After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a general sense that the world was different—that nothing would ever be the same—settled upon a grieving nation; the events of that day were received as cataclysmic disruptions of an ordered world. Refuting this claim, David Simpson examines the complex and paradoxical character of American public discourse since that September morning, considering the ways the event has been aestheticized, exploited, and appropriated, while “Ground Zero” remains the contested site of an effort at adequate commemoration.
In 9/11, Simpson argues that elements of the conventional culture of mourning and remembrance—grieving the dead, summarizing their lives in obituaries, and erecting monuments in their memory—have been co-opted for political advantage. He also confronts those who labeled the event an “apocalypse,” condemning their exploitation of 9/11 for the defense of torture and war.
In four elegant chapters—two of which expand on essays originally published in the London Review of Books to great acclaim—Simpson analyzes the response to 9/11: the nationally syndicated “Portraits of Grief” obituaries in the New York Times; the debates over the rebuilding of the World Trade Center towers and the memorial design; the representation of American and Iraqi dead after the invasion of March 2003, along with the worldwide circulation of the Abu Ghraib torture photographs; and the urgent and largely ignored critique of homeland rhetoric from the domain of critical theory.
Calling for a sustained cultural and theoretical analysis, 9/11 is the first book of its kind to consider the events of that tragic day with a perspective so firmly grounded in the humanities and so persuasive about the contribution they can make to our understanding of its consequences.
When the Ottoman Empire met its demise in the early twentieth century, the new Republic of Turkey closed down the Sufi orders, rationalizing that they were antimodern. Yet the nascent nation, faced with defining its cultural heritage, soon began to promote the legacies of three Sufi saints: Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, Hacı Bektaş Veli, and Yunus Emre. Their Turkish ethnicity, along with universalist themes found in their poetry and legends—of love, peace, fellowship, and tolerance—became the focus of their commemoration. With this reinterpretation of their characters—part of a broader secularist project—these saints came to be considered the great Turkish humanists. Their veneration came to play an important role in the nationalist formulation of Turkish culture, but the universalism of their humanism has exposed fissures in society over the place of religion in the nation.
Humanist Mystics is the first book to examine Islam and secularism within Turkish nationalist ideology through the lens of commemorated saints. Soileau surveys Anatolian and Turkish religious and political history as the context for his closer attention to the lives and influence of these three Sufi saints. By comparing premodern hagiographic and scholarly representations with twentieth-century monographs, literary works, artistic media, and commemorative ceremonies, he shows how the saints have been transformed into humanist mystics and how this change has led to debates about their character and relevance.
Screening Auschwitz examines the classic Polish Holocaust film The Last Stage (Ostatni etap), directed by the Auschwitz survivor Wanda Jakubowska (1907–1998). Released in 1948, The Last Stage was a pioneering work and the first narrative film to portray the Nazi concentration and extermination camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Marek Haltof’s fascinating book offers English-speaking readers a wealth of new materials, mostly from original Polish sources obtained through extensive archival research.
With its powerful dramatization of the camp experience, The Last Stage established several quasi-documentary themes easily discernible in later film narratives of the Shoah: dark, realistic images of the camp, a passionate moral appeal, and clear divisions between victims and perpetrators. Jakubowska’s film introduced images that are now archetypal—for example, morning and evening roll calls on the Appelplatz, the arrival of transport trains at Birkenau, the separation of families upon arrival, and tracking shots over the belongings left behind by those who were gassed. These and other images are taken up by a number of subsequent American films, including George Stevens’s The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Alan Pakula’s Sophie’s Choice (1982), and Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993).
Haltof discusses the unusual circumstances that surrounded the film's production on location at Auschwitz-Birkenau and summarizes critical debates surrounding the film’s release. The book offers much of interest to film historians and readers interested in the Holocaust.
When political geography changes, how do reorganized or newly formed states justify their rule and create a sense of shared history for their people? Often, the essays in Selective Remembrances reveal, they turn to archaeology, employing the field and its findings to develop nationalistic feelings and forge legitimate distinctive national identities.
Examining such relatively new or reconfigured nation-states as Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, India, and Thailand, Selective Remembrances shows how states invoke the remote past to extol the glories of specific peoples or prove claims to ancestral homelands. Religion has long played a key role in such efforts, and the contributors take care to demonstrate the tendency of many people, including archaeologists themselves, to view the world through a religious lens—which can be exploited by new regimes to suppress objective study of the past and justify contemporary political actions.
The wide geographic and intellectual range of the essays in Selective Remembrances will make it a seminal text for archaeologists and historians.