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Volume 2, Issue 2: Contents


Excess and Utopia: Meditations on Moravian Bethlehem

  Seth Moglen: Excess and Utopia
The problem of excess is, at once, psychological and material. It is a matter both of feeling and politics.
      Since it is, in part, psychological, let me begin with one of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic parables—in this case, a parable about excrement. Freud tells us that before toilet training, little children experience defecation as a pleasurable act of creation. So imagine, if you will, a young child, enraptured with the productions of her own body, who leaves in some public part of the home, as a gift to her parents, a turd. Her parents may respond in various ways. In the culture of Freud's bourgeois fin-de-siècle Vienna, revulsion was perhaps the most likely: a sense of distress that something expelled from the body—waste, excess—had been deposited where it did not belong.
      The child is then taught that waste must not merely be expelled from the body, but purged from the home, family, and civilized community. It must be expunged, buried, washed away, disposed of without a trace, separated from the senses and from feelings of pleasure or desire. The boundaries of the ego, the domestic sphere, and the social order are constructed in this way.



The Vexed Relationship of Emancipation and Equality

  Emancipation is a tricky word. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it denotes the lifting of "restraints imposed by superior physical force or legal obligation." In Roman law emancipation referred to the freeing of women or children from the patria potestas-the father's power. In English civil law, Catholics were enfranchised by the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. Slaves in the United States were manumitted in 1863, with the terms set forth in Abraham Lincoln's famous "Emancipation Proclamation." (Although emancipation and manumission are now used synonymously, in ancient Rome, manumission referred specifically to slaves or servants, emancipation to family members.) Figuratively, the word has been extended to mean liberation from "intellectual, moral, or spiritual fetters." Here the issue is not so much action by an external agency, as it is an internal matter, a change in consciousness. For the Young Hegelian Bruno Bauer writing in the early nineteenth century, for example, Jewish emancipation (citizenship) could come only when Jews renounced (freed themselves from) Judaism as a public identity. Religion was antithetical to the putative universalism of the secular state, and for that reason, he added, the state must also renounce Christianity.



Intervention: Is Another Language Possible?

  Over the past decade, issues of gender and sexual rights (at times ensconced within human rights) in Muslim-majority countries have acquired urgent political circulation. Concurrently, many have articulated critical positions regarding the deployment of this discourse of rights-for-imperialist-ends. I do not propose to add to this critique here.



"Moi seule" 1833: Feminist Subjectivity, Temporality, and Historical Interpretation

  In 1833, a time abounding with combative pamphlets, a particularly explicit declaration made its appearance: "This first writing by a woman is but a gauntlet thrown into the arena, yet in the author's quiver remains more than one arrow for defending the truth of her first writing." So reads the epigraph of a short brochure, published by its author and entitled Appel d'une femme au peuple sur l'affranchisement de la femme (Appeal of a woman of the people for the emancipation of woman). From what we know about the writer of this text and what remains of her work, she appears to be among those solitary figures whom Joan Wallach Scott has described as 'neither typical . . . nor unique."



Intervention: Femonationalism and the "Regular" Army of Labor Called Migrant Women

  This depiction of the relation between the First World and the Global South in terms of the sexual division of labor within the household should not be understood as merely a metaphor for the power relations and uneven development engendered by neoliberal globalization. Rather, it should be taken quite literally: poor countries increasingly provide the nannies and maids who work in rich countries.



Intervention: Innocence and Experience: Melodramatic Narratives of Sex Trafficking and Their Consequences for Law and Policy

  The increasing prominence of trafficking into forced prostitution as a global social problem has resulted in a flood of popular and official representations in journalism, documentary, fictionalized accounts, and findings-of-fact. All attempt to tell the story of sex trafficking, often shortened to "trafficking," as predominantly involving women from the Global South.




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