Recent essays

Recent essays

e-flux Notes

Students meeting in a high school playground in Beirut, Lebanon, March 29, 1974. © As-Safir Archive.

June 13, 2023
Recent essays

Two essays by Mohamed Tal appeared in our column on psychoanalysis and the politics of mental health, The Contemporary Clinic. The first is a critical response to Evan Malater and Celeste Pietrusza’s “The Mysterious Return of Imposter Syndrome,” which inaugurated the column. In “What If Imposture Is Not a Fraud? Imposter Syndrome Revisited,” Tal underlines how capitalism has always fostered feelings of imposture, but also how the subject may make use of imposter syndrome against capitalism, as a dodge that allows the subject to evade the clinical diagnosis. In “Diagnosis Is a Symptom: Psychoanalysis vs. Psychotherapy,” Tal distinguishes psychoanalysis from other forms of therapy insofar as it questions “the nature and function of diagnosis itself.” There is a hidden critical dimension embedded within mental illness: “The complaints that analysands present are not about their failure to conform to the norms of the ‘normal,’ but rather their failure to effectively negate them.”

Addressing the impasses and laments of leftist organizing, Gabriel Tupinambá sketches a new way of understanding the logic of collectivities, starting not from the ideas and goals of the participants but from the kinds of interactions and forms of intelligibility enabled by organizations themselves. And in the “The State and Global Capital: ‘Retirement Reforms’ in France,” Morteza Samanpour analyzes the protests that gripped France in the wake of Macron’s pension reforms, pushed through in a brazen display of executive power in the service of transnational capital.

In our coverage of the war in Ukraine, Oleksiy Radynski, in “The Case Against the Russian Federation: One Year Later,” continues his examination of the Russian Federation as a settler-colonial regime, riven by contradictions in its internal and external relations, that were exacerbated by the pure capitalism imposed on it after the Cold War. Furthering this analysis, Adrian Ivakhiv details the different meanings of decolonization in the Ukrainian and Russian contexts. Resisting demands to silence oppositional Russian voices, Irina Zherebkina calls for a contemporary Russian “killjoy” literature that could do damage to the regime. In another essay—“Waiting for Victory: Afterword to ‘Diary of War’”—Zherebkina warns against the pull of nationalism in Ukraine’s military and political struggle, advocating instead for grassroots solidarity and transnational feminism. Lastly, we reprinted Ilya Budraitskis’s interview with historian Enzo Traverso, who explains his concept of post-fascism and its relevance to contemporary Russia.

Ilya Kabakov passed away on May 27. Anton Vidokle writes a personal reminiscence of the seminal Soviet conceptual artist, describing the “artistic shock” that his work created, where “each narrative contained a conceptual snap that would go off like a small explosion in your mind to release new psychic and intellectual spaces.” And Xenia Benivolski pens a beautiful tribute to composer, producer, actor, and activist Ryuichi Sakamoto, recalling his “extensive and kaleidoscopic discography” across his endlessly inventive musical career.

Turning to the world of cinema: Pietro Bianchi delivers a two-part report from the Cannes Film Festival. Addressing the contemporary crisis of film criticism, and festival programming, in an age of data and the aggregated opinions of the “native streamer” generation, Bianchi looks at movies that reflect this “crisis of the symbolic order”: Steve McQueen’s Occupied City and Lisandro Alonso’s Eureka. In his second dispatch, he takes issue with the official awards and highlights three films most promising for the elaboration of a critical discourse: Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Kuru Otlar Üstüne (About Dry Grasses), Victor Erice’s Cerrar Los Ojos (Close Your Eyes), and Kleber Mendoça Filho’s Retratos Fantasmas (Pictures of Ghosts). Newly restored in 2022, Chantal Akerman’s Toute une nuit (All Night Long, 1982) presents a kind of grammar of romantic encounters and gestures, taking place over a single night in Brussels—Dominiek Hoens illuminates its enchantment using a psychoanalytic lens. And Lukas Brasiskis, in “Pyrotechnics of the Dream,” remembers the pioneering films of Kenneth Anger, who died on May 11: “Without his contributions, it is impossible to fathom the current landscape of avant-garde cinema and the history of American queer art.”

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