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06/06/2006

Magazine Roundup

London Review of Books | Al Ahram Weekly | Il Foglio | The Guardian | Le Figaro | Outlook India | Elet es Irodalom | The Economist | The New York Times Book Review


London Review of Books, 08.06.2006 (UK)

American historian Maya Jasanoff critically examines Robert Irwin's study "For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies," which takes issue with Edward Said's famous work "Orientalism". Irwin's critique of Said's idea of Orientalism - as the product of imperialism – bespeaks a naive faith in academia, writes Jasanoff, commenting that Irwin could look deeper into the motivations of early Orientalists: "Often people who study cultures different from their own have an affinity with or attraction to 'Otherness'. That so many of Irwin's Orientalists were eccentrics, misfits or non-conformists invites us to look at the personal, psychological inclinations that may have inspired their scholarship. (Which is where the 'lust' might come in.) The disproportionately heavy Jewish involvement merits closer examination, beyond the obvious explanation of Hebrew's kinship with Arabic, especially as a rejoinder to Said's provocative association of Orientalism with Zionism."

Not Saddam, but George W. Bush is the new Hitler, writes Boston historian Andrew Bacevich, backing himself up with the book by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor: "Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq". "For the war's architects, 'Iraq was not a danger to avoid but a strategic opportunity,' less a destination than a point of departure. In their eyes, 2003 was not 1945, but 1939: not a climax but the opening gambit of a vast enterprise largely hidden from public view. Allusions to Saddam as a new Hitler notwithstanding, they did not see Baghdad as Berlin but as Warsaw – a preliminary objective."


Al Ahram Weekly, 01.06.2006 (Egypt)

In a lengthy article, New York-based Iran scholar Hamid Dabashi reviews the entirety of Western cultural criticism from Roland Barthes to Edward Said, warning against pro-Western books by exiled authors from Islamic countries. Especially harsh words are reserved for Azar Nafisi's book "Reading Lolita in Tehran," which had been praised by Said's adversary Bernard Lewis: If Edward Said dismantled the edifice of Orientalism, Azar Nafisi is recruited to re-accredit it. It is for that very same reason that in anticipation of Bernard Lewis' favourable disposition, Azar Nafisi makes sure that one of the demonic characters she portrays in her "Reading Lolita in Tehran" is an avid supporter of Edward Said--thus identifying one of the most celebrated public intellectuals of his generation with some of the most retrograde sentiments in a theocracy - all to appease Bernard Lewis and solicit his favourable disposition towards a neocon debutante."


Il Foglio, 03.06.2006 (Italy)

French historian Pierre Nora writes that the growing culture of remembrance, commemorative rituals and examining the past has supplanted modernity. "Until recently modernism was the driving force behind dynamic historiography; remembrance was merely its shadow. However, with the advent of the so-called 'modern culture of remembrance' there has been a fundamental re-evaluation of these two categories. Today, the concept of modernism has diminished in value. There's no life left in it, and in a way it has become 'medieval'. Modernism as it is understood today seems to foster a return to the archaic rather than progress. In its new role, remembrance, on the other hand, is associated with dynamism and progress. Now we must find out whether this re-evaluation is for the better or for the worse."


The Guardian, 03.06.2006 (UK)

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk shows solidarity with columnist Perihan Magden, who is once more facing criminal charges, this time for purportedly instigating conscientious objection. "In the offending column, entitled 'Conscientious Objection is a Human Right' Magden defended Mehmet Tarhan, who found himself in deep trouble after insisting on his right to refuse military service for reasons of conscience. She reminded her Turkish readers that the UN has acknowledged conscientious objection as a human right since the 1970s, and that of the signatories of the European Council, only the peoples of Azerbaijan and Turkey did not enjoy this right. Mehmet Tarhan is a homosexual, and because the Turkish army views homosexuality as a defect or a disability, he would have been 'excused' from military service had he been willing to undergo a physical examination, but he 'refused absolutely' to subject himself to such wrongful and degrading treatment." The trial against Magden begins June 7.


Le Figaro, 02.06.2006 (France)

In a commentary, Maurice Druon claims the French language is experiencing a revival. This is hardly surprising, because his job as honorary permanent secretary of the Academie francaise is to ensure the success of the French language. Nonetheless, he complains in his article about a lack of governmental interest and points out why people across the world are pinning their hopes on French: "Globalisation is enabling the US to swamp the rest of the world with cultural products and trivialities. At a more or less conscious level, nations are worried about the sterile uniformity which is erasing their personalities, heritages and differences. This is why there is now a return to the other universal culture, to the older, more humanistic culture, namely the French culture and its language. French is becoming a guarantee for the survival of cultural diversity."


Outlook India, 12.06.2006 (India)

The World Cup cover story makes no bones about it: India loves football (even if ranks number 118 in the world). G. Rajaraman puts TV viewers at 120 million!

T. R. Vivek explains that Bollywood does more than bolster the country's GDP. Many international film production companies go to great lengths to tempt Indian productions to their country – with an eye to what they can get out of it, of course. "There is an ongoing battle of undercutting between the tourist sectors in countries like Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada to attract Indian producers by offering them tax breaks and cheap access to locations and facilities—all to position their tourist hotspots in Indian films."


Elet es Irodalom, 02.06.2006 (Hungary)

In 1993, when Bosnia-Herzegovina accused Serbia of genocide before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, it was the first time that one state had sued another state for genocide. Tibor Varady, the professor at the Central European University who is representing Serbia in the trial, argues in an interview that if Serbia is found guilty of genocide, Kosovo Albanians and other Serb minority groups will also be condemned as criminals. He points out that at the same time "the Bosnian Serbs, who have been named as the chief perpetrators, would suddenly become victims, because under the 1995 Dayton Treaty they became part of the very state that is suing Serbia. This is without precedent in European history. It would be like Germany and Poland getting together and suing Austria for its part in the Holocaust." Varady goes on to argue that a guilty sentence – regardless of its content – would destabilise the entire region: "If Serbia is found guilty, the Serbs in Bosnia and Serbia would turn against Europe and the rest of the world in their bitterness." However, he points that if Serbia is acquitted it will be just as bad, if not worse, because it would strengthen Serb nationalists.


The Economist, 03.06.2006 (UK)

The international skyscraper boom shows no signs of letting up. New technologies are even speeding up the process, but they also lead to absurdities, the magazine writes in an engaging article. "Building skyscrapers for governments can lead to some odd results. In Dubai, for example, skyscrapers stand one deep on either side of the Sheikh Zayed Road in the south of the city, with desert behind them stretching away into the distance. The international skyscraper style, which involves using acres of glass, does not always make sense. It works well in the parts of north America where it first appeared, but when transported to the Gulf, the giant greenhouses require a huge amount of energy to cool them and engineers have to find ways to keep the light out. Some architects have proposed designs with concrete walls and small apertures that recall the screens in early Islamic architecture, but they have been rejected. Skyscrapers don't look like that."


The New York Times Book Review, 04.06.2006 (USA)

Dave Barry has found his book of the season. Tom Lutz' history of slackers "Doing Nothing" (first chapter) has given him a legitimation of la dolce far niente. The book shows that in a society where hardly anyone does anything that everyone considers work, such as coal digging, the border between working and doing nothing are fluid: "A lot of us would have to admit that if we skipped a day or two of 'work', or even a couple of months, or maybe even three or four years, we might miss our paychecks, but the impact on society would be minimal, or in the case of some professions (consultants, editorial writers, Paris Hilton) nonexistent."
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