The Authentic Benjamin

we late-moderns turn to Benjamin as a kind of figure of pure authenticity, almost a source out of time and out of history. The reason for this is simple, once it is put against the background of, for example, Agamben’s theory of history and modernity. How else, conceptually, could we imagine a source for the kind of emancipation necessary to fully transcend political modernity? In this context, then, Benjamin’s very person emerges as the embodiment of this possibility, and the source, only apparently the product of this modernity, of a pure theory of potentiality – the living exception to the exception.

Jennings, Ronald C. 2011. “Sovereignty and Political Modernity: A Genealogy of Agamben’s Critique of Sovereignty.” Anthropological Theory 11 (1): 23–61.

Sotomayor’s Dissent

While our Constitution does not guarantee minority groups victory in the political process, it does guarantee them meaningful and equal access to that process. It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently, forcing the minority alone to surmount unique obstacles in pursuit of its goals—here, educational diversity that cannot reasonably be accomplished through race-neutral measures. Today, by permitting a majority of the voters in Michigan to do what our Constitution forbids, the Court ends the debate over race-sensitive admissions policies in Michigan in a manner that contravenes constitutional protections long recognized in our precedents. […] Read More

On Sunflowers, Sunlight, and Sovereignty

中文翻譯

The occupation, by several hundred students, of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan on March 18th, and the subsequent birth of what has been called the “Sunflower Student Movement” has inspired millions of people around the world. More importantly, for me, it has inspired a whole new generation of Taiwanese young people to take an active interest in national politics. After over two weeks, however, the time has come to be a little reflective about the movement’s hopes, goals and aspirations. As I see it, the movement highlights one of the central contradictions of progressive politics in Taiwan: the tension between sovereignty and democracy. Putting it this way may shock a few readers, since so many people who care about Taiwan tend to equate the two. Since there is so much ignorance and misinformation about the topic it is necessary for me to first make a few preliminary remarks about Taiwanese sovereignty. Those already familiar with the basic facts might wish to skip ahead. Read More

Cervical Spondylosis

This summer I developed radiating pain in my right shoulder. I’ve hurt myself in the past, and I assumed it was a muscle injury that could be treated with ice, rest, yoga, massage, etc. but nothing I did made it better. It seemed to come and go quite randomly, and the pain got so bad that I was completely incapable of focusing on my work. Further research suggested an alternative diagnosis: cervical spondylosis. Although my doctors were initially at odds over what my x-ray showed, an MRI proved that it was indeed cervical spondylosis.

For the tl;dr crowd: I got better (mostly, anyway). But read on if you want to know why and how I beat this thing and my long-term prognosis.

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Institutional Racism Round-up

There are so many stories about institutional racism going around on Facebook and Twitter right now it is hard to keep track of them all. Here is a small sampling:

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Scaling Linguistic Diversity

The conference panel, “Scaling Linguistic Diversity: Language Standardization as a Scale-Making Project,” which I organized together with Sonia Das, was accepted for the 112th AAA Annual meeting to be held at the Chicago Hilton November 20-24, 2013.

Session Abstract

Language standardization can be usefully understood as a “scale-making project” (Tsing 2000). Standardization and linguistic differentiation (Irvine and Gal 2000) can solidify existing sociolinguistic hierarchies at the level of the nation-state, or they can challenge them, redrawing the map so as to link the local with the global in new ways. The metaphor of “sociolinguistic scale” (Blommaert 2007), based on the notion of “indexical order” (Silverstein 2003), rejects the simplistic micro-macro dichotomy, instead measuring processes of typification and framing through linguistic practices. This allows scholars to talk about the role of language in social as well as geographic mobility. Also, by treating scale as a “project,” it becomes possible to articulate its contested, ideological nature. Doing so opens up new possibilities for productive exchange between work on “language ideology” (Woolard and Schieffelin 1994) and “language and political economy” (Irvine 1989), as well as for interdisciplinary exchange around issues of heteroglossia, mobility, and indigeneity. In situations of linguistic “superdiversity” (Blommaert and Rampton 2011), scale accomplishes a lot of the work done by ecological approaches (Mühlhäusler 1996) without the burden of biological metaphors. Viewing language standardization as a scale-making project also helps to focus discussion of “linguistic fields” (Bourdieu 1977) onto processes by which official and “alternative linguistic markets” (Woolard 1985) are created. Finally scale has a temporal dimension, bringing together language trees and language maps to create vertical linkages that can either reinforce or transcend horizontal boundaries. Whether working with minorities, migrants, vernacular or endangered language communities, the papers on this panel treat language standardization as a scale-making project to explore contestations and debates surrounding language ideologies, interdiscursive processes, code-switching, and acts of sociolinguistic boundary-making. Through their attention to various scalar dimensions, metaphors, and processes, each of these papers breaks away from teleological views of language standardization that envision the authoring and institutionalization of dictionaries, religious texts and pedagogical materials as unilinear processes whose end results are a foregone conclusion. Some highlight how orthographic standards index competing language ideologies at different scales (Falconi), or how similar ideologies of scale index contradictory language ideologies pertaining to standards (Friedman). Others destabilize ideologies of diglossia (Fenigsen) and challenge simplistic notions of code-switching (Spreng) by revealing actors’ ability to negotiate evaluations of standards at multiple levels of scale. Another highlights temporal dimensions of scale by exploring how standardization naturalizes globalized pasts and futures (Das). In doing so, each of these papers raises important questions about the role of language standardization in social reproduction and social change: How do linguistic boundaries map onto geographic and temporal boundaries at different scales? How do language practices deploy scalar metaphors to index local, global, primordial, modern, and other identities? How do official language ideologies shape and, in turn, get shaped by scaling processes? How does one characterize standardization projects that cross multiple dimensions of time and space? Such questions relate scale to standardization by demonstrating the contested ideological natures of both.

Individual paper abstracts below.
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Kotahi Mano Kaika, Kotahi Mano Wawata 中文翻譯

學習瀕危語言(七) [Click for English version.]

作者:傅可恩/Futing; 翻譯者:施永德 DJ Hatfield.

在本系列第六篇,我對台灣原住民族語的教學方式抱怨了,好像是教死語言的模式,不像現用語言的課程:

其實,很多方面,這一次參加母語教學活動,使我想起當時準備 bar mitzvah(猶太教的成年禮)上希伯來文學校的日子。希伯來語雖然算是一個現用語言, 不過1970年代末80年代初改革派會堂的希伯來文教學方式,接近一個死語言(如拉丁語)的課程,卻沒有日常生活利用希伯來 文的期望,學生懂得如何發音,如何將簡單的祈禱文翻成英文就夠了,那樣就可以在朗誦經文時,知道我們在說些什麼。

讓我想到這一點,是那天跟一位同學聊天,當我提到我想要加強會話技能,就費了很多時間才能解釋,這樣使我慢慢體會,我的同學其實不會想要在 日常生活講阿美族語,他們想要的是,通過語言教學,獲得更多有關他們自己的文化的知識。這項母語課程,也剛好為了他們的目標而設計,我們每週先讀一篇訪問部落耆老的田野紀錄,再學習新詞,然後翻譯課文,最後我們一起朗誦課文。這種課程並沒有要求學生構造合乎阿美族語文法的句子。

這樣以來,我很高興花蓮部落大學以及國立東華大學原住民民族學院能夠邀請紐西蘭基督堂城理工科技學院毛利及太平洋研究中心 (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology Center for Maori and Pasifika Studies) 的兩位毛利族語活動家,Hana O’Regan和Megan Grace,來花蓮分享他們珍貴的經驗以及想法。Hana和Megan兩位老師 語言復振途徑,跟台灣常見的教學方式有點不相同,他們強調現用語言的建構過程,因此,他們工作地點在於家庭而不限於課堂。

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The doctrine of noninterference

The doctrine of noninterference turned into a charter for all around interference for one reason: the occupying power gave itself the prerogative to define the boundaries of that in which it will not interfere, and then to define the content of the authentic religion with which there was to be no interference, and finally, to acknowledge the authentic authority that would define and safeguard religion in its pure form—without external interference. The prerogative to define the boundary, the substance and the authority of the “customary,” gave vast scope to the powers of the occupying authority. But the exercise of this power, the list of those to be “protected,” was politically determined—and it grew as time passed.

Mamdani, Define and Rule

NYIFF 2013 and Other Screenings

We are very happy to announce that Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir! will have its North American premier in New York City at the 13th Annual New York Indian Film Festival . (You can purchase tickets for the Saturday, May 4th screening via the website.)

NYIFF 2013

For those in Europe, the film will be playing Etnofilm in Rovinj, Croatia later this month and Ethnocineca in Vienna in mid-May.

Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir! has also screened at numerous festivals since our last update. For the full schedule of screenings please see our website

In addition to festival screenings we’ve done a number of university screenings followed by Q&A sessions we’ve conducted via Skype. These have worked out surprisingly well and we are always happy to work with schools to organize such screenings. Just drop us an email if you are interested.

Video on Demand

We are very happy to announce that, in an effort to ensure that as many people as possible see our film, we are now offering Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir! for online streaming via Vimeo On Demand. On Demand is a brand new distribution platform from Vimeo which allows you to watch films streaming on the web, smartphones, tablets, and on web-connected TVs (like Roku).

We hate paying for things which we don’t get to keep, so we are especially pleased that Vimeo offers filmmakers the option of including file downloads as well as online streaming. If you watch our film online on Vimeo you can also download a copy of the film to your own hard drive and watch it whenever and wherever you want.

Vimeo

Since we first released the DVD people have been asking us about online access, and after looking at all the available options we feel that Vimeo On Demand offers users the best possible viewing experience. If you haven’t seen the film yet, we hope that the ease of using Vimeo On Demand will convince you to watch it today! If you do watch it on Vimeo, please be sure to let others know how much you like it by leaving a review.

Although Vimeo On Demand splits revenue 90/10 with the filmmaker, there is a hefty annual fee. For this reason we aren’t sure how long we will be able to keep the film online, so consider this a limited-time experiment. We don’t expect to turn a profit, but we do need to break-even…

Online streaming via Vimeo as well as the downloadable movie file are intended only for individual viewers. We ask that those interested in holding public screenings of the film, such as classroom use, continue to purchase the DVD via our via our website. We offer discounts on DVD purchases by individuals, non-profits, and community colleges.

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