The new map is more reminiscent of early modernity, of the trade and pilgrimage routes, of the links between holy cities and routes of world communication. Periphery and centre, far and near – everything is being re-positioned. Even the most recent scenes of coming clashes are marked on this map of the new Europe: the London underground stations, the Moscow metro, the suburban railway station of Madrid-Antoch, where the bombs exploded. Marked on these most recent maps are the places where Europe is at its most vulnerable – in the public spaces of its great cities.

I wish I had expressed this as effectively as Karl Schlögel has here.  However, the fuzzy world which he sees coming into view–the one formed in spite of the memories of Cold War conflict between Europeans–has a much deeper history.  The Wall divided Europe, but the since of East and West has been ingrained in memory for much longer, at least since the Enlightenment.

Where the West ended and the East began was never clear, and many would argue that they were truly in the West, those over the next hill were in the East.  But East and West were two parts of the Christian world at different stages of development. Progress and openness on one side of the continent appeared opposite despotism and feudalism on the other.  The western states were in control of their own nations, subsequently dominating the world.  The eastern states-if they could be called states–were at the mercy of competing nationalisms.

Moreover, the eastern states were at the periphery, muddle in affairs of Asian countries and peoples.  Their orientation forced them to adapt to their social and cultural institutions to the proximity of the non-European world.  The orientalism of the West allowed them to overcome geography and dominate the non-European world.  The vestiges of this perspective appear whenever affairs of Georgia or Turkey are discussed.  It’s not the division between East and West made manifest by Soviet domination.  But it is a division made by the West, with a longer life.



A few weeks ago, Turner Classic Movies ran a night of films with Hispanic themes.  Even better, several of them were set and filmed in New Mexico.  Milagro Beanfield War and Salt of the Earth were already familiar to us.   Another, And Now Miguel (1953), was entirely unfamiliar.  Filmed as a documentary of rural Nuevomexicano life, the narration describes a young boys yearning to “go to the mountains”–that is, to go with the men to the summer shepherding grounds and, consequently, fulfill an important right of passage.  Aspects of integration and migration are raised in subtle ways, and gender divisions between home and mountains are present, if not analyzed.  Elias, surprisingly, was gripped by the young boy’s work with the family sheep.

The strange outlier among these films was a short, called “Give them the land.” The film depicted efforts of an American scientist to educate Mexican farmers on scientifically-informed methods of farming in the harsh Mexican deserts.  Perhaps it is a bit of a nit to pick, since the rest of the films concerned Hispanics in the United States, and rural life in New Mexico is not necessarily comparable to that of rural Mexico.

Certain underlying messages distburbed.  The short was a stunning visual document of farming practices.  The scientist, of course, encounters various inefficiencies of agriculture methods, and he discusses how Americans can educate Mexican peasants in order to make land improvements.  His approach: literally become “a good neighbor”, living among the peasants to serve as an example and compatriot.  The good neighbor disarms opposition to innovation by living among Mexicans, offering advice and supplies for barter (some of the improved yields) rather than capital.  In some sense, the good neighbor is socially assimilated, but culturally radical, working from within rather than as part of a hierarchy.

The final message puts the film into context: “We need him more than he needs us.”  We need Mexicans (and by extension, subalterns) to become more efficient farmers rather than come to us for employment.  It is a pro-development policy that carries an anti-immigration sentiment.  It is, perhaps, little different from the thoughts and arguments that drive so-called free trade agreements, substituting the flow of people with the inverse flow of technology and capital.  Indeed, the film begins with a soaring montage in which a message from the UN reaches the tiny village by telegraph, postman, and finally pidgeon, and ends with the peasant staying in his place, revealing how flows can be controlled.

Rick Perry needs help! His ramblings about the possibility, no matter how unlikely, of Texas’ secession seem Yeltsinesque (you know, the hegemonic state claiming to be oppressed by the imperial system it created).

Of course, how could I, a sympathetic regionalist, complain of Perry’s threats? Although each state encompasses different resources and populations, the governmental uniformity of the US is boring. And the possibility of redrawing the American map plays into fun role-playing games from high school. And the whole rhetoric of the “Lone Star State” is an effective rallying cry to motivate the population.

Perry’s threat, though, is lame. The notion that Texas’ integration into the Union was both negotiated and conditional holds little water, and was easily debunked by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Statehood occurs nationally and constitutionally. Territories and populations aspiring to statehood must meet the conditions set by Congress (conditions that delayed statehood for Louisiana and New Mexico). States do not have special relations to the Union, as for example Alsace to France, Andorra to France and Spain, or Hong Kong to China. Other nations may have come together in a heterogeneous fashion. The United States, a late comer influence by the Enlightenment, is more Cartesian in its constitution. Even the original states surrendered what made them unique upon ratifying the constitution, and conformed themselves to national standards. Of course, some Americanist will raise issues about the Civil War and changing meanings of integration in both culture and law that will further weaken Perry’s case. Ultimately, neither Perry nor the Texas legislature can unilaterally declare their sovereignty from the United States. It’s like a big bowl at a party: guests must leave their keys behind in order to drink, and can’t get them back without the hosts ok. (And you might have to drive home someone you don’t like, too.)

Now, just because it’s not constitutional, we can’t dismiss secession out of hand. Perry could appeal to the global community on the basis on indigenism: the native peoples of Texas were not adequately represented in the decision to join the Union, or joining the Union deprived native peoples of their autonomy. Yes, bring it back to the original Texans. Though that might empower those who would not want to leave the United States. (Like I’ve said, Tejas por los Tejanos!)

Whatever the merits of Perry’s argument, he’s simply overplayed his hand. Few “divorces” are as easy and successful as the fracturing of Czechoslovakia (they were effectively two states being administered side by side). The list of bloody and unsuccessful secessions is much longer. Even in the realm of polite politics, separation is expensive, something the Quebecoises have learned. It might even require renegotiation with Mexico. (Not to mention that Perry would secede over matters of degree rather than real policy differences.)

I doubt that Perry wants Texas to leave the Union; he’d rather make use of secessionist rhetoric in order to gain political capital. But he may already have lost by appearing among those calling for independence rather than representing Texans (which would include those who doubt the future of the Union). In European regionalism, the more politicians appeared with separatists, the more their lost support of the general population. (ETA: Indeed, it seems Texans aren’t really behind this, according to some numbers from Rasmussen.) They were more successful first denying separatism as a solution, but giving voice to the complaints of the separatists. Catholic Democrats in Alsace were thereby able to delay the full integration of French law indefinitely, and in the Rhine Province they were able to gain autonomy with the Prussian state that they might not have been afforded had it become a Land.

So, Mr. Perry: don’t be a secessionist–use the secessionists! Those are people with real complaints who need a voice! (And maybe–just maybe–secession will happen anyway.)

Washtub bass lead?

Andrew (who recently changed blogging abode) takes a little exception to my rants about Galactica.  I think my frustration with the show is not unfounded.  Andrew ought to share my frustration at the development of Gaeta. Yep, you can’t trust a gay man in the trenches, especially one that obsesses over his symbolic castration (loss of a leg). However, the show has suffered in its depth and complexity in more fundamental ways.  It obsesses over backstory and beloved characters.  “What is humanity” has been set on the back burner.  Perhaps this is typical of a television show in its final episodes, especially science fiction.

The story arc, now referred to as the “mythology”, has become a cumbersome cantilever rather than a bridge.  Much of the last “season” has been dedicated to rewriting the back stories of almost all major characters.  Even in the last episodes, we are confronted with new aspects of personality drawn from a life that they ought to have left behind.  It seems excessive to dwell so much on where they have been when where they are going has sustained the show (this ain’t 90210).  Indeed, compelling aspects of the show have been left behind.  Except for some trite conversations about the Admiral’s authority, democracy figures little in the arc.  Religion has some place, but the only really compelling question that need be answered is why Kara Thrace was resurrected, which is itself sufficiently interesting.  Religion, though, received deeper attention in earlier episodes.

The attention to Kara Thrace, though, has been part of a larger trend of the story arc: uncovering the “special destinies” of the characters.  With all the retooling of the back story, the characters seem more like puppets than people with free will.  And the people with compelling missions in life have turned out, more often, not to be human.  Humans have become minor characters in a Cylon saga.  (At least  humans may decide for themselves that the hybridization of human and machine is worth saving, unlike Star Wars).   If there is something compellingly human about the finale, perhaps it will be found in the Roslin-Adama romance, one of the few adult romances in Science Fiction.

A few years ago, I suggested that students pool together their documents   in order to create a virtual archive–a digital replica of archives in other countries.  At the time I was concerned for the cost of travel with the declining prestige of some branches of history as well as the declining value of the dollar.  The global economy would be enough to make such a project more interesting.  However, the recent collapse of the Historische Archive der Stadt Köln (HAStK) makes such an effort imperative in this one case.  Those of us who have done research in Cologne know that is a unique resource.  Many of us have been able to take images away from the archive–it was even facilitated by the nice, dark back room with the mount and perfectly attuned lighting.  These images should be identified, collected, digitized (if necessary) and offered on line.  The contents of the archive could made quickly available to other scholars, perhaps before German archivists can recover or replicate HAStK’s contents.

What should be done, roughly in this order:

  • American scholars who have worked at HAStK should identify themselves (or should be contacted).
  • Monographs and articles that are founded on research at HAStK should be cataloged.
  • Scholars should produce lists of their personal holdings of images (digital, photographic, photocopied) by Bestand.
  • A list of these holdings should be made available along with contact addresses.
  • Copies of images should be assembled and digitized, if necessary.
  • A site should be established to present these material publically.

We are often jealous of our research, as we often reach into our own pockets to fund it (at least in part).  I think that German history would be set back if HAStK remains innaccessible.

I’m a little astounded to learn that the Historische Archiv der Stadt Koeln (Municipal Archives of the City of Cologne) simply collapsed yesterday, perhaps due to subway construction in the area.  From the photographs, it looks like the front of quarter caved in (it is a square with a courtyard in the middle).  To the right of the courtyard is where the reading room is.  The collapsed part held, on the ground floor, the entryway, reception area and lockers–not necessarily a lot of people.  But I don’t know where the files are physically.

The archive was unique–very different from other municipal archives I’ve visited.  In my work I found records concerning Germany’s early nationalist movement (particularly the correspondence of the Reichenspergers), documents on the Catholic Democratic movement, and of course, the mayoralty of Adenauer.  From what I can tell, the losses  may not be extensive: copies of documents were held in another location in the Black Forest.  However, it seems that Heinrich Boell’s papers were just purchased.

Next Page »