Updates in Group National Global Imaginaries
This article addresses the most fundamental question in the philosophy of rights. If there are any moral rights, where do they come from and how do we acquire them? The difficulty of answering the question is compounded when asked in relation to universal rights and obligations where the international community in which they function is far less solidarist than at the domestic level. The suggestion is that while answers that presuppose something about the ontology of the person, such as an emphasis on basic needs, or inherent human dignity, are
prevalent, they are a convenient fiction. It is contended that the rights recognition thesis, typically associated with British Idealism, is best exemplified with reference to common law theory, and customary international law, and provides a far more adequate account of what it means to have universal rights and obligations. It is suggested that customary international
law functions in a similar way to how natural law used to function. The article concludes by emphasising the importance of customary international law in articulating the universal obligations of states and holding them to account for their actions. It addresses the question of what it means to have a universal right, and not what universal rights it is desirable to have.
This article presents an ethnography of the evolution of Prometrópole, a slum upgrading project in the Brazilian city of Recife. The project aims to improve the urban infrastructure, eradicate slums and resettle the population. We focus on the project’s first area of intervention, Jacarezinho. We analyze how, from lead-up through implementation, the project gained shape and gradually became real. Participatory procedures were very important in shaping the project that for a long time did not materialize. We argue that the project manifested
itself as a vehicle of modernity that evoked a dream of progress. The population, which never asked for the project, was attracted to this dream, but remained critical. We contend that, although the project partly delivered on its promises, for many slum dwellers it failed to entail a better life. We portray the project’s genealogy, the compromise between different aims, and an echelon of post-project frustrations.
“[A]ll knowledge is encoded as stories.” This sweeping assertion by Roger Schank and Robert Abelson seems designed to provoke (2). 1 But then here’s Mark Turner affirming much the same position: “Narrative imagining—story—is the fundamental instrument of thought” (4). And here’s Merlin Donald asserting that “the narrative mode is . . . the basic product of language” (257). Fredric Jameson called narrative “the central function . . . of the human mind” (13), and Lyotard called it “the quintessential form of customary knowledge” (19). Goranson and Cardier called narrative a “driving imperative” (1), and Robert Storey contended that narrative is “an innate way of knowing, essentially as pre-linguistic in its operations as
conceptualization has proven to be” (84) and, as such, “the ‘deep grammar’ of literature itself” (113). Storey was echoing both Algirdas Greimas and Greimas’s sometime critic Paul Ricoeur, who both preferred the term “narrativity” for this deep pre-linguistic informing capability, with Ricoeur extending its operation well beyond fictive literature, as did most
emphatically Hayden White, who called narrativity a “panglobal fact of culture” (19).
Science has a notorious history of using animals for its experiments. The two most famous of these unfortunate creatures are a canine and a feline, Pavlov’s dog and Schrödinger’s cat. Pavlov’s dog shows all the features of a well-trained, obedient dog: he drools predictably when he hears the sound of a bell. Schrödinger’s cat, by contrast, behaves with the whimsy that should be expected from a self-respecting feline: nobody knows whether he is dead or alive, or maybe even both at the same time, in the box where he has been locked up together with a contraption that has a fifty percent chance of killing him. Another difference between Pavlov’s dog and Schrödinger’s cat is that the dog really existed, while Schrödinger’s cat inhabits a purely imaginary world. The whole scheme is a thought experiment designed by Erwin Schrödinger to explore what his equation actually means for the nature of reality. Fortunately, no
real cat has ever lost one of its lives to what would be otherwise an extreme case of animal abuse. The interpretations of Schrödinger’s cat parable have been legion, and so have been the lives of the famous feline. In this paper, I will use Schrödinger’s cat as a test case for the study of the relations between narrative and science. I will follow the development of the parable
from science to fiction, that is, from its initial appearance as an example meant to make a point in an otherwise abstract, purely argumentative paper, to its narrative emancipation where the cat figures as a character or a symbol in a story worth reading for its own sake.
Ghanaian author Ama Ata Aidoo stands out among today’s many talented and prominent African women writers for her widely acclaimed novels depicting the role of African women in a changing world. Like many people of her generation Aidoo witnessed Ghana’s 1957 transition from British colony to independent state, as well as the conflicting interests and competing power bases that emerged in its post-independence years. Specifically, in the 1980s Ghana went through changes of governments, military coups, and economic downturns that affected not only the rural but also the urban populations. In an era of growing globalization and a new world order such turmoil brought about a new set of changes. This paper analyzes the various social, economic, and cultural conflicts and challenges Ama Ata Aidoo’s female characters experience in her 1991 novel Changes: A Love Story, which takes place mainly in urban environments in West Africa and Europe in the 1980s. It has been praised by many literary critics for its thought-provoking portrayal of African women’s redefined roles in their
post-independence urban environment, and in 1993 it won the
This qualitative study examined the meanings ascribed to the construct “home” by 208 youths defined by mainstream society as “homeless”. Youth narratives on the topic of home ranged across a continuum with home as state at one end (i.e., home is a state of mind, comprised of one’s friends) and home as place at the other (i.e., home as a physical dwelling). Youths employing the former meanings had typically been on the street for longer periods and identified with counterculture-type ideologies. For youths who defined home as place, home was
constructed in direct opposition to street experiences. For both of these groups, control emerged as a central theme in their narratives. The implications of these findings for engaging youth and goal setting regarding exiting the streets are described.
I begin with a simple image, that of the frame; an image to which I will return repeatedly over the following pages, as the central structural conceit of the spatial metatheory of postcoloniality I shall propose. As a visual model for the “classical” postcolonial discourse theories that have given rise to such often-cited notions as cultural hybridity, mimicry, and “writing back,” 1 the notion of the frame, I argue, offers a powerful conceptual tool for negotiating the operational difficulties of such models of postcolonial criticism, for
which neither their originators nor their more recent critics are able fully to account. In particular, I will suggest that what Paul Duro identifies as the frame’s “tendency to invisibility” in critical discourse (1) provides us with an apparatus for locating the ever-shifting sites of agency in the complex critical operations of poststructuralism-inflected postcolonial criticism,
which I shall argue has a tendency to efface its own presence even as it performs its work.
This essay critically examines the nature and scope of postcolonial interdisciplinarity. Although postcolonial studies claims to operate on, and forge in, an interdisplinary approach, its intentions are largely interdiscursive. In spite of the vague and elusive claims evident in the catalogue of introductory texts on postcolonial theory, neither postcolonial theorists nor its exponents have adequately established the disciplinary bounds or their methodological fusion(s) specific to, and required for, interdisciplinarity. Drawing from the disciplinary foundations of literature, history and philosophy, this essay demonstrates that postcolonial theory has developed an implicit oppositional critique to eurocentrism. This oppositional critique, while discursive in intention and formulaic in application, is subsequently borrowed by a host of social science disciplines—anthropology, geography and development studies— as a proxy methodology that protects against the perils of eurocentric longings.
In this article, I draw from ethnographic research conducted in Paris to analyze how new class competencies based on cultural capital in the form of the “authentically global” are acquired, wielded, and reproduced in a global network of web-based groups that organize offline, local events for “international people.” Just as mass media such as radio, television,
newsprint, and the novel have been implicated in the creation of national middle classes, new social media may be connected to the discursive production of a global middle class. Although the development of the national middle classes was key to the nation-building projects of modernity, the production of this global class is fundamental economically and culturally to expanding processes of neoliberal globalization.
This paper compares the response to the hijab in France, Quebec and the rest of Canada to explore the different political cultures of those three polities, the ideals behind them and the modes of repression and tolerance which give meaning to those cultures. More specifically, the paper compares the Stasi Commission in France with the Bouchard-Taylor Commission in Quebec in terms of both process and conclusions. What role do public commissions play in the education of the public against a background of educational institutions charged with that task? In asking that question, the paper explores the role of daily practices in realising that ideal
This article investigates the impact of trade-based social clauses on labor rights enforcement. Drawing on insights from recent theoretical work on transnational advocacy networks and labor rights, the study examines how transnational groups and domestic actors engage the labor rights mechanisms under the NAFTA labor side agreement, the NAALC. A statistical analysis of original data drawn from NAALC cases complements interviews with key participants to analyze the factors that predict whether the three national mediation offices review labor dispute petitions. This study suggests that transnational activism is a key factor in explaining petition acceptance. Transnational advocates craft petitions differently from other groups and, by including worker testimony in the petitions, signal to arbitration bodies the possibility of corroborating claims through contact with affected workers.
This article examines topographies and counter-topographies of power operating transnationally across a range of sites inhabited by asylum-seekers en route between nation-states. In locations such as tunnels, detention centers and islands, journeys across time and space are truncated in myriad ways. For asylum-seekers, temporality is often conceptualized as waiting, limbo or suspension. These temporal zones map onto corresponding spatial ambiguities theorized here as liminality, exception and threshold. A feminist counter-topography of sites along time-space trajectories between states addresses both the architecture of exclusionary enforcement practices that capture bodies, and the transgressive struggles to map, locate, counter and migrate through the time-space trajectories between states. In outlining such counter-topography, the analysis enters into conversation with transnational feminist scholarship on politics of location and differentiation in order to challenge the universal dimensions of Giorgio Agamben’s zones of exception that leave the un-differentiated body always paradoxically outside of juridical order.
Millions of refugees are stuck in camps and cities of the global South without permanent legal status. They wait in limbo, their status unresolved in what the United Nations (UN) calls ‘protracted refugee situations’ (PRS). The material conditions and depictions of such refugees as immobile and passive contributes to a feminization of asylum in such spaces. In contrast, refugees on the move to seek asylum in the global North are perceived as threats and coded as part of a masculinist geopolitical agenda that controls and securitizes their movement. Policies to externalize asylum and keep potential refugees away from the affluent nations of the global North, in which they may seek legal status, represent one strategy of exclusion. This article traces these divergent trajectories of im/mobility and demonstrates how humanitarian space for both groups is narrowing over time. For those seeking asylum in the global North,
measures such as increased detention and rapid return to transit countries aim to deter migrants from arriving at all. It is contended that the discrete systems that manage asylum seekers in the global North and refugees in long-term limbo are themselves gendered. European Union policies to ‘externalize’ asylum and keep asylum seekers offshore dovetail with policies by EU member states to ‘build capacity’ for refugee protection in refugee ‘regions of origin’. These represent a shifting, not a sharing, of responsibility for their welfare and prolongs their wait.
In the 1990s, Canadian scholarship produced internationally accepted differentiations between minority nations and immigration-induced ethnic minorities. Charles Taylor’s concept of Qubcois and First Nations’ ‘deep diversity’ (versus other Canadians’ ‘first level’ membership in the polity) and Will Kymlicka’s liberal theory of ‘multicultural citizenship’ are just two of
the most common examples. However, in these theories, as well as in much of the subsequent scholarship, the relations between different types of national and ethnic struggles for rights and recognition have remained unexplored. Drawing on the results of a study on Central Canadian English-language newspaper discourses during the 1990s, this article examines whether and how images of Qubcois minority nationalism affect legitimizations and delegitimizations of multiculturalism in the public space. The analysis thereby challenges the widespread assumption that the accommodation of historically grown national minorities and ethnic groups of more recent immigrant origin happens in hermetically closed ‘silos’ with little interaction. On the contrary, the article demonstrates that relations between different categories of groups and diversity accommodations are both theoretically plausible and empirically traceable.
In this article I want to put forward an intellectual defence of the political discourse of dialogue of civilisations by challenging the idea that ‘civilisation-based thinking’ is necessarily a conflict-generating factor and arguing that, contrary to fashionable assumptions, a civilisational dialogue that wants to contribute to a more peaceful world order requires, in a qualified way, ‘stronger’ civilisational identities. In particular, I take issue with the academic criticisms to dialogue of civilisations coming from the camp of the critique of the clash of civilisations and well represented by Amartya Sen’s explicit and Edward Said’s more indirect critiques to ‘civilisation-based thinking’: by unveiling their implicit endorsement of the Westphalian/secularist presumption, I will show the counter-intuitive political implications of a dialogue among ‘strong’ civilisational identities and traditions when framed hermeneutically as ‘fusion of horizons’. Finally I provide a supplementary brief illustration to my defence of dialogue of civilisations by criticising Said’s reading of Louis Massignon — the great 20th century French scholar of Islam — as part of Orientalism and suggesting that ‘in diverging agreement’ with Said, Massignon’s work and life stand as a very concrete proof of the possibility of a ‘dialogue of civilisations’ that escapes the yoke of the Orientalist accusations.
Looking at the formation of transnational advocacy networks, this article argues that central aspects evade attention unless approached from a discursive orientation. Utilizing interviews and first-person observation from a particular example of transnational mobilization—critical of negotiations to expand the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on
Trade-in-Services—the article demonstrates how an expanded focus on discourse can help research better understand: (1) the self-driving momentum within networks through which those actors involved experience a reconstituted identity and affinity to one another; (2) the role played by earlier moments of collective action in providing both an infrastructure of pre-existing relations and politicization from which the network may draw upon; (3) the often porous character of campaign activity where there is rarely one but, in fact, many overlapping networks at play as part of a much wider discursive process; and (4) the role abstract signifiers such as ‘global’—as in ‘Global Campaign for …’—play in framing the network despite an often uneven geographic distribution to campaign activity and power within the network
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Rivane Neuenschwander, “Pangaea’s Diaries,” 2008 (Still). image from e_flux