Archive for July, 2009

Of Fathers and Obsessions

The Containing Father (Lövin-1988)

The Containing Father (Lövin-1988)

A Sunday afternoon visit to the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm (Moderna museet) turned out to be very rewarding, and not only from a purely aesthetic point of view but also because some of the pieces, in particular one of them, seemed to call upon a strong connection with the title of the present blog.

The aforementioned artwork is Björn Lövin’s sculpture titled The Containing Father (Den kringgärdande fadern) (1988) that reminds, not only through its title, of Lacanian scholarship on the topic of language, infancy, mothers and fathers.

At 280 cm tall and 120cm wide, the sculpture is almost intimidating. The solid, darkened surface of the wood does not appear at all hospitable, let alone friendly. There is a certain warmth in it, but one needs to be willing to look for it, and find it there where others would simply feel distance and coldness. the sculpture rests on three feet, two of them projected outwards like some sort of giant embracing arms, ready to contain and not let go.

Strangely, one may walk closer to the sculpture, willingly subjecting herself or himself to the father’s embrace. Time appears to be frozen in this open embrace. The feeling of containment comes not from the arms not yet fully closed, rather from such potentiality once the embrace may be led to fruition. The figure is tempting, it is open; at the same time, one may sense the size and the open embrace as intimidating, a promise of a possibly disciplining action yet to take place.

I find the piece a masterful and powerful translation of stereotypes and idealized pictures of masculinities, especially that of strict, intimidating, disciplining fatherhood. Now I can only wonder, how can one further deconstruct these?

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Thursday, July 16th, 2009 Miscellaneous No Comments

Whose Populists Are Better? When the Populists Are Becoming the One Another’s Others.

It is often said that the European Parliamentary (EP) elections from June 2009 witnessed a rise of the radical-right populist parties. These parties have performed, indeed, very well. For instance in Finland, the True Finns (PS/Perussuomalaiset) has a mandate, in Romania, they surprisingly got 3, after Greater Romania Party (PRM/Partidul Romania Mare) surprisingly co-opted PNG‘s leader on their lists for the EP, and in Bulgaria the National Union Attack (Ataka) received 2 mandates. Not to mention that in the Netherlands the Party for Freedom (PVV/Partij voor de Vrijeheid) won 4 .

So far all these newly elected MEPs are crowding the ranks of the Non-Attached Members (NI/Non-Inscrits), with rather few options or ideas for building up their own party alliance within EP, which would ensure visibility and access to European financing. But things appear to be more complicated, and the fate of the now-deceased Identity Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS), and of the Independence/Democracy Group (IND/DEM) and Union of  Europe of Nation (UEN) clouds the future of any possible alliance of the radical right populists in the EP.

The aforementioned “alphabet soup” of various combinations of abbreviations and short-writings may be succeeded by the nascent Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD), reuniting Finnish populists (PS), with Italian Northern League (LN/Lega Nord), and Danish People’s Party (DP/Dansk Folkeparti). The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) seems to be negotiating with the new alliance, though it is not very clear if this would be successfully concluded or not.

Worth mentioning, while looking at the NI, the non-attached parties, is the difficulty of the radical right populist parties from this category  to position themselves according to their party agenda, and at the same time consolidate a functional alliance in EP.

One such example is the interview given by Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch PVV to Euronews channel (the whole interview may be viewed here). While most of the interview is focusing on what Wilders calls the danger Europe faces to giving in to Muslims pursuing to enforce Sharia on the continent, the title underlines the existing tensions between the “old” EU (The Netherlands are among the founding members) and the “newly arrived” from the last round of enlargement, Romania and Bulgaria. According to Wilders “the Dutch people think that Europe is large enough”, especially with regard to the hypothetical EU accession of Turkey and Ukraine. Playing the card of the menacing Other, especially the Muslim Other, is part of his usual discourse. The mention of  cohorts of fanatical Muslims that corner ever-appeasing European-wide political establishment into granting Sharia legal standing within EU is not something uncommon in his speeches and interviews.

But then it appears that not even the EU latecomers Bulgaria and Romania are to be spared because “those countries were not ready at all, were very unready and very corrupt as well.”  Suddenly the focus from the possible threat coming from a so distinctive Other (as the European Muslim) moves to the eastern borders of the EU, eying the newest EU-members. In this case the evil Other is no longer that easily perceived, and comes with an air of Balkanism, and suspicions of bribe and unruliness. Yet again fantasies of purity and of social welfare are interestingly mixed to portray  an Other that is rather a peripheral presence, somewhere in an indistinct, far away and backward East, but positing the treat of always coming among the People, and possibly corrupting them. Even among the newly elected MEPs, one of PRM‘s representatives, George Becali, was put under a travel ban by Romanian judges under the suspicion of corruption.

In this context, one cannot but to wonder where are the radical right populists of Bulgaria and Romania in this whole conspiracy of the Other? Doing the maths, 2 MEPs from Ataka and 3 from PRM, may be just as good, and some may dare say as European as PVV‘s 4.  What is then what divides them, and will they be able go past treating themselves as one another’s Others? Will radical right populists in EU manage to look past their obsessions of purity and settle for the compromises of daily politics?

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Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 Research 1 Comment