– a reply to a fav student on our MA Postcolonial in CCS who asked about ways to present his work on charity/WTO etc. My reply turned out to be as much for me as for him, got me thinking about how trinketization in anthropology left us adrift, bereft of purpose and value, and how critique, curriculum, and theory might be transformed so as to… anyways… –
You ask which theorist? Of course this was exactly the problem I had with my Calcutta book – looking for a theorist to say the sort of things I wanted to say: that charity is a way of assuaging guilt; that it would never do for redistributive justice; that issues of representation still matter – but matter more than the those who wrote of the crisis of representation in anthropology could see; indeed, that the crisis – at least in anthropology – led us to a politics without radicalism; that the constant talk of crisis is a substitute for a sustained politics of change; and from there that the anthropology curriculum needs substantial reform; that universities have lost their capacity for critical appraisal of their role; that the current vogue for difference is misplaced and under theorised; that anti-racist work in the university and metropolis is more about avoiding guilt that acting against really existing racism… and all this I ended up writing about as “trinketisation” – how our discrete studies became fascinated with discrete items, unable to theorise how it all fits together as neo-cultural imperialism. Of course Marx was the theorist that mattered, but who uses him in a way that addresses these specificities? Well, only Gayatri Spivak. Who is the one person I will always read first.
Well, and maybe in a lesser way George Yudice in ‘The Expediency of Culture‘ – though that book does not go far enough.
Hmmm, this is becoming a speech – guess I will post it somewhere (everything is a blog-athon nowadays).
I hope you can find a way forward – sounds to me that you can/are already.
Thanks for the nice words – stay in touch.
Its a good time to be in Berlin.