216 Chapters
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Medium 9780253020659

Introduction: Mediterraneans and Migrations in the Global Era

Hakim Abderrezak Indiana University Press ePub

I am neither French nor Moroccan, I am in between. I am Spanish!

—Mustapha Al Atrassi

The end of summer at the port of Melilla, a Spanish enclave in northern Morocco. Arabic music played loudly, drowning out the conversations of families in cars and vans. It was late at night in this remnant of Spain’s protectorate. About an hour earlier, the drivers were directed to form lines near the ferryboat so that Spanish customs security employees could check vehicles and identification papers. I was seventeen years old when, at this same port, I watched a dog sniff out a teenager hidden in a bag tucked under the feet of the rear seat passengers in the car parked in front of us. As my family waited to be searched, we observed the entire episode. From inside our car, we saw the frightened teenager being taken away, gasping for air and sweating heavily. We never knew what became of him or the other people in that vehicle. Every September on our way back to France, we would see young men walking back and forth on the rampart that overlooked the docks. They would get as close as possible to vehicles waiting to board the ferry in hopes of catching a ride. The vigilant agents of the Guardia Civil relentlessly chased the migrant hopefuls away. On one particular trip, I saw a young man try to board our ship by climbing up an anchor rope. Alerted by the cheering of travelers, agents ran to the ferry and attempted to shake the man off his precarious perch on the rope. The crowd grew anxious when he seemed likely to fall to the ground. Moroccan strangers were imploring God’s help. Some women covered their eyes, anticipating a tragic end. A few passengers were screaming. Two couples, however, who happened to be taking an evening walk took in the scene with seeming amusement, probably because they were accustomed to witnessing such events. The man was finally captured upon reaching the deck and then escorted into the rear of the patrol van and driven away in the night. This was one of several encounters I had with this type of chase on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar.

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Medium 9780253000958

Wildness

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Hope caught me by surprise a couple of weeks ago, when the last snow of winter hit town on the first day of spring. It was a heavy, slashing snow, stinging the skin, driven by a north wind. Because the temperature was near freezing, the flakes clung to everything. A white streak balanced on telephone wires, on clotheslines, on every branch and twig and bud. Many buds had already cracked open after a spell of warm days, so we fretted over the reckless early flowers and eager trees. By noon, snow piled a foot deep, and more kept falling. The few drivers who ventured out usually wound up spinning their wheels in drifts. Soon even the four-wheelers gave up and the city trucks quit plowing and the streets were abandoned to the storm.

I made the first blemish on our street by going out at dusk for a walk. The light was the color of peaches, as if the sky were saturated with juice. The clinging snow draped every bush with a lacy cloak. Even fire hydrants and cars looked rakish in their gleaming mantles. I peeled back my parka hood to uncover my ears, and heard only the muffled crunching of my boots. Now and again a siren wailed, a limb creaked, or wind sizzled through the needles of a pine, but otherwise the city was eerily silent, as though following an evacuation. In an hour I met only three other walkers, each one huddled and aloof. The weight of snow snapped branches and toppled trees onto power lines, leaving our neighborhood without electricity. As I shuffled past the dark houses, beneath unlit street lamps, through blocks where nothing moved except the wind, my mood swung from elation toward dismay. The snow began to seem a frozen burden, like a premonition of glaciers, bearing down from the heedless, peach-colored sky. The world had been radiantly simplified, but at the price of smothering our handiwork and maiming trees and driving warm-blooded creatures into hiding.

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Medium 9780253019028

From That Stranded Place

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

Taiye Selasi with Aaron Bady. Photo by Mike McGraw at The Daily Texan. ©2014

a conversation with Taiye Selasi

TAIYE SELASIS REPUTATION precedes her. Before she published her first novel in 2013, the celebrated Ghana Must Go, she was already well-known as the author of “Bye Bye Babar,” a very small essay that asked a big question, “What is an Afropolitan?” The answer, she wrote, was a young and beautiful generation of international Africans like her. “We are Afropolitans,” she wrote, “not citizens but Africans of the world.” In the decade since then, the term has become strangely polarizing, almost notorious. On the one hand, it’s been taken up as banner for Brand Africa in the twenty-first century; there’s a magazine called Afropolitan and you can buy “handmade and designer accessories such as jewelry, bags and shoes” from The Afropolitan Shop. But as the term has been commodified (quite literally), there has been a backlash, not only against Taiye Selasi and the idea of the Afropolitan, but against the bourgeois aesthetic that many have taken them to represent, a twenty-first-century black Atlantic that many have taken to be at odds with more explicitly politicized versions of African diasporic culture. Binyavanga Wainaina, for example, made waves at the 2013 UK African Studies Association by declaring, in his keynote address, that “I am a Pan-Africanist, not an Afropolitan.”

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Medium 9780253220042

1. Santa Claus in Baghdad

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM IRAQ (2000)

 

Amal listened gloomily to the little speech that Mr. Kareem had prepared. He spoke in a halting fashion, almost as though he were making an apology, but clearly he was as happy as a bird.

“And I know,” he concluded, “that my students will greet their new teacher with respect and helpfulness, and will show how well Mr. Kareem has taught them about our glorious literary heritage.” He laughed awkwardly at his little joke, and some of the girls responded with polite smiles.

A shy bachelor, Mr. Kareem inspired more respect than affection among his students. Many complained of his tough assignments and rigorous grading, although Amal thought he was quite fair. In any case, no one could deny that Mr. Kareem taught with competence and, in his stammering way, enthusiasm. He loved the works of the old poets and tried valiantly to convey to his students the richness of Arabic literature.

Another teacher leaving us, thought Amal. How many—four this fall?

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Medium 9780253018632

On the Sounds of Haiti · Fiction

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

excerpt from La belle amour humaine (2011)

Lyonel Trouillot

Translated from French by Laurent Dubois

IN THIS EARLY passage from Lyonel Trouillot’s recent novel La belle amour humaine, a Haitian guide, who has just picked up a European visitor at the airport, offers this typology of the sounds of Port-au-Prince.

. . . HERE, WHERE life is afraid of silence. Here, if you wake up unprepared to go into battle, there is no life ahead. Bread is hunted like prey, and since there is not enough for everyone, noise has replaced hope. What you saw at the airport, twenty porters for a single suitcase, babbling in every language, that’s nothing. Wait until you see the city center. We’ll have to cross it, wade through the noise until we get to the Northern station. Despite their best efforts, foreigners often lose their sense of hearing as they confront things, animals, humans all equal in their right to make a din. Pots and pans. Mufflers. Shouters selling everything, from elixirs to antibiotics by way of skin-lightening cream and pills that make you fat. Bureaucrats from the mayor’s office chasing away market-women selling grains, fruits, and vegetables on the sidewalk. The speeches of volunteers from the Public Health department celebrating the virtues of mother’s milk and hand-washing. No one can listen all at once to so much noise in opposition, in contradiction, puncturing your eardrums to stuff your head with the illusion of movement. The lines in front of the Immigration Office and the Ministry of Social Affairs, the threats of security agents and the reactions of the crowd—go screw yourself, we’ve been waiting for weeks. Motorcycle-taxis threading their way between cars. Money-changers who sell you counterfeit money at the precise daily rate and wave their bills in the faces of passersby to attract clients. Traffic police chatting with their mistresses in the middle of the street. Pedestrians who run into each other and argue about whose fault it was. In the city center, noise is like poverty, you never get to the end of it. Whenever you think you’ve circumscribed poverty in the neighborhoods built for it, it overflows and stands up elsewhere. Noise, here, is the same way. There’s no way to make a list. The cistern trucks that whine and drip as they climb the hills. Big children. Little children. The still-children who make children. Errant bullets. Crazy prophets announcing the end of the world and reproaching you for not having accepted Jesus as your personal savior. The sirens of official motorcades. Sidewalk vendors’ radios, spitting out the cycle of bad news and winning lottery numbers. The crowd shouting after a thief. The thief who slips into the crowd and shouts louder than anyone else. Dog fights—on one side the small ones, on the other the big, just as it is among human beings, the small ones who run away crying about their defeat before charging back to be beaten once again by the big ones. The audience made up of porters, and the unemployed who are sick of seeing the same spectacle, even if it’s free, and pick up sticks to disperse the crowd. And like life, noise has its moods. If you pay attention, you’ll be able to distinguish between sounds of rage and those of waiting or fatigue. Here, noise is the only proof of the difficult duty of existing, and it never rests. When you’ve lost everything else, there’s nothing but time to lose. Listen to the sound of lost time. Soul-less shoes scraping the pavement. Droves. Demonstrations. Widows marching on the Champ de Mars demanding justice for their assassinated husbands, for whom living didn’t do them much good but whose tragic death has made sympathetic; victims of swindlers at the Treasury waiting in vain for their investments to be reimbursed; garbage collectors demanding a month of back pay walking in the garbage. Soccer-game commentators advertising imported rice and mantègue and bark even when nothing is happening on the field. Compas. The crazed decibels of public buses. The sizzle of wrought-iron welders’ soldering irons plugged into clandestine outlets. The agents from the electrical company unplugging the cables. Gatherings around epileptics fallen stiff in front of stores. Even death and nostalgia are part of the concert . . . Listen. All these sounds of life making fun of life. What it was and what it still is . . . The ‘yesterday it was’ of old men who cross the street with eyes lost in the paradise of memory and get yelled at by drivers. The fans of Vieux Tigre (le Violette) and the fans of Vieux Lion (le Racing) who talk only about old times because, today, despite their pompous names of jungle animals, Vieux Lion, my ass, Vieux Tigre, my eye, are nothing more than peaux de chagrin. The sad steps of shoes white with dust of poor parents following the sluggish hearse of the funeral procession. A naked woman, crying and telling passersby—pray for me, mister, understand me madam—the story of a mad love affair. Roving music bands who don’t wait for Mardi Gras to offer music. Students sent home from private schools because of lack of payment wandering the streets and making up new nicknames for the mad. The mad who turn around and pursue the students, throwing stones and insults. The . . .

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Medium 9780253356864

11. Fashion

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

“Economy”’s review of life’s necessities—food, clothing, shelter—quickly becomes Thoreau’s occasion for dismissing fashion: “As for Clothing …, we are led oftener by the love of novelty, and a regard for the opinions of men, in procuring it, than by a true utility” (18). Although this proto-Marxist critique of exchange-value initially appears as simply part of Thoreau’s recipe for improving our condition by reducing our needs, his later declaration that “our whole life is startlingly moral” (148) confirms Walden’s insistence on erasing the practical/moral distinction so eagerly maintained by Concord’s Sunday churchgoing businessmen. Hence the constant slippage between economic and spiritual terms, whose overlap appears in one of Thoreau’s favorite words: value. Hence, too, the immediate mobilization of fashion’s ethical dimension: “I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience” (18).

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Medium 9780253000958

Voyageurs

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

In morning mist on a northern river, a slab of stone tumbled from a boulder into the water, where it came to life and floated, turning into a sleek black head that swam in circles dragging a V of ripples behind it. A beaver, I thought, as I watched from shore. But no sooner had I named it than the creature bobbed up and then dove, exposing a long neck and humped back and pointed tail. Not a beaver, I realized, but an otter. I was pleased to find a label for this animate scrap, as though by pinning the right word on the shape-shifter I could hold it still.

Presently a second otter, then a third and fourth broke free of the boulder and slithered down into the mercury sheen of the river. They dove without a splash, their tails flipping up to gleam like wands in the early sunlight, and they surfaced so buoyantly that their forepaws and narrow shoulders lifted well out of the water. Then one after another they clambered back onto the rock and dove again, over and over, like tireless children taking turns on a playground slide.

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Medium 9780253018595

Remembering SA-I-GU

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

an interview with Dai Sil Kim-Gibson

DAI SIL KIM-GIBSON is the co-director, along with Christine Choy, of Sa-I-Gu, an acclaimed documentary film about the Los Angeles riots that focuses on the perspectives of Korean American women. The film’s title literally translates to “4-2-9,” or April 29, which is what many Korean Americans call the uprising in keeping with the Korean practice of naming important events by their date. PBS broadcasted Sa-I-Gu in 1993, and since then, the film has been screened in many venues, including numerous film festivals and universities.

Kim-Gibson left Korea in 1962 to pursue graduate studies in the United States. After holding positions with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New York State Council on the Arts, she decided in 1988 to devote herself to filmmaking. In addition to Sa-I-Gu, she is the director of Wet Sand: Voices from L.A. and Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women. The latter film was critical in raising awareness about the Japanese military’s practice of forcing Korean women into sexual servitude during World War II. Kim-Gibson is also the author of the recent book, Looking for Don: A Meditation, which brings together writings she composed after the passing of her husband. She is the first Korean American filmmaker granted official permission to film in North Korea, where she herself was born. Both personal and historical, her film on North Korea, People Are the Sky, is in the editing stage and set to be completed in 2014.

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Medium 9780253356864

20. Leaving Walden

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Walden’s celebration of Thoreau’s glorious twenty-six months in the woods leaves almost all of its readers with a stark question: why did he choose to leave? The book’s “Conclusion,” of course, offers one explanation, but its laconic offhandness has never proved very satisfying:

I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. (217)

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there”—what could that sentence mean? In “Where I Lived and What I Lived For,” Thoreau had already spelled out his reason for going to the pond: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach” (65). With its senses of care, consideration, and unhurriedness, deliberately does a lot of work in that passage, endowing Thoreau’s move to the woods with the aura of an existential choice. As he set about finishing Walden, Thoreau had certainly come to recognize that choice as the decisive one of his life, the one that had given him the most immediate happiness and prompted the writing that would establish his reputation.

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Medium 9780253018571

“Is Viola Davis in it?”

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

2013 WAS LAUDED as a “Renaissance Year” for black films within the Hollywood movie industry. Notably, the films 42, Fruitvale, The Butler, 12 Years a Slave, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom shared the quality of having an extraordinary black male character at the center of their stories. With characters ranging from an athlete, a victim of police brutality, a butler, a slave, and a political leader, the diversity of black male roles is telling. Each film set out to represent a real person: each opened with that most powerful of filmic premises, “Based on a True Story.” Each of these historical and male-dominated or male-centered stories is the kind of film that—for better or worse—informs audiences about important African American topics in place of classroom lectures, lesson plans, and, most importantly, books.

Each film also subtly sent the message that black men can play great and complex roles, while black women can continue to play marginalized roles as their girlfriends or wives. It is rarely, if ever, that we see a film in which a black woman is the central character and her husband or partner plays the sidekick or emotional supporter to her goals. Even in the imaginary world, there is no black Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games trilogy, who would heroically lead all of the men around her. We continue to only “see” black women in film when their images are peripheral—which is another way of saying that black women are barely seen in historical films.

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Medium 9780253356864

37. Without Bounds

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

I desire to speak somewhere without bounds. (218)

This mysterious remark, appearing in Walden’s great “Conclusion,” evokes Thoreau’s regular employment as the village surveyor. His book seems designed to enable our own staking out of things, coming complete with tools (compasses, rulers, dividers) and measurements: the number of rods separating Thoreau’s cabin from the railroad tracks, the exact distance from his site to Concord, the width and depth of the pond, the acreage of neighboring farms and lakes. In “Where I Lived and What I Lived For,” Thoreau makes punning use of his occupation by declaring “I have thus surveyed the country on every side within a dozen miles of where I live,” including, in yet another pun, “each farmer’s premises” (58). Quoting Cowper’s “Verses Supposed to Be Written by Alexander Selkirk” (Defoe’s model for Robinson Crusoe), Thoreau even supplies his own italics: “I am monarch of all I survey” (59).

Since Thoreau so often earned his living by marking his neighbors’ property lines, what are we to make of his “desire to speak somewhere without bounds”? The wish resembles another Thoreauvian longing, also characteristically expressed in spatial terms: “I love a broad margin to my life” (79). The two remarks remind us that Thoreau seemed to experience almost every kind of externally imposed rule, custom, or schedule as an occasion for claustrophobia. In Emerson’s words, “He was a protestant à l’outrance.” Some of Walden’s best critics have argued that this reflexive resistance extended to language itself, which, indeed, he often treated as something that gets in the way of living: “It is not easy to write in a journal what interests us at any time,” he once observed, “because to write it is not what interests us.” Andrew Delbanco goes further, describing Thoreau as “ultimately a despiser of culture.” “What Thoreau discovered,” Delbanco continues, “was that language itself … made him feel dead because it subjected him to the worn and degraded inventions of other minds.” Some evidence supports this position. In an 1857 letter, Thoreau seems to anticipate Flaubert’s dread of merely reproducing the banalities catalogued in his Dictionary of Received Ideas:

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Medium 9781574416367

Love and Fire

Gayle Reaves, Editor UNT Press ePub
Medium 9780253018632

“My Spirit is There”

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

an interview with Edouard Duval-Carrié

Kaiama L. Glover

IN OCTOBER OF 2012, I interviewed Edouard Duval-Carrié—one of Haiti’s most important contemporary artists—at Duke University’s Haiti Laboratory, where he was spending a semester as a Visiting Professor. The interview was part of a documentary about Haitian art titled In the Eye of the Spiral, directed by Raynald Leconte. In these excerpts, Duval-Carrié speaks about a collective art project he completed in 2011 with faculty and students at Duke, and also about his past, present, and future as an artist seeking to represent Haiti.

Kaiama L. Glover: Can you tell us where we’re sitting right now, and what this place means to you?

Edouard Duval-Carrié: We’re here at Duke University, in North Carolina. We’re inside the Haiti Laboratory, which is one of the few international centers that focuses on Haiti with such intensity. The directors, Deborah Jenson and Laurent Dubois, invited me to put together a project with them. You can see it behind me. For this project I asked for input from the students—they’re not really students, but researchers, but I have fun calling them students because they are a little bit younger than me—and over the course of two days they brought me everything they could find in terms of visual material about Haiti, from Saint-Domingue through the Revolution, and all that has happened since then. All of them were doctoral students working in different areas, and we worked around a theme: “Haiti: History Embedded in Amber.”

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Medium 9780253220042

7. Honor

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM JORDAN

 

Yasmine speaks …

I was not exactly thrilled when the biology teacher teamed me up with Wafa Ar-Rahman. We’d be working in pairs, she said, when we started cutting things up—a learning experience I really did not look forward to one bit. And now I had to do it with Wafa. Not that she was obnoxious or stupid, but she was new in school, and so conservative and quiet and shy that she really sort of stuck out.

When I got home, I told my mother that my biology partner would be this girl Wafa, whom I could hardly even see, she was so covered up by her hijab. “She wears her head scarf over her eyebrows, and she doesn’t say a thing. She’ll be so boring, Mum,” I moaned. “I’ll hate that class.”

But my mother was the wrong person to complain to. She was a hard-hitting investigative journalist, and she saw opportunities for social change and noble struggle in practically everything. She was so good at her job, in fact, that she’d won a special fellowship to study in London the previous year, and we’d all spent six glorious months there.

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Medium 9780253019059

Brown County

Edited and with an Introduction by Owen Indiana University Press ePub

Artists and hill people in Brown County, Indiana

BROWN COUNTY, Ind.—Brown County is to Indiana what Santa Fe is to the Southwest, or Carmel to California, or Provincetown to New England.

In other words, it is an art colony. But that is only a part of the picture.

It became an art colony in the first place, like the others, because the scenery is majestic and the native people are picturesque.

And, having become an art colony, it attracted non-artists and ordinary people, to its loveliness, and eventually it became a haven, and people came and fell in love with its placid ways, and built beautiful homes and stayed to become part of the spirit of the place. That is the way it has been with Brown County.

On the whole, I am ill at ease in the company of artists, for so much of the time I don’t know what they are talking about. And yet, invariably, I like the places that they have built into their “colonies.”

And so it is with Brown County, Indiana. I have fallen head over heels for the place, and the people, and the hills, and the whole general air of peacefulness. Good Lord, I even like the artists here!

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