- Entanglements, or Transmedial Thinking about Capture by Rey Chow
Rey Chow’s Entanglements, or Transmedial Thinking about Capture is a collection of eight essays that put a myriad of texts across mediums in relation to one another, using the idea of “entanglement” as a guiding principle through an epistemological project of considering modernity. For Chow, “entanglement” weaves through what she identifies as the once coherent epistemic borders of modernity (separating art and nonart, Asia and the West) and reveals them to be illusory. The epistemological crisis caused by the increasing relativization of modernity makes the stakes of the project all the more pressing, and the book is an attempt to think through these concerns. Specifically, Chow hones in on “the status of the mediatized image in relation to reflexivity; capture and captivation; mimetic violence, victimization, and forgiveness; and the place of East Asia in globalized Western academic study” (1). Through these topics, Entanglements enters numerous sites of discussion. In the broadest terms (arbitrarily delineated), these include history, society, culture, and politics with specific attention given to modernism, visual cultures, postcolonialism, and new media. Toward these ends, the project reconsiders the work of a number of influential modern thinkers with a concurrent interdisciplinary approach to multiple mediums such as literature and film. Throughout this process, Entanglements maintains a dimension of textual performativity. The book’s concern with critical theory extends to a proposal and execution of its own theory by featuring eight essays that weave through one another in unexpected but entirely imbricated directions. One of the implicit tasks of the book then is to consider the act of doing intellectual work in the twenty-first century. In that sense, Entanglements is also an intervention in critical theory. [End Page 198]
The first essay takes up the influence of modernism and proposes the idea of reflexivity as a theoretical practice. Toward this end, Chow engages with Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin to argue for Brecht’s lasting influence on contemporary theory and assert that the reflexivity of modernism must be understood in relation to capture and captivation. The films of Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke are provided as a useful site to consider such issues. The second essay, cowritten with Julian Rohrhuber, uses Jacques Rancière’s reading of Madame Bovary alongside Alfred Gell’s anthropological interrogation of the trap to ruminate on the relationship between captor and captor, and art and nonart. In response, the essay argues for capture and captivation as a critical response and a discourse that functions to defamiliarize one from such false binaries.
The third essay pairs Chinese writer Lao She with Walter Benjamin to interrogate the act of collecting. Chow again presses binaries, suggesting that Lao’s short story “Lian” (“Attachment”) intimates a radical approach to identity politics. “Sacrifice, Mimesis, and the Theorizing of Victimhood,” the fourth essay, situates René Girard, Erich Auerbach, and Giorgio Agamben as interlocutors with mimesis as the core issue. Thinking on sovereignty and the juridicopolitical relationship between human life and the state, Chow positions mimetic violence as the originary force of sovereignty and posits a different hypothesis regarding victimhood. Victimhood also undergirds the fifth essay where Hannah Arendt and Jacques Derrida are read in relation to forgiveness. Chow performs a reading of the South Korean film Secret Sunshine (2007) to suggest the possibility of forgiveness as a metanarrative that is readily available and leads to nothing less than a posthuman subjectivity.
In the sixth essay, Chow expands on Naoki Sakai’s idea of “heterolingual express” to consider American exceptionalism, the cultural exchange between the United States and Japan after World War II, as well as the English-speaking academy’s approach to Asia. She uses the films of Akira Kurosawa to forward this notion. “In Postcolonial Visibilities: Questions Inspired by Deleuze’s Method,” Chow engages with Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault to discuss issues of visibility and representation. Here, Chow makes use of Deleuze to address a central quandary in Foucault’s thought: contrary to the seemingly inevitability of imprisonment to juridicopolitical power in Foucault’s...