Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday From Lévi-Strauss to Makavejev

Another busy week at The Notes Taken, so you might of missed any of the following: we republished an interview with Todd May on Jacques Rancière and anarchism, Matt McLennan reviewed Alberto Gualandi's Lyotard, and Jason Smith reviewed Civilising Subjects by Catharine Hall. I weighed in on Bittergate and the politics of resentment, and also on Question 1 in Maine, which prevents marriage in that state. In an update to that post, I added that the fight over Referendum 71 (which was about equality, but without calling it marriage) in Washington seemed likely to meet a better fate. So it's worth another update to let you know that Referendum 71 has passed with 52% of the vote (a yes vote= toward equality). For something a little less political, I also remarked on a recent study about the differences between lefties and righties (and one of the few times that this distinction doesn't refer directly to politics!).

However, if you only have time to read one post, I would like to direct you to Matt McLennan's tribute to Claude Lévi-Strauss, who died last week. I have to admit that I have read very little of Lévi-Strauss' work, and when I started getting more interested in it, I was thick in the dissertation work. So a quick trip to my bookshelf reveals that I had purchased Tristes Tropiques on May 26, 2009, but I still have yet to read it. Nevertheless, I found that Matt's tribute moved me, and in my mind provides all the right reasons for one to want to read the late anthropologist's work.

As you wake up this morning, however, there are lots of other news items afloat in the oceanic internet. First up, health care:
  • Start getting to know the lone Republican in the House who voted for the health care bill. He represents a heavily Democratic district, and was elected in part because his opponent, William Jefferson, was caught with $90,000 in bribe money in his refrigerator.
  • No health care debate is complete without some conservative disrespect toward women.
And in book reviews:

First, a review at Red Pepper, of Liz Fekete's A Suitable Enemy: Racism, Migration and Islamophobia in Europe:
Fekete’s central argument is that the colour-coded anti-immigrant racism of the 1960s and 1970s has been superseded by a new continental ‘xeno-racism’, which has shifted its hostility to Europe’s migrant populations towards the terrain of culture or religion rather than race.
Second, The Nation has a review of Lorriane Mortimer's book on Dusan Makavejev, who is the director of WR: The Mysteries of the Organism (1971). WR is a difficult movie to summarize, but it's a collage of Stalinist hagiographies, a documentary on Wilhelm Reich, street theatre in New York and a fictional romance featuring a kind of 'philosophy in the bedroom' in which an ice skater from the Soviet Union and a woman named Milena from Yugoslavia discourse on sex and ideology. This should be enough to convince you to read the review and watch the movie. But if that isn't enough, as Richard Byrne aptly summarizes,
Makavejev approaches Reich's theories--and in particular, Reich's notion that humanity is corroded physically and enslaved politically and morally by its frustrated sexual urges--as an avenue to investigate how power works to keep humanity in chains.
In Foucault's terms, it is one of the greatest films that presupposes the repressive hypothesis. I had a chance to watch WR in Chicago on the big screen, but this required walking through a downpour in which an umbrella was basically useless. Still worth it. It's too bad that they don't have it at the University of Ottawa.

Finally, the New York Times shows how not to review a book by Barbara Ehrenreich, by emptying the book of its political message, so that Ehrenreich just sounds like a crank who is irritated by all that talk of positive thinking.


Matthew R. McLennan said...

WR is truly a masterpiece of whatever genre it is.

David Davidson said...

When were you in Chicago Devin? That sounds like it must have been a savoring filmgoing experience.

Devin Zane Shaw said...

I only saw WR and a documentary on the double oppression suffered by gay black males in New York City (shot in, if I remember correctly, video). Both films were a double bill. Otherwise, I was there to see a friend and attend a couple of lectures by Slavoj Zizek.

Devin Zane Shaw said...

P.s. I was there in 2006.