Humanities2016, 5(3), 48; doi:10.3390/h5030048 - published 23 June 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This article examines the use of the zombie (or the “returned,” the literal translation of the French term “revenant”) in Fabrice Gobert’s French series Les Revenants (2012–2015) as a narrative trope that evokes the recent wave of migration from Syria into Europe. In parallel, this article addresses Robin Campillo’s 2004 original feature Les Revenants as it served as an inspiration for Gobert’s work in 2012. Campillo’s work, like Gobert’s, is rooted in the treatment of refugees in France. Following the forceful closing of the Sangatte refugee camp in Calais in 2002, the Moroccan-born French filmmaker expressed his concern for the treatment of Others in France through the figure of the zombie, eventually initiating a new genre in French fiction that would serve to express and denounce the characterization of Others in France as “non-human.”
Humanities2016, 5(2), 47; doi:10.3390/h5020047 - published 20 June 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Alice Kaplan’s memoir French Lessons (1993) is a story that deals as much with the issue of language learning as with that of cultural belonging(s). This “language memoir,” as it is typical of this sub-genre, is an intimate tale of the transition between languages and cultures. French Lessons recounts her evolving relationship with French language and culture in various phases of her life: starting from childhood, continuing through her graduate student years at Yale and finally as professor of French at Duke. Soon, however, in this unconventional Bildung, the second language turns out to be a verbal safe-house, an instant refuge when her first language and culture happen to be too uncomfortable. Ultimately, French provides a psychic space and a hiding place. Ultimately, however, as Derrida has shown, we are alienated from both the first and the second; we find ourselves to be more comfortable in one than in the other. This essay will analyze such processes with special attention to the part played by the body in Kaplan’s building as a student and eventually as a teacher. The analysis will be linked with the text’s peculiar narrative style: fast-paced, with simple, concise sentences, nevertheless extremely effective and moving.
Humanities2016, 5(2), 46; doi:10.3390/h5020046 - published 18 June 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This article, “Post What? The Liminality of Multi-Racial Identity,” argues that the successes and failures of 21st-century satire reveal the myth of post-raciality while simultaneously dismissing racial essentialism. I focus on three critical moments: the commercial success of Mat Johnson’s Loving Day, a text and forthcoming television show that examines the shifting self-identities of mixed-race individuals; the inability of a potential love interest on the television series, Louie, to accept a black woman as the ex-wife of the titular protagonist’s phenotypically white daughters; and Barack Obama’s self-designation as “black” on the census shortly after his election. I argue that the widespread reach of these instances, coupled with audience engagement and response, underscores the ways that the public realm frames a contemporary understanding of race as both meaningful and absurd.
Humanities2016, 5(2), 45; doi:10.3390/h5020045 - published 13 June 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: In his adaptation of Robinson Crusoe, Campe sets out to examine the legitimacy of his contemporary social reality (in Europe in the broadest sense) by tracing its origin back to the most basic roots conceivable. The experimental character of his book is emphasised and—to an extent—explicitly introduced through the frame narrative which constitutes Campe’s most important addition to Defoe’s story: Here the emergence of the rules and routines are extensively mooted by the father (who relates Robinson’s story as a framed narrative) and his children who still have to internalise, grasp, and situate the moral rules around them and frequently offer divergent perspectives in the process. The frame narrative connects the moral “ontogeny” of the children to the “phylogenetics” of civilisation and suggests that both can be superimposed on one another. I will work with concepts that focus on the differentiation between “innate” moral characteristics and their social transformation on a cognitive, evolutionary level, from which Campe clearly deviates. However, his short-circuiting of the individual and the phylogeny leads to very similar specifications as laid out by, for instance, Moral Foundations Theory.
Humanities2016, 5(2), 44; doi:10.3390/h5020044 - published 13 June 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This article undertakes a comparative analysis of two oil company advertisements—British Petroleum’s (BP) “Persian Series”, published in London in 1925, and Cenovus Energy’s “Canadian Ideas at Work”, published across Canada in 2012. These advertisements are separated by eighty-seven years, and were produced in different countries, by different companies, and for different audiences. Yet, a closer reading of these documents reveals that they are two sides of the same coin: both narrate the extraction of oil as a great game of commercial conquest, whereby exotic prizes trapped beneath wild and empty landscapes are unlocked by oil companies. How could two advertisements that appear so radically distant feel so close? In what ways do the oil cultures of the past inflect those of the present? This article engages with such questions by critically deconstructing and comparing the imagined worlds of oil presented in BP and Cenovus’ advertisements, tracing the ways in which the resource is represented through the binaries of ancient and modern, empty and urban, wild and civilized. By configuring oil as a constellation of ideas rather than a system of things, this investigation reveals how the colonial legacies of the past continue to seep through the oil cultures of the present.
Humanities2016, 5(2), 42; doi:10.3390/h5020042 - published 9 June 2016 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Alessandro Spina, né Basili Shafik Khouzam, was born in Benghazi in 1927 into a family of Maronites from Aleppo and spent most of his life between Libya and Italy, speaking several languages and writing in Italian. He may be described as the “unsung” writer of Italian colonial and post-colonial past in North Africa. Spina’s oeuvre—collected in an omnibus edition, I confini dell’ombra. In terra d’oltremare (Morcelliana)—charts the history of Libya from 1911, when Italy invaded the Ottoman province, to 1966, when the country witnessed the economic boom sparked by the petrodollars. The cycle was awarded the Premio Bagutta, Italy’s highest literary accolade. In 2015, Darf Press published in English the first instalment of Spina’s opus with the title The Confines of the Shadows. In Lands Overseas. Spina always refused to be pigeonholed in some literary category and to be labeled as a colonial or postcolonial author. As a matter of fact, his works go beyond the spatial and imaginary boundaries of a given state or genre, emphasizing instead the mixing and collision of languages, cultures, identities, and forms of writing. Reading and re-discovering Spina in a transcultural mode brings to light the striking newness of his literary efforts, in which transnational lived life, creative imagination, and transcultural sensibility are inextricably interlaced.