Monthly Archives: September 2008

Guest Image by Shiva Sulla Quinseina

“this is a photo montage I made and that I would like to put on your blog (it is in tune with your paper I realize)” – Shiva Sulla Quinseina

Bill Burroughs applied…

‘Words of advice for young people’ is the refrain William Burroughs stamped on the album ‘Spare-ass Annie’ by the Disposable Heroes of Hip-Hoprisy. I cannot aspire to Uncle Bill’s lofty heights, but was very pleased to be asked to ‘spare just a few minutes’ by a year 9 secondary school student to comment on what I look for in applications to study with us at Goldsmiths. Great topic for the school magazine he is writing for. While the applications we get are for PhD, since we do not have undergraduates in CCS, I think the wider (wilder?) things I look for are relevant at all levels (our applications go through several drafts of a research proposal and that is more important than the actual application form at this level, I think perhaps the personal statement in UG applications is the relevant place to show some of the below…). Anyway, for what its worth, here are a couple of answers to a couple of the questions I’ve just sent (as our interviewer pointed out, these will be presented as my views alone and not necessarily those of Goldsmiths) – [I hope its of use Natty]:

… Q3: What do you look for in an application?
We look for someone who has prepared well, who has an idea of what they are getting into, and approaches this with a sense of enthusiasm, curiosity and adventure. Higher education should be something that ‘changes the way you think’ and to be open to that – and critical of stale thinking – is really what grabs my attention in a student. Of course some good marks and some experience (extra-curricular activities, interest in politics, media or travel etc) are also appealing, but the most exciting students will convey a sense of a rampant curiosity, and an inquisitive intelligence. This can come through in so many ways: in a creative bit of writing, in a fascination for a particular artistic form of expression, film perhaps, or in psychoanalysis, or even in history or math, and then it could perhaps appear in an unexpected juxtaposition of two different areas. One of the best proposals for research I saw recently mixed a plan to do research into the history of propaganda with the study of abstract poetry. I thought that might produce new and interesting angles for cultural studies. Another mix that surprised was a proposed research into neuropsychology and artistic imagery – of the brain. How do we draw, map, imagine the architecture of that mess of stuff inside our skulls.

Q4: What makes for a good application- what would you advise year 13 students to think about when filling in a form?

I look for the ways the applicant has told us something about themselves in a way that has some verve, some sort of hard to name spark/mix of honesty, enthusiasm, creativity. It is of course hard to choose between the many capable applicants, so I look for someone with either, or especially both, a streak of creativity and a streak that I’d call a critical attitude to the world. Someone who is able to think critically about everything – without just having a winge – might make a very capable student.

Oh, and someone who reads. I mean, loves to read. To read and write. And to talk about books. To talk about writing – to care about writing as a craft, as a critical craft. And perhaps someone who might even help start up and write for a journal or magazine in their school. Three cheers for that part then.

I wonder if good bowling averages might also help with a Goldsmiths application, since we have a college cricket team in need of a spinner.

Hope some of this is useful for you. I have to crack on with some other friday night work – actually, I am going to watch the US presidential debate which should be on in about an hour – video streaming permitting…

best

John

PS. And if I was going to suggest any reading – Marx on education might not be a bad place to start. See the piece ‘Text message: what does Marx have to say about Jamie Oliver style school lunches?’

Celebrity

Writing to Kiwi who is doing great work on Snoop and presenting soon in Oldenberg… Thinking about all the Celebrity literature that has emerged, and is pretty tame, in the last few years… Alongside the minor cults of celebrity in regard to popstars, what can be gleaned from the self-critical internal documents of the communist parties who had to deal with the aftermath of the great personality cults of Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and Kim Il Sung? Without wanting to repeat the attacks on these guys and so line up with anti-communism, nor to particularly endorse the deification of these figures (who were/are more important than as mere models for statues, t-shirts or badges), there is surely something of interest here in these greater personality cults and the ways they had to be managed by really existing communist states (or former communist states). Might not the personality cult open up the various texts on celebrity in a unexpected/interesting way? And could we have a kind of deStalinization process for Kylie? Ah, for that matter, its not just communists who had such personality cults is it – is there a need for a denazification process for Madonna? A Nuremburg trial for the Rolling Stones and their sell-out to VW etc…?

Burn Burn Photocopier

A guardedly polite letter from Lisa to the Reprographics Department of Goldies regarding our efforts to rid ourselves of the now Suicidal Copier, first mentioned here:

Acquiring a new photocopier has really been a ridiculously lengthy and frustrating process. It feels as though the main thing we have all worked on for most of 2008 has been a) pushing to get a new machine b) getting it working and c) getting rid of the old one. And we are still not there.

The old machine is still sitting right in the middle of our only communal space. It is induction week. We are trying to welcome new students to the Centre. Could you please confirm when – this week – it will be moved?

The new machine works for basic copying but has still not been networked. We cannot print or scan from it, nor even submit a meter reading. The new machine was justified financially on the basis that we it would perform multiple functions. You told me we needed to use it for office printing. We have had it quite some time and have not been able to do that. I am extremely concerned that the small number of copies we have actually been able to use the machine for will work out to be inordinately expensive at this low-level useage. We have also had no staff raining beyond the engineer on the day of delivery showing me how to make a basic copy. The engineer set up folder on the L:/ drive for documents from the printer to be sent, but networking has not taken place and none of us are set up to use any of its more sophisticated printing/scanning functions.

I do understand that you, like all of us, are very busy. Even so, this has been going on for ages. Most of our correspondence to you is simply ignored. If you can give me the relevant contact details to make a) the removal and b) networking happen, we will be pleased to see to it ourselves [see pic - ed]. Otherwise, please let me have firm dates for these small jobs to be completed.

Thanks,

[we will send it to the place where all Terminators must go]

Raja Petra Kamaruddin given two-year ISA detention order

Detention without trial, the Internal Security Act raises its very ugly head again in Malaysia. 

GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA

ISA Updates: 23 September 2008

Raja Petra Kamaruddin, editor of the popular political blog, Malaysia Today, today (23 September 2008) received a two-year detention order under Section 8(1) of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). The detention order was signed by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar. Section 8(1) of the ISA states, “If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view of preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof […], he may make an order directing that a person be detained for any period not exceeding two years.”

According to Raja Petra’s lawyers, he will be sent to the Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak, where he will be detained for a period of two years from today.

Under the ISA, this two-year detention order can be renewed by the Home Minister indefinitely. No clear explanation or details were given the nature of the threat or national security risks. In fact, under the ISA, the Home Minister has no obligation to disclose to the public or the courts the details of the detention or release. This clearly shows that the draconian ISA constitutes gross abuse of power by the authorities.

Raja Petra’s lawyers have also filed a writ of habeas corpus at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, in a bid to release him from his detention.

Background

Raja Petra Kamaruddin was arrested on 12 September 2008, under Section 73(1) of the ISA for allegedly being a threat to security, peace and public order. He is alleged to have posted articles deemed seditious and that also belittle Islam.

Two other individuals – journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and member of Parliament Teresa Kok – were arrested on the same day as Raja Petra’s arrest. The two were subsequently released – Tan on 13 September 2008, while Kok on 19 September 2008.

On 16 September 2008, ISA detainee Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the editor of Malaysia Today, was allowed to see his wife and two children at the Bukit Aman police headquarters.

According to Raja Petra’s wife Marina Abdullah, Raja Petra spoke very softly and looked weak, pale and lost much weight. Raja Petra complained to her that he was suffering from lack of sleep because the night before, he was harassed on an hourly basis by officers who recorded statements from him. He said he was never physically abused, but was mentally abused. Marina said that his blood sugar level had dropped. She also added that her husband suffers from heart artery blockages and is on medication.

Raja Petra’s lawyers filed a habeas corpus application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on 16 September 2008, seeking his immediate release.

Detention without trial under the ISA a serious human rights violation

The ISA provides for ‘preventive detention’ without trial for an indefinite period. It violates fundamental rights such as the right to trial, the right to legal counsel, the right to defend oneself in open court and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It goes against the principles of justice and undermines the rule of law.

Prison Season – with Goldsmiths Strudents Union – Tuesdays October 2008 all welcome

Dead technology

We’ve been trying for nearly three months to get the Reprographics section of Goldsmiths to remove a huge outmoded (and non-functioning) Xerox machine from the middle of our main office in CCS. Literally dozens of emails, visits, imploring calls and no joy. Today we arc up the campaign by sending them this letter:

Dear Reprographics:

Infidels. This is a Ransom Note.

We have your polluting bourgeois heathen capitalist running dog of a photocopier and will torture it mercilessly unless you arrange an immediate hostage exchange.

We attach a recent photograph as proof this infidel is in our possession. If you ever want to see it again, act quickly. We start cutting off its parts at sunrise.

sincerely
– the CCS office space liberation committee (M-L – 17th September faction).

[Never let it be said that we concern ourselves with trivia. But I mean, for the love of Xog]

Eyeballs on the Rats

I played guitar (somewhere between competent and bad) in the 1970s. King Rat, a band of mates I rehearsed a bit with, took their name from the 1962 James Clavell novel about the wartime Prison Camp called Changi in Singapore (now name of the airport). (They eventually went on to Metal rock god fame as the Bengal Tigers, I went to work with Maoists in West Bengal). King Rat was also the name of the 1998 debut novel by China Miéville, and is also an up and coming band in the present day (see here). Cavell however, it seems, took the name King Rat from the pantomime “Dick Whittington“, which references rats as carriers of the plague.

Lets sing:

“Ring a ring a Rosie

A Pocket full of posie

a-tissue, a-tissue

We all fall down”.

- and they still sometimes say Pantomime is just for kids right. I got my eye on them (and the first pic for this post – above – is a picture of my eyeball, kindly provided by the optometrist who did my recent Glaucoma test – I think it looks not totally dissimilar, at least in colour, to the cover of Miéville’s book – and only one of these is guaranteed free of myopia/glaucoma). My sister – the older of the two – visited Kolkata while I was there and the first line of her diary records the fact that there were rats as big as cats in the dormitory I was staying in. Actually, I thought the 8 rupee dorm (it was 1988 by then) was pretty luxurious for the price. The bathrooms were a shooting gallery most days, there was a few crazies (the Mother T god-botherers, and a guy who lost it in room 2 I’ll never forget – the first death I saw up close). Some of this is documented in The Rumour of Calcutta, but a lot of it is not – it will go in the T8 file to be explained later.

From The Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign

This certainly is not cricket, but if you can be at the oval … (note the new use they have found for the side screens). Over three years after Jean’s brutal death, we need to remind the state of the extent of public disgust about the conduct of the police and the consistently failures to let Jean’s family finally know the truth.

Dear friends,

As you probably know already, the coroner’s inquest into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes will begin on 22nd September. This is an important opportunity for Jean’s family to:

1) discover more of the truth about the actions on the police at Stockwell tube station in July 2005

2) have their legal representatives ask questions directly to the
officers responsible
3) have the secret ‘Shoot to Kill’ policy brought into the public domain

We must ensure that the inquest is conducted in a fair, transparent
and open manner so that the Metropolitan police feel the pressure of
public accountability.

Members of Jean’s family are travelling from Brazil and will attend the inquest.

The inquest will take place at The Oval cricket ground in Kennington and is likely to continue for three months. Proceedings will be held from Monday to Thursday every week, between 9.45am and 4.30pm. Members of the public can attend but space is very limited, which is a real concern. The coroner has arranged for an overflow room with a video link to the inquest, but this means the inquest jury will have no
indication of the public interest in the evidence that is presented.

This is coupled with the coroner’s decision to grant anonymity to 44 police officers, who will give their evidence from behind a screen. It is difficult to understand why they need this high level of protection and seems largely designed to ensure that named individuals evade responsibility for the deliberate killing of an innocent man. Both decisions severely undermine the principle of an open, transparent investigation.

TAKE ACTION – ATTEND THE INQUEST

We urge you to attend the inquest, particularly on:

22nd September – the first day, when the Campaign will be highlighting the lack of space for members of the public and calling for the inquest to be moved to a larger venue. Anyone coming on the first day of the inquest should try and attend a planning meeting on Thursday 18th September at 6:30pm at School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square WC1H 0XG – stay in contact for
further details.

30th September – when the first police officer will give evidence anonymously and when the Campaign will be highlighting how this is an obstacle to public accountability. There will be another planning meeting on the evening of Thursday 25th September – stay in contact for further details.

STAY IN CONTACT

The Campaign has set up a blog for the duration of the inquest, which you can find at http://inquest.justice4jean.org. Here you can find details on travelling to the inquest, a calendar of forthcoming events, details of Campaign meetings, briefings and latest developments.

If you attend the inquest, please write a short piece about what happened and e-mail it to us. We’ll add it to the blog.

We can be contacted on 07944 069 956 or at justice4jean@gmail.com.

SPREAD THE WORD

Forward this email to as many people as you can and encourage them to attend the inquest or take one or more of the actions planned by the Campaign.

Send a letter to coroner John Sampson or an e-mail via his clerk, John Thompson, raising concerns about the issues of space and the anonymity of police officers:

John Sampson
H M Coroner for London (Inner South)
1 Tennis Street
London
SE1 1YD

E-mail: john.thompson@southwark.gov.uk

Send a letter or email to the local and national press – e-mail addresses for the letters pages of national newspapers can be found at http://inquest.justice4jean.org.

Over three years after Jean’s brutal death, we need to remind the state of the extent of public disgust about the conduct of the police and the consistently failures to let Jean’s family finally know the truth. Now more than ever, we need everyone to act.

Many thanks,

The Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign

Scott McQuire Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Scott McQuire talk

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Time:
7:00pm – 9:00pm
Location:
cinema, Goldsmiths
City/Town:
New Cross, United Kingdom

“Googling the city”

In May 2007 global media giant Google launched ‘Street Views’, an application enabling users to access a digital archive of street level photographs taken across five cities in the United States. By mid-2008, the service covered over 50 US cities, and was also launched in Australia and Japan, with more countries in the pipeline. In this paper, I want to locate ‘Street View’ within a history of urban representation and metropolitan discourse. Beginning from the invention of photography which initiated new systems of ‘mapping’ urban space in the 19th century, I will trace the ways that the convergence of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with distributed networks and mobile media initiates new struggles over public space.

Scott McQuire is Associate Professor in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. His most recent book The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space was published in the Theory, Culture and Society series by Sage in 2008.

Fee Fi Fo Fum – I smell the spin of terrorisuMI5

Pantomime Terror lecture abstract. Latest version, still to be worked up. I am rethinking all of this, its provisional, its hesitant, its giving me a headache (of course) and it has to be ready soon. Yikes. And this is supposed to be the fun part!….

We are called upon to ‘report any suspicious baggage’ by constant repetition of security announcements at train stations and airports. Rather than provide a robust security service, such announcements seem to generate a new low level and everyday paranoia. The war on terror is generalized and does not happen ‘over there’, but almost absentmindedly occurs to each of us everywhere: the paranoia infiltrates our everyday lives and become normalized. The terrorist is right there beside us – behind us, among us. Watch out! I will argue that these announcements are part of a new kind of popular culture pantomime, with villains and heroes, and absurd storytelling to boot. That this happens alongside new legislation, new legal and administrative powers (detention, DNA, CCTV, MI5 Security ‘notes’); and stop and search security policing focused upon Muslims (and unarmed Brazilians shot on the underground) is the dark underbelly of the performative. Restrictions on civil liberties and ‘limits’ to freedom are proclaimed as necessary and debates about these necessities no longer raise concern – we assume someone is watching out, and we will report the suspicious bags if we see them. It is clear that spaces for critical contest are mortally threatened in contemporary, tolerant, civilized Britain.

Exploring the metaphor of Pantomime might be a way to comprehend the dysfunctional aspect of present times. This discussion reviews critical work by the musician Aki Nawaz from the band Fun-da-Mental in the light of pantomime performance. Nawaz was castigated as a ‘Suicide Rapper’ for his 2006 album ‘All is War’, but those that did so missed the nuances of his critique. Fun-Da-Mental’s earlier work relating to insurgency struggles, anti-colonialism and political freedom in the UK is assessed and contrasted to the farcical present climate where a 23 year old woman can be incarcerated as a ‘lyrical terrorist’, and both a 16 year old boy and a Nottingham University researcher can face charges of terrorism for downloading material from the world wide web. It will be argued that we might best see this as a kind of bizarre storytelling scenography – where repetition and stereotype do ideological work for security services who have no idea who the real enemy is, or if there is any enemy at all. In demonizing those who would raise critical questions, the ban upon ‘thought crime’ has become very real. And it seems as if the only vocal outcry is musical.

In this context, the work of scholars that search for the meaning of ‘suicide bombing’ lines up alongside that of the MI5 Behavioural Sciences Unit in providing inadequate and insufficient understandings of the current conjuncture. If the opposition communicates in culture, and Whitehall’s Research Information and Communications Unit counter with ‘spin’, we are either in a grave predicament, or everyone is treating this as a game. Denouncing the demonization of Aki Nawaz and the like as equal to the creation of pantomime villains, the presentation will argue for a more engaged critique of “culture” and assess a certain distance or gap between emancipatory political expression and the tamed versions of multiculturalism accepted by/acceptable in the British marketplace.

Invite to the lecture here. [The picture is from the Guardian news report on the MI5 behavioural Science Unit Operational Briefing 'note' which informed us that terrorists are ethnically 'diverse', mostly british nationals, not 'mad and bad' and might be either male or female, young or old, and have a range of qualifications from none to degree-level... Guardian 21.08.08]

malmo

A note for Malmo:

I am looking forward to this visit to Malmo (third item here) to talk about movement and home. Happy to be asked, and I would be very keen to start with some very brief comments.

Obsessing about things like this for a while now, I would – so there are no big surprises – first suggest that we could start working against a geographical model of the Border or the Boundary. If we recognize the border is not just the port, but the entire city, as in “everywhere, in everything we do”, in each interaction between people related, somehow somewhere to belonging – how violent this is – if we recognize the border as a wall between us all, then we might see reason to have to reconfigure the very idea of nation, boundary and movement that so distracts us. Secondly, the border is not just at the edge, but at any port, at the immigration office, in the postal service that delivers the visa, in the police checks, the detention procedure – in the everyday reactions of people to each other even as they stand and stare. Thirdly, if we think of the way sound and meaning travels across the border, might we start to develop ways of thinking critically against this geographic boundary – and the old models of nation, culture, race that the border secures. What would it be to ask critically about, and so reject, the way we have fixed the border through property, maps, geography – and so leave that space that has been deaf to other movements, transmissions, resonances. Would this work things differently, otherwise?

I will have to think of some examples to make this less abstract, they are everywhere.

The above developes this.

Inaugural – Tues Sept 30th, 5.30pm IGLT

You don’t need to print out the ‘enclosed card’ but please do phone or email the address below (and me) if you wish to come. The text, in case its not clear on your screen, reads:

The Warden of Goldsmiths, Professor Geoffrey Crossick, invites you to the Inaugural Lecture by

Professor John Hutnyk
Professor of Cultural Studies

Pantomime Terror: the Paranoid Commuter
and the Danger of Music

30 September 2008 at 5.30pm
Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre

Refreshments will be served after the lecture in the Staffing Dining Room. Acceptances to the Warden’s Office via email: inaugurals@gold.ac.uk or telephone 020 7919 7033

[update: Lecture version: http://dai.ly/uBArM4]

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