theory of the offensive

Ben renames his spot, and deftly arcs up the flare:

theory of the offensive: “Yet Another Televised Revolution, exclusively distributed as part of the Straight-to-Video Collection
My new bland ambition: a critique of schematic efforts at the periodisation of the combined and uneven subsumptions constituting this current moment in the history of capital, in which the concept of ‘the left-wings of capital’ plays a substantial supporting role, with cameo and bit parts for leftists, ‘activists’, insert your own etceteras, also providing technical assistance helping to give the left-wings of capital the illusion of three dimensions which illusion I include our new geopolitics of reification i.e. the illusion of three dimensions rather than four, the provision of special lighting to generate a depthless appearance of the always-already eternal, an occlusion of the conflictual constitution of the lived categories of capital thus, as a bonus, producing that flat Surrealpolitik making imaginable some sick, consensual left-wing capitalism in which we can all labour hard and manage the oh-so-fairer exchanges of the work-camps on whose ethical status we can found a good conscience, high moral ground and claim for surplus value ..
well, you get the picture, we can all assent to exploitation-as-liberation. Fight the class struggle: Kill a fair trader this winter.”

Intel needs anthro Interns for Love and Spirit research!!

From: Payne, Michael J
Sent: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 9:42 AM
To: Ethnography Researchers
Subject: Call for Interns – please forward as appropriate

Intel Corporation’s Domestic Designs and Technologies Research Group
is calling for interns! As part of Domestic Designs and Technologies
Research, the ethnographic and design research team within the Digital
Home Group, you will work within a multidisciplinary team to explore
and research ‘love and spirituality’ and its intersection with
computers and technology, in and around the home.

DDTR is a driving force within the Digital Home Group: our charter is
to develop a clear & actionable understanding of daily life all over
the world, identify opportunities for our platforms to enable
experiences that consumers value, merge original insights with
technology, market, platform and planning intelligence to define usage
models & platform requirements, and seed future research & platform
opportunties. DHG’s vision is to make Intel the trusted foundation of
your digital home. To that end, the Digital Home Group develops
computing and communications oriented platforms that anticipate and
satisfy the needs of consumers world-wide.

We will be offering 3 month paid internships starting in October ’06,
January ’07, and April ’07, for graduate students in anthropology,
design research or related social sciences. Interns must re-locate to
the Portland, Oregon area to work closely with the research team
during the entire length of the internship.

We are looking for individuals with experience in designing and
conducting both qualitative and quantitative user or design research
studies, including analysis of the resulting data. Candidates should
prepare a concise yet thorough one-page proposal to explore some
aspect of love and spirituality and its intersection with computers
and technology in and around the home. Exact responsibilities of the
position will be defined with the successful applicant based on the
proposal you submit.

Please submit your proposal describing the research you’d like to do
in this area over the course of your internship to . Applications (CV + proposal) must be
received by July 31st, October 31st, and January 31st respectively for
the Oct, Jan, and April start dates; successful candidates will be
contacted by the 10th of the month following.

Guardian becomes News of the World II – return of the Nawaz

So, though we heard it first in the guest lecture Aki gave in class at Goldsmiths in Spring term, finally The Guardian found a stupid headline to put above the press release Nation put out to promote the new Fun^da^mental album. Accusing Aki of terror, support for Osama, un-British sentiments and punk sensibilities… you got to read the story for a laugh (click the link at the end).

Aki of course is a past master of provocation (aka Proper-Gandhi gives it away). Yet this strategy, straight out of the Andrew Loog Oldham school of promotional work where ‘no publicity is bad publicity’, is still a risky move. Not least because the Guardian can turn itself into some sort of News of the World style tabloid for a day (the headline itself – G-had and suicide bombers: the rapper who likens Bin Laden to Che Guevara – is particularly stupid but references all the storm in a tea cup fears that surround us today, and manages to tap Che on the shoulder as well. Aki as a rapper rather underplays his diverse activities as impresario of the global juke box over the past 20 years. The photo they chose is also particularly grand. In the print version of this Ladbroke Grove ensemble (the Guardian Unlimited one is slightly cropped) there is an English flag to the right of the picture. The bus in the background on the left is behind a young lad with a backpack – ooooh! significance, July 7 London bomb anniversary next week – and Aki himself is trying to look angry, but you can tell inside he is smirking at the absurdity of this scene.

All that said, its a dangerous strategy as well because the authorities that have the power to do such things just may well get the wrong end of the night stick and actually think this father of four is some sort of threat to the Nation. Well, perhaps he is, and its a good thing too – we all need to threaten a rethink of the dubious policies of Blair and the clones, of the terror war they are waging worldwide, of the domestic demonization of muslims, of the crushing of civil society (what civil society – that its too civil is the problem) and of the stifling numbing dumb dumb dumb of the press. And lets take a lesson from Nepal, which this week repealed some of its ‘anti-terror’ laws in the interests of civic freedoms. Zindabad!

This is just part of a music show – the new replacement for TOTPs perhaps – and we can all see its only a minor power play in an obscure corner of the culture industry, but still Aki Nawaz is just the sort of threat we need much more of, in the sense that we have to debate, discuss, challenge and change – and absolutely none of this requires any heavy handed police interventions, or worse.

[And to the guy on the train who found my comments on this news story interrupted his dumbass reading of Hollinghurst and accused me of being a ‘lecturer from Manchester Met’ (huh – why would that make me ‘a Guardian-reading liberal’). So sorry, but – you mugwump – before trying a bit of push and shove, have a think – you are lucky I did not reckon it worth the a bruise on my forehead to help you sleep. with the fishes..],,1807542,00.html


Marx Lecture Notes 1998

Marx lecture – John Hutnyk 1998. DRAFT notes (rough and ropey)

Marx (1818-1883). German-Jew in a family converted to Christianity. Student in Bonn and Berlin, met Friedrich Engels in 1844, from which his first important works date, together they wrote the German Ideology, a critique of right Hegelians, and The Communist Manifesto –

Manifesto – this was written over the winter of 47-48 for the International Workingmen’s Association. First drafted on the train from Manchester to London, then finished in a frenzy of work by Marx in Brussels in January 48. It influence astonishing, global, relevant still, etc.

Everyone can quote from it: from its first words: ‘Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa’ (1848/1970:41) – ‘A spectre is haunting Europe’, to its last words ‘Mögen die herrschendenKlassen vor iner kommunistischen Revolution zittern. Die Proletarier haben nichts in ihr zu verlieren als ihr Ketten. Sie haben eine Welt zu gewinnen. Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt euch’ (1848/1970:82-3) – ‘Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all countries, unite’.

Perhaps most important for anthropologists is the passage on how the capitalist system forces the bourgeoisie to expand everywhere, to try to extend its mode of production to all lands, to recruit and co-opt all peoples, increasingly, through advances in means of production, communication and coercion, to draw all peoples and all lands into industrial production. Hence colonialism, imperialism, transition…

The Manifesto was written just as Europe launch into a period of revolutionary turmoil. Marx was himself an activist, expelled from Germany for political reasons, exiled in Paris then London. He was, apparently, a rebel rousing type, turning up to demos and meetings a little pissed, but able, in repartee, to make mince meet of any other ideologues – but the revolutionary period of 1848 did not deliver freedom, and Marx’s hope for the situation was disappointed. He turned to the library – although never gave up activism – to provide an explanation. I want to stress this – the Manifesto, and his other works, including the most theoretical, are written in the context of actual political events – of the type I’ve been emphasising…

Marx’s most important work is Das Kapital, written 1867. This is so whether you go by his own assessment, evidenced by his allocation of so many years to its writing, or the uses made of the host of Marxists which follow his work in a multiplicity of ways.

Marx, of course, was the first to announce that he was not a Marxist. The various interpretations and reinterpretations offer good reason for thinking there is no one Marxism. Interpretation becomes key, much of it done by anthropologists, but also done in practical politics and the sometimes violent scene of really existing Marxisms ranged across the globe throughout this century.

We will start with Das Kapital, but any introduction is a misconstrual. So often, like Argonauts, only the fist chapter is read. To read just the section on commodities, even as this is the key to the whole, would be only to begin and thus to misrepresent. Das Kapital though is a fat book.

The first chapter that we read is actually the rewritten version of 1873. Marx was already revising Marxism six years after publication.

What did he change in that first rewrite? The analysis of commodities as enhanced. The argument proceeds by abstraction, by abstracting the kernel of a wider and more complicated system and showing the workings of the unreal scene of exchange, and then increasingly in chapter and chapter, widening the analysis, adding ethnographic examples and heading towards the – never completed – comprehensive understanding of capitalism as a global system.

The procedure is dialectical. This is not exactly the same as Hegel’s ‘mystified dialectic’, (its always more complicated than thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis etc) but a procedure that allows a stitching back and forth between complex examples and accumulating understanding.

Starting with the difficult scene of commodity exchange, this is nonetheless a very clear and accessible read. Marx tells us that the presentation differs from the mode of inquiry. The analysis of commodities was not his first object of analysis, it is an abstracted presentation, a writerly, rewritten, text.

The first sentence of the text: ‘The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an “immense collection of commodities”, the individual commodity appears as its elementary form’ (Marx 1867/

I’ll first focus upon the word appearance here – it is a translation – a bad one – of ersheint. The wealth of capitalist society appears as a collection of commodities. This is not a straight description. Erscheint has the sense of appearance both as how something looks, and the theatrical sense of putting in an appearance, staging something. This is important because the whole of capital, in it presentation, is a staged drama. Throughout the literary theatrical code is prominent. Characters perform in Marx’s theatre, even at the very beginning – the ‘immense collection of commodities’ is characterised as something like the World Fair, those mad exhibitions of the produce of the world, before which – in 1851 for example – Marx had marvelled as a visitor The plunder of the world (in a huge potlatch something like that discussed last week).

The burden of the first section of Kapital is to convince us that the way wealth appear as a collection of commodities, and as the exchange of these commodities in the market/world fair, is merely the appearance of things. An abstraction. He does this by working through notions of use-value and exchange-value, and categories divined by political economists who have not any idea of how things work- you need to read the spiteful footnotes for yourself.

The commodity is first of all an external object that satisfies human needs of whatever kind – arising from the stomach or the imagination, it doesn’t matter – as an object of consumption or in production of other objects….

The commodity then has quality and quantity, and can be useful in various ways, and these use-values are discovered through history. Of course it will be no surprise that commodities are subject to socially devised modalities of calculation and measurement. This is because they are exchanged – exchange first of all – in the abstracted analysis – calculates quantity – x coats can be exchanged for x amount of linen etc – Marx’s examples seem often to do with the cold or hunger, coats or recipes for sup etc. The British Museum being badly heated…

Exchange, then generates a measurement system in which exchange values are calculated first in terms of other commodities and then through the development of a universal equivalent, for which money stands in the first place. Coin as the measure of things, enables exchange.

At first look, Marx notes, the commodity seems to have a double character, as both a use-value and an exchange-value. But commodities only have exchange value in relation to other commodities, not in themselves. A coat is a coat, but it can only be exchanged, for linen, for food, whatever, if there are other commodities – hence a market, etc… At first look. But what is missed here is analysed by Marx under the category of fetishism.

A famous example shows Marx’s key point on fetishism and reveals the secret of exchange. He discusses a table, which may be something that could be exchanged, say, for ten coats, or 20 yds of linen, etc. … It is worth reading a passage:

‘A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it is a value in use, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it is capable of satisfying human wants, or from the point that those properties are the product of human labour. It is as clear as noon-day, that man, by his industry, changes the forms of the materials furnished by Nature, in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered, by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that, the table continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than “table-turning” ever was.

The mystical character of commodities does not originate, therefore, in their use-value. Just as little does it proceed from the nature of the determining factors of value. For, in the first place, however varied the useful kinds of labour, or productive activities, may be, it is a physiological fact, that they are functions of the human organism, and that each such function, whatever may be its nature or form, is essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles, &c. Secondly, with regard to that which forms the ground-work for the quantitative determination of value, namely, the duration of that expenditure, or the quantity of labour, it is quite clear that there is a palpable difference between its quantity and quality. In all states of society, the labour-time that it costs to produce the means of subsistence, must
necessarily be an object of interest to mankind, though not of equal interest in different stages of development. [(Footnote:) And lastly, from the moment that men in any way work for one another, their labour assumes a social form.

Whence, then, arises the enigmatical character of the product of labour, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities? Clearly from this form itself. The equality of all sorts of human labour is expressed objectively by their products all being equally values; the measure of the expenditure of labour-power by the duration of that expenditure, takes the form of the quantity of value of the products of labour; and finally the mutual relations of the producers, within which the social character of their labour affirms itself, take the form of a social relation between the products.

A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour…. Kapital – 163-165

Its important that Marx shows that even the isolated Robinson on his Island make his objects according to a social code, not as an isolated individual. We are all social, even when it seems not. This is a key to anthropology isn’t it?

I am leaving out some key notions. For example that of Socially necessary labour time (not actual specific labour times, but averaged and abstracted over the whole of society) in which the debate around calculating the origin of value, and increases in value, emerges.

Let me schematically condense and abstract the next few chapters even more brutally:

The money form as the expression of value is that which circulates value (this money could even be the Nuer’s cows, Marx in fact gives and example of such a use of cattle (p183) and also of shells – he was more and more fascinated by the emergent ethnographic work of Henry Morgan, and Spencer and Tylor in his later life. He wrote 30,000 foolscap sides. largely on ethnology, in the last ten years of his life (his most ‘unproductive period!).

Money expresses the value of all commodities in terms of each other.

One of these commodities is labour, which is bought in the marketplace like any other.

‘When the great English landowners…

Rough sketch (note, not an essential and guaranteed pattern, but an abstraction). This is the model of transition, the reason the capitalist system must seek out and colonise all lands…

In the Economic Notebooks of 1857-8 (The Grundrisse), Marx sets out his moment in a vivid, if abstracted, passage:

“when the great English landowners dismissed their retainers, who had consumed with them the surplus produce of their land; when their tenant farmers drove out the small cottagers, etc., then a mass of living labour power was thrown on to the labour market, a mass which was free in a double sense: free from the old client or bondage relationships and any obligatory services, and free also from all goods and chattels, from every objective and material form of being, free of all property [eine Masse, die in doppeltem Sinn frei war]. It was reduced either to the sale of its labour capacity or to beggary, vagabondage or robbery as its only source of income. History records that it tried the latter first, but was driven off this road and on to the narrow path which led to the labour market, by means of gallows, pillory and whip” (Marx 1857/1987: 431 my italics, trans. from 1857/1974: 406)

The goods that had previously been consumed by the feudal lords and their retainers, and the released produce of the land, are thrown on to the exchange market, as are those who would be henceforth known as labourers. That the sale of labour power must be instilled by discipline – the gallows, the workhouse, the prison – becomes the only choice.[1] Even the poorhouses and their charity instil the discipline of work (only Dickens’ Oliver dares ask for ‘more’ it seems). That this was conceived by Marx as part and parcel of capitalist development can be confirmed from other (re)writings of almost the same paragraph.

In Capital Marx returns more than once[2] to this scene:
Thus were the agricultural people, first forcibly expropriated from the soil, driven from their homes, turned into vagabonds, and then whipped, branded, tortured by laws grotesquely terrible, into the discipline necessary for the wage system (Marx 1867/1967: 737)

The trick of course – again the fetish, is to think that this wage system and this market is a level playing field. That the commodities get to market like the table, without the intervention of social actors. The social includes differential privileges and starting points – some own the means of production, some own nothing. The exchange of wages is not a fair deal in this circumstance, since the payment of wages – which comes through competition etc to be the equivalent of socially necessary labour time, that which is required to replenish the capacity of the worker to work (the reproduction of labour, and labourers). Obviously this is not necessarily the only possible way of distributing that which is produced.

Why is it not a fair deal? Because the payment that comes to the worker is never as much as that value that the workers’ work adds to the products worked upon. How? The capitalist only pays the worker that which is necessary to reproduce labour. This may, for example, be that which the worker can produce in four hours of work, say, making more valuable coats out of mere linen. These then, taking overhead costs and distribution costs etc into account, can then be sold at a price that covers both the cost of necessary materials and the cost of the labourer for the day. But of course the labourer contracts with the capitalist to work for a full day, not just four hours. The extra hours are in a way a free gift to the capitalist. This is called surplus labour, and the profit that can be made through selling the extra coats made by the – here unpaid – worker are surplus value. In the sense this terminology is important because it is in effect surplus production – surplus to the needs which maintain the worker (and his family – the whole problematic of unpaid housework and sexwork enters here). Marx doesn’t just use these dry words – he also notes the capitalist sucks vampire like on living labour, sucking more and more value and offering less and less in return.

Here then arises Marx as advocate of the workers, who raise their voice in protest. Who first smash the machines, who agitate for rights etc. But who are, of course, also tricked into compromises – religion in which thy seek solace and are taught to accept their lot, (the opium of the people, the first cry of the oppressed masses); they are bought off in the West by welfare and national pride in industry, they are forced into competition with each other – shopping and bargaining as civil war – racism, isolation and petty bourgeois greed….

The trick is everywhere – the owners of the means of production are of course interested in making greater and greater profit. Why? The necessity of their production requires them to constantly strive for efficiencies and expansion so as advance, or at least to simply to maintain their privilege. Where does this come from? It is not greed, but a structural factor.

Marx wants us to develop the x-ray eye that will be able to see through the trick which conjures social relations between people as relations between things, and the system of capital as a force arrayed above the heads and outside the influence of workers. Hence al manner of campaigns – for better conditions, for shorter hours, for more pay, are only parts of a wider anti-capitalist project.

But why must the capitalist be so greedy? Why not rest with this level of profit. Marx is amazed to find that the capitalist does not simply enjoy the lusts of the flesh made available by wealth, but even sublimates this just for the lust for gold. Profit becomes a joy in itself. Weird alienation of even the rich.

The ways of increasing profit are either to make workers work longer hours or to pay them less – usually both. There are of course limits – the length of the working day being one obvious one. Marx was heavily involved in campaigns about limits on the working day – there are some moving and emotive passages on child labour and long hours in the book.

The reduction of wages is a way of reducing necessary costs – overheads – for the capitalist this is a major struggle. Why need to do this? Why not sit satisfied with a certain level of profit.

It is because of the cut-throat cannibalising violence of the capitalist system that the capitalist must always strive to expand. The producer of commodities that succeeds in the market soon find there are others producing the same item and sometimes at a slightly cheaper price (in order to capture a slice of the profits). To maintain profitability the first producer must also reduce prices, find cheaper more efficient ways to get the products to market, to introduce new methods of work. This then spirals out of control until everything finds a socially necessary average minimum and profit margins, work conditions, and quality are all squeezed. Drudgery, horror, danger, violence, industrial accidents, brutalisation – the workers work as adjuncts to machines, the machines do not work for us – alienation, chaos.

We have both the amazing good of new and brilliant technologies at the same time as there appears new managerial regimes and discipline, the mass extension of the railways, but only to turn everyone into commuters, the production of massive abundance, and the impoverishment of most. The expansive-reductive double play of capital contradicts.

Even as the capitalist business works towards a minimum price and minimum average profit as others enter a given mode of production or market niche, there is still movement in this infernal scene. Some capitalists – your entrepreneurial types of moneybag – then will strive to find a new product a new opportunity to profit, but this is not always available. Others will try to introduce new more efficient techniques, some will try to reduce overheads by moving production to places where materials – including workers – are less expensive. All these offer up extensive examples of the immiseration of human life in the face of the pursuit of profit. The cal mines of Bihar, the copper mines of Bougainville, the tea plantations of Sri Lanka, the Nike factories of Indonesia, etc etc.

But eventually all these factors even out as well, and the only hope of the capitalist to maintain levels of profit is to expand the size of the operation. Of course in reality – as opposed to the abstract sketch/analysis – these things happen in tandem. But by doubling the size of production it is possible to increase the size of the profit. Economies of scale come into play, but of course this is no ultimate source of value either, since eventually every other producer expands or goes out of business.

This is why the system is doomed – eventually the need to expand leads to amalgamation and consolidation, take-overs, and bankruptcy-buy-outs. The huge conglomerations are beset with the need to turn over their production faster and faster to produce more to maintain the same profit, and of course this requires ever greater reserves of capital to pay the necessary costs to fuel the new round of production. At some point the business gets to big for another turnover to be funded – and we get a slump, periodic crises and collapse. These happen in massive cycles which some people have discussed under the name of Krondatieff. We are as yet to see the final collapse – there is no guarantee it will happen – there are still new regions, new products, new spaces for expansion. And the movement of opposition also has its ups and downs. Globally, it remains strong. In our consciousness and media it is suppressed by the universal blanket of Murdoch televisual infotainment and dull dull dull.

Btw workers and capitalists
Capitalists and capitalists
Production and consumption
Forces of production and relations of production
Capitalism and feudalism
Capitalism and communism

– this is a series of displacement expressed in contradiction which constitutes the terrain of class struggles.

Capital organizes the periphery as site of cheap labour production for export and for services, but must retan high wages through privileged productivity in the centres so that privileged age earners can consume the exports and services offered them – thus recouping extracted surplus (valourization) and plundered mercantile booty.

Labour is activity
Labour power is sold as commodity
– these are not the same

Capitalist wants to reduce costs, so hires the cheapest labour – women, blacks, third world workers etc. Thus economic problems are also questions of racism, sexism, ageism, imperialism.

Capital threatens labour with dismissal if labour power is not applied, but only the threat of being caught slacking ad getting fined should force the worker to work. Why then does the worker voluntarily sweat it out? All manner of little disciplinary practices induce the worker to work rather tan to sabotage the process.

A key issue is how capital extracts work from the worker: ie the disciplinary coercion of labour to expend its labour power.
What are the ways?
– threat ofdismissal
– punishments
– surveillance
– rewards
– hierarchy

Wages Prices and Profit
– soup and share of production – 364
– use real examples – 367
– source of profit (12th hour?) 368
– aganst fixed conceptions 368
– capital wants to reduce costs 370
– social nature of labour power 379
– wear and tear on coins 372
– costs of production, tools etc 380
– co-operation of production process 382
– innovations of production process 381
– market-buyers and sellers doubly free 385
– reproduction, cildren 386
– surplus 387.

Marx has been a kind of intimidation for anthropologists – an often unacknowledged model
– he, like Malinowski, wanted to start with the real activity or real human beings
– like contemporary writing/culture school inspired anthropologists, his reflexive thinking about textual construction was key
– like someone such as Bataille, he was motivated by a refusal to be crushed by the brutality of events, war, oppression, morality
– like Adorno, he attends to culture as industry
– like most anthropologists, he changed his focus from one area of the world to another – he learnt Russian in the last years of his life
– in terms of micro-macro and globalization there is no more capable analyst
– in terms of engagement, commitment, zeal and in terms of metaphor, spite, gossip

Marx may, or may not, have been wrong on any number of things, but his importance cannot be dismissed.

[1] Michel Foucault’s somewhat reluctant Marxist inheritance in his inspiring and influential work on asylums, clinics, punishments etc., emerges from these insights, although it is important to remember that labour itself is a major mode of disciplinary formation.
[2] Also: ‘They were turned en masse into beggars, robbers, vagabonds, partly from inclination, in most cases from stress of circumstances. Hence at the end of the 15th and during the whole of the 16th century, throughout Western Europe a bloody legislation against vagabondage. The fathers of the present working-class were chastised for their enforced transformation into vagabonds and paupers. Legislation treated them as “voluntary” criminals, and assumed that it depended on their own good will to go on working under the old conditions that no longer existed’ (Marx 1867/1967: 734).
(given in 1998 to my undergraduate ‘General Principles of Anthropology Class)

Graduate School at Goldsmiths

Well, in a fit of over-enthusiasm that belongs to some sort of undiagnosed workaholicism, and because I think there should be a revolutionary way to remake our universities, I applied for the post of Dean of the new Graduate School at Goldsmiths. I was interviewed on tuedsay, and the SMT have not yet made their decision (SMT= Senior Management Team, a committee name certainly in need of rebranding, if not firebranding). I wait and see, as do the other candidates. Its been interesting discussing with Carrie from Education in the meantime… as we wait. If anything, the circulation of ideas about what Goldsmiths might be/has been useful, so – with all sorts of embarrassment at the shameless self promotional aspects of making applications – I include here the response I made to the SMT request for a “1000 word vision”. Apologies to Peter Sloterdijk and all the other education activist comrades who helped generate this sort of bluster way back when. And sorry for some of the more prosaic quality rhetoric that is now obligatory in the administered society. Those were heady days… From Mark I am reminded of the bit in Adorno that alibis it all:

Whoever makes critically and unflinchingly conscious use of the means of administration and its institutions is still in a position to realize something which would be different from merely administered culture (Adorno 1991 :131)

May 29, 2006

Re John Hutnyk – application for Dean of the Graduate School

My enthusiasm for this post is fundamentally based upon a theoretical, practical and political interest in ways to institute connections between the diverse intellectual elements of the cultural and creative work represented at Goldsmiths. I have a background (see CV) in postgraduate research organisation stemming initially from student activism, followed by policy experience as a researcher-organiser for several Australian postgraduate student organisations (including advise to the peak lobby group CAPA: Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations) and subsequently as an academic, conference organiser, supervisor, researcher, editor and in recent years as the person who revamped PhD provision in the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths (as PhD Convenor and ‘Academic Director’ alongside Professor Lash). My interest in organising as such is complimented by a substantive skill base, and facility for forging new institutional forms of action and engagement across departments, among emergent networks and through co-operative involvement. I would stress that my personal commitment dovetails centrally with the idea of a Graduate School insofar as the questions that have always driven me in my research, teaching and practical work have to do with ways to inspire and co-ordinate disparate but similar creative energies. Goldsmiths offers a fantastic array of intellects, personalities, and genius that will/can/must be organised.

How to do this is an issue of enormous potential and delicacy. In the first three months of this post (and continuing thereafter via a Graduate School Advisory Committee) there will need to be a rolling series of consultations with heads of departments, members of the postgraduate research committee, postgraduate research co-ordinators, GCSU, international office, admissions, web-team, and other relevant units, to further develop a future shape for the Graduate School. While the mandate of the Graduate School should be influenced by these consultations, it is imperative to move forward now and many of the suggestions already offered, and those below, could be implemented at a very early stage. The Goldsmiths’ mission, values, and wider discussions will also be part of an ongoing debate driven by the ideas that were behind the Graduate School plan.

With the ideas in the attached document, I submit my expression of interest in the post of Dean of the Graduate School. I affirm my longstanding concern, professionally and intellectually, with the core practices that would make the Graduate School a success. My commitment to the Centre for Cultural Studies can be confirmed by any of the (50+) PhD students in the Centre who would readily attest to the success of that programme; I would now like to bring my experience into a wider format as I see this post as complimentary to what I do best in CCS, and also as constituting a logical extension of my career. I would very much like the opportunity to elaborate upon all these points in discussion with the selection committee.

Dr John Hutnyk CCS

The Graduate School at Goldsmiths.

A place of progressive thinking, practice, research and activity…

The Graduate School of Goldsmiths is a great idea. It can unify the inspirational and rampantly creative conglomeration of people and projects that inhabit the New Cross campus. It will allow us to further focus our postgraduate and research mission, and allow us to promote ourselves coherently and visibly in the national and international public eye. Consolidation of our existing strengths in an identifiable (branded?) identity will have obvious benefits in terms of academic standing, recruitment, and a sustained reputation – a strong Graduate School at Goldsmiths can secure long-term intellectual identification of/with Goldsmiths (we are not just a teaching factory, but must position ourselves as a permanent intellectual home for students, alumni and staff).

Goldsmiths is already an excellent atmosphere in which to pursue advanced research, with enthusiastic students and dedicated staff. What we need to do now is two-fold – to consolidate Goldsmiths’ reputation as an environment for graduate research with an open engaging structure, with excellent institutional support (buildings, procedures, formal and social action), and to coherently promote Goldsmiths as a serious and sophisticated, cutting edge, intellectually driven, world-class scholarly milieu. What we need most perhaps is a new catalyst with which to advance what is best about Goldsmiths as a significant and dynamic place for graduate research (and we do desperately need to deal with some infrastructural limitations, provide a physical presence, enhance library resources, etc).

A place of scholarship and excellence, expression, diversity and commitment…

It must be admitted that the Graduate school would serve competing tendencies.

What we might consider for the Graduate School is a structure and a space that provides the solid, reassuring, competent and institutionally secure environment that facilitates the best of scholarship in the university tradition, provides connections and support for research careers, training and progress, AND at the same time offers a haven for an uninhibited intelligence, where ideas and motivation can thrive, in an environment that is more than just cramming, training and protocol. A social environment with a serious intellectual and inspirational focus, a place of ideas.

As Dean, I propose to work towards a Graduate School that provides support for research culture and research students. I see the Graduate School becoming an attractive, strategic, local, national and international draw card, complimenting departmental research cultures, and fostering Goldsmiths’ inherent, but often incipient, interdisciplinarity. The Graduate School would seek to develop:

– Refined codes of practice, regulations reviews, monitoring; development of research students/supervisor guidelines and review of all published documentation; clarify lines of support for postgraduate inquiry, problem solving, day-to-day focus;

– Targeted and stimulating training framework, skills and academic development, dedicated career advice for research degree students; fostering entry into scholarly community (and into other professions);

– Quality assurance, accountability, democracy, transparency; commitment to independence of thought, open exchange of ideas; debate;

– Scholarships and bursaries; dedicated support for staff to include research fellowships in their grants; develop links with Max Planck, Clore, India PMI and UKIERI funding schemes,

– European and other initiatives to secure resources for postgraduates from home and overseas;

– Close links with the International Office, Admissions, Student Records, Student Support, the GCSU (promote idea of a Graduate Officer), web-team, and other Goldsmiths administrative units; work towards coherence of MA programmes and plans for MA and PGSE involvement in graduate School;

– A series of high profile Graduate School workshops with leading intellectuals in various fields (see below); a named list of Graduate School Associate Faculty (from the departments) to give profile and standing;

– A Graduate School lecture series, possibly co-ordinated with Inaugural Lectures; Graduate Summer Schools; International visits, liaison, collaboration on the Frankfurt/Copenhagen (and future India, China) models;

– Dedicated advanced publishing and publications support for students, including web publishing, blogs, podcasting and possibly through a new Postgraduate Hallmark (with a more dynamic newspaper style design) and;

– A spectacular new Graduate School publication (see below)

A place of ideas and inspiration, public and private…

I propose a Graduate School that is formal and mature, scholarly and prestigious, which will also make space for speculation and the flash of insight. In various disciplines, a doubled (and multiple, even dialectical) configuration has long been recognised. I propose making multiplicity a key metaphor for initiating a series of workshops to establish the Graduate School first and foremost as a forum of exciting and expressive thinking. For example: through a series of cross-theme interdisciplinary workshops (perhaps five events in the first year, with published proceedings in a newspaper and/or web format): an invited international speaker would give a public GS lecture and spend two or more days in workshops listening to and commenting on graduate research presentations, thus combining public profile with intensive advanced teaching. These events could be written up, linked to publications in newsletter or in more ambitious formats (see below). These workshops would thereby have public promotional and internal pedagogic dimensions. They might be initiated through joint proposals from two or more departments of the college at a time, but opened to the entire GS, for example:

there might be a suggestion from Anthropology and English for a reflection of the importance of ‘non’-anthropologists to the traditions of cultural commentary evaluating the popularity of William Burroughs, Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula Le Guin, Peter Carey, Will Self;

or perhaps from Design and Visual Cultures, a practically informed critique, and exhibition, of the role of Dada and Surrealism as conduit of radical thinking and of creeping commercialisation;

from CUCR and Computing the importance of rhetorical flair, numeracy and repetitive/econometric tropes for the literature of world bank policy documents;

from Politics and Psychology, the articulation of problematics party politics and promotion with the sloganeering of ‘the personal is political’, through feminism, psychoanalysis and self-help literatures…

from the Screen School, CCS and Music, a workshop on ways to radically re-invent Music – television (with spin-off development to rival MTV.

There are many possibilities and these are not at all the most original ones that could be imagined, but rather are simple speculative illustrations to be replaced by negotiated and developed ideas sought through a call for proposals to the departments and graduate students. Funding for such initiatives would be paramount, with some college funds and outside sources tapped as needed.

A spectacular new Graduate School publication to make Goldsmiths Research visible, voluble and shining in the public eye…

Goldsmiths must remain a leader in its fields and to this end the college needs a flagship scholarly publication. This publication must rival surpass international benchmarks and serve as a key identifier of the College. For comparisons sake we might think of the impact that ZKM publications have had for the Karlsruhe Centre for Art and Media Technology; the ZONE books series; Semiotexte and Autonomedia; the MIT Press (indeed, we might work towards a book series through a prominent publisher – Polity or Pluto would be interested). This publication could carry short articles by the many prominent visitors and associates of Goldsmiths, and it could showcase Graduate Student and Staff research, writing, photography, innovative work of all kinds. It would have very high end printing ideals and sophisticated, stylised lay-out. It would become the flagship publication of the Graduate School, and perhaps of the College. It would be a must have item on every thinking persons coffee table – the critical glossy of all glossies. We might call it “Scribble” or some other reference to the idea of making visible the diverse creative and critical activities that go on in postgraduate research at Goldsmiths every day behind many doors, inside many lecture and seminar rooms. We have suffered without such a flagship publication – the award winning College prospectus and the (frankly quite tame) mid-1990s history of the College can only do so much – we need a dynamic, new, and HOT HOT HOT publication.

This publication would require participation by a number of parts of the College, to be co-ordinated by the Dean and others recruited to the editorial team:
Editorial Committee (staff and students, relevant College units)
Designer (cutting edge, key input from students)
Commissioning co-editors (Dean plus student for training experience)
Referees (high standards)
Publisher (high production values)
Distribution (global, a key promotional device for the Graduate School)

Finally, a Graduate School Dean fit for purpose…

John Hutnyk May 2006

OK, that’s it. A bit over the top, but something that can be renegotiated into a Goldsmiths five year plan that might be bareable. To include a slick new renovated premises (I can see a building across the way that would be fine) a cafe with good coffee and food, conference centre, seminar and study rooms, corrals, lounges, couches, and an intelligent life. Something that we almost have, but not quite, and are always in danger of wrecking, if its not already gone.

The first pic (at teh top) is nicked from the pure and applied site – a business network, consultancy and training initiative – a “spin-out company, to handle all the commercial activity within the university”. This site is one that I only just discovered today (sort of keeping it quiet?, or Goldsmiths is just way to big?). I’ll comment more on these corporate-university spin-offs later, having written on these for Nettime (in the Nettime Reader [downloadable here]) and The Assembly, and elsewhere on think tanks. Its lovely to see all those ‘incubaton’ metaphors still thriving. Stop and stare: Pure and Applied –

The second pic (just above) offers an opportunity to ‘meet socialist studetns’ – I guess the swampies keep them locked up the rest of the time. Hope to see em more often.

BREAKING NEWS album causes conflict

BREAKING NEWS album causes conflict

FUN DA MENTAL’S new album “ALL IS WAR” (the benefits of g-had) has caused the directors of Nation Records to offer their resignations in the event the album is released through Nation Records.
Martin Mills and Andrew Heath (Beggars Banquet Group) both have expressed their concern and fear in the event they are linked to the many provocative and controversial elements of the album.

Aki Nawaz who also is a director but also the main man of Fun Da Mental is troubled by the stance and is considering the options.

”The album is challenging the notion of freedom of speech and creative dissent especially in current times and my background gives me the perfect platform to express the issues from a personnel point of view and not from a mainstream imposed, misguided, patriotic perspective. I have the right equally and without condition as others to expose the hypocrisy and contradictions of democracy, been a Muslim does not mean I have to subservient, loyal or silent to the State or any of its illegal activities against any peoples, anywhere around the world. Fear is not a choice, I welcome it, but to say nothing, whatever the consequences, would be a cowardly act on my behalf ”

MORE INFO- 0207 792 8167

Check the image through a search to see the iraq Ghraib version – doesn;’t show in blogger since blogger is crap.


Hybridity and Diaspora

Big non-debate yesterday with our visitors, so I am posting the beginnings of a chapter just out to show I was not just warbling on (yet again):


It is by now established that authors writing on diaspora very often engage with the mixed notion of hybridity. We will see that this term also offers much for debate, and that this debate in turn offers material that elaborates, and may further complicate, the cultures and politics of diaspora. This [excerpt from a] chapter (from the book Diaspora and Hybridity] explores this uneven terrain and presents a kind of topographical survey of the uses and misuses of hybridity, and its synonyms.

In its most recent descriptive and realist usage, hybridity appears as a convenient category at ‘the edge’ or contact point of diaspora, describing cultural mixture where the diasporized meets the host in the scene of migration. Nikos Papastergiadis makes this link at the start of his book, The Turbulence of Migration: Globalization, Deterritorialization and Hybridity, where he mentions the ‘twin processes of globalization and migration’ (Papastergiadis 2000:3). He outlines a development which moves from the assimilation and integration of migrants into the host society of the nation state towards something more complex in the metropolitan societies of today. Speaking primarily of Europe, the Americas and Australia, Papastergiadis argues that as some members of migrant communities came to prominence ‘within the cultural and political circles of the dominant society’ they ‘began to argue in favour of new models of representing the process of cultural interaction, and to demonstrate the negative consequences of insisting upon the denial of the emergent forms of cultural identity’ (Papastergiadis 2000:3). Hybridity has been a key part of this new modelling, and so it is logically entwined within the coordinates of migrant identity and difference, same or not same, host and guest.

The career of the term hybridity as a new cultural politics in the context of diaspora should be examined carefully. The cultural here points to the claim that hybridity has been rescued – or has it? – from a convoluted past to do duty for an articulation of rights and assertions of autonomy against the force of essential identities. The hybrid is a usefully slippery category, purposefully contested and deployed to claim change. With such loose boundaries, it is curious that the term can be so productive: from its origins in biology and botany, its interlude as syncretism, to its reclamation in work on diaspora by authors as different as Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall, Iain Chambers, Homi Bhabha, and James Clifford. It is in the dialogue between these works especially that hybridity has come to mean all sorts of things to do with mixing and combination in the moment of cultural exchange. Gilroy, for example, finds it helpful in the field of cultural production, where he notes that ‘the musical components of hip hop are a hybrid form nurtured by the social relations of the South Bronx where Jamaican sound system culture was transplanted during the 1970s’ (Gilroy 1993a: 33). Hall, as we will see in more detail presently, suggests hybridity is transforming British life (Hall 1995:18), while Chambers finds talk of tradition displaced by ‘traffic’ in the ‘sights, sounds and languages of hybridity’ (Chambers 1994:82). As we have previously noted, Bhabha uses hybridity as an ‘in-between’ term, referring to a ‘third space’, and to ambivalence and mimicry especially in the context of what might, uneasily, be called the colonial cultural interface (more on this in the next chapter). Clifford uses the word to describe ‘a discourse that is travelling or hybridising in new global conditions’ and he stresses ‘travel trajectories’ and ‘flow’ (Clifford 1994:304-6, italics in this paragraph are our emphasis). Worrying that assertions of identity and difference are celebrated too quickly as resistance, in either the nostalgic form of ‘traditional survivals’ or mixed in a ‘new world of hybrid forms’ (Clifford 2000:103), he sets up an opposition (tradition/hybrid) that will become central to our critique of the terms.

There is much more that hybridity seems to contain: ‘A quick glance at the history of hybridity reveals a bizarre array of ideas’ (Papastergiadis 2000:169). In addition to the general positions set out above; hybridity is an evocative term for the formation of identity; it is used to describe innovations of language (creole, patois, pidgin, travellers’ argot et cetera); it is code for creativity and for translation. In Bhabha’s terms ‘hybridity is camouflage’ (Bhabha 1994:193) and, provocatively he offers ‘hybridity as heresy’ (Bhabha 1994:226), as a disruptive and productive category. It is ‘how newness enters the world’ (Bhabha 1994:227) and it is bound up with a ‘process of translating and transvaluing cultural differences’ (Bhabha 1994:252). For others, hybridity is the key organizing feature of the Cyborg, the wo-man/machine interface (Haraway 1997). It invokes mixed technological innovations, multiple trackings of influence, and is acclaimed as the origin of creative expression in culture industry production. With relation to diaspora, the most conventional accounts assert hybridity as the process of cultural mixing where the diasporic arrivals adopt aspects of the host culture and rework, reform and reconfigure this in production of a new hybrid culture or ‘hybrid identities’ (Chambers 1996:50). Whether talk of such identities is coherent or not, hybridity is better conceived of as a process rather than a description. Kobena Mercer writes of ‘the hybridized terrain of diasporic culture’ (Mercer 1994:254) and of how even the older terminologies of syncretism and mixture evoke the movement of ‘hybridization’ rather than stress fixed identity. Finally, a turn of the millennium volume Hybridity and its Discontents is able to describe hybridity as: ‘a term for a wide range of social and cultural phenomenon involving “mixing”, [it] has become a key concept within cultural criticism and post-colonial theory’ (Brah and Coombs 2000: cover).

Hybridity and the Anterior Pure

The idea of borrowing is sometimes taken to imply a weakening of a supposedly, once pure culture. It is this myth of purity that belongs to the essentialist nationalisms and chauvinisms that are arraigned against the hybrid, diasporic and the migrant. It is to combat this rationale that so many writers insist that affirmations of hybridity are useful in the arena of cultural politics. Such affirmations are proclaimed precisely because of varieties of cultural borrowing that are thereby entertained undermine the case of a pure culture. These claims may be more important than the philosophical incoherence of the terms, but this incoherence has to be considered. A key question would be: to what degree does the assertion of hybridity rely on the positing of an anterior ‘pure’ that precedes mixture? Even as a process in translation or in formation, the idea of ‘hybrid identities’ (Chambers 1996:50), relies upon the proposition of non-hybridity or some kind of normative insurance. This problem is taken up again in the next chapter, but our interest here is the specific manner in which notions of purity are related to the biological antecedents of hybridity. Hybridity theorists have had to grapple with this problem and have done so with a revealing degree of agitation. Gilroy for example has moved away from an allegiance to hybridity and declared:

‘Who the fuck wants purity? … the idea of hybridity, of intermixture, presupposes two anterior purities … I think there isn’t any purity; there isn’t any anterior purity … that’s why I try not to use the word hybrid … Cultural production is not like mixing cocktails’ (Gilroy 1994:54-5).

The latitudes of sexuality fester in the earthy connotations of this quote as Gilroy knowingly references the less reputable anxieties at stake. It was probably work like that of Robert Young’s Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race (1995) which provoked the outburst. Numerous scholars have examined the botanical and biological parameters of hybridity, but the matter is perhaps best exemplified in Young’s historical investigation which traced the provenance of the term hybridity in the racialized discourse of nineteenth century evolutionism. The Latin roots of the word are revealed as referring to the progeny of a tame sow and a wild boar (Young 1995:6). Is this old usage relevant to the diversity of cultural hybridities claimed today? In the sciences of agriculture and horticulture, hybridity is used with little alarm: the best known hybrid being the mule, a mixture of a horse and donkey, though significantly this is a sterile or non-productive mix. In the world of plants, hybrid combinations are productively made by grafting one plant or fruit to another. Although in this field such graftings may seem legitimate, only a mildly imprudent jump is needed to move from notions of horticulture and biology to discussions of human ‘races’ as distinct species that, upon mixing, produce hybrids.

Both Gilroy and Hall have made efforts to distinguish their use of hybridity from its dubious biological precedents. Gilroy clearly recognises the problem of purity when he laments ‘the lack of a means of adequately describing, let alone theorizing, intermixture, fusion and syncretism without suggesting the existence of anterior “uncontaminated” purities’ (Gilroy 2000:250). He is correct that the descriptive use of hybridity evokes, counterfactually, a stable and prior non-mixed position, to which ‘presumably it might one day be possible to return’ (Gilroy 2000:250). Who wants to return is a good question. But equally, can a focussing and tightening of descriptive terminology, or the even further off ‘theorizing’, be adequate to the redress that is required? Does it disentangle the range of sexual, cultural and economic anxieties race mixture provokes? Gilroy continues, this time with the arguments of Young firmly in his sights:

‘Whether the process of mixture is presented as fatal or redemptive, we must be prepared to give up the illusion that cultural and ethnic purity has ever existed, let alone provided a foundation for civil society. The absence of an adequate conceptual and critical language is undermined and complicated by the absurd charge that attempts to employ the concept of hybridity are completely undone by the active residues of that term’s articulation within the technical vocabularies of nineteenth-century racial science’ (Gilroy 2000:250-1)

Check the book here. And a longer version of the above on the Translate Site here. A different story about the trajectory of the concept through Ranajit Guha, via Mao, to Homi Bhabha is in Bad Marxism.

The Mao (dew) picture of the crapo soft drink – very topical – is courtesy of *bri, and pointedly in tribute to the comrades visiting CCS yesterday. Red Salute to all hybrid types….