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Qui Parle, Volume 16, Number 2, Spring/Summer 2007

Vol. 16 | No. 2 | Spring/Summer 2007

    Dossier on Urban Interventions: Politics and Violence of the City

Sinan Antoon

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:


You cannot step into the same Baghdad twice.


        I lean on an invisible wall and gaze at an abyss whose dimensions are Baghdad X Baghdad. The Baghdad of space and the Baghdad of time. It is a vast grave. Open and welcoming. Thousands sit on its thresholds. Others sleep inside. Some wail, others hallucinate. There are those who are laughing. Yes. Laughing. Their mouths and skulls are full of dirt.
"Nothing endures"
        Wherever I lean, I hear the same echo: death's pulse crawling on distant walls, on which Iraqis lean as they gaze unto an abyss. They listen to the pulse of death crawling in old bones. And new ones.

Read now at Duke University Press

French Working Class Banlieues and Black American Ghetto: From Conflation to Comparison
Loïc Wacquant

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The purpose of this article is to lay out the rudiments of a comparative sociology of the structures and mechanisms of urban marginalization in France and the United States. To do so, I examine not the substance but the substrate of the racialized urban tensions that have manifested themselves with increased virulence in these two societies during the two closing decades of the century –– the sociological soil in which they have lately sprung forth with astonishing vigor in the one case and taken root over the course of decades in the other, namely, the cités (housing projects) of the French working-class banlieues (outer city) and the black ghetto of the U.S. metropolis. Whence it emerges that, beyond surface similarities in the lived experiences of their residents and certain recent trends of their economic and demographic structures, the reality of urban seclusion and marginality pertains to two profoundly different processes and scales on the two sides of the Atlantic.

Read now at Duke University Press

Toward a Racial Geography of Caracas: Neoliberal Urbanism and the Fear of Penetration
George Ciccariello-Maher 

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

As I begin this essay, it is the twelfth of October, the "Day of Discovery," which marks the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the “New World.” In Venezuela, this day was renamed the "Day of the Race" in 1921 as a reflection of the official state doctrine of mestizaje, or ethnic mixing, but it was even more recently (in 2003) renamed the "Day of Indigenous Resistance" by the government of Hugo Chávez Frías. One year later, radical groups assembled to tear down a statue of Columbus in Plaza Venezuela, and as I write, images of the event are being re-broadcast a year later as an expression of horror by the anti-Chavista private media. A scandal, to be sure, for those members of Venezuelan society who honestly consider themselves European and who, while sitting in one of the many pizzerias or pasta shops concentrated in wealthy sectors of Caracas, would no doubt speak proudly of the Italian blood they share with the "discoverer" of the "New World." Such Venezuelans prefer to speak the ideological language of mestizaje than that of Indigenous or slave resistance, as though there were no inherent tension between mestizaje and European pride. I recount this as a first approximation of both the massive polarization that currently exists in Venezuelan society as well as to emphasize that such polarization is not reducible to issues of class, but rather touches the heart of questions of race, the colonial imaginary, and Eurocentrism, as well as the ways in which ideologies of mestizaje operate to systematically conceal these elements.

Read now at Duke University Press


The Tradition of the Oppressed
Ariella Azoulay

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Benjamin is one of the rare philosophers whose writing emerges from the visual. Most of his writings, including those that do not deal directly with visuality, retain traces of gazes, images and material objects. Yet, almost all of Benjamin's texts were published in the absence of those images to which he implicitly or explicitly referred; the visual citations have been excluded. This is true of the earlier and later editions of his texts, as well as of his books and journal writings. Even the texts Benjamin published during his lifetime, including those that explicitly grew out of visual materials or were directly related to them, usually appeared without the accompaniment of images. Such a practice, I believe, is tantamount to publishing a piece of literary criticism that lacks direct quotations from the analyzed text. And in most cases, interpreters are not even aware of the fact that the text in front of them is actually incomplete.

What I would like do in this essay is to demonstrate what a reading of Benjamin that does take the visual dimension of his texts into account might look like. I will do this primarily in the context of his essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility." My claim is that the aura of the work of art, the loss of which Benjamin apparently laments in this text, was actually a produced authorial effect.

Read now at Duke University Press

Insert Into Blankness: Poetry and Cultural Memory in Benjamin's Baudelaire Interpretation
Jennifer Bajorek

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

“Baudelaire would never have written poems if he'd had nothing more than the usual motives poets have for writing poetry.” ––Walter Benjamin

It is the singular achievement of Walter Benjamin's late texts on Baudelaire to have sketched for us one possible way that the subject might get through capital, one way that it (or "we") might move through the radical transformations of the structures of experience and memory that capital entails. I say these texts sketch one possible way we might "get through" these transformations, if not exactly survive them, in order to underscore the difference between the time of this process and any forward movement. As is well known, Benjamin based all of his theoretical calculations in the texts of this period on the necessity of breaking with the theory of history as a theory of progress. He saw this break as necessary on account not only of certain tendencies of fascism and of what he called "bourgeois habits of thought," but of the theoretical instruments of Marxism itself, which he had begun to suspect were all too reflexively intertwined with their object. The break was not only necessary but perceived as urgent and had to be total, requiring nothing short of a new theory, not just of history, but its stuff. Critical to the formulation of this break and to the formation of this new historical material was a theory of poetry and, more specifically, Baudelaire's poetry, on which Benjamin came to base his most original and provocative claims about capital's history, as well as his speculations about the shape of its future, even if these remained fragmentary. We cannot know whether this fragmentariness stems from the radical incompletion of Benjamin's writing projects (in the mundane sense allowed by biography), or from something about the nature of that future.

Read now at Duke University Press

   Review Essay

Changing Channels: Broadcast Television, Early Video, and the Politics of Networked Media
Andrew Stefan Weiner

A review of Joselit, David. Feedback: Television Against Democracy. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).

Read now at Duke University Press

Cover photograph: Natascha Unkart. More info. Cover Poem: Excerpted from "Necropolis" by Sinan Antoon. More info.

Volume 16.2 is available at Duke University Press and JSTOR. Qui Parle is edited by an independent group of graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley and published by Duke University Press.