Humanities2015, 4(2), 250-265; doi:10.3390/h4020250 - published 23 June 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Decolonizing trauma theory has been a major project in postcolonial literary scholarship ever since its first sustained engagements with trauma theory. Since then, trauma theory and postcolonial literary studies have been uneasy bedfellows, and the time has now come to take stock of what remains in postcolonial trauma studies from the original formulations of trauma theory, and see which further steps must be envisaged in order to reach the ideal of a truly decolonized trauma theory today. To this end, this article presents a detailed overview of the short history and the present situation of the trajectory of decolonizing trauma theory for postcolonial studies, clarifying the various re-routings that have so far taken place, and delineating the present state of the project, as well as the need for further developments towards an increased expansion and inclusiveness of the theory. I argue that openness to non-Western belief systems and their rituals and ceremonies in the engagement with trauma is needed in order to achieve the remaining major objectives of the long-standing project of decolonizing trauma theory.
Humanities2015, 4(2), 236-249; doi:10.3390/h4020236 - published 3 June 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This article explores the relationship between percipient and the narrative purpose in Poe’s “Mesmeric Revelation”, arguing ultimately that the various questions raised by this relationship have a great deal in common with altered-state theories of hypnosis. It challenges predictable interpretations of this short story in an effort to open up a new avenue for exploring not only the art of fiction, but, by logical extension, all other branches of creative activity as well. Primary emphasis is given to the nature of the percipient's reduced peripheral awareness as (s)he appreciates a work of art, in this case, “Mesmeric Revelation”, and how, according to Poe’s “The Philosophy of Composition”, the cultivation of this focused attention lies at the heart of the most effective artistic products.
Humanities2015, 4(2), 224-235; doi:10.3390/h4020224 - published 2 June 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: One of my research projects examines pictorial symbols and epitaphs on gravestones in Norway and Sweden. The focus has been on the 1990s and the 2000s. The choice of this period is motivated by the fact that new national burial laws were adopted in both countries in the early 1990s. These laws provided the next of kin with the possibility of choosing memorial symbols and inscriptions more freely than had previously been the case. To judge from the data under study, individual symbols have gained popularity, especially in Sweden, while Norway has been more faithful to earlier traditions of a collective character; moreover, secular motifs are more manifest on the gravestones in Sweden than in Norway. Another research project analyses memorial websites on the Internet related to persons who have died in recent years. The all-inclusive issue in these studies concerns mourners’ expressions of their emotions and beliefs regarding the deceased person’s afterlife, that is, beliefs in after-death existence. Belief in the deceased being somewhere in heaven is common. Belief in angels is also a popular concept in memorial websites. Moreover, in Sweden, this includes deceased pets as well. The previously strictly observed distinction between humans and pets has become indiscernible in Sweden. Norwegian practice, however, remains critical towards this type of “humanlike characterization”. In Norway, memorial websites for the deceased are generally associated with more traditional Christian concepts than are similar sites in Sweden. By contrast, in Sweden, one observes a kind of diffuse religiosity reminiscent of New Age ways of thinking, according to which the individual plays the central role, and glorification of afterlife existence prevails. Secularization, that is, a decline in the influence of traditional forms of religious experience, is conspicuously more prominent in Sweden. Within the project on memorial websites, I have performed a special study of memorials of persons who have committed suicide. In Norway, differences between suicide and deaths by other causes are conceived in an entirely different manner than on memorial websites in Sweden. There, the contrast between suicide and other forms of death has been increasingly wiped out. Norway has preserved earlier mortuary traditions to a greater extent, and no notions of a bright afterlife, or of angels, are to be found in connection with suicides.
Humanities2015, 4(2), 212-223; doi:10.3390/h4020212 - published 22 May 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This article portrays four historically evolved ideas of a university, as they have developed in the South African context, namely the British liberal-humanistic education idea, the Afrikaner idea of an ethnically-oriented developmental university, the idea of an African university, and the idea of a university proclaimed by neo-liberal economics. The global significance of this contest, as it plays out itself on South African soil, is noted.
Humanities2015, 4(2), 198-211; doi:10.3390/h4020198 - published 15 April 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Usually, Zhuangzi’s parable of “the butterfly dream/dreaming butterfly” is read as an enigmatic version, from “the East”, of the Cartesian skeptical challenges to “objective reality” or else the Lacanian psycho-drama of the “pure gaze” in which “he”, Zhuangzi, “is a butterfly for nobody”, who stands for “the Real”. Retooling some of the critical insights from these standard dialectical or anxiogenic approaches to this allegorical puzzle of self-identity, both of which, however, tend to leave unquestioned or else structurally overrate the binarized inner-exclusivity of typical pairs such as in/out, subject/object, illusion/reality, and all/nothing, this article proposes a relatively novel, fluid model of unraveling the speculative knot, the dots of lepidopterological spacetime irreducible to a simpler “point” in space and time. As we follow the narrative sequence more micro- and macrologically at once, with holistic, philopoetic attention to its intricate conceptual cues and contextual clues, especially its streaks and energies of “oppositional poetics” envisaged by Anne Waldman, for instance, we come to see more clearly the trans-categorical auto-generativity of its modal openness, its oddly powerful, non-militarily propelled, avant-garde peripherality. As Zhuangzi’s butterfly gets freed this way from the discursive net where it is lost and found (often instantly dead), the vocalized figure of the “irritating” narrator, too, will change more freely, flying in and out and back in “daoistically” rather than agonistically.
Humanities2015, 4(1), 181-197; doi:10.3390/h4010181 - published 5 March 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Hans Blumenberg’s magisterial defense of modernity against the reproach of secularization, elaborated most extensively in The Legitimacy of the Modern Age (1966, 1974), develops both a distinctive method of philosophical history and the groundwork of a philosophical anthropology, predicated on the emergence of human self-assertion as theoretical curiosity. But as Blumenberg’s work attests more generally, this argument both devolves on and comprises an excursion into metaphorology, transposing the grounds of legitimation from dialectic to rhetoric. This paper explores the implications of such a metaphorical transfer, suggesting that Blumenberg not only presupposes a cryptic mode of poetics, but also (against its own anthropological intention) invests that poetics with the power to negate the category of the human as such.