Filed under: Books, Philosophy, Politics | Tags: Add new tag, Agamben, Editorials, Julien Coupat, Philosophy, Political Thought, Politics, Thought, Tiqqun
[Ed note: This post was initially meant to publish sometime in the dead of winter, around January of 2009. For a variety of reasons (procrastination, laziness, business, preoccupation with other matters, reservations, etc.) the post has sat around in a mostly-completed state in the 'Drafts' folder for a long time. Maybe the post has its own schedule, or its publication is not really meant to come out in quite this fashion. (In retrospect, there were probably three or four separate blog posts just waiting to be made out of the compendium below.) At any rate, they are words coming from an exigence that was ultimately frustrated and arrested, leaving you with a post whose timeliness is at best ambiguous.]
The last couple of months of 2008 have been busy on news regarding Giorgio Agamben and work being done on his thought. Usually some piece of information ocasionally drifts in, or a new, nearly inaudible video on YouTube of Agamben’s lectures catches my attention. But I don’t remember there being such a relative volume of Agamben-related news since he protested the U.S.’s policy of ‘biopolitical tattooing’ under provisions of the US-Visit act and consequently turned down an appointment at NYU. Maybe it’s just that my antennae are more finely tuned to pick these kind of things up now than they were before. Be that as it may, though, the news is welcome. Some bits follow:
- The final installment of Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer tetralogy was published in Italy in late 2008. Entitled, Il Sacramento del linguaggio: Archeologia del giuramento (The Sacrament of Language: Archeaology of the Oath), it comes quickly on the heels of Il Regno e la gloria: Per una genealogia teologica dell’economia e del governo (The Kindgom and the Glory: For a theological geneaology of the economy and government), published in 2007. Roughly paraphrasing, the publisher’s website describes the The Sacrament of Language as an inquiry seeking to offer reasons for the strategy and functioning of an institution that has encroached its way into religion, politics, and law- the oath. Agamben places the oath as a decisive anthropogenetic gesture at the threshold between language and power. At a quick blush, the work treats themes that Agamben takes up in a chapter from The Time That Remains entitled, “The Sixth Day.” David Kishik at Notes for the Coming Community offers a rough translation from an excerpt for a sampling. [Notes for the Coming Community].
- In May 2009, Stanford University Press will be publishing a very short collection of Agamben’s essays under the title, What is an Apparatus? and Other Essays. consisting of the title essay, and works on friendship and contemporaenity rounding out the tiny, 80 page book. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed, as seeing a relatively larger text like Il Regno e la Gloria come out in translation before such a short collection of texts would be more desirable. But it’s a trivial complaint. Jason Adams’ translation of the title essay (which will not appear in the collection, David Kishik’s translation will), originally entitled Qui est une dispositif? What is a Dispositor? is a good place to start for a glimpse of what the book will offer. [Stanford University Press/Notes for the Coming Community]
- Lacan.com and Notes for the Coming Community have published translations of a recent editorial that Agamben wrote for France’s Liberation, calling for the release of Julien Coupat* and the Tarnac 9. In the process he challenges a significant feature political life in our time: the concentration of state power that has made dissent a suspect activity by appealing to security (whether real or perceived) as a basis for governance. A outstanding blog with updates and documents on the Tarnac 9 situation is can be found here. [Lacan.com/Notes for the Coming Community/Support the Tarnac 9]
- Leyland de la Durantaye’s recent work on Agamben, “Homo Profanus: Giorgo Agamben’s Profane Philosophy” appears in the most recent edition of the journal boundary. At a cursory glance, it appears to be an in-depth treatment bringing ideas developed in Profanations to bear as part of Agamben’s philosophical and political projects. Namely he places Profanations in proxmity to works outside of the Homo Sacer series- The Coming Community, Means Without End, The Idea of Prose, and The Time That Remains. The article holds out the possibility of reading Agamben’s work systemtically to present some possible prospects and directions for Agamben’s thought, especially in relation to ideas discussed in Walter Benjamin’s work. Interestingly, he alludes to the Flamen Diale as an example of a profane figure. Could this counterpart to the sacred [hu]man be a hint pointing towards the next phase of Agamben’s thinking? Next May, Stanford University Press will be publishing de la Durantaye’s text Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction. [Duke Journals/Stanford University Press]
- Adam Kotsko’s essay, “On Agamben’s use of Benjamin’s Critique of Violence” appears in the latest issue of Telos. Only a short excerpt serving as an abstract is available online, so it’s either to the library or to forking over $15 for an issue.
- Infinite Thought, a tirado/thrown favorite, posted this little item with a link on ”How to Write Like Agamben”** from a blog that is the latest addition to the blogroll, No Useless Leniency. Worth checking out is a commentary on Agamben’s essay “In Praise of Profanation”, in the style of another of Agamben’s essays, Notes on Gesture. It’s called Notes on the Image. [Infinite Thought/No Useless Leniency]
*As it happens, Coupat is the editor of the French-based journal Tiqqun. For a sample of work featured in the journal, Soft Targets published some excerpts from a piece entitled Introduction to Civil War. Very Roughly speaking, these fragments throw situationism, Agambenian philosophy, and samplings of Hardt-Negri’s autonomism into the mix, offer offer a response to neo-liberal imperialism and preventive counter-revolutionary politics. The Support the Tarnac 9 site also has additional texts from Tiqqun and the Inoperative Collective available. [Soft Targets Journal/Support the Tarnac 9]
**As a rejoinder to IT, another possible way to score a Warburg Institute fellowship is to write like Richard Rodriguez, whatever the Chicanada may think of him. This here one finds Rodriguez to be essential reading on the dynamics of mestizaje and subject formation.
Image Credit: Reiner Gahnal, Seminar/Lecture, Giorgio Agamben, Filosofia teoretica,istituto universitario di architettura di Venezia, 6/5/2007, 20 x 24 inches. 51 x 61 cm
Filed under: Blogs, Books, Ideas, Literature, Writing | Tags: Identity, Literature, Rant, Writing
Sound Taste’s latest entry, A Universal History of Infamy, sparked the motors this morning. A fantastic post. Not only does she point out a lacuna in American literary criticism (a patent “…lack of imagination”), she ties it to the poor habit that can’t seem to think of Latin American literature as anything other than magical realism.
It is a point well-worth reiterating.
Maybe it’s that Jose Saldivar’s”The Dialectics of Our America” is current subway reading and that precious spare time has become consumed with the meaning of identity in current ponderings, but this question of ‘realness’ as a cipher for a personal identity has been bothersome.
Does the drive for ‘realness’ through appropriating the experience of ‘the other’ (well-intended or not) serve to fostering identity in the face of groundlessness? Another question: what are editors and marketers at the big (sinking) houses (and the critics they give free shit to) thinking when they promote crappy reading? It points to a market-driven logic that’s simply dizzying. Just a few paragraphs in, and we already find ourselves in a thicket of ethical issues regarding identity, commodity, and the production of meaning.
But maybe the dirty secret is that personal dirt sells books. The kookier the habit, the deeper the suffering, the better to move units under the guise of real criticism, the thought seems to go. Why not vindicate one’s moral superiority as a reader-observer in the manner we seem to enjoy watching train wrecks unfold nightly on reality television shows ginned up to produce such marvelous human drama?
Besides, why should I care if Bolaño shoveled smack? This 19th-century way of thinking that writing, even fiction, is a mode of self-disclosure is so bankrupt. It lends itself to the pseudo-profound thoughts that writing and language are simple reproductions or reflections of reality. What a cruel and depressing way to treat the gift of language.
Filed under: Aesthetics, Books, Chicano, Ideas, Latinos, Literature, Mexico, Philosophy, Politics, Publications, Uncategorized | Tags: Agamben, Aura Estrada, Badiou, Benjamin, Bernard Steigler, Biopolitics, Books, Foucault, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Journal of Theives, Literature, Mexico City, New Blogs, Photography, Pochismo, Science
- From Mexico City, Intersections returns from its hiatus with an update on recent events honoring writer Aura Estrada as part of an effort to create a literary prize in her memory. The prize will offer promising Mexican women writers an opportunity to hone their literary chops.
- Intersections follows up with a post on recent programming at Mexico City’s Center for Contemporary Culture. Maras y la Cultura de la Violencia focuses on La Mara Salvatrucha, among the most widely-publicized and feared street gangs in the US and El Salvador. The show raises a host of questions, especially about the way in which museums and cultural institutes address highly charged contemporary issues. Is the show an instance of the ongoing ‘museumification of the world’? Is it an attempt to deal with a matter usually placed under the sign of public safety/police/crime journalism with the resources of humanistic reflection? Or is it just a foolish, useless, and unsympathetic expedition glorifying a way of life marked, or perhaps defined, by cruelty, aggression, and ruthlessness?
- The MIT Press is holding its Winter White Sale until January 31, which is the press’s coolest discount book buying opportunity next to their loading dock sale. If any dear readers wish to donate books to the tirado/thrown staff (ahem…), please feel free to ask how you can send Ruben Gallo’s Mexican Modernity and/or Adam Sharr’s Heidegger’s Hut. Generosity will be compensated with a treatment of received book on this blog and recognition from a grateful beneficiary.
- Perverse Egalitarianism reflects on Bernard Steigler’s Acting Out. The call to philosophy and the discipline required in its practice, which, at the risk of oversimplifying, is part in parcel with getting on in this existence of ours.
- Why has No Useless Leniency not been in my reader? Why were three outstanding posts missed here at tirado/thrown? In the interest of making amends, first some notes on Badiou’s The Meaning of Sarkozy, highlighting some useful precepts. Second, a post reflecting on the ontology of the interval, with some hints for further reflection regarding the conquest and creation of the New World. Third and last, some notes on Walter Benjamin’s essay Capitalism as Religion, an essay that Agamben riffs heavily on in “In Praise of Profanation.”
- This Recording’s recent “Science Corner” entry, aside from being colorful, is an example downright cool science blogging for the barely initiated. And now we are a little more familiar with the mating habits of the banana slug.
- I Cite shares with readers some notes on Foucault’s 1978-79 lectures on the genesis of modern biopolitics. Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
- Guillermo Gómez-Peña, who has helped bring pochismo into the cultural vernacular, is The Mexorcist. Yes, xenophobia is a spiritual disorder. An interview with the Tuscon Citizen elaborates. (Note: Gómez-Peña will be giving a talk at USC on January 28. For more context, his article in The Journal of Visual Culture from 2006 titled El Mexorcist lays out the basic idea.)
- Rhizome calls our attention to the brick being thrown at us. Buffalo Head: Media Practice, Media Study, Media Pioneeers 1973-1990 is the 800-plus page , 10 pound book documenting the work of SUNY Buffalo’s Center for Media Studies.
- tirado/thrown receives a greeting from Journal of Thieves. Not at all safe for work, or for those who are easily offended. We were definitely charmed by the assault on sensibility that makes easily reproduced spectacle and images of extreme ambiguity render pornography inoperative. tirado/thrown thanks JoT for making us think. We welcome you to the blogroll, with open, er, you get the point.
- Please, click through the link at the end of the bullet . You’ll find your computer to be interesting and fun again. http://www.zigzagphilosophy.com/
Image: Screenshot of zigzagphilosophy.com, (2009). Digital work by Angelo Plessas, found at Rhizome.
Filed under: Books, Literature, Philosophy | Tags: Books, End of Year, Lists
With available time this year running out to do just about anything, let alone making blog posts, here’s what was going to be a much more robust rundown (a la the music post) of the books that made commutes more bearable and the imagination and intellect a little more fertile in 2008. Time and travel got the best of our dear blogger, so you’re left with a mere abbreviated list of authors and titles. [Note: The book review department here at tirado/thrown resolves to generate a better year in books for you, our dear readers, in 2009.]
- W.G. Sebald: Vertigo
- Michelle Aharonian Marcom: The Mirror in the Well
- Eugenio Trias: La Dispersion
- Franz Kafka: The Blue Octavo Notebooks
- Jacques Ranciere: On the Shores of Politics
- Thomas Frank: The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule
- Hanif Kureishi: Something To Tell You
- Martin Heidegger: On Time and Being
- Kaja Silverman: World Spectators
- Pedro Angel Palou: Con la Muerte en los Punos
- Herman Melville: The Confidence Man- His Masquerade
- Eddie Martinez and Chuck Webster, ZieherSmith Joint Catalog
Best wishes from tirado/thrown for an outstanding 2009! We hope to be posting more in the coming year. Thanks for dropping by and reading!
[Image Credit: Georges Seurat, Man Sitting on a Terrace, Reading, Chalk on Chamois Paper, 23 x 30 cms / 9.1 x 11.8 inches, 1884, found at Fine Art Prints on Demand.]
Filed under: Books, Literature | Tags: fragments, Games, Language, Literature
Nathan over at Prologus posted a wee, easy challenge to get the day started. My results are at the bottom.
- Grab the nearest book.
- Open it to page 56.
- Find the fifth sentence.
- Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
- Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST
“Maria and I watched her place both hands on Henry’s head.”
Hanif Kureishi, Something to Tell You, New York: Scribner, 2008.
Now go and do the same for yourselves, and please try to post an image of the books’s cover for embellishment.
Filed under: Books, Philosophy | Tags: Dawdling, drift, Events, Idler, Josh Glenn, Layabout, New Books
A quick event plug, should you be looking for something to do in Harvard Square this evening. Hermenaut founder, former Boston Globe “Ideas” section columnist, writer, intellectual flaneur, Jamaica Plain native and general all-around bon homme Joshua Glenn is celebrating the release of the new book he’s co-authored with Mark Kingwell, The Idler’s Glossary. It’s a handy compendium that began life as a piece for the UK publication that is the Bible of the life supine, The Idler. It had a spectral afterlife in the depths of the Hermenaut website for a number of years, and is now full-on, stand-alone book.
When I first read the Idler piece in a copy that I borrowed from the Hermenaut offices, it was a fantastic and much-needed vindication of my itinerant and indecisive life in the early 2000s. Personally, it should be required reading as a counter-balance to a world yammering to normalize the capitalist work ethic as a desireable way of life.
The Idler’s Glossary has received some well-deserved attention from the likes of the New York Times Book Review blog, The Washington Post, Boing Boing, and of course, Brainiac. More coverage here, here, and here. So what am I saying? Go if you have a chance, I’ll see you there. You’ll find me restfully seated in the chair near the window of the second floor lounge. Details below.
WHAT: Release party to celebrate “The Idler’s Glossary”
WHO: Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based author, editor, and former Globe columnist and blogger. Introduction by the philosopher Mark Kingwell; design and illustrations by the cartoonist Seth.
WHEN: Thursday, October 23. 5 pm to 8 pm. FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
WHERE: The offices of The Harvard Advocate, 21 South Street (off JFK), in Harvard Square.
WHY: Wine and beer. No, I mean, because this gorgeous little book is an excellent holiday gift for that quitter, dawdler, or dreamer in your life.
Hope to see you there!
Filed under: Books, Literature, Mexico, Philosophy | Tags: Add new tag, Agamben, Books, Charlatanism, Cover Art, Guilt, Liminal, Literature, Nancy, Solitude, Villoro
“La soledad te vuelva charlatán.”
Roughly translated, it means, “Solitude turns you into a charlatan.” Taken alone, the quote uttered by the narrator of Villoro’s title story efficiently sheds light on the work of Octavio Paz, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Giorgio Agamben. With Villoro as an heir to Paz’s cultural project in El Laberinto de la Soledad, his narrator’s thought expresses the non-knowledge gained at the very limits of social and ontological isolation. It is the point where Paz notes that solitude renders human existence to getting on day by day with little but one’s wits and no pre-existing knowledge, “al dia”.
Paz’s post-revolutionary Mexico is an ur-post-modern space from which Mexico can contribute to a universal philosophy acutely attuned to a situation that persists in varied forms. This situation is marked by heightened social alienation and the evacuation of meaning in the face of devastating traumatic encounters that influence the trajectories of our moods and thoughts inwards, and our disposition to the existence of others problematic at best. Agamben refers to this situation in various forms in The Coming Community, Means Without End, Homo Sacer, and Profanations. In The Coming Community he introduces us to the characters in the limbic* world where politics, culture, and religion can only react against and unsuccessfully make its own: ‘toons, fakes, assistants, tricksters. Charlatans, thugs, con-men**, swindlers, and similar figures dwell in this area at the borders of identity, nationality, language, culture, and class. They are left to themselves, abandoned to one another (an idea that Nancy pursues in Being Singular Plural under the term co-appearance or compearance, which Agamben uses in his discussion of the sovereign ban in Homo Sacer.) Which is all to say, we are all charlatans of a sort or another, most especially when we are at our most earnest or seeking out the authenticity’s perverse thrills.
As to how tricksterism and solitude come into play in Nancy’s philosophy, I can only pose the question. Though a discussion devoted to solitude in a portion of Being Singular Plural entitled ”The Measure of the ‘With’” may offer some clue.
Admittedly, in light of this pochista musing concerning things Mexican I’m much more partial to the more colorful and morbid cover art for the book’s Argentine edition over the domestic version in Mexico. But a bright, a lime-green silouhette of an iguana set against a black background on the cover of the Mexican edition shouldn’t deter a good translator from making the book available to an Anglophone reading public.
*Interestingly enough, the brain’s limbic system plays a key role in non-verbal communication, including the generation and regulation of gestures, a topic that Agamben attends to in Means Without End.
**Having started Melville’s The Confidence Man: His Masquerade a couple of days ago has got me on an uncanny path asking about the significance of these figures and types in philosophy and politics more than usual.
Photo credit: Juan Villoro at a reading and book signing in Puebla, MX, 2007; Source: Colorpardo on Flickr.
Filed under: art, Books, Music, Philosophy | Tags: books and music, deleuze, figures, herman melville, julian opie, keith jarrett, miles davis, nobody, sebald, stuff I've bought, to read and listen to
Some time away in L.A.’s offered the opportunity to visit the blog and catch up on posting some things I’ve been meaning to get up on tirado for a while. If there’s anything that these posts indicate, is that unless I just spend hours a day writing, I could never write with a gun or paycheck pressed against my temple.
If anything’s characterized the last couple of months, it’s been a steady stream of book and music-buying. They are the consumer vices I allow myself to indulge in from time to time. Consider this an offline roundup of what I hope to be drawing from a little more deeply in from the future. A short summer reading or listening list, if you will.
- Gilles Deleuze’s Two Regimes of Madness. It looks like a good introduction to his basic concerns and the trajectories of his though. I’m dreadfully unaware of Deleuze’s work. Given that Deleuze drew the attention of Badiou, Agamben, and Zizek, and is seen to have an influence on thinkers such as Manuel De Landa, he’s worth boning up on.
- The Tate’s Modern Artists treatment of Julain Opie’s work. So you’ve probably seen his work on St. Etienne and Blur album covers and in various public spaces, including the Northern Avenue bridge in Downtown Boston. His extremely recognizable later work imbues digitally-rendered and animated drawings with eye-catching simplicity. Skimming through the text reaffirms a constantly-held thought: that I am a perpetual beginner when it comes to just about anything. It’s a pleasant retrospective. The accompanying essay is informative, if not slightly pedantic, but worth flipping between different sections of the defectively bound book to read the book from beginning to end.
- The Confidence Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville. Two immediate associations coming to mind from the title were Roxy Music’s nine-minute trackThe Bogus Man and Agamben’s assertion that the exemplars of the coming community are “Tricksters or fakes, assistants or ‘toons…”. What fun will lurk at the indiscernable turns in the darkness? I’ll find out when I read it. To what extent was Melville’s writing a bellwhether of ascendant American capitalism? Will reading Melville’s work offer more insight into that historical question? Is this text capable of illuminating notions of the Coming Community or Whatever Being? Maybe I’ll let you know in a few months.
- Miles Davis’ On the Corner. Here we find Miles insistently beating at the boundary distinguishing music and sound. And that a portion of the image on the gatefold is the inspiration for Troubleman Unlimited’s logo is a bonus. It’s long-overdue essential listening.
- DJ Nobody Presents: Blank Blue, Western Water Music Vol. 2: Elvin Estela’s been plugging away at manufacturing sounds and rhythms for well over ten years now. Blank Blue is his fifth full-length production. His pedigree in underground hip-hop is solid, having collaborated with Project Blowed in the late 1990s and working with Busdriver in the present day. As a producer, Estela is active with Guillermo Scott Herren (aka Prefuse 73) as part of the outfit La Correcion, and is a prolific remixer. He is a regular on dublab.com and he co-hosts the weekly cavalcade of psych-rock on KXLU, She Comes in Colours, consistently touted as one of the best radio shows in Los Angeles. Someone once called his music “Paisely Soul”, and it’s an affectionate, if mildly apt, descritption. In a previous post, I mentioned something to the effect of how the Rain Parade was able to temper psych-rock with doses of punk discipline. Estela’s project weds free floating psychedelic soundscapes and makes them sway with beats that move away from an imaginary center point in the first half of the bar and return in the second. Singer Nikki Randa’s vocals emerge from the aquatic soundscapes to ping Blank Blue’s way through your subconscious.
- When I was picking up the above three records, I was looking for a Miles Davis record featuring Keith Jarrett. I had no such luck. In an ironic twist (perhaps out of exhaustion), I picked up Jarrett’s Standards in Norway, one of his many straight-forward jazz discs with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette.
- W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants. If I remember correctly, I was introduced to Sebald’s work when I read an article by Benjamin Kunkel mentioning him. In any case, what matters less was the specific written piece than the fact that Sebald became interesting to me. After reading the traversals and intersections of time, images, recollections, fiction, truncated interaction, nostalgia, and reflection that was his Vertigo, I wanted more Sebald. This particular copy was whatever I could get my hands on at the time.
I’ll leave this post with footage of Keith Jarrett getting down with Miles Davis prior to Jarrett’s renunciation of electronically-generated music. He bluntly stated his discontent in the liner notes for his Solo Concerts: Bremen/Lausanne album from 1973:
I am, and have been, carrying on an anti-electric-music crusade of which this is an exhibit for the prosecution. Electricity goes through all of us and is not to be relegated to wires.
In a way, it’s too bad, because what the video below will show that the Jarrett’s got soul in super-abundance. But then again, had he kept on working with electricity, those amazing solo piano concerts of the mid-70s would probably not have happened. At any rate, the electricity hops out of the wires and into his body through the keys while Jarrett plays, coinciding in an ecstatic display. Check him out on the Rhodes for his part of “Inamorata”. (You might have to turn it up to hear…)
Filed under: Anthropology, Books, Cultural Studies, Latinos, Politics | Tags: Agamben, Auge, Books, Death, Mexico, Plastilina Mosh, thanatopolitics
While this post was originally meant to be published a week or so ago, it’s still worth noting that Zone Books has finally released anthropologist Claudio Lomnitz’s masterful text Death and the Idea of Mexico in paperback, almost two and a half years after its aptly-timed November 2005 hardcover release (which made my Dia de los Muertos that year…). In Death and the Idea of Mexico, Lomnitz draws on a multitude of sources to trace the history of death as Mexico’s constituting and guiding idea. And he does this in a manner that issues an assertive response to Marc Auge’s work An Anthropology for Contenporaeous Worlds, where Auge seeks to traverse the division between history and anthropology to give anthropology renewed contemporary relevance. Lomnitz infuses his anthropological thinking with a powerful sense for how temporal movements require ample space to make their effects felt and ultimately shift form and meaning. Beginning with the originary trauma of conquest and colonialism as establishing the coordinates along which death moves along and circulates, he tracks the ways in which religious doctrine and authority, political and state power, political-economic exigencies, class, and cultural production collude in forming the deathscapes that define Mexico in an utterly singular fashion.
With Death and the Idea of Mexico Lomnitz also proposes a thesis that should make any careful reader of Agamben pay attention, namely that Death was put into play as a way of shaping politics, i.e., a form of life. In short, he is initiating a study of Mexico’s thanatopolitical history. Lomnitz’s analysis bears the possibility of standing as an example of studying how death works in political and cultural settings outside of Mexico, most especially in those that seemingly espouse life as a dominant political sign.
As erudite as his work is, his writing is engaging, thoughtful, and bears a stunning public relevance. The last chapter of the book bears this out, where he discusses the intersections and differences between Mexican, Chicano, and North American uses of death as cultural signifiers in light of emigration. Lomnitz currently teaches Anthropology and Latina/o Studies at Columbia University, where he is also the director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. He also edits the journal Public Culture. He also happened to pen what was probably the clearest and most slept on analysis of the controversy surrounding the Mexican government’s intention to issue postage stamps in Mexico bearing the image of Memín Pinguín.
No dabbling, let alone serious, consideration of how we think about and relate to death can fail to engage Death and the Idea of Mexico with interest. Even if you remotely enjoy anything Mexicano resembling el Dia de los Muertos, this text is essential reading, because it offers a broad and profound sense of the forces in operation (or not) when long-standing symbols are put into play. It gives the contrary impression to that of one offered by a piece that I ran across in the recent issue of Cabinet Magazine, where Michael Sappol and Eva Ahren lament that “….by sequestering death in the realm of art, pop culture, and kitsch, maybe we hope to attenuate the certain prospect of our impending mortality: Death becomes just another disposable consumer object, or conversely just another collectible. Thus accessorized, we no longer get good representational service out of the skeleton as an inner self…”
In light of Lomnitz’s work, I’d like to offer an alternate possibility as a rejoinder. Could it be that death (with its skullen, masked and synthesized representatives, as the boys in Plastilina Mosh seem to propose in the video below) is the human disco ball nonpareil? And could it be so in a manner similar to the one Heidegger proposes, where Dasein is being-towards-death, in which all of our encounters in the world possess some animating glimmer as we exist beside our own death? Decide for yourself.