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The Wailing Culture of Yemenite Jewish Women
The term “wailing culture” includes an array of women’s behaviors and beliefs following the death of a member of their ethnic group and is typical of Jewish life in Yemeni culture. Central to the practice is wailing itself—a special artistic genre that combines speech with sobbing into moving lyrical poetry that explores the meaning of death and loss. In Aesthetics of Sorrow: The Wailing Culture of Yemenite Jewish Women, Tova Gamliel decodes the cultural and psychological meanings of this practice in an ethnography based on her anthropological research among Yemenite Jewish communities in Israel in 2001–2003. Based on participant-observervation in homes of the bereaved and on twenty-four in-depth interviews with wailing women and men, Gamliel illuminates wailing culture level by level: by the circles in which the activity takes place; the special areas of endeavor that belong to women; and the broad social, historical, and religious context that surrounds these inner circles. She discusses the main themes that define the wailing culture (including the historical origins of women’s wailing generally and of Yemenite Jewish wailing in particular), the traits of wailing as an artistic genre, and the wailer as a symbolic type. She also explores the role of wailing in death rituals, as a therapeutic expertise endowed with unique affective mechanisms, as an erotic performance, as a livelihood, and as an indicator of the Jewish exile. In the end, she considers wailing at the intersection of tradition and modernity and examines the study of wailing as a genuine methodological challenge. Gamliel brings a sensitive eye to the vanishing practice of wailing, which has been largely unexamined by scholars and may be unfamiliar to many outside of the Middle East. Her interdisciplinary perspective and her focus on a uniquely female immigrant cultural practice will make this study fascinating reading for scholars of anthropology, gender, folklore, psychology, performance, philosophy, and sociology.
Eccentricity and Madness in Early Modern Japan
Eccentric artists are “the vagaries of humanity” that inhabit the deviant underside of Japanese society: This was the conclusion drawn by pre–World War II commentators on most early modern Japanese artists. Postwar scholarship, as it searched for evidence of Japan’s modern roots, concluded the opposite: The eccentric, mad, and strange are moral exemplars, paragons of virtue, and shining hallmarks of modern consciousness. In recent years, the pendulum has swung again, this time in favor of viewing these oddballs as failures and dropouts without lasting cultural significance. This work corrects the disciplinary (and exclusionary) nature of such interpretations by reconsidering the sudden and dramatic emergence of aesthetic eccentricity during the Edo period (1600–1868). It explains how, throughout the period, eccentricity (ki) and madness (kyo) developed and proliferated as subcultural aesthetics. By excavating several generations of early modern Japan’s eccentric artists, it demonstrates that individualism and strangeness carried considerable moral and cultural value. Indeed, Edo society fetishized various marginal personae—the recluse, the loser, the depraved, the outsider, the saint, the mad genius—as local heroes and paragons of moral virtue. This book concludes that a confluence of intellectual, aesthetic, and social conditions enabled multiple concurrent heterodoxies to crystallize around strangeness as a prominent cultural force in Japanese society.
A study of impressive historical and disciplinary breadth, The Aesthetics of Strangeness also makes extensive use of primary sources, many previously overlooked in existing English scholarship. Its coverage of the entire Edo period and engagement with both Chinese and native Japanese traditions reinterprets Edo-period tastes and perceptions of normalcy. By wedding art history to intellectual history, literature, aesthetics, and cultural practice, W. Puck Brecher strives for a broadly interdisciplinary perspective on this topic. Readers will discover that the individuals that form the backbone of his study lend credence to a new interpretation of Edo-period culture: a growing valuation of eccentricity within artistic and intellectual circles that exerted indelible impacts on mainstream society. The Aesthetics of Strangeness demystifies this emergent paradigm by illuminating the conditions and tensions under which certain rubrics of strangeness— ki and kyo particularly—were appointed as aesthetic criteria. Its revision of early modern Japanese culture constitutes an important contribution to the field.
W. Puck Brecher is assistant professor of Japanese at Washington State University.
Speaking the Unspeakable
<p class="red">A traditional yet fresh approach to grasping the power of Morrison's writing
With essays by Yvonne Atkinson, Marc C. Conner, Susan Corey, Maria DiBattista, Barbara Johnson, Cheryl Lester, Katherine Stern, and Michael Wood
Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's novels have almost exclusively been examined as sagas illuminating history, race, culture, and gender politics. This gathering of eight essays by top scholars probes Morrison's novels and her growing body of nonfiction and critical work for the complex and potent aesthetic elements that have made her a major American novelist of the twentieth century.
Through traditional aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, the beautiful, and the grotesque, through issues of form, narrative, and language, and through questions of affect and reader response, the nine essays in this volume bring into relief the dynamic and often overlooked range within Morrison's writing. Employing aesthetic ideas that range from the ancient Greeks to contemporary research in the black English oral tradition, The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison shows the potency of these ideas for interpreting Morrison's writing. This is a force Morrison herself has often suggested in her claims that Greek tragedy bears a striking similarity to "Afro-American communal structures."
At the same time each essay attends to the ways in which Morrison also challenges traditional aesthetic concepts, establishing the African American and female voices that are essential to her sensibility. The result is a series of readings that simultaneously expands our understanding of Morrison's work and also provokes new thinking about an aesthetic tradition that is nearly 2,500 years old.
These essays offer a rich complement to the dominant approaches in Morrison scholarship by revealing aspects of her work that purely ideological approaches have obscured or about which they have remained oddly silent. Each essay focuses particularly on the relations between the aesthetic and the ethical in Morrison's writing and between the artistic production and its role in the world at large. These relations show the rich political implications that aesthetic analysis engenders.
By treating both Morrison's fiction and her nonfiction, the essays reveal a mind and imagination that have long been intimately engaged with the questions and traditions of the aesthetic domain. The result is a provocative and original contribution to Morrison scholarship, and to scholarship in American letters generally.
Marc C. Conner is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University. He has published articles in Studies in American Fiction and Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction.
Transnational Theater, Literature, and Film in Contemporary Germany
The contemporary moment has been described in terms of both a “narrative” and a “performative turn,” but the overlap between these two has largely escaped attention. This curious gap is explained by the ways in which scholars across the humanities have defined narrative and performance as opposite forces, emphasizing their respective affiliations with time vs. space and identity constitution vs. its undoing. Although the opposition has been acknowledged as false by many in this simple form, its shifting instantiations continue to shape the ways we make sense of the arts as well as society. Instead, An Aesthetics of Narrative Performance: Transnational Theater, Literature, and Film in Contemporary Germany by Claudia Breger maps the complexities of imaginative worldmaking in contemporary culture through an aesthetics of narrative performance: an ensemble of techniques exploring the interplay of rupture and recontextualization in the process of configuration. Interlacing diverging definitions of both narrative and performance, the study outlines two clusters of such techniques—scenic narration and narrative “presencing” in performance vs. forms of narrative theatricalization—and analyzes the cultural work they do in individual works in three different media: literature, film, and theater. These readings focus on the rich configurations of contemporary worldmaking “at location Germany.” In the discussed representations of German unification, contemporary cultures of migration, and the transnational War on Terror, the aesthetics of narrative performance finds its identity as a multifaceted imaginative response to the post/modern crisis of narrative authority.
Improving Health Care for Everyone
Affirmative action programs have significantly changed American medicine for the better, not only in medical school admissions and access to postgraduate training but also in bringing a higher quality of health care to all people. James L. Curtis approaches this important transition from historical, statistical, and personal perspectives. He tells how over the course of his medical education and career as a psychiatrist and professor--often as the first or only African American in his cohort--the status of minorities in the medical professions grew from a tiny percentage to a far more equitable representation of the American population. Advancing arguments from his earlier book, Blacks, Medical Schools, and Society, Curtis evaluates the outcomes of affirmative action efforts over the past thirty years. He describes formidable barriers to minority access to medical-education opportunities and the resulting problems faced by minority patients in receiving medical treatment. His progress report includes a review of two thousand minority students admitted to U.S. medical schools in 1969, following them through graduation and their careers, comparing them with the careers of two thousand of their nonminority peers. These samples provide an important look at medical schools that, while heralding dramatic progress in physician education and training opportunity, indicates much room for further improvement. A basic hurdle continues to face African Americans and other minorities who are still confined to segregated neighborhoods and inferior school systems that stifle full scholastic development. Curtis urges us as a nation to develop all our human resources through an expansion of affirmative action programs, thus improving health care for everyone. James L. Curtis is Clinical Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
In this timely critical introduction to the representation of Afghanistan in film, Mark Graham examines the often surprising combination of propaganda and poetry in films made in Hollywood and the East. Through the lenses of postcolonial theory and historical reassessment, Graham analyzes what these films say about Afghanistan, Islam, and the West and argues that they are integral tools for forming discourse on Afghanistan, a means for understanding and avoiding past mistakes, and symbols of the country's shaky but promising future. Thoughtfully addressing many of the misperceptions about Afghanistan perpetuated in the West, Afghanistan in the Cinema incorporates incisive analysis of the market factors, funding sources, and political agendas that have shaped the films. _x000B__x000B_The book considers a range of films, beginning with the 1970s epics The Man Who Would Become King and The Horsemen and following the shifts in representation of the Muslim world during the Russian War in films such as The Beast and Rambo III. Graham then moves on to Taliban-era films such as Kandahar, Osama, and Ellipsis, the first Afghan film directed by a woman. Lastly, the book discusses imperialist nostalgia in films such as Charlie Wilson's War and destabilizing visions represented in contemporary works such as The Kite Runner. _x000B_
A Practical Guide for Global Health Workers
Written by authors who speak directly from their years of personal and professional experience with health projects in Africa, this book provides an integrated historical, social, political, economic, and health introduction to a series of African countries. It also offers a comprehensive view of major health issues for those aiming to undertake humanitarian and global health work in Africa.
In the introductory chapter, the editors discuss the concepts of globalism and humanitarianism, and provide a framework for thinking about global health. They introduce readers to significant aspects of African history and agencies that play major roles in global health work in Africa. The "Tips for Travelers to Africa" chapter provides a wealth of information on preparing for travel to Africa and working successfully and effectively in African cultures.
Individual chapters on Botswana, Ghana, The Maghreb, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda focus on key health or environmental issues, projects, and solutions unique to each country. Written jointly by U.S. and African medical personnel participating in major health initiatives, the chapters offer vibrant accounts of work on leading causes of disease and death or environmental problems.
Gender is one of the most productive, dynamic, and vibrant areas of Africanist research today. But what is the meaning of gender in an African context? Why does gender usually connote women? Why has gender taken hold in Africa when feminism hasn't? Is gender yet another Western construct that has been applied to Africa however ill-suited and riddled with assumptions? Africa After Gender? looks at Africa now that gender has come into play to consider how the continent, its people, and the term itself have changed. Leading Africanist historians, anthropologists, literary critics, and political scientists move past simple dichotomies, entrenched debates, and polarizing identity politics to present an evolving discourse of gender. They show gender as an applied rather than theoretical tool and discuss themes such as the performance of sexuality, lesbianism, women's political mobilization, the work of gendered NGOs, and the role of masculinity in a gendered world. For activists, students, and scholars, this book reveals a rich and cross-disciplinary view of the status of gender in Africa today.
Contributors are Hussaina J. Abdullah, Nwando Achebe, Susan Andrade, Eileen Boris, Catherine M. Cole, Paulla A. Ebron, Eileen Julien, Lisa A. Lindsay, Adrienne MacIain, Takyiwaa Manuh, Stephan F. Miescher, Helen Mugambi, Gay Seidman, Sylvia Tamale, Bridget Teboh, Lynn M. Thomas, and Nana Wilson-Tagoe.