DisOrient X

You’ve read about some of this on my main site which is called Trinketization so I’m also posting it here just to try to achieve blanket coverage in my own claustromaniac world. Details in text and on the flyer as jigged by the design team that is Anamik Saha.

Dis-Orient X – friday 17 November

Ten years after the book Dis-Orienting Rhythms: the Politics of the New Asian Dance Music (zen books 1996) we’ve decided to have a party (or a wake) and discuss, and dance, about the new world disorder.

Workshop Goldsmiths Cinema – 3pm – 6pm

speakers – Sonia from ADFED, Anamik Saha of Goldsmiths, Sanjay Sharma, John Hutnyk, Aki Nawaz showing the new Fun-da-mental video, & panel discussion chaired by Ash Sharma…
finish 6pm


From 7.30pm (after hungry folks have eaten at a local diner):

Dis-Orient X club night New Cross Inn 7.30 – 12.

New Cross Inn is on New Cross Rd next to “the venue”
with Aki Nawaz from Fun-da-mental and SPARK! on the decks

– a benefit for the 1857 Indian war of Independence Commemoration Committee
(donation at the door)

All welcome
(special discount offer on the controversial F-D-M album “ALL IS WAR” on the night)

Come along. Bring friends.

BSG Circles

You’ll find lots of interesting stuff on Ange’s blog ‘Sometimes’, but I must confess I was pleasantly surprised to find she’s a BSG fan – her compendium/aggregation of BSG posts from elsewhere is the best I’ve seen.
Check: here

But these sorts of interests can cause havoc in the US – here my good friend Ted gets grief from the Right in Arkansas. Ted is a prospective BSG fan, a ‘post-terrorist’ (!!!) apparently, and he posts as frequently as I do about FDM.
Point your RSS reader at: this.

Ashis "ahast" but having fun

English, the Mother Goddess
By Shashwati on History

A rather vivid account of Lord Macauley’s 206th birthday celebration in the Indian Express. The event was organized by Dalit leader Chandrabhan Prasad, which included the unveiling of a portrait of English, the Mother Goddess:

Dalit poet Parak sang a couplet to the portrait – a refashioned Statue of Liberty, wearing a hippie hat, holding a massive pink pen, standing on a computer, with a blazing map of India in the background – “Oh, Devi Ma/ Please Let us Learn English/ Even the dogs understand English”, to cheers and laughter, even as Lord Macaulay’s portrait, looking the perfect English buccaneer, gazed below.

Alas, I haven’t been able to find an image of the portrait. Prasad’s reveres Macauley because:

…his insistence to teach the “natives” English broke the stranglehold of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic teaching, a privilege of only the elite castes and, he argued,for the European kind of modern education, with focus on modern sciences. “Imagine, if we had only followed indigenous study,’’ said Bhan, “we would be like Afghanistan or Nepal today.’’……“Today, English-speaking Dalits and Adivasis are less disrespected, therefore, empowered by Goddess English, Dalits can take their place in the new globalised world.’’

An interesting contrast to the view of Hindu Nationalists, for whom “Macaulay’s Children” is a favored insult for members of the English speaking Indian intelligentsia:

“They are not real people, but zombies programmed by Macaulay to act like the Caliban, the slave”.

Much as I enjoy the irony of using Shakespeare to advance the Hindutva agenda, I am much more inclined to sympathize with Ashis Nandy who seems to have had a jolly time at the party:

“I certainly do not agree with some of Bhan’s thesis,’’ said an aghast Nandy, “but I certainly support every oppressed community or individual’s right to pick up any weapon, be it political, academic or intellectual incorrectness, to fight the establishment. It’s the sheer audacity of it that makes it so forceful.’’



Metafisaticuffs – I can feel my eyes glaze over in slow motion whenever anyone says the word “ontology”. Its thrown about like a big wet cod, the sort you might find riding a bicycle in a Guinness ad. Ontofukcycle posturing deserves a slap – even happy slappery. Where’s my camera-phone.


Its twenty years ago today since the Writing/Culture volume by Clifford and Marcus came out and summed up the ‘raging’ debates in anthro at the time about authority and style and surrealism and text. Contemporary anthro undergrads will yawn. But there has been a backlash and a backlash to the backlash. While I can’t (yet) bear to revisit my 1987 rendition of why I thought all that was a(n “interesting”) problem, I am happy to respond to a request to say something about dialogue – or rather to resurrect what I had to say – in an obscure coda to something else – on “dialogue” back in 1993. This was at the end of a review essay on Nikos Papastergiadis’s book on John Berger, Modernity as Exile, the rest of the paper was probably better than this, but my jaudiced view tonight makes this seem kinda ok… [I guess this is a closet cleaner moment]:

The fashionable themes in social science storytelling of recent years — those of dialogue” and “text” — might challenge the voyeuristic tone and outlook of previous studies. This has sometimes been more explicitly politicised where anthropological “conversation” with its others — never unproblematical — is understood with various degrees of reflection upon hierarchies of power between interlocutors placed differently — culturally, socially, institutionally, and so on.

I think the most productive area of the social sciences for this debate has been ethnography. The recognition that meaning is socially constructed, and that texts are not simply produced by singular “authors” goes some way towards elucidation of the political stakes of social science writing, but never far enough. The versions of this debate with which I am most familiar came to me in the form of a review essay by Crick (1982) and subsequent work on debates about fieldwork and texts, eventually resulting in the publication of Writing/Culture edited by Clifford and Marcus (1986). That volume of essays has been the departure point for interesting developments beyond Writing/Culture up until the early 1990s.

The main point to emphasise in the debates surrounding Writing/Culture is that the production of any text is not something separate from the social and political context in which it is made. However, those who have discussed the “text metaphor” in recent years have, I think, largely missed this point. The discussion of dialogue as a fragile trace of lived experience difficult to capture to some degree responds to this dilemma.

True, the linearity of writing cannot capture the life-world in full, as Fernandez noted in is essay on “misgivings” about the text as metaphor for ethnography. He has recognised the argument that “a great deal of the rich complexity of communication is lost in ‘writing it down’” (Fernandez 1985:16). Textuality then is hardly going to be dialogue. Much of the debate that animated anthropology in the
eighties entailed a close attention to the writing process glossed as a joint authorship of texts and meaning with “participant-informants”. Fernandez went on to criticise faith in the textual metaphor for social life by pointing out that even “the most complex orthographic system, abundant with diacritical marks, cannot capture all the nuances of human communication en vive” (Fernandez 1985:16).

A political edge to the commentary on “postmodern ethnography” which seems to be missing in Fernandez’s approach to texts is offered by a Chicago based group who take up the issue of textuality and recast it as a negotiated politics. The self-reflexivity of so-called postmodern ethnography keeps attention focused on the point of authorial control and does not challenge the political privilege and “location” of the author of texts. The Chicago group elaborate this by pointing out that a writer is “born” partly into a set of affiliations that are not chosen:

so the affiliation of your knowledge is less the product of a free choice than something to negotiate. Affiliations are relations you make, and part of the question is how you deploy the ones you’re in (CCSG 1992:548).

I think it is strange that Fernandez wonders whether any further working of the “terrain” of the text metaphor would be “superfluous” (Fernandez 1985:26n). His “chosen deployment” is to stress the importance of dialogic texts, saying that “the voices of [our] interlocution must be present in some form in the final form of our work to be sure that we do not wilfully substitute our own voice for those local voices” (Fernandez 1985:20).

The crucial slippage, is that these recordings are never local, they are already globally inflected. Nevertheless, Fernandez retains the ideal of an anthropology that, “if it was practised right [would] return…from the field with much recorded text, recorded as faithfully and as accurately as method and rapport would allow” (Fernandez 1985:15). In what the Chicago group might call a “self-congratulatory tone”, these recorded texts are the “local voices” to be allowed expression through the anthropologist’s conscious effort at “turn taking” (Fernandez 1985:23). They are not to be distorted by the analyses applied by practitioners of the “textual approach” who monopolise control by insisting on “reading” and ‘interpretation’, which simply sets up a new (equally false) objectivity. Fernandez sees the “attitudes of distance, removal and irony” that he finds in the “model of the text”, as an “ethnocentric celebration of tradition” (1985:15).

In an earlier intervention into this debate, Paul Rabinow had applauded the work of Kevin Dwyer. The deficiencies of the usual anthropological interpretations were, according to Dwyer, to be countered by emphasizing the “dialogic” nature of work in the field. Anthropologists engage in dialogues with “others”, thus transcribed dialogue was seen as the most approximate representation of anthropological contact. When Dwyer proposed to the Faqir — his Moroccan “informant” — that taped conversations made on a visit three and a half years earlier might be published, the Faqir’s assent was transcribed in the subsequent book in dialogic form (Dwyer 1982:xix-xxi). In this way, the assent was authenticated through this transcription, even though tone and context were not discernible in the written words. In verité social science, the cassette recorder is taken to be unable to misrepresent the actual spoken. Recording is a technology of authority.

Vincent Crapanzano has recently drawn attention to the status of recorded dialogues and takes issue with the “interpreters” who assume they “can engage in dialogue” with: “recordings, texts, and other materials” (Crapanzano 1992:197). This is an error in three parts; the first of these is the error of “taking a metaphorical relationship (the interpretation of a text is like a dialogue) nonmetaphorically. The second involves a failure “to recognise that the dialogue with which the interpreter is now dialoguing is no longer a dialogue but is a ‘dialogue’ — the theme of another dialogue”. The third, and rather more acerbically expressed, error grants to the interpreter “a super-human ability to bracket off secondary dialogues and their language” (Crapanzano 1992:197). Crapanzano’s scepticism of the dialogic “turn” is worth taking seriously.

In Moroccan Dialogues, Dwyer claims that: “the Faqir’s deeper aims … were somehow satisfied too” (Dwyer 1982:xvi). Yet the Faqir is recorded as saying to Dwyer that “All of this is good, all of it, because it serves your purposes. But for me, not a single thing serves mine” (Faqir in Dwyer 1982:226). Are we also to accept the veracity of this recording? The issue of dialogue could quite possibly sustain a separate study in itself. Robert Ulin has, in a review of the reflexive anthropology debate twenty years since the publication of Reinventing Anthropology (Hymes 1974), loosely mapped this debate between poles he names as Marxism and postmodernism: “The postmodernist emphasis on representation can provide a powerful corrective to positivist social science and the tendency in some versions of political-economy to reduce symbolically mediated social action to the instrumental process of labour” (Ulin 1991:64). Ulin’s attempt to “bridge the impasse” (Ulin 1991:63) between postmodernism and Marxism is possibly both too simple in construing its opposition, and too ambitious in attempting such a bridge, nevertheless despite this Habermaniacal naivéty and optimism, I agree that a “grounding of reflexivity in the metaphor of representation as ‘dialogical’” does come dangerously close to a “contemplative stance” which ignores “praxis and the plurality of subjects that negotiate the historical and political process” (Ulin
1991:64) of contemporary life.

If anthropologists like Paul Rabinow and Fernandez want to turn to studies of “power and privilege” so as to “move back into the world” (Rabinow 1985:12), they cannot extricate themselves from the worldly politics of textual production and dissemination. They have not given up their own textual affiliations, for they write in a global marketplace.

in an episteme where representation is privileged, the site of presence is always contested and power derives not only from controlling information but from controlling what people consider information to be. The site of presence and power now lies with people who are not only defined by ownership but by their control over information systems and systems of communication (Stratton 1990:26)


From: 1994 ‘Thinking With Berger: Local/Global and Dialogue in Modernity As Exile by Nikos Papastergiadis’, New Literatures Review, 27: 91-103. ISSN 03147495 Reprinted here


Iwo Jima outrage

In respect of the white-washed sands of Iwo Jima (suburb of Hollywood, made by Clint into a fantasy space where all American heros are John Wayne clones, an ideological confit that is ever so totally unrealated to Vietnam/Iraq type losses and the national trauma that arises therefrom). That historical cliches can be reworked with white actors only (director says ‘its true to the book’ – which makes us wonder about the director not just the book, right?). Anyway, its an outrage, but angular as ever, this post from Shashwati makes some really good connections:

Unknown Soldiers
I have been on the National Archives web page for the last couple of days, researching films and photos. While looking around, I found this photo:

“Rickshaws are almost as common in India as they are in China. Some of the…troops are on their way to see `Tarzan’s New York Adventure’—in India…”
African American soldiers going to see a Tarzan film in Calcutta. What can you say about that? It was interesting to find this in conjunction with the rumbles about the new Clint Eastwood film about the battle for Iwo Jima, where the absence of Black soldiers has been noticed by those who took part in it, like Sgt. McPhatter:

…almost 900 African-American troops took part in the battle of Iwo Jima, including Sgt McPhatter…..”Of all the movies that have been made of Iwo Jima, you never see a black face,” said Mr McPhatter. “This is the last straw. I feel like I’ve been denied, I’ve been insulted, I’ve been mistreated. But what can you do? We still have a strong underlying force in my country of rabid racism.”

And here is a tidbit about the newsreel footage from that time, from auhor Melton McLaurin:

“One of the marines I interviewed said that the people who were filming newsreel footage on Iwo Jima deliberately turned their cameras away when black folks came

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2006 at 1:10 am

notes for Satanic Majesties Request paper

‘wawhat can a white boy do, but to sing for a rock and roll band?’

S. S. Sisodia, in Salman Rushdie’s politically incorrect Satanic Verses, stammers: “The trouble with the Engenglish is that their hiss hiss history happened overseas, so they don’t know what it means”. True enough, but this should in no way be mockery of stammerers, and I am discomforted by Rushdie now more than ever. Yet the point he makes about history is also relevant more now than ever. Sure the historical fault lies with education personnel and an administrators who have kept quiet about their Empire, or recruited pundits to excuse it (Simon bloody Schama, even now in audio book format), which – curriculum management enhanced strategy – buries any possibility of teaching that history critically with popularist flag-waving, dull media entertainments (variety quiz shows, Schama looking earnestly into the camera) and ball games (Empire games, Commonwealth Games – its hardly sporting old chap). Whatever Michael Palin might offer us on his travel tours, international working class solidarity is a more important a project, and an educational project that supports it, is crucial nowadays as ever before. The cotton mills of Manchester were closely linked to Calcutta, just as today’s MTV beams out to both cities regardless. We should watch these shows closely.

Maybe all we can achieve with (our) writing is to provide people with questions and ideas that allow them (us) to think through politics more clearly, more creatively, more. There can be no revolution without rev-revolutionary theory. There can be no rethinking without newnew thoughts.

‘ttttalking bout my generation’

Anglo interest in non-European music has a long pedigree, which it is no longer my job to trace, though I once thought it was. Suffice to say that my interest began as a very mainstream versionThe Rolling Stones, (especially Brian Jones e derived from the urban whiteboy blues of xplorations of Joujouka drumming in Morocco and an image of Keef Richards smoking kif in Tangiers); a passing acquaintance with experimental Indo-psychedelic music epitomised by such commercialisations as The Beatles Sgt Peppers’ and The White Album, and an early and never shaken interest in the writings of William Burroughs and Alan Ginsberg. This developed into an interest in why we are interested in Asia – and a book on budget traveller experience in Calcutta. Along the way an edited volume on the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s celebrated work, and activist-led peripheral involvement in the music and rave scene in Australia, led me to various attempts to make sense of the ways English bands have included South Asia in their head space but not really got along with the politics, so, these notes for a paper on how white rock stumbled to the east.

“From Satanic Majesties to Satanic Verses: India in England yet again”.

The Rolling Stones, following The Beatles Sgt Peppers’ and the opening up of the India travel caravan (banana pancake trail with magic mushrooms), produced what some pundits label their least successful album in 1967: Their Satanic Majesties. It is a long way from the superficial Eastern flavour of that album too the burning of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in Bradford streets a quarter of a century later, but despite the trite comparison of Jagger and Rushdie as public personifications of the devil (for different audiences to be sure), there are still interesting changes to be charted in the intervening years. Any attempt to comment on the relations between anglo interests and things Asian need to begin with an understanding of significant movements across the globe. Travel to India for the children of the English bourgeoisie has fluctuated from fashionable drug-scenery to adventure tour and on to military tours (Afghanistan has even generals sounding mutinous now), and important dynamics within the Sth Asian diasporic presence in Britain need to be lyricized. The success of Indian trinketry in the souvenir shops and fashion houses of the UK youth market might be contrasted to the flow of British based recordings into India – the mid-1990s success of Apache Indian and Bally Sagoo for example.

What might still be interesting would be to explore these cultural forms – from the Stones to Zadie Smith serialized on C4 – for evidence that could provide an understanding of the contemporary dynamics of neo-imperialism and global order as it changes and as its screened for us in Bliar’s Britain. Such a project might update and contemporise Said’s historical and nineteenth century interest in the traces of Empire in Dickens and his ilk.

There is much written on the phenomenon called Global Music. Of course there are ways in which this can be categorised as a commodification process intricately linked to the global spread of capitalist marketeering of all cultural forms. But within this there are demarcations to be made, and the relative silence still accorded the influence of politically charged South Asian creativities in the Global Music discourse might be indicative of more important politically potent occlusions. Where Blues and Reggae are well established as antecedents of popular ‘Western’ music, the influence of the East always seems to be presented as a peripheral, curious, or at best experimental aside, if accorded any centrality at all. Why? Since in terms of Empire India was so central, Calcutta was the second most important city in the world, so muck-much of European culture can be traced to Asia (from pajamas to umbrellas, goodness gracious me – see Hobson-Jobson). I keep on saying, what would it be to write the history of Empire from a perspective outside of Euro-America? Say from Calcutta, or departing from the disaffected experimental out-of-his-mindset of a stoned Stone or a migrant-resident Indglish Sisodia-stuttering Intefada cursed crossover (both after all go for market share, belong to a well-to-do class fraction, profess a certain degree of – Ltd – left politics, and have been labelled devilish)?….

Note 2009 – of course Ted already started out on this too: here.