Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory

Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory

Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory

Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory

Excerpt

This earth is anything but a sharing of humanity. It is a world that does not even
manage to constitute a world; it is a world lacking in world, and lacking in the meaning
of world....

Compassion is the contagion, the contact of being with one another in this turmoil.
Compassion is not altruism, nor is it identification; it is the disturbance of violent relat
edness.

Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community

In a wonderful short film, director Samira Makhmalbaf offered a response to the events of September 11, 2001. A young woman teaching Afghan refugees in Iran gathers her young children, encouraging them to class, remarking on the futility of the village's efforts to build a shelter in response to the USA's intention to attack Afghanistan. 'Bricks won't stop atomic bombs' the schoolteacher declares; besides, she points out, although they were Afghans, they were in Iran now. Once gathered, she questions the children, asking them what important incident had occurred in the world; hesitantly, a few venture an answer, revealing the worlds in which they live. Two people had fallen down a well, says a little boy; a little girl reports that her auntie had been buried to her neck in Afghanistan and stoned to death. These were not the answers the teacher sought and, passing over these 'local' events, she impassively tells the children that a 'global incident' had occurred that could trigger a world war and that put them in danger. 'They may drop the atomic bomb on us and we will all be killed', she says, before summarizing the incident: 'In America, in New York City, two airplanes hit the World Trade Centre towers.' She asks the children who did this, and one boy suggests 'God'. This offering sparks a conversation amongst the children on God's role in creation and destruction.

Despite the warning that a threat hangs over them, the teacher requests that the children keep silent for a minute to honour those who had died in New York. This is difficult for the young children, and they keep talking, caught up in a train of thought about why such bad things happen when it is God himself who makes people. Then why would he destroy them? 'God's not crazy enough to kill people and then remake them!' 'Does God kill?' 'God hasn't got airplanes.' 'He wants to make new people.' The teacher does not seek the trading of opinions between her young charges, however; she seeks quiet contemplation. Their chatter disallows such thoughtfulness, and with . . .

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