Third Things

Leading Editor:
Waldemar Kuligowski

Table of content/ articles for purchase or download:

Section: Third Things

Abstract:

Only cultural force of habit or an illusion of perspective makes us believe that the sense of different kinds of space belongs strictly to archaic modes of thought. The truth is that we have the most difficulty seeing what is nearest to us, that which at some point entered the visual archive of our culture and was preserved in our gaze. When I say seeing, what I mean is – truly touching. And that, more precisely, means: to feel the agonizing sting of the unknown in our flesh. To go one step further, it also, or even primarily, means touching the edge of danger. A seashore is a strange place. First of all, it is the point where water and earth meet. The area of contact between the firm and the fluid. But it is also the outer limit of the oecumene, the world of people, exposed to the influence of the sea’s chaos. It is the clear boundary dividing two separate worlds. The semantics of this thin strip of sand are inexpressibly special. To proceed further, we note that the beach is quite an imperfect substitute for the desert, or, a sandy equivalent of the sea’s element, only on a much smaller scale. It is an element somehow tamed, reduced to human dimensions. It is a patch of sand big enough that we abandon thoughts of the familiar sandbox, yet too small to get lost within. To use an amusing Structuralist skeleton-key, we might say that it is a piece of nature subjected to a cultural makeover. It is still nature, but, at the same time, has almost become culture, or, alternatively, nature in a cultural frame.

In any case, as we walk out onto the beach, we are treading along the shoreline the entire time. But the shoreline understood here in the broader sense of the word, as a border, with all of the ambiguity that word entails. For a border is that strange place that in joining, divides, and in dividing, joins. Belonging to both worlds, it simultaneously does not belong to either of them. It is shared land and no man’s land. It is a space with an extremely peculiar ontology.

Section: Third Things

Abstract:

In the classic sources on indigenous cultures of North America, figures of women are not particularly conspicuous or interesting. Most often they are busy preparing food, taking care of children, bustling about the home, invariably overshadowed by vigorous, heroic men. The image of the Indian squaw (the indigenous word for the female reproductive organs), reduced to such recurring clichés, was rivalled only by the figure of the Indian princess: a noble, attractive person, distinguished by above average intelligence. A person, we should note, usually found to deserve such a fine opinion due to her association with white men, placing loyalty to trappers, travellers or merchants above loyalty to members of her own tribe. The “invisibility” of women in the world of warriors, hunting, battles and male bonding distinctly encouraged the thesis that women in all indigenous communities were similar and performed very comparable social roles. Could homosexual women have appeared in such sources? The question is a purely rhetorical one, of course – where gays among the Indians preoccupied the attention of some scholars, their female counterparts were more or less completely overlooked. That happened for a reason, since for a long time the only sexual deviation whose existence was recognized by Western scholarship was male homosexuality. It roused deep indignation from the lawgivers and guardians of men’s souls since it was seen to defy male power, dignity, and virility (the organs of power being clearly identified with sexual organs). Yet despite prohibitions and teachings, those “disgusting” men existed. But could that same “disorder” affect women, those fragile and delicate beings?

Section: Third Things

Abstract:

Finding the proper approach to an ethnographic film, a work of anthropology, can be difficult. This is true not only in Poland, but it may be particularly true in Poland. This area in filmmaking, though represented by some accomplished directors in Poland, such as Jacek Olędzki, Piotr Szacki and Andrzej Różycki, among many others, never turned into a strongly active, widely discussed, thoroughly typical branch of Polish anthropology. The festivals of ethnographic films that took place in Łódź for over a decade disappeared, no doubt for financial reasons, as well. This is a real shame, because it seems that film, itself an intermediate space, between materiality and non-materiality, for instance, lends itself splendidly to creating, studying and contemplating a space of encounter with the Other. The transgressive and metaphorical potential of film and movies has been wonderfully exhibited in such films as Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo or Wojciech Marczewski’s excellent Ucieczka z kina Wolność.

Section: Third Things

Abstract:

Cremation (from the Latin cremare – to burn), or the incineration of a corpse, known to humanity since neolithic times as an alternative to the burial of the dead, is one of the main practices used to destroy corpses today. It is particularly important not to overlook this obvious fact in the context of the contemporary ritual of incineration. In contemporary conditions, death has ceased to be mastered and is instead rationalized. It has taken on a new face and place in social space under the care of professionals and in connection with the newest technology. The active and rational human being of modern times has deemed death and transience to be a problem. The ideology of the hospital gave birth in the second half of the nineteenth century to the discourse of hygiene. The arguments made by some of the first proponents of cremation were deeply interwoven with that discourse. Those proponents were mostly nineteenth-century doctors and politicians who promoted the new idea in the pages of the professional medical journals they published or at international congresses organized in Paris (1867) and Florence (1869). These men of science expressed the need to create new techniques for preserving the dead, emphasizing in particular the hygienic and economic aspect of the problem.

Section: Third Things

Abstract:

Is the body really an earthly “tent,” as the Christian scriptures declare, a vessel, which without the spirit is only a corpse? Is a dead body destined to return to the earth, to become mineralized there, broken down into the elements from which it was made? How can our attitude toward the dead body, ashes, remains or bones become transfigured when the formula “ashes to ashes” ceases to be binding or perhaps is rewritten as “ashes to diamonds”?

Section: Third Things

Abstract:

Let us start out mystically, not to say kabbalistically, by pointing out that the number THREE corresponds to the planet Jupiter and according to ancient teachings represents idealism, knowledge at a higher level, a tendency to take long journeys, and religiosity. THREE is also said to be a symbol of optimism, mobility, and expansionism, as well as of the holy trinity of Soul, Body, and Reason. Life in a triangle. Hermes Trismegistus once wrote the famous formula thus: “as above, so below.” Hermes Trismegistus, Master of Masters to the Third Power, is believed to have left behind 1,200 works (numerologically added up, the digits in that figure add up to 3). However, that revolutionary statement is what has endured through the centuries fresh and undiluted. The formula recurs in symbolic form in the six-pointed star – two equilateral triangles one-third superimposed on each other (or interpenetrating each other)… two worlds invading and interpenetrating each other: this one on the bottom and the other one on top… Or us on top and them on the bottom… As you wish. Worlds interconnect, overlap, and remain far away from one another. The inhabitants of the First World carry within them the Second and Third Worlds, while those of the Third World simultaneously have the First and Second on their chest. Or in their dining room, where the television rules. Or in their housing papers. Every third resident of the Philippines is hungry; the third intifada is raging in Palestine; a third front has opened in Mexico (conducting ideological warfare via the Internet); every third German has existential problems; every third doctor in Berlin is unemployed; in Liberia corruption is cubed…