It’s a day of shame. There’s an obvious reason for this, having to do with the capacity of a nation-state to enshrine as one of its “holidays” the commemoration of a figure who represents the colonizing project. As Nas once put it: “The Indians helped the Pilgrims / and in return the Pilgrims killed them / I call your holiday hellday.” Columbus Day, like Thanksgiving, is adequately understood as a hellday.
Yet there is another, less considered reason for feeling shameful on Columbus Day, and this has to do with the “construction” of its commemoration. For, nowadays at least, the celebration of Columbus Day is bound up with Italian-Americans’ need for a day that would recognize their own particular contribution to “American culture.” Columbus Day is meant to be a day of pride for Italian-Americans—and this, I am trying to say, bears its own peculiar shame. Columbus, it will be noted, was Italian—but what is an Italian? And what does Columbus have to do with Italian-Americans? Continue reading “Preemptive Columbus Day Post: “With all due respect, Mr. Fitzgerald, Murder’s on the pulse…””
One of the most-cited texts in Catholic theology is Denzinger‘s Enchiridion Symbolorum, a compilation of doctrinal statements from church councils and other authoritative documents that provided a standard reference point. It stands alongside Migne‘s Patrologia as a monument to the intense passion for compilation that apparently consumed the Catholic theological community during the 19th century — the results of which Gramsci appears to have had in mind when he recommended that Marxism should follow the Catholic Church’s lead in developing standard “doctrinal” resources:
one would have to study all the material of the same type published by the Catholics, in various countries, in relation to the Bible, the Gospels, the Early Fathers, the Liturgy and Apologetics, great specialized encyclopedias of uneven value which are continually being published and which maintain the ideological unity of hundreds of thousands of priests and other cadres who provide the framework and the strength of the Catholic Church. (Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith [New York: International Publishers, 1971], 414-15.)
Why stop with Marxism, though? Why shouldn’t Lacan have his own Denzinger? Why not an Enchiridion Deleuziensum? What exactly are we waiting for?