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3 Provocations: African Societies and Theories of Creativity

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Moradewun Adejunmobi

MY OBJECTIVE IN this essay is to argue that cultural studies scholars who focus on Africa should give at least some of their attention to producing scholarship that also provides a wide-ranging justification for humanities research as occasion demands, and that deciders and the society at large must understand that the value of humanities scholarship can never be taken for granted anywhere in the world. What is more, the need to address why humanities scholarship matters becomes all the more urgent in times of economic and political uncertainty when the temptation is highest to curtail, underfund, and if possible eliminate institutions dedicated to humanities scholarship. I shall make the argument for attending to such justifications by way of a commentary on current trends in studies of African cultural production.1

In 2012, the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina took advantage of an address to the African Studies Association of the United Kingdom to counter Taiye Selasi’s celebration of the “Afropolitan.”2 As far as reactions to Selasi’s declaration go, Wainaina’s riposte did not represent an isolated incident. Selasi’s 2005 manifesto “went viral” in its initial instantiation in an online magazine and generated considerable commentary in blogs dedicated to discussion of African culture and identity. Similar controversies trail the multiple national affiliations attributed to authors like Teju Cole and Dinaw Mengestu, among others, and the claims to African identity made for Tope Folarin, winner of the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing.3 Discussions of this question in print and online indicate a return to prominence of a certain kind of debate among both writers and critics about the identity and location of the African writer. While such debates about identity will always be topical for African literature, given the current and historical location of many “African” writers outside Africa, I will argue that the main shortcoming of the critical approaches often used today for analyzing African cultural production is not a failure to ask what exactly constitutes “African” as opposed to, say, “Asian” or “Western” cultural production. More important, the critical approaches that we have embraced do not fully account for the relevance of our scholarship on expressive and representational practices to broader trends within African societies at this point in time. They fail to ask what else and what more artistic activity signifies when it occurs under the particular conditions that typify contemporary Africa, and why imaginative activity matters for societies facing apparently more pressing challenges, other than as a form of social commentary that we as scholars are called upon to elucidate.

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Medium 9780253012814

V “Dream of the Flesh of Iron”

Larry Lockridge Indiana University Press ePub

Returning to the United States aboard the R. M. S. Mauretania in early July, 1934, Ross Lockridge, Jr. took notebook in hand and set about revising his persona. He figured that after a year abroad he should “give the impression of having reached maturity.” “Talk less. Smile seldom. Revise laugh.” In the company of males, he’d henceforth “talk in a deep, quiet way and make no efforts toward studied brilliance,” while with females he’d attempt to be manly and “insist on entire equality,” not bending so much to their will. “No more swearing.” “Keep hair neat, shoes shined, SMILE LITTLE.’

Still clutching a nominal liberty in affairs of the heart, he hoped to make headway with various Indiana women—“Edith with the golden hair, Vernice, the womanly one, Peggy, the fascinating.” And he’d “try to conquer the irritating outward manifestation of my competitive spirit.”

The Conquerer of Gaul also vowed to master the English language and renovate English expression. “Let energy, force, and incantation be the ends of my style.” Though he’d be thinking always of his novel based on his Grandfather Shockley’s life, he projected also a series of sonnets, plays, innovative essays, and by all means an epic poem. This proved to be not idle jotting.

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Medium 9780253010575

2 He Butchered His Wife Because of Witchcraft and Adultery: Crime Tabloids, Moral Panic, and the Remaking of the Moroccan Cop

Jonathan Smolin Indiana University Press ePub

Crime Tabloids, Moral Panic, and the Remaking of the Moroccan Cop

In September 1993, only months after the Tabit Affair, people walking down the city boulevards discovered a jarring new form of media awaiting them at the newsstands. Sitting next to the daily press and weekly magazines, which had returned to their stoic reporting style soon after Tabit’s trial, were large color tabloids spread out on the sidewalks boasting covers with grisly crime-scene photographs and shocking bold headlines. The words “He Butchered His Wife Because of Witchcraft and Adultery,” for example, were placed below a horrific color image of the female victim’s bloodied and mutilated face. “He Stabbed His Friend to Death for Three Cents” appeared above a large color photograph of the killer pointing a knife toward a man, demonstrating for the police—and public—exactly how he committed the murder. The bold headline “Murder, American Style” introduced a large color image of the victim, a middle-aged man on his back after rigor mortis set in. “The Police Put Their Hands on Wide Prostitution Network” was printed next to a photograph of seven seemingly respectable women, all in traditional Moroccan clothes, under arrest. Never before had the Moroccan public seen real-world daily violence and moral degradation spread out on the cover of a newspaper, let alone with such dramatic color photographs and bold sensational headlines. For decades, crime was a topic hidden from the public eye. Now, all of a sudden, it was splashed on the front pages of these tabloids for anyone walking by the newsstands to see.

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Medium 9780253359551

2. Theory of Codes

Umberto Eco Indiana University Press ePub

When a code apportions the elements of a conveying system to the elements of a conveyed system, the former becomes the expression of the latter and the latter becomes the content of the former. A sign-function arises when an expression is correlated to a content, both the correlated elements being the functives of such a correlation.

We are now in a position to recognize the difference between a signal and a sign. A signal is a pertinent unit of a system that may be an expression system ordered to a content, but could also be a physical system without any semiotic purpose; as such it is studied by information theory in the stricter sense of the term. A signal can be a stimulus that does not mean anything but causes or elicits something; however, when used as the recognized antecedent of a foreseen consequent it may be viewed as a sign, inasmuch as it stands for its consequent (as far as the sender is concerned). On the other hand a sign is always an element of an expression plane conventionally correlated to one (or several) elements of a content plane.

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Medium 9781857547658

Politics and Aesthetics: Harry Graf Kessler, Eugene Jolas, Wolfgang Koeppen

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Politics and Aesthetics

I consider politics, political action, all forms of politics, as inferior values and inferior activities of the mind.

Paul Valéry

T R C: H G K

It is  December , just over a month since German capitulation and the end of fighting in the Great War. Kaiser Wilhelm II has abdicated and fled to the Netherlands, bringing to an end five hundred years of Prussian domination by the Hohenzollern dynasty. In Kiel the German navy mutinies, and the black, red and gold flag of the republic flutters over the Reichstag. Karl

Liebknecht calls for a socialist revolution. The Berlin Dada Club invents the dada two-step, as a preamble to world revolution.

Western values are collapsing. On the way to lunch, Count Harry

Kessler pays a visit to the Kaiser’s private apartments; there, in the

Imperial Palace, among the shattered glass, looted furniture and broken swagger-sticks, the whole tawdriness of the atmosphere out of which war had come weighs on him. ‘In this rubbishy, trivial, unreal microcosm, furnished with nothing but false values which deceived him and others, he made his judgements, plans, and decisions. Morbid taste and a pathologically excitable character in charge of an all too well-oiled machine of state. Now the symbols of his futile animating spirit lie strewn around here in the shape of doltish odds and ends. I feel no sympathy, only aversion and complicity when I reflect that this world was not done away with long ago…’

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