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Documents of UtopiaThe Politics of Experimental Documentary$
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Paolo Magagnoli

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231172714

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231172714.001.0001

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Pathological and Critical

(p.1) Introduction Nostalgia
Documents of Utopia

Paolo Magagnoli

Columbia University Press

This introductory chapter discusses how nostalgia is commonly understood as the opposite of utopia. Whereas utopia is the projection of a better world in the future, nostalgia is a longing for something in the past; yet there is a strong affinity between the two—a common rejection of the present. The image of nostalgia has remained amnesiac and reactionary, as it keeps circulating in art history and theory, demonstrated by the “historiographic” turn in contemporary art. Over time, negative evaluations of nostalgia have been developed by intellectuals from both the political Left and the political Right, with both sides stating that nostalgia acts as a screen for anxieties about emergent political trends. The chapter examines two influential indictments of nostalgia: Pierre Nora’s Lieux de Memoire (1984–1992), which represents right-wing conservativism, and Frederic Jameson’s Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991), which offers a Marxist version of the nostalgia critique.

Keywords:   nostalgia, utopia, contemporary art, political Left, political Right, Lieux de Memoire, Pierre Nora, Frederic Jameson

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