggests (and I believe that he was addressed writers of nostalgic Heimat
novels) that success will always be temporary and, ultimately, elusive.
Did Jonathan hit Victoria?
[I wanted to post about Gus crying, theorizing, and drinking, but spouse abuse put me in a bad mood.]
From The Book of Shares
by Edmond Jabès
"The divine call precedes God. The call of the word precedes the book," he said.
What a relief for the mind, truth; but once we have glimpsed of it, what torment!
"There is not preferential place for the book," he had written, "but there might be a non-place made up of all the thinkable places."
This was answered:
"If nobody has ever found out where Moses is buried, is this not because there cannot be one single place for the Book?"
I will be lazy with this one, referring to this article (en français)
about the librarian of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Michel Garel (its expert on the collection of Hebraica), who sold unique medieval manuscripts of the Pentateuch and other biblical books, part of a black market in handwritten documents.
Bien sûr, le marché des manuscrits et autographes (c'est-à-dire de tous les documents écrits ou signés de la main d'une personne) ne se réduit pas à ces transactions spectaculaires. Très loin derrière les étoiles les plus brillantes, toute une constellation de documents moins saisissants se négocient ou s'échangent, dans les salles des ventes, les boutiques des marchands ou même sur Internet. Saisis par une fringale de vieux papiers, les collectionneurs se précipitent sur des manuscrits complets, mais aussi, quand leur bourse n'y suffit pas, sur des pièces de moindre envergure : des lettres, des brouillons ou des extraits de journaux intimes qui peuvent allier la valeur marchande au pouvoir d'attraction très particulier des autographes.
... George, who begat John, who begat Thomas, ...
I find it interesting that a list of Sumerian kings
has a lot in common with presidential synthesis
Wither, Baby, Wither!
Clifford Geertz made the following comments in the current issue of Current Anthropology
. He discusses the historicity of the nation and the state and the peculiarity to Europe.
Whatever directions what is called (in my opinion, miscalled) "nation-building" may take in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, or Latin America, a mere retracing without the wanderings, the divisions, the breakdowns, and the bloodshed of earlier cases–England, France, or Germany, Russia, the United States, or Japan–is not in the cards, nor is the end in compact and comprehensive political entities, hypostatized peoples. History not only does not repeat itself, it does not normalize itself, or straighten its course either. The three centuries of struggle and upheaval that it took for Europe to get from the late medieval checkerboard of Westphalia to the marching nationalities of World War II will almost certainly be more than matched both for surprise and originality and for frustration by the course of things in–what should we call them now? emerging forces? the postcolonial? the awkward adolescents? the developing world?–in the decades and tens of decades ahead.
And a little critique of the anthropologists who are still looking for nations:
... most of the work we [anthropologists] have carried out since beginning our journey into history ... has been directed toward searching through the scramble and commotion that the new states present for the faint, premonitory signs of a movement toward (or falling away from) a more recognizable and regular, standardized shape: the homogeneous color on the disjuncitve map, the well-formed self in the well-pictured self-rule.
Someone was here before us
Here is an interesting article on a 16th-century Spanish fort found in North Carolina
Yes, I skipped one day. I decided to stay away from blogging for at least a day. I roamed the stacks at Mount Holyoke looking for books on pre-historic Mesopotamia. Much of the stuff is theoretical (duh! it's prehistoric). However, as I was looking through books on political anthropology I found, without intending to, some interesting things about how contested hidden Jewish/Sephardic histories can be.
Delirio: The buried history of Nuevo León (The Fantastic, the Demonic, and the Réel)
by Marie Theresa Hernández deals with the narratives in the northernmost state of Mexico, whose people have the reputation of being distant from the nation. Nuevo León is perceived as being different, separated by distance and influenced by America due to proximity, surrounded by the desert and mountains. The nuevoleneses
have their own values, their own perception of being a more industrious people who have prospered in an area without anything in abundance. Hernandez finds that three narratives weave their way around popular history in order to explain exceptionalism: the "primitive" rural people, the "barbaric" natives, and the "first Jews."
The notion that there are strong strains of Judaism come from the fact that one of the men who established the state (Luis Carvajal y de la Cueva, the first governor of Nuevo León) was a descendant of forced converts. Moreover, the Inquisition saw it necessary to exterminate his entire family. Carvajal was granted the territory as a concession from the Spanish monarch in 1579. This was a period in which the larger population of Spain turned against the "New Christians": the latter, despite being spiritually deprived, prospered as a group in various affairs when the official barriers to Judaism were removed by their conversion. It was suggested that Carvajal, a "Portuguese" (codeword for Crypto-Jew), along with other founders of the state, intended to set up a Jewish state away from the influence of the Inquisition in the most remote part of the empire. According to the official history, the elimination of Carvajal and his family erased all possible Jewish influences in Nuevo León.
Hernandez is not interested in testing the truth of this claim. What interests her is the power of the narrative: that a strong converso
population established itself in Nuevo León and that regional peculiarities (in economics, demographics and culture) are attributable to the influence of Crypto-Judaism. The hidden history of Jewish Nuevo León, regardless of its genuineness, is a subversive critique of tensions between popular and official history, center and periphery, the identities of mixing (mestizo
) and blood purity (limpieza de sangre
). The official history denies this. In the opinion of local and regional historians, the formula "no documents, no history" means that no Jews established themselves during the region's formation. For the believers, there is no solid proof, but many things that are suspicious: peculiarities of practices that are not attributable to native or Spanish influences; family stories that speak of Jewish ancestors and endogamy; the presence of an Inquisition that had no object; and the vehemence with which the "official" historians deny the claim. The problem is compounded by the fact that the types of documents that might show something are no longer extant. Moreover, such documents themselves would be difficult to read because they would not be able to admit the existence of something that should not. The narrative of Sephardic/Crypto-Jewish influence is a counternarrative to the story of national purity.
An interesting example of the emotion and acrimony that surrounds the issue comes from a seminar that Hernandez attended on colonial history of the region.
The topic was colonial Nuevo León, and the lecturer was Rolando Guerra, a noted academic specializing in regional ecclesiastical history. Having heard the Jewish stories for the two years I have been in Nuevo León and read about them ... in the history of Monterrey, I was completely surprised at what Guerra told us. He said that the constant story about the first Spanish settlers being Jewish is an "ideological myth." although he acknowledged that Luis Carvajal was the son of Jewish conversos, Guerra told his class that there were no other Jewish settlers. Guerra was emphatic. "There is no documentation," he said. He also cited Israel Cavazos Garza's statement that there are no archives to substantiate the presence of the Jews in Nuevo León. ... the students began to stand up, barraging him with questions. "How could this be possible?" they asked. "Isn't it possible that the Jews would leave no documentation because of the continuing influence of the Inquisition?" Guerra was firm in his response: "No Jews, no documentation." When I raised my hand and asked him what the purpose of this ideology was, he listened to my question, but did not respond to me."
Of course, I find this narrative interesting because of what is says about the region as well as about possible Crypto-Judaism. The notion of foreign influences in the development of national territory is enough to make the narrative contentious. Mexico prefers to see itself as a nation that has taken elements of the native and the European and mixed them together, forming something stronger and unique. There is something not completely truthful about these mestizo narratives: mixing was never widespread, and it is still possible to differentiate between populations in Mexico.
But what if there was an unintended elements of cultural hybridization, a foreign influence that was neither native nor introduced by the Spanish? And what if that element did not disappear in the process of creating the nation? Even the presence of Carvajal in regional history is evidence of a history that cannot be contained within the body of national history, not just of the experience of Jews, but of transnational movement in European society that may have sought refuge from the abuses created by the civilization of the era. The memory of the founding of Nuevo León has at its roots a critique of Mexico, a counterexample of coexistence outside of national ideologies.
Synagogue in Subotica
"Durme, durme" is a common Jewish lullaby from the Balkans. There are many different lyrics of the song, and many different melodies, but all tend to do the same thing. They tell the child of the life they can expect: school, marriage, etc.--the process, and sorrows, of life. One of my favorite versions is on The Sephardic Experience, volume 2: Apples and Honey
Sleep, sleep, my angel
Little son of the nation
Creature of Zion
Know no sorrow.
Why do you ask my name
and why I do not sing?
My wings have been clipped
and my voice has been silenced,
A world of sorrow.
A little rant: I have done little but apply for funding since the elections. And I am really tired of it. In particular, the shifts in the exchange rate between the dollar and the Euro have made doing research abroad expensive, almost prohibitive. The same amount of money that I received five years ago does not go nearly as far, being almost 35% less when converted to Euro. Moreover, the price of a plane ticket has gone up. The result: I must either cut down the length of my trips, or worse: turn down funds if they are insufficient. Thanks to America's financial politics, studying Europe is becoming impossible.
found this essay related to memorials and monuments
. The extended discussion of the Holocaust in German architecture is quite fascinating. Many plans to restore buildings and create new museums are constantly under the shadow of the genocide. The politics of memory tends to lead to disjunctions that tend to place German architecture more in avant-garde, but that continually force Germans to live with their past. On other notes in German architecture, Berlin is now considering restoring the Palace of the Republic (built by the DDR) rather than rebuilding the Hohenzollern Palace. And Rem Hoolhaas will design the new Ruhr Museum in Essen.
how blogs can be disingenuous: the so-called blogger can be nothing more than a facade..
I was not particularly impressed by the last episode of The Amazing Race
. I loved Senegal, but I did not want to hear a bunch of Americans complain about poverty. Live with it. In the category "I would be a millionaire if I could qualify for this show": I knew the author of the poet in less than one second that the clue was given (I thought about making Senghor a dissertation subject at one point).
[BTW, I also forgot Nuno at Rua da Judiaria
: Happy Chanukah!]
I bought Rembrandt's Jews
by Steven Nadler last year ... and put it aside. For some reason, I regretted the purchase and thought that the basic concept behind the book was facile (in fact, the reason that I bought the book was because I wanted something about Jews in the Netherlands). I picked it up recently (probably due to the holiday season), and I must admit that the book is more sophisticated than I expected. More than just a study of the image of "the Jews" Dutch painting, the book looks at the art as a product of the social lives of the Portuguese Jews who settled in Amsterdam in the early 17th century.
Interior of the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam by Emmanuel de Witte
Nadler uses Rembrandt as a hook into a larger problem of Dutch art: were Jews portrayed sympathetically in painting? Were those portrayals a reflection of acceptance, tolerance, or a philosemitic facade with the intention of converting Jews. The answers lie in a complex of changes: merchant capitalism, accumulation of wealth, immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe as well as Portugal, the desire of the Reform Church to get to the root meanings of the scriptures, the place of Jews as voracious consumers of art in the Dutch market, etc.
One of the most interesting changes involves shifts in representativeness in art. In previous posts I have written about how Dutch landscapes tried to achieve a matter-of-factness, taking in the entirety of a landscape without privileging specific features or narratives (such is especially the case of the work of Jan van Goyen, one of my favorites, whose canvases were dominated by large skies). The same values applied to depictions of social life: some sort of broad verisimilitude that presented as much information as possible about the scenario rather than idealizing it (relatively speaking).
Clothing and badges are marks of moral differences. They single out the wearer as evil or mendacious, a murderer or unbeliever. The demonization of the Jew, however, went much deeper than this. The portrayals of Jews tend toward physical caricature, sometimes of a particularly nasty nature. The physiognomic exaggerations and deformities that generally characterize them in medieval and Renaissance art are all part of a worldview in which the Jew is not merely morally degenerated [note: I find this word is applied anachronistically], but of a sinisterly different nature altogether. The bulging, heavy-lidded eyes, hooked nose, dark skin, large open mouth, and think, fleshy lips of Jews in paintings and graphic arts make them look like cartoon characters rather than natural human beings. ...
And then we come to seventeenth-century Dutch art, where we find ... nothing. Utter plainness. There is a uniformity in the depiction of all walks of life. Ugliness and deformity are there, but they represent the common sins and foibles of all humankind. ... there is no special iconography reserved for the Jew. The depiction of Jews and their activities are generically no different from those of wealthy regents, middle-class merchants, and indigent laborers. The naturalistic renderings, the settings of everyday life, and the easy integration in their dress, architecture, and habits into Dutch culture make the Jews in the art of Holland's golden age perfectly normal.
On top of that, the signs that identified Jews dropped away: the physical and sartorial markers became meaningless. This is especially problematic because the religious/ethnic identities of subjects in paintings is less certain: the critic must work harder to understand whether or not a particular work must be understand as somehow related to Jewish life. In fact, many critics have made the errors in identifying these subjects: either they look for non-Nordic features or they dismiss the Jewish character of the subject because there is no positive proof. Rembrandt employed many Jews as subjects simply because he associated with them more closely when he lived in Amsterdam.
Finally, the academic trends show increasing knowledge about practice and belief from Jewish sources. Biblical themes could be portrayed in ways that were theologically familiar to potential Jewish customers.
More Genetics and History
Le Monde has a story about French reasearchers from the Pasteur Institute who tested the claims that nations descended from a single patriarch
. The study was conducted on five ethnic groups in Central Asia. They found that communities and tribes generally had a common patriarch around 15 generations in the past, which the researchers claim corresponds with oral traditions. Larger groups must go back much further: it is less clear that there is a common ancestor.
Enfin, l'étude de variabilité du chromosome Y au sein d'une tribu ne montre aucun apparentement spécifique de ses membres. En Asie centrale, la notion de tribu ne recoupe donc pas de réalité biologique. Et ce en dépit des informations transmises par la tradition orale. Selon les auteurs de l'étude, la tribu est donc un agrégat de clans réunis pour des raisons plus politiques que familiales. "A ce niveau de l'organisation sociale, il est probable que le mythe d'un ancêtre commun ait été fabriqué dans le but de consolider des alliances de clans", avance Mme Chaix.
Almost a Democracy
I have shifted the focus of my writing, for the moment, on the Weimar Republic. (This is the good thing about comparative history: if I get bored with something, I can always "cross the border.") I have been exploring the links on the internet, some of which (especially those in Germany) give very detailed information.
Die zwanziger Jahre
(in German) gives a comprehensive collection of links to sites in numerous fields. Here is a list of available biographies
(mostly writers and artists).
In English, Planet Deutsch gives its own overview
: "... neo-romanticism inspired fascist ideology on the right, opposite to the far other side of democratic individualism, but the champions of personal liberty were too self-absorbed and apolitical to compete against the proto-Nazi thinkers, and Weimar fell to National Socialism."
The German Historical Museum (in German) has several useful pages. This one has speeches, including audio links, given by major politicians
(hmm, Wilhelm Marx was left out). Here is Clara Zetkin announcing Göring selection as president of the Reichstag
. There is also an overview of political history
which is thoroughly referenced.
Document Archiv has primary sources on German legislation
Here is a chronology
, in English, from a Wesleyan professor. Think History has some conceptual diagrams
to answer typical questions about the republic and its strength.
The German education website Zentrale fuer Unterrichtsmedien
(great for people whose native history is not Germany) has lots of stuff in English
and German. In English: establishing the republic (1918-1919)
, turmoil (1920-1923)
, Golden Twenties (1924-1928)
, Great Depression (1929-1932)
Wahlen in der Weimar Republik
(in German) is one of the best sites I have found. If gives a description offices throughout Germany (at the national, state (Land), and provincial levels) and the results of elections for the relevant posts. Look at this description of Prussia
. Weimar Wahlen
has English pages
as well. It is an extension of a doctoral thesis, using graphics to describe voting trends. (Click at the bottom of the screen: the analysis will open in a new window.)
AAG (in German) has this interpretation of Weimar as struggle against fascism
From a gymnasium (sort of a hyper-high school) in Munich, a collection of photographs
and other images.
Flags of the World gives a run down on the changes in the German national flag
(especially the removal of the eagle, a sore spot for nationalists).
Some blogs to note
: Manman's Work
, Arts and Concepts
, FACS 1900 and Weimar Culture
(there are a number of similarly named blogs that tend to parallel one another--I suspect the are for a class), Time of exploration
Happy Chanukah to the blogosphere! Let me take the time to give wish some bloggers out there out there happy holidays: John and Tom at Perfidy
, Brdgt at Female Plane
t, Geitner at Regions of Mind
, Ralph and Jonathan and Sharon at Cliopatria
(and the other virtual places they occupy), Claire at Early Modern Print Culture
(and the other virtual places she will occupy), Natalie at Philobiblion
, David at Barista
, the anonymous administrator at The Carpetbagger Report
, Bryan at Siris
. And congratulations to Sharon and Claire for nominations in the Edublog Awards.
sent me this article about Crypto-Jews in New Mexico
(how did he know I am interested in this subject?).
As a boy, Father Williamm Sanchez sensed he was different. His Catholic family spun tops on Christmas, shunned pork and whispered of a past in medieval Spain. If anyone knew the secret, they weren't telling, and Sanchez stopped asking.
Then three years ago, after watching a program on genealogy, Sanchez sent for a DNA kit that could help track a person's background through genetic footprinting. He soon got a call from Bennett Greenspan, owner of the Houston-based testing company.
"He said, 'Did you know you were Jewish?' " Sanchez, 53, recalled. "He told me I was a Cohanim, a member of the priestly class descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses."
With the revelation that Sanchez was almost certainly one of New Mexico's hidden or crypto-Jews, his family traditions made sense to him.
He launched a DNA project to test his relatives, along with some of the parishioners at Albuquerque's St. Edwin's Church, where he works. As word got out, others in the community began contacting him. So Sanchez expanded the effort to include Latinos throughout the state ...
The article goes on to describe how some Latinos in New Mexico believe that they are the descendants of Spanish Jews (Sephardim) who came to the Americas to escape the Inquisition, and that DNA testing is being used to study their claims.
Within Judaism, Crypto-Jews (aka conversos, marranos (derogatory), anusim, although these words have slightly different meanings
) are a controversial subject. Many families maintained the essence of Judaic practice in private in the century following the Expulsion. The lucky were able to escape to other parts of Europe (usually after a stint in Portugal) and declared their faith (Spinoza's family
is one example). This phenomenon continued until about 1650. After that, there were few people who claimed to have practiced Jewish faith in secret. Scholars differ as to whether secret practice continued, perhaps becoming part of the culture without being referenced to Judaism itself, especially in the Hispanic World. B. Netanyahu
(father of the Israeli PM), rejects this notion: rabbis in the 19th century had no hope of finding Crypto-Jews, and they released all descendants of conversos from the obligation to the mitzvot. David Gilitz
, looking at the records of the Inquisition in the Americans, believes that Jews made efforts to hide out in the Spanish colonies.
Rabbinical authorities do not always recognize the claims of Latinos to Jewish heritage. Identity must be proved by birth (matrilineal) or conversion. It was not enough that family practices were different from the rest of the community, that they had a special diet, that they read only from the new testament, or that they spoke an unusual dialect of Spanish. If someone can prove Jewish heritage, they are required to go through a ritual process that is essentially the equivalent of conversion: as part of the process they can make a special declaration of their fathers' faithfulness.
Judaism, as a whole, can be uncomfortable with plurality. Samaritans
, and Falashas
have been treated harshly; the first two cases involve plurodoxy, the last two genetics. The Lemba
of Zimbabwe have used DNA testing to show their genetic relationship to Jews throughout the world. I am interested in seeing what the results of testing Latinos in New Mexico will show (my mother suspects that there is something extra to our Hispanic roots).
No remilitarization, no war?
The much anticipated Becker-Posner Blog
, an exchange between intellectual giants (a federal judge and a Nobel Prize winning economist), has begun with a topic that is (hopefully) no longer timely: when pre-emptive and preventive war are justified and should be used (here
Dr. Posner contributed a cost analysis. He ends with this example of when nations should have fought to end a future threat:
A historical example that illustrates this analysis is the Nazi reoccupation of the Rhineland area of Germany in 1936, an area that had been demilitarized by the Treaty of Versailles. Had France and Great Britain responded to this treaty violation by invading Germany, in all likelihood Hitler would have been overthrown and World War II averted.
On the surface, this may not seem controversial. We know from William Shirer's Berlin Diary that the German army was not prepared to encounter opposition. The force sent in to remilitarize was small and lightly armed. Had the Entente powers responded to their actions, the German army would have beat its way back to the right river.
Would the failure of remilitarization have led to a coup d'etat against Hitler (or some other means by which he would be removed from power)? This is a stretch. If we assume that Dr. Posner was speaking emphatically, that he meant that Hitler would have been politically weakened, it is a stretch. Much of it would depend on the constellation of powers that opposed and, necessarily, reoccupied
the Rhineland in 1936.
Dr. Posner points to two powers whose opposition could have contained German power in 1936: Britain and France. (Although the United States was not a signer to the Locarno Pact, it could have participated as well.) But it was unlikely that both power would be involved. British government was far less willing than France to undertake an invasion and reoccupation, something which did not bode well for the enterprise, and the British public did not oppose the rearmament. Unfortunately, as Adenauer noted as early as 1919, everything depended on Britain: Wenn England das Ausweg als einen solchen bezeichnet, wird es ein Ausweg werden.
France could have expelled the German army on its own. It was strong enough, but it was unwilling to risk a war on its own soil without British participation. French policy was to push the theater of war into Eastern Europe if possible (a reaction to the memories of trench warfare). Nonetheless, unilateral action by France would have been viewed by the German people through the lens of the history of warfare between the two nations. It would be another conflict with an ancestral enemy.
The success of a France-only occupation can be gauged by the occupation of the Rhineland following World War One and the brief occupation of the Ruhr in 1923-4. Their presence in the Palatinate was extremely unpopular. Germans believed that France was trying to rend Germany apart in order to create a buffer state (a charge that is not without merit and which is constantly debated). They policed the political activities of the people and tossed out bureaucrats and replaced them with people who were more loyal. They tried to turn the Rhine into a French economic zone. They gave tepid support to separatists: not enough that the separatists would succeed, but enough to make it clear that the French army was creating disorder within the Palatinate. The exit of the French occupying forces was met with great celebrations, and those who collaborated with the French suffered from violent reprisals and public humiliation. The reaction of Germans to the French presence could have been worse: the participation of other nations, particularly Britain, made the occupation tolerable.
Because of the unpopularity of France among Germans, Rhinelanders in particular, it is possible that a reoccupation of the Rhineland would have strengthened Hitler (politically if not militarily). The Rhine was an area that supported Hitler less than others, but there was lingering resentment over the French occupation. As Heinrich Böll noted in his memoirs, Rhinelanders were overjoyed at the reoccupation: not because it was a success for Hitler, but because it ended more than a decade of helplessness and uncertainty.
Given the resentment that Rhinelanders had for France, it is natural to ask some questions. How would they have reacted to a reoccupation? Would there be resistance (passive resistance succeeded in forcing the French to leave the Ruhr Valley in 1924)? Would resistance have become violent? Would not the French presence played into Hitler's vitriol against the international community that kept Germany from being a world power?
This is not to say that France (and Britain) should not have opposed the remilitarization of the Rhineland. The circumstances suggested a real threat to France ... something more than just a violation of the Locarno Pact. What neither should have predicted is that opposing the remilitarization would be anything but messy. Dr. Posner did not need to add to his historical example that Hitler would have been overthrown: it was strong enough without it. His historical example is not very historical: it is a reinterpretation of history based on his rhetorical argument. And the question of pre-emptive and preventive war could have used more historical
An interesting book that I might never read: Michael W. Young’s biography of pioneering ethnologist Bronislaw Malinowski
(Malinowski: Odyssey of an Anthropologist, 1884-1920
), a man who established and standardized the practices of the anthropologist in the field, but who was also a romantic figure of the anthropologist who makes himself at home with the natives. Malinowski’s legacy and his penchant to become involved (or affected by) his subjects brought about contradictory reactions when his work was rediscovered in the 1970s. On the one hand he was a defense of anthropology against positive science; on the other he was another type of hero.
As a European, Malinowski was an interesting man: he, like his fellow Austrians, was ambivalent about the Habsburg empire but enamored with the British. He socialized with interesting artists, and his ideas (along with Frazer’s) influence a play by Stas Witkiewicz (Metaphysics of a Two-headed Calf).
The most interesting part of the book concern Malinowski’s relationships with his subjects. He personalized his work, using his methods to study himself as he studied the cultures of the South Pacific. The temptations of going native turned into an examination of his own desires and morality. Young connects these qualities to what contemporary anthropologists would come to believe about the illusion of barriers between the scholar and the subject:
He once noted that his diary was complementary to his ethnography, which was as close as he came to an admission ... that ethnography is implicitly informed by autobiography as much as it is by explicit theory and method. Reciprocally, Malinowski applied rudimentary functional analysis to the understanding of his own life ... .
Young notes Malinowski’s experiences in Vakuta:
[Malinowski wrote in his diary:] “A pretty, finely built girl walked ahead of me. I watched the muscles of her back, her figure, her legs, and the beauty of her body so hidden to us, whites, fascinated me. Probably even with my own wife I’ll never have the opportunity to observe the play of back muscles for as long as with this little animal. At moments I was sorry I was not a savage and could not possess this pretty girl.”
“Soon he was also ‘admiring the body of a very handsome boy’, and observed in his diary: ‘taking into account a certain residue of homosexuality in human nature the cult of beauty of the human body corresponds to the definition given by Stendhal.’ Beauty is the promise of bliss. In the village that evening he ‘pawed’ another pretty girl, a lapse for which he was punished by remorse that night. ‘That lousy girl ... everything fine, but I shouldn’t have pawed her .... Resolve: absolutely never to touch any Kiriwina whore. To be mentally incapable of possessing anyone except [my wife].’ ...
He visited George Auerbach one evening and danced to the gramophone with a local woman named Jabulano. He confessed to his diary that he had ‘pawed’ her. He felt suitably guilty afterwards, and attributed this lapse mainly to ‘a desire to impress the other fellows’. He wanted to show George in particular that he was attracted to women. The rumors that he fancied ‘boys’ had probably reached the Trobriands ..., and he might have felt some need to disprove it. His diary ... mentions several more lapses when he ‘pawed’ young women; but there is not a single reference to his having ‘pawed’ young men; and for every reference to male beauty there are a dozen that admire the female form. If he did show any homosexual inclination during his fieldwork it was weakly motivated and heavily outweighed by his unsatisfied longing for female flesh.
Malinowski would not be the first, or the last, to play with these boundaries. Gauguin and Riefenstahl are but two examples of the romanticization of the apparent sexual freedom of the natives. However, he also shares the preoccupations of many other men of his time, others who were not ethnologists. These were the characters of the plays of Schnitzler and the novels of Musil. These were the nudists who wanted to free their bodies of clothing but to constrain them to a sexless existence. These were the militia men, whom Theweleit studied, whose wave of destruction was the fulfillment and negation of their desires.
Other Malinowski sites: here
, and here
Marcel Carné's Children of Paradise
is a beautiful film. It is a three-hour movie that takes place around the lives of theater people in nineteenth-century Paris. The core of the film is banal: four men, from different walks of life, pursue the same woman. But the story is much more complex, each character seeking fame, wealth and acceptance in public as well. The best part of the film is Jean-Louis Barrault
, the mime who uses subtle craft to express unspeakable emotions. Barrault's physical performance is impressive. Louis Salou is also notable for his authoritarian aristocrat, a delicate depiction of the occupation under which the film was made.
Besides the pantomime, the film is also interesting because of its depiction of street life. The avenues are overcome with throngs of people who file past the street performers and merchants. I am not sure if Carné filmed his scenes in Paris (or some other city) or on a set because while the architecture was appropriate for the time, the avenues were quite wide, suggesting that they were post-Hausmann. The street scene at the end, a carnival, is a wild celebration. The scene owes a lot to King Vidor's The Crowd and FW Murnau's Sunrise.
from the nascent group Historia
reveals the problems that students have exploring their historical interests because of the skills that are involved. I know too many colleagues who decided to become Americanists (after hoping to be Germanists, medievalists, and South Asianists--in that order) because they would not tackled the language challenges. I am reminded how difficult that it was for me to develop the skills that I needed: not just knowledge of French and Germany (as well as some rudimentary Dutch), but also the ability to read old paleography. Many Germanists tend to crowd into twentieth century topics because they refuse to learn Suetterlin
Is there some reason why we identify ourselves as a particular type of historian? Jonathan Dresner took up this question, looking at his tendency (and that of his colleagues) to see themselves as social historians
. Despite covering a broad range of topics (political, legal, diplomatic, ...), 'social' is a convenient means of describing a broad variety of interest and techniques.
Why is it that graduate students tend to think of themselves as cultural historians
? Why is there an impetus to define ourselves under this category when our topics of interest can vary. I have always had an uncomfortable relationship with cultural history. I feel that many graduate advisors (not mine) push their students into this field: social history is messy, forcing researchers to consider a broad, potentially infinite, range of archival documents; cultural history is clean, using theory to draw attention to a smaller number of documents. Moreover, recruiters seemed to be more interested in testing applicants loyalties to particular constellations of culturalists (both theorists and historians) than examining the rigor with which the applicants research and teach. Every introduction must spout off a list of critics in order to put the student's acumen for theory on display (as well as to display an biases). Under these pressures, this generation of graduate students is forced to define itself as necessarily post-Foucauldian.
(I encounter this problem continually whenever I attempt to describe my own research. There is a tendency to regard regionalism, in contemporary politics and history, as a cultural problem that requires cultural methods and that, most importantly, confirms the importance of culture. In my research I have realized that the role of culture becomes limited. As ideas about the meaning of place are explored, regional identities become difficult to maintain. They are rend between the universalism of the nation and the specificity of the local. In order for a regional movement to succeed, it must inevitably base itself in the realm of political activism rather than cultural conservatism. The interesting question is how it becomes political, allowing culture to play a selective role.)
Should graduate students who use cultural methods call themselves cultural historians? Not necessarily. Most of them are standing on the shoulders of the social historians who came before them, even as they criticize their predecessors. Moreover, the relationship between the social and cultural is uncomfortably symbiotic rather than antagonistic. Indeed, our research might involve questions of social structure (just not in the strictly constructed Marxian sense). Or our exploration of cultural developments require reference to economic and class. But it is admittedly unattractive, potentially damaging, to place oneself at odds with the currents within the profession (the same way that we must also describe ourselves as world historians, comparative historians, etc.).
Loose ties that bind
Hermann van der Wusten has an interesting article about political centrality in Europe (Political Georgraphy
August 2004). He describes the placement of centers of power within Europe as they relate to a state system that is necessarily decentralized. Quite consciously, he also creates a history of congress cities as they have developed since 1648.
The state system of Europe is incomparably strong. The Peace of Westphalia established a patter in which the elites of states would gather periodically to discuss matters of diplomatic importance. After 1648 the European elites, growing more interconnected, debated means by which the order between states could be made more permanent. Meetings (of various sizes and scopes) became more frequent and regular. In the process they institutionalized congress systems that confirmed (in the most basic sense) the sovereignty and boundaries of individual states. Quite gradually there emerged intergovernmentalism and transgovernmentalism that would serve as the basis for future cooperation. By 1900 there was already consideration for creating a permanent meeting place for the European states. Because of these features of the state system, European participation in international organizations has been much stronger than other areas of the world, and the number of international institutions that are headquartered in Europe is higher.
Van der Wusten’s essay provides an interesting history of the congress cities themselves. One of the features of the state system is the need for decentralization: the building blocks are the states themselves, so that political centers have had to play different roles than national capitals.
Places where congresses were held acted for a while as political centers. ... In the 17th and 18th century, congresses could easily take months and sometimes years, but even then their role was meant to be temporary. Under the ‘ancien regime’, the selection of a congress city was a long drawn out process in which several considerations were important: religious services for all creeds possible, well connected from a transportation point of view, diplomatic immunity assured, city and its surroundings should enable private meetings, not too attractive in order not to encourage a prolonged stay of diplomats. ... From the 19th century onwards, there was a pronounced preference for places with high symbolic value (to underline victory, defeat, the damnation of a protagonist, etc.).
For the cities themselves, congresses were important occasions ... city governments made considerable investments to beautify the town hall, the churches, and the theatre, to decorate the town, to improve personal security and public order. ...
Furthermore, the congress city took on a unique role in the geography of Europe, becoming an island within the state system.
... it was prescribed that the location of a congress should be “le Temple de la Paix de la sureté publique.” ... Slowly a series of conventions had developed concerning order within the congress city. As regards to the outside world, these were differently regulated depending on circumstances. When this seemed appropriate, congress cities were on several occasions officially neutralized. A perimeter was then agreed and demarcated by delegates. Armed forces were prohibtied to enter.
In the twenties century, capital cities have served more often as centers of power. However, as these capitals (like Brussels and the Hague) become more permanent, they compete amongst each other and with other capitals for specific types of authority rather: judicial, administrative, executive, etc. Fragmentation is, therefore, necessary so that the sovereignty of the states are not voided.