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Posts from the ‘Travel’ Category

Delos: Island of Islands OR More Beasts and Sovereigns

This picture is what erupted into view at the crest of the mountain on Delos that had previously hid itself entirely from view.

In his book, SojournsHeidegger journals his travels through Italy and Greece and the Greek islands.  I have something of a love-hate relationship with Heidegger.  I couldn’t think the way I do nor read ancient texts as I do without the influence of Heidegger.  And yet, when he writes things like: “The Asiatic element once brought to the Greeks a dark fire, a flame for their poetry and thought to reorder with light and measure,” I want to scream.  Heidegger holds a common prejudice that I tease my students for adopting so easily: the East is exotic, full of fire and passion and the West brings order and logic.  When I read that line, I was put in mind of Foucault’s discussion of the Chinese encyclopedia in the Introduction to The Order of Things.   Read more

Zeus, Caves, a Goat, and another Bull: The Beast and the Sovereign, Pt. 2

I just returned to Heraklion from several days driving around Crete.  I’m particularly impressed by how little the Olympian gods are on display here.  The Minoans, as we learned at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, worshipped the snake goddess.  The same snake goddess who is defeated by Apollo to establish himself at Delphi.  And yet, Zeus nonetheless is part of the story on Crete, particularly as situating himself as the beast and the sovereign, a theme I keep returning to in light of my summer reading of Derrida.  For Derrida, the relation of the beast and the sovereign is peculiar because the sovereign is both what is most separated, other than, the beast and what becomes beastly in order to maintain, enforce or display sovereignty.  Hobbes’ Leviathan is the sovereign who must be a beast to maintain power.  Rousseau’s sovereign must be a wolf.  Machiavelli’s a lion and a fox.  For Derrida, the effort to drive out the beastly appears to produce the beastly in what attempts to drive it out.  Thus, at the heart of the logic of sovereignty, even in human sovereign rationality, there lurks a beast.  I can’t help but see this beastly sovereign in all the stories on Crete where Zeus, the sovereign Olympian appears.

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Mount Juktas, Zaros, Phaistos and Matala: Food and Ruins, Water and Sun

I’m up in the middle of the night suffering from jetlag listening to the local live band (no city in Crete ever seems to sleep) and a howling cat / dog / wolf in the caves in the rock cliff opposite the balcony of my room in Matala.  Oh wait, now that is definitely either a screaming baby on the cliff or a cat fight.  As I write, I see a shooting star.

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Knossos, Minos and the Minotaur: The Beast and the Sovereign

Today we visited the palace at Knossos and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.  Knossos is considered the cradle of the first European civilization and is believed to have been continuously occupied for 8000 years from the Neolithic through to the Byzantine period.  As I said in my last post, I’ve been reading Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign lectures, so I see beasts and sovereigns everywhere.  Or perhaps, it’s Greece, so beasts and sovereigns–beast-sovereigns, sovereign beasts–are everywhere.  Knossos and its environs are the ancient Minoan site of the beast and the sovereign, of the beast who opposes the sovereign and of the beast who is sovereign, of the sovereign who appears as the beast and as the sovereign who becomes sovereign by defeating the beasts.  This is the place of the Minotaur and of Zeus.  I’ll get to Zeus in another post–we’ll be visiting his birth place and his place of rest (Zeus died!) in a couple days. Read more

Returning to Greece (Did We Ever Leave?)

Today, I travel to Crete, an island in Greece where evidence of human occupation dates back to the beginning of Neolithic Period (c. 7000 BCE).  Returning to Greece metaphorically is a return to those things I take to be fundamental: democracy, equality, justice, philosophy, eros.  But it’s a strange time to be traveling to Greece.  On Sunday, the Greek people voted to reject the plan presented by the Eurozone powers, the Troika (the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank), which would have rejected the democratically-elected Prime Minister Tsipras’s plan to fund the debt by taxing corporations and rich people and required the debt be funded by taxes on middle and working class Greeks.  As Slavoj Žižek said of the “Oxi” (No) vote:

The No in the Greek referendum was thus much more than a simple choice between two different approaches to economic crisis. The Greek people have heroically resisted the despicable campaign of fear that mobilised the lowest instincts of self-preservation. They have seen through the brutal manipulation of their opponents who falsely presented the referendum as a choice between euro and drachma, between Greece in Europe and “Grexit”.

Their No was a No to the eurocrats who prove daily that they are unable to drag Europe out of its inertia. It was a No to the continuation of business as usual; a desperate cry telling us all that things cannot go on the usual way. It was a decision for authentic political vision against the strange combination of cold technocracy and hot racist clichés about the lazy, free-spending Greeks. It was a rare victory of principles against egotist and ultimately self-destructive opportunism. The No that won was a Yes to full awareness of the crisis in Europe; a Yes to the need to enact a new beginning.

It is to this Greece that I am returning.  As I plan, people have told me to bring American dollars, to be sure to get plenty of Euros.  I’m reminded of what one of our friend’s friends said to him last summer when we were visiting and they were trying to coordinate plans.  As they were talking on the phone, the friend’s friend said, “Are you with the agents of imperialism?”  I’ve been thinking about how not to be an agent of imperialism.  I’m not sure it’s something I can accomplish by acting in a particularly non-imperialist way, though I can of course do that.  In a real sense as an American traveling to Crete to learn and to enjoy and to accrue further credibility as a Greek scholar for the time I’ve spent there, I am an agent of imperialism.  I carry it around in my being, just as I carry whiteness around in my being.  I’m hoping at the least to be reflective of that too, especially in this time.

I’ll be traveling through Crete for five days and then to Naxos from which I will take a day trip to Delos and Mykonos.  I’ll try to blog as often as I can.  From Naxos, I’ll return to Crete for one more night before flying to Italy.  In Umbria, Italy, I’ll be attending the Collegium Phaenomelogicum where I will facilitate a text seminar for a week-long lecture course on Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign lectures.  Derrida’s remarks on Carl Schmitt’s critique of globalization seem relevant to this moment in Greece:

The world of globalization would then be a strategem, a false concept or a concept forged in order to pass off some particular interest as a worldwide or universal interest, pass off the interest of one nation-state or a restricted group of nation-states as the world, as the universal interest of humanity in general, as the interest of the proper of man in general.  After having asserted that “humanity as such…cannot wage war because it has no enemy, at least on this planet…The concept of humanity excludes the concept of enemy, because the enemy does not cease to be human being–and hence there is no specific differentiation in that concept”–after having asserted this, i.e. that the concept of humanity cannot be a political concept or the basis for a politics, Schmitt goes on to try to show that in fact, wherever this concept is put forward in the pursuit of war (and there would be so many examples today), it is a lying rhetoric, an ideological disguise tending to mask and smuggle in nation-state interests, and therefore those of a determinate sovereignty. (The Beast and the Sovereign, Vol. 171-72)

…What is terrifying, according to him, what is to be feared or dreaded, what is schrecklick, scary, what inspires terror, because it acts through fear and terror, is that this humanitarian pretension, when it goes off to war, treats its enemies as “hors la loi [outside the law] and “hors l’humanities [outside humanity]” (in French in Schmitt’s text), i.e. like beasts: in the name of the human, of human rights and humanitarianism, other men are then treated like beasts, and consequently one becomes oneself inhuman, cruel and bestial.  One becomes stupid [bête], bestial and cruel, fearsome, doing everything to inspire fear, one begins to take on the features of the most fearsome werewolf (let’s not forget the wolves), because one is claiming to be human and worthy of the dignity of man.  Nothing, on this view, would be less human than this imperialism, which, acting in the name of human rights and the humanity of man, excludes men and humanity and imposes on men inhuman treatments.  Treats them like beasts. (73)

Crete, the land of bulls, bull-men, gods, and trickster women, seems like a good place to think on these things.

 

 

Exploring Indiana: Columbus, Architecture and Patronage

This week my husband and I celebrated seven years together (three years since we began to accrue benefits and privileges from the state’s recognition of our relationship).  To commemorate our anniversary, we went to Columbus, Indiana.  Columbus is a small town of just over 44,ooo residents a little under two hours from Crawfordsville.  It’s famous for the many buildings of impressive architecture.  Columbus became a place of impressive architecture mainly because of the patronage of the Irwin family.  We stayed at the Inn at Irwin Gardens, the Irwin home that was originally built in 1864 by Joseph I. Irwin and remodeled in 1910 by William G. Irwin.  It’s an Italianate home that feels ornate and important.  It was the Irwin’s chauffeur, Clessie Cummins, who invented the high-speed diesel engine and founded Cummins Inc.  J. Irwin Miller was born in the house that is now the Inn at Irwin Gardens, and it was he and his wife Xenia who were the creative and financial force behind the modern architectural surge of creativity that occurred in Columbus from the 1950s onward. Read more

Exploring Indiana: Terre Haute, Socialism, Art and Death

This summer Jeff and I have been exploring Indiana.  In May, we drove out to the Williamsport Falls with Jeff’s parents (highest free standing falls in Indiana).  We ended up at the Wallace Opry on Highway 341, where the walls are covered with Wheaties boxes dating back to the 70s chronicling history in famous sports figures and all the Indiana sports paraphernalia you could ever want to see.  It’s just a block away from the Wallace covered bridge.

With that trip, we caught the exploring-our-surroundings bug.  Yesterday we went to Terre Haute, a city about the size of Williamsburg, VA, where I went to college.  It’s the home of Indiana State University.  And it boasts that it is the crossroads of America, since routIMG_0691e 40 and route 41 cross here (Indianapolis also calls itself the crossroads of America so I guess it depends what roads you take which city you’ll consider the one where they cross).   Read more

Trip to Yellowstone National Park

We just  got back from a week in Yellowstone.  We stayed in cabins in the Cinnabar Basin right outside of Gardiner, Montana along the Yellowstone River with my husband’s parents, sister and brother-in-law, their three kids, his aunt and uncle, their two kids and their families and one of his cousin’s husband’s parents.  For twenty-one separate wills vying for satisfaction and recognition, it was a remarkably pleasant week.   Read more

Pictures from Greece

I’ve curated our pictures from Greece with descriptions here at Flickr.

From Athens to Philadelphia: The Return

We were supposed to get home on July 3, but we didn’t finally get here until yesterday because our flight was cancelled in Philadelphia.  I grew up in Philadelphia, and still have family there, so this wasn’t all bad.  We were able to push our flight back one more day so we could spend July Fourth with my brother, his wife and her family.  They live north of the city in farm country so it was nice to get out of the concrete jungle and see some grass after the unbearable heat of Athens.  They have neighbors who own a dairy farm who set off their own quite impressive firework show.  It wasn’t quite the Northern Liberty drug dealers show that I saw a couple years ago from a friend’s roof, but it was good.

It seems fitting that we were stuck in Philadelphia on our way back from Athens.   Read more