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God Bless You, Mr Rosewater: Feminist Fortunes in the New Latvia

NEWS
God Bless You, Mr Rosewater
Feminist Fortunes in the New Latvia
Booking my ticket for Riga, I had not expected a discussion on the
shifting geographical boundaries of Europe. Where were the
Baltic States, I was asked, and, for insurance purposes, could they
be said to be safely European? Qualification for membership was
a more straightforward matter for the travel agent than current
political debate would have us believe – it depends on whether you
find yourself east or west of the Urals. So Latvia, bordered in the
north by Estonia, in the south by Lithuania, and to the east by
Russia, reached via Copenhagen or Stockholm, is undeniably part
of Europe. It is a fact that demands from Latvians at present a
considerable suspension of disbelief.

On the plane to Riga was an odd selection of invited’ experts’ ,
from a Danish educational psychologist and some health service
managers, some American captains of business, to a large Norwegian contingent heading for a Lutheran conference on ‘Spiritual
Homelessness’ . One of the most worrying trends in the countries
of the former Soviet Union, I was told, was the success of religious
cults who have moved rapidly into the vacuum with much-needed
hard currency, peddling their own brand of hope. The Scientologists
are funding an academic chair in Moscow. Latvia already has an
English-speaking religious television channel.

For my part, I had been invited in an exchange scheme to give
four lectures on feminism and literary theory at the University of
Latvia. A Latvian American escorting his ageing mother to meet
her sister for the first time in 53 years since the latter’s deportation
to Siberia – so many families are reuniting now – thought there
would be a great deal of interest in the phenomenon of feminism:

it is women, after all, who rule the Latvian family. I wondered
uneasily how adequate what I had to tell would be.

The lack of years of information is so palpable that any visitor
is put in the position of spokesperson. The heady cocktail of new
ideas and contradictory advice flooding through from the ‘West’

– with little economic support – seems a disturbingly unstable one.

It was no surprise that the most popular and translated of writers
– indeed one of the only contemporary foreign writers widely
available – is Kurt Vonnegut. He ‘expresses our post-war experience’, I was told.

There is no doubt that women bear the brunt of the economic
shock that has followed the euphoria of independence in Latvia,
though many feel it is simply more of the same. The barricading
of Parliament, the shooting of civilians and a cameraman in a
central park – part of the moment of ‘ Awakening’ – are still close
to the bone. But what has followed this action and sacrifice is
grindingly tough. In public places, with winter coming on – the
market, the station with its underpass vendors selling clothes,
cassettes, pornography, on the crowded trolley-buses – the atmosphere is tense with worry. There is a sense of people competing
for space. Food is available in the markets, but wage levels make
it impossible to make ends meet without some form of private
economy. An academic salary is about £15 a month, and is
generally supplemented with another job.

Russian concern – expressed by Yeltsin at the United Nations

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

– for the well-being of the Russian inhabitants of Latvia (at least
50% of the population, the majority working class) is met with
scorn given the history of Soviet demographic policy and the
deportations of the 1940s. There is considerable fear at the
presence of Russian troops and tanks that have not yet been
recalled, and at the possibility that Yeltsin himself could be
toppled by hardliners. Yet new citizenship laws include a test in
the Latvian language which will undoubtedly exclude many
Russians, who are by no means a homogeneous grouping nor a
recent phenomenon, as will new regulations establishing entitlement to property. Racism is endemic. By the end of your stay, I
was told by a Latvian colleague, you will be able to recognise
whether someone is a Russian or a Latvian just by looking at them,
their clothes, their body language and manners, how loudly
they’re speaking.

What are the opportunities for feminism in this context?

Politicians are at this moment exhorting women to stay out of
Latvian politics, which is, they say, a ‘dirty business’ . And while
the older generations might concur, venerating the importance of
women as ‘the spirit ofthe house, which gradually expands to the
spirit of the whole nation’, younger women are not taking this on
board. There are several initiatives springing up in Riga, which,
for all the hardship is also a place of enormous creative energies.

There are numerous small exhibitions of new art, photography,
textile design, and previously underground performance poetry
circles are flourishing. The possibility of developing a centre for
women’s studies at the University has tentatively been suggested.

Women are hoping to set up a feminist journal, but face such basic
problems as the availability of printing paper and ink.

61

The women I met – Russian and Latvian – were working to
orientate themselves in a rapidly changing context where their
established rights were being eroded even as a whole range of
other possibilities open up . We discussed the issues of widespread
abortion and the non-availability of contraception, pornography,
domestic violence and alcoholism, the relation between feminist
politics and social democracy, women’s access to jobs, domestic
labour and childcare, the need to reclaim a language for the left.

The women I met desperately need information – journals,
articles, books, news of networks and campaigns – that they can
use, and especially, that they can translate from freely. At the
moment Latvia has not signed an international copyright law and
the only access to feminist material and news from abroad is

through ad hoc translating in newspapers, and the single British
Council copy of Spare Rib.

Please send women’s studies material to: Dr Irina Novikova,
Maskavas Str. No 260/3-17, Riga, Latvia
And information useful for a feminist journal to: Irina
c/o Janis Elsbergs, Kristaps Str. 18-51, Riga LVI046, Latvia
Or via: Carol Watts, Department of English, Birkbeck College
Malet Street, London WCIE 7HX
It is important not to send parcels in bulk as the recipients will be
charged custom duty, which they will be unable to pay.

Carol Watts

The Lost Map of Atlantis
Deleuze in Conference
The night wind coming down from the tundra had told me it was
still winter as I arrived at the campus on the edge of the vast
Canadian forest at 2:30am on Thursday 15 May. There were
spring buds on the trees the next day, and I left a leafy campus in
the mid-morning summer heat five days later. Deleuze was too ill
to travel to the conference, but our host at Trent, Professor
Boundas, opened the final session with Deleuze’ surprise contribution, a characteristically fluent account of the way philosophy
must make language itself stutter, as it breaks open the old circuits
and rhythms of words and thoughts, to give the raw material with
which to construct its new and foreign language in the old.

I’d been taken aback on a number of occasions over the
previous days by the way words sometimes came out of my mouth
in the wrong order, as I tried to explain that the conclusion of
Deleuze’ latest book, What is Philosophy?, marked the way he
was still caught in a French tradition of abstract subjectivism
going back to Descartes. As I listened to Deleuze’ paper I saw my
trip to Canada as an empirical exploration of the Neo-Cartesian
schematism running from Deleuze’ first book, on Hume, through
to What is Philosophy? According to some of Descartes’ scientific heirs, the pineal gland coordinates our biorythms at various
levels, from sentence formation up to the passing seasons and the
human life-cycle, explaining jet-Iag on the way.

And explaining, perhaps, how difficult it sometimes seemed
to follow the complex written orchestration of the various papers
as they were read out to the conference. It was easier to engage
with schematic differences of viewpoint as they came out in the
rhythm of unprepared dialogue, in discussions that followed each
paper and extended into the dining room. Deleuze has in the past
defined his philosophical perspective as a schematism of difference, a ‘transcendental empiricism’ that turns inside-out Kant’s
idealist schematism of identity: ‘4Jeginning in the middle’ of
conflicting schemes of experience in order to experimentally map
out the primary dimensions of difference, rather than beginning in
a systematic identity, outside experience, in order theoretically to
reconstruct all differences within that unitary frame.

This conception of philosophy as the empirical mapping of
difference is reflected in his frequently repeated view that philosophical discussion in general, and conferences in particular, are
a waste of time: driven by a dynamic of’ consensus’ within which
interlocutors assume they’re using word’s like ‘concept’, ‘differ-

62

ence’, ‘war-machine’ and so on to talk about the same identical
thing’ behind’ provisional differences of interpretation. Whereas
in fact they’re talking about different things, the different inscriptions of these words within their own incommensurably different
schemes of ‘the world’.

Let me sketch the impact of Deleuze’ writing on current
anglophone philosophy by giving my own schematic view of the
difference between the Trent conference and another ‘Deleuze
Conference’ , at Warwick the following weekend.

The Trent conference, Pluralism: Theory & Practice, was by
contrast to Warwick’s Deleuze & the Transcendental Unconscious a very academic affair. I was the only participant with no
university address, and the papers were largely expository, drawing different theoretical lines through the Deleuzian textual
corpus, or through the theoretical space of experience and practice
as mapped by Deleuze over the years. A number of the papers
suggested lines of ‘immanent’ critique of the residual theoretical
abstraction of Deleuze’ own maps from the space which they had
mapped. Thus, in the ‘ontological’ opening session Todd May
questioned whether Deleuze’ language of difference was still
held in dialectical thrall by a syntax of identity; Bruce Baugh
claimed, in contrast, that Deleuze was the only French thinker to
have radically broken with Hegel. In the second session, Australian materialism turned to examine other possibly dialectical
tensions in the relations between Deleuzoguattarian ‘war-machines’ and recuperative state machinery (Patton), in sexuality
(Grosz), and in gender (Braidotti).

A special session was taken up by Jean-CletMartin’s masterly
exposition ofDeleuzian aesthetics. He spoke not only French, but
the langue dans la langue which is ‘Deleuzian’, as a native, and
from this point on was often called upon to give authoritative
pronouncements on disputed questions of interpretation (Asked if
he differed from Deleuze on any point, he reflected for a few
moments: ‘ … Non, je l’aime’). Eight of the remaining eleven
papers continued this aesthetic theme, with further expositions
and’ applications’ (Maghrebian popular theatre: Bensmai’a; Cajun
dance: Stivale; Baudelaire: Holland). Mark Fortier explored the
tension between Deleuze’ theory of theatre and the concrete
theatre of theory in Bene, Blau and Muller, and Zsuzsa Baross
questioned just where Deleuze was standing (in his text?) as he
watched Bacon paint.

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

Ronald Bogue echoed these questions as he contrasted Deleuze’

unitary theoretical account of Foucault’s work with Foucault’s
practice of theoretical intervention, and I closed the proceedings
by asking how the conference itself worked (or didn’t) as theatre.

There seemed to be an implicit consensus that Deleuze’ theoretical maps of experience could be collated and (immanently)
revised within the abstract textual space of theory and disembodied discussion, even when what was being discussed was the
’embodiment’ of theory. (Braidotti’ s paper was read in absentia
auctricis). At Warwick, by contrast, a number of speakers were
using Deleuzoguattarian texts as atlases from which to abstract
rough sketch-maps of where they or we might be, and where we
seemed to be heading, provisionally collating these with schemes
borrowed from Schopenhauer, Freud, recent newspapers and
elsewhere.

When Professor Boundas (taking a holiday at Warwick after
his labours at the Council of Trent) expressed surprise that
Schopenhauer had such authority in England, he was told by a
member of the Warwick faculty that Nick Land, (chief and
prophet of the marauding band of Warwick intellectual nomads
who dominated the proceedings), had taken the old pessimist as
akey staging-post on his lecture-route from Kant through Nietzsche
and Freud to Deleuze & Guattari, and on to a cyber-punk apocalypse where our mythic human identity dissolves in a life-force
called Intensity.

The most academic paper at Warwick was Tim Murphy’ s
opening demonstration that the transition from Kant’ s schematism
of identity to Deleuze’ schematism of difference in Difference &
Repetition itself enacts Deleuze’ scheme in the rhythm of the text.

One might in turn see the transition from the abstract temporal
logic mapped by Deleuze down to 1968 to the schematic universal
history of Capitalism & Schizophrenia (1972-80) as Guattari’s

rhetorical mise-en-scene of his collaborator’s transcendental
aesthetic, to produce a ‘war-machine’ disrupting the repressive
capitalist and oedipal coding of experience.

Between Murphy’ s paper and Land’s intense and exemplary
closing direction of schemes drawn from Capitalism & Schizophrenia, nine of the eleven remaining papers prefigured the final
apocalypse as so many partial mises-en-scene of this universal
history that was hardly mentioned outside the’ Australian’ session at Trent. Alphonso Lingis described his worldwide search
for intensity in far-flung pockets of primitive ritual that still
resisted capitalist encoding and recuperation; Brian Massumi and
J ames Williams mapped the end of history all around us as
capitalism reached its postmodern limit.

The problem with the discussion at Warwick was that conflicting inscriptions of various schemes in different maps led to some
intense encounters, but ultimately to irresoluble differences over
where we were and where to go. If Deleuzoguattarian schemes
are used primarily to name and rhetorically articulate pre-theoretical orientations, then conflicting interpretations ultimately
mark political and ethical divergences which can’t be mapped in
any common theoretical space. We are thrown back into
untheorized ‘practical’ considerations that are a direct converse
of the equally untheorized consensual ‘academic’ orientation at
Trent, toward a single theoretical space derived from Deleuzian
transcendental aesthetics. One can only dream that, somewhere
between Warwick and Trent, Atlantean philosophers have a
theory of the mise-en-scene of theory, echoing the abstract circularity ofDeleuze’ ‘practical philosophy’ down to 1968, but going
beyond the undramatic inscription of the philosopher in the world
as a disembodied brain in What is Philosophy?, whose remarkable chapter on aesthetics doesn’t once mention theatre.

Martin Joughlin

Aesthetic Novelties
International Conference for Aesthetics, Hanover, 2-5 September 1992
In six thematically divided blocks 44 speakers addressed 3000
participants on ‘Aestheticization and .. .’: the Everyday World,
Media, Politics, Nature, the Arts, and Science and Scholarship.

The theoretical framework was set in the opening papers by
Karl Heinz Bohrer and Wolfgang Welsch. Through categorial
musing spiced with references to authority Bohrer (Professor of
Literature at Bielefeld) sought to map ‘The Limits of Aesthetics’

– a self-limitation that turned out to be the self-revelation of a
traditionalist. Where Bohrer stopped, Welsch started. With the
rhetorical nonchalance of the postmodern, the Professor from
Bamberg unfolded the panorama of the ‘aesthetic boom’ as a
‘hyperaesthetic scenario’.

TV editors, art historians, advertising and industrial designers, political scientists, neurophysiologists, culture theorists, publicists, design theorists, biochemists, lifestyle researchers, film
critics, media and communication specialists, hermeneuticists,
sociologists and philosophers talked about everything from ‘The
Involution of the Present’ (H. Liibbe) to ‘the basic tension of the
double helix’ (F. Cramer), via ‘dematerialised techno-spaces’

(W. v. Bonin), ‘The Gender Connotations of The Beautiful and
The Sublime’ (C. Klinger) and ‘regional brain circulation’ (E.

Poeppel).

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

!.:;a::;: _____ _

In view of the variety of themes and perspectives on offer,
philosophical concerns tended to fade into the background. But
one theoretical dilemma shone through: the denial of the orthodoxies of the Modem – originally welcomed by postmodern
thinking as a playground for new possibilities – now, after almost
twenty years, has become an epistemological chaos. Solutions
based on chaos theory invoked a familiar techno-fascination, but
remain wholly unsatisfactory for dealing with aesthetic problems,
in view of the entirely different status of complexity in science
and philosophy. In the mean time, the much mourned lost sense
of order seems to have resulted only in intellectual helplessness
or indifference. Views from other worlds -like Eastern Europe,
or at least the east of their own country – were carefully avoided
by not inviting any speakers from there in the first place.

So, in the end, everybody was WAITING FOR L YOTARD,
who was to close the conference, hoping that he could show us the
way out of the dilemma. But his esoteric annunciation of ‘the
salvation ofthe soul by Art’ was lost in the chaos ofthe arbitrary,
and the general turmoil of departure. Thus the mind stayed
clouded and the soul confused.

Kersten Glandien

63

Virtually Real
Realism and the Human Sciences Conference, Oxford, 24-26 July 1992
Roy Bhaskar’s opening paper indicated concerns which were to
characterise the conference as a whole. He argued that Critical
Realism needs to take on Hegelian concepts to bolster its existing
epistemic mapping of the world. The notion of totality, for
example, could provide a deep structure of non-objectified reality. This sense of a need to rethink was reflected in Manicas’ s
discussion of intersubjectivity as a naturalistic phenomenon, in
Soper’s account of gender, nature and constructivism and in
Hilary Wainwright’s comments on the workers’ movement as an
enduring, sedimented structure within a culture.

Bhaskar’s new preoccupation with non-objectified reality
was echoed in Yilmaz Oner’s paper on ‘virtual’ (possible) realities in particle physics. However, Oner’ s views on real possibility

also incorporated the idea that agency structured particle ontology, thus cutting across the domains of Critical Realism.

Papers by Judit Kiss and Alex Callinicos stressed the nonprogressive character of the developments in East Europe, the
stranglehold still maintained by bureaucratic layers, and the
‘sideways’ character of change. Gregory Elliott defended the
value of labourism in exposing the excesses of capitalism in the
UK.

The eclecticism of the conference revealed tensions in the
project of Critical Realism. Participants seemed to be demanding
from it a more ‘naturalised’ social world and a more ‘socialised’

nature than it was prepared to deliver.

Howard Feather

LETTER
Dear Radical Philosophy,
Wal Suchting’s paper ‘Reflections upon Roy Bhaskar’s
“Critical Realism”- (RP 61) makes a number of serious
criticisms of Bhaskar’s philosophy. I shall focus here on one of
them only, though a central one: I feel that it cannot be allowed
to pass without immediate comment, since it attributes to
Bhaskar views that he rejects.

The criticism that I want to take issue with is that Bhaskar’s
philosophy is a new version of foundationalism. Suchting does
not register the fact that Bhaskar repeatedly rejects
foundationalism and argues for such rejection (see, for
example, the postscript to The Possibility of Naturalism).

Granted, it is one thing to reject a position as erroneous,
another to avoid falling into that error oneself. I would argue,
for instance, that Wittgensteinian philosophy, which purports
to be anti-foundationalist, falls into a foundationalist trap by its
assertion that philosophy is not about truth and falsehood but
about sense and nonsense; this lets the old foundationalist
concern with certainty and dubitability in by the back door
(one might call it ‘negative foundationalism’), for that of
which the contradiction is nonsense, appears as indubitable.

However, if I were writing a critique of Wittgensteinian
philosophy I would have to show how this happened despite
the Wittgensteinians’ intentions. To allege foundationalism
without such a reservation strongly insinuates either explicit
commitment to it, or at least unawareness of its dangers.

In fact, Bhaskar’s philosophy does not seek to assign
certainty and dubitability, nor yet sense and nonsense, but
contingent truth and falsehood. Why then does Suchting regard
it as foundationalist? The charge arises out of a discussion of
transcendental arguments, which ask what must be so in order
for some cognitive activity to be possible. For of course Kant
did use such arguments in a foundationalist way, to establish
synthetic a priori truths. So if Bhaskar’s transcendental realism
is just a realist inversion of Kant’ s transcendental idealism,
must not his transcendental arguments do the same? For

64

anyone familiar with Althusser’s work on Hegel and Marx, this
question gives a sense of deja vu: if Marx’ s dialectic is just a
materialist inversion of Hegel’ s, must not Marx’ s totalities
express their economic essence just as Hegel’ s expressed their
ideal essence? No indeed, they must not, for material totalities
must be structured quite unlike ideal ones. Likewise, once
transcendental arguments are transposed into a realist context,
they become unlike idealist ones. (On the relation of Bhaskar’s
views to Kant’s, see Bhaskar’s Scientific Realism and Human
Emancipation, Chapter One, and also Chapter One of my
forthcoming Critical Realism: an Introduction to Roy
Bhaskar’s Philosophy.)
In fact, Bhaskar’s transcendental arguments differ from
Kant’s in at least the following ways:

1. They take as their premises, not knowledge in general, but
specific, historically actualised scientific practices.

2. Their conclusions are about features that the world contingently has, not about features that our minds necessarily
impose on it.

3. Their conclusions are not a priori in the absolute sense,
though they are relatively a priori in that they explain the
possibility of some other knowledge.

4. Since they are not, as Kant’s are, about something that
‘reason produces entirely out of itself’, they are fallible.

5. They are vulnerable to the competition of alternative
transcendental arguments based on the same premises.

While it may be possible to refute all but one extant account
of how something is possible, new accounts may always be
discovered. Hence the conclusions of Bhaskar’s
transcendental arguments share with science a provisional
character. They do not claim (as I take it Kant’s do) to be
final revelations.

Such transcendental arguments are surely not guilty of
foundationalism.

Andrew Collier

Radical Philosophy 63, Spring 1993

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