tirado/thrown


Last Week’s Links: January 5-10, 2009
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What follows is the first shot at what is largely an attempt at offering frequent updates on some of the more interesting links making their way to the tirado/thrown desk.  Any suggestions for good links come to mind?  Please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Image: Screenshot of zigzagphilosophy.com, (2009).  Digital work by Angelo Plessas, found at Rhizome.

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2008 Book Wrap Up
December 31, 2008, 12:54 am
Filed under: Books, Literature, Philosophy | Tags: , ,

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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.]



Citacion del Dia: Solitude Makes You a Charlatan

From Juan Villoro’s Artaud Prize-winning collection of short stories, Los Culpables (The Guilty Ones), which made for excellent subway reading:

“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.



Death and the Idea of Mexico finally out in Paperback

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.