Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Traveling Past and Allegorical Bundles

In many of the texts we have read for this semester, the past pops up as a persistent and problematic category, shifting its meanings. In Friction, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing argues that stories of the past that used as “activist packages” “come to us in allegorical bundles, marked by the culture and politics of particular moments of alliance and intervention” (238). But what allows these bundles to travel, not just through space but through time? In determining the uses of the past, what boundaries cannot be crossed? I want to look at moments in which allegorical bundles don’t come through, and the old stories are almost absent in new attempts, except in the ways that they haunt current deployments of allegorical bundles, even as central pieces of those bundles get left behind. How does Snow Crash draw on myths about the United States even as the U.S. becomes no more than an antiquated and exploitative form without real content of the nation? How does current U.S. activism around AIDS in Africa, such as that discussed in lecture dealing with Amy Kapczynski, ignore allegorical bundles of AIDS activism in the U.S. in the eighties and nineties, primarily focusing on queer communities? How do the wholes left by the absences of these stories where they could be deployed shape the way that movements take place, the way the future is imagined? For this project, I will draw on Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s Friction, Vincente L. Rafael’s “The Cell Phone and the Crowd,” Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and possibly The Matrix and/or Kill Bill. I am still figuring out exactly which stories I want to look at, but I am pulled to examining how the past does and doesn’t get deployed and what consequences this has for imagined networks.

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