naturalized, culturalized

The opposition of nature and culture is one traditionally of that which cannot be changed and that which can be changed. Thus, nature is natural in that it is the normal state of things and culture is constructed, actively passively or (false) consciously and can through human means be changed. Obviously, it is not as simple as this though as those worlds themselves are but in a mystified hierarchy of divine nature and base, human culture. Thus, the words and our interaction with them start us out on a path that sees the resultant columns of data (the natural and the cultural) in particular ways. The following will read in part as a long rumination on the categories and categorialization at play in theory. It will also attempt to link these concepts and categories to the general themes of subjectivity, the liberal, the social, agency, ideology and particularly the idea of criticism, or demystification.

Nature is what is. It is outside of human consciousness, but also structuring human consciousness. The natural state of things it he untouched and unobstructed state. However, nature is also divine: it is both in Western thought the pristine (untouched by humans) and the sublime (ultimate, god given state of things). Thus, the natural is both the Ur state from which we have fallen (the garden) through becoming human, but also the state that can never be obtained/attained. On a completely banal side it is also the world itself, as it exists outside (trees, plants, waves, people and even all produced things). However, the natural is also that which has come to resemble any of the above through repetition or even temporal distance (the garden, the unknowable, is nature[e/al]), but so is the city to those born and raised in cities).

On the opposite side is culture, which unlike nature is, according to Raymond Williams, one of the most complex words in the English language. Culture is the social, it is the human derived, the changeable/malleable aspect of the world. It is that which is not nature, but it is not unnatural. Culture has levels and differences and implies, unlike nature, a teleology regardless of postmodern moves to fragmentation. Culture, from cultivate implies an action, a chronology and a history. While nature is timeless, culture cannot exist without time.

All of these statements/claims of both culture and nature are arguable and most are problematic. Both nature and culture are context specific ideas that have been decontextualized and mystified/naturalized. Culture comes from the concept of cultivation, to cultivate, which is a very specific form of action that relates to farming and growing. It was then moved to the debate about cultured as a state of advancement: that which was cultured was not base, but superior. From there it enters the 19th/20th C meanings discussed previously. However, Marx points to a specific aspect of the idea of cultivation in German Ideology that bears on this discussion. He writes that the conscious acting upon the environment in order to produce his sustenance separates man from animal: man is man because he cultivates, not because of some internal determination. This leads to the (teleological) understanding of cultivation, culture and civilization as the linear progression toward some ultimate moment/epoch/event/civilizational level.

To the aptly named moment called Modernity, it is the ultimate level. There is nothing after the modern, the present, because the future always becomes the present when we get to it. The continual deference of getting to the present results in the perpetuation of an idealized non-time. Modernity is the stasis of time.

Of course nature has aspects that existed before modernity, but such meanings had little to do with us as people. Instead, nature exists as the continually offset alterior clause to culture. If culture is the means of consciousness, the subject, then it comes to exist off of the other, nature.

But, what happens when nature becomes culture? What happens when nature is manipulatable to the degree (we idealize) culture is manipulatable?

translation and the remake

My MA thesis argued that the Hollywood remake was a form of imperialistic, domesticating translation that mirrored the dominant literary translation style and hid the foreign other. I still believe this.

However, I’ve been thinking more and more about all of the things that slowly steeped into my brain from the words and lectures of my advisor. She works on memory, pleasure, history, time, repetition et cetera. As my work has been leaning more and more toward the area that I was hesitant to hit before (gaming), I’m thinking more and more about remakes and demakes and the logics (cultural, economic, political) at work in those forms and how they are both similar to and different from the logics at work with cinematic remakes. Particularly, I’m mixing the primary idea of translation with that of time.

One of the problems that I ran into with my thesis is the differences between remakes (typological) as they relate to different temporal distances. Which is to say, the meaning/logics in play with a remake is different both the further away it is from the “original” as well as depending on the relationship it has with the “original.” With my thesis I focused almost entirely on a particular form of relationship both to limit the depth of the analysis and to enable a stronger support for my own reading. Obviously, when one compared the remake that moves a film from foreign cinematic tradition to local one (リング to The Ring) my argument held, but when one mixed up those that held different logics (typology) such as earlier time to present (Psycho to Psycho) or versions of a story (Robin Hood to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) the situation became muddled.

While I still believe that there is a certain translational logic that aligns with work done on imperialistic translation styles (eg: Venuti), I am now far enough from the work to be able to recognize and awknowledge the problems with the argument. I realize that even the title of this blog recognizes the transition even if I did not at the moment.

I don’t know where this will lead at the moment, but hopefully the work will lead to interesting conclusions. For now, I can definitely say that I’m looking more into ideas of memory/repetition/pleasure as an offset to themes of translation. This does not mean that I’m abandoning the concept of translation. Far from it, I still believe translation is an incredibly useful term for understanding how texts move between places, but I’ve realized that I can no longer ignore the agency/subjectivity at play causing those texts to move. In order to approach those concepts I need to look elsewhere if I am to avoid the simple false consciousness dead end premature conclusion. While there are certainly systemic aspects determining the form and content of texts as well as the method of movement there is also very real action being taken shaking up the system: fansubs, metatitles and demakes are all born in/as some form of agency/resistance.

where do we go from here?

One of the things that I have a hard time dealing with is the popomo question of where do we go from here. Modernity is a dead end full of grand narratives that either simply don’t translate or forever put the other into a place of otherness, and that sucks when the other is you, or it just seems stupid when the other is the person next to you. So there’s Pomo with its fragmentation, its pluralism and its little stories. There’s agency in choice and freedom in buying a shirt from store A or store B. On the one hand you have some sort of efficacy of humanism, dialectic theorization, Habermas, Hegel et cetera. And on the other hand you have anti/post humanism, destabilized fragmentation, Foucault, Nietszche and blowing shit up.

Neither option really ends up being sounding so good, so where do we (or more particularly, I) go from here. I’ve finally come to understand that at base in the majority of the theoretical work done right now is really battling out what the point of it all is. It’s potshots between sides. So what’s the point?

If you want to “make a difference” then you’re stuck with modernity, humanism and all of the bullshit that you know is wrong on a certain level, but maybe, just maybe it could work out. The other option leads to interesting work, sure, but it also means going psycho, strangling your wife or just fucking til you drop because at least that’s having a choice in a discursive world.

Great, so which to choose?


What is the current purpose of 上京する, or the ‘move to the big city’ that is present in much of the 20th century literature?

To ‘move to the city’ had concepts of growing up/maturation involved as well as a step toward modernity. It was romanticized, but also economically necessary in many situations due to a lack of work in some places or particular industries/professions being particularly located (art – jazz, hollywood, broadway, gallery scene – being the most obvious examples).

However, people now posit the death of the city. Castells points out that the city has lost the previous purpose/meaning in the move to the information society and different types of city structures. In essence, the city should no longer have the same purposes.

And yet, we are still very much in the era of Sex in the City and Nana. Both are city dominated narratives that either tell of the maturation that comes from moving to the big city (Nana), or encourages an entire generation to live in the city despite its alienation, irreality et cetera (Sex in the City).

So, what becomes the new maturation scheme? What does the old form of maturation mean in a new society? One example is male army stories in a non militaristic society – this could be linked to the disconnect of the present youth to mid to late 20th C in the US, or the different martial moments within Japan – pre/post Tokugawa, Meiji-45/post war.

on the stranger

On the link between economy of fear, Bin Laden in the Suburbs know thy neighbor enemy [impossibility] and movement of the sranger from a liminal good to necessarily [but not necessary] feared/evil.

The stranger has never been incontrovertibly good, however, there is a history of strangers and lack of knowledge of who people are (connections, wealth, power) that encouraged people to not dismiss strangers as evil or useless. There was a benefit in confronting the unknown and the strange. The benefit was similar to the exploration of science, discovery, adventure: stress and fear as beneficial for some human soul or idea of progress.

In contrast, the current era, from cities to the war on terror (eg: fear) links the unknown and the strange with negative results. The stranger (and fear, the strange, the unknown) is separated from the possibility of benefit and must be fought against, but not through revealing of knowledge (enlightenment progress against the unknown), but determining of overlaying one’s own identity, one’s own truth on top of the strange.

The other is no longer a dialectic, but a task project [word].

The City

I’ve been thinking a lot about space and time lately in various contexts despite my best interests or desires. One such result is a concept for an upper division undergrad class on the city.

The City: Theory, Practice and Fiction.

Neuromancer – the sprawl, chiba city
Snow Crash – the avenue, burbclaves
Manuel Castells – space of flows, space of places, megalopolis, information age
Mike Davis. City of Quartz – LA
Michel de Certeau – practices, pomo
Walter Benjamin. Arcades Project – modernity, flaneur
Ross(?) – Celebration (Disney City), designed city
WTC – rebuilding ideas
Seidensticker – Tokyo Rising, rebuilding city
modernist city
pomo city
Venturi – Learning from Las Vegas
Le Corbusier (?) – Image of city with exact replicated buildings over and
over again

The class would look at the city and its relationship to life in in the transitions to modernity and pomo, concepts of organic vs. planned cities and the purpose of a city, the turn of the 21st C writings about the future of the city, and finally representations and viisons of the city in popular cultural texts. The class would engage with the concept of time, space, place and the (unhelpful) naturalization of the city within modern discourse.


Today I had a long conversation about the differences between and qualities of the prefixes post and neo. Obviously, on the simple root level one implies after and the other implies new. Unfortunately, the usage of the terms is hardly regulated, far from understandable, and often used for the same formation: post-colonial, neo-colonial, post-Fordist, neo-Fordist, et cetera.

Thus, the question turns to what they each imply, what are the particularities of the terms. Post-colonial implies after the colonial moment, there are no more empires or colonies, so the idea of post-colonial focuses on the temporal switch from one era/epoch/period/moment to the next. It highlights chronoogical time as hte basic structure of intelligibility.

In contrast, there are those who adamantly refuse to use the term post-colonialism on teh grounds that formations of domination and exploitation exist despite the lack of colonies perse (American imperialism of the mid/late 20th century and its relationship to Israel and Japan are the standard objections). This is generally resultant in the use of neo-colonialism, which highlights not the temporally specific formation of empire and colonies, but the structural paradicgm and its 20th century revision into a new, but related paradigm. Neo thus implies a progression and revision of structure and ideas.

To here, it is possible to understand the nomenculture as a matter of individual emphasis. The problem is that it goes beyond a simple linguistic turn. History is structured after the fact by discourse: the emphasis of political structure or ethical paradigm restructures the historical field of knowledge.

So, which is better, neo or post? Is time the best way to structure knowledge or is theme? And how do each of these translate between contexts?