Monthly Archives: February 2009

Academic Border Patrols

combat1Since this topic came up in our CCS program monitoring (course review) session today, I think it would be useful for people to know that there is considerable opposition on campuses to involvement on the part of university staff in the dirty work of the UK Border Police. Below I reproduce the Academic Union’s recent motion from our most recent branch meeting, and after that a separate, but related campaign by Goldsmiths’ own A. Gormley and a few others that – unrelatedly but endearingly – follows up on one of the initiatives suggested at the Sonic Diaspora Beyond Borders Beyond Text workshop we held in CCS in November. I comment without needing to make the obvious references to how well this racist points-based immigration system worked out in Fortress Australia:

Motion: New Home Office regulations (overwhelmingly carried, 12/2/09)

We wish to express our opposition to the new Home Office regulations, introduced under the new points-based system for immigration to the UK, that will require lecturers to monitor international students and to report any absences from seminars, lectures and tutorials, as well as any failure to submit assessment on time. We are opposed to these regulations for the following reasons.

First, they represent a possible breach of Article 8 (the right to privacy) and Article 3 (degrading treatment) of the European Convention of Human Rights and the 1998 Human Rights Act.

Second, such regulations will harm the relationship of trust between students and lecturers that is a vital aspect of doing our jobs which, fundamentally, should be helping students to learn. The regulations, in effect, treat international students as though they are potential suspects who have come to the UK with the specific goal of abusing the immigration system. We feel that this is discriminatory as the Home Office regulations apply only to non-EU students. We also wish to point out that the existing procedures of applying for a student visa requires students to be accepted at an accredited UK institution and, as such, already address the concerns and bogus schools that apparently have motivated the new rules.

Third, the work involved in monitoring international students will add unnecessarily to our workloads, in addition to our regular teaching, administrative and pastoral duties.

Furthermore, we note the passing of a motion in 2008 by Goldsmiths Students Union encouraging staff not to comply with the new rules.

For these reasons, this meeting agrees

1.        To affirm its opposition to the new Home Office regulations;
2.        To request details of the specific plans the University is making with
regard to the implementation of these regulations;
3.        To ask members not to commence implementation of these regulations until these details are made clear to members, and the human rights and workload issues are appropriately dealt with.

The Piece from The Observer contained a final paragraph gem of doublethink: ‘A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “We want the United Kingdom to stay open and attractive for creative artists. But at the same time we are determined to deliver a system of border security which is among the most secure in the world.”‘ But the article at least started off lauding the efforts of the artists. For those who think that its not just artists who need to be defended from these draconian rules, it was helpfully pointed out to me that in the new cultural economy we are all “Artists” now. I guess that hype might work. Here are the first few paragraphs of this article:

Top artists battle visa clampdown

  • The Observer, Sunday 22 February 2009

Antony Gormley is leading major arts figures in an attack on security controls which prevent star international performers from entering the UK

The visa legislation has tightened up the requirements for all professionals travelling to Britain from outside the EU in order to perform or take part in an arts event. Artists must now not only show proof of their identity, including fingerprints, but also show they have an established sponsor happy to take full financial responsibility for them and to vouch for all their activities while on British soil. Small organisations must pay a fee of £400 to become an official “sponsor”, while larger groups must pay £1,000.

Leading figures from the art world, including Antony Gormley and Nicholas Hytner, have launched a campaign to reverse stringent visa controls which they claim are preventing top foreign musicians, actors and artists from visiting Britain.

They say that immigration laws introduced last year are restricting artistic freedom and have called on the Home Office to review them.

One example they give is that of the virtuoso Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, who cancelled what was to be his second performance in this country at the Southbank Centre in London when he could not provide the documents required for his planned visit in April.

“This country has always been a hub, an airy place where people from all over the world could come and express themselves in art,” said actress Janet Suzman, one of the signatories of a petition calling for the Home Office to look at the rules again. “This legislation stamps on all that with a clunking, hobnail boot”…

An ‘airy place’ thats been ‘stomped on’. – just how artists speak I’m sure. But however they say what they say, they are at least not as scary as those who would deliver a world’s most secure arts sector. Its a laugh a minute in the museum of democracy. Sign me up now.

Shimla – July 14-15 2009

tv8An abstract for a talk at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, ‘Television in India’ conference -  July 14-15 2009 – Shimla

News Media or Politics Show: Terror Reporting and the Box.

If a regional encounter with the apparatus of television is to be approached critically, it may be the case that an exclusive use of ‘media theory’ is not always the first or best stop. Theories of the televisual and specific mutations of genre formats in a global and postcolonial ‘milieu’ – in this case News and Crisis/Terror reporting – can of course be problematized in the Indian context. A postcolonial/globalisation model may suggest a review of the theoretical frameworks that inform media theory in general, especially in the context of national(ist) and international(ist) pressures. Two examples of recent ‘Terror incidents’ and the ways they have been reported, discussed and presented through television will be considered: the trial of Afzal Guru, and the Mumbai Attacks. Whilst tragic in multiple ways, these events are also made spectacular, emotive and divisive, according to interpretation. Television news has variously engaged in information war and controversy before our eyes, on our screens.

John Hutnyk

Salute Vera Lynn

vera-lynn-001My mother was pretty much an unreconstructed (though we made the effort) anglophile, despite having lived 54 of her 65 years in Australia, but for sure she would have been wholeheartedly supportive of Vera Lynn’s current dalliance with the legal process. All salute Vera Lynn, at 91 still doing the job for an anti-fascist Britain (lest we forget):

From Today’s Guardian:

On one side is the woman who became the symbol of British patriotism in adversity. On the other is the far-right party which claims to embody that spirit now. Last night Dame Vera Lynn, once the forces’ sweetheart, was consulting her solicitor after discovering that the British National party was selling a CD compilation of second world war songs to members under the title of her most famous hit, The White Cliffs of Dover.

The album is on sale on the BNP’s website for £4.95 and has helped the party raise funds for its European election campaign. As well as The White Cliffs of Dover it also includes Dame Vera’s All Alone in Vienna. But the 91 year-old singer’s solicitor, Nigel Angel, said: “Her position is that the song was included without her approval. She does not align with any political party and I will be discussing it with her.”

So this was a strange article to be reading on the same page as the one where University staff are warned to watch for ‘radicals’ and violent extremists organising on campus. We are asked to be vigilant. Well, I have to report that I have seen violence perpetrated on campus – a number of bovver boys and girls have taken over the administrative apparatus of the university sector in order to extort profit from a public recourse. They charge fees, make alliances from business, speak a weirdo corporate speak (‘business-facing’!!) and generally think that the ideal model for running education was forged in the offices of the Royal Bank of Scotland Speculation division. Its not even the BNP that’s the trouble here, its the managerial class. Raise the Vera spirit and do them down as if it were the blitz all over again. Mother would agree.

Walter Mignolo at Goldsmiths 5-3-09

walterEpistemic Disobedience and the Decolonial Option

A talk by Walter Mignolo Thursday 5 March 6pm, Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths

Walter Mignolo is a leading figure in Latin American Studies and Postcolonial Studies. He is the William H. Wannamaker Professor of Literature and Romance Studies and Director of the Center for Global Studies and the Humanities, at Duke University. Mignolo’s earlier work, published in Spanish, focuses on semiotics, discourse analysis and literary theory. Since the 1980s he has written extensively in English and Spanish on the invention of the Americas, the coloniality of knowledge, and the political, ethical and epistemological imperative to decolonise knowledge and knowledge production. His work, which has been translated to Portuguese, French and Russian, includes The Darker Side of the Renaissance (1994 and 2003, awarded the Katherine Kovacs Singer Prize from the MLA), Local Histories/Global Designs (2000) and The Idea of Latin America (2005, awarded the Frantz Fanon Prize from the Caribbean Philosophical Association.)

This event is hosted by the Centre for Postcolonial Studies and the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths.

For further information email: Sanjay Seth: s.seth[at]gold.ac.uk

Francisco Carballo: cup01fc[at]gold.ac.uk

Free and all welcome.

Gaius and the Ten Hour Day

metropolis-1Laura and I finished our article on BSG – called ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Gaius Balthar’. We decided we have a whole other chapter on Gaius’s sex life, so we excised this bit. For the record: Robots are sexy – the False Maria, the pleasure-bot in Bladerunner, 7 of 9, and the seductions of Caprica 6 that lead Gaius astray. Gaius in the ménage, Gaius pining, Giaus as parent? Gaius is a flawed hero, and his exile amongst the Cylons after the attack on New Caprica a farcical consequence of his pathetic despot-like complicity. A puppet and play thing of his masters. Aboard the base-star his exile involves him pleasuring himself with his assigned captors, not one but two of the female fashion-mag ‘skin-jobs’ in a sumptuous bed. Gaius imagines he might be Cylon, he might be their leader (he is even more deluded than Louis Boneparte). He cavorts with the sex-bot machine girls in the idle fantasy of teen-male SF fans everywhere. Patriarchal and sexist, in the end we are all rooting for his downfall. Then he becomes a free sex cult god. Go figure. He’ll have to die ingloriously at the end (no, this is not a spoiler – we really have no idea how Gaius will end up, but I expect it will be bad).

[anyone wants to read the piece in draft, send me an email. It assumes you've seen as far as episodes in the third series. Our comments on series four are still in note form, and/or as yet undigested - but since this has happened before...]

Goldsmiths occupied, twinned…

goldsmithsGoldsmiths Students Occupy Deptford Town Hall!

The occupation comes after the college refused the provision of
scholarship programmes for Palestinian students…
Please offer messages of support or join the fray!
Regards, Luke
See a commentary here. And a first blog post here.

There is a facebook site as well. See here.

And tomorrow a union meeting to endorse the twinning of Goldsmiths With Al Quds University in Palestine.  Some discussion from Canada of Boycott politics here. Includes some strange associations in terms of signatories, but the tangentially relevant Banksy graffito that heads the piece deserves a nod.

Retro music formation

livingin70sI’ve been searching through the remnants of my old vinyl collection and my first records, including the classic ‘hooks album “Living in the Seventies”, whose lyrics, somewhat sadly, say it all.

There were about a dozen bands I played in during the late 70s – all of which never got anywhere. Moment of vacuous glory: I once played with the bass player that joined ‘The Birthday Party’ and just a few years later ended up looking like this:

Other approximate ‘that era’ highlights. First band I went to see that was not Deep Purple (who toured in 1974): Check out the very same Skyhooks (if only they had not glam rock fashions…). Here and Here.

Or, first band I saw at a festival – though I do not remember it – Daddy Cool doing  Eagle Rock (a throw back to the sixties, but…).

Its the Molly Meldrum produced masterpiece by Russel Morris that deserves credit for making me want to remember this stuff (various versions exist, but this is a more recent re-edit of the vid, worth watching to the end, I think it might be the best pop Australia produced ever)

Hands down, the Easybeats (for the perfect pop song)

and for mullet fans, the great Angels: here

all worth a look. Of course middle period Nick Cave owes much to all this, but still rules,

I am probably wasting your time…

no doubt.

yet…

Theatre-Border

bordertoySlowly the form of our meeting in Berlin has been taking shape, via disparate (and desperate?) emails, haphazardly. That will no doubt continue, but I think it good to gather it together here (in dialogic form):

John: I’ve no idea yet as to just what the Berlin workshop should be in April (week of 20th) – I just think we might want something on how the whole performance of Borders, or the Border Crossing, might make possible new thinking around immigration politics, border controls, divisions and divides etc.

What I am keen to do is extend from the discussions we had in the November meeting that raised issues around how people rethink the border when it comes to sound and through musicking, collaborative work, festivals and solidarity. And how the character of sound crosses the border differently perhaps – the metaphor of the sonic which moves us away from a visual and geographic conception of the Border. Is there something in the theatrical that tampers with border protocols that we can develop? Is the ‘live’ of theatre of use for thinking border as event? Is there something about the performance of the guard, the applicant, the visa, the passage. And that the border is performed everywhere, all the time, in the street, in the gaps we act out between each other? In the courthouse? In the detention centre? Or maybe either more esoteric, or more material – is the border a stage, or ‘in the round’? Are there actors, directors, a troupe – is it a puppet show? Is the border equipped with a back stage, house lights, curtains, inner circle and  ‘the gods’ – what is its architecture? Is it opera, Brecht, or vaudeville? Is a rose by any other name a border control? or… Something like this/anyone?

Rustom: Many thanks for your very insightful comments relating to the border.  Flogged to death as it is in a great deal of performance studies and cultural theory, it still continues to provoke and challenge.  Following the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, I guess it is the porosity of borders that is called into question, raising uncomfortable questions relating to surveillance.  India seems to be caught in a double bind:  on the one hand, it’s obvious that our existing mechanisms of surveillance are woefully weak and overly bureacuratized; on the other hand, in strenghening them, what are the implications for minorities and those migrants without papers who can be easily targeted?

Markus: As you know, here in Berlin we have a long tradition of thinking about crossing borders in terms of performativity and the “framing” of cultural and aesthetic borders. There sure are quite a number of theoretical approaches that deal with the problem of border-crossing within the arts and humanities and it seems to me that the
next step would be to reimplement these ideas back into cultural and political theory.

Why not give each day a different topic, held together by the overall theme of body, theatricality and performativity in regards to bordercrossing or the blurring of borders? In this case it could very well focus especially on bodily borders, right? The political, social and phenomenological integrity and dignity of borders (or boundaries) between bodies perhaps? Combined with the old psychoanalytical question if there is such a thing as a coherent body with distinct borders in the first place, there should be many interesting opportunities for thinking about surveillance and counter surveillance for example. Or the notion of “staging violence” in the media. Just my quick two cents.

John: You had asked what the Clandestino people are doing. Their project for Berlin is derived from work on a play they are doing about the Detention Centre. Its due for performance in December 09 but the text will be ready (only in Swedish) in Feb. We will try to have it translated before April. This started because I said I would like to really push the Detention Centre as border idea. I’ve written on barbed wire before – its a border that really cuts into the body. A harsh theatre is required for this: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/489/detention.html

So Aleksander and Johannes have written a play, “FÖRVARET” (The Detention Center)? It will be performed at Göteborgs Stadsteater with premiere December 2009. They say they ‘think it is very good starting point for a discussion on the complexity of border surveillance seen from an inside the border control perspective, what happens with language of emotions in the context where the “not quite criminals”, those people who have been taken into “custody”, been placed in the “detention centre”, not beeing criminals for something that they have comitted but for a border they have transgressed. This is what me and Johannes have been working out in “Förvaret”.

Aleksander says: ‘I think my other colleagues Michal Azar (philosopher (Fanon, Lacan, Sartre, Camus, postmodern thinkers)/historian of ideas (war of Algeria)/play writer) and/or Edda Manga (philosopher (feminism, postcolonialism, postmodernism)/historian of ideas (the Idea of a Just war from Victoria/bartolome de las Casas, etc)/activist, . . . ) would be great to bring since they are very much of intellectuals that can “reimplement the ideas crossing borders in terms of performativity and the “framing” of cultural and aesthetic borders back into cultural and political theory”. Also Cecilia Parsberg, artist that did many projects in on the Wall in Palestine’.

John: unfortunately we don’t have funds to invite other visitors, but if people could make their way to Berlin…

Things to discuss:
Format – ideally not too much lecture format. Lets experiment with formats. Panel discussion, round table, theatrical metaphor for seminars?

Text – three days, three themes related to Border performance. One on bodily Border. Another on Surveillance (of bodies, borders, nation states). Another one ___ detentions?

Participants: several of the PhDs have suggested good things. I will ask them to write up a paragraph for their presentations. Especially good ideas from Jen, Ray, Cristobal and Nick. So, more to come here, but at least we have a start. Comments welcome.

The main border page, with the back story to this event, is here.

[The picture is from Emile’s wish list on Amazon. Check here and read the comments].

snowed out

img_1013I have always been more amazed that London cannot cope with mildly warm temperatures like 30 Celsius, than I am that everything stops also for snow. Mind you, it is a lot of snow I reckon, and well cold, so I am only going outside to build a snowperson, and to join the occasional impromptu snowball fight that happens on my street when pedestrians venture by. College, bless em, shut up shop at the first sign of weather. As this letter attests [editorial comments mine]:

2 February 2009
Due to today’s poor [no, fantastic!] weather conditions and the lack of
public transport, it has been decided that Goldsmiths, University of
London will be closed on health and safety grounds and all classes
will be cancelled for today [in favour of toboggan races on the back field].
The College should be open as usual, tomorrow [damn], Tuesday 3 February but
any updates to this will be posted on www.goldsmiths.ac.uk
We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause you [enjoy it while you can!].
Hugh Jones
Registrar and Secretary

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