Monthly Archives: November 2012

Contexts for Distraction (abstract)

abstract for an article with Tom Henri:

This paper discusses the events of August 2011 through our reading of a series of reports and responses by academics and commentators. These are critically and collectively evaluated as lacking insofar as we see the deployment of gang-talk, the promotion of role models, narrow-cast notions of race and platitudes about the justice system as a distraction from wider issues. Providing context for ‘reading’ the riots/uprisings, we suggest that at stake in each case we see the limits of a scholarly commentary that remains unprepared to address the conflict and turmoil of ‘Big Society’ austerity thinking.

Keywords: gangs, race, violence, complicity, distraction, crisis

“Problematising the History of Literary Culture in India: The Case of Indian English Literature”. 7.12.12

Professor G. N Saibaba

Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi

“Problematising the History of Literary Culture in India: The Case of Indian English Literature”.
Assistant Professor at the Department of English, Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi.
Social Activist and public intellectual.
Specialisation on Disciplinary rise of Indian English and Literary Cultures in India.
Goldsmiths College, Laurie Grove Baths, Room G3 1PM Friday 7th December 2012
All welcome

Rosa Translate Funds…

A project to translate the collected works of Rosa Luxemburg into English. The editorial board is currently fundraising for the translations:

Rave Against the Machine – Bosnia

Richard Rudy and co used to come show this film in my class at Goldsmiths every year. Just watched it again and it holds up. Click the pic to watch (24 mins)


Rave Against the Machine 2004 

During the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s the population of Sarajevo spent almost four years under seige. This is the story of how a troubled group of young friends strove to keep their sanity through the music they made; parties they organised; and radio they broadcast. We trace the story of Radio Zid, the wartime voice of Sarajevo. Using archive footage we visit the underground Club Obala, where partygoers found refuge and rehabilitation from shellfire. We follow anarchic bands and see the introduction of dance music through English visitors ‘Desert Storm’. With the end of the war we hear of U2’s visit and the present polarisation between the Bosnian progressive music scene and the pop-ethnic hybrid ´turbofolk´ music. The present outcome is that those pioneers of then and now are sidelined by the rest of society. Perhaps most surprising of all is the revelation that life under seige was much better than nowadays… life was cheap but by the same token that much sweeter and more vital.



Cork International Film Festival – Audience Award for Best International Short

Special Mention, Filmstock, UK?

Raindance, UK

Filmmakers’ Biography Richard Rudy (Co-Director) Graduated from Wimbledon School of Art, London in 1995, specialising in photography. A post as runner at The Mill Facilities House, London followed during which time he began writing and developing his own scripts and started production on numerous short films. His directing and editing credits include short films, both DV and film, and music videos. Rave Against the Machine represents his first foray into documentaries. James Harvey (Co-Director) Graduated with a BA (Hons) in Film and Television from Manchester Metropolitan University in 1998. Since then he has been working within the industry in various capacities from production running to third assistant directing. He has been writing and developing his own scripts since university and has directed several shorts. Rave Against the Machine also represents for James his first experiences of documentary film making.

Federici at Goldsmiths Centre for Cultural Studies – audio

Education Commission Report No 1

Click on the boot to download and read the full report, or here EdCommReport1

Pantomime Terror (inaugural 2008) – Video Dailymotion

Pantomime Terror – Video Dailymotion.

(working on the book again!)

Trinkets in Camps

Doc Richard Iveson is a harvester of obscure snippets and curios, none escape his ability to comb through the detritus of philosophy for gems to hold up to the gloaming (apols to Benjamin and Kracauer):

Hi John. I’m in the middle of writing a paper on Catherine Malabou and along
the way I came across an unusual use of the word “trinket” which (if
you don’t already know) I thought you might find interesting -
according to Wolfgang Sofsky (in ‘The Order of Terror’), in the Nazi
concentration camp at Ravensbruck (a women’s camp), the prisoners who
were beyond any possibility of surviving (i.e. the ‘Muselmanner’) were
known as ‘trinkets’. Odd, but provocative, don’t you think?

Animal Ethics 29.11.12

Marx Reloaded Film, with the director 20.11.12

Co-sponsored by the Centre for Cultural Studies:

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///Film Screening: Tuesday 20th November, 7pm 
Director Jason Barker will be present for the discussion.
Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre
Goldsmiths College, New Cross, London Borough of Lewisham, London SE14, UK
Entrance is Free

Marx Reloaded is a 2011 German documentary film written and directed by the British writer and theorist Jason Barker. Featuring interviews with several well-known philosophers, the film aims to examine the relevance of Karl Marx’s ideas in relation to the global economic and financial crisis of 2008–09. A Q&A with the director will follow.

She comes in colours everywhere…

too good not to include – having this installed in the front yard.

This mornings’ task checklist

- wrote and sent two references for people seeking academic jobs

- got someone an actual job, as an academic

- helped someone else find someone for the job they had on offer (see above)

- helped out with two other people doing funding apps

- coffee (see stain on son’s sleep suit – bad parent)

- had flu jab

- received additional crazed post from someone in need of help I am not qualified to give

- sought advice on the above

- took smallest son with his mom to a cafe, coffee

- walked to work in the rain

- sent out two books – Beyond Borders

- emailed copy of an old paper on overwork to someone, and got into complicated discussion exchange on that – ahh, FB.

- read a draft chapter of someones’ PhD, coffee

- read some of – not enough – the PhD I am currently examining

- read the paper – appalled at the BBC and the softening up process before Leveson

- changed doc appointment time

- tried to move the email list problem on – getting close to fixing it

- helped design a trinkets display feature

- tried yet again to get a response from a certain admin dept that has gone dark on me

- reading for Berlin trip

- scanned copy of Ben Ross article from 15 years ago that seems really relevant now – will post here soon

- more chat with people for the Proletarianization and the River project (on thursday had a good meeting with the archivist at Museum of London Docklands. They are interested in the ideas we bring. Especially that of co-research with local activist groups coming in to the museum to work with the archives and to identify local sites/trinkets that connect up with a co-constituted colonial history with other ports like Calcutta, Canton, Caribbean etc. The same sort of proposal as was welcomed at Maritime, but perhaps even more so since Docklands is planning to reorganise their collection display under a new theme of ‘many East Londons’. Having XTalk, Brick lane Circle and Housing groups as co-researchers can really work with this. The idea will not be that we teach people to do research, but we research with them, alongside their agendas which will be to do with harlots, lascars and squatters etc (XTalk are  interested in sex work around the ports, Brick Lane Circle in Bengali sailors who jump ship, Deptford and Stratford Housing in land use.)

- prepared posters for Wednesday’s film – Baba Ratan’s Fair

- corrected start time for tonight’s Fedeici event

- twitter exchange with ex-student from Melbourne (I miss Marios breakfasts)

- prepared materials for PHD progress meeting in dept (which is about to start)

- reviewed the PhD list, what a great lot of projects – see here and here.

Not a bad morning so far, but again nothing done on my own book. Have at least updated the blog!

Damn, forget to get a sandwich for lunch. Will eat and think about how if we comply with social media’s demand to tell everyone what we are doing all the time we will never do anything. Vanishing up an orifice of our own making…

Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths

This is one of those internal discussion documents that never sees the light of day – here it is for the gnawing criticism of the mice (supposed to leave it in a drawer for that, but of course I mean digital mice):

The Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths has offered the PhD for over ten years and aims to provide the destination of choice for research in cultural and postcolonial theory, popular culture studies, critical philosophy of praxis, creative and interactive technological media, new media and media activism. The PhD can be either ‘practice-based research which entails significant practical work and a written component of up to 60,000 words, or textual research with a 100,000 word thesis’. 

Students undertake the CCS PhD for several reasons: academic research and teaching as well as cultural organization, international agencies and third sector careers. The engagement with critical theory in cultural studies is well established and draws upon a strong heritage in the UK, especially at Goldsmiths with staff in the Centre for Cultural Studies as well as Cultural Studies-and cognate area identified staff in Media and Comms, Visual Cultures, Politics and Art, Visual Art, Visual Anthropology and Digital Sociology. At Goldsmiths, the Centre for Cultural Studies was founded by Professor Scott Lash in consultation with people like Profs Morley, McRobbie and Professor Stuart Hall. It was Professor Hall who insisted that CCS should aim at extending beyond the founding interests of British Cultural Studies. Today CCS incorporates theoretical and practical explorations in technological media and cultural difference in the geo-political context of global capitalism. It’s commitment to theory involves enquiries into the most advanced paradigms of cultural thought. It’s practical commitment involves us in cultural production and critical engagement with the culture industries.

An ethos in cultural studies is interdisciplinarity. A way to describe this is to say that the Centre for Cultural Studies works by mixing possibly incongruent constituencies – what this means is that we have, for more than ten years, been bringing what may at first seem like incommensurate groups together to debate and research creatively, in teams, workshops and symposia: for example we ran a series of research conferences pairing neuropsychologists and artists together to examine new modes of representing the brain and its functions, innovating the new area of neuro-aesthetics; also we brought both London City and Chinese Finance modelers together with artists to rethink the portrayal of high finance and money [hence, the recession]; following the same convergence model, in a series of 6 workshops in London, Berlin, Copenhagen and Gothenburg we brought immigration activists and theatre, film, music and medical practitioners together to re-imagine the border. We continue to develop new projects along such lines, most recently historians and the Maritime Museum Greenwich, the Museum of London Docklands and activists in social and housing campaigns along the eastern end of the Thames in London (eg., ‘Proletarianisation and the River’ event for Museum of London Docklands Sept 2013). Our mode of operation is to intersect and interrupt in creative ways the protocols of disciplinarity, so as to inspire new work. This has a successful; track record reflected in our theory-practice research student projects. 

The Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths has some 12-15 PhD students per year, currently 45 students enrolled, and has increased enrollment year on year since founding in 1998 with one PhD student. Its MA programmes feed into the PhD – there are five such programmes at present – Interactive Media, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Theory, Creating Social Media and Culture Industry. MA Contemporary Asia and MA Provocative Media are planned to start in 2013. There are some 100+ MA students. In 2012 there were twelve graduations from the Centre for Cultural Studies PhD programme, but this by no means is the extent of cultural studies at Goldsmiths. Significant Cultural Studies PhDs, especially working in popular culture and media, are housed in Goldsmiths five star rated Media and Communications Department, and there are significant numbers of PhD students working in Visual Anthropology, Visual Sociology, as well as initiatives in Visual Cultures and Politics and Art. Goldsmiths is pre-eminent in this area, as evinced by its staff profile, and its contribution to cultural debate in the UK. 

Training provision for PhD students is rich and diverse and tailor-made to individuals.

The Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths has a dedicated PhD-level cultural theory seminar, writing practice groups, and readings groups (Hegel, Deleuze, Ranciere, Spivak, Lefebvre, new Media at preset) and runs numerous training workshops on practical and formal aspects of the Phds – for example a publishing workshop in Spring 2012, a video editing training in Spring 2013, risograph training, print on demand trainings, and much more, including in-house publications such as NyX: a Noctournal (supported by the Graduate School), Coputational Culture and close associations with Mute, TCS, and Pavement Books. In terms of colloquia, three times each year CCS participates in or co-ordinates a joint doctoral symposium with InterArts Berlin and the Copenhagen Doctoral School in Cultural Studies (Berlin November, London February, Copenhagen in June) and we send AHRC candidates to India via the AHRC International Placement Scheme. CCS doctoral students must present their work at least once per year in the PhD seminar as well as in the Graduate School Spring Review, they participate in the writing group, an annual panel, regular supervision, often with co-supervision in another department, and are encouraged to present at conferences and international colloquia.

Proposal: that we think in terms of Convergences and Frictions. The putting together of seemingly incommensurate or unusual partnerships so as to provoke creative and innovative alliances. A fund to be apportioned to initiatives on the model of ‘incongruent constituencies’ described above, with PhD students in cultural studies tasked with proposing projects:


-        the two Augusts – the imagery of Olympics and the Riots

-        cinema and mapping

-        global rivers, cultural theory, history and value theory

-        geological and social survey techniques, the report from Hunan used to survey London

-        border convergence, time-based media and immigration

-        the politics of cleaning

-        etc.

Proposal: on the model of the artist-in-residence programme, already extant alongside for example the Politics and Art PhD programme at Goldsmiths, we introduce a cultural activist–in-residence programme. An ‘activist-in-residence’ programme similar to established ‘artist-in-residence’ initiatives would be developed with initial efforts to establish the ways such placement would enable relevant people to work in collaboration and parallel to grant holders and other staff members across Goldsmiths…

Educate the educators. Pace Gayatri Spivak: The effort to build an ethics of education into the protocols of the institution. The institution as a mechanism for social mobility is filled with blockages and cul-de-sacs that can only be circumvented through a ruthless criticism of everything that exists

Transnational literacy, lexicon-consulting, language-learning, long-durée effort to unpack assumptions and counter the too easy inducements of information retrieval and impression management that web 2.0 offers as alternative to book-learning.

Patient non-coercive work to rearrange desire and unlearn Eurocentric privilege. (See Gayatri Spivak 2012 An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization)

Stitching the two ends of here and there together. The co-constitution of urban and rural, metropole and colonial theatre. Even if these old binaries no longer map so easily onto translocal globalism, any programme of training must make mobility multidirectional and bifurcate ideological privilege of advanced, western, developed or civilizational privileges. Remote locations, obscure languages, opaque aims are also viable research interests in a critical geopolitical and geopoetical cultural studies.

review of CCS grad Dr Craig Smith in Washington Post

This piece by Philip Kennicott was published August 15 2012 here.

[read the whole text by clicking the link above - the part about Craig is here]: But what if such things fell into the hands of bad people? The answer to that is addressed in fascinating, elliptical ways by the most conceptually complicated project on display, “FireSale©TM,” by Colin Beatty and Craig Smith, who operate as the collective SmithBeatty. The project involves purchasing a gun, disassembling it and mailing its pieces to “33 stakeholders, including museum directors, art curators, artists, university professors, lawyers and a weapons manufacturer president.” The pieces are defined as shares in a corporation and beautifully packaged into sturdy cases. Recipients aren’t asked whether they want to participate, and when the collective issues a call on the shares — the gun pieces — the participants can ignore the whole thing or return the gun parts as asked, which are then reassembled.

The inevitable “missing” pieces are manufactured using a 3-D printer, a powerful technology that may at some point allow almost anything to be reproduced at home using digital design files readily found on the Internet. In the case of “FireSale©TM” — which includes extensive and beautifully rendered documentation of the project, a blog on which participants record their reactions, and the gun pieces (or their 3-D printer substitutes) — the missing gun elements, made from a fragile white plastic compound, are not functional.

But with apparently credible reports that 3-D hobbyists have managed to use more sophisticated iterations of the technology to create the essential operating element of an M16 — heralded by some observers as “the end of gun control” — the dark side of SmithBeatty’s work is obvious. If you have the right specifications, at some point you could “print” yourself enough firepower to topple governments. Perhaps.

The positive, practical elements of this technology are obvious: Surgical tools could be available in remote locations; easily acquired replacement parts might put an end to landfills stuffed with barely broken toasters. But there’s a deeper utopian element in how SmithBeatty conceived its game. By structuring the project as a corporation, the duo demonstrates how the complexity of human interaction may be the greatest brake on our collective suicide. The busy executive who tosses out his piece of this gun effectively stops the reassembly. Only complete participation — almost impossible to get in any project — can yield a functioning gun. At least for now, but perhaps not for long if 3-D technology is sufficiently advanced.

If nothing else, “FireSale©TM” makes us aware of how we are invested, wittingly or not, willingly or not, in our collective destiny. Technology drives us forward in a magnificent spectacle of human accomplishment, yet it propels us toward ever-more apocalyptic possibilities. The artist’s role — one role, at least — is to warn us about these dark possibilities, before Rubicons are breached that can never be uncrossed. If you don’t like a world filled with guns bought at gun shows, over the Internet or at mom-and-pop corner shops, imagine a world — what is being called the “Thingiverse” — in which almost anything can be replicated by anyone, anywhere. We will have democratized our world all the way back to Thomas Hobbes’s jungle of violence and despair.
And so technology, progress and enlightenment make and undo us. Rousseau has been warning us about the dangers since his 1750 “Discourse on the Sciences and Arts.” Then, as now, it’s tempting to retreat into a shell, to focus on the self and feeling and the near-at-hand world, and hope the rest of this vast system takes care of itself. It won’t, of course, which is why we need exhibitions such as “Manifest: Armed.”


Manifest: Armed [was] at the Corcoran’s Gallery 31 space through Sept. 2. Call 202-639-1700 or

What other CCS graduates have been up to is here


One hundred and fifty years ago, on 1 December 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Proclamation that Emancipated America’s slaves, in the middle of the war between the Union and the slaveholding Confederacy.

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One hundred and fifty years ago the British government made plans to wage war against Lincoln and support Jefferson’s Davis’ Slaveholders’ rebellion.

The British workers stopped Prime Minister Palmerston in his tracks.

Though their employers rallied to the cause of the slaveholders, and tried to win the weavers over too, Lancashire opposed secession.Though the weavers of Lancashire were suffering from the war, they rallied to support Lincoln and the Union.

British socialists launched the Union Emancipation Society that led the opposition to the war, rallying monster meetings across the county and the country to support Lincoln and emancipation. Karl Marx, John Bright and Manchester’s trade unionists joined in a struggle for freedom in America.

Back then, everyone knew that it was the working class that had stopped the British plutocracy from joining the confederate cause.

President Lincoln thanked the Lancashire workers for their great sacrifice. Gladstone owned up to having been taught a lesson by the labouring class that had earned its right to speak. Karl Marx credited the workers with changing the course of history.

Since then, scholars have baulked at the terrible truth that freedom in America had been helped by Karl Marx and the British working class. Revisionist historians worked hard to cover up the real record. Instead, we were told, the Lancashire weavers were supporters of secession!

But new research shows that the Lancashire workers were indeed overwhelmingly opposed to secession, and rallied in support of the Union. Drawn from the archives of the Union Emancipation Society and contemporary reports British Workers & the US Civil War explains how Karl Marx and the Lancashire weavers joined Abraham Lincoln’s fight against slavery, 150 years ago.

You can buy British Workers & the US Civil War direct, for just £4, post free in the UK (outside, add £2).

Send your name, address, and a cheque payable to James Heartfield, at 17 Giesbach Road, London, N19 3DA, or pay by paypal at


Jungle Studies

My copy of Kipling’s Jungle Book begins with Lisa Makman’s pithy (even pith-helmeted) passage on jungles. It well deserves citation:

‘The term “jungle”, derived from the Hindi word jangala, entered the English language only in the eighteenth century; today it evokes dangerous terrain: impenetrable equatorial forests, menacing urban landscapes, and overall mayhem [as in, “it’s a jungle out there”]. Even as jungles have gained a new designation – rain forest – and we have learned of their life-sustaining role in the biosphere, the word continues to conjure images of imperial adventure: the white man cutting his way through the bush to hunt big game, or Tarzan swinging from a vine. We owe our deep associations of jungles with mystery, threat, and the struggle for survival in large measure to Rudyard Kipling (Makman, intro to Kipling 2004:xv)’

I want to suggest that the stalking metaphor for the trinket collecting word-play of storytelling dialectics might be Kipling’s character Kaa, who also had some wisdom, let us not forget: ‘The jungle is large and the Cub he is small. Let him think and be still’ (Kipling 2004:33). Kaa is a storyteller too, not just an old snake: ‘I also have known what love is. There are tales that I could tell that…’ (Kipling 2004:42).

There is much to learn from the names that populate the jungle city. I also note, from my copy of Hobson-Jobson – that amazing compendium of Anglo-Indian loan words, without which neither Midnight’s Children nor Merchant Ivory – that the word ‘Jungle’ is derived from Sanskrit, chiefly used in medical discourses, ‘the native word means in strictness only waste, uncultivated ground’. In the great H-J we read a citation from Valentia, in the year 1809: ‘The air of Calcutta is much affected by the closeness of the jungle around it’ (Yule and Burdell 1886/1996:470). We should be much amused to hear yet again the repetition of this undeservedly bad press for the city, and must surely reject such characterizations, with Kipling in mind, remembering the city he called ‘dreadful night’ was also ‘a city of palaces’ (for discussion see Hutnyk 1996:7). From the silted swamp and urban jungle we move on to horror stories, always evocative, we go to battle the elements together: ‘for we be of one blood, ye and I’.

Hutnyk, John 1996 The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity and the Poverty of Representation, London: Zed books.

Kipling, Rudyard 2004 The Jungle Books, New York: Barnes and Noble.

Yule, Henry and A.C.Burnell 1886/1996 Hobson-Jobson: The Anglo-English Dictionary. Ware:Wordsworth Editions.


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