Sunday, August 5, 2012

Magic, Tintin

Among the hats this 'Grrl wears is Editor of the International, Transnational & Comparative Criminal Law eJournal, a compilations of abstracts, with links to full papers, that is part of the SSRN Legal Scholarship Network. As such I have the opportunity to review abstracts before they're generally available.
A recent one particularly caught my eye. The author is Dr. René Provost (right), Associate Professor of Law and founding Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at McGill University in Montreal. The title of the paper -- "Magic and Modernity in Tintin au Congo (1930) and the Sierra Leone Special Court" -- overtly links contemporary international criminal justice with a colonial-era book recently the subject of a banning effort. (And see here.)
Here's the abstract:
'Tintin au Congo was the second album written by Hergé in the series that has been hailed to have given birth to the graphic novel genre. It tells the story of the encounter between a young white European reporter and Africa, as imagined by a Belgian author living in Brussels in 1930. Likewise, the judgments of the Sierra Leone Special Court constitute the narrative of an encounter, this time between the international legal community and the grim realities of the civil war that ravaged that African country more than a decade ago. Both encounters can be described as intercultural collisions: much of the original appeal of Tintin au Congo rested in its caricature of African society as backward and in every respect inferior to European civilisation; in the decisions of the Sierra Leone Special Court, there is a similar stark contrast between the culture of international criminal law as the embodiment of justice and humanity on the one hand, and the irrational descent into anarchy and senseless violence on the other. These narratives stand apart in their origins, their style, their aspirations, and yet converge in their intersection of modernity and barbarity. A study of the original Tintin au Congo as published serially in a Brussels newspaper in 1930 and of the transcriptions of the hearings of the Civil Defence Forces Trial in Sierra Leone reveals that, for each, magic is taken as a key to decipher afromodernity and make it comprehensible for the imagined, civilised, western reader. In doing so, each narrator constructs its own identity, in one case European and civilised Belgium, and in the other the universal and rational international criminal law regime.'
A provocative look at culture past and present.

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