Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 Presidential (Non)-Elections: China

This is the tenth in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The  first nine posts were on the elections in TaiwanRussiaSenegalFranceEgyptParaguay (not technically an election), Mexico, Venezuela, and the U.S.

The appointment of Xi Jinping as the next president of China has received fairly muted reactions, as in no one side (at least outside of China) is strongly for or against him. The ruling Communist Party of China will continue in power.

The most interesting thing about this appointment is directly related to language and translation. This appointment (which is not finalized until January) is a non-election, just like the ascension of Paraguay's vice president to the presidency earlier this year, but it is different in that it has nothing to do with elections or democratic processes, given that it is a party appointment.

In fact, and here is the linguistic issue, the "president" of China should perhaps not even be called that. I have almost no knowledge of Chinese, but I do know that the word used for the chairman of the CPC is zhǔxí (主席). Translated literally, this means "main seat" or "head seat" (which I know because the same characters exist in Japanese). In other words, the chairman, not the president (in the normal political sense of the word).

This is the word the Chinese have used for their leader ever since Mao entered the scene. The switch in the English translation from "chairman" to "president" is more recent, but in fact "prime minister" or, simply, "chairman" makes a lot more sense. Though no ideological purpose is necessarily behind the change, it certainly allows for misunderstanding.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Today in Language: Clovis

Clovis, the first king of France, or rather of the Franks, died on November 27, 511. He began the Merovingian dynasty, which was followed by the Carolingiens, Capetiens, Valois, and Bourbons, until the Franks/French finally decided they'd had enough of monarchies and all that and opted for a violent, bloody, fairly sudden turn to the republic.

The name Clovis, in case you're looking for a good boy's name, is the Latinized form of Ludwig, meaning "famed warrior." Clovis was that, since he conquered Gaul, in addition to uniting the different tribes of Franks.

Clovis is also remembered for his conversion to Christianity, which is generally thought to have been genuine, though it is hard to know motives. Was it for his wife, or for political power with the papacy, or for some other ulterior motive? Only God and Clovis know.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections: USA

This is the ninth in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The  first eight posts were on the elections in Taiwan, Russia, Senegal, France, Egypt, Paraguay (not technically an election), Mexico, and Venezuela. I think I missed one in the last month or two; let me know.

President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney to gain his second four-year term as U.S. President.

This is good news for those who believe President Obama has made significant steps in getting the country back on track in spite of a terrible economy and political battles. This is bad news for those who believe his signature health care plan and progressive stance on social issues are derailing the American economy and society.

In fact, as in any presidential election, there are myriad issues at play--more than any one politician can handle expertly. In the case of the U.S. president, of course, the issues are even more significant because what the U.S. does affects almost every other country, either indirectly through cultural and political influence or directly through military and political influence.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Edward Saïd, culture : Continuation

La conséquence lourde de la reconnaissance d'une certaine définition du terme culture est la suivante :
Cette idée de la culture ne conduit pas seulement à vénérer la sienne, mais aussi à la croire totalement séparée des réalités quotidiennes, puisqu'elle les transcende. (p. 14)
Comme conséquence de cette pensée, ce que Saïd dit plus tard est absolument profond et bouleversant ; c'est ce que je voudrais inculquer à chaque étudiant que j'enseignerai ou que j’emmènerai dans une équipe missionnaire à une autre culture : 
Les formes culturelles sont hybrides, mêlées, impures, et il est grand temps que leur analyse rejoigne leur réalité. (p. 51)
C'est surtout surprenant pour avoir été énoncé par quelqu'un qui ne reconnaît rien de la grâce de Dieu. Mais Dieu donne de sa grâce commune à tout le monde pour que nous découvrions quelque chose de la vérité !

Friday, November 2, 2012

An Involved Definition of Culture

This is based on a book originally written in English, but I only have the French copy right now so it's in French. If you're interested in the English, you can look up Edward Saïd's explanation of culture in the introduction to Culture and Imperialism.

Dans Culture et impérialisme, Edward Saïd donne une explication/définition très intéressante de la culture. Il y'en a « deux sens précis » :
Premièrement, (le terme) désigne toutes les pratiques -- tels les arts de la description, de la communication et de la représentation -- qui jouissent d'une certaine autonomie par rapport à l'économique, au social et au politique, et revêtent souvent des formes esthétiques dont l'une des finalités essentielles est le plaisir. (p. 12)
La second sens du mot « culture » s'instaure presque imperceptiblement. Par certaines connotations : le raffinement, l'élévation. C'est la réserve, dans chaque société, du « meilleur qui ait été pensé », disait Matthew Arnold dans les années 1860. (p. 13)
La première partie de la définition m'attire par ce qu'elle exclut (l'économique, le social, le politique), la deuxième partie par la manière dont elle -inclut ces parties, en soulignant la tension qui existe entre les pratiques « culturelles » lorsqu'elles existent dans le monde réel où ces autres éléments les influencent profondément :
Dans cette seconde acception, la culture est une sorte de théâtre où diverses causes politiques et idéologiques s'apostrophent. Loin d'être un monde apollinien d'harmonieuse sérénité, elle peut se muer en champ clos où ces causes vont s'afficher tout à fait clairement et se battre. (p. 14 ; emphase ajoutée)
Pour Saïd, cette définition de la culture mène (ou révèle) une conséquence très lourde. Quoique je ne sois pas d'accord avec toutes ses conclusions (voir sa philosophie en général) la conséquence majeure me fait penser beaucoup. Mais à demain pour la découvrir ! Pensez à ces citations pour le moment !