Monthly Archives: January 2008

Paul Hendrich

I can’t reconcile this at all – impossible and horrible that we (all crushed) have lost another great comrade. I can’t see how he had the time, but Paul was often a commentator on this blog. But importantly – among so very very much else that’s nearly impossible to list – Paul was key to organising so many events, actions, interventions. Small examples I saw – he was an instrumental voice in preparing the Migrating University/No Borders conference at Goldsmiths in September last year. The year before he was involved with the declaration of the traffic island in New cross as a site of buried treasure, pirate picnics and other free events on behalf of the Town Hall Pirates group he’d started. He helped open the “Failing Better” conference at Goldsmiths with his talk on the town hall slaver statues in 2006… and… annnd… more and more (see below)… I remember him best as the energy behind the Battle of Lewisham 77 walk and subsequent conference – seeing him at the organising meetings for these events with his usual unstoppable enthusiasm. Of course it took a lorry to stop him… That he can just be dead is incomprehensible, terrible, wrong.

The picture accompanying this post shows Paul in key position, immediately beside the megaphone at an activist event he orchestrated. This is the Battle of Lewisham walk, just outside the New Cross Inn. A sunny day in September.

Sophie Day – head of Anthropology Department, said to repost her letter below. I do so with a heavy heavy heart… and growing anger at the very personal way life is conspiring to take the best away from us. Thoughts to his wife Sasha and tiny daughter Agatha.

Dear All,

This is the letter I have sent to other Heads of Department for circulation to colleagues and students.

I am writing to tell you the very sad news of Paul Hendrich’s death. He was killed in a bicycle accident yesterday (Wednesday 16th January).

Many of you knew Paul and his death is a deep loss to us all. Paul was a very special person with some extremely rare qualities. His life was committed to engaging an everyday struggle against racism. His dissertation for the MA Applied Anthropology and Community and Youth Work, ‘Charting a new course for Deptford Town Hall’ (2006), developed through a campaign he initiated with the student union and led to further work commemorating the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade, including the Sankofa Reconciliation Walk in chains to Deptford Town Hall that he organised. He then hosted a conference at Goldsmiths to commemorate the Battle of Lewisham. Just before he died, he began a refugee health drop-in service in South London. Paul held a passionate belief that anthropology could and should be used for, and rethought through, the struggle against racism and it is this that guided his engagement with academia and his commitment to youth work. He deeply touched the lives of the staff and students at Goldsmiths as well as community activists by his commitment to this cause through campaigns, talks and conferences that he organised and participated in.

Paul completed his Masters with a distinction, a fact that he was quietly proud of, especially since he was the first person in his family to go to university. His brilliant dissertation will be published in the April issue of Anthropology Matters with an editorial from Alpa Shah. Goldsmiths Anthropology was particularly fortunate that Paul decided to pursue a PhD with us. At the time of his death, he was preparing to sail to Arizona, USA to research the various forms of activism that have taken shape around undocumented cross-border migration of Mexicans into the US.

Paul’s enthusiasm, generosity, kindness and inclusiveness drew everyone he met into the broader issues that he was thinking about and working on and those who were fortunate to know him could appreciate what a great youth worker he was and what a great field researcher he would have been. Paul’s research would have continued to make us rethink the theoretical and practical issues of engaging anthropology as praxis, and his death will be deeply mourned throughout Goldsmiths.

Paul was 36 years old; he was married to Sasha and had a one-year old daughter, Agatha. Sasha returned to work from maternity leave last week.

We shall write to Sasha shortly and are happy to forward letters you would like to send independently. Please mark envelopes for Sasha and leave at the Anthropology Office. We are organising a collection to which you are all invited to contribute via Sam Kelly (s.m.kelly@gold.ac.uk), which we shall forward to Sasha on Monday 28th January.

I shall write again as soon as we have news about the funeral arrangements.

I am sure you all join us in extending deep sympathy to Paul’s family,

Sophie Day on behalf of the Anthropology Department

Paul/visit of Pirates to New Cross Island

Paul/Migrating University (including translations which Paul helped collect).

Paul/Town Hall Trauma of History, See the forthcoming April issue of Anthropology Matters for Paul’s writing on this.

UPDATE:

memorial -
saturday 9th February 10.30 start in Great Hall Goldsmiths

and reception 3-6pm at Lansdowne Youth Centre

.

Bus Prowlers

Another bus dragnet style check on the 436 route today – about 25 police, ticket inspectors and officious looking I presume immigration inspectorate types stopping buses and examining all passengers, paying particular attention to profile groups.

This sort of sting is another perverse pantomime terror, targeting commuters on racial grounds under cover of ticket-checks and ‘protecting’ the citizenry from the threat of terror – the suburban terror threat on the 436 from Lewisham to Paddington. Pah.

Of course they spend half their day standing around chewing the fat (see pic) but this sort of swoop happens too often without comment. And we have to do more than heckle.

Talk to me

Thinking I did not have enough to be annoyed about, I went to an anthropology conference. Disturbing – a battering of oft-rehearsed routinization that seemed decidedly anti-communist anti-socialist anti-intellectual and certainly anti-interdisciplinary (these are not the same complaints) – even if I liked hearing old routines drawn from the archive that is Meyer-fortes, Durkheim and Weber, spiced up with mischievous sub-Kantian platitudes – the main problem with anthropologists is that they only ever seem to want to talk to themselves, saying to a room with a mixed crowd (well, mixed in terms of affiliation, certainly not mixed in other ways…) um, saying things like: ‘as anthropologists we need to do x or y’ and – stunning this – calling for anthropologists to ‘study up’ [what, 30 years after Laura Nader?]. But with someone also suggesting that maybe anthropologists cannot really study capitalists because an anthropologist should love their informants and ‘we’ don’t love capitalists. Crikey. I had to leave after three hours.

[pic of 'my' tribe, 'Preger Clinic Middleton Row 1988. See Rumour]

YO YO FUNDING

With the UK Government and the Opposition in crisis over dodgy fat cat donations, and the university in crisis for lack of cash – not donations (a massive tax on corporations should fund the training programs) I was reminded of this pretty little trinket – see pic – that sort of speaks for itself. Collected by Dr Atticus Che Narain at an advice day run by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) some years ago. There were ‘oooh, a few’ scholarships available to ‘oooh, a lot’ of people who wanted them. Education for the already rich, or for those forced to beg – this is not a way forward, however slick your branding strategy. Anyway, the yo-yo gimmick they were handing out says it all – we could complain about funding and selective streamed alpha beta drone higher education restructuring – but we all know its a game of here it is, no its not… up yours and down the hatch. Giggledy piggery fuckin stupidity. [- you can so tell I am enjoying filling out grant application forms today eh?]

Writing Muslim Culture


I follow comments on trinketization to find new things. The Tasneem Project is a blog about Muslims in Britain but also a novel in waiting. Its erudite author writes:

“I’m writing a novel. It’s called THE TASNEEM PROJECT. I’ve been messing about with creative fiction for years, but recently I’ve started pulling stuff together. This is the blurb on the cover sheet for the agent/publisher: Part autoethnography, part postmodern science fantasy, part Tafsir (Quranic Exegesis), The Tasneem Project chronicles the thoughts and travels of new-age Muslim Eschar Eschar and his band of off-beat time-space investigators, whose pursuit of arch-criminal Ofelo Pandect Godoid leads them onto an obscure, post-apocalyptic timeline fifteen thousand years hence, to witness a spiritually famished remnant of humanity recover one of the most mysterious and beautiful books in the history of the Universe, The Glorious Qur’an. But is this a second revelation, or a mirror of a million others? And can Eschar escape the wrath of the darkest of all religious fanatics, the High Mufti of Nottingwood?”

And then I read something that is truly strange, but somewhat gratifying: that A Postcolonial People has an afterlife:

“I want to spice this dialogue up and give it some depth. One aide de pense is a collection of essays called ‘A Postcolonial People: South Asians In Britain,’ edited by Ali, Kalra and Sayyid. I want Lanky to be a vehicle for discussing some of the ideas in this book, which has a different take on the topic compared to most academic tomes, combining at it does scholarly writings with first person narratives”.

The rest of this post is here, the rest of the blog is invaluable. Look here.

Absolute Beginners

We all know something was wrong with TV in the 1980s, making plastic looking sensibilities and emo-before-the-fact affect something particularly special. We would have to call this a complex quivver with pastel tonality, level five. Watching the Julian Temple film “Absolute Beginners”, with Patsy Kensit, David Bowie, Ray Davies, James Fox, and Tony Hyppolite as Mr Cool tonight. Fun.

Seeing it now, the sideways commentary on the Notting Hill ‘riots’ and mockery of British fascism is strange, but worthy. Tributes to West Side Story are the least of the referential codex. Mr Cool offers Colin a non-too subtle 80s style spliff while Sade sings ‘Killer Blow’. There’s stuff about crap housing, dodgy developers. a critique of roller-posh, a love story that redeems the teddy scat beatnik nexus. Incomprehensible now that Bowie was involved, even as he played a dodgy thin white supremicist duke ‘seller of dreams’. Creepy.

The story is from Colin MacInnes’s novel of the same name, and Temple fresh from his early Pistols docs does something else, the Fine Young Cannibals get a look in, and Eddie O’Connell (as Colin) does a great job of the young hip malchick-afor-the-letter.

If only Big Jill and Suzette (Kensit) had more scenes together – they could’ve been friends (and that would have saved her from life with Liam Gallagher and too many Man City away days). Not enough time with Ray as Colin’s dad, having lost his kinks, and Robbie Coltrane as ‘dadio’ Mario the sterotyped storekeeper – I guess we could have had more of that.

But its Steven Berkoff as some sort of Enoch Powell nasty racist uber-orator who is the point of the whole confection. The seller of dreams and Berkoff as one and the same (bastard) kind must be run out of town. So this film works for me because of its welcome unsubtle anti-racism. Plastic critiques of fascism seem somehow very very 80s, but they redeem the decade in a way we could learn much from for the present. You can remember/see how close the brown shirts were/are if you think of the naivety of Geldof’s do-gooder mobilisation and the tubthumping that is Radio Ga Ga. We need Resolute Beginnings now more than ever.

The Evolution of Film


I seem to have accumulated a disproportionate bunch of notes on one chapter. Not quite a review… a summary [with crit in square brackets] of Janet Harbord’s ‘Innocent Monsters: film and other media’ in her “The Evolution of Film: Rethinking Film Studies” 2007 Polity Press.

In a book critical of foundational, fixed, homogeneous, located notions of film – ‘film isn’t what it used to be’ – Janet Harbord pursues an expanded notion of what film is when it escapes the cinema, starting in this chapter [I’m only reading chapter 5 here] with an archive of images of terror [not detailed] ‘stacked and layered on top of each other’ (118) in Hoolbooms ‘Imitation of Life’ (2003).

She asks if we might reconfigure the story of the decline of cinema (no more celluloid products) as a story of escape? The escape of film, not of us – escaping from fixed, viewer controlled (the view decodes and digests) contingency, escape from the cinema hall… So that film haunts new spaces, walks the streets like the uncanny zombie resurrection [not unlike fetish objects with their own lives and brains].

The question of the constructed nature of the non-human world arises – the model of human construction has no dynamism, maybe the non-human is not to be reduced: is the alterity of the non-human irreducible to human experience, as claimed as foundation for those who deploy the concept of affect (120)? Affect defies distinction between emotional response and rational comprehension, conscious and unconscious, mind and body. Affect belongs to sensory apprehension of rampant image-based multinational capital (cites Deleuze translator Brian Massumi) in a post-grand narrative, post ‘belief’ realm –as pursued by intensity theorists – Deleuze, Bergson, Spinoza.

This appeals to Capitalism since it attracts but does not fix. Capital today is shifty, always seeking renewal [wasn’t it always?]

Harbord cites a certain SLash who distinguishes film as old media from information as new, non-narrative, not cinema. Harbord makes three points here: she questions Lash’s division of film as content, information as form. [This also goes against her interest in film as escape – but wasn’t running away always too easy, always a way of making new tracks for commerce? Lash’s information is the new terrain for capitalist growth]. She notes that film as aura in the cinema, in Lash’s version an old media, is different to film on DVD, and she points out that film in the cinema hall is being reworked ‘after’ recognition of contingencies in the expanded context of film (her examples will bear this out – ie that films like “Momento” are no longer ‘in sequence’ is related to fwd and rwd of video and DVD).

Then a discussion of early cinema and contingency in Doane and Kracauer.

New reworkings of classic films such as Gordon’s 24 hour version of “Psycho” ‘wrench open this desire to look’ that was examined by Doane and Kracauer – so that new more than ever we see it all – still more focussed upon shot, close-up, edit, contingency – but in a way that moves beyond Kracauer’s assertion of transience of the image (it flows past us) and Doane’s ‘staging’ [in the frame of the story?]. Contingency mutates as film escapes from the cinema (DVD, stop, pause, rwd, fwd).
[Does this overstate the case for the digital as expansion, and the domestic control of the remote control?]

3 areas to examine new contingencies
– domestic use of technology, DVDs etc
– rang of viewing contexts (airports, galleries, phones)
– changes in narrative structure [which feedback into films in the cinema]

This chapter attempts to theorise films’ escape from the cinema hall as both new contingency, and in terms of affect. The examples are detailed: non-linear DVD Iranian taxi film ‘Ten’; the station screen with Laurel and Hardy at Victoria BR; ‘My Architect’ in the cinema; Tate Modern video installation.

Films in stations, galleries or malls have a quality of ghosting (141), phantasmatic animation a la Benjamin’s arcades for the flaneur – who turns out to be the ghost. Yet film, having left the cinema, walks the streets and refuses to die. Indeed, contingency multiplies its affective charge. Film reasserts (affectively):
– through its historical attachment, capturing us in time
– through its not yet worked through mutations of format
– through interplay of narrative and inventory

Results: its futile to search for film’s ontology [? She has been doing just this, no?] because film’s mutations escape, they reinvent, cannot be defined by what film has been.

At the end of the chapter a turn to Derrida to recognise film as the realm of the supplement – it evolves, and incorporates its new emergent forms [ah, a mobile ontology then? – this turn to Derrida sits strangely with what comes next…]

Then a final return to the question of affect, which is also a return to Massumi, and the idea of rumour governing the stock market- [but this comparison is underdeveloped, the stock market is not wholly governed by rumour, there is also profit, greed, accumulation, glee]

[can we say that film does not still fix – the close up, the edit/juxtaposition – just as much as the stock market fixes brand value via rumour – what is needed here is a Marxist understanding of value – not branding, not prices – a critique of the hauntology, the fetish, the ghostly rumours that are the surface of film/stock/life]

[Affect theorists fail to comprehend the social aggregation of value that emerges via affect – rumour, fetish, image accretion, archive, hauntology. And this amounts in effect (and affect) to an alibi for mutating capitalism – where capitalism is ‘critiqued’ but only as an image-site for a new post-cinema. I think Harbord’s chapter does indeed want to say this, but doesn’t actually do so because it is stuck amongst three divergent angles: old Kracauer, shorn of materialism; affect, read critically, but not in all its implications; and Derrida’s supplement that could be better read through the essay on hyperbole in ‘Writing and Difference’]

[The chapter’s last line etymology – contingency, from tangere = touch, does not clinch the argument; and Chambers Dictionary gives more: Contingency, from Latin contingentum = befall, happen, touch and contagion - which would have infected this affect stuff nicely! ]

Good chapter. Glad I took time out to read it.

Floating Prisons

This post from Subtopia is the sort of thing that puts blog-diary-experiment-notes like mine to shame. Even as I feel I need to skip over the authors first paragraph of self-deprecations (sorry) I find this really really useful. Sure, I have a long interest in prisons, see here, but if you want to start to get to grips with this floating carcereal violence (in a way more urgent than Foucault 101) then you gotta read the Subtopia post in full – and by doing so you also get to see the pics. So here is a taster, then click the link.

“…There is of course a long lineage of slave ships that date back probably as far as the birth of ancient civilization, but in more recent histories the prison boat (something different, though a seemingly natural progression) really started to evolve during the colonial era; and, not to our surprise, they served as a solution to the overpopulated modern prison systems that were falling apart, (not that different from today’s prison crisis or the similarly bursting detention facilities that hold scores of intercepted migrants, refugees and other global transients.) With that, it is hardly shocking that the construct of a floating prison continues to develop today”

Read the rest here.
.

Celebrity Hijack

If you are gonna play the outrage game, play it all the way – a comment on the take-no-prisoners turn in televisual terror.

The ever admirable Phil over at ‘a very public sociologist’ has a fine post about the new format of Big Brother ‘Celebrity Hijack’. Offering a blow by blow account of the ‘toe-curling’ first episode last night, Phil reminds us of BB’s racist priors (Jade), justifiably ranting at how crap its looking this time round, and warns of the ‘celebrities to come – Brian Sewell, Kelly Osborne, Joan Rivers and Andrew Loog Oldham [this last I've added as a wish item from my previous].

Well, I suppose I was prepared to be sympathetic to a new panto season version of the anthropology-made-simple that is Big Brother, but nope – they have not redeemed themselves at all. Read Phil’s critique HERE.

Myself, I think the problems are even more obvious and this obviousness finally absolves even the most perverted of us from ever watching the show again [yes, finally I give it up, sad day] – I mean, just look at the NAME of this new format. Celebrity Hijack - ahhhg, Winston would turn in his grave.

[In the end I did go watch on replay - slo mo car crash it was - but I repeat my comment here from Phil's page for those who can't be bothered to follow the links or for those who refuse to endure the show even as 'sociological interest' - that evergreen standard alibi for tv slumming... Thus:]

Phil, do you think we can go so low as to play into Endemol’s sensationalist bad taste game and get outraged that this is the wrong time to try to rehabilitate the idea of hijacking as such, even if in the hands of the lovely wastrel Kelly herself. I guess its a long time since ‘that’ september so its ok, but I don’t suppose they will be inviting any Muslim celebrities to sit in the chair eh?

Could there be some mileage in this as mock outrage for a week or two – then perhaps this cynical sensation-hunting could morph into a recognition of how hijackings have been used in the past to make political points of some significance. Agree with the intensity of the actions or not, the Palestinians offered something more serious than Endemol, and with more cause.

Whatever… Really, I am just amazed that ‘hijacking’ can become pop culture sloganeering like this without comment – I guess its because we never get TV transmissions on those in-flight seat back screens.

I think Aki Nawaz should be invited to do a stint in the BBCJ chair, but even as that’s impossible, I know he’d have had fun.

All that said, Scott McQuire’s article on Endemol and other matters is worth a read: McQuire, Scott. ‘From Glass Architecture to Big Brother: Scenes from a Cultural History of Transparency’, Cultural Studies Review, 9.1, May (2003), 103-123.

40 years ago today

Renegade Eye has posted a collection of vignettes from Nam to Yippie that deserve a look [then go fetch some stuff on Panthers and Naxalites - easy enough to find here and here]

Wednesday, January 02, 2008
40 YEARS AGO TODAY

This is an abridged edition of a great post at Canadian anarchist blog La Revue Gauche. For some this post will be nostalgia, and for others an introduction to another world. Thank you Eugene for putting this together.

Forty Years Ago
Happy New Year

Read it here.

.

Russell Brand’s Elegantly Addled Drug Career Takes Flight in New Cross

In his now bestseller celebrity self-justification fun version of the footballer/popstar’s premature autobiography, former drug-fiend and co-winner of the year before last’s Big Fat Quiz, Russell Brand has done good (even though he came last in the quiz this NYE). “My Booky Wook” is erudite in a way that may surprise some, but since it is probably also predictable that he steps out with his glam warts and all – herpes? – persona patented on the model of a low-rent Johhny Depp crossed with Truman Capote and Julian Clary, I think no-one should be all that surprised at this effort to titillate and sallaciate with his tales. No doubt some literary-academic-intellectual types – I fear the implied readers of this forum – would neither read Brand nor expect a review of such a text here, and so will pass by with a big mother superior boring yawn but although Brand manages the celebrity-auto-bio format without the soccer or songs, it is clearly better written than most (see the Beckham family albums for the worst of each type). Having read Brand, albeit in between too much seasonal sneezing and spluttering, I think it is worthy of mature consideration even when it gives us heroic tales of not very much really – some school courses he did not complete, some projects that remain lost in obscure corners (his best the anti-Young-BNP piece that is on Youtube here: Naziboy), and some recovery-projects that seem unlikely to be permanent.

But revaluation of revaluations, my favourite bit was where he confesses that his drug problems are born in (educational) New Cross. Sort of. I quote:

“Dean had acquired some acid, sheets of it; I’d heard tell of its qualities, of how it made you hallucinate and readdress your life and I thought, ‘My God! This sounds extraordinary’. We went over to the YMCA after school, took some, and went back to his house in New Cross on the Tube.
With or without acid, New Cross can be mind-bending, so it’s the ideal venue to have something so fundamental as your perception of reality altered, because it just exposes everything – the world as you see it, even your own psyche – as a construction.
All the things you believe to be true are thrown into doubt. And what’s so ridiculous is the way that you take this extra-ordinarily powerful, potent drug: not in a hospital with someone making you sit down and have a glass of water, but on the way home from school with your daft mate, walking through New Cross all fragile and delicate”

There then follows an allusion to Huxley, but although Russell knows its a cliche to talk about how your hands can be fascinating while tripping, his commentary soon devolves into a meditation on body spray that has a Go Ask Alice quality about it anyway.

Which is what is both appealling and annoying about our the lovable scamp that our Russell is – yes, a Big Brother Big Mouth with Dadaist touches, snippets of Nietzsche and knowing references to alternative culture is so much better than the dumb drivel usually offered up for our entertainment, but at the very same time a knowing reference left obscure or never developed is just another holier than though gambit (like this sentence, and like that Ricky Gervais trash of BB in Extras).

So in the end I am mildly disappointed because exactly this sort of double take not quite unconvincing victimoglorification is oftentimes the trouble with drug-fiend memoirs. Nothing much new there, nothing much more than a morality tale about getting caught up in drugs, then struggling to get off them, and final triumph. The Brand book has a good deal of this format, but at least there is some sense that the drugs were fun at some point. Too often these sort of cod-confessionals erase the very reasons the poor sods took recreational drugs in the first place – recreation. A case in point would be Motley Crue guitarist Nikki Sixx’s book “Heroin Diaries” – a sad, paranoid and woefully written tedium that reminded me of a badly rendered version of that annoying movie “A Scanner Darkly”, which also left out the fun bits. These kind of books do not do the job properly, and so do us all a disservice. Brand, in comparison, gets closer,

Next in a series – SLASH (from Guns n Roses). I also got his book for Christmas. And plan to read it alongside Andrew Loog Oldham’s story of getting the Rolling Stones famous for being naughty boys and wasting himself on 1970s coke. Should be a welcome return to fun.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,739 other followers

%d bloggers like this: