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Tuesday, November 24
by Rich on November 24, 2009 01:02PM (PST)
Canada's Margret Atwood -who should be a candidate for the Nobel at some point- recent work has dealt with various dystopian themes of future societies ravaged by technological blowback and religious fundamentalism. I recently picked up her latest work, The Year of the Flood that continues where her previously acclaimed novel Oryx and Crate left off. This is a review by renown cultural historian Fredric Jameson, whose book on Utopias: Archaeologies of the Future, has been a subject of discussion on SCIY
Who will recount the pleasures of dystopia? The pity and fear of tragedy – pity for the other, fear for myself – does not seem very appropriate to a form which is collective, and in which spectator and tragic protagonist are in some sense one and the same. For the most part, dystopia has been a vehicle for political statements of some kind: sermons against overpopulation, big corporations, totalitarianism, consumerism, patriarchy, not to speak of money itself. Not coincidentally, it has also been the one science-fictional sub-genre in which more purely ‘literary’ writers have felt free to indulge: Huxley, Orwell, even the Margaret Atwood of The Handmaid’s Tale. And not unpredictably, the results of these efforts have been as amateurish as analogous experiments in the realm of the detective or crime story (from Dostoevsky to Nabokov, if you like), but including a message or thesis.[*] So-called mass cultural genres, in other words, have rules and standards as rigorous and professional as the more noble forms. more »
by Rich on November 24, 2009 10:15AM (PST)
Richard Powers is one of America's most skilled novelist working today. His novels often explore the divide between the two cultures of science and art and issues concerning the emergence of the post-human. In his most recent work he explores the implications of science finding the happiness gene and the complex implications of enhancing future humanity for bliss. Its a good read.
"The new novel is certainly more buoyant than Powers’s last, the National Book Award-winning “Echo Maker,” which was, among other things, a dense and intricate exploration of neuropsychology with side trips into ornithology. While that book revolved around a young man who suffers serious brain damage, the central figure of “Generosity” is a woman ostensibly afflicted with hyperthymia — an excess of happiness. The new book poses the question, What if there were a happiness gene? Curiously enough it features a public debate between the two cultures, in which a tortured, charisma-challenged Nobel-winning novelist fares badly against a glibly articulate scientist arguing the case for genetic engineering." more »
Monday, November 9
by Rich on November 9, 2009 10:07PM (PST)
Generally, modern historians tend to stick to the terra firma of inscriptions, coins, the accounts of foreign travelers, and other precisely datable sources. There are obvious advantages to such a method, and we can certainly learn critically important things from such evidence; but one unfortunate byproduct of these choices is that modern histories of India, heavily empiricist in the narrowest sense and loaded down with unwieldy records of temple donors and royal land grants, tend to be boring.
No one would say such a thing about Wendy Doniger's new book. Experts on India and professional historians of South Asia will, no doubt, find something to disagree with on every page; but they will also, I think, be charmed by Doniger's scintillating and irreverent prose (perhaps against their better judgment) and by the unexpected, strangely delightful connections she makes. Her book is no ordinary trek through inscriptions and chronicles. It is more like a psychedelic pilgrimage to sites, ritual moments, and beloved texts scattered over three millennia. Make no mistake: it's a bumpy ride, with a provocative and erudite guide who scorns the usual rules of the historical guild. That is not to say that this improbable history lacks method. There is a sense in which Doniger is close to the indigenous South Asian, "puranic" model of writing history, of the type that put off al-Biruni. more »
Monday, September 21
by Rich on September 21, 2009 01:13PM (PDT)
Although they are very different texts that perhaps address different ranges of consciousness there are certainly some similarities in this story of Jung's Red Book - in which he worked out his inner experiences during his quest for individuation (and at times just for sanity) - and Sri Aurobindo's Record of Yoga, in that the public -and even many followers- were largely unaware of these personal records of inner experiences that seem to have emerged quite unexpectedly long after they were written.
The book tells the story of Jung trying to face down his own demons as they emerged from the shadows. The results are humiliating, sometimes unsavory. In it, Jung travels the land of the dead, falls in love with a woman he later realizes is his sister, gets squeezed by a giant serpent and, in one terrifying moment, eats the liver of a little child. (“I swallow with desperate efforts — it is impossible — once again and once again — I almost faint — it is done.”) At one point, even the devil criticizes Jung as hateful.
He worked on his red book — and he called it just that, the Red Book — on and off for about 16 years, long after his personal crisis had passed, but he never managed to finish it. He actively fretted over it, wondering whether to have it published and face ridicule from his scientifically oriented peers or to put it in a drawer and forget it. Regarding the significance of what the book contained, however, Jung was unequivocal. “All my works, all my creative activity,” he would recall later, “has come from those initial fantasies and dreams.” more »
Saturday, September 5
Censorship as its own art form: 'Censoring an Iranian Love Story' by Shahriar Mandanipour (review LA Times)
by Rich on September 5, 2009 09:43AM (PDT)
Censorship is an endlessly fascinating subject; a puzzle box, a Russian nesting doll in which the writer's truth is buried and often lost. Czeslaw Milosz's 1953 classic "The Captive Mind" revealed the insidious and creative ways that censorship enters and inhabits the mind of the artist. Shahriar Mandanipour, an Iranian film critic and the editor of a literary journal in Iran, was not allowed to publish fiction from 1992 to 1997. He came to the United States in 2006. "Censoring an Iranian Love Story" is his first book published in English. In this novel, a writer (also named Shahriar Mandanipour and the author's alter ego) tries to write the story of Sara and Dara, a young couple in love, and finds himself in a metaphorical burka. He is forced to change his story, characters and dialogue to comply with the restrictions of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in the person of a Dostoevskian character, Mr. Petrovich.
"I am an Iranian writer tired of writing dark and bitter stories," he tells his reader, "stories populated by ghosts and dead narrators with predictable endings of death and destruction. I am a writer who at the threshold of fifty has understood that the purportedly real world around us has enough death and destruction and sorrow, and that I did not have the right to add even more defeat and hopelessness to it with my stories." The key word here is, of course, "purportedly."
Censorship, seen as its own art form, is just another way of messing with reality. It's hard enough to generate one's own ideas without having someone else's superimposed over them, but the fictional Mandanipour tries. more »
Saturday, August 29
by Rich on August 29, 2009 07:59PM (PDT)
In light of the invectives that were hurled decrying Peter Heehs as "Mr. Objective" due to the academic style of his biography of Sri Aurobindo, it should give us pause to note that the phenomena of "objectivity" did not emerge fully formed from the head of Zeus and that in fact "objectivity" has a Foucauldian history all its own. A history that that is intrinsically coupled to the evolution of the scientific subject and that has undergone several epistimic ruptures over the centuries that has radically changed the meaning of the concept.
Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2008.
"Objectivity has a history, and it is full of surprises. In Objectivity, Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison chart the emergence of objectivity in the mid-nineteenth-century sciences—and show how the concept differs from its alternatives, truth-to-nature and trained judgment. This is a story of lofty epistemic ideals fused with workaday practices in the making of scientific images."
"This richly illustrated book deeply renews the meaning of accurate reproduction by showing how many ways there have been to be 'true to nature.' Art, science, and reproduction techniques are merged to show that 'things in themselves' can be presented with their vast and beautiful company. This splendid book will be for many years the ultimate compendium on the joint history of objectivity and visualization."
—Bruno Latour, author of Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy
As Daston and Galison argue, atlases shape the subjects as well as the objects of science. To pursue objectivity—or truth-to-nature or trained judgment—is simultaneously to cultivate a distinctive scientific self wherein knowing and knower converge. Moreover, the very point at which they visibly converge is in the very act of seeing not as a separate individual but as a member of a particular scientific community. Embedded in the atlas image, therefore, are the traces of consequential choices about knowledge, persona, and collective sight. Objectivity is a book addressed to anyone interested in the elusive and crucial notion of objectivity—and in what it means to peer into the world scientifically.
Objectivity by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison is not just a fine book, it is that rare thing, a great book. It is almost shockingly original, genuinely profound, and amazingly learned without ever being pedantic. It should force everyone interested in science and its history or in objectivity and its history to think more deeply about what they think they already know. It gives me great satisfaction to learn that thinking and writing of this brilliance and depth are still going on, even in this age of consumerism and mass markets.”
— Hilary Putnam, author of Ethics without Ontology
“Historically brilliant, philosophically profound, and beautifully written, Objectivity will be the focus of discussion for decades to come. At one and the same time a history of scientific objectivity and a history of the scientific self, rarely have rigor and imagination been combined so seamlessly and to such deep effect. No one who opens this book can fail to be engaged and provoked by its energy, ideas, and arguments. One emerges from reading it as if from a series of intellectual earthquakes — sound but no longer safe.”
— Arnold Davidson, author of The Emergence of Sexuality: Historical Epistemology and the Formation of Concepts more »
Tuesday, August 18
The Fundamentalism Project: A series from the University of Chicago Press Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, Editors
by Rich on August 18, 2009 05:15PM (PDT)
The Fundamentalism Project (1991–95), a series of five volumes edited by the American scholars Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Marty and Appleby viewed fundamentalism primarily as the militant rejection of secular modernity. The Fundamentalism Project has produced the definitive text on the phenomena of Fundamentalism more »
Tuesday, August 11
by Rich on August 11, 2009 11:53AM (PDT)
Another riff on White Noise
White Noise is the eighth novel by Don DeLillo, and is an example of postmodern literature. Widely considered his "breakout" work, the book won the National Book Award in 1985 and brought him to the attention of a much larger audience. Time Magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. more »
Wednesday, August 5
by Rich on August 5, 2009 06:54PM (PDT)
'If you have never read Cosmicomics, you have before you ... the most joyful reading experiences of your life' - Salman Rushdie
Calvino along with Borges is an author whom I believe could claim membership in the pantheon of those who have furthered the evolution of the short story form in the Sri Aurobindonian sense. Cosmiccomics is a brilliantly conceived humorous account of the evolution of matter from the earliest moments of the universe until the birth of homo sapien. It has just been reissued with seven new stories and it is this summers reading of Ursula K Le Guin who reviews the book here
"What was Italo Calvino? A prepostmodernist? Maybe it's time to dispense with modernism and all its prefixes. A young resistance fighter for the communists during the Nazi occupation of Italy, Calvino became and remained a consistently original writer of intellectual fantasy. And what is a cosmicomic, this form he invented midway through his career? Clearly a subspecies of science fiction, it consists typically of the statement of a scientific hypothesis (mostly genuine, though sometimes not currently accepted) which sets the stage for a narrative, in which the narrator is usually a person called Qfwfq".... more »
Tuesday, June 16
by Rich on June 16, 2009 08:10AM (PDT)
June 16th 1904 is that faithful day in the life of Dublin marking the epochal birfurcation of narrative, given in the epiphanies of Stephen Dedalus & Leopold & Molly Bloom. The last lines of the 644 page turning story of Ulysses - a book that at times one does not read but rather, wades through - are the subject of this video; also known as the soliloquy of Molly Bloom. more »
Saturday, June 13
Much ado about Ganesha: Paul Courtright, Wendy Doniger, and the Hindu Right (Rajiv Malhotra) by Amardeep Singh - (w/ Courtright review)
by Rich on June 13, 2009 07:25PM (PDT)
Malhotra makes some good points, but he lacks restraint. Because the western scholarship on Hinduism he singles out is markedly psychoanalytic in nature, he feels it is appropriate to "reverse psychoanalyze" the critics in question. He speculates on the sexuality of these scholars in ways that are extremely distasteful at best, and libelous at worst. Here is an example of a particularly ugly passage from Malhotra:
1) Western women, such as the famous professor herself, who are suppressed by the prudish and male chauvinistic myths of the Abrahamic religions, find in their study of Hinduism a way to release their innermost latent vasanas, but they disguise this autobiography as a portrayal of the “other” (in this case superimposing their obsessions upon Hindu deities and saints). For example, here is Wendy acknowledging projecting her psychosis onto her scholarship:[lxxx] “Aldous Huxley once said that an intellectual was someone who had found something more interesting than sex; in Indology, an intellectual need not make that choice at all…. Is sex a euphemism for god? Or is god a euphemism for sex? Or both!” 2) American Lesbian and Gay women's vasanas, also suppressed by Abrahamic condemnation, seek private and public legitimacy, and therefore, interpret Indian texts for this autobiographical purpose. 3) Sexually abused Western women, seeking an outlet for anger, find in the Hindu Devi either a symbol of female violence or a symbol of male oppression -- another cultural superimposition
Ugh. To Mr. Malhotra: if you disagree with the arguments and methods of these scholars, debate them respectfully... more »
Saturday, May 30
by Ron on May 30, 2009 04:11PM (PDT)
With the 1978 publication of Orientalism, Edward Said launched a critique of Western scholarship on the Middle East that still reverberates through academia and government. By characterizing Middle Eastern cultures as incapable of adapting to modern life, the early Orientalists, in Said’s view, hid their colonial, and indeed racist, biases. In the process, he suggested, Orientalists fooled themselves—and Westerners generally—into believing that their studies were undertaken with total neutrality. Said particularly attacked Bernard Lewis as the contemporary exemplar of this entrenched view. In a series of exchanges, Said argued that such scholarly bias contributed to the failure of the West to recognize Palestinians as a distinct people or to value Middle Eastern nations except for their oil. While Said did not live to see how Lewis’s views would influence the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq, the terms of his critique still divide scholars.
Despite decades of controversy, however, neither Said’s most recent supporters, such as Juan Cole and Rashid Khalidi, nor his most ardent critics, Raphael Patai and Daniel Pipes, have succeeded in subjecting Said’s concerns to a serious analysis that might address the central question: can scholarship on the Middle East ever be freed from its political context? ... more »
by Debashish on May 30, 2009 03:38PM (PDT)
With the ascendency to Indian politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a plethora of literature has appeared paying serious attention to the phenomenon of "Neo-Hinduism" in India, and by and large relating it to fascist possibilities. This postcolonial literature, swelling the shelves over the last five years, has piggybacked onto a larger more international body of postmodern writing on nationalism and its dangers that has been growing in stridency ever since the pseudo-religion ... more »
Sunday, May 3
by Rich on May 3, 2009 06:25AM (PDT)
In listening to Codrescu he seems to believe the species bifurcation is on the horizon and dada is an appropriate response... Highly recommended rc
Dada: An absurdist art movement declaring itself against rationality, tradition, and—above all—Dada. Catholic mystic Hugo Ball and poet/impresario Tristan Tzara launched it in Zurich as World War I blazed all around.
Posthuman: A sci-fi term that came of age in the mid-1980s through texts like Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto. It's what we homo sapiens supposedly become when technological enhancements allow us to transcend our biology.
The Posthuman Dada Guide: A hard-edged, rapier-like volume, perfect for sliding into a back pocket of skinny hipster pants or stabbing into the complacent underbelly of bourgeois (or bourgeois-bohemian) society. Authored by NPR commentator and essayist Andrei Codrescu, it offers a headier-than-usual tour of the early-1900s avant-garde, sprinkled with sex appeal for the would-be MySpace-age revolutionary. Jacket blurbs from the likes of Josephine Baker and Aleister Crowley affirm the Guide's period credentials. Meanwhile, the whole thing is a kind of hypertext, composed of cross-referenced "database" entries—so you can't doubt its cyberpunk legitimacy.... more »
Friday, May 1
by Rich on May 1, 2009 09:57AM (PDT)
Fanaticism is often associated with religious practice and its mystical tendencies. In this article on G.K. Chesterton view of the fanatic, the reviewer notes that Chesterton rather associated fanaticism with a particular logic that is derived from mystical experience and not from mystical experience itself.
Today, we often hear it said that “fanaticism” is the consequence of religion, that science is its alternative. If I understand Chesterton's view of both the scientists and Islam, it is that “fanaticism” stems from both. But it comes not from the original mystical insight but rather from the “logic” that flows from it and subsumes all else in its wake. Scientism denies any place for revelation in its “logic.” Islam's “logic” ends up denying secondary causes or an understanding of the divinity in which diversity in the Godhead and Incarnation are impossible. The subduing of the world to Allah is a conclusion not of the mystical insight but of the logic that follows from it.
In the end, “fanaticism” is not a product of mysticism, but of logic. By looking for its causes in the wrong place, we often reveal our own “fanaticisms.” The “fanatical” concern about the religious cause of “fanaticism” has blinded us to the “fanaticisms” that stem from science itself and has caused us to misunderstand what it is within Islam that often makes it so “fanatical.”... more »
Wednesday, April 15
by Rich on April 15, 2009 12:22PM (PDT)
Reference: 100 years of Sri Aurobindo on evolution
Darwin thought that at any given time variations in the forms of organisms were purely random. This is true of the neo-Darwinian view as well. However, recent research has shown that even though mutations are random, the effects of a mutation will be restricted, and may alter only one part or trait of an organism. A good example of the restricted effects of mutation is provided, as Kirschner and Gerhart point out, by the body plans created by Hox genes. Because they are contained within the different compartments of the embryo established by the body plan, individual parts of an animal can evolve independently of each other. For example, the lizard has limbs, the python has vestigial limbs, and the advanced snake has no limbs at all. These variations in limb structure have evolved without major changes in other parts of the body plan.
This independence means that mutations can occur within a single region of an embryo that may or may not be beneficial; in any case, fewer of the mutations will be lethal for the developing organism. In other words, while evolution is constrained by the body plan created by the Hox genes, this constraint gives nature a much greater freedom to experiment with variant forms through random mutations. If there were no body plans with separate parts, most variations would be lethal to the entire organism and evolution would be much, much slower. Suppose we wanted to design new windows for airplanes that would improve the visibility for passengers, resist cabin pressure, and better insulate passengers from the cold. We would test the new window designs without changing their positions on the body of the plane. If we had to redesign the entire plane every time we changed the window design, we would be much slower in developing new and more efficient planes. Similarly, Hox genes can, through mutations, shift the pattern of organization within a part of the embryo, allowing evolution to experiment with new forms, such as wings and longer necks, without affecting other parts of the embryo. more »
Friday, March 20
by Rich on March 20, 2009 09:53AM (PDT)
Therefore, it is ironic to watch those who claim to represent Sri Aurobindo ideals ignore the democratic character of his words and replace them with a militant interpretation of Hindu nationalism. This is evident in its failure to critically assess text that are viewed as hostile to their aspiration to seize the cultural interpretations of powerful institutions. In fact, words themselves are ignored by those claiming speaking rights for Sri Aurobindo. One leader (S) of the movement to censor the The Lives of Sri Aurobindo essentially declared that there is no need to read the book, that one can in fact can judge a book by its cover, or at least a paragraph. He says:
“Some people are insisting on the idea that unless you read the full book you cannot understand the context of a single line in it. That is ridiculous. One can easily see the context from within any complete unit of thought structure -- at the very least a paragraph and at the most a section or chapter" (2008)*
When such irrationality is loosed coupled with the xenophobic nationalism of the aggrieved victim there can only be trouble ahead. more »
A Review of Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe" by Amit Chaudhuri (London Review of Books) Debashish
AntiMatters vol 3 no 4 is out koantum
Classicism, post-classicism and Ranjabati Sircar’s work: re-defining the terms of Indian contemporary dance discourses by Alessandra Lopez y Royo Debashish
LACMA 111909 - Debashish Banerji Debashish
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler