Tag Archives: Political Science

Death Scenes

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Death Scenes [Publisher, Local Library] issue edited by David A Ellison and Katrina Schlunke, South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol 110, Iss 4, Fall 2011.

Ellison Schlunke South Atlantic Quarterly Death Scenes

This number of South Atlantic Quarterly has a theme that more consistently emphasizes “death” than “scenes.” Two of the articles are actually concerned with perinatal death, which is in many ways problematically scene-less. The issues in these two studies are impressively difficult, and induced in me a sort of socio-moral vertigo. The Margaret Gibson paper “Real-Life Death” tackles the journal theme most squarely, addressing the influences exchanged between virtual representations and actual instances of death in contemporary culture. 

Many of the papers are critical studies of literature or other art that I haven’t myself read or seen, and these were largely unable to give me value in their own right or even motivate me toward my own exploration of their subjects — with the possible exception of Katrina Schlunke’s piece on the film Waltz with Bashir. The artwork reproduced on the cover of the volume, “Bounty” by Lori Nix, is fascinating: it is a photograph of a sophisticated diorama in which a sunken ship and other debris are visible in a chasm beneath the water in a semi-submerged perspective directed toward a city shoreline. (Further exploration of her work online reveals other wonders including the awesome 2007 piece Library.

The supplementary “Against the Day” section of this number is about the distinction between “politics” and “the political” (la politique and le politique in French theory). The individual papers are diverse and all quite interesting. I wonder if Oliver Marchart’s philosophical advocacy of “minimal politics” isn’t getting an empirical drubbing from the Arab Spring and American Autumn of this year. Barnor Hesse’s study of the tacit but tenacious racialization of “the political” is perceptive and worthwhile. The short “Politics Surrounded” by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney is so overflowing with impressive wordplay that the authors’ actual thesis was opaque to me. And finally, I appreciated the explorations in Sandro Medrazza’s “Beyond the State, beyond the Desert,” but I was embarrassed for him that he traced the rhetorical landmark of “the desert of the real” only to its use by Slavoj Žižek, without realizing or noting that Žižek was quoting an adage by Jean Baudrillard.

Friendly Fire

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Friendly Fire [Amazon, Internet Archive, Local Library] by Hermetic Library Fellow Bob Black.

Black Friendly Fire

Friendly Fire is a pugilistic potpourri of texts by Black, with the author’s resilient animus as its only continuous thread. Even that fades considerably in Chapter VIII: his study of the Johnson presidential impeachment, plus a bibliography of Black’s legal scholarship. He wrote in 1985, “Postering has been my main political activity since 1977,” (171) and posters and poster-worthy one-liners are certainly where he does his best work. In this volume, those are represented in a selection of “Wanted Posters” as well as the pun-replete and epigraphical “Introduction to Neutron Gun.” I can’t help thinking that it’s almost a shame that he disdains an Internet connection, as his writing talents are peculiarly well-adapted to the 140-character burst–not that I follow anyone’s Twitterfeed, nor would Black seem to have any interest in “followers.”

The anarchist “organizers,” Libertarian small fry, publishers, and club proprietors that serve as Black’s principal foes in this volume provide generally less interesting grounds for counter-polemic than Murray Bookchin does in Black’s Anarchy after Leftism. Still, his invective has its usual entertainment value.

The Abolition of Work and Other Essays

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Abolition of Work and Other Essays [Amazon, Internet Archive, Local Library] by Hermetic Library Fellow Bob Black.

Black Abolition of Work and  Other Essays

I loaned my copy of this book (acquired circa 1988) to an acquaintance who never returned it–long enough ago that I hold out no hope for its eventual recovery. It is profoundly unsurprising that a book so incisively anti-authoritarian should refuse to behave like property. I only hope the fellow read it and sent it further along.