Responding to Charlottesville

Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo | 21st August 2017.

When I got to writing this article this week, I quickly realised I couldn’t write something that didn’t address the recent events in Charlottesville. However, I was also keenly aware that it was not necessarily my place nor within my capabilities to provide a response, beyond an expression of the horror, devastation, disappointment, and determination that so many have been expressing in the past few days. I know I am not alone in feeling helpless in the face of these events, and I know that many of us have been looking for ways to support the counter-protestors of Charlottesville, both in the work they have already done to fight white supremacists and neo-nazis, and in the work that they will doubtless continue to do in the future. I also know that many of us would like all the guidance we can get in helping us to understand what has been happening and how best to move forward. With this in mind, I have decided to use my platform this week for two purposes: providing links to organisations doing invaluable work that would greatly benefit from our financial support; and providing links to excellent, spark-inciting pieces written by those most affected by the rise of these racist movements and those who have been fighting this fight for a long time.

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Whither Truth? An Ode to Fargo, or How Russia Stole the Limelight  

Anne Liebig|10th June 2017.

‘This is a true story.’ Every connoisseur of the Coen brother’s timeless classic Fargo and its equally cult-like series spin-off about small-town megalomania will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek quality of so blatant a lie. The sentence is repeatedly dangled in front of the viewer at the beginning of each episode as a propitious prop for make-believe, calling viewers to rejuvenate their sense for a suspension of disbelief and jump right into this mellifluent maelstrom of snow storms, ice deserts, and funny accents. If it is only popular entertainment, what does it have to do with our current post-truth political climate? 

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Toilet Block

Gina Maya | 3 April 2017.

Bears do it in the woods, they say, but Westerners do it as God ordained it, in a room labelled male or female. Never mind that gender-segregated toilets appeared not in Biblical times but the Victorian age; the issue of public toilets is becoming one of the touchstones of our post-Brexit, post-Trump age, regarding who goes where, and whether or not trans- or non-binary-identifying people count as legitimate.

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City of Literature? Opposing Cuts to Edinburgh City Libraries

Aran Ward Sell | 20 March 2017.

In a recent Inciting Sparks article, Tess Goodman writes that libraries are hubs of intellectual community. ‘In libraries,’ she writes, people ‘find anchors on the great sea they must navigate.’ Goodman’s article concludes: ‘P.S. We all need books. Support your local library.’ The article you’re reading might be considered a regretful postscript to this postscript:

P.P.S. Public libraries in the UK are dying.

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The Contemporary Citizen in Fatma Aydemir’s Ellbogen

Charlotte Kessler | 6 March 2017

Fatma Aydemir’s debut novel Ellbogen (2017) addresses the experiences of immigrants in Germany in the face of the current political and social climate. ‘Ellbogen’ is German for ‘elbow’ and refers to the pressures in society that cause people to elbow their way to the top in order to be successful. The novel is a striking portrayal of the second generation of immigrants, who are often the children of so-called ‘guest workers’. It captures sensations such as loneliness, alienation and the search for belonging, which Aydemir does through telling the heart-warming story of a teenage girl of Turkish descent living in Germany and by using the colloquial language of Turkish teenagers who mix German and Turkish slang. The observation of migration experience does not end there. There are various situations and characters that lend themselves to an analysis in regard to Claire Sutherland’s chapter on citizenship and migration in Nationalism in the Twenty-First Century (2012).

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A Carnivalesque Turn of Events

Alberto Nanni | 20 February 2017

Politics have always been full of buffoons and this is no news. In America currently, being allegedly rich and charismatically outrageous seem more important than intelligence and integrity for political success. But is this something new? The newly elected president of the United States is not an isolated case. As an Italian expat, I can’t help but think that Trump has at least one renowned precursor: Silvio Berlusconi. And I don’t just limit their similarities to their orange complexion.

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Marvel’s America: Living in an Age of Oversimplification

Dylan Taylor | 6 February 2017

In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans have “a lively faith in the perfectibility of man…They all consider society as a body in a state of improvement”. Such descriptions help explain our common stereotype as pragmatic idealists with a penchant for exaggerated emotions and an uncomfortable awkwardness in the face of negative, or even ambivalent, sentiments. Studies [1] have implied what many introverts could readily describe: America is a land where being quiet or reflective can induce strange looks or even pity. Being slow-to-judge—a trait so often honored by moral philosophers throughout history—is, to that subset of Americans which subscribes to a masculine, red-blooded vision of our tenets, seen instead as a sign of weakness and naiveté. This diluting of issues into binaries—weak or strong, moral or immoral, right or wrong—is a cultural tendency that has seemed to reach its apotheosis in the theatrical build-up to the new presidency and its traumatic fallout.

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Television Light Lies on the American Lawn

Sarah Giblin | 23 January 2017.
In his first collection, Areas of Fog, Joseph Massey writes:

television light

lies on the

American lawn
I can think of no better way to encapsulate the omnipresence of the Presidential inauguration within mainstream media. A sense of resigned, abject, passive observation has permeated everything from the mundane to the grand. This is reflected in the ‘American lawn’ that ties the suburban white picket fences to the sweeping grounds of the White House, and the television light that ‘lies’ intimates the allure of submitting to docility that has accompanied the shock victory of President Donald Trump. It is often tempting to acquiesce when met with situations which seem hopeless; Barack Obama addressed this directly in his final press conference, ‘at my core, I think we’re going to be okay. We just have to fight for it, we have to work for it’. In response to Massey, I only offer that this ‘television light’ rests not only on American lawns, but on lawns the world over.

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Trumpocalypse Now: Musings on what lies ahead

Vicki Madden | 9th January 2017.

Admittedly, it’s been a while since I considered the US home. I’ve always felt as American as apple pie, but there’s just something about “going home” that scares me these days. An uncanny feeling of estrangement hits me every time I’m driving around unfamiliar roads in my hometown, getting lost amongst cookie cutter suburban houses. But it’s not just the topography that’s alien to me now. It’s the entire “feel” of the country. The mere fact that my foreign service dad feels it’s necessary to point out all the exits in the cinema lest a gunman should walk in makes me feel like I could never live in the States again.

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