TRADITION AND THE MODERN Workshop Four: What Price the Modern? 4-6 May 2004 Foster Court 114, UCL Project Leader: Professor Timothy Mathews (French, UCL) Research Assistant: Dr Ross Forman CORE READINGS: Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” in Illuminations, pp. 245-255. (AKA “On the Concept of History”). [Full text available at http://www.tasc.ac.uk/depart/media/staff/ls/WBenjamin/CONCEPT2 .html] Judith Butler, “Restaging the Universal: Hegemony and the Limits of Formalism” in Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left, pp. 11-43. Johannes Fabian, “Our Time, Their Time, No Time: Coevalness Denied” in Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object, pp. 37-70. Leo Ou-Fan Lee, “Remapping Shanghai” in Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China, 1930-1945, pp. 3-42. Fredric Jameson, “Marxism and Postmodernism” in The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern 1983-1998, pp. 33-49. ABSTRACTS: Aet Annist (Social Anthropology, UCL) The Irony of Modernising Traditional Communities: The Case of Setos The presentation is primarily based on the history chapter of my thesis, which discusses the history of communities in Estonia and in Seto country, a culturally different area that was reunited to Estonia after 700 years of being part of Russia. During the process of modernisation in the early 20th century, independent Estonia made every effort to modernise Setos, which had been immersed in "backwards"Russian traditions. A particular emphasis was given to overcoming its traditional commonality. The "modern community" was seen as an Modernity 4 Abstracts 2 institutionalised entity in the form of voluntary organisations, various producer and consumer unions and cultural organisations such as choirs, brass bands etc. I will discuss the effects of such efforts on Seto identity. Finally, I will briefly outline the current visions of commonality (which is the main topic for my thesis) in which the Seto area comes out as the most successful modern rural region precisely due to its traditionalism. Paul Bandia (French, Concordia) Translation as Mediation: From Orality to Writing, from Tradition to the Modern This presentation is about the role translation plays in negotiating the links, or the interface, between tradition and the modern in the representation of an orally-based language culture in a western metropolitan idiom. The discussion is based on the premise that writing the oral tradition of a colonized people in the language of the colonizer can be likened to a translation process akin to negotiating the boundaries between tradition and the modern in the postcolony. Translation is understood here in its metaphorical sense of displacement or transportation of the Other from a familiar base of tradition to an alien colonizing context of the modern. Several related questions, including those proposed for this workshop, are addressed: To what extent is the writing of oral narratives in postcolonial fiction a quest for a voice or a sense of identity within the context of the modern? How does one characterize such transpositions in terms of modernity, and does modernism necessarily imply the loss of tradition? Can translation as mediation between tradition and the modern be used to counter the effects of empire; can there be modernity without empire? The role of translation in negotiating the passage from orality to writing can throw light on the connections between tradition and the modern in the postcolonial context. I’ll be addressing Johannes Fabian’s text, and Leo Ou-Fan Lee’s to a certain extent. Elleke Boehmer (English, Royal Holloway) Modernity, Jameson and Terror The focus of my presentation will be to explore the link that exists between the act of terror, and modernity, given that terrorism, in its incarnation as anarchism, and its manifestation as dynamite explosion, was born with the late nineteenth century modern world. Using Jameson's article I want to ask whether, far from being an irruption of 'the barbaric' or primitive, the terroristic act represents an often pressurized if not desperate attempt by marginalised groups to seize hold of the rights and privileges of modernity. June Boyce-Tillman (Applied Music, King Alfred’s) Modernity 4 Abstracts 3 Music and Spirituality: The Price of Modernity This presentation will suggest that the fracture of the link between music and spirituality was made complete in the modernist project reinforced by the demands of the Academy. It will set out a model of various interacting lenses through which music can be viewed and how spirituality was systematically excluded and devalued in the work of analysts and critics. It will examine the reemergence of notions of spirituality within the work of composers like John Tavener and how these link up with notions of spirituality in the wider society. Work Referenced: Ways of Knowing (2005) ed. Chris Clarke, Imprint Academic. Simon Gikandi (English, Princeton) Modernity and the Question of Time In my presentation I will return to the question of modernity and the politics of time, focusing on an issue that has haunted theories of modernity, especially in regard to Africa: When and what was modern time? How is it represented in narrative and lived experience? How is it connected to what Benjamin called the destruction of tradition? I will use sections of Fabians work on temporality to explore how modernity (and modernism) systematically invented the other as a product of a time that is apprehensible only in its pastness or temporal emptiness. I will then show that the idea of Africa as an entity that belongs to the past, or one that is located outside time, continuously comes face to face with the pressing demands for a narrative of what Benjamin calls the Now-time; I will argue that it is only by transcending and destroying the dichotomous narrative of time that we can imagine experiences beyond what has come to be known as the discourse of Afro-pessimism. Hung Bin HSU (History, SOAS) Universalised Bodies?: The Experiences of Opium Smokers in Modern Taiwan In the 19th and early 20th centuries, opium was widely used in both China and Taiwan as a kind of medicine and recreation. At the same time, a series of important international events occurred in East Asia that centrally involved opium. Owing to this distinguishing characteristic, it comes no surprise that extensive historical researches have been done on history of opium, especially on the famous case in China. But the history of opium in China is confusing. Not only have different historians chosen different stances, but also people produced contradictory statements on opium in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, when opium users talked about the reason they started to use opium, some of them said that it is because Modernity 4 Abstracts 4 opium can cure their diseases, such as diarrhea and cough, or fulfill their life energy. But on the other hand, we also find people claiming that their life energy and money were flowing away because of opium, and claiming that even the Chinese nation and race was weakened by the drug. How do we deal with these kinds of contradictory statements? Is opium beneficial or harmful? In other words, what is the ‘nature’ of opium? In this article, I try to clarify this dilemma through an approach of body experiences. I borrow this idea from historian Shigehisa Kuriyama, who clearly shows us how ancient Chinese people felt/perceived a different body, and how this idea of body could be linked to the cosmology of the ancient Chinese. In the first part of my argument, I reconstruct the body that opium users perceived when they were lying on the bed and smoking opium pipe and establish the relation between this body image and social image of opium. In the second part of this article, I discuss the medical practice which was forcibly imposed on opium users in the early 20th-century Taiwan and show how modern medicine could transform the body of opium users into an uncivilized one, and then discipline it into a new, modern one. Focusing on the techniques and knowledge produced by modern medicine, I show how the history of opium in Taiwan can be an important case study to emphasise the role that medicine and science played in the process of modernisation. Svend Erik Larsen (Comparative Literature, Aarhus, Denmark) Cohesion through Narrative: A Literary Paradox It is commonly accepted that all human cultures, independently of their status in relation to any variety of Modernity, produce and reproduce narratives, and that narratives serve a number of basic functions for the constitution of both individual and collective identities in different historical settings. Through narratives we imagine ourselves in time and space interacting with others with the possibility of judging this social space and its media of interaction from various point of views and maybe also by way of a panoply of narrators. This cross-cultural status of narration is a necessary precondition enabling us not only to posit tradition as a theoretical possibility, but actually to practice it across historical and cultural boundaries. If this continuous and simultaneously transformative if not subversive practice by way of narratives is central to Modernity, it follows that the traditional narrative may be contested but never annihilated without the destruction of this necessary practice as a corollary. From this point of view, narratives offer first of all a cultural instrument, and only secondarily a fictional strategy. But when fictionality comes into play, often manifested as a pronounced fictional selfawareness, a paradox is produced Modernity 4 Abstracts 5 which is important for Modernism and calls for a theoretical reflection. The cohesiveness produced by narratives, also when it refers to real events, then stands out as a construction, the more convincing the more constructed. Thus, narratives offer a double-edged cultural instrument that latently separates its cohesiveness from its reality claim and thus makes cultural identities unstable through the very way they are created. By sheer repetition, innocently as it were, of the narrative practice, called tradition, this immanent contradiction may be obfuscated or entirely overlooked. The huge bulk of culturally active narratives that abound in various verbal and non-verbal media today shows it. Only a theoretical reflection will be able to maintain the full paradoxical nature of narratives, and thereby also maintain, on the one hand, a critical stance to the actually produced narratives and, on the other, reveal the dynamics sparked by the paradox for the transformation of narratives in cultural history. The paper will explore this process by briefly pointing to a few relatively new salient forms of narrative in present day mainly Western culture. Jenny Lee (Chinese Film, SOAS) Viewing the Sixth, the Seventh, or No Generation Whatsoever: Xu Jinglei and Contemporary Female Directors in Mainland China Mainland China's contemporary film scene is fraught with a history of conflicting modernities that encompasses: cultural imperialism around the turn of the 20th century, pre-revolutionary modernism of the 1920s and 1930s, civil war and foreign invasion, giant overhauls of art for society's sake and the development of socialist realism, followed by the dramatic strides of ambitious directors ever since the Cultural Revolution and the birth of global industry that we see today. It is the movements of women in this final category with which my research is primarily concerned. I will discuss the work of one of China's newest young female directors, Xu Jinglei, who has already garnered critical success with her directorial debut, “Me and Dad” (2003), followed by the more polished and commercially successful “Letter from an Unknown Woman” (2004). The quality of her filmmaking, its critical reception, and its overall significance for the status of female directors in Chinese cinema are the three main concerns of this paper. Miriam Leonard (Classics and Ancient History, Bristol) Historicizing Antigone: Derrida and the Politics of Reception This paper examines a particular methodological fault-line which has polarised the study of the reception of classical texts. The ‘textual’ versus the ‘historical’ approach to the Classical Tradition underlies many of the most important questions facing classicists today. The paper maintains that these two perspectives can and should be performed side by side. It argues from an Modernity 4 Abstracts 6 ethical/political perspective that the distance between past and present, in other words the historical dimension of reception should be celebrated rather than erased in the encounter between modern reader and classical text. For it is precisely in this distance between antiquity and the present that a space for the political reading of the Classics is created. The paper takes as its central example Derrida’s reading of the Antigone in Glas. Or more precisely, Derrida’s reading of Hegel’s reading of Sophocles’ Antigone. In its passage through Hegel, Derrida’s Antigone parades the myth of an unmediated return to an ‘originary’ classical text. And yet, it is precisely by insisting on the historical dimension of Hegel’s appropriation that Derrida is able to perform his deconstructive commentary. In the Derridean reading Hegel’s textual appropriation of Sophocles cannot be kept separate from the political histories of antiquity and modernity. Timothy Mathews (French, UCL) Modernism and Oblivion Benjamin reports a remark made to him in 1934 by Brecht: ‘Depth doesn’t get you anywhere at all. Depth is a separate dimension, it’s just depth – and there’s nothing whatsoever to be seen in it.’ Benjamin’s reply, broadly, is that the ‘true measure of life is in memory’. These two positions suggest much about the conflicts between these two seekers of revolution, each seeking a reconciliation of the useful and the aesthetic which the rise of Stalinism and Fascism made such an urgent issue to them. Perhaps different ideas of the modern are at stake here also, and the struggles to reconcile them: between Enlightenment Modernism and the Avant-Garde; between synchronic and psychoanalytic approaches to history. The proposition here is that if psychoanalysis has a part to play in Avant-Gardist radicalism, it is in terms of its legacies of oblivion, its theory knowledge derived from the fact that we forget. What idea of history or society could be built on that? Answers may be provided by looking at the practices of Blanchot, Giacometti and Sebald. Montre Aza Missouri (Africa, SOAS) Representations of Yoruba Spirituality and Cultural Identity in Nigerian Film and Video Abstract not provided. Jonathan Monroe (Comparative Literature, Cornell) Composite Cultures, Chaos-World Understanding form, in the poet Robert Creeley's formulation, as an extension of content, content as an extension of form, what challenges do Walter Benjamin's Modernity 4 Abstracts 7 “Theses on the Philosophy of History” pose for contemporary readers in the aftermath of 1989 and 9/11? How do we read now, on the other side of the Cold War context that framed the text's initial reception, its famous call for a criticalhistorical “tiger's leap” that would allow us to construct a Marxian constellation between past and present? Have the modernist principles at work in the text's formal composition (montage, disjunction, disruption) retained their aesthetic and political resonance, value, and effect? From the present perspective, in the age of globalization and the postcolonial, what legacy remains from the “Theses,” in particular, for contemporary poetry and what Edouard Glissant has called a “poetics of relation”? Laura Mulvey (History of Art, Film, and Visual Media, Birkbeck) The 'New Woman': Envisaging Utopian Tradition in an Emblem of Modernity As a point of departure, the paper will take two small points in Walter Benjamin's ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’: his use of the terms ‘image’ and ‘arrest’ to reflect on cinema as a medium in which the flow of the past, and thought about it, may be halted. Returning to certain films of the late 1920s, the paper will consider the ‘new woman’ as an image of modernity's unfulfilled future, an imaginary tradition to which the present might look back politically as well as nostalgically. Wen-Chin Ouyang (Near and Middle East, SOAS) TBA Abstract not provided. Dimitris Papanikolaou (Modern Greek, Oxford) Modernity's Utopics: Rereading the Fascination with Popular Culture Abstract not provided. Modernity 4 Abstracts 8 Jan Parker (Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology, Open University) ‘What’s He to Hecuba...’ or to Us?: Brecht's Fallacy of the Pathetic ‘What’s he to Hecuba or Hecuba to him that he should weep for her?’ That is the question! Or rather questions: What two-way (he to Hecuba as well as Hecuba to him) relationship affects over time, culture and language? Why does he (the actor, the rememberer, the witnesser) weep? Should he (the Player) weep? Or in Brecht’s word is that ‘barbaric’? A similarly complex performative and metatheatrical layering as that in Hamlet’s “Mousetrap” surrounds one of the most “pathetic” scenes in Greek tragedy: Sophocles’ Electra weeping over Orestes’ supposed ashes. This scene generated one of Brecht’s most swingeing attacks on the “barbarism” of enacted pathos; an attack expressed differently but congruently about Fiona Shaw’s very immediately affecting playing of the role in Belfast. I want to argue that pathos is generated in fact by three distancing devices. And to consider four different models of how a play “affects” over time and space, continuity, revivification, tradition, discontinuity; four models which may (but I will hope the discussion will explore this) map onto four passages in Benjamin’s “On the Concept of History”. Ian Patterson (English, Cambridge) Time, Verse and Translation Abstract not provided. Christopher Prendergast (Kings College, Cambridge) Walter Benjamin and the Price of the Modern This presentation will be centred on Walter Benjamin's ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, by way of two interrelated questions: first what is entailed by the first term of our topic, the term ‘price’ in the title, 'The Price of the Modern’?. The second question engages the other term ‘modern’ and the famous pair ‘modernity/modernism’, as a semantic question but also, and inextricably, a temporal one, a ‘when’ as well as an ‘is’ question, namely ‘when was/is Modernity 4 Abstracts 9 modernity?’. Both questions converge on the answers we might imagine Benjamin's text giving to the overarching question of the ‘price of the modern’. Modernity 4 Abstracts 10 João Cezar de Castro Rocha (Letters, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) Burning or Building Museums? Modernity, Tradition, and Nostalgia" Abstract not provided. Christopher Rosenmeier (Chinese, SOAS) Representations of Tradition in the Fiction of Shi Zhecun and Xu Xu In the early 1930s, Shi Zhecun wrote several modernist short stories which incorporated elements of traditional Chinese fiction in novel ways. By going against contemporary trends, Shi made an avant-garde statement of protest in the literary field of the time. Yet some years later another author, Xu Xu, used similar techniques to achieve quite different effects. Xu wrote playfully romantic pieces that became enormously popular at the time. This presentation looks at how tradition is represented in a few works by these two authors and how different cultural contexts set the meaning of their works apart. George Rousseau (Modern History, Oxford) Nostalgia in the Time of Modernism: Nostalgia's Third Phase •Text Engaged: Johannes Fabian •Research question number 2: ‘Must modernity involve nostalgia?’ This talk configures some of nostalgia's genealogies by focusing on its third phase - Nostalgia in the Time of Modernism - in an attempt to characterize how Modernist nostalgia differed from its forebears and, especially, from its principal successor, Postmodernist nostalgia. It claims that nostalgia is inherent in the human condition; that what distinguishes its hallmark-features in any epoch, movement or writer-artist are local circumstances and conditions defined by time and place and cultural vectors, especially in the political, socio-economic and nationalistic realms. Specifically, it demonstrates how Modernist nostalgia broke off from its Romantic ancestor. Maria Aparecida Andrade Salgueiro (Letters, State University of Rio de Janeiro/CNPq, Brazil) Facing the Edge: The Role of Translation in Particular Cultural Contexts Departing from topics discussed in the second workshop, this presentation concentrates on cross-cultural translation. Mainly referring to Jameson, Fabian and Butler, it will touch issues of power, gender and geopolitics in the study of translation and intercultural communication as far as Afro-American and AfroBrazilian texts are concerned. Discussing transformation and re-enunciation in some of these texts, it deals with the role of translation in negotiating the Modernity 4 Abstracts 11 connections between tradition to the modern, as well as contributing to the broad scope of discussions under the title of the present workshop, “What Price the Modern?”. Modernity 4 Abstracts 12 Saeed Zeydabadi-Nejad (Media, SOAS) The New Iranian Cinema: The Traditional Clergy under Social Critique Iranian cinema has played an important role in the social critique of state ideology in Iran both before and after the 1979 revolution. In the 1960s and the 1970s, the filmmakers’ criticism was aimed at the state’s modernisation ideology and its devastation of traditional lifestyles. In the post-revolutionary period, filmmakers have critiqued from a modern perspective the traditionalisation of Iran under the ayatollahs. I argue that the engagement of the filmmakers with modernity during the post-revolution period demonstrates that modernity need not be viewed negatively in this context. While it is a singular phenomenon of Western origin, once modernity spread to non-Western societies it has become indigenised and has hence diverged from the Western trajectory and therefore its examination requires attention to the local socio-historical context. It is precisely this context in Iran which is the focus of my paper. Ayelet Zohar (Slade School of Fine Art, UCL) The Paintings of Ibrahim Nubani: Modernism, Assimilation and Schizophrenia Ibrahim Nubani (1960- ), is a Palestinian-Israeli artist, born to a Palestinian family in Kafr Makr, a graduate of B’zalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, who later represented Israel in various prestigious international shows (Venice Biennale 1986, group exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York 1990, etc.) In 1989, after his great success in the local and international scene, and a short time after the outbreak of the first Intifada in the occupied territories (late 1988), Nubani underwent a schizophrenic crisis, left the art scene, returned to his parents’ village in the northern part of Israel, and disappeared from the public space altogether. Schizophrenia – normally defined as a situation in which it is impossible for a person to relate to the reality outside, becomes a very problematic diagnosis, in this case, when the reality proves itself to be incoherent, sending double messages, and causes a person to lose a solid and clear point of reference to his own circumstances. This crisis, and its result – a series of recent paintings (from 2000 on)—is what I am interested in. My reading of Nubani’s personal crisis and his art, is of a position of a process of internalization of the “schizophrenic reality” he was born into as a Palestinian–Israeli, causing an impossible reality to cope with. As a result of this crisis, Nubani deserted the route of assimilation and modernization (on the terms and style of Jewish-Israeli society), and chose to identify with his non-Modernist Palestinian background. Accordingly – he changed his painting style from highly geometrical decorative abstract designs and patterns, into Modernity 4 Abstracts 13 expressive oriental emotional schemes of colours and composition, with strong iconography that links him back to his Palestinian roots. In my paper I discuss the distortion of one’s personal identity as offered by the Modernist experience, the denunciation of Modernism, and the return to relative segregation, as a Post-Modern critical point of view.