- Editor's Introduction
This general issue focuses on violence, by and large. The coincidence may be an indicator of no peace in our time; or, hope against hope, a sign of an accountable, engaged scholarship resurfacing just now. The essays herein offer examples of trauma history and trauma art, the colonial politics of the archive, and unvarnished evidentiary critique; they are models of how to pick apart fascist literary procedures, expose treachery in translation, prove that new music cultures can flower in a world at war, demonstrate techniques for unmasking the "branding" of sexually violent pictorial art, and recount tales of the information revolutions underlying urban transformation. They point us toward the labor and the analytic possibilities lying ahead.
Sudarat Musikawong's "Art for October: Thai Cold War State Violence in Trauma Art" revolves around crucial events in the political history of traumatic forgetfulness that are shaping political art in Thailand today. The [End Page 13] events are massacres carried out and justified by laws against lèse-majesté, most pertinently in October 1976, in 1996 (when a historical "rupture" mobilized artists to commemorate the 1976 massacre and to invent a language capable of truthfully telling history), and in September 2006, when mobs sided with the military coup against Prime Minister Thaksin's government. This led artists to reconsider their earlier aesthetic choices, Sudarat Musikawong writes, suggesting that the artists had created an "impasse in which partial recognition and healing came to stand in for resolution," and that the artists had thereby induced another round of amnesia. Sudarat Musikawong's central dilemma is shared with the politically engaged artists he represents and interviews. What are the limits and the possibilities of "trauma art"? Does it accent affect over knowledge of what is to be mourned? What beside strategy itself lies at hand for artists committed to knowing and showing history?
In Gyewon Kim's "Unpacking the Archive: Ichthyology, Photography, and the Archival Record in Japan and Korea," the ostensible objects of analysis are banal photographs of fish. What Kim seeks, first, is the itinerary of the photographs, their history as objects. The study of "native Korean fish" originated in colonial science of the Japanese ichthyologist Uchida Keitaro and as a product of the benevolent scientific rationality that empire imposes. The taxonomy that Uchida adapted to archive his photographs and spatially prove his case is related to archival practices of colonization. The nationalist ichthyologist Jeong Moon-Ki plagiarized the work of Uchida, refusing to acknowledge the colonial foundation of that nationalist oxymoron, "national science." But Gyewon Kim's point is that the entire notion of a native Korean fish is a "paradoxical ontology as a form of native particularity, since it was simultaneously rooted in the colonies and incongruously included in the empire as a form of exception." The logic of the archive thus reflects the history of this paradoxical ontology. And future archives, beginning with the uncomfortable photo exhibition in Seoul in 2004, will be shaped around postcolonial political truths when scholars, politicians, and citizens dare to declare them.
Barry Sautman's evidentiary brief, "'Vegetarian between Meals': The Dalai Lama, War, and Violence," is a wry, research-driven effort to write a factual history of how the Dalai Lama took on the identity of "man of [End Page 14] peace," alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela, and how this stance undermines comprehension of Chinese-Tibetan politics. A U.S. media invention of the 1930s, the alleged peaceful culture of Tibetans, this Dalai Lama's assiduous efforts to support U.S. geopolitics, and his international personality cult are each aired and substantiated in fact. On the matter of violence and peace, Sautman is clear. The idea that Tibetans, Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism, and the Dalai Lama are peaceful by nature is not empirically sustainable. A distinction must be drawn between the Dalai Lama's religious role and his political cult before any resolution to current political standoffs can be resolved.
Violence comes in many packages. Gavin Walker's scorching criticism of the Mishima Yukio "machine" in "The Double Scission of Mishima Yukio: Limits and Anxieties in the Autofictional Machine" illustrates how deadly literary mythology becomes...