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In recent science-fiction literature, we can witness a proliferation of new counterfactual narratives which take the 17th century as their point of departure. Unlike steampunk narratives, however, their aim is not to criticise the socio-political effects caused by contemporary technological development. Such authors as Neal Stephenson or Ian Tregillis, among others, are interested in revisiting the model of development in Western societies, routing around the logic of progress. Moreover, they demonstrate that modernity is but an effect of manifold contingent and indeterminate encounters of humans and nonhumans and their distinct temporalities. Even the slightest modification of their ways of being could have changed Western societies and cultures. Thus, they necessitate a rather non-anthropocentric model of counterfactuality which is not tantamount to the traditional alternative histories which depart from official narratives of the past.
By drawing on contemporary multispecies ethnography, I put forward a new understanding of counter-factuality which aims to reveal multiple entangled human and nonhuman stories already embedded in the seemingly unified history of the West. In this context, the concept of “polyphonic assemblage” (Lowenhaupt-Tsing) is employed to conceptualize the contingent and open-ended encounters of human and nonhuman historical actors which cut across different discourses and practices. I analyse Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle to show the entangled stories of humans and nonhumans in 17th century sciences, hardly present in traditional historiographies. In particular, Stephenson’s depiction of quicksilver and coffeehouse as nonhuman historical actors is scrutinized to show their vital role in the production of knowledge at the dawn of modernity.
The Cold War that shaped the societies of late modernity had penetrated everyday life with constant messages about the nuclear threat and demonstrations of military power. On the one hand, Soviet republics such as Lithuania were occupied by the enemy of Western democracies, and the nuclear threat would apply to their territory as well. On the other hand, many people secretly sided with the West. But information about the world behind the Iron Curtain was filtered ideologically. Images of Vietnam War and civil unrest in Western countries were broadcasted by the state controlled media as a counterpoint to the orderly and optimistic Soviet life idealised in chronicles and photographs. This positive image was shown to rest on the victory of the Great Patriotic War as well as October Revolution. Those events were represented by iconic monuments in the public space as well as by memorialization rituals taking place every half-year. Their visual documentation was an important part of Soviet culture. Photo journalists like Ilja Fišeris were assigned to record the parades of May the 1st, the 9th and November the 7th. Art photographers treated such images as a tribute to authorities exchanged for a measure of artistic freedom. But in the 1980s, the memorialization rituals, the monuments and other ideological signs became the focus of “rogue” art photographers and cinematographers: Artūras Barysas-Baras, Vytautas Balčytis, Vitas Luckus, Alfonsas Maldutis, Algirdas Šeškus, Remigijus Pačėsa and Gintaras Zinkevičius. Their ironic and reflective images worked as dislocating counter-memorials against the stale reconstructions of the past. Referring to theories of Svetlana Boym, Verónica Tello and Ariella Azoulay, the paper discusses the complicated relationships between the different memorializations of war, including the absence of the Holocaust in collective memory.
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Barkun, Michael. A Culture of Conspiracy. Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America . Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Beck, Ulrich. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity , transl. by Mark Ritter (Sage Publications 1992).
Bielik-Robson, Agata. Duch powierzchni. Rewizja roman-tyczna i filozofia . Kraków: Universitas, 2004.
Bielik-Robson, Agata. „Syndrom romantyczny: Stanisław Brzozowski i rewizja romantyzmu” Słupskie
Craft, Robert. 100 years on: Igor Stravinsky on The Rite of Spring. 2013. In: The Times Literary Supplement. [Viewed on 2013-06-19]. Access via the Internet: http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article1275660.ece.
Craft, Robert. Stravinsky: Discoveries and Memories [Kindle Version]. 2013. [Viewed on 2013-06-25]. Access via the Internet: http://www.amazon.co.jp.
Danuser, Hermann, Heidy Zimmermann & Paul Sacher Stiftung. Avatar of modernity: “The Rite of Spring” reconsidered. Basel: Paul Sacher Foundation; London: Boosey & Hawkes, 2013