New Special Issue on Description

DESCRIPTION ACROSS DISCIPLINES

edited by Sharon Marcus, Heather Love, and Stephen Best

Number 135, Summer 2016 (read on Highwire)

Now available

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SHARON MARCUS, HEATHER LOVE, and STEPHEN BEST
Building a Better Description (the issue introduction: free access until October 31!)

LIZA JOHNSON
Observable Behavior 1–10 

KATHLEEN STEWART
The Point of Precision

LORRAINE DASTON
Cloud Physiognomy

JOANNA STALNAKER
Description and the Nonhuman View of Nature

GEORGINA KLEEGE
Audio Description Described: Current Standards, Future Innovations, Larger Implications

CANNON SCHMITT
Interpret or Describe?

JILL MORAWSKI
Description in the Psychological Sciences

MICHAEL FRIED
No Problem

Badiou’s Paradox

Heideggerian Mathematics: Badiou’s Being and Event as Spiritual Pedagogy

by Ian Hunter

The essay begins:

This paper is an experiment in redescription and reinterpretation. It seeks to take a text that enunciates a Heideggerian metaphysics of the “event”—understood as an encounter in which a subject meets itself emerging from the “void”—and to treat this text itself as an event in a quite other sense: as an ordinary historical occurrence. I will thus be approaching Alain Badiou’s Being and Event historically, in terms of the publication of a written work, but of a highly particular kind. This is a work whose discursive structure programs a refined spiritual pedagogy, and whose composition and reception only make sense within the historical context of the elite academic-intellectual subculture in which this pedagogy operates.

If we consider that Badiou regards his text as a “metaontology” that enunciates the emergence of events and indeed of historical time itself from the domain of nonbeing, then to treat this work as a kind of writing that occurs wholly within a particular historical subculture will imbue our redescription with an indelibly polemical complexion. It should be noted at the outset, however, that this complexion arises from the choice of a particular intellectual-historical method, rather than from any normative contestation of the content of Badiou’s work. This method or stance treats even the most abstract objects of reflection as products of an open-ended array of historical intellectual arts: rhetorics of argument, formal and informal languages, mathematical calculi, “spiritual exercises,” pedagogical practices. As a result, even a mode of reflection that claims to apprehend its objects at their point of emergence from the “void” and the “unthought” will be described in terms of the contingent historical use of a particular array of such arts. These will be those arts through which a philosophical elite learns to fashion an illuminated self whom it imagines keeping watch at the threshold of the void for the emergence of things newly minted from nonbeing through their naming. It is the task of a certain kind of philosopher to fashion such a self. The task of the intellectual historian, however, is to describe the intellectual arts used in this “work of the self on the self,” and the historical circumstances and purposes governing their transmission and use. Continue reading …

This essay provides a historical redescription and reinterpretation of Alain Badiou’s major work, Being and Event. The work is approached historically, as a text that uses Heideggerian metaphysics to perform an allegorical exegesis of mathematical set theory and does so as a means of fashioning a supremacist spiritual pedagogy for a philosophical elite in the context of a national intellectual subculture.

IAN HUNTER is an emeritus professor in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland, Australia. He has published a number of studies on early modern philosophical, political, and juridical thought, most notably Rival Enlightenments: Civil and Metaphysical Philosophy in Early Modern Germany (Cambridge, 2001). Professor Hunter has also published a series of papers on the history of “theory” in the humanities academy, including “The History of Theory,” Critical Inquiry 33 (2006), and, most recently, “Hayden White’s Philosophical History,” New Literary History 45 (2014).

T. J. Clark Lecture

NASSR 2016 poster finalOn Friday, August 12, T. J. Clark will give one of two keynote lectures for the 24th Annual Conference of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR). The lecture, “Too Deep for the Vulgar: Hazlitt on Turner and Blake,” will take place at 6 pm in room 2050 of the Valley Life Sciences Building at UC Berkeley.

Clark is Professor Emeritus of Modern Art at Berkeley and was a long-time member of the Representations editorial board. His books and other writings, several of which found form originally in Representations, have influenced a generation of scholars.

The NASSR conference will take place from August 11 to 14 at various venues in Berkeley. More information and a full program are available at http://nassrberkeley2016.wordpress.com/.

Fireworks from the Archive

If you need a little respite from neighborhood shenanigans this weekend, consider these two flares from the Representations archive:

Michael Rogin’s “The Two Declarations of Independence”

and

“Glenn Ligon and Other Runaway Subjects” by Huey Copeland

In the former, Michael Rogin asks “What is the bearing of our radicalized national culture on the color-blind innovation of individual rights?” Discussing the American Declaration of Independence in light of the affirmative action debates of the 1990s, Rogin traces the declaration’s legacy through race relations in both the old and the new Hollywoods.

Less well known than Rogin’s other writings on race and film, this short essay appeared in Representations‘ special issue “Race and Representation: Affirmative Action,” edited by Robert Post and Michael Rogin in 1996. The issue quickly went out of print, but is now back in circulation in pdf format.

MICHAEL ROGIN was the author of many books on race, culture, politics, and history, including Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot and Independence Day, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Enola Gay. He taught for many years at the University of California, Berkeley, and was a founding member of the Representations editorial board.

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Am I Not a Man and a Brother? Woodcut, 1837. Courtesy Library of Congress

Am I Not a Man and a Brother? Woodcut, 1837. Courtesy Library of Congress

Huey Copeland’s 2011 essay “Glenn Ligon and Other Runaway Subjects” looks at contemporary artist Glenn Ligon’s multiple engagements with the history of American slavery, particularly as evinced by his 1993 installation To Disembark. As Copeland shows, in casting himself as a runaway slave, Ligon points up the relationships between regimes of power, violence, and resistance that continue to produce black subjects as fugitives in life and in representation.

HUEY COPELAND is Associate Professor of Art History at Northwestern University, where he teaches modern and contemporary art. He is the author of Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America.

Symposium on Imagination

Symposium on the Imagination

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Natura Morta, 1956, Giorgio Morandi

Friday, Feb 19, 2016 | 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

A day-long conversation exploring the riches of the imagination among scholars, including Representations editors and authors David Bates, Victoria Kahn, Anthony Long, Mary Ann Smart, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, and Paula Varsano.

From Death Mask to Portrait Bust

A Case of Corporate Identity: The Multiplied Face of Saint Antonino of Florence

by Urte Krass

The essay begins:

Strolling through an Italian diocesan museum or an exhibition on the art of the Italian Renaissance, a visitor will inevitably encounter many images of saints, alone or in groups, presenting themselves and their attributes to viewers inside and outside the picture within which they are framed. After a while, any reasonably observant viewer will notice that there is one face that stands out from the crowd of painted saints: that of Saint Bernardino of Siena, the Franciscan preacher and vicar general who died in 1444 and was canonized only six years later. One of the innumerable examples of this uniquely recognizable face is Antonio Colantonio’s Saint Francis Giving the Rule to His Disciples in the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples (fig. 1). In the group of men on the left, the saints have been given individual faces by the careful artist. But Bernardino’s face seems markedly different; it seems to stem from our own world, whereas the individualization of the neighboring saints reminds us more of faces in the medieval sample books used in workshops. The beholder’s gaze is compelled by Bernardino’s authentic, emaciated, recognizable features, which are in stark contrast to the other saints’ obviously fictive faces.

KrassPrintFig1

Figure 1

Bernardino of Siena is the first saint whose face, that is, its recognizable physiognomy, is his most important attribute, and the first saint who, thus, can always be recognized even without other identifying characteristics. This is explained mainly by the fact that he was the first Christian saint whose death mask left its traces in further representations of him. Painters and sculptors would copy this mask when they wanted to represent the venerated mendicant friar. As a result, in fifteenth-century Italy, a new visual medium was invented for representing the saints: the veristic saint’s portrait bust, modeled after—or even directly from—the death mask. Continue reading …

This article focuses on the development of portrait busts of saints beginning in the early Renaissance. The category of the portrait bust, which emerged slightly before 1440, is characterized by its reference to—and at times even integration of—the death mask of the recently deceased saint. As such, these images must be seen in close relation to traditional head and bust reliquaries. The particular group of busts showing the features of the Florentine archbishop Antonino Pierozzi is here analyzed through hitherto obscure written sources, and the proliferation of Pierozzi’s bust is then related to that of other saints.

URTE KRASS works as Assistant Professor at the Institute for Art History of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich. Her research focuses on saints’ images from icon to photography, on early artistic theory in the Italian novelle of the fourteenth century, and, more recently, on the political use of images in Portugal and its overseas empire in the early modern period.

 

Call for Proposals

Representations-Townsend Center Collaborative Grant Competition

Starting in the 2015–2016 academic year, Representations will be collaborating with the Townsend Center for the Humanities to present an annual event—a lecture, colloquium, or symposium—to be held on the UC Berkeley campus.

The event will bring together a small number of people from UC Berkeley and beyond, around a focused theme. It is the hope of the sponsors that the events will lead to a special section in, or a special issue of, Representations and/or result in a volume in the Townsend Center’s Berkeley Forum in the Humanities book series.

Up to $5,000 is offered per proposal. Accepted proposals for Spring 2016 will be announced by November 20.

Call for Proposals

  1. Who may apply: All UCB faculty
  2. What to submit: A detailed proposal of up to 750 words, including names of proposed participants and a rough budget
  3. How to submit: Proposals may be sent via email to Representations: reps@berkeley.edu.
  4. Deadline: October 15

 

UC Conference Honors Thomas Laqueur

Conference in Honor of Thomas Laqueur

Helen Fawcett Distinguished Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley

Saturday-Sunday, September 5-6, 2015 | All Day
Social Science Matrix, 8th Floor, Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley

A pioneer of the new cultural history, Thomas Laqueur is a historian who has set intellectual landmarks across a number of fields; he is also a former director of UC’s Townsend Center for the Humanities and one of the founding editors of Representations. Students, friends, and colleagues will gather to celebrate Thomas Laqueur and his contributions to the University of California and his fields of study. Free and open to the public.

An English Printer in China

Universal Brotherhood Revisited: Peter Perring Thoms (1790-1855), Artisan Practices, and the Genesis of a Chinacentric Sinology

by Patricia Sieber

from the essay’s introduction:

The case of Peter Perring Thoms, a printer by trade and a China scholar by inclination, invites us to revisit the postcolonial paradigms that stress the instrumental and statist motivations for nineteenth-century British engagement with China. Thoms (1790–1855) was once lauded in pro-Chartist circles as “the best Chinese scholar England has yet produced,” but his legacy has since been marginalized by the “enormous condescension of posterity.” A printer first in the employ of London firms, then a service sojourner for the British East India Company (EIC) in Macau, and eventually an independent master printer with his own workshop in the heart of London’s print trade, Thoms, in marked contrast to the occupational locations of other, better-studied EIC officials, falls under the rubric of an “artisan.” As scholars have cautioned, the notion of an “artisan” is inherently ambiguous and, on account of the wide variety of trades, organizational structures, and skill levels involved, artisans cannot be characterized by a singular “artisan ideology.” However, while some new trades exceeded the standard definition of an artisan—men working for wages who engaged in unmechanized, skilled labor in workshops—Thoms’s occupation as a printer fits squarely within the ambit of artisanhood that endured long after other trades had been consumed by industrialization. Equally important, Thoms proudly defined himself as a printer, viewing his profession not simply as a way to earn a living, but as a social identity that straddled technical skills and broad learning. Thus, as Mark Bevir has theorized, an artisan like Thoms would have been attuned to and confronted with a different set of traditions, practices, and dilemmas than those of the average EIC official, who was typically destined for the South China trade through hereditary appointments designed to augment family fortunes.250px-Page_from_PP_Thoms_Vases_of_the_Shang_Dynasty

Thoms’s pursuit of Chinese literature and printmaking can be situated within the traditions of radicalism and romanticism. Among the circles of the educated laboring classes in Britain, China began to emerge as a trope of collective theorizing, particularly in the lead-up to and aftermath of what we now, pace the British antiwar coalition, have come to call the first “Opium War” (1839–1842). Certain segments among the working orders in Britain viewed the internationalization of commerce as an economic dilemma of foreign competition in the face of increasing mechanization and a highly unstable labor market. However, in the case of Chinese workers, British concerns over job competition did not become acute until the 1870s, and then primarily in the domain of seafaring. Instead, in the 1830s and 1840s, the radically minded laboring classes in England intent on political reform incorporated the Chinese people into their articulation of the paradoxes of political representation: far from being despotic China’s democratic other, the English government and its military were viewed by these men as a coercive institution that brutalized both the English worker and the ordinary Chinese through targeted state-sanctioned violence. Thoms, though deeply enmeshed in questions of fair pay for Chinese commoners in China and issues of anti-imperialist policymaking in England, nevertheless grounded his engagement with China in a cultural frame. In contrast to the jingoistic caricatures found in popular culture or the often high-minded condescension permeating elite discourse in Britain, Thoms opted for a radically convergent view of Chinese and English cultural production that has only recently come into focus again among modern scholars of this period. Continue reading …

In this essay, Sieber argues that Peter Perring Thoms, a printer in the service of the British East India Company in Macau, fashioned a Chinacentric sinology that cannot be readily subsumed under statist and other instrumental forms of Orientalism. Instead, neither a casual “amateur” nor an institutionally sanctioned “professional,” Thoms pioneered a translation model as a “citizen-scholar” intent on establishing literary and artistic excellence as an imaginative locus to forge transnational bonds of anti-imperialist solidarities between the Chinese and the English.

PATRICIA SIEBER is an Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the Ohio State University and the author of Theaters of Desire: Authors, Readers, and the Reproduction of Early Chinese Song-Drama, 1300–2000 (Palgrave, 2003).

Lenin’s Bodies & Buildings

A pair of essays on Soviet sovereignty and the afterlife of Lenin

File photo of the body of Vladimir Lenin in Moscow

Bodies of Lenin: The Hidden Science of Communist Sovereignty
by Alexei Yurchak

During discussions a few years ago in the Duma about the fate of Lenin’s body, which is displayed in the Lenin Mausoleum on Red Square, Vladimir Medinsky, then a Duma deputy (and now Russia’s minister of culture), suggested that it was time to take this body out of the mausoleum and bury it in the ground. “Do not fool yourselves,” he explained, “with the illusion that what is lying in the mausoleum is Lenin. What’s left there is only 10 percent of his body.” The respected political weekly Vlast’ decided to check this figure. During the autopsy in January 1924, wrote the weekly, Lenin’s brain and organs had been removed. When Lenin was embalmed, his internal liquids were replaced with embalming fluids. Since organs constitute about 17 percent of human body mass, and liquids about 60 percent, Lenin’s body had lost 77 percent of its original matter. Therefore, concluded the weekly, the Duma deputy had gotten it wrong: what is lying in the mausoleum is 23 percent of Lenin’s body, not 10 percent as Medinsky had suggested. Continue reading

YurchakFIG9In this essay, Alexei Yurchak analyzes the project of maintaining the body of V. I. Lenin in the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow for the past ninety years. It focuses on the materiality of this particular body, the unique biological science that developed around the project, and the peculiar political role this body has performed.

ALEXEI YURCHAK is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton, 2006) and is working on the political history of Lenin’s and other communist bodies and the science that developed around the projects of their preservation.

Snow White and  the Enchanted Palace: A Reading of Lenin’s Architectural Cult
by Jonathan Brooks Platt

PlattPrintFig9In 1965 the architect Konstantin Mel′nikov wrote a short memoir of his work on the Lenin Mausoleum, revealing a folkloric source for his 1924 design of the original sarcophagus. Mel′nikov describes his pyramidal glass construction as “a crystal with a radiant play of interior ambient light, suggesting the fairy tale of the sleeping princess.” The reference conflates two literary folk tales: Vasily Zhukovsky’s “Tale of the Sleeping Princess,” a reworking of Charles Perrault’s “Sleeping Beauty,” and Alexander Pushkin’s “Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Heroes,” based on the Grimm brothers’ “Snow White.” Mel′nikov likens the embalmed V. I. Lenin to Zhukovsky’s sleeping princess, but his crystal coffin more directly refers to Pushkin’s dead one. Pushkin also likens death to sleep in his tale. Before being placed in the coffin, the princess “lay so fresh, so quiet, / As if under the wing of sleep, / That she seemed only just not to breathe,” and in the end she rises from the coffin with the cry: “Oh, how long I slept!” Applied to Lenin, this image is remarkably potent. Not only does Mel′nikov suggest the dead leader might be resurrected; he feminizes him as the bride of some future hero. Who will come to smash the coffin, awaken the princess, and live happily ever after? Continue reading

Jonathan Platt’s essay offers a chronotopic reading of V. I. Lenin’s architectural cult and its relation to Soviet sovereignty in the postrevolutionary period, as reflected in the discourse and plans surrounding the Lenin Mausoleum and the Palace of Soviets in Moscow. Central contexts include Andrei Platonov’s novella The Foundation Pit and Russian versions of the “Snow White” tale.

JONATHAN BROOKS PLATT is Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. He works on Russian and Soviet literature and culture with special interests in the late romantic, Stalinist, and contemporary periods.