wild reckoning

Half-lives, Half-truths

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Svetlana Alexievich and the nuclear imagination.

Reflecting on Voices from Chernobyl for the South Africa PEN essay series
18 August 2016.

In my twenties I worked for a while as an usher at a small cinema in Edinburgh. My job was to tear tickets, sit through the screening to make sure that projection and sound went ok, then clear up any trash. It was a beautifully pure way of absorbing film: you never paid; you never chose. You never worried whether the person next to you was enjoying it. You were alone, dressed in black, invisible.

I watched hundreds of films in those dark winter afternoons – from Korea and Cameroon, Iran and Italy, Russia and Romania – most of which I have never seen any trace of since. It was an education. One was about a group of three young anti-capitalists who break into the homes of rich businessmen and leave messages that “The Fat Years Are Over” – this is the original German title. At some point the good-looking threesome (they are also in a love triangle) end up kidnapping some heartless industrialist. They take him to a remote cabin and try some political re-education, intent on making him see the error of his ways. (It turns out, of course, that he was once a passionate anarchist in his youth.) I can’t remember how the film ends, but this narrative premise – this fantasy of abducting the powerful and forcing them into dialogue – is one that many frustrated citizens must indulge in at some point...

Read more on the PEN SA website 

Reading Silent Spring from the Global South

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Rachel Carson and the Perils of Simplicity: Reading Silent Spring from the global South. Ariel. Special Issue on Postcolonial Ecologies, 44:4 (2014).

Who made the decision that sets in motion these chains of poisonings . . . ? Who has decided—who has the right to decide—for the countless legions of people who were not consulted . . . ?

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962).

Who the hell is the prime minister to decide whose finger will be on the nuclear button? Who the hell is he to reassure us that there will be no accidents? How does he know? Why should we trust him? What has he ever done to make us trust him? What have any of them ever done to make us trust them?

Arundhati Roy, The End of Imagination (1998). 

Rachel Carson and the Perils of Simplicity

Programme of events | Papers by Rob Nixon, Lesley Green, Julia Martin, Frank Matose, Andre Goodrich, Hedley Twidle.

What is the legacy of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring? The Eco-Audit with Leo Hickmann. Valuable drawing together of online responses to the 50th anniversary at The Guardian website.

You smiled when I suggested that medicine could ever be scientific, but one of the things I appreciate in you, and one of the things I mean by ‘scientific’, is your awareness of what is not known and your unwillingness to rush in with procedures that may disrupt that unknown but all-important ecology of the body cells.  I appreciate, too, your having enough respect for my mentality and emotional stability to discuss this all frankly with me.

Rachel Carson to her doctor George Crile in 1960.

 

Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

How the right-wing co-opts the lexicon of social justice. Review of Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press: 2011. SLiPnet (Stellenbosch Literary Project).

The Future Eaters.  Streamlined version at The Daily Maverick. In Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Rob Nixon performs a dense but stylish call to activism, writes HEDLEY TWIDLE.

On Edward Said:

He thrived on intellectual complexity while aspiring to clarity; he taught and wrote as if – and I know this should sound unremarkable for a literature professor – he yearned to be widely understood. His approach felt fervent, luminous when measured against the alternatives: close readings sealed against the world or deconstructionist seminars in which the stakes were as obscure as the language, as we poked at dead-on-delivery prose in the hopes of rousing enough life from it for our exertions to qualify as “play” … He understood that it is far more difficult to theorize with the cunning of lightness than it is to fob off some seething mess of day-old neologisms as an “intervention”. His devotion to style became integral to his political idealism and inseparable from his belief in insurrectionary outwardness.

Rob Nixon, Preface, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (2011).