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Thomas Macho. Or, on the Science of culture

The pig and its history, Pier Paolo Pasolini, the history of towers in the West, Philip K. Dick and science-fiction literature, the films of Andrej Tarkovskij and Rossellini, the cultural history of calendar formation. And: metaphors of death, rites and myths in the context of historical anthropology, ethical, aesthetic and cultural models of Western history. What might sound like entries in an impossible and ironic encyclopedia in the spirit of Borges and Foucault are in fact all subjects of some of the courses held and the books written over the past few decades by a man who in Germany is considered the Kulturwissenschaftler par excellence: the Austrian Thomas Macho. What is a Kulturwissenschaftler? To understand it, we need to dig into the history, as well as the etymology, of the German term Kultur, and we will ask Macho himself to do just that during the interview. For now, by way of introduction, a brief clarification: if we wanted to translate Kulturwissenschaftler literally into Italian and thus into English, the closest rendition would be “scienziato della cultura” or “scientist of culture.” But we must keep two points in mind: first, that in German the term Kultur...

Kafka in Charlie Chaplin’s Hands

What do Kafka and Chaplin have in common? They both explore the margins of life, where exclusion from the world and from history opens up the curtains of dissimulation and accepts the cognition of pain as destiny. Is the comparison unfeasible? In Benjamin’s view, the worlds of representation are linked together with subtle ties. Aside from differences in time, place, and artistic media, there are mysterious affinities which allow us to juxtapose the two with unexpected hermeneutic results.   “Chaplin holds in his hands a genuine key to the interpretation of Kafka. Just as occurs in Chaplin’s situations, in which in a quite unparalleled way rejected and disinherited existence, eternal human agony combines with the particular circumstances of contemporary being, the monetary system, the city, the police, etc., so too in Kafka every event is Janus-faced, completely immemorial, without history and yet, at the same time, possessing the latest, journalistic topicality.”   Opening the eighth volume of Benjamin’s collected works is like entering a labyrinth where the paths do not follow a geometric pattern of any kind. They simply carry you on a path of awe and unlikely approaches....

Fatigue that cures

In his book, Fatigue Society (Müdigkeitsgesellschaft, Matthes...