Nawal el-Saadawi 31.5.11 Goldsmiths CCS

Tuesday 31st May 2005 at 4pm

The Centre for Cultural Studies presents:

Nawal el-Saadawi

Talk by the acclaimed author

Nawal el-Saadawi will talk with Raymond Lotta of the Revolution newspaper USA about the prospects for revolution in North Africa and the Middle East

Location: NAB02, New Academic Building
Cost: Free
Department: Centre For Cultural Studies
Time: 31 May 2011, 16:00 – 18:00

The Middle East, North Africa: The prospects for Revolution. 30.5.2011

The Middle East, North Africa

The Prospects for Revolution!

The recent uprisings that have rocked regimes in the Middle East and North Africa showed how quickly people can shatter what Marx called the “belief in the permanence of existing conditions”. Yet the local and international centers of power are even now trying to tame and turn back these movements. The women gathered on March 8th Women’s Day in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were told, “Back to your kitchens – the revolution’s over!” And we have seen how over and over again powerful mass uprisings that topple tyrants are absorbed back into the system – in the Philippines, Indonesia, Nicaragua, or think of Iran, where the overthrow of the Shah was followed by the Islamic Republic… – and for the great majority the wheels of oppression grind on … How can this be avoided? What kind of society is needed by the peoples of this region and people all over the world? This conference analyses the prospects for a thorough-going revolution that breaks free from the grip of imperialist domination. Join in a day of serious discussion and warm-hearted solidarity!


Nawal el-Saadawi, author of The Hidden Face of Eve, Daughter of Isis, Memoirs from the Women’s Prison, from Egypt

Amir Hassanpour, University of Toronto, Canada, from Iran

Raymond Lotta, revolutionary political economist, writer for Revolution newspaper, from the US

Shahrzad Mojab, academic-activist, Professor University of Toronto in gender studies, education & women and revolution, from Iran

Sami Ramadani, senior lecturer, London Metropolitan Uni, from Iraq

Aitemad Muhanna, researcher in gender issues in Gaza, Palestine

Panel Chair: John Hutnyk, Bad Marxism, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmith’s

Location: Conway Hall (Red Lion Square, Holborn tube)

Date: 30 May – Bank Holiday Monday

Time: 9:30 am to 5 pm (£9 – £7 concessions)

For more info, contact the Committee for a Revolutionary Alternative on facebook or email: lonconf2011[at] or call 07904 550 033

Arundhati Roy, Jan Myrdal, Basanta Indra Mohan 12.6.2011 Euston

Please join us for a public meeting and an audience with celebrated authors who will discuss their recent experiences in India with a special focus on the raging war against the poorest of the poor, the tribal people living in the heartland of India.

Arundhati Roy

From India and the author of recently published books
Walking with the Comrades” and “Broken Republic”  

Jan Myrdal

From Sweden and the author of
“Red Star Over India”

Basanta Indra Mohan

From Nepal and the author of
“Imperialism and Proletarian Revolution 21st Century”

Program includes:
Presentations by the speakers,
film and Q&A session

Sunday, June 12, 2011
1:30 pm till 5:00 pm

Friends House,  Main Hall,
173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ

Hosted by:
International Campaign Against War on People of India (ICAWPI)       info[at]  
c/o Gorki House, 70 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 7PA   Tel: +44(0)20 7193 1605

Co-organised by: IWA (GB), UNF Europe, ACDA, AFPRISA, TKM, GIKDER, 100FCC, WPRM-Britain, UfSO, CCRC,… (To be updated)   

For further information and contact with the organizers, please mail:  june12-London[at]

Marx Trot 29.5.2011

Hi all,

As promised in one of the last lectures of Capital and Cultural Studies this year, it is proposed that we convene for ‘The Marx Trot’ on Sunday 29 May 2011
This involves various cultural social and political highlights, including visits to Marx’s grave, a couple of houses Marx lived in, Engles house, the pub in which the Communist Manifesto was adopted by the International Workingmen’s (sic) Association, some other places Marx and Engels drank in, and so on. Its mostly pubs…
The day includes multiple options. Some of them are worthy and educational. The rest involve beer.
It is suggested that we meet at Red Lion Square at 1.30 pm. The Alternative Press Fair is on, zines like Nyx, The paper, and …Ment have a table, we can go support them, or something. Peruse the other rags and lament the demise of Pravda.
Then get to Archway by 3.00 PM, in time to be at Highgate Cemetery, a ten minute walk, for 3.30pm (you do the math).
After that, visits to Marx’s houses, local pub, Hamstead Heath, and in into Soho…. and on into the evening. Dinner as and when (chinese in Soho?) and other insurrectionary fun.
Sound like a plan?
red salute.
ps. Notes from a previous Marx Trot are here. Pic From Sascha.
pps. There are plenty of very excellent reasons to come out to Goldsmiths this month too – talks by Mick Douglas, Ishita Banerjea-Dube, Nawal el Saadawi – see here.
ppps. for the 29th, the Alt PRess Fair here,
25 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4RL
020 7242 8032

Underground: Holborn

but feel free to join later on the route.

if all else fails – 4pm at the grave. Bingo cards for the dead comms buried nearby might be a good idea.:
Highgate Cemetery Opening times:  from 10 am weekdays, 11am weekends

Closing time:   5pm British Summer Time (last admission 4.30pm) 4pm British Winter Time (last admission 3.30pm)

Please note: the Cemetery only accepts cash.

Entry:  £3 per adult / £2 for students with valid NUS card or equivalent

Bougainville’s president aims to attract new investment

The Nasty Gang delegation to Bougainville – won’t step near Arawa I expect – ‘sea-change’ Mr Momis?:

ABC Radio Online, 17 May 2011

The President of Bougainville John Momis told investors the peace process on Bougainville is well established and the island is open for business.[ABC]

Jemima Garrett

The Chairman of the Rio Tinto-owned Bougainville Copper is to visit Bougainville for the first time since the Panguna copper mine was shut down by a bloody civil war in 1989.

The invitation is part of a strategy by Bougainville’s President John Momis to attract new investment.

Mr Momis told investors attending the Papua New Guinea Australia Business Forum in Madang that the peace process on Bougainville is well established and the island is open for business.

Mr Momis said he would like to attract smart responsible investors who will create jobs and improve life for rural people in the lead up to a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

Ninety per cent of Bougainvilleans live in rural areas and President Momis said it is essential any new investment include them and take into account their culture.

The Chairman of Bougainville Copper will be part of a delegation of business leaders to visit the island on Thursday.

President Momis acknowledged there is still some opposition to the re-opening of the giant Panguna copper mine but he said the majority of Bougainvilleans want the prosperity it would bring.

Mr Momis said the return of Bougainville copper shows there has been a sea-change in attitudes and economic conditions on the island.

all-Nepal shut

The Workers Dreadnought

For International Socialism

Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) calls for all-Nepal shutdown on May 28th

Comrade Matrika Yadav, the fiery former UCPN(Maoist) leader, and his Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [a party that is a splinter from the UCPN(Maoist) and purportedly continues to grow with growing dissatisfaction and defections from that Party] have called for an all-Nepal shutdown on May 24th, and an indefinite shutdown starting on the 28th. Comrade Matrika Yadav has vociferously argued in the last few years that the UCPN(Maoist) has become a revisionist party, although he also maintains that the membership remains largely revolutionary in their orientation and has simply been misled by an increasingly opportunistic leadership. It has become increasingly clear, that it is unlike that there will be a people’s revolt in Nepal in just under 3 weeks [unless the political developments of the last few months since December have simply been a form of political theatre to distract the public about the Party’s true work, however, there is no evidence for this besides the development of the People’s Volunteer organization which have some have accused of developing a military structure] and that the Party is undergoing a political crisis, with senior leaders like Kiran and Gaurav openly attacking Prachanda in public, and attacks by Prachanda-supporters on pro-Kiran publications (it is very encouraging to see that Comrade Baburam Bhattarai has defended the Kiran-faction’s freedom of speech). Although, all sides continue seem to argue for unity and dismiss talk of a split, and the talk of a general convention seems to have died down once again. Indeed, this is further muddied by the Kiran-faction’s constant wrangling over ministerial posts which seems to fly in the face of his call for preparation for a people’s revolt.

However, something that I have been considering is whether a split, if it does occur, could possibly result in the merger of a Kiran-led wing of the UCPN(Maoist) and the Matrika Yadav-led CPN(Maoist) to form a Left alternative to the more mainstream Dahal-Bhattarai-led UCPN(Maoist) [which itself would be a very odd creature, although it too could merge with a section of the CPN(UML) led by current Prime Minister Khanal. I recognize that this seems odd because I have really not spent much time at all discussing CPN(UML) politics however, for those who are not aware, there has been a real and growing divide within that party with at least 2 clear factions: a “pro-Maoist” faction led by Khanal and an “anti-Maoist” led by senior party leader Oli]. Indeed, many argued that although they supported Comrade Matrika Yadav and shared his frustration at the developments in the Party, that believe that he he should not have left the Party when he did as his exit weakened the Party left. But the time may be soon approaching when the Kiran-faction may find itself inside a party that enjoys the name that first put them on the map. It is also possible that this could result in some other Maoist splinter groups reconstituting themselves within a revolutionary Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Currently reading Andrew Herscher – Violence Taking Place

While the construction of architecture has a place in architectural discourse, its destruction, generally seen as incompatible with the very idea of “culture,” has been neglected in theoretical and historical discussion. Responding to this neglect, Herscher examines the case of the former Yugoslavia and in particular, Kosovo, where targeting architecture has been a prominent dimension of political violence. Rather than interpreting violence against architecture as a mere representation of “deeper” social, political, or ideological dynamics, Herscher reveals it to be a form of cultural production, irreducible to its contexts and formative of the identities and agencies that seemingly bear on it as causes. Focusing on the particular sites where violence is inflicted and where its subjects and objects are articulated, the book traces the intersection of violence and architecture from socialist modernization, through ethnic and nationalist conflict, to postwar reconstruction.

But here:

Current Issues in Cultural Studies Sweden June 2011

Current Issues in European Cultural Studies:
ACSIS Conference 2011

Norrköping15-17 June 2011 at Louis de Geer in Norrköping, Sweden
Organised by the Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden (ACSIS)
in collaboration with the Association for Cultural Studies (ACS)

In June 2011 ACSIS arranges its fourth biannual conference on cultural research, this time on the subject “Current Issues in European Cultural Studies”. The conference will provide an updated inventory of main issues in European cultural studies today, covering cross-European topics and trends as well as regional developments in East, West, South, North and Central Europe. It thus presents European Cultural Studies but also gives a view of Europe through the spectrum of Cultural Studies.

The program has three main levels. First, a series of plenary sessions will deal with selected key current issues for cultural studies that partly connect to European perspectives and partly reach beyond this geographic scope. Second, a set of spotlight sessions open up for presentations and debates on the state of cultural studies in different regions of Europe, leading up to a final plenary discussing whether EU’s motto “united in diversity” is also applicable to European cultural studies. Third, cultural studies scholars from all over the world are welcome to propose and organise group sessions that run in parallel throughout the conference, and may deal with any empirical, methodological or theoretical subject within a wide definition of the cultural studies field. In this manner, the aim is to offer a rich expression of where the cultural studies field is going today, and what is the role of Europe in these developments.


Registration for the conference is now open, and the form can be found here.

The conference is supported by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Wenner-Gren Foundations, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Linköping University and the City of Norrköping.

Spotlight session 5 – “British Cultural Studies”
Panellists: John Hutnyk, Goldsmiths College, Roshini Kempadoo, University of East London, David Morley, Goldsmiths College, Mica Nava, University of East London
Moderator: Jeremy Gilbert, University of East London

Nawal el-Saadawi 31.5.11 Goldsmiths CCS

The Centre for Cultural Studies presents:

Nawal el-Saadawi

Talk by the acclaimed author

Nawal el-Saadawi will talk with Raymond Lotta of the Revolution newspaper USA about the prospects for revolution in North Africa adn the Middle East

Event Information

Location: NAB02, New Academic Building
Cost: Free
Department: Centre For Cultural Studies
Time: 31 May 2011, 16:00 – 18:00

May CCS events

Upcoming events May CCS 2011:
May 23 Carriage – cultural transports workshop with Mick Douglas [CCS Goldsmiths] 1.30Pm:
May 26 Ishita Banerjea-Dube talk [CCS Goldsmiths] 5pm:
May 31 Nawal el-Saadawi on The Prospects for Revolution in North Africa and the Middle East [CCS Goldsmiths] NAB 02 4pm. Chair: Raymond Lotta (Revolution newspaper USA)
All Welcome
(what is to be done at CCS is here)

Carriage: Mick Douglas 23 May 2011

carriage: cultural transports and transformations with socially-engaged public art
workshop with Mick Douglas – 23rd May 2011
Goldsmiths Centre For Cultural Studies – departure point: Goldsmiths G3 Laurie Grove Baths start 1:30pm, for two hours. Ends on the East London line somewhere.
The workshop will discuss and explore socially-engaged public art tactics to mobilize and perform a carriage of cultural transport and transformation.  Participants should be prepared to move on foot and rail, at the least.
Tickets: available at rail station vending machines. etc.
Mick Douglas:


Mick Douglas makes socially-engaged art projects in the public domain, and is senior lecturer in the School of Architecture & Design at RMIT University. His recent work explores inter-relationships between aesthetic experiences of mobility, cultural change practices and performative encounters – a field he describes as ‘Cultural Transports’. His projects involve him working across mediums, disciplines and interest groups to develop artforms engaging with movement, hospitality and cosmopolitanism. Recent projects that employ a mode of transport as a medium of arts practice including ‘W-11 Tram’ first commissioned by the cultural festival of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, and ‘tramjatra: imagining Melbourne and Kolkata by tramways’ (also a book: Yoda Press, Delhi and RMIT Press, Melbourne, 2005) < >; ‘Ride-On-Dinner’ – a mobile performance event <>; and ‘LiveHouse’ – an arts platform for improvised performances of Housing Estate residents in inner-city Melbourne.

Co-sponsored Centre for Cultural Studies and the Nomadic Action Group

A discussion today on cases of intrigue in our very own gulags of absentmindedness:

Two cases of note:

Row after university suspends lecturer who criticised way student was treated

Rod Thornton accused Nottingham University of trying to discredit student, who downloaded an al-Qaida training manual

Jeevan Vasagar, education editor, Wednesday 4 May 2011 19.09 BST
Article history

A view of Nottingham University’s Jubilee campus. The suspension of lecturer Rod Thornton has led to a row about academic freedom. Photograph: Zander Olsen

A university has been plunged into a row over academic freedom after suspending a lecturer who criticised its treatment of a student who researched al-Qaida.

Rod Thornton, an expert in counter-insurgency at Nottingham University, was suspended on Wednesday after he accused the university of passing “erroneous evidence” to police and attempting to discredit a student who downloaded an al-Qaida training manual from a US government website.

A member of staff at the university also lobbied successfully for Thornton’s article to be taken down from an academic website, arguing that it contained defamatory allegations.

The masters student, Rizwaan Sabir, was arrested and detained for six days for downloading the al-Qaida material.

A university administrator was also arrested after Sabir asked him to print the document because the student could not afford the printing fees. Both were later released without charge.

In the paper, Thornton wrote: “Untruth piled on untruth until a point was reached where the Home Office itself farcically came to advertise the case as ‘a major Islamist plot’ … Many lessons can be learned from what happened at the University of Nottingham.

“This incident is an indication of the way in which, in the United Kingdom of today, young Muslim men can become so easily tarred with the brush of being ‘terrorists’.”

Thornton’s article was prepared for the British International Studies Association (Bisa), which promotes the study of international relations and held its annual conference in Manchester last week…. (continues)


Honorary Fellow sacked for supporting Millbank occupiers

I am a founder member of the University of Kent Law School and Kent Law Clinic and principally responsible for its international reputation as a critical law school. I was appointed an Honorary  Fellow in January 2007 as part of a settlement for breach of contract.

I was interviewed by the media after the Millbank occupation by students opposed to the rise in fees and gave unconditional support to the actions of the students. My comments appeared on the University of Kent’s Centre for Journalism website and in consequence the university demanded the article be taken down. The Centre’s director, Tim Luckhurst, refused to do so.

The university then sought to terminate the Honorary Fellowship and ordered me to remove Kent Law School as the mailing address of the National Critical Lawyers Group (NCLG) (founded in 1987 with this address, see I was ordered not to associate myself in any way with Kent Law School and to leave my office with one day’s notice. Kent Law School then suspended the NCLG mailing list of over 3,000 and ordered the removal of NCLG from university internet servers.

Before the suspension, over 60 members of NCLG emailed the Vice Chancellor and Kent Law School head of department protesting strongly at my sacking – the protests came from barristers, solicitors and professors, staff and students at other law schools.

No one in Kent Law School staff and students has dared to say anything about these events, fearing the consequences, although there have been private messages of support. The university is in fascist mode, as are many other universities at this time.

I have received limited support from my union UCU, consisting of one visit to the Vice Chancellor who refused to talk. The union has failed to take any other action. The student union has a no victimisation policy but has also failed to support me, even though I was the legal adviser to the magnificent Kent occupiers who kept their occupation going from 8 December to 5 January.

UCU legal committee is meeting on 4 February to consider whether to support me legally, but this is not the best option.

I am a supporter of the RCP – now the Spiked Group – but have received no support whatsover from my former comrades; one at Kent Law School has worked actively against me. The SWP know about these events but they have so far failed to give any support. Similarly Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party and the Coalition of Resistance, including Clare Solomon, have not supported me.

The university has cancelled our booking for the NCLG bi-annual conference in March at Kent University and we have found it impossible to get a booking in London. SOAS accepted our booking then cancelled under pressure from some of their law professors. I suspect the NCLG has been blacklisted.

I would like to thank FRFI for their comradely support.

In solidarity and onwards to a better world,

Ian Grigg-Spall



Having the assassination cheer squads on heavy rotation on the Jingo channel (BBC news) is embarrassing us all. No critical voice yet on tv, as far as I’ve seen. Worse than the Saddam execution on the Hanging Channel. Who needs media critique when they cartoon it up so bad by themselves? And to think that the rest of the election campaign just inaugurated is gonna be built up on this four-fronts-war led by the Geronimo-killer Kool-aid seller. Thank Obiwan for Jodi Dean, who can at least think past the ‘barbarous variant’ of ‘capitalist anarcho-fascism’:

Cheerleaders, chants, and beach balls are barbaric responses to the announcement of a political assassination.

Political assassination is not an act of justice. It does not bring about justice in some kind of cosmic tit for tat.  It is not the doing of justice. Justice is not done when another is killed in retaliation.

Retaliation, retribution, revenge–are these now the common terms through which justice is understood in the US? Do we think that victims are avenged when their assailant is killed? The victims are still dead, still gone, still mourned. Are they brought back in the acts of terror, torture, and imprisonment enacted in their name? Are they memorialized daily in airports as we take off our belts and shoes, as we put our hand behind are heads, spread-eagled, and searched, as we are x-rayed and scanned?

For a moment, the twenty minutes or so when the intertubes were alive with the news and before the president spoke, I felt something–something like relief, the sense of an end, perhaps even hope. It was, I think, the anticipation of an end to the disaster of the last ten years of ritualized humiliation, electronically stimulated fear, widespread surveillance, and the enjoyment of camps and torture.

The television media quickly made it clear that this sort of anticipation has no place: the war on terrorism is endless, total. It won’t stop. We are not the same people. We have been reconfigured in a massive psycho-political experiment in transforming democracy into fascism, or a new barbarous variant of fascism, capitalist anarcho-fascism.

We are now the sort of people who cheer for death and murder, who repeat mindless lies, who glory in inequality–not bread and circuses but cheetos and reality tv. Everything is a game, yet we don’t even recognize the levels on which it is played, the levels on which we aren’t players at all but the targets captured or shot as the real players, hot shots, move on up.

Can we glimpse post-terrorism? Can we use it as an opening to something else, a focus not on war but on global capitalist exploitation? Can it be a chance to remake the decade’s choice for barbarism into a new choice for socialism?

The Paper: May Day Edition: Hutnyk on Images

Reflecting on The Paper as a very serious play at theatre; the political as a theatrical serious playing at paper, and 1001 stories to tell, in pictures.


As bombs still rain down on Libya, with cockpit-cam night video peep-show footage of tanks being destroyed to preserve the No-Fly Zone on our 24-hour news (since tanks might fly?), we should probably have a discussion about images. David Cameron has evoked that old ‘line in the sand’ crusader cliché, and the TUC and NUS have worried about ‘hijacks’ and hi-jinx stealing their place on the day (N10, M26). But, a hijack means crashing a plane into the Twin Towers, not smashing a window – though both can be media events as well. Hijacking the UN and NATO to invade entire countries on pretence is of a different order of obfuscation – and the comic image of a President in combat gear reading stories to children does not quite register. On our part, we have had debates about images in the movement and in The Paper. Our discussion should and has extended to file images in other papers and media, and the convoluted political uses on several sides (and yes, we have been taking sides). So, what should we say about the image of images, what is the story with pictures worth a thousand words, what do we see when we open the photoshop, diorama, kaleidoscope of viewing to question?

The Millbank boot–window-demonstrator assemblage was reproduced many times. I particularly like the aesthetic, though of course it is a little bit pantomime. I also like to tell the story of watching the live BBC coverage of the December 9 demonstration as ‘anarchists’ stormed The Treasury. Early in the evening my two-year-old son was also watching when the police roughly handled a protester dressed as Santa Claus and bundled him aside. My son was shouting at the telly: ‘time out Santa, time out!’, having learnt at nursery that a cool-down period is necessary after a dispute over Lego blocks or whatever. With the kettle in place, the BBC camera then showed a police liaison constable directing photographers away from the action with the words: ‘Have you got the pictures you want? Then move along…’ Showing Santa storming The Treasury in a recession was not an ideal front page however, and so instead about a half hour later the sticking of the Prince’s ride in Regent Street was staged to grab the headlines.

The pantomime quality of such striking imagery is well known, and of course, in The Paper we have sought images with a punctum, or with irony, poignancy and politics. We have debated whether images of ‘protesters in Tahrir’ were problematic because the said protesters did not speak (photogenic credibility?), were possibly put in danger (military reprisals?), were wearing headscarves (exotica?), or were there as examples of revolt that we wished we had here (revolutionary tourism?). I think on the whole our discussions have moved us towards a more nuanced appreciation of images, and from the start we have included line drawings, illustrations, cartoons and art. My favourite is itself a claim for credibility, exotic and touristic all at the same time – the image of the boot that appears above the ‘Bosom of Fear’ article in the pink issue. This boot picks up – fashion editors love this kind of attention to accessories – an echo of the line drawings and photos of slippers in the issue that has images from Tahrir. That works for me.

Less successful were the two facing pages with pictures of Obama/Qaddafi and Mubarak/Qaddafi. These were overly literal and would only have ‘worked’ if the whole issue had been a relentless compilation of all the images of other Western leaders that had wined and dined with the Lion of Libya. We have discussed imagery that tells a story, but we also want multiple strands of narrative and subtlety in the pictures. The projection of scenes that complicate and deepen analysis, that step away from simple realism, that offer a provocative or contrary take on the expected, images that debate each other, that suggest reverie and thinking, or even that confuse, if they do so with intent. The Paper need not always adopt the one plus one platitudes of the commercial press. We can take inspiration from homemade placards from the rallies and the innovations of high art photography (Mapplethorpe and Cartier-Bresson as our gods) and tamper with each. Barbara Kruger could design a great issue, with text over picture and a wry cunning. We have had people send in their drawings, we have cultivated our own cartooning skills – and a cartoon certainly speaks in different ways in the press, there is something about the border around a cartoon that both enables anything to be said and disarms it as merely a joke. We have mostly avoided borders (of course, borders are rules).

We will multiply images, and always take sides, even with ambiguity.

The pantomime scene of marauding anarchists shopping at Fortnum&Mason which terrorized the nation (ahem) is just as much a shibboleth as the multiple images of Saddam that were presented in the lead up to the Iraq war (the playing cards) or the mysteries of the taped voice of Osama bin Laden beamed in via smuggled cassette from the caves of Afghanistan. These folds in the ideological compendium are the ones that pantomime must decode for children. Scheherazade is the ur-story here, telling fables of Ali Baba, Sinbad and Aladdin over and over, so as ultimately to disarm the power of the despot Shahryar. Only now such a figure is trapped, detained and deported, she is forced to wear an orange jump suit and tell her tale to interrogators in Guantanamo. Perhaps we can imagine her contributing to The Paper as well. Undoing the imagery of death with joyous picture narrative and creative interpretation. Fearless exposure of truth to power and spectacular adventures for all.


and as an addendum: an off list conversation with my comrade Amit about this text that we decided might be worth putting on line as well:

Dear John:
I wanted to share some thoughts with you about this, because I think for myself I wanted to clarify some of your arguments.
One is the relation between image and narrative.
Second is the relation between image and taking sides.
Third is the relation between image and the exotic.
And Fourth is the relation between image and body.
1. I think images should disrupt narrative processes, not tell a story. If an image is the Barthesian punctum as you suggest, then perhaps this needs to become something other than a relation to a story, diegesis, a linearity. Images can operate as a way to detour a narrative, swerve it from its intentions, potentialize a story. Central here is the relation of image to consciousness and thus to the project of consciousness raising. Can images do something to consciousness such that it is brought to confront its own materiality?
2. I agree we need to take sides, and even sometimes (frankly, more and more) without irony (!). But what are the sides we have defined? Its certainly more complicated that left and right, right? To me one of the sides I would like an image to take is against habit and cliche, is that a side in the way you would define it? I don’t know. But certainly I think creating images that jam habits and cliches is a political project, a project as well that moves us to confront memory, attention, craving, and desire in a way that is fully historical and even neurological.
3. The exotic is a habit in the West, bell hooks called it eating the other. I have been in the UK for about 9 months now, which is not very much, but enough to register forms of exoticism on my own not very exotic brown skin in a particularly British mode. But its only brown, what about black and yellow and green? I am not being facetious or ironic. I lack these skills, frankly. I think the question of the relation of how an image tells a story given the exoticism of the other, is to focus on what I suggested in 2. : habit and cliches. I think the paper needs to intervene in the habits and cliches of the exotic precisely because that practice will call us to develop different material relations with populations that not only can speak (Spivak was I believe mistaken about the politics of representation, which has more to do with her commitment to Derrida and Heidegger than with politics itself), but can affect (through their material movements, their cultures, their histories, their language, their desires) the habituations of the West unto crisis. They already have, again and again, but these crises have been managed, repressed, incorporated, and abjected. Can we agree that this is also a dimension of neoliberal “democracy”: integrating the exotic? But maybe these postcolonial processes are not speaking to the West at all? Maybe these processes are not of the nature of language but of the nature of a material transformation in life chances, resources, emotional tonality, habits of the embodied mind, new ecologies of gestures, hesitations, passions, work, communication, and affects.
4. An image can also be a variable quanta of sensation, with its own durations, foldings, hesitations, pulsations. That is why it can also touch the flesh directly, not through narrative, or consciousness, but through a kind of de-habituation taken to the n-th degree. Where an image is first and foremost not a signifier floating off into the ether of other signifiers but an event, a vector, a tendency in an ecology of sensation. This is not a metaphor. It is a politics of the image that necessitates we take the embodiment of images literally, such that the politics of the image becomes an ethology of compositions between at least two multiplicities: your body (with its cultural, biological, neurological, psychic, gendered, sexed, raced, classed, etc. histories all as variable dimensions of change and habit in and of that body) and a set of sensory motor circuits (i.e. the image).
Hi Amit
Thanks for this. Good good points.
I’m in the middle of marking hell, so this won’t be as nuanced as I’d like, but I can respond to a couple of things.
First up – not in your order of preference necessarily, but most crucial I think – exoticism. I could not agree with you more about this – there is great need to challenge the way the exotic masquerades in this country as an alibi for racism. No, worse than racism, its white supremacy (I guess that’s the same thing) which presents itself as some sort of tolerant liberal benevolent civilized pig-ignorant delusion. It is part of a two step routine though – a love-hate routine – ooh, exotic, culture, music, drums, saris, slightly problematic face veils and arranged marriages but great food hmmm, yum… dust, heat, sand, sun, tourism… lets get a bargain holiday out of it after we bomb you into such a state that the best you can do is provide service economy facilitation of my self deluded cultural sophistication. Lonely Planet Tony Wheeler has long been planning a new Guidebook for Afghanistan. Here in London, on the one hand in the city there are anti-racist groups with anti-nazi badges interested in hip hop and south asian dance music, Chandra/Seth/Roy/Rushdie novels and chicken tikka masala, while in the adjacent burbs there are racist attacks, paki-bashing, support for State terror, detention, islamophobia and worse (Sandline etc). Exoticism is the mild but pernicious end of white supremacism that kills.
But I certainly don’t think all images that tell stories are always helpful. Indeed, usually the story is a nightmare of a narrative that belongs to ideology and control. For example, the pantomime terror narrative being played out today – Osama and his alleged Pakistani collaborators defeated by a President of “USA USA” finally come good and the world made safe not-quite for thirty more years of this spurious war as ‘it will take a generation to defeat Al Qaeda’… OK, that said, images even when disruptive tell a story. I was watching the news tonight and even while the white house spokesperson was praising Obama for the ‘most courageous call any president has made in x years’ the background image was of black-clad Taliban-type figures in training (and in trainers) – there are a couple of stories there, depending on your interpretive stance. For some, it showed that there was a threat, no doubt for others that there still is a threat, for still others, perhaps that training still goes on, and then a little postmodern nuance in the shoes they were wearing. Finally, a text underneath reports that its expected a posthumous Osama tape is about to be released. Despite efforts on all sides, we cannot control the story. But putting out ambiguous images/story is not sufficient, but I think pushing for an understanding of the interpretive power of images is important. Scheherazade is my emblem for someone knowing how to do that (my unfinished book Pantomime Terror uses the Scheherazade frame to retell some of the same stuff I worked on with Critique of Exotica). Thing is, all images also tell a story. What we need a nuanced stories – more Scheherazade’s…
However, I don’t get what you say about Spivak in brackets. ‘(Spivak was wrong!)’. What do you mean? Her argument is not that the subaltern cannot speak as such, but that in the dominant discourse, even when taken up by well-intentioned advocates of speaking, the story that is heard is already scripted, always-already heard. If anyone, Benita Parry had got this wrong, but so do many others when they think that Spivak would deny people a speaking voice when she is, rather, making a critique of ventriloquy. And is recognizing a necessity of such ventriloquy I think as well – once the subaltern is on the path to speaking that voice is shaped by structures like representative democracy (and its corruptions) rational codes (and its distortions) media platforms (and commodifications) etc. etc. The clarification Spivak provides in the two rehashes of that essay – ‘Subaltern Talk’ interview in The Spivak Reader, and the whole last section of Critique of Postcolonial Reason are crucial returns to that material. Spivak even explains why the declarative ‘the subaltern cannot speak’ was an infelicitous remark. Its a bit like the way Sartre was criticized for including the line ‘Hell is other people’ in his play Huis Clos (No Exit). People completely overlook that this was said by a character in a play and not what Sartre thought about the world. But then now I’ve deployed Sartre out of context, remembering Nandy’s contribution to this where he said that Fanon had written in the language and tones of Sartre. Well, he was saying something pretty different…
Ahhh, this little ramble is already too long. And have not even got to the taking sides or the image-body bits. I think you are exactly right about irony. But all I can say today is: No to taking sides with assassinators of any stripe….
red salute
Amit to John:
I mean something very specific when I say that Spivak was wrong. But it is not about Spivak’s work, as such. It is about the politics of representation, and why that politics (even, one might say especially, in postcolonial criticism–I am writing a piece now that I’m calling the Migrant and Mobile Phone: Toward a Postcolonial Empiricism that aims to address precisely this problem) has formed a closed loop around representation and consciousness, why questions of sensation, habit, sensory-motor circuits, neurology, duration, intensity are not only relegated but cast as politically suspect. It is about a dogmatism of the image–I realise this is not your position, and from what you say above, I have a lot to learn from your work. But you see if the conversation–and is it a conversation, is it discourse if what we are working through is crucially the experience of sensation in a new practice of the image–is going to move beyond the binary sign, into another experimentation with signification, then maybe the image should be seen as something between a representation and a thing? Something with materiality, but also a kind of spirituality (an image inhabits and is inhabited by tendencies, affects which, while real, are never fully, and sometimes never at all actualized, the image is virtual and actual at once). But again let us return to the point at hand: images do things. You and I both agree about that. They are involved in a political practice the meaning of which is not pre-given but unfolds in the doing of it.

May 1, 2011


Here, from the cobweb-covered vault,

a discussion document from  1992, on writing:


Communists Must Write, and how!

There are various ways in which the political vacuum which we have so sorely felt in recent years can be countered. The need for a party, its support and discipline, its organisational strengths and sense of purpose has the potential to turn rhetoric into activity. Without doubt we are all well sick of people saying what must be done[1] and having the words carried away in the wind. There has been much conversation among friends, in pubs and elsewhere, in the meetings of our various organisations, at demonstrations and amongst the collectivities of social movements and NIMBY protests, etc., etc., but there is not enough, as yet, to show.

It has also been admitted that among our urgent tasks are the self-educational work of reading groups, writing papers, and the development of a left culture which includes a practical-theoretical analysis of the conditions in which we work. As much has often been stated. Rhetorically!

There are those who may say that communism is verbose, and any set of collected and/or selected works of Marx, Lenin, Mao, Luxemburg, Dunayevskaya, Leon, Joseph, Mazumdar[2], etc., will show that these communists wrote all the time — letters, tracts, pamphlets, monographs and more. Yes, we may now live in the era of late-night-television capitalism, yes the written word is a privileged form and draws accusations of stylised alienation, rhetorical authority, intellectualism, elitism, theory and that bitter term of abuse, journalism, but, I think, we are still obliged to write. The question I want to pose is how.

As a preliminary step, which we must repeat over and over, we might read some of the many and various communist texts which refer to writing. It is not possible to mention them all, nor desirable — since I think this issue must be kept under discussion all the time, continually renewed. Nevertheless, a few scattered points might offer us something to go on with now. It is important to take these older texts seriously even while agreeing with Guattari and Negri on “the reopening of a revolutionary cycle” which shall proceed “Not by the repetition of old slogans, but through the intervention of new perspectives on action, and by a redefinition of communism as enrichment, diversification of community and consciousness” (Guattari and Negri 1990:28) What follows is a proposal which, while looking to past work, sets out towards writing now.

[Keep reading – the entire paper is COMMSMUS2]

[1] Much more work must be done on this paper. I’m sorry that these are very rough notes for a discussion paper — and so for several reasons I don’t want them to be copied or circulated further than this meeting. The reasons include my embarrassment at how obvious much of this is, the fact that it is a rushed job, and that any serious treatment of the topic of writing would be best pursued in a more collaborative manner than this first draft can reflect. I have also not made use, in the paper, of section five of Lenin’s What is to be done? (1902) which bears directly on this topic and which would be an unavoidable reference point for our discussion.

[2] Marx wrote for many newspapers; Lenin wrote endless numbers of letters; the texts of Mao’s speeches were widely distributed within and beyond the party; Raya Dunayevskaya was an assistant to Trotsky for a while, but left for ‘ideological reasons’ to write a great fat book called Philosophy and Revolution 1973, Columbia University Press, and another called Rosa Luxemberg, Women’s Liberation and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution, 1981, Uni of Illinois Press; Charu Mazumdar was a leader of the Maoist Naxalite uprising in India which formed the basis of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), he wrote many pithy and sharp pamphlets against the Landlords in India under the slogan “Annihilate the class enemy!”. The pen can be brutal when necessary.

[Keep reading – the entire paper is COMMSMUS2]