My dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination.
Most students of Kissinger find it hard to say anything about Kissinger that isn’t about the man himself. He is such an outsize figure that he eclipses his own context, leading his many biographers, critics, and admirers to focus nearly exclusively on the quirks of his personality or his moral failings.
They do not merely collect texts; they must also gather data about the context and the informant and, above all, write an analysis of the items based upon the course readings and lecture material on folklore theory and method.
Kissinger’s unusually high body count and singular moral imperiousness has the effect, among his critics, of obscuring his didactic utility. An outsized personality who has committed outsized mayhem, Kissinger eclipses his own context. Yet, as animals were to the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, Kissinger is good to think with.
I think the idea of the social construction of beauty – this idea that beauty is simply whatever culture or society says it is – is on the run. Of course, beauty does arise in a cultural context. No one ever denies that. But there’s also a natural response people have to it.
Personally, I believe in self-determination, but in the context of one South Africa – so that my self-determination is based in this region, and with my people.
Language usage always has a political context.
Many novelists take well-defined, precise characters, whose stories are sometimes of mediocre interest, and place them in an important historical context, which remains secondary in spite of everything.
Books provide context and allow you to think about things over time. Film is like writing haiku; there is an immense amount of pleasure in paring down and paring down. But it isn’t the same.
It is the single image, as used in a photograph or a painting – or the frame of a film – to which words have been added to enlarge the context. The method is not the same as that by which most paintings are named. It is closer in its performance to what dialogue does to a movie, to what the caption does to a good poster.