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Blurred juxtapositions – passages, images, and affects
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

The Introduction illustrates our commitment to aesthetics-as-method, which enables us to bring together diverse concepts, bodies, passages, and images. The chapters map the political stakes of our commitment to aesthetics-as-method. In addition to outlining the methods, chapters, and key concepts, the Introduction raises critical questions regarding how everyday and historical political apparatuses and processes distribute bodies, affects, death, and senses in ways that challenge or sustain the immanence of sovereignty, while provoking readers to experiment with affective intimacies that enable them apprehend the ethical weight of proximate and distant others.

in Passages
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Burying/burrowing for truth and justice
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

By charting the tension between reasons of state and justice, as well as the way the global justice dispositif involves a wide variety of protagonists, some of whose practices seem to be heterogeneous to the international justice regime, this chapter examines the valuation practices, overlapping cartographies, regimes of calculability, secrecy, and colonial specters that emerge as one investigates the subplots and shadow worlds behind the prosecution of crimes against humanity. Through a reading of Mathias Énard’s novel Zone, where the author stages a drama about justice that effectively engages grammatical and theatrical framing of how to approach the “idea” (in this case) of justice, the chapter maps truth-seeking and truth-concealing practices that move and traverse the “earth.” Our analysis then turns to the protagonists and challenging relations of intimacy exposed in Hugo Blick’s Black Earth Rising (2018), a Netflix series in which the main protagonist, the legal investigator and Rwanda genocide survivor Kate Ashby (Michaela Coel), runs into a world of secrecy, colonial specters, talionic laws (an eye for an eye), and manhunting. These encounters interrupt her sense of self, truth, family, justice, and even her “idea of Africa,” thus leading her on a quest that involves burrowing for justice in ways that involve unburying memories, the dead, and a spectral past.

in Passages
Joseph Harley

Chapter 2 considers how people went through periods of material wealth and material poverty over their lifetimes. It starts by outlining some of the key aggregate changes in the consumer behaviour of the poor, including the average and median number of items that indigent populations owned and how the value of their possessions changed. The adjectives that appraisers used to describe people’s belongings, such as ‘new’ and ‘old’, are also assessed. Through this, it is argued that the poor owned more and better belongings over the long eighteenth century. The remainder of the chapter considers some of the limits of these advances using first-hand sources and inventories which record people’s goods at different points in the life-cycle. The sources indicate that during relatively prosperous years when poor people were healthy, family sizes were small and they had decent employment, they consumed a wide range of goods including various foodstuffs, fuel, clothing and household possessions. However, during difficult periods such as old age and sickness, people often went cold and hungry and their belongings were pawned or sold to make ends meet. Family priorities shifted at these points and people redirected their resources to acquiring the most basic items, such as bread and medicine. Similarly, this chapter shows how households could descend into material poverty as a result of unemployment, desertion, poor budgeting, imprisonment or a sudden disaster such as a house fire or flood. These findings help to explain the paradox of how some labouring people faced extreme hardship while others were active consumers.

in At home with the poor
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Enduring misapprehensions concerning artificial intelligence
David Ashford

The sixth chapter will trace the persistence of Promethean horror tropes beyond the apparent collapse of the Late Modernist paradigm, into the neoliberal and post-modernist era. Expanding on issues relating to the crisis in Enlightenment humanist thinking raised in preceding chapters, and addressing concerns central to post-humanist theory relating to the consequences that must follow for human identity arising from the development of artificial intelligence, this chapter outlines an entirely new approach: suggesting that the famous Turing Test has been consistently misinterpreted, and that we are now in a position to see that it is designed to gauge an “uncanny” effect – that is, the extent to which a system for modelling social behaviour can outperform an older, tried-and-tested system for producing such models (i.e. human personalities: a social construct that each of us attempts, with varying success, to perform). The consequences of failing to recognise this are that we are likely to remain “taken in” by such models when they are applied to other aspects of our lives, limiting our freedom of action. While systems for predicting political and economic phenomena are widely believed to have fallen out of favour in the final quarter of the twentieth century, this chapter will demonstrate that such systems actually remain integral to our contemporary economic system, in the form of scenario planning and computer modelling, with the failure to recognise this having often devastating effects.

in A book of monsters
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Objects of recognition, materiality and heroism
Ellena Matthews

Through an analysis of gallantry medals, this chapter explores how medals, as objects of cultural importance, cultivated public investment in heroic individuals through singling out noteworthy conduct. Through a specific focus on the creation and use of the George Cross and George Medal, which were both created in 1940 during the height of the Blitz on London, this chapter explores how objects of recognition attached acclaim to particular behaviours and acted as markers of exemplary citizenship. As this chapter suggests, the creation of these medals, which celebrated both life-saving and life-risking heroism, reflected how the heroism of ordinary civilians in wartime had developed beyond the life-saving remits that existing medals awarded. It explores how stories of heroism, reports of the actions of medal recipients and images of medals being physically worn refashioned and supported notions of heroic behaviour during periods of conflict. As this chapter argues, these new gallantry medals became mediums for cultural ideals around wartime participation, contribution and sacrifice to be communicated.

in Home front heroism
A brief introduction to the horror of Enlightenment
David Ashford

The introduction will discuss the significance of the Prometheus myth, beginning with its most familiar manifestation in English literature, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. Having noted that Promethean horror is relatively rare in English-language literature, where the term gothic is near synonymous with horror, the introduction will note the proliferation of Promethean tropes over the course of the twentieth century and suggest that changing perceptions towards Modernism are the primary reason for this shift, outlining some of the approaches developed in the chapters.

in A book of monsters
Sir Philip Sidney
in Sir Philip Sidney – The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia
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Joseph Harley

This chapter traces the poor’s ownership and use of ‘non-essential’ items such as timepieces, looking glasses, books and pictures. In general, these items became more common from the late eighteenth century and the poor in London and the home counties acquired them before those who lived in more rural and remote areas of the country. This is an important finding: it suggests that many goods of the period were consumed not just by people with money but also by the impoverished, who were once thought to have little inclination or ability to acquire anything other than basic provisions. These items transformed people’s way of life. Looking glasses, for instance, were not just opulent items reserved for vanity: they also helped to enhance and brighten the domestic sphere, make tasks such as shaving easier, and create a sense of comfort. As well as having obvious practical advantages, clocks and watches were hugely important to working people for the pride, prestige and symbolic power that they brought to individuals.

in At home with the poor
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

This chapter and the images that accompany it pays special attention to the workings of ‘mimetic violence’ and emphasizes what we can learn by examining the COVID-19 pandemic’s transversality by comparing, combining, and contrasting it with other sublimes. Ultimately, the chapter examines the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic’s transversality by comparing, combining, and contrasting it with the racial, nuclear, and apocalyptic sublimes.

in Passages
Ajay Parasram

This chapter details the historical encounter between the Kandyan Kingdom and the British, which gave rise to the 1815 Kandyan Convention, a single legal document with different ontological meanings for the different signatories. Building on Chapter 1’s description of plural ontology, the chapter makes the case for thinking about sovereign encounters as a kind of “galactic” collision, through a metaphor based on how actual galaxies collide. Rather than bumping against one another, galaxies pass through one another, reformulating and disrupting each other in different ways but ultimately producing something new from the violence of the encounter. Similarly, in the sovereign ontological collision between them, the British and the Kandyans passed through and transformed one another in critical ways, including changing the geography, political economy, and raison d’état. The chapter draws on S. J. Tambiah’s work on the galactic mandala system of states in Buddhist South-East Asia to ground this cosmic metaphor in the political history of the mid nineteenth century.

in Pluriversal sovereignty and the state