Category Archives: Empire

A Parting Gift

From the New York Times:

The administration has decided to deem the Shabab, the Islamist militant group in Somalia, to be part of the armed conflict that Congress authorized against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to senior American officials. The move is intended to shore up the legal basis for an intensifying campaign of airstrikes and other counterterrorism operations, carried out largely in support of African Union and Somali government forces.

Notably, al-Shabab did not even exist in 2001.

Recap (HUM415)

Just to recapitulate. I’d welcome any additional points.

We live in the midst of an endlessly circulating traffic of narratives. Because language is not a neutral medium, stories (common sense, gossip, infotainment, journalism, etc.) usually push us in a particular direction– i.e., they are, in the crudest sense, ideological. The value of close-reading is that it allows us to see beyond the surface meaning of a text and address its connotative dimensions in order to assess its ideological commitments. This skill-set travels well and is indispensable for anybody interested in understanding the world.

The zombie performs various ideological functions. We can extend this general claim to other pop cultural or mythological figures such as the Wendigo, vampires, ghosts, mutants, and other monstrous characters. What each of these creatures may represent is unstable; they don’t simply mean one thing. In our discussion it was argued that the Wendigo could be said to embody an imperial Manifest Destiny. It was also suggested that the zombie might have some connection to the kind of totally autonomous and self-interested subject that capitalist society tends to produce. Working your way through either of these claims would be useful.

In general, nobody in corporate media ever talks about imperialism. If this is part of an effort, unconscious or otherwise, to suppress knowledge, then we have to ask the same question Zizek asked in his discussion of the Paris attacks.

By now everybody knows what that questions is.


The Belgian Congo (HUM220/ HUM303/HUM415)

Students of HUM220 and HUM303: The first two of these films provide crucial context for Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness.

Students of HUM415: If you are interested in learning more about the violence required by capitalism in its colonial and neocolonial forms, these films will be useful.

A documentary film based on Adam Hochschild’s award-winning history King Leopold’s Ghost:

A BBC documentary on the Belgian colonialism in Congo:

A very compelling docu-drama about Patrice Lumumba, his murder with the complicity of the CIA, and neocolonialism:

Easter, 1916

Easter, 1916

By William Butler Yeats 1865–1939

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

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