Lethal mobilities: Calvin and the smart bomb.
A half-millennium of colonialism and postcoloniality particularly beckons for such histories of the present. A case in point is the persistent emphasis on the Spanish conquest of the Americas as the paradigm of modern colonial imperialism-still today and despite the best efforts of critics like Roberto Fernandez Retamar. (3) The point is not to attenuate or diminish the sheer horror of the 'black legend' but to consider the extent to which its primacy in the Western historical imaginary has occluded or diverted attention away from what was and has been happening elsewhere. The extent to which indigenous cultures have been even more extensively decimated in North America would seem to suggest that something far worse if less noisy took place there (and with no righteously indignant voice such as that of Bartolome de Las Casas to reveal those events to the world!).
Clearly, the massive migrations convoked by colonialism have effects as lethal as they are varied: exploratory expeditions, sanctioned piracy, "trading" posts, "civilizing missions," religious expulsions and exoduses, settler colonialism, the slave trade, the many trails of tears, and the continuing wave of migrations, immigrations, emigrations with their resultant diasporas apparent throughout the world today. All these differentiated but interrelated mobilities have their place within that vast movement Pierre Chaunu long ago termed the "disenclavement of the world" to name these worldwide processes of cross-cultural interactions (good as well as bad) which began in the fifteenth century and which continue today through the phenomena contemporary parlance refers to rather glibly as "globalization." (4) Even that seemingly most innocuous of social mobilities, tourism, can also be shown to have its roots in the practices and ideologies of colonialism, a lesson for which the following news item might serve as a kind of fable.
Smart Bombs / Dumb Tourists
On March 16, 1991 the Associated Press ran a story that the restored govern- ment of Kuwait had decided at least temporarily to stop issuing entry visas to foreign journalists "because of the lack of basic services such as food and water." The same day, another story, also run out of Kuwait City by the Associated Press, chronicled the opening up of the Kuwaiti border to another kind of visitor, namely tourists, for whom the horrors of the recent war were indeed quite a big attraction. The report is extraordinary and merits full citation:
Kuwait City -- A new breed of tourist is emerging from the rubble of Kuwait: war gazers. The largest batch arrived Friday, a planeload of 150 prominent Americans who spent 8 1/2 hours seeking out the leftover horrors of war. With loaded cameras dangling from their necks, members of Congress, prominent business people and some curious private citizens hit the highlights of the recent Gulf War. Led by U.S. Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher, the group visited still--flaming oil fields, a palace where Iraqis tortured Kuwaitis, and the "highway of death," where the bombed-out remains of a huge Iraqi military convoy litter the roadside for more than two miles. A busload of tourists, mostly Americans living in Saudi Arabia, made a 14- hour round-trip to spend two hours taking pictures of burned out buildings in Kuwait City. (15)
Curiously, a country is declared at one and the same time closed to journalists but open to tourists, suggestive perhaps of some brave new post-war condition to the "new world order" and its high-tech, post-industrial, postmodern style of warfare.
To understand the significance of this historical moment, it is useful to remember that traditionally war could be viewed as a kind of spectacle with casualties being relatively low and principally restricted to the armed combatants themselves. Depending upon the battle's location, of course, crowds of onlookers were not necessarily unusual even as late as the nineteenth century. A turning point occurred at the beginning of the American Civil War when a large throng of spectators, mainly from Washington D.C., found itself unexpectedly caught up in the rout of the Union army at the first battle of Bull Run. (6) In Europe, the outbreak of the First World War likewise triggered a festive, picnic- like atmosphere until the grim reality of modern, technological warfare was brought home, with a heretofore unprecedented scale of destruction that targets not just the enemy's troops, but his supply lines, industrial base, civilian population, ecosystems and even cultural monuments. (7) At the same time, this apparently limitless extension of war's destructiveness (the military doctrine of "total war") coincided with the professionalization of wartime journalism, including the semi-heroic status often ascribed to war correspondents and photographers. In the case of the Civil War, the civilian elites found they could stay safely at home in anticipation of the battlefield photographs taken by Matthew Brady and others. By the mid-twentieth century, even that assurance of safety at home was removed as the totalization of warfare under modernism culminated in the "mutually assured destruction" of nuclear carnage. For its sake, war journalism reached a peak of sorts during the Vietnam War when the television news camera became omnipresent on the battlefield, to the consternation of the U.S. military, less for the threat of secrets being broadcast than for the disastrous effect on public relations. The daily dose of casualty reports and grisly images electronically transmitted from the battle front to the public at home ensconced in front of the television set contributed indisputably to making the continuation of that prolonged conflict increasingly unpopular with the American electorate.
The 1991 Persian Gulf War marks a particular inflection in this history with the concepts of "surgical strike" and limited theater of operations replacing that of total war. (8) Concomitantly, the Pentagon was at pains to limit and control the flow of images to a worldwide television audience. Military censorship acquired a new vogue with official military journalists basically limited to chaperoned tours of installations and supplying an audience for briefing room announcements. (9) Unofficial journalism was manifest everywhere else, of course, including the enemy capital of Baghdad, where CNN's Peter Arnett made a name for himself broadcasting live as NATO planes and guided missiles bombed the city. Gone seem to be the days when correspondents and photographers rode along in the tanks with the troops; increasingly, throughout the 1990's, war reporting meant giving one's "eyewitness"account from a room in the Intercontinental Hotel of whatever country was involved. At the same time, such unconventional reporting testifies to the fundamental inability for anyone, including the military high command to control televisual and electronic image production, a situation further aggravated today by the internet and the worldwide web.
In this postmodern situation, the war tourist suddenly reappears in opposition to the journalist as the more readily manipulable subject of an ideologically constructed practice of the gaze. Tourism, it should be said, is not about seeing the unseen but about seeing what others have already seen. It is, as Dean MacCannell has written in his groundbreaking The Tourist, about following designated markers to designated sights which are, as he says, "enshrined" in some codified manner. What do the (presumably American) tourists in postwar Kuwait go to see, if not the sights they have already seen on television screens. Tourism would be the operation of moving the viewer from the place where the image was observed to the place where the image was produced. Hardly the stereotypically passive receiver of televisual imagery, the tourist is eager to retrace the steps of electronic transmission back to where the camera was. Such a tour is indeed a very guided one and thus differs markedly from even the most coopted journalist's desire to find a new scoop or "angle"on a situation. The tourist, if you like, does not want a new angle but wants his or her body repositioned at the old angle. Perhaps this explains why tourists can be welcome, when journalists are not.
But when such tourists seek to see the "highway of death" or the flaming oil fields with their own eyes, they also follow even more specifically in the paths of those other televisual machines, the infamous "smart bombs" whose encoded itinerary of images and precisely mapped topographical positions enabled them to follow-in a way not unlike MacCannell's tourist-a preordained trajectory to an object whose sighting, in this case, was also its destruction.
The aftermath of the Gulf War would thus once again demonstrate MacCannell's canonical observation that tourism is possible even with the obliteration of the tourist attraction; and in this case, the obliteration of the object is not even in contradiction with its enshrinement as a tourist attraction, but is what actually creates the sight of the attraction in the first place. In the case of famous battlefields of the past, for example, roads have had to be paved onto them, kiosks installed, various kinds of cannon brought in that are probably inauthentic, and so forth, in order to produce markers that let one know one is indeed on a battlefield. With the Gulf War, however, we have a battlefield marked by traces of obliterated landscape and a telling lack of human bodies that, in fact, becomes a new kind of very grisly sight, one that signifies death precisely by the conspicuousness of its absence. Another case in point is that even a celebrated and very narrowly defined tourist attraction, say Dante's house, can still be a tourist attraction if the house burns down because one can always point to it as the spot where Dante once lived and so its sight can always be retrieved. In other words, the sight can be obliterated as long as it is still marked as the site of a reference back to an interpretive center, a home, if you like. (11) In the case of the smart bombs, the images are relayed back to the base as authenticating input. Tourists, of course, send back souvenirs and mementos, photographs and postcards. Moreover, their mere presence in large numbers day after day can put the site at risk even as their visits mark its value. Increasingly, the protection of famous tourist sites from the tourists themselves has become a key issue for cultural conservation, as evidenced for example by the closing of the caves at Lascaux to the public. There is an implied voyeuristic violence in tourism, then, that becomes explicit in the auto-iconoclasm of the smart bomb, a violence whose lethal mobility is followed by visual authentication. I remember a televised briefing where an air force spokesman stated that nearly one-half of all Allied air flights during the Gulf War were reconnaissance missions for the purpose of authenticating the reality of the bomb damage done by other sorties.
The mobile action of the cruise missile as deployed in the so-called "surgical" strike is not just lethal in terms of the destruction it wreaks but "Lethean" as well, insofar as the human losses it inflicts (euphemistically rendered by the military jargon, "collateral damage") seem to fall into oblivion. Hence, the anesthetized or "clean war" images of destruction, featuring broken buildings but not maimed bodies. No one will ever know, for instance, exactly how many Iraqi soldiers lie buried beneath the desert sand in their bombed-out bunkers. Illusory and virtual as it may have seemed to a Westerner observing the war from afar via television, the lethal repercussions of this apparent 'video game' were visited literally and materially upon the Iraqi population, whose loss and suffering readily gets forgotten amid the pyrotechnics of the spectacle. (12) It is as if the visual rationality of the smart bomb implied the radical disappearance of the human from its view. "The more you see, the less you see" is the paradoxical lesson of the video clips projected in the official Allied briefings as the object, typically a large structure seen from too far away to reveal any nearby humans is rapidly approached till we are too close to see any human beings followed by the screen going dark as impact occurs, casting both missile and target into literal oblivion. And the few score Allied dead (many through "friendly fire") with their individual tributes and stories make the countless Iraqi casualties even more faceless and forgotten, in a word, dehumanized, just as their leader, Saddam Hussein, appears demonized in contrast to the putatively rational leaders of the "new world order." Moreover, when the tourists come in, they too see only "bombed-out remains" and "burned out buildings," the so-called "highlights" of the war. Might there also be something dehumanizing about tourism and its emphasis on the physical site of the attraction? To phrase the question otherwise, what does the tourist forget in catching sight of the enshrined monument (or ruin) that has engaged his or her physical displacement, that is the occasion for so much mobility?
Calvinist Aesthetics / Huguenot Colonialism
Tourism and the smart bomb would seem, rather distressingly, to converge as complex and lethal or Lethean practices of mobility and image sequencing. Phrased in this way, it is tempting to call such processes "postmodern," yet their roots reach back to an important premodern moment that continues to cast a very long shadow over subsequent visual politics. That moment is not the overly canonized one of 1492, but perhaps 1592 or thereabouts, when we may find some suggestive antecedents of the Gulf War video activity in the visual ideologies of Reformation mapmakers and explorers. Consider the Ortellian projection world map produced in Antwerp in the 1580's by the mysterious cartographer going by the name of "Epichthonius Cosmopolites" [Fig. 1]. This particular map of the world is set within the visor of a fool's cap, upon which are inscribed in Latin the words, a 'head good for hellebore,' the herb mythically prescribed to treat madness. Now, the date, style and place of the map all point to the cartographer being Calvinist, for while Calvinism certainly viewed religious iconography with suspicion as idolatry, it left open the use of pictorial and cartographical representation for the evangelical purpose of praising God's creation. Near the beginning of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin writes that the "skillful ordering of the universe is for us a sort of mirror in which we can contemplate God, who is otherwise invisible." (13) It is "an attestation of divinity so apparent" (p. 53), and as such, it offers an uplifting counterpart to that unhappy knowledge that leads one to an initial cognition of God, namely in the discovery of one's own finitude and infelicity: "we are prompted by our own ills to contemplate the good things of God," he writes (p. 37).
Rejecting the guidelines of secondary commentary and ecclesiastical authority (the heresy of hearsay and false witness), Calvinism adumbrates a personal relation to texts and the world whose sense is the immanence of self-evidence, the testimony of God's glory to whose wonders the devout Christian bears witness. Such a witnessing destined to redound to the glory of God counts among the aims of Calvinist intellectuals and artists, such as Jean De Lery and Theodor De Bry. Hence, the Calvinist art that does exist tends towards land- scape painting, still life, floral studies ... and maps, because maps are an eloquent way of displaying beauty and symmetry in the world. At the same time, however, the perception of human misery, corruption and decadence in this same world was supposed to be what motivated the search for or need of God's goodness, what made one receptive to His word. As such, the fool's cap map from Antwerp is an exemplary illustration of Calvinist aesthetics, since it places a beautiful cordiform representation of the world in the head of a madman, emblematizing the contradiction between humanity's moral depravity and the beauty of God's creation. The compromise solution enabled here by aesthetic expression is a classic instance of ideology at work, in particular Calvinist ideology, which as we know since Max Weber and R. H. Tawney, is connected with the early phase of capitalist accumulation, not just in the obvious terms of frugality and reserve, but also in the accommodation of specific forms of lavishness and ostentation, in strategies for negotiating the "embarrassment of riches." (14) As wealth became a sign of one's potential status among the elect, its absence in turn implied one's reprobation. Another strategy is the legitimation, as we have seen, of certain forms of art even in a climate of iconoclasm.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
The ideological work of Calvinist aesthetics is similarly to be observed in the oldest extant painting made by a European in North America: Jacques le Moyne de Mourgues's depiction of a key moment in the history of a failed French Huguenot colony in America. [Fig. 2] In the center of the picture is a monument set up in 1562 by a French expedition that was supposed to establish the colony. The members of the initial expedition unfortunately did not know how--or refused to do the work necessary--to feed themselves and were obliged to leave or starve. A year later, a second expedition set sail. (15) De Mourgues's miniature then portrays the arrival of this second French expedition, headed by Rene de Laudonniere, who is greeted by the Timucua chief Athore. Racial difference is curiously neutralized with the skin color of both Europeans and Amerindians being the same, and both being the same as the monument bearing the royal arms of France, symbolizing obviously the commonality of both peoples' subjugation under the French king, present in his absence, of course, through the phallic signifier of the upright column. That this pillar is honored idolatrously by the Timucua is typical again of Calvinism's iconoclastic iconography, here too offering a beautiful representation of the folly of representation, a folly that further underscores the reprobate status of a humanity without the salvation of God.
A traveler and an artist, de Mourgues was a devout Calvinist and floral painter who was sent along with Laudonniere to make a visual record of the French expedition to Florida. That venture ended in disaster when the Spaniards massacred the Huguenot colonists.
A few remaining survivors, including de Mourgues, took refuge in England where all the relevant material fell into the hands of Richard Hakluyt and Sir Walter Raleigh, who put it to good use in planning the British colonization of
Virginia--and we know the rest of that story. (16) De Mourgues' painting thus frames an important moment in the colonization of North America, whose effects still remain insufficiently examined in the context of post-quincentennial debates about Columbus precisely because the North American input tends to get forgotten, just as its indigenous peoples have been even more decimated and silenced than have their counterparts in the Latin areas of the hemisphere despite the worst excesses of the conquistadors whose brutal massacres of an incalculable number of native American peoples (most likely numbering in the millions) constitute the 'black legend' of the Spanish conquest.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
De Mourgues painting, in its turn, offers a northern European encoding of the representation of native Americans as well as a preview of the different path colonization would take in the North.
In the Spain of the 1550's, public debates took place between conquistadors and Dominican friars over whether the autochthonous inhabitants of America were to be treated as nonhuman beasts of burden, or as human souls to be converted. (17) Such debates do not seem to have engaged the Calvinists, interested neither in slaying nor in converting, for while the Spanish Catholic alternative is inhumanly brutal, it does at least minimally acknowledge the facticity of the Americans an "others," whose presence must be confronted in some way. And as we know since Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas, the full recognition of the other as an 'other' is the foundational moment of ethics, whether those resulting ethics be good or bad. (18) The Calvinist indifference to indigenous peoples, on the other hand, might more properly be termed an aesthetic response, motivated no doubt by the theological primacy of the Augustinian doctrine of predestination, which implicitly makes conversion like salvation itself an act of God rather than of human beings, be they the righteous ministers themselves. Hence, a level of written and pictoral description that is more dispassionate or more objective. Indigenous rituals and behaviors are described with an accuracy unusual for the time, since the author is merely following through on the injunction to provide eye-witness testimony to the fallen state of an unredeemed humanity. Hence, their texts, such as Jean de Lery's History of a Voyage to the Land called Brazil, often figure today-and especially since Claude Levi-Strauss' praise of that text as the "breviary" of ethnography (19)--as a more politically correct or at least more sensitive treatment of indigenous peoples.
Such a rosy view of these texts conveniently forgets to confront the Calvinist colonial legacy. In many respects, the Spanish conquest remains a feudal exercise in subjugating a foreign population, a trans-Atlantic prolongation of the long reconquista of the Iberian peninsula itself. In contrast to this mobility of the Spanish imperium, that foreseen by various Calvinist leaders rather invokes the theme of a refuge or safe haven for their persecuted brethren. The French Huguenot lord of the Admiralty, Gaspard de Coligny, envisioned such Calvinist havens in Brazil and Florida and outfitted the French expeditions there in the 1550's and 1560's with that exact aim in mind. These utopianized havens quickly took on the allure of promised lands, beautiful uninhabited terrains needing only to be tilled by the hardworking hands of the righteous to bounty forth their cornucopic treasures. If Spanish Catholicism supplies the model for imperialism, Calvinism supplies a powerful ideology for settler colonialism, whose mode of dealing with the presumed non inhabitants of the land is to encroach on their terrain, displacing them, at first haphazardly, then eventually, more systematically through their forced removal to distant reservations or 'homelands.'
The painting of Laudonniere's arrival is the only one that remains of the 42 de Mourgues made in Florida. Despite their loss, we know about the others through their being reproduced in the 1590's by a Calvinist refugee in Germany named Theodor De Bry, who between 1590 and 1630 edited and lavishly illustrated a monumental collection of over twenty-five voyages to the New World and elsewhere. These were deluxe folio editions with copperplate engravings that revolutionized the representation of the New World. (20) Playing again upon the contradiction between the beauty of visual symmetry and the moral ugliness of godless humanity, the De Bry engravings portray Native Americans either as metaphors of a forsaken or accursed humanity, prey to sin in the absence of God's grace, and therefore like Catholics, hence possibly cannibals, because Catholics after all 'eat' the body of Christ ... or as metaphors of the Calvinists themselves to the extent that they were likewise victims of Spanish imperialism. De Bry's work was also an explicit effort to combat what were viewed as Spanish atrocities throughout Europe, notably those committed in Flanders under the Duke of Alba, freshly returned from the New World. This is the reason why De Bry's Amerindians look like Rhinelanders or Belgians, and indeed, the lesser-known texts that accompany the better-known images often put one in the place of the other. Elegant depictions of moral ugliness can be justified in terms of religious proselytizing. The first two volumes of De Bry's collection feature French Florida and English Virginia, later ones illustrate Girolamo Benzoni's description of the New World, Hans Staden's trip to Brazil, and a number of other voyages. I believe that these works comprise an early attempt to intervene culturally on a wide scale through a combination of print and visual media in the reception and development of a socio-political process, in this case the Protestant colonization of North America, a process that would inalterably displace existing Americans while retaining the site for transplanted Europeans (who have ever since called themselves "Americans"). At the same time, these texts and images demonstrate the advent in the late sixteenth century of a Northern European-and, in particular, Calvinist-representational hegemony.
Lethean Imperialism and Settler Colonialism
This representational hegemony legitimates the process of settler colonialism by 'aestheticizing' the other out of existence. Specifically, the ethnographic precision that draws such praise from modern scholars for early modern Calvinist travelers also works to situate the indigenous people described as part of the flora and fauna of the land projected for colonization. This process of meticulous description simultaneously makes the indigenous object disappear into the local nature, which is itself destined to vanish while the hard-working settlers build a new society as the culmination of their providential journey into the (mirabile dictu!) deserted but fertile land destined by God for His chosen elite. The autochtonous inhabitants of what has become "God's country" either become the vanished reminders of a barbarous prehistory or, should they manage somehow to impose themselves into the settlers' view, they then appear as a sudden and inexplicable "problem." While arguably less directly lethal than that Spanish feudal mode of imperialist conquest, Calvinist-inspired settler colonialism is more effectively Lethean in its ability to forget who once inhabited the land in question, and as a consequence, ultimately less tolerant of indigenous claims whenever the autochtonous inhabitants do make a resurgence.
One of the most astute critics of this colonial process as it played itself out in North America was the Quebec-born founder of French Louisiana, Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville (though himself a brutal, self-serving colonialist in his own right). (21) In a series of reports written to the Royal Minister Pontchartrain, urgently beseeching the French crown to support his Louisiana colonization schemes, Iberville paints a dramatic and indeed prophetic picture of British settler colonialism's success in North America. As opposed to the French tendency in this period to establish only trading posts that serve merely as the base of operations for dispersed trappers and fur traders (the infamously unruly "coureurs de bois"), the British according to Iberville maintain a true 'spirit of the colony,' made manifest by their settlement as families grouped together in rapidly expanding townships. As the population of these settlements grows and multiplies, the entire colonial territory expands, gradually spilling over beyond the Appalachian mountains, thereby displacing increasing numbers of Indians from their lands and encroaching upon the French trading zones. With demographics on the side of the British, Iberville prophetically warns in 1699: "in less than a hundred years, [the English colony] will be strong enough to seize the whole of America and to expell all other nations." (22)
At about the same time, in Europe, an exiled French Huguenot living in England published perhaps the most influential of all guidebooks to Italy for northern European travelers. The 'New Voyage to Italy' (1691) successfully turns the representational apparatus of Calvinist colonialism not onto a putatively deserted land overseas providentially destined for God's chosen elite but onto the traditional cultural hub of Europe. Maximilien Misson's guide to Italy was used by virtually every traveler on the Grand Tour, that early modern aristocratic version of tourism. Misson's work stressed the beauty of the Italian landscape, the grandeur of Roman art and architecture, and so forth; but always in tandem with an exposition of the ruins brought on--not by Barbarian hordes, but--by the moral decadence of Catholicism. The book was viewed as so offensive to Catholic authorities that it was put on the Index of Prohibited Books almost immediately, and travelers to Rome frequently had their copies confiscated. Montesquieu mentions this risk, as do De Brosses and others all the way up to Goethe and Stendhal. (23) On the other hand, most of these tourists unquestioningly accept Misson's depiction of Italy, which following the split representational code by which Calvinism portrays the indigenous other, effectively separates ancient Rome (full of past virtues and glory to be recuperated by the modern visitor) from contemporary Italy (which is bizarrely described by Misson as deserted, depopulated and decadent). Modern Italians appear as scarcely more than usurping squatters living in the shadows of ancient Roman glory, and are persistently denigrated as superstitious, unclean, ill-natured and of an ignorance comparable only to the "Tobinabou" of Brazil (I, 249)--the people most famously described a century earlier by none other than de Lery! In short, Italians are a kind of modern primitives with no apparent connection to the ancient Romans. Writing against all those who maintain an "advantageous prejudice" in favor of Italy, Misson argues the reprobate state of its inhabitants who show insufficient care and respect for their past (by, for example, building churches out of the rubble of ancient monuments) and live miserably despite a pleasant climate and fertile land. The objective correlative in this dialectic is Calvinist Holland, of which Misson writes approvingly: "A Country like this is not naturally Habitable; yet, Industry, constant labour, and the Love of Profit, have brought it into such a State, that there is not in the World, one so Rich, and So well Peopled" (I, 14).
What is striking about the manifest absurdity of Misson's ideologically inflected 'guide' to Italy is that it should have been so readily accepted by a northern European readership eager, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, to appropriate the trappings of the Roman imperium for itself while abjecting those who inhabit its land of origin. Indeed, the book successfully models what became and in many places still remains the longstanding prejudices and derogatory stereotypes about Italy and Italians. Key to Misson's ideological success, like that of other Calvinist texts, is the claim to the authority of an eyewitness: "I only give a sincere and natural Account of my own Observations, or of what I heard from Persons of unsuspected Credit" (I, a6 verso) The apparently non-intrusive narrative proposes the "realism" of a subject reduced to a mere gaze, which is all the more suspect for the powerfully effective denial of its manifestly ideological content as simple common sense observations. It is the perfect "guidebook" because it guides the reader's gaze all too well to see a certain Italy and not another, to overlook the denigrated modern inhabitant in favor of the ancient architectural splendor from which one can derive virtuous inspiration.
One can follow the ideologies and practices of Calvinist colonialism in many other parts of the world. The South Africa of the Great Trek, for example, again showcases the concept of a providential exodus into an uninhabited, fertile land available for settlement by the righteous. The subsequent denial of indigenous rights, most notoriously through the regime of apartheid, was supported by the Bruderband's claim that Europeans and Africans arrived in the area at about the same time, as if the early Dutch depictions of Hottentots did not suggest otherwise.
The settler colonialism legitimated by the Calvinist eyewitness ideology, in short, constitutes a mobility as lethal as it is Lethean. It preserves for itself a good conscience-no stigma of a black legend here!--in the face of colonial oppression through the repression (in the Freudian sense) of the indigenous cultures it aestheticizes out of existence and through their practical disappearance by their forced displacement onto distant 'homelands' or reservations. This good conscience is rattled and its repressive features revealed by the unheimlich return of the displaced and forgotten victims of colonialism. "We are here because you were there," reads a popular tee shirt in the UK during the 1980's in pointed reminder of the British Empire's "return." Not only does the arrival of large immigrant populations from former colonies appear as an inexplicable "problem" to contemporary European nation-states but so too the sudden appearance around the globe of significant indigenous populations long considered to be on the verge of extinction: the Mayans in Central America, the Aborigines in Australia, the Maori in New Zealand, etc.
And, finally, in the hypermediatized space of postcolonial geopolitics, there is the constant emergence and disappearance of "hot spots" whose human victims can be exquisitely scrutinized, represented, visualized, pictured and ultimately forgotten. Is the visual politics of globalization but the final stage of a Calvinist imperialism, realized most literally in the cruise missile that most keenly visualizes what it sets out to destroy? In this way, televisual war, like tele-evangelism, may not be at all in conflict with Christian fundamentalism. Perhaps the real danger in the "new world order," then, is a return to the endemic state of the religious wars in early modern Europe, wars that continue unconsciously to shape contemporary American ideology, including in the place of New World "savagery," the obsessive Western dread/fantasy of Islamic Jihad. The American need for sanitized warfare in order to pursue world domination with a good conscience may not be simply a recent reaction to the Vietnam war and its legacy of bad memories and ethical compromise. Rather, it points to an old repressive apparatus that has legitimated American colonial aspirations since its Reformation beginnings, a dialectics of seeing and not seeing, of territorialization and deterritorialization. To describe the United States as is often done as a nation in perpetual mobility is still, however, to glimpse only a small piece of its complexity, for what is lethal and Lethean (i.e. repressive) about that mobility is the panoply of other mobilities its sets in motion: not just the initial mobility of settlers or tourists but the forced dislocation of other peoples until their ultimate disappearance from view. The threat of oblivion and forgetfulness may be the secret face of the smart bomb as a technical marvel, the ideological underside behind its invention and deployment. As such, the task of the cultural critic is to recall those other mobilities 'collateral' to the American grand narrative as it continues to act itself out, now on a manifestly global scale of action.
University of California, Davis
(1.) Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Ala Sheridan (New York: Random House, 1979), p. 31.
(2.) Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method in Philosophical Writings, trans. and ed. by E. Anscombe and P. Th. Geach (New York: Macmillan, 1971): 10-12: "But a man who spends too much travelling becomes a foreigner in his own country; and too much curiosity about the customs of past centuries goes as a rule with great ignorance of present customs."
(3.) Roberto Fernandez Retamar, "Introduction" to Bartolome de Las Casas, Tres Breve Relation de la destruction des Indes, trans. F. Gonzalez Batlle (Paris: Maspero, 1980), pp. 13-40. Retamar's text has been translated into English under the title, "Against the Black Legend," in Caliban and Other Essays, trans. Edward Baker (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1989), pp. 56-73.
(4.) Pierre Chaunu, European Expansion in the Later Middle Ages, trans. K. Bertram (Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing, 1979): 52-56 and passim.
(5.) I cite this report from its appearance in my local newspaper, "War horrors big attraction for tourists," The Sacramento Bee (March 16, 1991): A25.
(6.) For a depiction of this event, see William C. Davis, Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War (Garden City: Doubleday, 1977): 239-40.
(7.) On this question particularly with reference to aerial bombardment of cultural treasures during the Second World War, see Charles Whiting's excellent The Three Star Blitz: The Baedeker Raids and the Start of Total War 1942-1943 (London: Leo Cooper, 1987); Niall Rothnie, The Baedeker Blitz: Hitler's Attack on Britain's Historic Cities (Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan Ltd, 1992); as well as my "Sites blindes/Armored Sights," in L. Diller and R. Scofidio, eds. Visite aux armees: Tourismes de guerre/Back to the Front: Tourisms of War (Caen: Fonds Regional d'Art Contemporain de Basse-Normandie, 1994): 219-77.
(8.) Indeed, the twentieth century ended not as feared with an apocalyptic world war but with a world rampant with scores of small wars, ongoing but regionally localized. Ironically, the end of the Cold War and the current 'globalization' of world markets seem to have diminished the geopolitical significance of many of these conflicts, which have been left to fester indefinitely by the international community.
(9.) On the question of censorship in the Gulf War in the context of the U.S. military's blaming defeat in the Vietnam War on an uncontrolled media, see John R. MacArthur's compelling Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1992) and John J. Fialka, Hotel Warriors: Covering the Gulf War (Baltimore: The Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1991).
(10.) Dean MacCannell, The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (New York: Schocken, 1976): 45, and passim.
(11.) See my Travel as Metaphor: From Montaigne to Rousseau (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1992): 1-25 and passim. Despite Jean Baudrillard's often repeated claim that signs are not referentially linked to the source of their production but are merely 'free floating' simulacra, for a simulacrum to appear as such, it must at least give the sense that it could be retraced back to some sight, some referential site. Only Baudrillard could have written a text like The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, trans. P. Patton (Bloomington: Indiana U P, 1995). Baudrillard's most developed discussion of his theory of simulacra and his general suspicion of referentiality cam be found in Simulacra and Simulations, trans. S. Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1994).
(12.) Among the most passionate and meticulous efforts to document the war's toll on the Iraqis are Ramsey Clark's contributions, both as author of The Fire this Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1992); and as lead writer for the collective 'Report to the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal' published under the title, War Crimes: A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq (Washington, DC: Maisonneuve, 1992).
(13.) John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. F. Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960): 52-53.
(14.) See, of course, Simon Schama's monumental, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (New York: Knopf, 1987), as well as the classic works by Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (London: Allen and Unwin, 1950) and R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1926).
(15.) The most extensive account of the French expeditions to Florida is by Rene de Laudonniere himself, L'histoire notable de la Floride, written upon his return to France in 1665 but not published till 1586 in Paris by Guillaume Auvray.
(16.) On this strange sequence of events, see Frank Lestringant, Le Huguenot et le sauvage, 2nd ed., (Paris: Klincksieck, 1999): 149-202.
(17.) For a detailed discussion of these debates, see Lewis Hanke, All Mankind is One: A Study of the Disputation Between Bartolome de Las Casas and Juan Gines de Sepulveda in 1550 on the Intellectual and Religious Capacity of the American Indians (De Kalb: Northern Illinois U P, 1974).
(18.) Martin Buber, I and Thou, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1937); and, from among his many other works, Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics and Infinity, trans. Richard A. Cohen (Pittsburgh: Duquesne U P, 1985).
(19.) Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, trans. J. and D. Weightman (New York: Pocket, 1977): 76f.
(20.) Theodor de Bry, Collectionum peregrinationum in Indiam Orientalem et Indiam Occidentalem (Frankfurt: M. Marian, 1590-1630). On the massive iconographical, ethnographic and rhetorical achievement of Theodor de Bry's work, see especially Bernadette Bucher, Icon and Conquest: A Structural Analysis of the Illustrations of De Bry's Great Voyages, trans. Basia Miller Gulati (Chicago: U. of Chicago P., 1981) and Michele Duchet, L'Amerique de Theodore de Bry: une collection de voyages protestantes du XVIe siecle: quatre etudes d'iconographie (Paris: CNRS, 1987).
(21.) See my "The Concept of Colony: From Laudonniere to Iberville," in Nouveaux Actes de la Nouvelle Orleans, ed. E. R Koch, Biblio 17, 131(2001): 143-150.
(22.) Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville, Memoire de la Coste de la Floride et d'une partie du Mexique in Pierre Margry, Decouvertes et etablissements des Francais dans l'ouest et dans le sud de l'Amerique septentrionale, 1614-1698: memoires et documents inedits, (Paris: Jouaust, 1876-1886), 5: 322-23 (my translation).
(23.) Maximilien Misson, Nouveau voyage d'Italie (De Hague: Henri van Bulderen, 1691). I cite from the English translation: A New Voyage to Italy (London: R. Bently, 1695). On Misson's book and its legacy, see Hermann Harder, Le President de Brosses et le voyage en Italie au XVIIe siecle (Geneva: Slatkine, 1981), pp. 21-77; and Pierre Laubriet, "Les Guides de voyage au debut du XVIIIe siecle," Studies in Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 32 (1965): 269-325. In his Lettres familieres ecrites d'Italie, Charles de Brosses sardonically describes his carriage being searched upon entering Rome and the confiscation of his Misson by customs officials, "au profit de l'Inquisition" (ed. Frederic d'Agay, Paris: Mercure de France, 1986, 1:27, Letter 37). It is also interesting to note that one of the only critical readers of Misson should have been a woman traveler to Italy. See my, "Goodbye Columbus: Madame Du Boccage and the Migration of Identity, or not exactly La Vie de Marie-Anne," Annali d'Italianistica 14 (1996): 409-24.
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|Author:||Van Den Abbeele, Georges|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2003|
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