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Subjectivity is one of the central issues of twentieth-century philosophy, literature and art. Modernism, which “discovered” the subconscious, put an end to the belief in the Cartesian Subject as the autonomous centre of knowledge and self-consciousness. Instead, the subject became something uncontrollable, unreliable, incomplete and fragmentary. The attempts to recapture the unity of the subject led to the existential quest and the flight into ideology (nazism, communism).
Postmodernism, the cultural movement of the second half of the twentieth century, did not consider the subject any longer as an important category. Attention was focused on the “I” and the “Other”, on dialogism and polyphonism (Bakhtin). Ideology lost its appeal and so did the “great” stories (Lyotard).
In this issue of Avant-Garde Critical Studies the problem of subjectivity in twentieth-century culture is discussed from various angles by specialists in the field of philosophy, literature, film, music and dance.
Macau and the Question of Chineseness
"How have conceptions and practices of sovereignty shaped how Chineseness is imagined? This ethnography addresses this question through the example of Macau, a southern Chinese city that was a Portuguese colony from the 1550s until 1999. As the Portuguese administration prepared to transfer Macau to Chinese control, it mounted a campaign to convince the city’s residents, 95 percent of whom identified as Chinese, that they possessed a “unique cultural identity” that made them different from other Chinese, and that resulted from the existence of a Portuguese state on Chinese soil. This attempt sparked reflections on the meaning of Portuguese governance that challenged not only conventional definitions of sovereignty but also conventional notions of Chineseness as a subjectivity common to all Chinese people around the world. Various stories about sovereignty and Chineseness and their interrelationship were told in Macau in the 1990s. This book is about those stories and how they informed the lives of Macau residents in ways that allowed different relationships among sovereignty, subjectivity, and culture to become thinkable, while also providing a sense of why, at times, it may not be desirable to think them."
Japanese Modernism and Modernity in the 1920s
"On a December morning in 1925, a newspaper journalist reported receiving 25 different handbills in an hour’s walk in downtown Tokyo, advertising everything from Western-style clothing and furniture to sweet shops, charity organizations, phonograph recordings, plays, and films. The activities of advertisers, and the new entertainment culture and patterns of consumption that they promoted, helped to define a new urban aesthetic emerging in the 1920s. This book examines some of the responses of Japanese authors to the transformation of Tokyo in the early decades of the twentieth century. In particular, it explores the themes and formal strategies of the modernist literature that flourished in the 1920s, focusing on the work of Hagiwara Kyojiro (1899-1938) and Hayashi Fumiko (1903-1951). William Gardner shows how modernist works offer new constructions of individual subjectivity amid the social and technological changes that provided the ground for the appearance of “mass media.” Hagiwara’s conception of the poem and poet as an electric-radio “advertising tower” provides an emblem for the aesthetic tensions and multiple discourses of technology, media, urbanism, commerce, and propaganda that were circulating through the urban environment at the time; while Hayashi’s work, with its references to popular songs, plays, and movies, suggests an understanding of ""everyday life"" as the interface between individual subjectivity and a highly mediated environment."
The notion of subjectivity is one of the most fundamental notions for modern philosophy that only gains in importance in present-day discussions. This volume gathers essays from both young and senior researchers that examine which role subjectivity plays in both classical and contemporary phenomenology. The essays discuss the importance of a phenomenological account of subjectivity for the nature and the status of phenomenology but they also discuss how the phenomenological account of the subject offers new perspectives on themes from practical philosophy and from the philosophy of mind. Thus, this volume does not only show how multifaceted the question of subjectivity is but also how important this theme continues to be for present-day philosophy.