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Cultural Studies

A Chronicle of the Years 1977‚Äď1984

First published in French in 1985, The Divine Left is Jean Baudrillard’s chronicle of French political life from 1977 to 1984. It offers the closest thing to political analysis to be found from a thinker who has too often been regarded as apolitical.

It was the lies he told that reminded me of that past of mine that I hadn't encountered in a while. He was telling me the kinds of lies where the teller implies that things that have only happened to him once are long-running habits. Things about too much whiskey, C√©line and De Sade, eating alone in expensive Japanese restaurants, knowing nobody (this last fact he would continue to repeat in later meetings, it seeming more barbarously unreal each time). 
—from Nicola, Milan

Countryside, Traditions, and Cultural Spaces

Just a few kilometers from the glittering skylines of Shanghai and Beijing, we encounter a vast countryside, an often forgotten and seemingly limitless landscape stretching far beyond the outskirts of the cities. Following traces of old trade routes, once-flourishing marketplaces, abandoned country estates, decrepit model villages, and the sites of mystic rituals, the authors of this book spent seven years exploring, photographing, and observing the vast interior of China, where the majority of Chinese people live in ways virtually unchanged for centuries.

Art and Politics

Contemporary art is increasingly part of a wider network of cultural practices, related through a common set of references in cultural theory. Within Europe, relations between national theoretical traditions have become more fluid and dynamic, creating an increasingly transnational—or postnational—space for European cultural and art theory.

“The need to speak, even if one has nothing to say, becomes more pressing when one has nothing to say, just as the will to live becomes more urgent when life has lost its meaning.”
--from The Ecstasy of Communication

A Useless Guide

Of all the French cultural exports over the last 150 years or so, ‚Äėpataphysics--the science of imaginary solutions and the laws governing exceptions--has proven to be one of the most durable. Originating in the wild imagination of French poet and playwright Alfred Jarry and his schoolmates, resisting clear definition, purposefully useless, and almost impossible to understand, ‚Äėpataphysics nevertheless lies around the roots of Absurdism, Dada, futurism, surrealism, situationism, and other key cultural developments of the twentieth century.

“Where does the city without gates begin? Perhaps inside that fugitive anxiety, that shudder that seizes the minds of those who, just returning from a long vacation, contemplate the imminent encounter with mounds of unwanted mail or with a house that’s been broken into and emptied of its contents. It begins with the urge to flee and escape for a second from an oppressive technological environment, to regain one’s senses and one’s sense of self.”
--from Lost Dimension

Is psychoanalysis possible in the Islamic Republic of Iran? This is the question that Gohar Homayounpour poses to herself, and to us, at the beginning of this memoir of displacement, nostalgia, love, and pain. Twenty years after leaving her country, Homayounpour, an Iranian, Western-trained psychoanalyst, returns to Tehran to establish a psychoanalytic practice. When an American colleague exclaims, “I do not think that Iranians can free-associate!” Homayounpour responds that in her opinion Iranians do nothing but. Iranian culture, she says, revolves around stories.

The Rehumanization of Art and Literature

The human figure made a spectacular return in visual art and literature in the 1920s. Following modernism’s withdrawal, nonobjective painting gave way to realistic depictions of the body and experimental literary techniques were abandoned for novels with powerfully individuated characters. But the celebrated return of the human in the interwar years was not as straightforward as it may seem. In Realism after Modernism, Devin Fore challenges the widely accepted view that this period represented a return to traditional realist representation and its humanist postulates.

Heterosexuality is celebrated--in film and television, in pop songs and opera, in literature and on greeting cards--and at the same time taken for granted. It is the cultural and sexual norm by default. And yet, as Louis-Georges Tin shows in The Invention of Heterosexual Culture, in premodern Europe heterosexuality was perceived as an alternative culture. The practice of heterosexuality may have been standard, but the symbolic primacy of the heterosexual couple was not.