Philosophy and Critical Theory

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Steven Earnshaw

Drinking to excess has been a striking problem for industrial and post-industrial societies – who is responsible when a ‘free’ individual opts for a slow suicide? The causes of such drinking have often been blamed on heredity, moral weakness, ‘disease’ (addiction), hedonism, and Romantic illusion. Yet there is another reason which may be more fundamental and which has been overlooked or dismissed, and it is that the drinker may act with sincere philosophical intent. The Existential Drinker looks at the convergence of a new kind of excessive, habitual drinking, beginning in the nineteenth century, and a new way of thinking about the self which in the twentieth century comes to be labelled ‘Existential’. A substantial introduction covers questions of self, will, consciousness, authenticity, and ethics in relation to drinking, while introducing aspects of Existential thought pertinent to the discussion. The Existential-drinker canon is anchored in Jack London’s ‘alcoholic memoir’ John Barleycorn (1913), where London claims he can get at the truth of existence only through the insights afforded by excessive and repeated alcohol use. The book then covers drinker-texts such as Jean Rhys’s interwar novels, Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend and John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas, along with less well-known works such as Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, Venedikt Yerofeev’s Moscow–Petushki, and A. L. Kennedy’s Paradise. The book will appeal to anybody with an interest in drinking and literature, as well as those with more specialised concerns in drinking studies, Existentialism, twentieth-century literature, and medical humanities.

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Steven Earnshaw

This chapter considers the decline of representations of the Existential drinker figure, partly a consequence of Existentialism’s fading from view as its ideas became assimilated, diluted, or discredited, and its major proponents faded away. It also notes an increasing antagonism towards the writer-drinker, once a staple of twentieth-century literature. The change in the philosophical, literary, and cultural landscape is seen in a number of texts where the protagonist is a committed drinker: Ivan Gold’s Sams in a Dry Season (1990), John O’Brien’s Better (2009, published posthumously), and Patrick de Witt’s Ablutions (2009). The acceptance of a neo-liberal world devoid not just of meaning but the search for meaning often characterises the nihilistic and hedonistic impulses of these novels.

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Steven Earnshaw

Charles Jackson’s novel The Lost Weekend is usually seen as an indictment of alcoholics, an accurate depiction of their self-deceptions and lying to others, with an accusation that drinking is no more than an escape, a failure to face up to personal and social responsibility. As with other books with protagonists who commit to drinking, possible reasons are given for the failing self (suppressed homosexuality; relationship with the parents; unsuccessful career), but such interpretations miss the significance of repetition in this novel: the drinker continually faces his demons in a manner that London’s John Barleycorn argues is more truthful than the evasions of everyday sobriety. Unlike the Hollywood film version of the novel (which brought ‘alcoholism’ as a serious issue into the cultural mainstream), Jackson’s narrative is unusual in that rather than offering an ending which sees the death of the drinker or his reformation, it shows the character wondering what all the fuss is about and preparing himself for another binge. The chapter analyses the novel’s various conceptualisations of self and alcohol, its knowing engagement with psychiatry and psychology, the figure of the writer-drinker, and also covers its treatment of temporality.

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Steven Earnshaw

Brian Moore’s novel The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne is set in a boarding-house in early 1950s Belfast, but it is quite a few pages before Judith Hearne’s drinking habit is revealed. The novel then portrays the effect on an individual when belief in God disappears. Alienated through ostensibly social causes such as her ‘odd duck’ physical appearance and family responsibility, the character’s dulling of reality through drink is also her response to the kind of bleak truth that Jack London identifies in John Barleycorn. Hearne’s society, family, and upbringing are powerfully infused with Catholicism, and as her experience of apostasy becomes stronger so does her recognition that she is completely free to behave how she wishes, which includes more socially unacceptable drinking. The chapter places the novel’s thematic concerns within the wider context of Existentialism’s focus on how to respond to a world which is now deemed to have been abandoned by a God who, nevertheless, cannot be entirely shaken off. These difficulties are partly filtered through the secular and religious meanings of ‘passion’.

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Catherine Baker

In domains from the history of popular entertainment to that of ethnicity and migration, ideas of race, as well as ethnicity and religion, have demonstrably formed part of how people from the Yugoslav region have understood their place in Europe and the world. Even within the expanding history of state socialism and race, the impact of the 1990s wars on memory and identity set the Yugoslav region apart; yet the geopolitics of Non-Alignment had already distinguished Yugoslavia during the Cold War. Miglena Todorova on twentieth-century Bulgaria anticipated much of the transnational turn in Cold War history by centring race as part of identity under state socialism. Habsburg cultural history has addressed race and anti-blackness in consumer and leisure culture, far less across the wider empire outside metropolitan, majority- German-speaking Vienna.

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Race and the Yugoslav region

Postsocialist, post-conflict, postcolonial?

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Catherine Baker

This book explains theoretical work in postcolonial and postsocialist studies to offer a novel and distinctive insight into how Yugoslavia is configured by, and through, race. It presents the history of how ideas of racialised difference have been translated globally in Yugoslavia. The book provides a discussion on the critical race scholarship, global historical sociologies of 'race in translation' and south-east European cultural critique to show that the Yugoslav region is deeply embedded in global formations of race. It considers the geopolitical imagination of popular culture; the history of ethnicity; and transnational formations of race before and during state socialism, including the Non-Aligned Movement. The book also considers the post-Yugoslav discourses of security, migration, terrorism and international intervention, including the War on Terror and the refugee crisis. It elaborates how often-neglected aspects of the history of nationhood and migration reveal connections that tie the region into the global history of race. The book also explains the linkage between ethnic exclusivism and territory in the ethnopolitical logic of the Bosnian conflict and in the internationally mediated peace agreements that enshrined it: 'apartheid cartography'. Race and whiteness remained perceptible in post-war Bosnian identity discourses as new, open-ended forms of post-conflict international intervention developed.

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Catherine Baker

Race, as well as ethnicity, is an essential category for understanding the micropolitics of postsocialism, and for situating the Yugoslav wars more widely in late-twentieth-century European history. Post-9/11 Islamophobia compounded late-twentieth-century Western cultural racisms that already stigmatised Islam as incompatible with liberal democracy, along lines inflected by specific national histories and experiences but with common assumptions that Islam was incompatible with a secular Europe or West. The forms of anti-Muslim racism combined the xenophobic opposition to extra-European migration of late-twentieth/early-twenty-first-century European cultural racism with the War on Terror's racialised Islamophobia. The idea of 'postnational' defence in twenty-first-century European security viewed national interests and defence as 'multinational', 'achieved in solidarity with others well beyond the borders'. The politics of racism and peacekeeping in the Yugoslav wars exemplified how post-Yugoslav racisms mediated the geopolitical reversal that many ex-Yugoslavs felt they had undergone.

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Catherine Baker

Evidence from popular music shows that the Yugoslav region just like other European countries does possess a 'deep reservoir' of notions of modernity, morality, hierarchy and entitlement through which popular culture and everyday discourse mobilise meaning. Wekker's search for the affective legacies of racialised colonial imagination in the 'cultural archive' reinforces Anikó Imre's argument that scholars of European media ought to apply the lens of east European postcoloniality to everyday popular culture as well as highbrow literature and cinema. The most unambiguous examples of colonial racialised imaginaries in post-Yugoslav entertainment, even more so than Cro-dance's tribalism and primitivism, were occasional blackface performances on music television. Popular music stands alongside transnational sport and film as a major vector for an embodied transnational cultural politics of race, where what producers and audiences perceive through transnational media is adapted or vernacularised through their own perceptions of race and identity.

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Introduction

What does race have to do with the Yugoslav region?

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Catherine Baker

Like south-east Europe and Europe's ex-state socialist societies in general, the Yugoslav region has legacies of nation formation, forced migration and genocide that invite seeing its past and present through the lens of ethnopolitical and religious conflict. Scholars of eastern European countries and the USSR, not just the Yugoslav region, face the obstacle of reconciling the predominance of ethnicity and the invisibility of race. Scholars in Black European Studies at locations including Germany, the Nordic countries and the Netherlands have had to confront exceptionalism in order for the mainstreams of their own area studies to hear them. Much scholarship on race, postcoloniality and whiteness on European peripheries is indebted to academics and activists in German Studies, including Afro-German women who started theorising their 'double oppressions' in white German society in collaboration with Audre Lorde.

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Series:

Catherine Baker

Ethnicity and migration, two central topics for studies of the Yugoslav region, have been and are intimately linked to race. Just as ethnicity has been more central than race in south-east European studies, certain migrations have been more central than others, which tell the history of majoritarian ethnicity but are integral to understanding the place of 'race'. Indeed, even the ethnopolitical violence responsible for forced migrations within and away from the region has often involved translating ethnicity and nationhood through 'race' to more effectively dehumanise the subjects of violence and harden the symbolic boundaries of ethnic difference to their extreme. The Great War is a part of the history of race and the Yugoslav region as the theme on which the explicit discussions of race in the region have turned. The racialisation of ethnonational and religious boundaries facilitated genocidal expressions of Serb and Croat ethnonationalism during the Second World War.