Bio: Author of a number of books including “The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity and the Poverty of Representation” (1996 Zed); “Critique of Exotica: Music, Politics and the Culture Industry” (2000 Pluto Press); “Bad Marxism: Capitalism and Cultural Studies” (2004 Pluto), “Pantomime. Terror: Music and Politics” (2014 Zero) and co-authored with Virinder Kalra and Raminder Kaur: “Diaspora and Hybridity” (2005 Sage). I’ve been the editor of several volumes of essays, including “Dis-Orienting Rhythms: the Politics of the New Asian Dance Music” (1996 Zed, co ed with Sharma and Sharma) editions of the journals ‘Theory, Culture and Society’ and ‘Post-colonial Studies’, and of a festschrift for Klaus Peter Koepping called “Celebrating Transgression” (2006 Berghahn, co-ed with Ursula Rao) and “Beyond Borders” (Pavement books 2012). I write occasionally for The Paper, Stimulus Respond, Shoppinghour, and other scrappy presses. Thanks for stopping by. Red Salute.
A ‘cultural project’ runs alongside the war on terror and impacts upon a diverse range of practices, from the militarisation of public policy, through to entertainment, cinema and the music industry (Bhattacharyya 1998:293, 299; 2008, 92). Thus, there might be reason to revisit Walter Benjamin’s essay on the now near impossible role of the storyteller as the site of critique and an alternative to ‘Total War’. The storytelling I have in mind involves a mainstream pop music video that uses humour, gimmicky effects and provocations that stress or otherwise reveal our anxieties. The performer-curator and musician Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam, also known as M.I.A, features as main focus: herself conceived as a prankster character, aiming to undo the unexamined comforts of power, in ways which need to be analysed.
In holding a preview debate in London, Tate and The Sharjah Art Foundation open the floor to important questions about international contemporary art that are often simplified, subsumed or ignored. Wael Shawky, one of the participating artists, will talk about his work in relation to transregional politics, religion and history. Sarat Maharaj will explore the notion of ‘new cartographies’, which Hasegawa considers crucial to our understanding of the complexities of global developments in art. Speakers include: Hoor Al-Qasimi, President, Sharjah Art Foundation; Yuko Hasegawa, Curator, Sharjah Biennial 11; Wael Shawky, participating artist; academics and writers Sarat Maharaj and John Hutnyk in conversation; and a question and answer session chaired by Marko Daniel, Tate. Part 6: http://bcove.me/fvugf4wg Part 7: Discussion The entire event: here.
Antony Gormley in conversation with Professor John Hutnyk and Hugh Brody on the subject of Gormley’s Fourth Plinth commission – ‘One & Other’ in 2009.
For an explanation of Trinketization – never fully codified as yet – you might start with the following old posts:
So, this trinket thing has been my double refrain for a long time now – a critique of those who stop at commodity (who have only read the first chapter) and who eschew any attempt to comprehend, and change/destroy/kill, capitalism. Grinning at the shiny trinkets ain’t enough – even a theory of trinkets will not be enough, and certainly my collecting them for display is only a first step… So, maybe I should start to gather it all together a bit more. Some early formulations: In the draft intro to a special section on music and politics in the journalPostcolonial Studies, summarizing a joint article written with Virinder Kalra, we described it as:
“Focusing on, Madonna, an overworked cultural icon, who’s recent Eastern turn has attracted wide attention, this chapter compares and contrasts her trinketization to the diasporic music offerings of a more local flavour. By highlighting the theoretical dead end that all identity posturing postulates, the paper argues for a critique based not on spurious ascribed/described/pronounced subjectivities but rather on a not so fashionable materialist analysis”
This was eventually relegated/rendered in print as:
“a discussion of musical appropriations of Asian culture as ‘vogue’, offering a critique of trinketizing exoticisms and questioning the politics of identity in the context of racial conflict and imperial power structures” (Postcolonial Studies, Vol 1 No 3, 1998:355)
And this sort of line was developed a little, in a critical assessment of dearest comrade Crispin Mills of Kula Shaker fame, in a piece in the book Travel Worlds:
“It should at least be clear that the concern with ‘authenticity’ that leads to a critique of (Kula Shaker style)trinketizing exotic versions of South Asian musics is not one which insists upon the purity of traditional forms or the relativistic egalitarianism of an anthropology blind to material inequality. The danger is always that the worries about appropriation and commercialization are contradictory insofar as authenticity critique may sometimes slide into less savoury valourizations of cultural boundedness, nationalisms and conservatism. Instead, the critique of inauthentic and aestheticized versions of South Asian cultural production should be geared towards clearing a space for hearing the ‘secret omnipresence’ of resistance to which Theodore Adorno refers”.
A still less generous use of the term crops up in an early draft of a piece that eventually made it into our book on Diaspora and Hybridity, but in this case reaching back to my long-term interest in a critique of budget travellers:
“‘Going native’ persists in taking the most mundane forms especially where otherwise intelligent gap-year university students return from their travels adorned with the flotsam and jetsam of the trinket markets of the world”.
Ideally though, there will be better formulations than these. Here from a draft of my chapter in the book Celebrating Transgression:
“The trouble with fieldwork as taught in the credentializing system of the new teaching factory is that it relies primarily upon the assemblage of anecdote-trinkets. Theoretical gestation and contemplation – slow moving – is not well suited to the imperatives of pass rates and research assessment calculation. Trinketization of culture here assigns the politics of interpretation to a place of fast and loose generalities – ritualized reflexive moves that surprise no one”.
The main working out of trinketization as double play was done however in what became the book Bad Marxism. The first version of this published in the journalCritique of Anthropology, in an article called ‘Clifford’s Ethnographica’. Catty it was. Ah well. Still, the phenomenal success of Clifford’s book ‘Routes‘ meant that I figured lucky Jim could handle a few snipes when, as I showed, he got Marx wrong (exchange does not determine production, production determines exchange) and went on about that ‘mind-boggling’ bird of paradise headdress and office tie ensemble worn by James Bosu, as seen on the cover (and cropped, the larger version inside showing James with a stubbie of beer too. If Clifford had gone to visit PNG, instead of a quick sprint through a museum in London – the Museum of Man- his ‘boggle’ might have been less offensive). Anyway:
“The problem is that even if Clifford was not limited to descriptive trinketization in his collecting practice, it is very difficult to imagine how he might want to respond to the complexity of the world. Reading his varied statements on culture, trade, power and so on it becomes possible to wonder what would be needed to provoke an attempt to intervene? What set of circumstances would be necessary to provoke even a preliminary essay on what is to be done? Meekly anguished fascination at the phantasmagoric vista before him seems all we will ever be offered” (Critique of Anthropology Vol 18, No 4, 1988:364 – also appeared in Bad Marxism 2004).
“a clarification on the trinketization of jesus, and, this doesn’t qualify as jesus junk” Friday July 06th 2007, 9:56 am Filed under: church, humor “so, you may know that i post these fairly irregular “jesus junk of the month” awards. they’re not monthly, in case you haven’t noticed. deal with it. people mostly find them annoying or hilarious (as i do). but occasionally, i recieve a comment or email from someone who wonders why i feel the need to point out this stuff, because “it’s just good people”, and “can’t you just leave them alone and not buy it?” no, sorry. first, i think it’s funny stuff. but even moreso, i have a deep level of disdain for what i’m officially naming “the trinketization of jesus” (i just copyrighted that, and will be selling keychains with that phrase embossed on them in a few weeks). i’m not opposed to all products that have a christian angle to them; just those that cross the semi-fuzzy line into trinket-land. tchotchkes for jesus. here are a few of my ‘favorites’: the colors of faith duckey p31 dolls ‘we are fishermen’ jesus figurines weddings on water houseboat chapel (that’s a BIG trinket!) the fire bible ‘your best life now’ board game gospel golf balls the jesus pan jesus as a teenager painting that said, i have a bit of hypocrisy on this subject. here it is: my stomach does not turn when the trinketization is done by someone outside christianity (most of the time). in fact, it’s at that point that i sometimes even want the product! yes, they are often kitchze. but that’s part of their charm! i bought a christian friend who smokes an ashtray with jesus’ face on it, and the phrase, “jesus hates it when you smoke”. i still think these bible jump drives are kinda fun. if they made this cross mp3 player, i might want one. i love wearing the t-shirt a friend made for me with a classical painting of jesus wearing a larry-the-cucumber t-shirt, or the one with a classical painting of jesus wearing a ys t-shirt. and in that vein: i cannot give this “hymn book leather book cover for ipod” the coveted jjotm award. if it were in a christian bookstore, i’d disdain it. but created by a company called “suck, u.k.”, somehow i love it. sorry. my bad. jesus is probably rolling his eyes in my direction right now”. (ht to seth for the ipod cover link) 5 Comments so far Leave a comment the best part of that hymn book ipod case is that in the picture, the selected tune is a gorillaz track. from the album ‘demon days’. classic. Comment by patrick 07.06.07 @ 11:53 am Makes sense to me. This stuff kills me. Christian bottled water? I mean, seriously … let’s take the greatest gift in the history of all time, a relationship with God, and try to make money on it any way we can. Nobody is getting a testa-mint (Christian candy), and finally realizing they need a savior. I always try to explain to believers that this stuff makes them look like the extreme Star Trek fans. The ones that everyone else thinks is weird because they have bumper stickers, t-shirts, and Vulcan candy (which, by the way, I would totally buy in a heart beat). In other words, it only attracts other Star Trek geeks – to the rest of the world, it’s a giant “steer clear” sign! Comment by Matthew McNutt 07.06.07 @ 2:11 pm Marko – you should see the Youtube I’ve come across entitled Jesus Junk Comment by Gman 07.06.07 @ 3:12 pm This really does make a good ipod disguise. Someone sees an ipod on the seat of your car, he/she may take it. But who’s gonna nick a hymn book. Not b/c its a “religious” item (God will strike you dead, if you steal a hymn book!) – but your average joe just isn’t in the market for hymns these days. Comment by doodah 07.06.07 @ 5:22 pm The Jesus bobblehead doll is still my favorite. I received one a few months ago from Ship of Fools. *
This great post and meme by Ted Swedenburg deserves your attention. I used to play this game but never thought to collect – this is trinketization as well after all. One of my favourites was the news reporter on Japanese television when I worked in Nagoya, who presented all his Baghdad reports during 2003 wearing a Kufiya. Some people have mistaken Jade Goody’s pirate scarf on Big Brother as one as well, but I think we can let that pass – great as Jade is, her support for Pirates will do. Aki Nawaz of course is a prominent UK wearer, among millions in the UK, but though my own is now a bit tatty as its one of my oldest items of clothing, it does come out often. I got it from Palestine Solidarity in Melbourne in 1986 – we ran ads for their campaign group in the journal I edited, Criticism, Heresy and Interpretation. Anyway, this is Ted’s latest addition, gently mocking ‘Urban Outfitters’, but it’s worth pursuing the other posts as this one is number 12 in his series.
Urban Outfitters’ “early spring” catalogue is now online, and the featured item in Men’s Accessories is the (Palestinian) kufiya, marketed as an “anti-war woven scarf” (thanks, Hisham). If you click on the photo of the male model, you will find the kufiya (only $20), in the classic mode, checkered black-and-white, but also available in red, turqoise (my fave), and brown. It’s remarkable that “anti-war” is now so mainstream that Urban Outfitters feels comfortable using it as a marketing tool. By contrast, back in the late ’80s, the Banana Republic catalogue carried an item called the “Israeli Paratroopers Bag.” It’s also remarkable that despite even though the Palestinians, since the onset of the al-Aqsa Intifada, have been indelibly re-associated with terrorism and suicide bombings, the Palestinian kufiya remains so deeply rooted in hipster clothing style and the outfits of oppositional movements that it remains hip/commercial/”resistive” symbol. Something on the order of Che Guevara t-shirts, full of contradictions, capable of making money, yet still giving off the whiff of danger. Probably it’s the hint of danger and the exoticism that, combined, (still) makes the kufiya marketable. I’d hate, of course, to see wearing the “anti-war scarf” as accessory substitute for actual activism against the war/occupation. (And my friend Joel Gordon reminds me: the kufiya “originally” symbolizes resistance, and in fact, armed resistance (the Palestinian revolt of 1936-39, the fedayeen of the sixties and seventies), not “anti-war.” No doubt this is also related to the “hipness” of things Islamic today; an article by Jill Hamburg Caplan will soon appear inNew York magazine, and I’ll comment on it when it comes out. I wrote an article on the kufiya as style back in 1992, in an article inMichigan Quarterly Revies, and I discuss its uses, in Palestine and the US, in my book, Memories of Revolt. I’ve also been attempting to document various “sitings” of the kufiya in this blog”. Great stuff as ever Ted – hence reposted in full (of awe). .
**** Just in 1.1.09: Trinketization won two prizes in the best of anthro blogs awards 2008! Beam. See here. +++++ and then – added 12.7.2010 – again in 2010 – a glorious 22nd out of 40 :) [sponsors add for online PhD programs removed - ahem]: see HERE