Tag Archives: South Atlantic Quarterly

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.

Politics of Religious Freedom

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Genealogies edited by Saba Mahmood, South Atlantic Quarterly (vol 113 iss 1), from Duke University Press.

Saba Mahmood Politics of Religious Freedom from Duke University Press

Although South Atlantic Quarterly is published out of North Carolina, this number on “Politics of Religious Freedom” brings a global, and somewhat European-centered perspective to an issue that many Americans think of as having exceptional relevance to our traditions of government. Accordingly, there is no discussion of “separation of church and state,” and instead, there are repeated explorations of the distinction between the forum internum and the forum externum and 20th-century formulations of “human rights.” Besides the European genealogy of religious freedom, the writings here treat the interesting contemporary cases of Hindu majoritarianism in India and the official treatment of Bahaism in Egypt. The sole US-centered article is concerned with “US Evangelicals and the Politics of Slave Redemption in Sudan,” which is hardly a customary topic in this field.

As a general rule, the authors see “religious freedom” as a concept that is somewhat incoherent by design, so that its application is highly dependent on context and circumstance. The result is that it becomes an instrument of casuistry, and it permits the state to constrain and control religion according to socially conservative impulses.

The “Against the Day” supplement to this number of SAQ treats the anti-Putin protests in Russia in 2012 and 2013. The articles of this section include debunkings of conventional punditry about the motives and nature of those protests, as well as reflections on the properties and potentials of a depoliticized Russian citizenry. These were fascinating pieces, and I was surprised to see many likenesses between Russian and US political situations in the 21st century, even as the authors emphasized the peculiarities and uniqueness of the Russian situation. [via]