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The Plantation as Archive: Images of “the South” In the Postcolonial World

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The central proposition of this essay is that a reading of the plantation as an archive, rather than as a single unified, stable signifier, offers possibilities for understanding the plantation image's continued efficacy as a signifier for today's postcolonial, postglobal South. The essay begins with Benitez-Rojo's description of the indeterminable center or "origen" ("origin") of the island archipelago to call attention to this proposition: namely, that there is no single "plantation" or plantation image that we can privilege above all others. Like Benitez-Rojo's repeating island, the plantation is known by its recurrent image - the white pillars projecting power and grace and explicitly linking the plantation with classical empires, the front porch with its rocking chairs that balance or undercut, with their implicit invitation and warmth, the imposing phallic pillars. Such plantation images reach their apogee in 1930s films such as Gone with the Wind (1939), Mississippi (1935), and Showboat (1936), all of which portray a Mythic South that is less a specific geographic location than an ideal - or an idyll - less an actual object than a procession of images that proliferate into the future even as they revise the past. The visual archive of the plantation, then, as unvarying and stable as it may appear (Tara, say, or the Lyceum), is really a composite consisting of all the photographs and portraits of plantations produced and circulated for the past two centuries or so. The "original" can be no more than a fleeting glimpse and a hypothetical construction. Far from being an island, the plantation thus emerges as a veritable archipelago or even metaarchipelago in Benitez-Rojo's sense: a polyglot entity overflowing its own boundaries and exceeding all attempts to anchor it to a given center, and at the very least not bound by its own time and space. By way of illustration, this article offers a limited genealogy of the plantation: Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha, Garcia Márquez's Macondo, and Coppola's Appocalypse Now Redux (2001).

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This paper examines “the Resistance argument,” one of HLA Hart’s arguments for legal positivism. For Hart, a positivist concept of law that separates law from morality compares favourably to non-positivist ones for it facilitates resistance against oppressive regimes. Since law is separable from morality, the argument goes, law loses part of its “aura of majesty” and thereby, the legality of a norm is not a conclusive reason for citizen obedience. Molina-Ochoa argues that the evidence provided from the Milgram Experiments about obedience to authority figures provides empirical support for Hart’s hypothesis. The author also suggests that these experiments provide elements to doubt of non-positivist concepts of law, particularly those in which law displays some form of moral correctness, such as the one advanced by Robert Alexy.
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SubStance 33.3 (2004) 148-161 Jacques Derrida's 1995 Mal d'archive is an essay with multiple resonances. One can speculate that after nearly a decade and a half of a trend that saw the development in French historical circles of critical thought and writing on the notions of memory and archive, represented most notably and emblematically by Pierre Nora's massive project, Lieux de mémoire, originally published in seven volumes between 1984 and 1992, a certain fetishism of the archive needed to be analyzed. Deconstruction had supposedly shut the door on an old style philology as a viable manner for getting at the truth in its origins, but now another strategy seemed to have reared its head, suggesting that the truth of history could be found in documents, symbols, and objects, many of which were circumscribed in collections, repositories of knowledge about deep-seated belief systems. The Éditions Gallimard internet catalogue describes the project of Lieux de mémoire as follows: The expression "héritage collectif," used in Gallimard's marketing blurb and rendered here as "collective legacy," might just as easily be translated "inherited collections," that is, inherited archives. The trope of lost memory becomes a lieu commun: if one's history cannot be remembered, the only recourse is to be immersed in the invigorating reservoir of accumulated texts and objects. Although a teleological historical narrative of progress is no longer available, remnants and vestiges can rejuvenate the frustrated historian, or so it would seem. The Lieux de mémoire project can be analyzed as a re-inscription of the discipline of history in a postmodern, poststructuralist phase, at a moment when all possibility of narrative closure seems remote indeed ("France as a subject is inexhaustible," that is, infinite, without end.). Mal d'archive might well find one of its sources of inspiration in an attempt to analyze critically this fetishism of collecting, which results from something like a moment of crisis. Although he makes no reference to Nora and the Lieux de mémoire project, Derrida nonetheless wonders about the fear of loss motivating projects like the one Nora imagined, as well as all the emulations to which Nora's work gave rise (one is tempted to characterize the historical and critical endeavors spawned by Lieux de mémoire as a veritable cottage industry). Why had the question of the archive come to the fore? In fact, Derrida had already taken a decidedly less euphoric view of how the past comes back when he lectured and wrote about the specters of Marx only shortly before he gave his lecture on the Freud archive. Far from constituting a source from which one might recover a certain plenitude of memory, the vestiges of the past return to haunt the present—both as reminders of the past and as announcements of the future. Mal d'archive, originally an occasional piece that grew out of reflections on the notion of the archive in the history of Freud's foundational work in psychoanalysis and thus out of Derrida's earlier analysis of the scene of writing in Freud ("Freud et la scène de l'écriture"), also finds the motivation for its argument in the damage done to archives by political repression and in the counter attempts to get at what was suppressed and thereby forgotten during the various political and social disasters that marked the twentieth century...
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American Literary History 16.2 (2004) 238-262 In Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! (1936), Thomas Sutpen relates how, as the overseer of a sugar plantation in Haiti, he put down a rebellion at the outset of his career as a new-world planter. He explains that at first he did not register his danger; a US Southerner in the West Indies, Sutpen failed to "know, comprehend, what he must have been seeing every day because of [his] innocence" (203). As Sutpen never looks more deeply into the circumstances of his original insult at the door of Pettibone's Tidewater Virginia mansion, so he shows little interest in understanding the place where he set out to make his fortune. In going to sea, the 14-year-old Sutpen acted solely on his teacher's assertion that the West Indies were where "poor men went in ships and became rich" (195). He knew nothing about where the West Indies were, how he would get there, or what he would do there—only that he would make money—"it didn't matter how" (195). Sutpen launches his design with that obliviousness that is American innocence. Once on Haiti, Sutpen disregards the manifest evidence of impending "slave" revolt and hybrid racial ancestries. Sutpen's famously preserved innocence amounts to the habit of looking without seeing. The noir rebels themselves mock the American overseer's blind spot: when Sutpen searches for a missing house servant, the body shows up several days later "where he could not possibly have missed it during the first hour of the first day if it had been there" (203). When a voodoo warning appears on the planter's pillow one morning—a pig bone, some chicken feathers, a rag with pebbles tied in a sack—Sutpen does not even understand it as a sign, let alone recognize its stain as "neither dirt nor grease but blood" (203). The fetish object epitomizes the reality Sutpen disregards, "overseeing what he oversaw and not knowing that he was overseeing it" (203). For Sutpen, to look is to overlook. Tellingly, the Caribbean has suffered similar disregard for half a century in critical considerations of Faulkner's great novel of the plantation South. Only during the 1990s did the presence of the West Indies in the novel "achieve" visibility. It is sobering to acknowledge how assumptions of US exceptionalism, imperial indifference to prenational colonial origins, the peculiarization of the slaveholding South by the rest of the country, and other forms of self-conceptual insularity carried over into the neglect of what Faulkner's South shares more broadly with new-world histories and experiences. My preliminary point is that such obliviousness may correspond to the colonial representational technology of fetish. Sutpen's "innocent" "mistakes" about his West Indian situation exemplify an extensive cultural apparatus dedicated to preserving masterly innocence in new-world colonial Souths, and US imperial innocence in the postcolonial world. Like its narrators, readers of Absalom, I shall contend, have always had before their eyes Faulkner's evidence that the plantation South derives its design from new-world models, owes a founding debt to West Indian slave-based agriculture, extracted labor and profit from African-Caribbean slave trade, and practiced forms of racial and sexual control common to other hemispheric colonial regimes. But there is a kind of knowledge that can be held while being ignored, a kind of vision that looks but does not see. Such knowledge does not disappear into the depths of its repression—the prevailing model for the work of Faulknerian evasion or deferral. Instead, such knowledge goes into open hiding on the surface of the Faulknerian text, where, like Edgar Allan Poe's purloined letter, it is perhaps too obvious to be seen. Homi Bhabha has described the operation of cultural fetish in his well-known essay on stereotype, "The Other Question," in The Location of Culture. Although I will not be discussing the specific forms of colonial fetish Bhabha treats—stereotype, skin, blood—I do wish to use his general account of disavowed knowledge to anchor my discussion of Faulkner's representation of the US South's Caribbean horizon. Faulkner's mindfulness of Latin bearings...