Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Random Notes

I am charging through some research now that is pissing me off because, well, it debates historiography with which I am less than familiar. Still, I should post soon on some interesting subjects. In particular, Marc at Cliopolitical posted a excellent outline of historiography, "Introduction to historical method" in five parts (start here), that has got me thinking about the problems of understanding the context with which the Annales emerged. The long durée is its most lasting influence, but it was also part of a trend in academia towards interdisciplinary studies. Geography, in particular, was adaopted by historians of various fields. Lucien Febvre was not the first historian to use geography, but he inspired Braudel to overlook national boundaries for the broader picture. Why is the school not remembered for this aspect of its work? Why do we not remember a "geographic turn"?

Some of my posts have inspired writing that is better than my own. At Protocols of the Yuppies of Zion, Aspargal takes the passage I extracted from My Father's Rifle to discuss the role that art plays in authoritarian movements.
This obsession with art as a means to prop up the state's power shows up in some bizarre ways. The Nazi's were notorious for their intertwining of aesthetics and politics, to the point where the typeface "Fraktur", the Gothic font used in Nazi anti-Jewish edicts, was later abruptly banned for being a treacherously "Jewish" font. (Antiqua [Roman] type was then instituted as the offical Nazi-approved font.) Early Italian art deco took some of its design cues from Italian fascism, while also showcasing its themes and aims. Kim Jong-Il has plastered ubiquitous smiling paintings of his ugly visage all over North Korea, a malevolent and unintentionally funny form of public art. And he's misappropriated the arts for his regime's purposes in an unusually obvious way by actually kidnapping film directors and actresses that he liked, to force them to make films for his pleasure.
Equally more riviting than me, Brandon at Siris notes the problems reading Cylon religion in Battlestar Galactica.
The issue is complicated by the fact that so much of our knowledge of Cylon belief is mediated through Six, who may have peculiarities in religious belief which other models tolerate but disapprovingly (as they seem to do with Six's libido -- one curious feature of the humaniform Cylons is that they don't seem to agree about much except their basic plan). Certainly Boomer seems much less devout (but that may be because she is like the Colonists to an unusual degree). Also, the Six in Baltar's head seems to be out on her own in some way, and her agenda is certainly at least partly religious. It's further complicated ... by the fact that the Colonists are tricky to pin down as well -- except the Colonists from Gemenon, who are literalists, the 'Globalized Mormonism' (as it has been called) of the Colonists is usually nominal, and is generally considered a private matter, anyway. The Cylons actually remind me a bit of QT-1 in Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" -- Cutie, you will recall, started as a Cartesian and then began to consider himself the Prophet of the Master, as he called it, which was the space station on which he was serving. Rationalism tends monotheistic, elitist, and intolerant of anything it regards as superstition, so I think the post is probably on the right track.
Now will anyone compare the use of religion in Battlestar Galactica to the two Bajoran religions (The Prophets and the Pah Wraiths) in DS9?

Let me also mention Brandon's useful essay on the difference between rule of law and rule by law, which if I were less lazy I would respond to.

Geitner at Regions of Mind has new posts up, which are always a treat. The Other Bill Murray looks at the leader of a movement to establish a community in Bolivia based on American religious values.
Their Bolivian haven, Murray claimed, would create a society in which "the Ten Commandments are given as the foundation of all laws" and each individual could "strive to maintain the virtues of an American citizen" and "avoid the vices and errors of other races."

Murray's Bolivian dream proved a failure. In 1929, he returned to Oklahoma and was soon elected governor. He served one term. In later life, he embraced radical racial theories and became fixated on conspiracy theories.
Emigré communities can be a fruitful aspect of regionalism in which the history of a landscape is extended beyond its geographical boundaries into the wide world. Steinbach, a German ethnologists and geographer from the mid-20th century, claimed that the cultural influence of any community extends beyond its physical limits.

[Added]: Otto posts on the genocide of ethnic Germans in Stalin's Russia.


At 1:53 AM, Blogger J. Otto Pohl said...

Thank you for the link.

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Marc said...

Thanks for mentioning my Intro to Hist. Method series. I'm glad it "got you thinking". I hope it does the same for others!

At 3:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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