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Welcome to Saturday, where we take a look back at what’s been happening in the culture world this week, from the Barbie movie getting banned in Kuwait and Lebanon to the start of Hungary’s Sziget Festival and the transformation of a famous painting into an NFT. For our special Summer Reads edition of Worldcrunch Today, we feature an article by Wieland Freund in German newspaper Die Welt — and three other stories from around the world on animals.
• In memoriam: William Friedkin, U.S. director of the classic horror film The Exorcist and Oscar-winning The French Connection, has died aged 87; Detroit-born singer Sixto Rodriguez, who rose to international fame as the subject of Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, has passed away at the age of 81; U.S. musician DJ Casper, known for his worldwide hit “Cha Cha Slide,” has died at 58 years old from kidney and liver cancer; Canadian songwriter, singer and guitarist Robbie Robertson, best known as a member of The Band, has passed away aged 80 from a long illness.
• Kuwait and Lebanon ban Barbie movie: Authorities in Kuwait and Lebanon have announced a ban on the release of Barbie, the live-action film based on the Mattel doll which has topped $1 billion in box office ticket sales worldwide. A spokesman for the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information said the movie “promulgates ideas and beliefs that are alien to Kuwaiti society and public order” while Lebanon’s Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada denounced the film’s promotion of “homosexuality and transsexuality.”
• Salvator NFTi: Salvator Mundi, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, is due to be transformed into an NFT. According to The Art Newspaper, the world’s most expensive painting, which had sold for a record $450.3 million at Christie’s New York, will be minted by the platform for digital assets ElmonX, in collaboration with the international image licensing company Bridgeman Images. The terms of the sale, launching on August 12, remain unknown. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker and Claude Monet’s Nymphéas have already been turned into NFTs, with Mona Lisa selling in 330 editions at $190 each.
• Let the Sziget festivities begin: The Sziget Festival, one of Hungary’s biggest cultural events and Europe’s largest open air festival, kicked off on Thursday on Budapest’s Óbuda Island, also known as the Island of Freedom. The music event, which lasts until August 15, features hundreds of artists — including Florence + The Machine, Billie Eilish, Lorde, Macklemore, Arlo Parks and YUNGBLUD. Over 450.000 visitors are expected to attend.
• Japanese museum’s crowdfunding campaign goes beyond expectations: Unable to cover its soaring utility costs, mostly due to drastic decrease in admission fee revenues caused by the pandemic and rising energy prices, the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno, Tokyo, Japan, launched a crowdfunding campaign earlier this week. In just nine hours, donations topped the original target of ¥100 million ($698,000), with more than 34,000 netizens giving over ¥560 million. The institution, which is Japan’s second-oldest museum, is home to five million specimens.
Purebreds To "Rasse" Theory: A German Critique Of Dog Breeding
Just like ideas about racial theory, the notion of seeking purebred dogs is a relatively recent human invention. This animal eugenics project came from a fantasy of recreating a glorious past and has done irreparable harm to canines, reports Wieland Freund in German daily newspaper Die Welt.
Some words always seem to find a way to sneak through. We have created a whole raft of embargoes and decrees about the term race: We prefer to say ethnicity, although that isn’t always much better. In Germany, we sometimes use the English word race rather than our mother tongue’s Rasse.
But Rasse crops up in places where English native speakers might not expect to find it. If, on a walk through the woods, the park or around town, a German meets a dog that doesn’t clearly fit into a neat category of Labrador, dachshund or Dalmatian, they forget all their misgivings about the term and may well ask the person holding the lead what race of dog it is.
Although we have turned our back on the shameful racial theories of the 19th and 20th centuries, the idea of an “encyclopedia of purebred dogs” or a dog handler who promises an overview of almost “all breeds” (in German, “all races”) has somehow remained inoffensive.
In an article about a Dresden exhibition on “The Invention of Human Races”, one colleague wrote that after 250 years, the German term Rasse has returned to its original meaning, being used to describe “domestic animals”, although this usage is just as inaccurate from a scientific perspective. No one flinches when we refer to dogs, horses or cows as purebreds, and if a friend’s new dog is a rescue, we see no problem in calling it a mongrel or crossbreed.
In one way or another, people have been selectively breeding dogs for as long as dogs have existed. That is why we treat dog breeds as if they were part of the natural order of things that are free from any association with the shameful history of a nationalist, colonialist age.
But that is simply not true. Dog breeds are a product of the same era that invented the idea of dividing humans into separate races, an era when pseudoscientists fiddled around with craniometry, offering a supposedly scientific basis for differentiating between “master races” and “primitive people”. Those are the same pseudoscientists who threw around sinister terms such as “Aryan”, seeking to assign almost every nation distinct “racial” characteristics, and finally creating eugenics, which supposedly aimed to improve human “races” through selective breeding.
In reality, the invention of dog breeds is like a huge animal eugenics project, which often has the absurd aim of recreating a supposedly glorious past. The revivals of ancient breeds such as the Hovawart or the Irish wolfhound are romantic projects motivated by a fantasy about returning to a glorious past, a Lord of the Rings of dog breeding.
In the mid-nineteenth century, when a town councilor named Heinrich Essig created the Leonberger, a large, heavy, nowadays dark yellow dog, he was explicitly trying to breed a dog that would look like the lion on the coat of arms of his home town Leonberg. The Leonberger had no practical use. It wasn’t bred to guard sheep or drive cattle, to rouse wild game or retrieve dead poultry. It didn’t have to run alongside a coach or pull a sled; it had no palace or even a farm to guard.
So what was going on, when these new breeds first appeared? [...]
— Read the full Die Welt article by Wieland Freund, translated into English by Worldcrunch.
When a couple divorces, what happens to their pets?
Journalist Mara Resio delves into the challenges of pet custody in divorce cases for Argentine newspaper Clarín. There are many emotional and legal complexities involved, but most of all, a lack of clear guidelines. In Argentina, a Buenos Aires divorce court involving a couple with pets led to the creation of a new term to Argentine family law: "the multi-species family."
Read the full story: In Argentina, A Pet Custody Battle Leads To "Multi-Species Family" Legal Status
Ya Ya upon her return to China.
Yan Fujing/Xinhua via ZUMA
France Inter journalist Pierre Haski discusses the concept of "yaya panda diplomacy" and its shortcomings. Indeed, the loaning of pandas can be a tool for China to exert influence and gain political leverage. But sometimes, the pandas' welfare and conservation may be compromised. What about transparency and ethics?
Read the full story: Ya Ya, Between A Broken Heart And Big Chill In Giant Panda Diplomacy
Moose seen in Poland.
Patryks- Wildlife Photography via Instagram
Poland has made significant efforts to preserve its moose population through conservation initiatives, and the country has successfully revived the population through habitat protection and reintroduction programs. However, challenges arise in managing human-wildlife interactions. Overall, Poland's wildlife preservation efforts, especially regarding moose, have been commendable, as journalist Joanna Wisniowska reports for Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
Read the full story: Moose In Our Midst: How Poland's Wildlife Preservation Worked A Bit Too Well
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✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Laure Gautherin
Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!