Slurring Words

Increasingly philosophers (and linguists) are turning their attention to the surprisingly little explored lexical category of slurs. These are expressions that target groups on the basis of race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, immigrant status and sundry other demographics. In academic discussion, it’s easy to convince oneself (we confess on occasions we have) that particular uses of slurs are inoffensive. This discussion wouldn’t exist otherwise. As a safeguard against inurement, you should always ask how a targeted member, perhaps overhearing you, would react to your usage. You may find that what seems suitable is most definitely not. As many celebrities, including recently the radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, have learned, almost no speakers can opt to use a slur non-offensively.

Henry David Thoreau’s Politics of Standing Aloof

In the eulogy that Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered at Thoreau’s funeral in May 1862, Emerson notes that Thoreau once claimed to be able to look around the Walden environs and “tell by the plants what time of year it was within two days.” [1] This intimate familiarity with the cycles of local plants and animals reflects Thoreau’s deep knowledge of the local environment and the years of intensive study that produced it. Thoreau’s famed nature walks had made him an encyclopedia of environmental knowledge. But to Emerson, who had decided to focus on the social and political questions that preoccupied a nation on the brink of bloody Civil War, the implications of Thoreau’s career were as appalling as they were amazing. Thoreau was a serious person, but his life seemed somehow like the trivial tale of a village eccentric. As the society grappled with questions about human slavery and national union, what value did a life such as Thoreau’s have? How could it add to the common welfare? How could a life spent achieving intimacy with nature be more than simply self-in-dulgent and frivolous?

Who Speaks the Truth? Writers vs . Lawyers

In the study of Russian civil society before the Revolution, what a researcher discovers depends on whose viewpoint is accepted as most authoritative. For example, the judicial reforms implemented in the 1860s and the tsarist-era Dumas are historical facts, but their civic legacy has been evaluated in fundamentally different ways. If you look through the eyes of eloquent lawyers active in the courts, zemstvos, and the parliament, you see an incredible burst of energy for the public good and a passionate search for truth and justice during trials and at public meetings. If, however, you look through the lens of Russia’s most revered writers – a more common path for readers both inside Russia and abroad – what you see are study circles that accomplished nothing, salons that were a ‘vanity fair’, courtrooms where legal careerism triumphed over the common good, and a parliament whose ultimate accomplishment was the destruction of a thousand-year old civilization. Who speaks the truth?

Imperial Retrospect: Peter the Great’s Ideologists Look Back on Kyiv

This paper is part of a much larger project that examines the cohort of Ukrainian (or Ruthenian) clerical hierarchs who were trained at the Kyivan Academy and abroad n the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, but who went on to serve in the Muscovite Church. Collectively they constituted the backbone of diocesan administration in Russia during the first four decades of the eighteenth century as well as participating actively in important monastic institutions. Of greater relevance here is the impact that a handful of them had upon the formation of political ideology during Peter’s reign, especially once empire was officially declared in 1721. The two towering figures in this process, Stefan Iavorskii and Feofan Prokopovich are extremely well known and they continue to attract the attention of scholars. Although they came from somewhat different generations (Iavorskii was older), and over time developed a bitter rivalry, they each participated actively in presiding over the reconfiguration (what Ernst Zitser has termed the “transfiguration”) of notions of divine sanction, sovereignty, casesaropapism, succession, and the like. After the death of the last patriarch, Adrian, in 1702 each in succession emerged as the leader of the Russian Orthodox even though neither of them held the formal title as such.

Russian Heritage Cinema and the Polish Question

One of the crucial aspects of Russia’s cultural positioning has always been its relationship with its internal and external others. While critical literature examining representations of national and ethnic difference in Soviet and Russian cinema has grown significantly in recent years, the critics’ attention has been focused on ways in which Russian filmmakers have defined/redefined the country’s wartime enemies (Germans, Finns, Chechens) [1]. I look at two films that form the core of new Russian heritage cinema, Vladimir Khotinenko’s 1612 (2007) and Vladimir Bortko’s Taras Bul’ba (2009), in order to examine the contours of a new ideology that has sought to fill the cultural void that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Both films recast Poland and the Poles as the main adversarial force against which a “true” Russian value system comes to life. It has to be noted that, while representative of a distinct cultural and ideological tendency that emerged in the first decade of the 21st century, the two heritage films do not monopolize Russian attitudes towards Poland during the same time. A whole range of attitudes towards otherness, including Polishness, has been present within contemporary Russian culture. In order to provide an indication of the varying approaches to cultural difference, I begin my analysis by looking at a picture that appears to represent the opposite end of the spectrum. The critically acclaimed Oxygen (Kislorod, 2009) directed by Ivan Vyrypaev will thereby provide a countercultural context for the highly commercialized, mainstream productions that are in the center of my analysis of the Russian heritage phenomenon.

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