Founded in 2002 by undergraduate English majors, The Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism acts as an interdisciplinary forum centered around literature, culture and politics. The journal is published once a year and includes articles, reviews, interviews and original artwork. As an undergraduate publication, CJLC attempts to examine the world around us in a way that is informed by academia but not subsumed by it.
CJLC also hosts events, including panel discussions with academics and writers (past topics have included Taste, Geopolitics, Cosmopolitanism, and Occupy), and a seminar series where Columbia professors and graduate students talk about their research in a casual setting.
The early use of the word, drawing from tuberculosis, positions consumption as “using up, wasting away” — an exhaustion of the limits of the body and nature, drawing towards death. Today, this conception of consumption as loss seems to have receded — instead, capitalism positions it as an accretive, accumulative force, through which all can be obtained or created. In our current moment of late capitalism, do works of art, literature, culture “perish when [they are] solidified into a cultural asset and handed out for consumption purposes,” as Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer suggest in Dialectic of the Enlightenment? This issue of CJLC pushes alongside and against this claim--attempting to attend to the violent circumscriptions of the market while investigating spaces of desire, consumption, and being in which other, stranger forces flow.
In Devika Kapadia and Melanie Shi’s interview with Branka Arsić, Arsić pushes against an understanding of things circumscribed by commodity fetishism, seeking instead to trace complex ontologies through which things can be read as alive and desired without necessitating their objectification. Through this lens, she investigates loss, selfhood, and collection. Hunter Koch’s essay, “Ghosts Which Ought To Exist” explores the specter of what once was alive but now has been destroyed within the archive of nitrate film.
Consumption is also revealed as both site and mode of violence. In “Negative Foils,” Egon Conway reads the consumption of racialized narratives of criminal labor as symbolically undergirding white hegemonic subjectivity. This labor conceals its coercive roots in the aftermath of slavery, veiling itself within a moralizing rhetoric of redemption through hard work. Anne-Laure White’s essay “Intelligent Apocalypses” also investigates fragile justifications for violence and their bloody inscriptions. White dissects the anxieties and justifications of the fictive apocalyptic frenzy that fuels US military research 3 into cybernetics, mapping this disembodied fiction against the very real cartographies of violence in contemporary drone warfare.
Cameron Moreno’s essay “What We Are And What We Want To Be” troubles the notion that consumption is inherently violent. While critiquing the privileging of consumer culture in Ciudad Juarez’s urban re-design in a way that effaces the pervasive feminicides, Moreno points toward the redemptive power of consuming and participating in works of public art that challenge the seemingly immutable social order.
Are there sites of resistance or subversion through consumption? In an interview with Cheeyeon Park, video artist Ilana Harris-Babou discusses how her mock-up cooking show foregrounds consuming and being consumed as refracted through race and gender. Against this background, she explores what can or should be edible. In another examination of consumable goods, Melanie Shi teases out from the historical trajectory of marketing strategies the social and political underpinnings and complexities of anti-Asian xenophobia. Here, Shi shows how the alignment of political policy and the marketplace has served to fetishize, exclude, and marginalize non-Western influence in the service of an American exceptionalism that is entrenched in white supremacy.
Nihal Shetty examines another aspect of the violence propagated by histories of consumption — this time, through the figure of the feral child in history, fiction, and the stories that lie in the murky inbetween. What happens after consumption, what remains unconsumed, discarded or invisible? He discusses the networks through which these stories are propagated and consumed, and their use to police and destabilize the boundaries between nation and wilderness, human and animal.
Finally, we would like to thank our faculty advisor, Nicholas Dames. We would also like to express deep gratitude to our editors and contributors for all of their labor and care.
Devika Kapadia and Rebecca Teich