“Understanding Trafficking” a film by Ananya Chakraborti – Monday 16th November, 2009 Goldsmiths Cinema

still from Understanding Trafficking4UK screening of “Understanding Trafficking”

plus Q&A with the director Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborti

6pm Monday 16th November, 2009 Goldsmiths Cinema (Richard Hoggart Building, New Cross, SE14)

Legend goes, there is a magical line that Laxman drew around Sita, which no woman is supposed to cross. If any woman dared to cross the magical line, she would risk being kidnapped by Ravan the demon.

Women have for centuries been discouraged to cross the line, to remain indoors, and within limits. The lines and limits of their existence have always been defined by patriarchy. So what happens if a woman does cross the line? By circumstances, through need, or just by a desire to dare the magical line?

Camera Joydeep Bose, Sound Sukanta Majumdar, Editing Saikat Sekhareswar Ray, Direction Ananya C. Chakraborti

Reviews here:


note to howard p

kovelDo you know Joel Kovel’s wonderful book ‘Red Hunting in the Promised Land’? Excellent if you are writing on anti-red hysteria.

Kovel was recently forced out of his job at Bard for writing a book on Israel/Palestine as single state.



and maybe (though I have problems with its ‘quivering’ tone:


Film: To Gaza with Love

gazaIndyMedia on Aki on Gaza:

At this years London Anarchist Bookfair I grabbed Musician, Activist, Punk, Broadcaster and Musilim, Aki Nawaz who was there to introduce his film ‘To Gaza With Love’.

He gave some tough critiques on the Anarchist movement, talked about his recent visit to Pakistan in which he questions the true motives recent violence towards western journalists, and hints at what exciting projects we can expect from him in 2010.

Attached Files

Report Aki Nawaz (Fun-Da-Mental)


Coleridge invents trinketization

coleridge1_2Samuel Taylor Coleridge was ahead of the game in so many ways.  His other work is of course crucial, stuff about an albatross, and the opening sequence to the newsreel section of Citizen Kane. A massive influence and to be adored. This piece is a small fragment written around 1800.

To a critic

Who extracted a passage from a poem without adding a word respecting the context, and then described it as unintelligible.

Most candid critic, what if I.
By way of joke, pull out your eye.
‘Ha! ha! that men such fools should be!
Behold this shapeless dab! – and he
Who own’ed it, fancied it could see!’
The joke were mighty analytic,
But should you like it, candid critic?

From Samuel Taylor Coleridge Selected Poems.

The eye as trinket is excellent – it cannot see on its own. Though Bataille finds other functions.

11 theses on art and politics #8 & #9

verses8. The cartoon is contained in the frame, and can safely say so much more because of that protection. Oftentimes what is illustrated in art and comedy can be far more critical than the editorials or headline ‘breaking news’. But as we also know, even in Denmark, politics can spill over the border of this containment. There are many such incidents – it seems no coincidence today that the 20 year old furore around Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses marks the beginning of a global ‘attention’ to a politics of Islam. Rushdie’s novel can be discussed in a wide variety of ways of course. Certain anthropologists identified the ‘Rushdie Affair’ as a moment of awakening for a diasporic identity formation in the UK (we can safely consign them to a sidebar, see Hutnyk 2006). Other writers, however, assimilate the event to new times. Recently Kenan Malik attempts a strange amalgam of anti-racist activist history and condemnation of ‘the multiculturalist’ tendency in the British context that owes much, but does not fully acknowledge, the work of Sivinandan and the Institute of Race Relations. What happened around Rushdie’s book? Banned first a few months earlier in India, there was then a celebrated, televised, burning of the book in Bradford by those who, according to Malik, acted in large part:

“because of disenchantment with the secular left, on the one hand, and the institutionalisation of multicultural policies, on the other. The disintegration of the left in the 1980s, the abandonment by leftwing organisations of the politics of universalism in favour of ethnic particularism, and the wider shift from the politics of ideology to the politics of identity, pushed many young, secular Asians towards Islamism as an alternative worldview” (http://www.kenanmalik.com/lectures/rushdie_boi.html accessed 6 June 2009)

The critique of ethnicity, identity and multiculturalism misfires, however, where Malik insists on universalism as if it were the only and antithetical inverse of identity and ethnicity. Caught in a complimentary logic, Malik repeats the obvious and automatic reaction – and endorses an integration model for Britain. The case can be, and has been, made that ‘ethnic funding’ elevated culturalist ‘community leaders’ as a ‘bulwark’ with which to undermine militant anti-racist alliances, but to then diagnose the problem as culture and insist on its overcoming in some naïve secular French Republic type model is a deeply conservative, even nationalist, error.

More interesting is Gayatri Spivak’s essay on The Satanic Verses, which uses the occasion of Rushdie to consider other cases written out of the record (Shahbano made a ‘figure’ in a contest over votes), to reflect on the position of Southall Black Sisters in relation to the ‘controversy’ as crisis, to then in this context think about ‘freedom of expression’-talk and the ‘uses to which the spectacular rational abstractions of democracy can sometimes be put’ (Spivak 1993: 241). Rushdie, accused of complicity with the West’s imperialist ‘crusade’ against Islam by Ayatollahs and others, surely did not know or intend the extent to which his little fiction would offend, even as he aimed to offend indeed (as he had oftentimes done – Midnights’ Children and Shame both also banned).

The Satanic Verses, as art, went unread. Instead something of a rumour (Spivak 1993:228) spread that Rushdie had engaged in ‘gossip’ about the prophet, that he had blasphemed against the Quran. Again politics, here on the part of postcolonial metropolitan activists (not subalterns) proceeds without full representation. Of course it is almost bad taste now to think of Rushdie’s book in terms of the theoretical interests or fashions of its time of writing. The controversy has a different context now, that cannot ignore the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Then, Iran was central in a different way, an the Ayatollah railed against America. Then also, the death of the author thematic, signed under the proper names of Barthes and Foucault, alongside celebrations of the schizoid self, did not make for easy jokes about he fatwah.

Spivak pointed out at the time that there might be critics of her reading of The Satanic Verses that might complain that she ‘gives resistance no speaking part’ in Rushdie’s text (Spivak 1993:226). But if the book does not enact resistance as a character, perhaps we can agree with Spivak that to ‘“state the problem” is not bad politics’. She continues: ‘In fact, it might be poor judgement to consider academy or novel as straight blueprint for action on the street’ (Spivak 1993:227). I do not find this far from Adorno’s critique of an introspective protest against order that is indifferent to, and so compatible with, that order. Rushdie’s book explores blasphemy and ambiguity within Islam – a complication neither trenchant defenders of the Holy Book, nor those who attack Islam, and desecrate the book in prisons like Bahgram or Guantanamo, can assimilate.

Any art as blueprint for action of course again invokes the metaphor of the architect, not the bees. A novel, or academic test, as blueprint for action condemns actors to repetition (18th Brumaire) and containment (its not the 1960s anymore). This is true if one is wanting postcolonial engagement around race and gender ambivalence, or if revolutionary change is a goal – in each case scripted responses invite containment.

9. Book burning has its own heritage – degenerate art, lost libraries, the exotic image of Alexandria and the horrors of National Socialism. Pornographic books destroyed, Andre Malraux’s manuscript burned on his capture in 1944, the Leuven University library in Belgium in WW1, the Jaffna, Sarevo and Abhazian libraries in recent civil wars. Kafka’s books, the Master’s manuscript in Bulgakov’ Margarita , the chivalry books of Don Quixote,  the firemen destroying books in F˚451

On May 10, 1933 the Deutsche Studentenschaft (German Student Association) burned a great many books in Berlin’s Opernplatz after proclaiming them degenerate and un-German.

In 1953 Senator McCarthy and Eisenhower ordered overseas US libraries to remove from their shelves books by communists and fellow-travellers (they burned them).

Rushdie’s book burned in Bradford, insults the Quran. The Quran itself associates the word of god with the honey of bees (‘Honey is a remedy for every illness and the Qur’an is a remedy for all illness of the mind, therefore I recommend to you both remedies, the Qur’an and honey’ (Bukhari) http://www.islamicresearch.org/bees%20hidden%20miracle.htm accessed June 5 2009). Beekeepers know that smoke is a tool of control. Rushdie’s insult is to make pornography of the revelation, the sacred origin of this text. He inserts new verses into the revelation, and authorship of them is given to a doubly mischevious archangel. As they appear in the drama of the book, those verses were of course already something to be interpreted politically, in terms of blueprint and control. They are a script the book excised in exactly the most insulting passage that offended those in Bradford. Rushdie has the ‘businessman’, a false but read as if the, prophet, tussle with the angel in a way that makes the revelation of the book pornographic or at least obscene. The prophet wrestles with the archangel in a cave 500 feet below the summit of Mount Cone with tongues in mouths and fists round balls only to end up with ‘Mahound’ pinned to the ground and the archangel’s mouth ‘open and making the voice, the Voice, pour out … [and] pour all over him, like sick’ (Rushdie 1988:123). That Mahound awakes later in the cave and realizes a previous visitation had been Shaitan’ ‘that he had been tricked, so that the devil came to him in the guise of the  archangel, so that the verses he memorized, the ones he recited in the poetry tent, were not the real thing but its diabolical opposite, not godly, but satanic’. Mahound rushes back to the city to expunge a previous false revelation – ‘to expunge the foul verses that reek of brimstone and sulphur, to strike them for the record for ever and ever, so that they will survive in just one or two unreliable collections’ (Rushdie 1988:123).

Of course this is an insult to Islam, and in some ways indeed worse, more mischievous, than the insults so well known in Bahgram. Have you ever burnt a book? Golden Bough…


Next in the series – 10 and 11 is here: http://wp.me/pcKI3-zG

Previous posts in this list:





[Spoiler alert: the comments are closed on this particular post because the twisted madness of the first ten or so responses – which I have happily left up as forensic evidence – included various ultra dubious film clips that somehow attract a mad number of useless pingbacks if comments are open. If you are not a robot, and I know many of you are struggling with that ontological head-frak, it is still possible to comment elsewhere. cheers.]

December 2009 in Kolkata

113_1387I am lucky enough to have been invited to go to Kolkata in December for a symposium on the “Cultural Politics of Preservation”, organised by Gayatri Spivak. Was asked today what I would present on. Gulp. I have no idea yet. How about this:

To work among the masses – co-research, institutionalization or vanguard intervention?

I am interested in the ways intellectual work, debates around method, and the ethical position of both the academic researcher and the vanguard political intersect with questions of preservation and globality.

Inspired by, and critical of, several examples in relation to this, I have three themes: a) I want to talk about the Co-Research or Class Recomposition Studies approach that emerges from Autonomist Marxism in Italy in the 1970s and which has been discussed a great deal by European activists in recent years (eg Kolinko group); b) my second ‘case study’ is the traditional project of ‘Anthropology’ as an institutionalized way of both ‘going to have a look for yourself’ and of inscribing ‘peoples’ inside a global knowledge apparatus (libraries, textbooks and the like); and c) my third example is the problem of the vanguard party and what, and how, it knows about the ‘masses’ (from Mao’s report on Hunan to the critique of Leninism today).

In this way, a perspective on the critique of cultural preservation might be developed drawing on my previous work on cultural exotica, rumour, writing and activism.

[I am not sure if this will work out, but I think its where I am just now]

There was also a request for some relevant representative work (let’s debate that term, ‘representation’). I sent this lot:




(pic -taken on the train to Kolkata)

Hektor Rottweiler Rethinks

adorno_cCurrent of Music is a very important addition to Adorno’s bibliography.

“Adorno mentions in a letter [to Rudolf Kolisch, 12 July 1940] that [for one of the sections of his planned book ‘Current of Music’] he planned to use an English translation of his 1936 essay ‘Uber Jazz’ (‘On Jazz’). He speaks, however, in a later letter [to Friedrich Pollock, 3 October 1940], of wanting to conjoin this essay with a substantial body of new research materials. For, while he was living in the United States, Adorno had become aware that what he had known of jazz in Germany, and as he presented it in his early essay, was limited. He was thus making research visits to Harlem and had sought assistance from experts such as the American composer Milton Babbit – who would have nothing to do with him. But, in any event, Adorno never wrote anything new for this section” – Robert Hullot-Kentor, editor’s introduction to Current of Music.

This is only one of the electric points of interest in this third volume from the collected posthumous writings of Adorno. Vol 3 was published in German in 2006, in English in 2009 – but most of the work, some 480 pages, was originally written in English when Adorno was in the USA.  Adorno had help with his English grammar – a heavy Teutonic style no doubt – from people like George Simpson who was a young American communist. In a 1969 essay, Adorno acknowledges him for ‘making the first attempts to transform my [Adorno’s] distinctive efforts into American sociological language’ (Adorno 1969:146).

Current of Music offers a whole lot more than these snippets however, and its a shame it was left as a draft in his lifetime (but then he had Minima Moralia to write), Current includes a course on good listening, and an entire unpublished theory of the listener(s) that suggests rethinking the usual dismal dismissal of Adorno as some sort of elite purist who thought mere circulation was epiphenomenal.

More Hektoring herehere and here.