Aquarium Gaze

November 4, 2006 | swicki | Technorati Profile | wordpress | Flickr | blogspot | photoblog | digg | gather | thinkfree | Picasaweb | Carleton homepage
This layered Adobe Photoshop image was inspired by a paragraph in Michael Ignatieff’s book entitled Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry. This was the book preferred by the adult students in the Human Rights course I taught at Nunavut Arctic College, Iqaluit, NU in 2002-3. Aquarium Gaze

“Here was a scientist, trained in the traditions of European rational inquiry, turning a meeting between two human beings into an encounter between different species. Progress may be a contested concept, but we make progress to the degree that we act upon the moral intuition that Dr. Pannwitz was wrong: our species is one, and each of the individuals who compose it is entitled to equal moral consideration. Human rights is the language that systematically embodies this intuition, and to the degree that this intuition gains influence over the conduct of individuals and states, we can say that are making moral progress.[…] Human rights was a response to Dr. Pannwitz, to the discovery of the abomination that could occur when the Westphalian state was accorded unlimited sovereignity, when citizens of that state lacked normative grounds to disobey legal but immoral orders. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights represented a return by the European tradition to its natural law heritage, a return intended to restore agency, to give individuals the civic courage to stand up when the state ordered them to do wrong.”(Ignatieff 2001)

My emerging folksonomy:

This linear page entitled Memory Work will be a site of collecting and sharing focused research on the urgently needed on the concept of memory work. This concept was developed by Ricoeur, Derrida, Cixous, Nora. It is urgently need in a postnational, post-WW II, post-apartheid, post-RCAP world where citizens move closer to reconciliation, towards forgiveness or apologies, while revisiting distorted histories with an attitude of mutual respect for Self and the Other-I.


Memory Work: Wikipedia

November 3, 2006

Memory work

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Memory work is a process of engaging with the past which has both an ethical and historical dimension (Gabriel 2004). The premise for memory work or travail de memoire is that history is not memory. We try to represent the past in the present through memory, history and the archives. As Ricoeur (1955 [1965], 2000) argued, memory alone is fallible. Historical accounts are always partial and potentially misrepresent since historians do not work with bare, uninterpreted facts. Historians construct and use archives that contain traces of the past. However, historians and librarians determine which traces are preserved and stored. This is an interpretive activity. Historians pose questions to which the archives responds leading them to “facts that can be asserted in singular, discrete propositions that usually include dates, places, proper names, and verbs of action or condition” (Ricoeur 2000:226). Individuals remember events and experiences some of which they share with a collective. Through mutual reconstruction and recounting collective memory is reconstructed. Individuals are born into familial discourse which already provides a backdrop of communal memories against which individual memories are shaped. A group’s communal memory becomes its common knowledge which creates a social bond, a sense of belonging and identity. Professional historians attempt to corroborate, correct, or refute collective memory. Memory work then entails adding an ethical component which acknowledges the responsibility towards revisiting distorted histories thereby decreasing the risk of social exclusion and increasing the possibility of social cohesion of at-risk groups.

The concept of memory-work as distinguished from history-as-memory finds a textbook case in the Vichy Syndrome as described by Russo (1991). His title uses medical lexicon to refer to history-memory as dependent on working consciously with unconscious memories to revise accounts of history. This calls for an expanded archive that includes the “oral and popular tradition” (Gabriel 2004:11) as well as the written traditions normally associated with the archives.

Nora (2002) traced the surge in memory work at the level of the nation-state to the revisiting of distorted histories of the anti-Semitic Vichy regime (1940-1944) following the death of de Gaulle in 1970. Structural changes resulted from the end of the peasantry and the dramatic economic slump as oil prices worldwide rose in 1974. Added to this was the intellectual collapse of Marxism precipitated in part by Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago which forced the French to rethink attitudes towards the past.

Gabriel (2004) provided a model for reading the complexities of memory and forgetting by situating unheimlich within the heimlich, in a Freudian ‘one within the other structure’. As point of departure Gabriel examined Edgar Reitz’s eleven-part West German television series entitled Heimat. Reitz’ work was in response to a larger movement in Germany national memory work provoked in part by an American television series entitled the Holocaust followed viewed by millions. As European art in general and German art in particular resurged in the 1960s, artists like Gunther Grass and Edgar Reitz captured international attention as they grappled with issues of identity in a divided, post-Holocaust Germany. Gabriel developed the concept of an impulse towards national memory work in Germany that stemmed from a haunted subject yearning for a lost, far away, nostalgic place, a utopic homeland. “How do we confront that which we have excluded in order to be, whether it is the return of the repressed or the return of the strangers?” (Kristeva 1982). In other words, that which we fear as ‘other’ is within ourselves through our shared humanity. Repressed memories haunt all of us.

The concept of memory work is part of a sociological imagination from a post-national point of view. Expanding on Norbert Loeffler: The idea of one national history is only acceptable as a question, not as an answer.

Memory work is related to identity work often associated with displaced persons. Some of the most provocative research on memory work (Derrida, Cixous, Kristeva) has been authored by French ex-patriots who returned to France following the Algerian war of independence.
Oceanflynn 06:39, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

Cixous, Hélene. 1997. Rootprints: Memory and Life Writing: Routledge

Derrida, Jacques. 1996. Archive Fever. Translated by E. Prenowitz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Derrida, Jacques. (1986) Memoires for Paul de Man, Columbia University Press.

Gabriel, Barbara. 2004. “The Unbearable Strangeness of Being; Edgar Reitz’s Heimat and the Ethics of the Unheimlich” in Postmodernism and the Ethical Subject, edited by B. Gabriel and S. Ilcan. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Kristeva, Julia. 1982. Powers of Horror. New York: University Press.

Kristeva, Julie (1993) Nations without Nationalism, trans. L. S. Roudiez (Yale University Press, 1993)

Nora, Pierre. 2002. “The Reasons for the Current Upsurge in Memory.” Tr@nsit-Virtuelles Forum.22 Retrieved Access 2002.

Ricoeur, Paul. 1955 [1965]. History and Truth. Translated by C. A. Kelbley. Evanston: Northwestern University press.

Ricoeur, Paul. 2000. La Mémoire, l’Historie, l’Oubli: l’ordre philosophique: Éditions du Seuil.

Russo, Henry. 1991. The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944. Translated by A. Goldhammer. Cambridge/London: Harvard University Press.

I write using EndNote so this was the original entry I had added for Barbara Gabriel whose article opened so many doors for me:

In her brilliant article entitled “The Unbearable Strangeness of Being; Edgar Reitz’s Heimat and the Ethics of the Unheimlich” Barbara Gabriel provides a model for reading the complexities of memory and forgetting. As point of departure Gabriel examined Edgar Reitz’s eleven-part West German television series entitled Heimat. Reitz’ work was in response to a larger movement in Germany national memory-work provoked in part by an American television series entitled the Holocaust followed viewed by millions.

In the section entitled “Tropes of Purity and Danger”Barbara Gabriel (2004:165, 197) illustrated how a model of homogeneity depends on a constituent outside. In this essay Gabriel revealed how the concept of heimat resists interpretation. Freud situated the unheimlich within the heimlich, one within the other structure. Freud argued that the heimlich and unheimlich are doubles, not antimonies or opposites which slip and slide inside one another through different shades of meanings explored through Freudian recurrence and return, the haunted house, the double, death and the death drive, enucleation as castration, the prostitute and the primordial uncanny as maternal womb. which a closed meaning so that the haunted subject can continue to yearn for the lost, far away, nostalgic place keep the potential of a utopic homeland footnotes the way in which Kristeva (1982) introduced a diachronic register by mapping theory onto historical subjects. Kristeva created a synthesis between the work of Bataille and Mary Douglas. Douglas’s symbolic anthropological approach resisted the diachronic. Models of homogeneity depend on a constituent outside.

“Recent cultural theory around abjection moves deconstruction as well as psychoanalytic readings around the relationship between insides and outsides onto the category of social subjects (see Butler [1990, 1993]). Kristeva’s (1982) own analyses bring together the work of Mary Douglas and Bataille; what is new here, arguably, is the mapping of the theory onto the domain of historical subjects, shifting the synchronic work of anthropology into a diachronic register in ways ignored by Douglas’s pioneering work. I am indebted to Matti Bunzi for the insight that symbolic anthropology was long resistant to historical frameworks.”
“How do we confront that which we have excluded in order to be, whether it is the return of the repressed or the return of the stangers?” Cited in Gabriel, Barbara 2004 | swicki | Technorati Profile | wordpress | Flickr | blogspot | photoblog | digg | gather | thinkfree | Picasaweb | Carleton homepage

Swicki Eurekster

October 22, 2006

This is the latest of my free internet tools
swicki at

I have also just placed a 30″ x 36″ canvas and partially prepared my space for embodied painting. So I will add to this later, perhaps much later.

Thoughts I had wanted to develop in case I forget:

  • 100’s of ways one can say/write the word love in pure arabic
    why my score on Frimr plummeted from over 8000 to 3 when I added 3 missing digits to a my feed .url
  • How ugly are the sounds of the lexicon of the internet. Do they sound better in another language. There is no room for poetry in what is growing. I don’t think it would sound very good in ‘spoken word poetry’ or rap. Maybe I am wrong.
  • Whether I want to use the concept moral ‘topology of self’ as developed by Charles Taylor or to use ‘ethical topography of self’ that I prefer. Why?
  • Do I want to start my own blog, an organic, fluid, stretchy glossary of terms that are evolving as I navigate back and forth between disciplines, technologies, blog subcultures, etc.?


Black Pupil as Mirror the </p> <p>Other-Eye

I used AdobePhotoshop to digitally insert my own image onto the reflective surface of Leonie’s eyes. Black Pupil as Mirror: the Other-Eye (2004) is from my Flickr album.

I am using the free tools of cyberspace to tag, geotag, reference and categorize in an attempt to find myself by mapping where I have been and maybe contributing to an emerging organic taxonomy in the process. I am fortunate enough to have a monitor, a mouse and access to metablogging.

Before I went on leave from my studies, I was investigating the work of artists, political philosophers, theorists, anthropologists who had taken the ethical turn. There was already a call for a sociological imagination from a postnational point of view. The more I read the more it seemed public policy analysts, journalists, artists, rights workers, cultural workers, anyone involved in teaching, learning and research … could benefit from at least engaging — if only to disagree — with the arguments put forth. But these thinkers are part of the slow world. It takes time to read with a high tolerance for ambiguity. Most of these writers need to be read as we read hypertext. For someone already aware of their references their is no need to click on the hotword. For most of us we need to follow the links through a virtual labyrinth. It’s a way of reading that is in that liminal space between browsing and searching. I often felt like a detective looking for clues. It wasn’t enough for me to finally reach some heightened understanding of an argument or concept. I wanted it to be traceable so I could follow my own paths back and help someone else see the strength, utility and/or elegance of a thought. Or even to help me find it again so I could appreciate it anew. I had the advantage of a lifelong connection to the visual arts. I could picture the ideas. I am so grateful that there are these tools now that allow us to create these shareable mind maps. Rob Shields had suggested I introduce students in my Off-Campus Aboriginal Program to the concept of dialogism. Dialogism is more respectful of the other and therefore offers the potential for a more ethical relationship between Self and the Other. Bakhtin described this as the relationship between Self and the Other-I. I have played with that idea visually by using reflections, people mirrored in the eyes of others. Leonie’s eyes are particular good for this because they are so dark and reflective.

However, as discussed in chapter four above, Bakhtin’s Hermeneutik is of a distinctive character. Whilst he acknowledges the embeddedness of ‘Being’ or Dasein in tradition and in history, he does not shy away from the Marxian conclusion that modern society is riven with antagonistic material interests and that, accordingly, language can be seen as a medium of dissimulation and domination as much as a conduit of interpersonal communication and self-understanding. In drawing such a conclusion, Bakhtin sides with Habermas against Gadamer on this issue; yet, with certain provisos, he refuses the former’s recourse to a nomothetic or generalizing social science to justify the conduct of critique. In this he subscribes to Goethe’s famous dictum that ‘theory is grey but life is green’. To justify his particular interpretive stance, Bakhtin appeals to distinct ethical or moral standards which owe much to the tradition of German idealism (especially Kant) and as Clarke and Holquist point out, to certain theological/ religious idioms (such as Russian orthodoxy and the Jewish dialogical tradition of Buber, Levinas and others)” (Gardiner 1992:192).