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One year of Crosswords

Dear readers:

we started the online edition of Crosswords one year ago, in March 2008. We have published 52 posts since then: a post a week, with articles and interviews in 15 languages, photographies, drawings and videos. Some of them, dealing with the question of “How much a community needs in common”, have been part of a print issue that was launched in September 2008 on the occasion of the 21st Meeting of Cultural Journals in Paris. Both the blog and the paper version have been a great success and we would like to thank everyone who has been involved: authors, artists, readers, partner journals and funders.

We will now interrupt this “chain of fragments” and prepare Crosswords 2.0. It will be quite different. But: the title remains the same and the publication will be as multilingual, transnational and eternally changing as it was. Il faut être absolument moderne.

A très bientôt !
R.S.

Forget Europe! An interview with Homi Bhabha

For interventionist journals, Europe as a concept is worthwhile only if conceived of as a threshold to be surpassed, argues Homi Bhabha in interview with Emrah Efe Çakmak. Any community of journals must be informed by contemporary literature’s questioning of an organic relationship between language, culture and the intellectual, suggests the postcolonial theorist.

Emrah Efe Çakmak: I would like to begin with the big picture, with the question posed to all contributors to this publication: “How much in common does a community need?”

Homi Bhabha: Well, first I think the question has to be reformulated. How much in common does a community need for what? The important thing is for what. If we are talking about a very diverse community, a community with great conflict within it, but whose members have a common love for sport, then during the Olympics or during football games on particular days or particular matches its members may well appear together despite their differences and despite their difficulties being together. At the same time the community that may represent a common front or a common faith in relation to sport may split terribly in relation to the distribution of particular kinds of resources, or indeed on the question of intercommunal or interfaith marriages. There is no general question of what a community needs in common. If you pose the question just generally, then you are tempted to revert to certain conventional or naturalistic ideas. Does everyone need to have been born in the same place, for instance? Does everybody need to have at least religious belief in common? Does a community need to be a proceduralist community, where, although it may have very different values, it at least believes in certain procedures so that it can interact and negotiate peacefully on a formal basis? (more…)

Promesses / promises

Abdelhamid Chebbih ou les promesses d’une aube renouvelée

La mémoire des aïeux est la proie des serpents.

La critique lucide et perspicace que Chebbih fait de toute forme d’instrumentalisation, et surtout de celle du sacré, de la religion et du drapeau :

Marra besm eddine, marra besm ‘lam
Une fois au nom de la religion, une fois au nom du drapeau

Elle vise certes, en premier lieu, les dirigeants et les pouvoirs, mais elle n’épargne pas non plus le peuple, la société, lorsqu’ils manquent de courage. En cela, sa poésie n’est ni démagogique ni populiste. Le pays est pour lui une sorte d’absolu. (more…)

Forget journals! An interview with Mark C. Taylor

The image must be liberated from the tyranny of the word, appeals Mark C. Taylor in interview with Emrah Efe Çakmak. The philosopher of religion, architecture and the visual arts berates journals for their anachronistic graphocentrism and argues that multimedia has become the multilingualism of the younger generation.

Emrah Efe Çakmak: The question being asked to all the participants of this publication is, “How much in common does a community need?” From the perspective of a difference-embracing philosophy, such a formulation could seem awkward. How do you receive this question? Is this the proper way of addressing difference and communality?

Mark C. Taylor: In the history of the West, and perhaps not only the West, there is one central preoccupation: the problem of the one and the many. This is, of course, a philosophical and theological problem; less often noted and no less important, however, is that it is also a psychological and a political problem. Surely the twentieth century testifies to the magnitude of that problem. During the latter half of the twentieth century, many philosophers and social critics became preoccupied with issues of difference and otherness. This was in large measure a response to totalitarianism on the Left and on the Right. The whole point of the analyses of thinkers like Derrida, Foucault and Lacan was to disrupt the philosophy of identity, given that it can have such devastating political consequences. (more…)

entrada / entry

Buenos días señora. Vivo debajo de usted.

Un desconocido interrumpe mi lectura de la primera entrada del blog de George Orwell («Caught a large snake in the herbaceus border beside the drive.»). Se identifica como mi vecino de abajo. Me informa que ellos (nosotros), desde su apartamento, oyen todo lo que nosotros (ustedes) hacemos en el nuestro. Que perciben cada uno de nuestros pasos. Saben a qué horas nos levantamos; cuándo abrimos un armario. Es tímido y bien educado. Nada dijo sobre voces o sonidos de otra índole. Pero hizo mucho énfasis en los pasos. C’est surtout les pas.

Las serpientes son sordas y viven a ras de suelo: imposibilidad de tramitar mi perplejidad lejos de la iconografía que me aporta lo leído; todas las imágenes de su verano inglés verde y muy caliente vivificadas por el contraste con lo que me rodea y está confinado al interior del apartamento en el que transcurre mi verano urbano. …a large snake in the herbaceus border beside the drive. Si: uno de los dos tiene que ser la serpiente. No él; no es sordo, es lo que subió a decirme. Yo, entonces – a large snake; reducida al suelo por una visita que me impone la conciencia desgraciada de mi acústica pedestre.

Automatismos así: inmediatamente después de que mi perplejidad y yo cerráramos la puerta, lo mejor que se me ocurre es abrir un blog cuya primera entrada sería el relato de la visita amablemente siniestra que me ha puesto en mood paranóico. Psicología elemental: la novedad de un diario escrito hace 60 años conjurando mis pocas ganas de asumir el llegar tarde a la actividad de blogger y el hecho de que ese diario sea el diario de Orwell, explican fácilmente mi reflejo. Pero las analogías posibles entre mi blog y el bucólico diario de Orwell se agotan rápido; son algo más consistentes las potenciales entre un blog cronista de episodios urbanos de vecindad y su ficción más conocida. Mi blog daría cuenta de las consecuencias del hacinamiento; su diario documenta una forma de estar contemplativa que se me vuelve impensable ahora que sé que tengo pies y mi vecino orejas. Mis pies en sus orejas. Obscenidad urbanística. Y esta confusión de pronombres personales… ¿De quién habla mi «su» recurrente? De todos: Orwell, mi vecino, la serpiente (desambiguar la gramática vía hipertexto: un link entre cada «su» y una foto del o de lo aludido).

Al cronista de vecindario le conviene la técnica del blog, su tecnología micelar – esa que se aprovecha de la tendencia a aglomerarse que tienen las partículas similares cuando viven demasiado cerca.

A contribution to the Crosswords print issue by Liliana Padilla.

Geschichten / stories

Gemeinschaft braucht die Einbildung, etwas miteinander zu teilen und das Wissen, dass dies Gemeinsame der Gemeinschaft keine Ähnlichkeit der Einzelnen bedeutet. Sie braucht die Phantasie und den Selbstbetrug, eine Gemeinschaft zu sein, und die Überzeugung, dass diese Gemeinschaft permanent offen bleiben muss – nach außen und nach innen.

Sie braucht also vor allem die Vorstellung, dass es da gäbe: das Gemeinsame, das sich in Geschichten über sich selbst erzählen lässt.

Das wären erinnerte oder erfundene Geschichten ebenso wie Gerüche oder Gewürze, Lieder oder Feste, die besungen und befeiert werden, Rituale und Gewohnheiten, es sind Assoziationen, die abgerufen werden durch Bilder, Töne oder Begriffe, die gekoppelt an Trauer oder Zorn, Freude oder Ekel, Schuld oder Scham, die eigene oder die von anderen, die dann erneut aufgerufen wird. Es sind Geschichten, die weitergeschrieben und verändert werden, weil die, die sie erzählen sich verändern, weil sie anders werden, weil andere hinzukommen, die anders und anderes zu erzählen wissen.

Was gemeinsam bleibt, ist der Wunsch und die Phantasie in und durch diese Erzählungen sich zu verstehen, was gemeinsam bleibt und bleiben muss ist die Anerkennung, dass jeder eine eigene Geschichte hat, die in dieser polyphonen Erzählung eine eigene Stimme hat.

A contribution to the Crosswords print issue by Carolin Emcke for Polar, Berlin/Germany

пОд въпрОс / under question

въпросник под въпрос. Доколко е обща Общността? Доколкото е споделена? Доколкото гарантира сигурността на хората, които я споделят? Или доколкото се основава на изключването? Какво е общност? Кухо ли е понятието за общност? Какво е понятие? И има ли значение изобщо ако понятието не може да ни помогне да разберем принципа на заедност в общността? Понятието език ли е? Може ли Езикът да конструира общност? И има ли значение изобщо ако субектът, който сътворява различието през езика, не носи отговорност за изреченото, защото не си дава сметка за конструиращата сила на езика? Има ли морален минимум, който употребата на Езикът трябва да зачита? Трябва ли да говорим общ език, за да се разбираме? Трябва ли да говорим определен език, за да бъдем част от определена общност? Нуждаем ли се от общ език, за да не общуваме? Нуждаем ли се от общ език, за да не носим отговорност към общността от която сме част? Общността мрежа от отношения ли е? Или е конструкт задаващ отношения? Какво определя към коя общност да принадлежим? Възможно ли е да бъдем част от общността на работещите ако сме безработни? Възможно ли е да бъдем французи без да сме родени във Франция, да притежаваме френско гражданство или да говорим френски език? И от колко общо се нуждае общността, за да е общност изобщо?

A contribution to the Crosswords print issue by Vanya Serafimova for Critique and Humanism Journal, Sofia/Bulgaria

diseducazione / diseducation

Se rivolgete questa domanda a un italiano del 2008, vi risponderà con un’esclamazione tipica: «Boh ?!?» – che, tradotta in una lingua più articolata, significa: «Non lo so, non ci ho mai pensato, e forse neanche mi interessa. L’importante è che ci leviate dai piedi i rumeni, gli zingari, i morti di fame che popolano le nostre strade, che vendono di tutto a ogni angolo, che presidiano i semafori, che girano ubriachi di notte, lanciando le bottiglie vuoti dai finestrini delle macchine, che violentano le nostre ragazze, che svaligiano le nostre case». Gli italiani sono diventati arroganti e hanno perduto la memoria. Non si ricordano più di quando, per la grande povertà, lasciavano la loro terra per raggiungere paesi lontani e spesso ostili, portandosi dietro le loro quattro cose chiuse in una valigia di cartone. Tutto congiura contro la memoria o anche, molto più semplicemente, contro il ricordo.

Ora abbiamo l’Esercito a dare aiuto a Polizia e Carabinieri: 3.000 uomini destinati alle grandi città: Milano, Roma, Napoli. Il nuovo governo Berlusconi ha voluto così: per riportare «ordine e sicurezza» in Italia, dice, per ridare un po’ di fiducia alla gente che si sente minacciata dallo «straniero».

Prendere le impronte digitali dei bambini rom fa parte anche questo del «pacchetto sicurezza». La motivazione del governo è che i bambini così non potranno più essere sfruttati e abbandonati dalle loro famiglie. Sarà. Ma promuovere la «cultura della paura», seminare il sospetto, è un atto criminale e pericoloso che difficilmente si combina con le politiche sociali di integrazione che non si sa bene che fine stiano facendo. Quello che sappiamo molto bene, invece, è che la società civile, se viene educata al riconoscimento dell’«altro», può fare grandi progressi sulla strada dell’accettazione e della convivenza pacifica.

L’Italia non era un paese così chiuso e retrogrado – ci hanno fatto diventare così, a forza di promuovere la diseducazione sistematica prima dei genitori e poi dei figli, creando ideali fasulli e ottusi, azzerando il desiderio di progettare le nostre vite secondo i princìpi del rispetto e della giustizia sociale. Stiamo diventando – forse siamo già diventati – una «massa amorfa», come la chiamava Hannah Arendt. E la storia ci insegna che la «massa amorfa» ama i leader forti, quelli in cui essa si può riconoscere, i leader venuti su dal nulla, con nulla da proporre se non il loro carisma. Ma in Italia chi legge più i libri di storia ?

A contribution to the Crosswords print issue by Biancamaria Bruno for Lettera Internazionale, Rome/Italy

Circulation

L’amitié politique : parler le même langage et se comprendre à demi mot. Pas de monnaie de singe. C’est ce qui fonde le « sens commun », le sens social de l’orientation dont chacun est d’abord dépourvu à l’étranger. C’est ce qui tisse les liens. C’est ce qui fait l’attachement (et l’arrachement) aux « racines », à la familiarité primitive qui, empiriquement, nous donne le sentiment d’avoir des semblables. Il arrive que le décalage avec quelque communauté constituée que ce soit fasse, entre des individus, le commun. La transnationalité, l’exil sont alors non forcément ce qui unit mais ce qui réunit les « sans part ». Voici, en deux mots, ce qui, pour moi, fait la communauté.

Parce qu’une communauté (comme dans les contrats de mariage : réduite ou non aux acquêts) se définit par la circulation (des personnes, des biens et des idées), la question centrale me semble être, dans le « devoir commun », celle des frontières, ou des limites mêmes de la « communauté ». Jusqu’où s’étend la notion même de justice ? A qui les droits fondamentaux sont-ils attribués ? Une chose est de répartir (et de partager en divisant), une autre de distribuer (avec ou sans équité). Le passé a donné de très nombreux exemples de communautés illusoires. Les départements français d’Algérie distinguaient le musulman du véritable français. Plus tôt, les colonies « d’outre mer » supportaient l’esclavage comme si les seules communautés étaient celles de l’intérêt. Le cens, l’absence de suffrage féminin ont, du commun, fait une coquille vide.

C’est pourquoi, politiquement parlant, la communauté est, relativement à la société, un devoir être, non une réalité déjà donnée. Elle est un processus indéfini d’intégration et d’individuation. Quand on dit (ici et maintenant) « les arabes » ou « les noirs », on ne désigne pas une communauté, on signifie un dehors de la communauté. Pour une communauté, pas de constat d’huissier, pas de bilan, pas d’inventaire. L’ennemi de la communauté, c’est la déliaison, c’est le secret, c’est le passé. Car ce dont nous héritons, ce sont des clivages et des divisions.

A contribution to the Crosswords print issue by Seloua Luste Boulbina for Sens public, Lyon/France

Recognition

Biometric and surveillance technologies make everyone a suspect of no specific charge. They are the principles of measure and classification applied to skin contours, eye, bone, gait, voice, affect, comportment. They are the border guard’s question of ‘Halt, who goes there?’ – the interrogative which seeks identification as the condition of crossing – multiplied and (post) industrialised. Recognition technologies surmount Orwell’s cherished distinction between public and private spaces, all the way down into the body, internalising the citizen’s yearning for that distinction’s resurrection, as the re-privatisation of dissent and difference. They are supposed to make one long to pass, to belong, as a good citizen might. Even so, as the high-tech offspring of phrenology and eugenics, bundled as security doctrine, the most notable features of biometrics and surveillance are the scandals of (sometimes lethal) misrecognition, their cost, and their remarkable failure. Certain identification is recurrently disoriented by movement. Someone grimaces, another turns around, or moves just a little, runs too fast, speaks through the fog of a blocked nose, fidgets nervously, walks on. Racial profiling, for all its aggressive materiality, remains a discretionary and actuarial operation. Movements can only be captured as data or image after they occur. What makes bodies unlike things is where the technologies of recognition falter.
First published in Mute vol. 2#9, 2008

A contribution to the Crosswords print issue by Angela Mitropoulos for Mute, London/UK