206 Chapters
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14 LebowskIcons: The Rug, The Iron Lung, The Tiki Bar, and Busby Berkeley

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Dennis Hall & Susan Grove Hall

The Big Lebowski is full of the kinds of images that are popularly called icons. The film not only places these in our view, but also shows them in dimensions and relationships that are new to us. What are these icons? The term is now used so commonly, especially for celebrities, that it might seem without meaning. In several years of studying icons in popular culture, though, we have found the term difficult to define because it has deep and pervasive influences beyond our usual perceptions. In preparing American Icons: An Encyclopedia of the People, Places, and Things That Have Shaped Our Culture, we identified several common features of icons.

An icon often generates strong responses; people identify with it, or against it; and the differences often reflect generational differences. Marilyn Monroe, for instance, carries meanings distinctly different for people who are in their teens and twenties than for people in their sixties and older. An icon stands for a group of related things and values. John Wayne, for example, images the cowboy and traditional masculinity, among many other associations, including conservative politics. An icon commonly has roots in historical sources, as various as folk culture, science, and commerce, often changing over time and reflecting present events or forces. The log cabin, for example, has endured as an influential American icon, with meanings and associations evolving from our colonial past through the present.

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Medium 9780253013873

13 Zombie Philosophy

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

When we have to change our mind about a person, we hold the inconvenience he causes us very much against him.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Here is a list, very incomplete, of things one should keep in mind when attempting to write seriously about zombies. Zombies do not exist. Zombies are not related to werewolves or vampires.1 Zombies are not, literally, mindless consumers, enraged proletarians, or stupid Americans—although some were perhaps once these things—and there is little use in casting them, even metaphorically, as essentially such, especially when attempting to offer a “theory of zombies.” This is because zombies do not form a natural kind, not even a fictional natural kind. Within the genre, zombies vary greatly in behavior, cognitive power, and athletic ability: some shamble, some run at or near Olympic speeds; some are incapable of manipulating even simple objects, others play video games with erstwhile friends; some behave better, at least not worse, than the living, others are Nazis; some are created by ill-advised government programs, others by hearing (Canadian) English.2

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Medium 9780253349118

4. Shopping for Clothes

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

THE OLD CITY OF BANARAS runs along the Ganges, the river of the goddess Ganga. Wide steps of stone lead down to the ghats at the riverside. Pilgrims and local people descend for prayer, for bathing and washing clothes. Ghats in sequence line the riverfront. Two of them are “burning ghats,” used for cremation—Harishchandra to the south and Manikarnika to the north1—where the continual burning of bodies attracts curious tourists and the local hustlers who offer to take them to see the “dead body fire.” Eighty-four ghats string along the river, but most of the activity, social and religious, takes place on the steps of the “main ghat.” Situated in the middle and numbered forty-one, Dashaswamedh Ghat is the place of the ancient Ten Horse Sacrifice. Here, Lord Brahma came disguised as an ascetic and requested the King of Kashi, Divodasa, to sponsor an extravagant version of the horse sacrifice, the aswamedh. The ritual was flawlessly performed, and now all those who bathe here receive the blessings of the horse sacrifice.2

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14. Apprentices and Entrepreneurs: The Workshop and Style Uniformity in Sub-Saharan Africa

Edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Indiana University Press ePub

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir

One of the major questions in African art scholarship concerns the degree to which the African artist was and is free to invent. Despite the early insights of Boas (1955[1927]:155) and his followers concerning artistic invention in oral cultures, the accepted picture until recently was that of the African artist as slave to tradition. He could not innovate because the pressures of traditional patronage forbade it. Since that time, numerous field researchers have shown that innovation can and does occur when the conditions are favorable. During the same period, the documentation of African art has expanded dramatically, and with it has come confirmation that the old “one tribe, one style” model fails to describe the stylistic diversity found in most art-producing African cultures (Kasfir 1984). We are, therefore, at a point where everyone recognizes that style varies from artist to artist as well as over time, even in quite highly structured and conservative societies. But how do these variations arise? And, more important, why do they occur much more often in some societies than in others? The purpose of this chapter is to examine the dynamics through which an artist’s personal style is encoded along with the limitations placed upon stylistic change. Although I will make less mention of it, most of the arguments hold true for iconography as well, simply because the two are often inseparable. I will focus on two major aspects of the question: the way in which the artist acquires a style, and the effects of patronage on his ability to change it. In doing so I am faced with a methodological dilemma: to generalize is to invite oversimplification of very complex creative processes, but to maintain that because every African culture is unique, it is not susceptible to comparative analysis is to reinforce stereotypical ideas concerning the lack of any common ground between creativity in literate and in oral cultures. Because of this problem, I have found it useful to compare some of the findings of other researchers with my own answers to these questions. As more documentation becomes available, these comparisons become increasingly valid.

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Medium 9780253340481

Chapter One The Pinkas

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253008145

SEVEN Invoking Hijab: The Power Politics of Spaces and Employment in Nigeria • HAUWA MAHDI

Edited by Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

The fact that changes in dress styles are taking place in Nigeria reflects perhaps the normal processes of change which occur in all societies. Yet these transformations, at both the macro-national and micro levels, differ as each reflects a unique experience. In Nigeria, women’s dress has increasingly become an object of contention at the macro level, more so in the last three decades than it had in previous years. State actors and some civil society organizations (CSOs) alike have become active in the discourse of and attempts to legislate how women should or should not behave as a moral imperative. In 2007, Senator Ufot Eme Ekaette, one of only nine women in the 109-member Senate chamber of the National Assembly, gained some notoriety for her proposed bill, which in the light of Nigerians’ penchant for nicknames soon became known as the Nudity Bill (Adaramola 2008). There are other politicians who share the title of morality police with Ekaette. The senator and former governor of Zamfara State Ahmed Sani introduced the death penalty on sexual offences during his governorship, on 27 January 2000. (He later went on to enhance his moral authority by his marriage to an Egyptian girl in her early teens.) Second, some twenty-six senators (two of whom are women) sponsored the Same-Sex Bill, which prohibits sexual relations and marriage among same-sex partners in Nigeria (Obende et al. 2011). In all these morality bills female and male senators of all backgrounds have come together without a sectarian—religious or ethnic—hitch. In the last thirty years, an era of increasing economic hardship in Nigeria, women have been blamed for anything from droughts to a rise in delinquency among children. Public discourse in the media is filled with debates and arguments that support curtailing women’s rights and freedom, often in the name of religion or tradition. The “Nudity Bill” and other morality legislation must be seen in the context of the general social disorder in Nigeria and attempts by the political elite to grope for answers to unfulfilled yearnings for basic human rights and demands for “progress,” particularly in such things as the provision of electricity and running water.

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Medium 9780253007438

10 · Defiances of the Dead

Allen F. Roberts Indiana University Press ePub

Speaking for the first time of things never seen, . . . this language
carefully hides that it says only what has already been spoken


Storms’s African souvenirs remained in his widow’s possession until the early 1930s. As Boris Wastiau comments, by then they had become “family relics, metonyms of the deceased, . . . thereby implying new ‘rituals’ of remembrance and devotion”—to Henriette Dessaint Storms and her family and friends, that is, rather than to the people who had made or used the objects and from whom the lieutenant had seized them. The ongoing “social lives” of the things seem to have left any such possibilities far behind. The general’s collections were donated to the Royal Museum of the Belgian Congo in response to the efforts of Frans Cornet, head of the RMCB’s Moral, Political, and Historical Sciences Section, which was dedicated to memorializing Belgian accomplishments in the Congo. As Maarten Couttenier reports, the section was founded in 1910 to counter international criticism of atrocities of the Congo Free State. A “glowing” revisionist image featuring “the colony’s ‘intellectual and moral development’ towards ‘progress’ ” would downplay or simply ignore “negative aspects such as . . . forced labor, mutilations, rapes and murders that occurred during the economic exploitation of ‘red rubber’ and the violent military occupation.”1

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Medium 9780253006875

8. Politics of Narrative at the African Burial Ground in New York City: The Final Monument

Joanna Grabski Indiana University Press ePub




The African Burial Ground located in lower Manhattan was used by Africans and people of African descent from approximately 1700 until 1790. It covered five to six acres and likely contained the remains of ten thousand to twenty thousand people. A small portion of the African Burial Ground was unearthed in 1991 when the General Services Administration (GSA) built on top of the cemetery a thirty-four-story Federal Office Building at 290 Broadway between Duane and Reade Streets. The eighteenth-century colonial cemetery was located in what has become today's Civic Center of lower Manhattan, surrounded by City Hall, Federal Plaza, and the New York Supreme Court. Because the plot of land at 290 Broadway is prime real estate, it was initially treated as such, rather than as a sacred, historical burial site. Eventually, after community activism and governmental involvement, several commemorative art projects were eventually commissioned for the site.1

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Medium 9780253348920

Coda: From Spears to Guns in the North Rift

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub



This book has asked: What happens to a complex representation when the cultural script undergoes a major change? The original context was British colonialism, but just such a thing has occurred again during the decade in which this book was researched and written. In this last section, I attempt an updated reading on the fighting spear in Samburu culture, the evidence for which comes from reports on the radio, on the Internet, and in newspapers and from first-hand accounts within Samburu District.

In Idomaland, it took the Pax Britannica and the banning of headhunting in 1917 to aestheticize and memorialize warriorhood and turn a disappearing supply of enemy crania into carved representations and a war dance into a masquerade. Nearly a century later, Samburu warriorhood is still a recognized and clearly marked stage of life, but in the past decade its main symbol, the spear, has begun to undergo a similar kind of transformation.

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Medium 9781603444668

5. Living Downstream: East Austin through the Blackland Prairies

Margie Crisp Texas A&M University Press ePub


The river pours out of Longhorn Dam and starts a series of lazy, looping curves on its way to the coast. It changes in temperament and character. The way people look at it alters; there can be no mistaking that it is a river again, in name and nature. Just downstream from the last dam (for the present), the river glides underneath the soaring buttresses and pillars of the Montopolis Bridges. The river feels like an anachronism after the high-priced estates and manicured lawns bordering the reservoirs upstream. City of Austin parks bordering the river on either side (Guerro Park on the south and the Colorado River Preserve on the north) are not akin to the mowed and maintained hike and bike trails just upstream around Lady Bird Lake. Erosion eats at the banks of Guerro Park. In the Colorado River Preserve, eroded trails score the woods, heaps of dumped household and construction trash clog the gullies, and debris washed downstream laces the brush.

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Medium 9780253015976

10 Island Geography as Creole Biography: Shenaz Patel’s Mauritian Literary Production

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Magali Compan

MANY CRITICS HAVE examined the production of francophone-African artists relocated to France by focusing on the condition of exile and its potential for creative friction. Since the 1930s and through today, numerous francophone authors have found in France favorable conditions for literary creation. Critics have reinforced an understanding of the impetus for exile as coming from a lack of opportunities and resources for those who would choose to remain and write in their country or homeland. Kate Quinn, for example, invokes the expression of Jamaican writer Andrew Salkey, “Emigrate or vegetate,” as an adage for the cultural impoverishment that writers in the Caribbean face if they do not leave.

This imperative for emigration has driven francophone writers from Africa and the Indian Ocean for generations, and, as a result, ostensibly “African” francophone literary works are, by and large, produced and consumed outside the places they seek to represent. But what about the writers who decide to stay? How does a “home” geography or place affect an author’s writing and authorship? What are the relationships among location, a sense of place, and one’s identity formation, not only as a writer but as an individual or a member of a community? What influence, if any, does place exert on one’s identity? How do sites of production and histories together generate authorship and identity, francophone or otherwise? The case of Shenaz Patel, one of a contemporary group of successful female writers from Mauritius Island in the Indian Ocean, offers revealing answers to these questions. Unlike her Mauritian literary contemporaries (including Ananda Devi, Nathacha Appanah, and Marie-Therese Humbert, all of whom live in France), Patel has maintained residence in and pursued her literary career from her native island. While writing for the global francophone literary marketplace, Patel also remains committed to other endeavors that tie her to Mauritius, her local community, and her extended family. She is not only an internationally recognized francophone author but also a local journalist, having written for (and served as the managing editor of) the independent political Mauritian newspaper Le Nouveau Militant and the main newspaper on the island, Week End. Committed to a project of “re-transcribing Creole culture” (retranscrire la culture creole), as she puts it, Patel also translates French-language popular cultural texts into Creole for local readerships (including, for example, the Tintin comic books). She also writes stories in Creole for local publication and has written theater plays for local production. As a librarian, she maintains writing projects linked to local Creole community activism and cultural engagement. Thus the crossing of French and Mauritian Creole in her francophone literary production emanates from her diversified set of local, Creole cultural commitments and projects. As such, her literary work contributes to a suite of endeavors that together constitute the “place” of Patel’s francophone writing of and from the island of Mauritius.

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1 Zombie Psychology

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

I wasn’t a sex symbol, I was a sex zombie.

Veronica Lake

Two scenes in Ruben Fleisher’s Zombieland (2009) emblematize key psychical and affective dimensions of much zombie culture, dimensions that are often subordinated in critical discussions to such terms as terror or horror or neglected altogether. At first glance the earlier of these scenes seems almost silly—so much fodder for gifted actors to exploit—and irrelevant both to the film’s narrative and to the larger psychical and affective issues inherent to such recent films as 28 Days Later (2002), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Pontypool (2009), and others. After Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), zombie exterminator extraordinaire and one of the film’s two protagonists, makes his brash entrance and confronts Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) on a highway littered with wrecked vehicles, debris, and even the broken fuselage of a downed jet, the pair join forces and make their way down a more rural, uncluttered road. Shortly thereafter, as Columbus recounts in his voice-over narration, Tallahassee reveals his one “weakness” when they stop at a breach in a twisted metal barrier on the roadside, gazing down into a grassy ravine where a Hostess Bakeries truck has veered off the road. Tallahassee announces that he could “use a Twinkie” and begins his descent to the truck, prompting Columbus to recommend a regimen of light calisthenics and stretching as dictated by his self-imposed Rule #18: “Limber up.” Tallahassee rejects the suggestion, reminding his companion that lions don’t “limber up” before taking down a gazelle. When they arrive at the truck, Fleisher trains close-ups on the Hostess name and strands of red hearts that comprise the company’s logo on the side and back of the trailer, which Tallahassee opens excitedly, expecting to find a Twinkie. Instead, a cascade of Hostess Sno Balls falls at his feet. Feverishly searching for a Twinkie, he is both enraged and repulsed by the Sno Balls, shouting, casting them irreverently aside, and stomping them into pulp. By contrast, Columbus opens a package and enjoys eating one, promoting the freshness of its distinctive coconut flavor, which, in turn, motivates Tallahassee’s retort: “I hate coconut—it’s not the taste, it’s the consistency.” The scene ends with Tallahassee vowing to continue his quest for a Twinkie, which he does later when the duo enters Blaine’s Supermarket, and where, after the requisite dispatching of zombies, they meet and are conned by Wichita (Emma Stone) and her sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin).

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CHAPTER 3. BRIDGING PAST AND PRESENT:Africa and after, 1957–1974

Olive Jensen Theisen University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 3

Bridging Past and Present:

Africa and After, 1957–1974

The journey to Africa was the most significant of my life’s experiences. Living intimately with the African and understanding something of his problems enabled me to better understand my own. Thus strengthened, I gained a new confidence for the future.

—John Biggers, Ananse: The Web of Life in Africa

u  u  u 

West Africa, July 1957–December 1957

In July of 1957, John Biggers left America with his wife, Hazel, for six months of study in West Africa, funded by a UNESCO grant. The artist kept a careful record of his trip in words, drawings, and photographs, which he later incorporated into a book, Ananse: The Web of Life in Africa, first published in 1962.

In Ananse, he wrote of his thoughts in flight, as his plane approached the coast of Africa: “As an American Negro, my lifelong desire had been to bridge the gap between African and American culture. When I was an art student …Viktor

Lowenfeld taught us something about the noble meaning of African sculpture.”

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Medium 9780253014092

4 Conceptual Fashion: Evocations of Africa

Victoria L. Rovine Indiana University Press ePub

A runway in New York, 1998: Models wearing garments that range from sheath-like dresses made of loosely knitted yarn to denim jackets with large fake fur collars stride the runway to the strains of Jimi Hendrix, and then suddenly to no soundtrack at all. Loose threads dangle from the seams of some garments; others have labels sewn outside their collars.

A loading dock in Johannesburg, 2003: At an event planned by two fashion designers, attendees stand on concrete floors in an industrial building in a gritty downtown neighborhood. They watch as performers wearing large plastic bags dance and interact, pantomiming a story of trials and perseverance. The two designers work behind the scenes, holding the lanterns that illuminate the space and manipulating shadow puppets.

A workshop in Paris, 2007: Women from the Goutte d’Or, a neighborhood known for its large African population, participate in training programs led by a designer from the Comoros. They learn sewing techniques that will help them find employment. The designer and a group of participants create an exhibition at the Musée du Petit Palais that features the garments they have produced, which are made of recycled clothing, displayed on mannequins along with bales of used clothing.1

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Medium 9781574412208

CHAPTER SIX: Mature Years, 1984–2001

Olive Jensen Theisen University of North Texas Press PDF

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