Monthly Archives: August 2007

What the Fuck is going on in Australia?

I keep getting asked to comment on what is going on in Australia, but my response is a) WHAT is going on in Australia? I mean, when TNT Magazine rang me to comment on whether I thought the British view of Australia was outdated; wanting me, I suspect, to trash the old routines of cork hats and bbqs, in favour of the new sophistication on show at, then upcoming, Australian Film Festival in London, I was non-plussed. Yes, the British view of ‘Oz’ is outdated – and it varies interestingly according to how alert to racism people are: black friends agree its the new apartheid, white friends want to move there because of Neighbours. But my second response is b) I’ve been away 14 years, please go read some of the people writing about Australian politics who are there today. There is no excuse for cork hats, crappy movie reruns, or uninterested dismissal. Settler colonialism is rampant, the frontier is being remade. You can read whatever Pilger will come up with in his cult-journalist persona, and that would not necessarily be wrong, but you could more usefully follow the discussions of the people who tread the paths that cult-journos will not even find out about until they have their cheques signed and broadcast slot assured. So, have a look at Ange’s stuff here and Ben here where there is at least an attempt to work out what the fuck is going on in Australia.

From the second of the above links, Ben writes, in his third(fourth) instalment on the present ‘troubles':

exceptions (iii)

to discipline the colonised
There have been sporadic reports of resistance to the intervention by people in “affected areas”. Some have responded by saying these reports are further efforts to besmirch the image of Indigenous people, while others have viewed the media as suppressing stories of resistance and refusal as part of the corporate media’s agenda to deny the existence or significance of such struggles. It is genuinely hard to get a picture of what people are doing in response, and many of the forms of response and resistance will undoubtedly remain invisible to me and maybe to the intervening authorities. Will any leak in visibility or declare themselves as a rupture of compliance and a smoothly managed takeover?

Other themes I want to develop:

Purpose and form of the the NT intervention : a re-imposition of capitalist social relations – most centrally, in relation to property/ land and wage-labor/work – through government control of consumption (where and on what welfare can be spent), distribution of commodities (control of stores, policing of alcohol), reproduction/welfare (control of services, community organisations etcetera through the new “managers” powers to take over at will any uncooperative organisations), labour (work-for-the-dole in places of extremely high unemployment making the bulk of the population conscriptable into the work of the intervention itself and anything else). Managed through every type of coercion available to the state – dependence on welfare, the use of police, potential of child removal, imposition of forced labour.

Origins of the NT intervention: not out of nowhere in response to any report, but developed over time by elites such as, but not limited to, those supporting and working in the Cape York Institute, promoting quasi-neoliberalising but statist experiments in management of the Indigenous and the neo-lumpen proletariat, to be integrated into general strategies for the reproduction (and expansion) of capitalist social relations. A conservative Third Way, intensive state management combined with the imposition of money-as-command. Moral panic over child abuse as a tactic for imposition integrated into the agenda enough to maybe appear a response.

POSTED BY theoryoftheoffensive ON 08.30.07 @ 4:39 am

University Out Of Focus

Closet cleaner – from “Think” – a Melbourne University Education Action Group paper in 1988. Youthful enthusiasms!

“Forms of masking the minute moments of politics in this place: each time you accept the suggestions of institutional authority, however reasonable or justified – a writer, tutor, lecturer, professor – you blink; the numbers in your class rise from 15 to 20 to 25 and you blink; your classroom is shifted, your seminar is moved to the only time you cannot possibly come, the course you plan to take next year vanish from the handbook and you blink, the degree or major structure is changed yet again and so you blink. Each time you are called in to the office or asked to leave the room (private discussions, a regime of secrecy), each time you provide an explanation for your absence, late essay, ill-prepared seminar paper or lecture – all these are opportunities to blink. Pass the library and blink because you know they don’t stock the authors you want or need, pass the Union building and blink, go to the departmental meeting and blink, belong to a department too small to hold a meeting … and blink as the funds disappear and courses are cancelled despite larger enrollments. Blink at the price of texts, photocopying, parking spaces – blinking lights in the ugly foyers of ugly buildings with lights on the blink, blink here and now, everybody blink. The aesthetic flutter of the eyes which fail to see every moment as decisive – we are almost on the brink of staring back cold and hard, but who can keep their eyes from sliding shut…”

the rest is there to read if you click on the image.


There is nothing good to be said for where we are. All is destruction. Death and disaster. From the petty opportunism of rip offs and cheats, to the tragic death of the innocents and naïve. Teens killed on the city streets, random bombing of those far off, with ‘civilian casualties’ every day. I am sure this perpetual disaster is not pre-ordained, not prescribed, not always already anticipated in Kali-Yug, or the annals of nations (this has happened before, it will happen again). But the pigeons come home to roost in friendly fire, in the farcical rerun of Vietnam in Iraq, in the endless unwinnable wars of Afghanistan; as the criminal class lords it above, as Rome itself burns again. The horror of death that recurs throughout every imperial, colonial, commercial crime turns itself now into the annual bonus, the stock market gain, the dow/nasdaq/city index. The register of despair ignored and excused renders optimism obscene. I’ve run hours in the morning through empty streets thinking there’s no point, there’s no good reason, there’s no chance the flab will be shed, the years melt away, the prospects clear, the weather look fine, the war be over, the peace break out. I can’t tell you be patient, be strong, the good will prevail. They won’t, they’re dead. Killed in a stupid sacrificial suicidal frenzy. Thank fuck they’ve gone, now we can get on with stuff.

Sarawak Sights Rights and Might

Rio Tinto is raising money to buy Alcan (no debt crisis for the fat cats then), and there are rumblings about a plan to build a smelter in Sarawak, in conjunction with the chief minister of that jungle paradise (oops, I meant logging and mineral-extraction opportunity). I quote from the Herald Tribune of 7 August 2007. “Rio Tinto will hold a 60 percent stake in the venture to be known as Sarawak Aluminium Company. The remaining 40 percent will be owned by Cahya Mata, in which the family of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is a key shareholder”.

OK, then how strange is it that Bakun Dam issues suddenly wash downstream (Bakun electricity will power the smelter). You can read between the lines in this press release that arrived today from Suaram [MYKAD is the curiously named Pass Card/Identity card of cyber-Malaysia - old visions from Mahathir dreams come true]):

Press Statement: 24 August 2007


Dr Kua Kia Soong, a director of SUARAM was denied entry into Sarawak at 9pm, 23 August 2007. Kua, who is also principal of the community-funded New Era College, was on his way to officiate the graduation ceremony of teachers who have attained the New Era College Diploma in Education at Kuching and Sibu.

After screening Kua’s MyKad, the immigration officer at Kuching airport informed him that he had been refused entry into Sarawak because he is on the “blacklist for involvement in anti-logging activities”. From the computer reading of Kua’s MyKad, the officer also knew that Kua is a former member of parliament.

Dr Kua has been an active campaigner against the Bakun Dam project and was a member of the fact finding mission to enquire into the conditions faced by indigenous peoples displaced from the Bakun area to Sungai Asap resettlement camp in 1998.

This action by the Sarawak state government is a gross violation of Malaysians’ right to freedom of movement in their own country. How can we celebrate fifty years of independence when our state governments can arbitrarily decide to deny a Malaysian the sovereign right to move freely in their own country?

More insidious is the way the new Malaysian identity card ‘My Kad’ has become the accessory of a Malaysian police state. This is a most serious abuse of Malaysians’ human right to privacy. It is clear from this incident that the My Kad is now used to store updated information and to be used arbitrarily by the authorities without any explanation being given. The immigration officer had at first refused to divulge the reason for refusing entry to Kua. The reason was only forced out of the officer through persistent demands by Kua.

In recent years, Kua has been going in and out of Sarawak using his old identity card without being refused entry. Clearly, the new “smart” My Kad carries an entire dossier about every Malaysian and has given authorities new resolve to settle old scores!

This incident shows that all information about Malaysians is used interchangeably between federal and state governments. For certain, all government departments have access to MyKad dossier about every Malaysian. Is this dossier also available to banks and credit companies? Who decides? Do we know?

As we reach the 50th anniversary of independence, we grieve the death of our right to privacy and the coming of age of a Malaysian police state. We baulk at the fact that one who cares for the forests, resources and indigenous peoples of Malaysia can be cast out of a Malaysian state while tycoons and politicians who rape an entire forest are feted as “towering Malaysians” and patriots. This brings to mind Samuel Johnson observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel!”

Suaram condemns the Sarawak government for this arbitrary exercise of state power to refuse entry to a Malaysian who has been actively concerned to protect Sarawakian forests, resources and indigenous peoples’ rights.

Suaram calls for an explanation from the federal government regarding the information about Malaysian citizens that have been encoded in the My Kad and the extent of interchangeability of this information with other authorities and bodies.

Suaram calls on the Malaysian people to demand accountability from their government regarding the invasion of their right to privacy and an end to the makings of a police state in Malaysia.

I have more on Bakun (from Left Curve 23 1999 ‘Resettling Bakun: Consultancy, Anthropologists and Development’
and more on Rit Tinto in the categories…

Migrating University Goldsmiths to Gatwick

No Detention, No Deportation;
No Borders in Education:
Freedom of Movement for All

Migrating University, at Goldsmiths,
September 14-15th 2007;
From Goldsmiths to Gatwick.

General enthusiasm for this event is very high. A feeling of frustration, and therefore energy for exploring activist options, is strong on campus. This is the joint result of the ongoing managerialism that afflicts the ‘teaching factory’ at all levels, alongside the wider malaise of neo-liberal war-mongering imperialism/Border-ism evident in the current conjuncture, everywhere. The role of the university in relation to borders between people and knowledge, between different knowledges, between peoples, between students, between students who pay ‘overseas’ fees and those who pay too much (‘training’ for industrial gain, paid for by the student??) and the ever extended morale crush that afflicts staff… linked to the obsolescence of older ideas of ‘education’ in favour of opportunism and productivity… Exclusions and …racism, murder-death-kill… there is much good reason to explore these concerns in our workshop.

At the last meeting we had taken decisions on the date, timetable and format, five panels plus Battle of Lewisham Walk (met with them and agreed mutual co-ordination); prepared a preliminary blurb (now on CCS website [currently goldsmiths sites are down]), arranged to make a banner, booked a room, still in discussion with College over the marquee; organised with Joan Kelly to visit; linked with No Borders London and No Borders general.

Confirmed speakers so far include: Ken Fero (Injustice), David Graeber (activist anthrop), Ava Caradonna (sex worker education group), Susan Cueva (union), Sanjay Sharma (author of Multicultural Encounters), Hari Kunzru (novelist), Mao Mollona (anthropologist), Harmit Athwal (Inst Race Relations), Katherine Mann (musician), Paul Hendrich (Pirate dad) and Joan Kelly (artist).

Panels and format as it stands now [this draft is not yet confirmed]:

Migrating University – Goldsmiths 14-15 September 2007

Friday 14th September – venue room 150 and 137a Richard Hoggart Building

Room 150 RHB From 10am Tea/Coffee – welcome – stalls for No Borders Camp etc

Room 137a RHB
John Hutnyk (Goldsmiths) Introduction to the day
Camille Barbagallo (Goldsmiths) this meeting is to encourage attendance at No Borders Camp at Gatwick.

10.50 -12.55 – Panel #1 – The Teaching Factory (Chair: Leila)

Does a university education offer a passport to a world of opportunity?
Are the old exclusions of race, class, gender and ability fully redeemed by our policy initiatives and “inclusive” programs? Or is the new hierarchy a filtering mechanism promising precarious labour for some, security and success for others? While some may never question their right to access, do some have to fight to move at all and others struggle daily simply to pass or fail?
This panel asks if education is really a social good, a pass to freedom; or if it is rather a ticket to a new set of subjugations?

Ash Sharma (University of East London)
Massimo de Angelis (university of East london)
Paul Hendrich (Goldsmiths)

12.55-2.30pm – Picnic on Back Field/in tent or inside if rain. With Bolivian group (Emma)

2.30-4.00 – Panel #2 – Critical Pedagogy (Chair: Francisco)

Critical pedagogy (CP) questions the relationship between education and politics, between socio-political relations and pedagogical practices, in short: the correspondence between power hierarchies in the social world and the hierarchies that mark and define educational institutions at large. Moreover it challenges the ubiquitous desire of policy makers for a non-politicized, neutral educational context, free of all social and cultural conflict.

Sanjay Sharma (Brunel University) – author of (2007) “Multicultural Encounters”.
Glenn Rikowski (University of Northampton) – author of “The Battle in Seattle” (2001)
Tom Woodin (Institute of Education, University of London)
Patrick Ainley (University of Greenwich)

4.15-6.00 – Panel #3 – Organising in the Margins (Chair: Olivia)

Migration means traversing boundaries: between nations, between legality and illegality. This panel is about organising those in the seams and the struggles for justice for those who suffer or die in such gaps.

Ava Caradonna (Sex Workers’ Union)
What does it mean to organise the unorganisable? What does union organising mean to people who are not considered workers, or who don’t necessarily consider what they do ‘work’, ‘illegal’ or worthy of stigma? How do unions take seriously the need to organise migrants workers? How can unionism be done differently in this context? Ava Caradonna will discuss such questions and campaigns relating to them.

Susan Cueva (UNISON)
Is a life-long union activist in the Philippines and UK with experience of organising the invisible, from seafarers to street cleaners. Today’s talk includes information about UNISON campaigns seeking fair terms for migrant workers affected by swings in Home Office policy on work permits.

Ken Fero (Injustice)
A short, Youtube, version of Injustice – a film about the struggles for justice by the families of people who have died in police custody – and accompanying talk by the film’s maker.

6.15 – meeting upstairs in Goldsmiths Tavern about collective attendance at Gatwick.

7.00-9.00 Joan Marie Kelly (Singapore) for workshop upstairs in Tavern (drinks).

Topic: Foreign workers in Singapore and the use of art as contact and transformation

Saturday 15th September – Venue: Cinema Richard Hoggart Building.

From 10am Tea/Coffee – welcome – point to stalls for No Borders Camp etc

10.30-12.30. Panel #4 – Critical Practice Inside and Out (Chair: John)

It is believed there was once a time when the University was a place where there thrived a rampant intelligence that was preoccupied with something more than just cramming.

Hari Kunzru (Novelist – author of “My Revolutions” (2007)
David Graeber (Goldsmiths)
Mao Mollona (Goldsmiths)
Sukant Chandan (freelance journalist and political analyst)

1.00-2.30 Panel #5 – Local Checkpoints (Chair: Camille)

Harmit Athwal (Institute of Race Relations)
Katherine Mann (Musician)
Almir Koldzic (Refugee Week)

2.30 Quick lunch

3pm-6pm: “Battle of Lewisham commemorative walk”

- a walk along the route of the march/counter-protest against the NF in 1977, including people involved at the time. At present this will start from Clifton Rise, New Cross at 3. (info/liaison with Paul).

19-24 September O7 – No Borders Camp at Gatwick

From 19th to 24th September 07 we will gather at Gatwick Airport for the first
No Border Camp in the UK. This camp will be a chance to work together to try
and stop the building of a new detention centre, and to gather ideas for how to
build up the fight against the system of migration controls.

Wednesday 19th
Arriving at Camp Site.
Thursday 20th
Workshops, Welcome-Event in Crawley.
Friday 21st
Workshops, Gathering at Lunar House, Croydon
Saturday 22nd
Workshops, Demonstration from Crawley town centre to Tinsley House Detention
Centre, next to the building site of Brook House (Background Info).
International day of Action.
Afternoon: International Forum.
Sunday 23rd
Workshops and Forum.
Monday 24th
End of the No Border Camp.

Click to join migrating_uni

Here is again the 1857 site, which now carries videos from the Manchester conference which are great – informative discussion of links between 1857 and imperialism today (oil, Iraq [EIC was in Basra from 1863], definition of terrorism, evaluations of Marx as journalist of 1857 etc). There is a good two hours to watch, but its informative and worth the time.

Check here for:

*The Historical Significance of 1857 by Kalpana Wilson (South Asia Solidarity Group. Speach in 1857′
*Nick Robins in 1857’s 150 years anniversary in Manchester by 1857 committee
*Q and A 1 in 1857’s 150 years anniversary in Manchester by 1857 committee
*Folk Songs of 1857: D. Ajaz, (Author Kaal Bolaindi – folksongs sung today from the 1857 uprising in Kaal Bolaindi – folksongs sung today from the 1857 uprising
*Iraq-East India Co. (1763-Factory established in Basra) to Halliburton by Hani Lazim
*Q and A 2 in 1857’s 150 years mnniversary in Manchester by 1857 committee
*Ayesha Siddiqa Speech in 1857’s 150 years anniversary in Manchester

Older comments here and article here.

Murder-death-kill on the TV news

In order to feed Goldsmiths people and enthusiasm into the No Borders Camp at Gatwick (19-24 Sept), we want to organise a workshop at Goldsmiths the weekend before, called Migrating University (14-15th Sept). It will include a session which will be a walk along the route of the Battle of Lewisham 1977 30th anniversary of the NF march in our area (see pic), but also other topics, debates, themes of relevance… (watch this space).

But in the meantime, I am somewhat stuck on this task of writing a general blurb for the workshops. Stuck I guess until we have sentences on each of the proposed panels. Lazy of mind, I’ve been haphazardly thinking about a statement on what this could be all about. To what degree can we feed Goldsmiths people and enthusiasm into the No Borders camp at Gatwick anyway? And to what degree might Migrating University become a wider educational project in itself – something that happens in other locations later…?

Themes for Goldsmiths: Problems and issues to be addressed include asylum support, campaigns against detention, civil rights and surveillance, knowledge and the state; anti-racism, media racisms, xenophobia; militarism, patriotism; technology and activism; economic migration and coercion, immaterial and precarious labour; institutional support, the teaching factory; questions of Access (fees, credentialism, openness); idea of multicultural education (really multicultural education would imply students write in their own languages, or that ‘home’ students write in other languages [idealist]); open source and digital commons; transformation of the university from old collegiate model, through mass ed to corporate agenda; radicalism and dissent, public/community engagement with citadels of knowledge; critical curriculum, pedagogy; trades union, organisations, non-academic staff, local governance, NGOs, community involvement, outreach[?]; idea of critique (Kant) versus radical criticism of everything that exists (Marx)…

Since this is based in a university, even if we are looking towards the No Borders Camp proper, can we nevertheless bring the internationalism of left movements into the disciplinary formations of the academy? – in order to wake up to relevance and engagement rather than the old ivory indulgence of credentialism or the new commercial opportunism of the teaching factory?

Murder-death-kill on the TV news every night, detentions and the eclipse of civil liberty here, and bombing campaigns for democracy abroad. Quietism is not an option.

Updated plans HERE

Join the discussion:
Click to join migrating_uni

Robots on Opportunism and Hierarchy

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The first premise of Battlestar Galactica – that Cylons rebel against their creators – is the same concern that drives science fiction from the start, and perhaps its high point is Asimov and the three laws of robotics. Think of Roy in Bladerunner, more human that Deckard by some distance. Think of the character Bishop in Aliens, played by Lance Henrikson; or of Call in Alien Resurrection, played by Winona Ryder. Think of the Borg (go team). Why do such beings get such a hard time? Is it because we worry that if artificial intelligence can exceed human thought we are doomed as obsolete and redundant, etc. I suspect something more sinister is really behind this fear of manchines. Isn’t it a worry that there might be something about knowledge (intelligence, techne, wisdom, meaning) that exceeds the capacities of an individual mind, and thus suggests the collective rules. To worry about this is valid, but to fear it is perhaps already an ideological choice that favours both an individualist and simultaneously hierarchical opportunist thinking: that promotes the good of one over the well-being of all. Marx offers a notion of the general intellect. This might be taken as a simile of A.I., if we allow that science fiction is a fantasy projection of real world concerns into space.If so, isn’t it the case that fear of robotics is the distorted manifestation of fear of a planned economy that would harness the general intellect for the good of all. The struggle over new media today is also about the deployment of ‘artificial’ – general – intelligence in the service of some (corporate power) or all (planned economy). So far the robots are caught within Asimov’s constraints.

What Galactica does is add a gods-bothering dimension to this A.I. – which for mine is the equivalent of touching faith in open source. The parameters of individualism and hierarchy are not thereby disrupted.

Maybe we are obsolete. The survivors on New Caprica, struggling to breed and scratching in the dirt, are dehumanized, life becomes barely worth living, suicide attacks become plausible (when the Cylons occupy). Only the organised rebels have agency, and yet they too send their own to death.

Can we argue that where Bladerunner and the later Alien films displace race issues into a blaming of the corporation (Tyrell Corp, The Weyland-Yutani Company) for greed, opportunism, evil, Galactica instead illustrates a later digital mode of the same argument, with corresponding post-apocalyptic mode of production and power? The reimagined, digital new model Cylons have potentials that belong to what many would call totalitarian, but with a general intellect, a planned total economy, decision making by think tank cabals, and shiny slick friends… spuriously called toasters by the obsolete humanoids.

The question for the humans faced with extinction then has to do with Deckard’s old fashioned bad cop complicity/opportunity syndrome – do you kill all replicants without remorse, or look for your chance to escape on your own (with Rachel)?

Funuke domo kanashimi no Ai o Misero

AKA: Funuke, Show some love you losers!

Its really hot (humid hot). What to do? Attack the cinema (joy of air-con in a big room).

‘Funuke domo kanashimi no Ai o Misero’ is at first sight a slender tale, yet it tries to do for the dysfunctional family what “To Die For” did for love and romance (wasn’t Nicole almost good in that?). Funuke… rips it up with a weirdly dark sweetness. Everything is adorable but scary. The lead actress (Sumika, played by Eriko Sato) is obsessive but cute; incestuous and slutty, yet with innocence and charm; a gangster/yakuza moll, but also a high school sweetheart and loving sister. The rural wife is a mix of the witch/demon of Monkey stories and the castrator in Oshima’s “In the Realm of the Senses”. The male of the piece – after the debt-ridden patriarch is flattened even before his first scene (we see him in retrospect) – is a bad tempered, spoiled fool, manipulated by his half-sister (Sato), and in the end an honourable suicide. The younger sister, a manga writer just about to break big (Kiyomi: Aimi Satsukawa) turns out to be the chronicler of the very saga we have been witnessing.

So its funny. Does it tell us much about contemporary Japan [as national allegory Fred Jameson?)? Are men on the way out of the picture as this film would have it? Are women going slightly batty trying to have both a glamorous girly career and having to out-bastard even the Yakuza to get by?

The main idea is that talent/manga writing skills could be the meal ticket to the bright lights, just as once upon a time that path was via a Tokyo acting job (Sumiko’s director fantasy figure is straight out of the 60s auteur ‘I-wanna-meet-Kurosawa’ tradition – and the guy even looks a little like a young Kon Ichikawa). I guess this is plausible, but it rather ignores the interim achievements of Takeshi, Miike, Hara Kuzuo and Kon himself (at least the cinema was cool, half empty, but cool).

But that teenager was wicked, not cool. Certainly she (little sister Kiyomi) steals the show in what should have been an acting vehicle for Sato. The youngster playing Kiyomi (Satsukawa) has all the emotion. The half-brother/sister sex scenes are ok for atmosphere, but clearly/thankfully cannot be too explicit (kissing and a bare torso). Yet even this is not acting enough – the irony of the screen test scene where big sister fails to learn her lines or ‘prepare’ is telling. I guess we are supposed too enjoy this irony, but I’d be more keen to try to work out if there are any reflections to be made on the back of this psycho-social set up in the film insofar as it is related to the way the present historical conjuncture of capitalist-culture-industry Japan might be named. Not that reflection theory is all that credible – I guess a film can go against the times/or subvert the predicted allegorical code – but what if this scenario did say something profound about the country today?

What if this were an example of Otaku (nerd?) culture (manga sex/violence, superflat, Hikikomori) going mainstream? The other big film at the moment in Tokyo is transformers – I’ve said earlier that I enjoyed Toshiya Ueno’s examination of the transformation problem of former leftists into conservative producers of mass content market fare like that movie (must go see). What if there is more to be said about the gendered politics of manga authorship – relate this to the young women in battle Royale 1 & 2 – and some sort of angular version of feminism that I’m afraid is as opaque to me as the ubiquitous cos-play girls dressed up as Bo-Peep, but with lip and eye-brow piercings. There is surely a market out there for such stories/parables/mixes.

So it might make sense to ask why just now a certain version of family values are both affirmed and disrupted, as they are in this film (Funuke…). The sisters and sister-in-law all work hard at mending the family situation, damaged by, in turn, debt, distorted sexuality, and the intrusions of the culture industry: – in brief, the patriarch bequeathes debt; the wannabe actress seduces her half-brother (compensation dating – Enjo kosai – gone wrong?); the younger sister uses the family drama as material for her mainstream schlock manga debut.

There are scholars of Japanese culture and politics much better versed in all ways than I to talk about the significance of the financial crisis, family breakdowns and the culture industry (see Takashi Murakami’s “Little Boy” project and critiques thereof) but this does at least resonate with what little I do know of recent Japanese history. The years of stagnation have indeed put a strain on many families even as creative cultural production has been robust (Japan style!). This film then really does seem to conform.

And we haven’t even got to the main plot device of the film, which is a series of letters that never get delivered. Much could be made of this by Lacanians, Derrideans, but I am also interested to note that the letters sent by the fantacist actress to her imagined director are intercepted by little sister Kiyomi because she works at the post office in a part time capacity (what did Heidegger do in the war dad?). It would be wrong to restrict her labour here to precarious, since ther is no reason but maliciousness for her to intercept the letters, but its not insignificant that the plot runs on a writing machine that does not communicate to its intended audience. the ostensible lead ‘actress’ is supplanted by the scene-stealing (manga) writer. Is this then a film addressed to women or men? To aspiring actors/manga writers, or to director/editors. At the end the message is dessicated – the letters torn to scraps by Sumika and the loony in-law – but that is the point of this red-letter day. Am I as insane as witchy-cutie-doll-maker sister-in-law if I suggest that behind the code of this film is a Marxist critique of contemporary Japan? Of debt, careerism and the baleful exploitation of the precarious creative labour of youth? Unfortunately my experience of the Japanese Communist Party does not assure me that such critiques are popular within the organized left, but perhaps among filmmakers (or novelists like Yukiko Motoya who wrote the book)? By now I have somehow decided I really like this film – and that’s what’s wrong with reflection theory: you end up thinking the correspondences between capitalism and cinema are intended. Brilliant, but probably wrong.

Back to the summer now.

No Justice for Menezes

Here is a taster (links not imported) from Lenin’s Tomb… It really is worth going to visit to follow the linkings:

“From the second Menezes was murdered, the police have pulled every means to protect themselves. They have lied about the circumstances of the shooting, they lied about who knew what and when, they lied about and smeared Menezes, they threatened a whistleblower. They sent the killers on a paid holiday, and then the CPS refused to prosecute. Now, the IPCC has produced/leaked its report, after having been altered due to legal threats from the police. …

The IPCC’s report focuses on the aftermath of the shooting, rather than the shooting itself: it is about the issue of who knew what, and when. Its conclusion gives Sir Ian Destroy The Brain Instantly Utterly Blair a free ride, insisting – quite incredibly in my view – that he was ignorant of what had really happened, despite several of his subordinates knowing exactly what happened. AC Andy Hayman is said to have lied to his boss about whether the victim was known to be among the four suspects, thus withholding information that he would certainly have to provide very soon, and that the Commissioner could certainly get from someone else in the organisation. No serious person could believe this. Hayman appears to have been behind a number of decisions, including the issue of a misleading press release on the day of the shooting, despite the fact that it had become clear before the release was issued that the dead person was Menezes and that he was not a suspect. Undoubtedly there was attempted deceit from top to bottom, but this inquiry has presumably done what it was supposed to: handed the public and the Menezes family a single head, for one part of the crime.

No criminal charges have been brought, there has been no public inquiry, and there is to be no change of policy. And this is important: the whole point behind the police’s outrageous conduct during this affair has been not only to defend the institution, but also to ensure that the policy is not questioned. Every bit of quackery from Ian Blair, every obnoxious intervention from ‘experts’ like Peter Powers, every diversion and red herring, has been pushed with the specific intention of maintaining the police’s range of extraordinary powers. And of course, only months after the shooting, the police were permitted to use shoot-to-kill in domestic and stalking cases. The team that killed Menezes would strike again. And let’s not forget that another victim of police shooting has been calumnied as a terrorist who was actually shot by his own brother, and as an evil paedophile. Anyone can be shot at, slandered, lied about, beaten, tormented – anything to keep that fucking policy in place.

Full post here.

More Menezes here.

Dr Who


OK, I’m having a Lost in Translation moment here in my hotel. Boring. Despite a wonderful dinner with Toko (oysters, crayfish, more oysters), later here in my room I’ve been sucked into the vortex that is internet TV replays of old Doctor Who episodes. Specifically the “Destiny of the Daleks” with Lalla Ward (oh, and Tom Baker in a supporting role). Lalla Ward is just excellent, and this episode is her first. Not her best, but evidence that she will triumph. By far the smartest sexiest timelord to have ever left the fabled shores of Galifrey. Tom Baker cannot be resurrected, reimagined, reanimated, as the new BBC bland series proves, and the assistants are usually smarter, but it took Lalla to go one better than Tom. About ten years ago he was writing evil children’s (?) books of not uncomplicated quality…

This episode is crucial. It even predicts the future reimagined version (with Billie Piper) where Daleks can levitate – though it does not yet let them do so. All sorts of discussions here are possible that would rehabilitate the Daleks as resistance, as hybrid beings, and as an organised political force (we have so few examples of that). What it does have that boggles the mind though is the Daleks as suicide bombers. Provoked, no doubt, by the opposition and the antics of the fabled Doctor, but fanatical nonetheless. Of course they fail, but Davros lives on…

I cannot recall what geo-political context would have been relevant to the making of this particular episode, but Davros resurrected, and the Daleks caught in a fratricidal stalemate with another race/brand of robots, might make some people wonder if we do not have a commercial conflict allegory here. Oooh, or a stalemate between two superpower android races, fighting it out with missles in space – I expected Gorbochov and Reagan to appear as extras at the end (or maybe doing the voiceover on the extras dvd). Anyway, before despatching the kamakaze robots with a twist of his screwdriver, the good doctor had proposed peace, though he also offers an endgame option: the first side to turn off their computers and act ‘illogically’ will win. End of the evil empire assured then.

Daleks come from the planet Skaro/Skaled – it seems obvious now – and they are fanatical ideologically programmed automatons that clearly have no good reason to still want the service updates the time-ravaged (secondary life systems operational, suspension of organs, thousand year sleep) computer nerd Davros can offer them. So, while the anti-Soviet parable is a bit thin today, back then I guess it worked as some sort of parody of detente, but its more interesting now to maybe see it as an indictment of the militarization of all defence forces, cyborg enhancements, and new media regimentations, tooling the troops up as mere secondary content for a machine philum wanting to take over everything, crazed calculations of a Dr Strangelove like figure trading longevity for human primacy, and eventually the consequence that google rules all/uber alles.

Nothing will survive, the Daleks will Exterminate, Ex-ter-MINATE, EXTERMINATE…


This is for the very wonderful Camille and Nick:

Derrida, in his last interview, added a parenthesis as the text was going to press:

“I just mentioned ‘secularism’. Please allow me a long parenthesis here. It is not about the veil at school but the veil of ‘marriage’. I unhesitatingly supported and endorsed with my signature the welcome and courageous initiative taken by Noel Mamere, even though same-sex marriage is an example of that great tradition inaugurated by Americans in the nineteenth century under the name of civil disobedience: not defiance of the Law but disobedience with regard to some legislative provision in the name of a better or higher law – whether to come or already written in the spirit of the constitution [Mamere presided over the first same sex marriages in France - relieved of his duties, unions annulled by the courts, vive la republique!]. And so I signed in this current legislative context because it seems to me unjust for the rights of homosexuals, as well as hypocritical and ambiguous in both letter and spirit. If I were a legislator [JD!], I would propose simply getting rid of the word and concept of ‘marriage’ in our civil and secular code. ‘Marriage’ as a religious, sacred, heterosexual value – with a vow to procreate, to be eternally faithful, and so on – is a concession made by the secular state to the Christian church, and particularly with regard to monogamy, which is neither Jewish (it was imposed upon Jews by Europeans only in the nineteenth century and was not an obligation just a few generations ago in Jewish Maghreb), nor, as is well known, Muslim. By getting rid of the word and concept of ‘marriage’, and thus this ambiguity or this hypocrisy with regard to the religious and the sacred – things that have no place in a secular constitution – one could put in their place a contractual ‘civil union’, a sort of generalized pacs, one that has been improved, refined, and would remain flexible and adaptable to partners whose sex and number would not be prescribed. As for those who want to be joined in ‘marriage’ in the strict sense of the term – something, by the way, for which my respect remains totally intact – they would be able to do so before the religious authority of their choosing. This is already the case in certain countries where religiously consecrated same-sex marriages are allowed. Some people might thus unite according to one mode or the other, some according to both, others according to neither secular law nor religious law. So much for my little conjugal paragraph. It’s utopic, but I’m already setting a date!”

There are some problems still – why anyone should be forced, by reasons of administrative necessity, to get the state involved in their relationship is beyond me, but nevertheless, with Derrida on his last legs, he’s still tripping up the legislators in a elegant and amusing way. This excerpt is from a La Monde interview of August 19 2004, translated as “Learning to Live Finally: the Last Interview” pages 43-44 (2007 Melville House Publishing). [See also c for all my Derridizations - though Bad Marxism has three chapters of critique too].

Anthropology lite benchmarking

The bureaucrats of academe have been busy, scheming up formulas to amuse themselves, to justify their tedious employment, to require still further employment of ever more and more of their own, and to reconstruct the world in the dull tones and mediocre lack of enthusiasm which governed their own choices of career. I admit that the following rant may seem slightly intemperate…

Far too late on a very humid and hot evening, I started reading the draft QAA [Quality Assurance Apparatus or some such] benchmark document that has been prepared for Anthropology as a university level discipline, but I am appalled. While I can see some convenience in having a bunch of bland statements to dump into programme specification documents that no-one ever reads and which do not govern good teaching or research in any discipline (as far as I can tell – though there may be some automatons out there who believe otherwise), the general tone and the idea that this should pass without censure is, erm, somewhat worrying… Where to start?

OK. A couple of pages in and absolutely no mention of politics, let alone of colonialism, imperialism etc. The constant refrain is “the social, cultural and biological diversity of humans”. This wouldn’t even cut it as New Labour rhetoric. I started reading 3.3 and wanted to gag – the list of subdivision there is traumatising – I can only hope that most anthropologists I know fall under the subdivision ‘and others’. Only by 3.5 does politics get a mention, and even then relegated to the nether end of a continuum that starts with kinship, and the rest of the paragraph is some waffle about the difference between North American and British anth. Is this really something anyone would want to benchpress (benchmark, whatever)? If Goldsmiths accedes to this version of anth, I think its a light-weight cop-out.

The following two clauses are outright lies: 3.10 & 3.11.

“3.10 Many anthropologists engage in applied and policy aspects of the subject and advise government and non-government organisations, health, social welfare and development agencies, the media and legal professions.
3.11 Relative to the size of the discipline, anthropology has had a disproportionate influence on many social, economic and political policies for much of the twentieth century, and can be expected to do so in the twenty-first century”

Which anthropologists have a disproportionate influence on policies, of which governments? At best they are ignored, not even commenting on big brother… Mostly harmless as the Hitchhikers Guide would have it.

3.16 Ethnomusicology sounds insipid. Whadayamean ‘as well as musical analysis’?? An afterthought?

I’m still looking for anything that might make it possible to include, say, Talal Asad’s great book ‘On Suicide Bombing’ as part of this versioning of anthro.

Far too many paragraphs on biological anthropology. Is this symptomatic of a certain anxiety? A brief mention of its relative insignificance in all but a couple of departments would suffice.

.. as I scroll down it just gets worse. I can barely read it…

No I can’t read any more, its utterly dire. Who on earth cobbled together this mish mash of halting postmodern undecidability and rampant unreconstructed empiricism? This does not describe a discipline for the twentieth century, let alone the 21st. Fifty years ago maybe this would be ok if it were a matter of offering up the ideological support (handmaiden) of colonialism argument for some sort of devil’s bargain deal that helped an embattled few survive, but in today’s context where culture has become industry, where clash of civilizations is the rhetoric of state, where murder-death-kill is played out on our screens every day, this version of anthro would not even do as absent-minded dimwitted complicity with (pimping for) imperialism; and I fully expect those in the know at Haliburton, the mining industry, the pharmaceutical companies, and the opportunists in charge of education funding – all of them will be doubled over laughing at this. I think its is the surest way to get anthro pensioned off to the pastures of irrelevance. Insipid compliance is not necessary, and need not be tolerated. Abolition/cancellation of programs loom as a consequence. Whatever whatever whatever happened to a critical anthropology that posed a challenge,that changed minds? Why can that not be articulated? Why was it buried so deep as to disappear? I don’t believe that fight is over, but this text makes me think it may now be.

OK, This deserves a more detailed treatment, especially where students of anthropology are recruited as participants in this versioning. I wonder which students were consulted. For mine, I welcome the opportunity to have a say, but it might be just some late night random whiskey fuelled rant – anyway, its something I wanted to share. Since this is a public document (here), I feel its existence is a threat to all who have a lasting commitment to a critical version of scholarship, and so silence and compliance are not an option.

Oh, and check out the web page of QAA where this doc appears – there’s a picture of some students working at – wait for it – a bench. From above. In response, I post Malinowski’s tent on the beach (see pic). Bits of this tent are now for sale on ebay.

Red Salute.


Eli Wong has done a great job in acknowledgement of Antonioni’s passing, with some must see clips to boot. See here.


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