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Figural darkness and judicial blindness
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

With a focus on Hugo Blick’s Black Earth Rising (2018), this chapter maps how a larger justice story develops around conflicting interpersonal relations, while at the same time attending to the larger geopolitical story and a darkness-based colonial imaginary. Attentive to the cartographic and subjective repositioning made possible by Kate Ashby’s locus of enunciation, we illustrate how the international criminal justice regime and humanitarian reason is entangled with violent shadow worlds that are revealed when she confronts the fraught exchanges within which values are occulted, institutions created, and personal relationships built. Ultimately, these violent shadow worlds are brought to the fore when one attends to the violence-laundering and implicit practices of exchange along with what we call “the burying, burrowing, and blinding” practices that Black Earth Rising depicts. Through an investigative montage, the series provides insights into shadow worlds behind and beneath the large geopolitical theater as well as the maps of justice, atrocity, and intimacy that connect Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Hague, France, London, and the U.S.

in Passages
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

This chapter turns to consensual and dissensual modes of separation to illustrate how the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the present into a time of intense separation, one of which is between those bodies marked as essential versus non-essential, those that have ‘pre-existing conditions’ and those without, and those located in precarious zones of abandonment, congestion, and containment, and those that, owing to prevailing economic distancing and apartness, can practice a life of social distancing. These precarious lives are rendered in intimate portraits and scenarios in Edna O’Brien’s novel The Little Red Chairs (a media genre that sees the world more patiently and in a more socially contextualized way than most news media) and Stephen Frears’s film Dirty Pretty Things (2002). With these aesthetic readings of precarious migrant lives in London, we look at moments of solidarity among exploitable “night people” who work illegally in the hospitality industry. Ultimately, our reflections on aesthetic separation/separation aesthetics in the wake of the pandemic help map the dynamics of visibility/invisibility, community/immunity, hospitality/hostility that the contemporary politics of the pandemic amplifies.

in Passages
London’s alternative “gothic” tradition
David Ashford

The second chapter begins by engaging with some of the most prominent anti-gothic gothic fiction created over the past century: paranoid psycho-geographical fantasy in poems by Iain Sinclair, novels by Peter Ackroyd, essays by Stewart Home and graphic novels by Alan Moore. The potential for such provocative misreadings of the English baroque is shown to have a basis in the architecture itself, and it is suggested that the scope for uncanny sensations opened up by the structures might have much to tell us about the post-modernist baroque revival, the fiction of Sinclair and Moore having as much to do with the Thatcherite renovation of the metropolis as anything in the theory and practice of Nicholas Hawksmoor.

in A book of monsters
Consumer behaviour and material culture in England, c.1650–1850
Author:

This fascinating book opens the doors to the homes of the forgotten poor and traces the goods that they owned before, during and after the industrial revolution (c.1650–1850). Using a vast and diverse range of sources, it gets to the very heart of what it meant to be ‘poor’ by examining the homes of the impoverished and mapping how numerous household goods became more widespread. It is argued that poverty did not necessarily equate to owning very little and living in squalor. Rather, most had an emotional attachment to their homes and strove to improve their domestic spheres by making them more comfortable, convenient and respectable through new consumer goods. These important findings illustrate that the poor were not left behind as the middling sort and the elite became obsessed with new goods and the home. In fact, demand for goods among the poor was so great that it was a driving force of the industrial revolution. For too long, historians have downplayed the role of poor consumers, assuming that they had neither the desire nor the means to buy anything that was beyond necessity. In fact, with each generation, more and more people from poor labouring backgrounds owned greater numbers and varieties of possessions which their grandparents would have thought it impossible or highly unlikely to own.

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Promethean horror in modern literature and culture
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A book of monsters presents a cultural history of Promethean horror in the modern age. Beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this book explores imaginative literature that exploits popular fears relating not to a “gothic” darkness, but to a scientific Enlightenment. Provoked by the Promethean ambitions of Modernism, the Promethean myth is discovered to have become a pervasive and increasingly oppressive component in our post-Modernist political, economic and cultural reality. Revealing why it is that Modernism (a cultural phenomenon that, in architecture, typically defined itself against neo-gothic irrationality) has in turn become imbued with the uncanny, A book of monsters considers an eclectic range of cultural material including psycho-geographical fiction by Iain Sinclair and Alan Moore, the fantasies of J. R. R. Tolkien, gorilla horror movies, anxieties relating to artificial intelligence in science fiction and philosophy of science, and popular debates surrounding the legacies of post-war Brutalist architecture, in a subgenre of the dystopia that is specifically anti Keynesian. Building on post-humanist philosophy, engaging with recent debates concerning animals and artificial intelligence, A book of monsters attempts to place urgent theoretical controversies in a historical context, making connections with issues in architecture, linguistics, economics and cultural geography. In so doing, the book presents a compelling and comprehensive overview on the West’s collective “dream-work”’ in those decades since the dreams of the nineteenth century were realised in Modernism – tracing the inception, and outlining the consequences, of literary fantasies.

Joseph Harley

Chapter 3 analyses the furniture and furnishings of the poor. In the late seventeenth century, most indigent people possessed only limited items of furniture, such as a bed, bench and a few boxes of some sort. Over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the homes of the poor were transformed as new types and styles of furniture entered their houses. Chests of drawers and feather beds, for example, became relatively common in indigent abodes around the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Furniture was placed around dwellings to create a sense of order and structure, and ultimately made the home more pleasing to be in. Alongside furnishings, this altered the appearance of interiors and allowed dwellings to function according to personal preferences. It was on items of furniture that pivotal and memorable moments of the life-cycle occurred. Beds played host to three of the most important parts in people’s life – birth, marriage and death – and it was within their confines that activities such as reading, talking and sex played out. Being sat around a table was an important location where families gathered to hear about one another’s days and renew their familial bonds. Storage units had practical purposes, but they were also repositories of cherished memories and their contents could reveal much about one’s dreams, passions and hopes. Furniture and furnishings were vital in helping the homes of impoverished people become more comfortable, private and convenient.

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

Through an analysis of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's film La Promesse' (1996) and Diego Quemada-Díez’s The Golden Dream (2013), this chapter explores how undocumented migrants are ruthlessly exploited and exposed to death in cities–London and Antwerp–and on the road, traveling from Guatemala through Mexico in an attempt to make it into the U.S. Engaged in critical commentaries on the contemporary migratory condition articulated in global cinema, the chapter composes diverse migratory scenarios to render visible the national, urban, and racial frontiers of human encounter in which racialized migrant bodies experience the precarities dealt by the protective and predatory practices of official national formations and opportunistic criminal enterprises, respectively.

in Passages
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Aesthetic refrains, tremulous thought, and mushrooming worlds
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

Inspired by Édouard Glissant’s pensée du tremblement (a quakeful, or tremulous, thinking) and Anna Tsing’s Mushroom at the End of the World, the brief Coda to the book present a series of refrains on aesthetics, precarity, and the numerous problems that precariousness poses for ethico-political comprehension.

in Passages
Ajay Parasram

This chapter makes the case that formal political independence cannot be understood as decolonization. This is not to mitigate the importance of British departure; rather, it is to establish the point that by the time of formal political independence, the territorial and political structure of the state had become the vehicle through which freedom would be achieved as opposed to an “alien” or “contaminated” structure. In making this case, the chapter explores relevant concepts in decolonial international relations that are key to understanding the how and why universality incubates colonial violence.

in Pluriversal sovereignty and the state
Ajay Parasram

Chapter 5 returns to the coloniality of the archives and emphasizes their political and historical limits. Seeking to “archive in relief,” it reinterprets what mainstream historians have described as a period of relative tranquillity as a period of simmering insurrection, or what Jayawardena (2010), working from the Marxist tradition, describes as “perpetual ferment.” It makes a case that scholars writing Sri Lanka’s history have taken the structure of the state-nation for granted, and in so doing have perpetuated colonial ontological assumptions about human social, political, and economic development. The chapter contends that this has made possible a modernist reading of history in which “traditional” people were overwhelmed by a technologically superior British; however, the chapter reads the same history in a way that places local (Kandyan) and foreign (British) sovereignties as equal but distinct ontological practices to create a more vibrant picture of simmering resistance. This resistance to the new mode of centralizing state eventually gave way, after the 1848 Matale Rebellion, to a mode and form of anti-colonial resistance that instead sought to inherit or take over the state apparatus rather than resist it. This would happen a full generation later in neighbouring India after the Great Rebellion of 1857 and the rise of national consciousness in the late nineteenth century, but the process began earlier in Ceylon. The chapter concludes by looking at the rise of Protestant Buddhism and Hinduism in the late nineteenth century and the centralization of sites and spaces of protest in Colombo rather than Kandy.

in Pluriversal sovereignty and the state