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The Salon

Volume 5, 2012

A Symposium - Theory from the South
Theorizing the Contemporary
Juan Obarrio
The essays that follow were originally presented at a round table on Jean and John Comaroff's latest book, Theory from the South. Or, how Euro-America is evolving toward Africa (Paradigm 2012) held at the American Anthropology Association annual meeting (Montreal, November 2011). They represent the spirit of collegial yet critical engagement in which the event was organized.
Budapest, II. Weltfestspiele, Festumzug German Federal Archives
Surpassing the North: Can the Antipodean Avantgarde Trump Postcolonial Belatedness
Srinivas Aravamudan
The Comaroffs want it both ways in that they want the whiff of authenticity and the credit given to proximate knowledge by claiming that the Nuer attitude to friend and enemy precedes Carl Schmitt's theorization of the same; the Tswana practices of being-as-becoming anticipates Western notions of the autonomy of the individual, argues Srinivas Aravamudan.
An early illustrated work dealing with the school of Salerno. The cover shows Constantine the African lecturing to the school. Fredou
Theory from the Comaroff's, or How to Know the World Up, Down, Backwards and Forwards
James Ferguson
I remain wary of "evolving-toward" sorts of storylines, no matter how cannily and self-consciously they may be deployed in the service of strategic disruption. If taken too literally, some of the Comaroff's startling claims about who is "evolving toward" whom risk obscuring more than they reveal about the inequalities of our inter-connected world, argues James Ferguson. But of course the Comaroffs know all this, he concludes.
Scan of the frontispiece from The book of record of the time capsule of cupaloy, deemed capable of resisting the effects of time for five thousand years, preserving an account of universal achievements, embedded in the grounds of the New York World’s fair, 1939 The caption reads "The Envelope For A Message To The Future Begins Its Epic Journey" Cygnis insignis
Theory from the Antipodes Notes on Jean and John Comaroff's TFS
Achille Mbembe
A theory from the Antipodes will attend not only to “how Euro-America is evolving toward Africa", but also to the conditions under which Africa (the South) and China (the East) are trying to weave the paths that tie both regions in the present and in the future, writes Achille Mbembe.
The antipodes. Kmorozov
Coevalness, Recursivity and The Feet of Lionel Messi
Ato Quayson
For Ato Quayson, Jean and John Comaroff'a Theory from the Global South outlines a suggestive agenda for rethinking not just the relations between the Global South and its northern counterparts, but also about the problems we have to robustly confront in thinking of world history as a totality of inter-related processes, contradictions and values. For that they are to be handsomely acknowledged.
Image from a full-page cartoon by John Tenniel of the 1868 Expedition symbolized as Britannia threatening King Tewodros II as a key-holding jailer. Caltrop
Theory from the South: A Rejoinder
Jean and John Comaroff
For Jean and John Comaroff, understanding these times, accounting for their lineaments, finally, is the point the provocation, the critical pulse that underlies both the poetics and the disciplinary practice toward which Theory From the South aspires. Whether it succeeds or fails, or does both in some proportion, the issues that it was written to address remain too important to ignore, too serious to set aside, too weighty to wait.
The book cover of Theory From The South by Jean Comaroff & John L. Comaroff.
High Wire Acts: Knowledge Imperatives of Southern Urbanisms
Edgar Pieterse
Edgar Pieterse plies his craft at the African Centre for Cities (ACC) in Cape Town. In this essay, he reflects on a number of contemporary debates in urban studies. He argues that at the core of these debates is the question of the political in emergent cities of the South. These debates are happening at a contradictory moment. On the one hand, increasingly retrogressive and exclusionary forms of governmentality and urban management remain pervasive. On the other hand, and after more than two decades of unbridled neoliberalism, an unprecedented opportunity to recast imaginaries about longer-term futures that are more inclusive and just is at hands.
Figure 5: Operating systems of (sustainable) cities
Epistemologies of Deception: Topologies of the Extra/Ordinary
David Theo Goldberg
Three sites. Solidere, Beirut's reconstructed central district. Dahiyeh, the Lebanese capital southern neighbourhood, adjacent to the infamous Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps and the site of Hezbollah residential and political strength. And El-Ghajar, a Lebanese village at the borderland crossroads at which Lebanon, Syria, Palestine's West Bank, and Israel abut. David Goldberg describes these locations as wobbles in the structure of contemporary sociality and politics and uses them as a springboard for a reflection on what he calls "the epistemologies of deception" - the moment when surface and depth collide, even collapse, in spatio-temporal warping and bending, in swirls of dust.
Francis Alys. A Story of Deception
Is Fanon Finished? / Fanon. Et Après?
Nacira Guénif-Souilamas
Ce court essai prend au sérieux ce que veut dire « être mort algérien » dans le cas de Frantz Fanon, homme noir descendant d’esclaves, né aux Antilles françaises avant la départementalisation, et mort avant l’indépendance du pays dont il adoptera la nationalité. Il recense des loyautés et des distances telles que Fanon les a exercées à l’égard de son pays d’adoption et en soupèsera l’actualité et l’inachèvement. En outre, il considère ce que veut dire être un homme noir, et comment, tout en déconstruisant définitivement les attendus et les impensés de la blanchité/blanchitude, fournissant ainsi un ensemble conceptuel intact et actif aux militant-e-s et aux chercheur-e-s de ce temps, sa situation de genre, masculin et hétérosexuel, a en partie échappé à sa puissance d’élucidation, désignant un vide qui a été comblé par d’autres voix cependant moins audibles ou moins immédiatement mises en résonnance.
The Political Theology of Antiracism
Diren (Chandiren) Valayden
A recent article by Brady Heiner, “Foucalt and the Black Panthers” paints Michel Foucault as a latter day Menocchio whose works must be brought to trial because they threaten to contaminate revolutionary discourse. Foucault does not merely suffer from theoretical delirium but is actually professing heretical beliefs. This article exposes the dogmas of ecclesiastical antiracism.
Mzanzis Golden Economy
Kim Gurney
South Africa's Department of Arts and Culture has a new policy that effectively values the arts, culture and heritage sector through an economic lens. But in the heart of 'Mzanzi's golden economy' some of the most compelling contemporary art is largely performative, ephemeral or intangible, writes Kim Gurney.
Bettina Malcomess and Donna Kukama in a 'shoe shine' performance in Johannesburg CBD as part of 'Shoe Shop', May 2012. Photo: Kim Gurney.
Audiovisual Section
The Zone (in reference to Yamaneko's Machine)
Juan Orrantia
When invited to participate in this volume, I saw this as a possibility of sharing a few experiences of artists/intellectuals from Colombia in order to really look into, across and hopefully beyond the borders of geography. But more so, I wanted this to be a space where we could engage with works that experiment with both form and content, and do so through a concern with public intellectual engagement and the way in which critical practices are shared, communicated or even made available.
Reflections on Aesthetics and Violence in Colombia
Maria Victoria Uribe
For Maria Victoria Uribe, the most interesting questions about social suffering arise from the interstices that exist between disciplines such as anthropology, psychoanalysis and cultural criticism, and random encounters with artists, murderers and perpetrators - like those that arose during a brief encounter she had one day with a hit-man who, before she started with her interview, told her: "I'd like to have two hearts, one to deal with good people and another one to deal with bad people, those having no enemies and being dangerous because they betray".
Audiovisual Contributions
Version Libre - Loose Interpretation
Clemencia Echeverri
Video and sound installation where by virtue of the treatment of image and sound, viewers are relegated to the outskirts of the testimonies and subjected to an experience that interpellates them.
Re-membering - Re-membranzas
Catalina Cortes
In my work I am looking for means by which to get close to the ways in which violence is experienced as part of daily life. But not simply in the spaces of death and destruction, but in the ways that people suffer, perceive, persist and resist those violences.
The Afterlife of Coca Dreams
Juan Orrantia
I arrived in search of frozen memories, of names that carried stains of blood in them. Glimpses of the past came about in every corner, and I felt I kind of thrill as I walked into homes once partially forbidden to me. Forbidden for the mere act of fear.
something remains that for some is present
Literary Focus
The Aphorism and the 'Historical Image': Minima Moralia and Adorno's Politics of Form
Louise Green
This essay focuses on a single aphorism from Minima Moralia which addresses, in a very particular way, the question of nature. The aphorism, Mammoth, takes as it starting point a newspaper article announcing the discovery of a 'well preserved dinosaur in Utah', and places this archaeological find in relation to a constellation of cultural forms, King Kong, the Loch Ness monster, tigers, zoos, and Karl Hagenbeck, the animal dealer who designed one of the first 'open zoos' in Hamburg in 1907. For Louise Green, this aphorism offers a creative way of considering how it might be possible to talk about nature at the current historical moment, a moment in which anxiety about the environment is everywhere and environmental crisis often seems to supercede, even obliterate, other forms of crisis.
Dubai Airport. Photo: Nazeema Akar
The Fetish and its Antis
Hylton White
Hylton White takes issue with the way the ontological turn in actor-network theory and more generally through the effects of Latourian thinking in the humanities - and framed our understanding of the history of critical theory, and our sense of both its tasks and its potentials. In defending a kind of critical theory addressed to understanding the development of modes of subjectivity, he "pushes back" against a criticism that has swept across the humanities with tremendous rhetorical force in the last ten years.
The book cover of On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods by Bruno Latour
Nature and/as Thing(s) in the Emergent Literary City
Meg Samuelson
In this essay, Meg Samuelson parses four local novels published during the past two years that inscribe nature and/as things while producing or refusing various visions of the future. She starts with three that compose the urban feral, before turning to a fourth that zooms in on city things, particularly cars. Her attention to the urban is motivated by the demographic shifts noted by Mike Davis and others, and the consequent importance of bringing questions of nature into the city.
The book cover of Zoo City by Lauren Beukes