Kill your darlings no. 9 – more cuts and buts…

[ninth in a series of scrapbook overflow/rejects]

Yet ‘Epistemological performance is how you construct yourself and the world as an object of knowing’ says Spivak at the University of Kwazulu-Natal 8th Annual Teaching and Learning on Higher Education Conference. This was a workshop on her book An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization, (Spivak 2012). The effort of trying to train oneself towards openness to how others perform, and making this a part of a way of reading that also would resist inevitable exoticism and complicity, perhaps requires a more nuanced dialectic to which many are often not adequately sensitive. Admirable that this constructs the world, life, knowledge as equitable domain of differences, or at least the chance to imagine such differences.

 

Paraphrasing: the construction of knowledge as a knowledge industry is a cul-de-sac of meaningless vocationalism, repetition skills and information processing, not wisdom or learning what can be learned…

[and I really regret losing this, but its for another book, with updates after reading a lot of fafffffffffffs]: No less a ‘firing squad’ than the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry soft peddled the war crimes and encouragements to reaction given by bleeding heart prime ministers of dubious reputation. Blair’s questioning by Chilcot was more a pre-election stump speech than investigation or war crimes tribunal – documentation here: http: //www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/ (accessed March 10 2010). With Chilcot not planning to deliver the final report until after the 2015 election, as of June 2015, still no sign of the report, and Blair had been appointed to yet another new post (‘Palestinians baffled by decision to appoint Tony Blair to chair European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation’ Telegraph June 13 2015). Still no sign of the report, mid 2015, but petitions to have Blair up in front of the War Crimes Tribunal widely supported, giving some cheer. When it finally came on 6 July, 2016 – a day before the ten year anniversary of the 7/7 London bombing – the report was buried in an avalanche of volumes, too expensive for popular reading, too thick for journalists to summarise, uninspiring for public commentary, and so buried in plain sight without any action on the calls to charge Blair.

 

[and these movie recommendations:]

This is true if the images are big political movement material, from Maoists fighting the Kuomintang depicted as a fanatic horde in the Barbara Stanwyck vehicle, The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933 dir. Capra) – an impressive film nevertheless for its early interracial romance – through to the ways violent political encounters in Vietnam were framed as humour, with the soldiers singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song: ‘M.I.C.K.E.Y’ as a dirge in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987 dir. Kubrick). That same year Robin Williams was making a joke of the ‘Police Action’ in Good Morning Vietnam (1987 dir. Levinson), reprising the compromises of journalism already shown with Mel Gibson dining out in The Year of Living Dangerously (1982 dir. Weir) or of medics portraying the earlier war in Korea as contemporary allegory in M*A*S*H (1970 dir. Altman). There are many examples. If the footage is too real or too harsh, it is relegated, even when screened. Controversy surrounded the allegorical execution of a boy in MIA’s Romain Gavras song video Born Free (2010), but the 2009 atrocity video of Tamils executed by the Sri Lankan military in a UN ‘refugee camp’ was ignored. Despite video ‘evidence’ entered into a public ‘news’ system that is not designed to offer due process under law, the Rodney King video was dissected and anatomised by lawyers to normalise and exonerate the violence of that arrest while Tonight Show TV hosts did jokes. Only where globally connected communities fight for justice denied is there any degree of return.

What has all this to do with the topic? Can’t we just have more about Bollywood and music video, an upbeat tempo, several layers of colour and a massive popular following? Why fill up this book with lamentations about violence and appreciations of the films of Mrinal Sen and Anand Patwardhan? Who are ‘you’ to enter this domain? Let the experts then talk of film and you talk of ‘police actions’ as war someplace else.

I watch the films so that you will too.

 

That this big tent includes some wide stripes, but despite criticisms of the cash-in and anti-Muslim bias, Chadha making Bride and Prejudice and Viceroy’s House is still among those examples that work against the trend Mann identifies of films without serious treatment of issues. Alongside, of course, if not as lucrative, the Kureishi films, and examples like Wild West (1992), East is East (1999) and several others. It is not impossible to agree that, except perhaps in a few rare films, it is difficult to find films that offer ‘serious treatment of diaspora lives or any real engagement with their foreign homelands’ (Mann 2014: 499).

Is it possible to suggest there is more to be done here even if it is hard to disagree with the assessment that ‘NRI films, with their overwhelmingly reductive, stereotypical approach to the West, contribute to Bollywood’s churning out of preppy, feel-good romances, with song and-dance sequences punctuated by little narrative, and filmmakers reduced to entertainers solely’ (Mann 20145: 499). If structure, reverse stereotype, liminal phase and open interpretive quest are considered it becomes clear that many other factors are in the mix. No easy classification should control the interpretive frame, even if there may be co-ordinates mapped, probes and provocations sent out, cartographers and depth psychology, conversationalists and even ethnographers deployed.

 

South Asian film and television studies here then operate a range of perspectives and themes that could, for the purposes of experiment, be placed within the allegorical orbit of multiplicity and at least mark out a relation to a slightly more complicated tracking of historical developments. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of this move, reassessment of themes allows a summary. This would necessarily include the allegorical, as discussed, but perhaps just as powerful is the shift from ‘high nationalism’ to decolonising psychological with studies like those of Nandy (1998: 18). In the return and realisation, if not culmination, of ideology critique enabled by work of Madhava Prasad and those he released, or unleashed, openings like the Journal of the Moving Image at Jadavpur and the consolidation of cultural studies at Bangalore show what has begun. Work in the UK on diasporic film (see Kaur and Sinha 2005, bibliography in Dudrah 2012) also includes new ethnographic studies on venues, distribution, the extension of culture through family, financially driven migration and multiplying technological formats,[1] but thus far this work still awaits any significant institutional commitment and funds.

[1] The early study of cassette culture by Peter Manuel in 1993 should not be forgotten. A trajectory then extending through the arrival of VCR and cassette tapes to the corner cable stall, the rewiring of neighbourhood connectivity and the explosion of satellites and portable screens, the purchase of technology is and its ‘alternate picture of globalisation’ in the pirate economy (Vasudevan 2013: 212, Sundaram 2009) now ends with the Internet bringing both global unity and ‘venomous diatribes’ on YouTube (Manuel 2013: 379).

 

The dynamic of political allegory requires a suture between specificity and the global, and film in diasporic and commercial circulation can provide that. The point is variously expressed.

 

In a different way, but with a parallel structuring, Moinak Biswas suggests that ‘the “person” becomes the last source of morality and ethics in the melodramatic world’. Black and white here infuses ‘ordinary human actions with larger significances’ (Biswas 2000: 128). The conjugal scene in private and intimate lives always also looks forward to the future, and so the family values variety of moral order claims general importance. The other political, outward facing, social critique, of class, of colonialism, oppression and war looks to the market sphere. It is for this reason that film can stitch between the family drama and the terror attack that makes cinema seem real even when not. The specificity of film and its interpolation of viewers has a global commercial imperative that was scaled up from the start: ‘The film industry in India from its very inception was intimately implicated in the nationalist project’ (Gopal and Moorti 2008: 10). Songs and scenes of melodrama convey and construct a sense of anxiety for the spectator-citizen even while delivering emotive pleasures and immersion, or through immersion ‘intimately implicated’ and the circulation of this intimacy ‘was decidedly internationalist in its mode of production and distribution’ (Gopal and Moortu 2008: 11). The mesh between a hybrid cultural ‘masala’ and the increasing imbrication with global commercial flows is the suture that must be reworked, sublated, detourned if Global South Asia would not merely sell conviviality to the world, in spite of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rogue! (2001).

There are by definition no agreed, fixed or stable global co-ordinates that can simply be plotted, mapped and drawn up on a vernacular grid ready for battle. It seems just as valid to be sceptical about concepts and political prescriptions as it is to give opinions on the world historical significance of artworks or films. Is this to elevate a few texts and ignore others because my reading and research list is faulty? I cannot watch every film, though childcare and YouTube facilitate extended viewing. [remember, I am cutting these sentences from the book because I think its rubbish. note to self, do not be tempted to put this back] Ostentatious excitation of the bibliography/filmography notwithstanding, would such a completion guarantee the power of the analysis?

 

‘Little attempt is made to unpick the problematic manner in which diaspora itself is often deliberately constructed as more open to the potentials of “performative” identity and hybridity than anywhere “back home”‘ (Banaji 2006: 31).

 

Ana Mendes takes up the Merchant Ivory films in a discussion of Rushdie and the film Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001 dir. Gowariker) to discuss the visual and exoticist nostalgia trope in films about the Raj, still potently representative of ideological positionings even when recognised as myth, reworked and reimagined for a diverse audience and yet still effectively romantic, hierarchical, and largely blind to economic injustice both during the Raj era and today. ‘Visual splendour’ in Merchant Ivory or in Lagaan evokes that fantasy Raj even in its ostensible critique, and Mendes contrasts the exoticism or self-exoticism of such films to the rejection of Raj revivalism that in part motivated My Beautiful Laundrette (Mendes 2007: 72).

 

The convergence of capital’s industrial production in cinema and new media and the docile bodies that consume and comment in the walled chat-rooms while cultural studies overestimates the resistive potential of media use and the susceptibility of the market to the enclosure of administration will perhaps not be undone. Festivals are a favourite of government officials wanting to provide economical panacea for the masses without risk of mobilisations less readily corralled – the festival as a fortress, and as commercial boosterism. The officially sponsored festival of the Global South as the last desperate attempt to distract from an empty administration of capital by hypocrites with weapons contracts. But since no amount of staged frivolity by nominated but beleaguered ‘community leaders’ can disguise from the community the violence inflicted upon that community, the life-support mechanism of civic bureaucracy flounders when people get together to talk about something other than sport. The alternative mobilisation rips these documents of barbaric proportion to shreds and scatters the enemies of the people to the four corners of the planetary Global South, zindabad!

 

Insisting on the more open connectivities can still, maybe, potentially, offer more than complicity with the market.

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Kill your darlings 8

The footnotes are getting the chop chop treatment too. It is a sad sad day. A bad bad way to relegate people to the acknowledgements.

Is it just Truman World™? In his book Picturing Theory, anthropologist Jay Ruby discusses the ‘not illogical merchandising direction [of] The Truman Show [which] contains … “a catelog of products featured on the show, offered for sale and snapped up by its loyal international audiences”‘ (Ruby 2000: 250, quoting the Paramount Pictures Press kit for the film). Ruby’s point is that anthropologists cannot pretend to study people without the context of commercial capitalism ; similarly television without its connections would be television out of context. Yet, if Ruby wants to modernise anthropology, we might ask why his book is subtitled ‘explorations in film and anthropology’ (my emphasis), as if the explorer’s quest, Palin again, were something that did not need the idea of the pristine and untouched other as its slightly tarnished holy grail. I have always wondered why texts on visual anthropology, and film history in general, are fixated on the founding practitioners and nothing from ‘before’. I owe this point to Scott McQuire (1986, 2008), but also again in part to Theresa Mikuriya (2017).

kill your darlings 7 – soon there will only be seven words left…

An approach that experiments with a frame shift towards a political and allegorical register cannot keep up with that level of work, even as it relies wholly upon so much of it and tries to offer a related but limited meditation on a contingent perspective.

The slogan that sits behind both the success of diaspora and Bollywood film and the rise of Hindutva is a more radical political position – we are here because you were there – is not unrelated to the counter-reaction. The terror war that would be exoticism in one format – lyrical tunes, the films of Satyajit Ray – is in another time and place terror.

In his appreciation of the work of Stuart Hall, Madhava Prasad makes a powerful critical observation of ‘the indigenous dominant subject who wants to suppress the voices of the marginalised in order to maintain a semblance of unity and hold on to their own leadership position in the eyes of the world’ (Madhava Prasad 2014c: 193). Following Hall, Madhava Prasad agrees subjective working out or one’s position, and its contradictions, need not imply a resistance to theory, to not succumb only to autobiographic confessional seems a highly apposite critique given the traps that lie in wait for the postcolonial academic slowly detached from political movement of what is Left of the Nation. It is the residue of the theoretical in the residue of the struggle that can still be discerned in media studies, perhaps, and perhaps only there – the nation and the left having self-imploded beyond even confessional. The optimism of Madhava Prasad’s closing words can be reread as programmatic: ‘For the process of emergence to be successful, it must be simultaneously a transformation of the world into which we emerge’ (Madhava Prasad 2014c: 193).

This version of media theory emerged surrounded by, sometimes in contest with, historical, political science, sociology and anthropological scholarship offering sophisticated critical versions of the old semi-feudal, semi-colonial language of struggle. Indeed, SARAI grew into the space vacated by the activist neo-Gandhian wing of political science represented by Kothari, Nandy and Visvanathan. These latter thinkers were already deeply invested in South–South work, and Nandy had served on election commissions in neighbouring states, a not so secret politics. Can the suggestion of a model of global media studies that transcends the divisions and demarcations of regionalism and niche market sectarianism still account for diversity without normativity or the reduction of unity to mere comparativism?

The demonisation of Islam is also at base another example of a long term effort of capital to discipline any form of organised labour (see Du Bois 1998: 186). Capital in its crisis mode seeks scapegoats and by extension disciplines all those who would be potential scapegoats. Replace the word migrant with people and recognise that the discussion here can be talking about you, me, them, and all of us that move against fear – to see this migration is to see the demographic that induces fear – if all those who were on the move also formed a movement, something would be happening that would make the American Civil War and the French Revolution look like prayer meetings.

Empire did not fold, it morphed into arms sales and chaos diplomacy under cover of Merchant Irony nostalgia films.

If the desire to provide answers and a tool box or useful kit of what to do next is set aside for a minute as a dubious self-aggrandising cul de sac, might it be plausible to look back and try to make sense of why betrayal, loss and repetition seems to follow in repeat cycle. Might it be possible then to look at interventions made now, in alienated, individual, however distorted form, as the squeezed remnants of a sentiment that has been washed through global media, prejudicial representational profiling, demonisation, ideology and propaganda, etc., but still ask where and into what that immense energy dissipates? For sure, much energy is lost in the brutal squander of labour migration, with reserves of futility and despair no doubt, and moments of resistance and refusal of the State’s effort to channel that migration into appropriate reserves, but some of it also gets tracked in strange versions of media theory, pirate modernities, wanna-be alternatives, albeit atomised, and isolated – and institutionally co-opted, formations of radical thought not quite able to rethink the global in terms adequate to the modes of subsumption/restructuring that they necessarily tail. Murdoch Star, Soros Open Society, Google Don’t Be Evil, are out and out the neoliberal versions, but what then of people like Madhava Prasad and his subsumption theory of Bollywood, Ashish Rajadhyaksha and the extension of Bollywoodisation to the labours and commodities surrounding film marketing globally, Ravi Sundaram and others on pirate networks delivering cut-rate DIY cable connections etc… Potential here may be nothing, but it does seem plausible to at least try to see how these sorts of things can be said only because there was a Global South politics – tricontinental, non-aligned, pan-African, Comintern – once upon a time, which is now still operative but too often shorn both of its politics and its collective character.

Yet it might be the case that we need to adapt Ravi Vasudevan’s astute question about the ‘too rapid re-anchoring of the new technical fluidity of the cinema signifier in the politics and sociology of contemporary India’ (Vasudevan 2000: 22). If this same socio-reading were merely scaled up to the fragmented global that is diaspora, and its appearance in negative form in geo-political exoticist-terror full ideological spectrum, might this also be too fast a solution? Should every geo-political conflict be coded tradition versus modernity, or the star persona everyman (Bachchan) versus the villainous thug/naxalite insurgent?

This work in its progressive avatar might update the third cinema, transcend world cinema and extend the global Internet with tricontinental connectivities beyond imagination.

It could be that Global South Asian film and television is read as a lament for what might have been if the ‘third cinema’ had been more generalised. Not even a regional cinema, but a multifaceted and informed ecology of media critiques. Perhaps such a formation still exists despite the manifest surface occupation of the spaces of cinema by corporate and financial concerns. Dominated by a star system, entertainment press and multiplex/satellite distributor interests, there is nevertheless the requirement to speak to audiences not yet wholly lost.

If ‘third cinema’ theory arose ‘in response to world-wide liberation struggles and decolonization movements’ (Guneratne 2003: 3) then what is the shape of cinema’s response to ‘reconstruction, in Du Bois’ sense, or as a globalisation-driven assault upon the cultures of anti-colonialism? If the ‘tricontinental call to arms against social injustice and post-imperial exploitation’ (Guneratne 2003: 4) was distilled through the inspiration of reading Ho Chi Minh, Franz Fanon, Che Guevara and Amilcar Cabral, then also the films of Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and even Satyajit Ray lent materiality of the image to sentiment.

 

The media work that inspired reconfigurations of the objects of media studies in the recent period, its overflow into the political, did not grow organically out of media studies so much as the politics of earlier mobilisations imported, albeit in disguised ways, while the process of digitalisation and indeed atomisation was already underway. I want to ague that the energies of an older collective politics was hard-wired into those who then developed the new media studies, even when they most disavowed the collective project, even as that collective project was actively undermined by digitalisation. Perhaps even when that project was being dismantled by those who inherited the places it had carved, there was still the inverted potential of a revival always already there, operating as a target and a distraction, a self-delusion and justification, deceptive and promising all the same.

South Asian film theorists are doing work in continuity with, but in atomised form, the older Bandung, non-aligned, Comintern moments. This atomisation of struggles matches the ways trendy theory has mutated into celebrity, in say Hardt and Negri or media activists on Facebook etc., where the politics is direct address to power, not organising alongside and in solidarity. In Hardt and Negri recuperation by capital via the publishing industry is too easy, but the new South Asian media theory does not necessarily get picked up so much, so I want to both critique how it plays into demonisation and celebrate its last gasp residues of a greater potential. This potential is the importance of popular culture forms adopting and borrowing a myriad of styles – and able even to ‘tame the exotic’ (Monty 2010: 123). Offering a powerful allegory for cosmopolitanism even as it must always be remembered that borrowing and exchange has its hierarchies and power brokers all the way down.

Sometimes cultural representation goes off on its own and makes more mileage and covers more territory through technology than the efforts of contestation for space could ever achieve. Zee TV for example caters across Europe for South Asian diasporic expressive culture in ways that could not find, or have not yet found, mainstream visibility (Dudrah 2010: 164). Perhaps the visibility is achieved through exactly the horizontal broadcast that Zee provides, unable to compete for space with national broadcasters forces a transnational and becoming dominant pan-European Asian television. China TV and NHK are somewhat far behind in this respect, and NDTV and web-based services do not yet viably compete. How would we start to valuate the implications of Zee-sharing on a greater South Asia, or, very plausible if we consider the reach of K-pop into Japan and other places, the softening of particular cultural traits for a kind of regional or trans-continental palatability. Contrast Amitabh Bachchan or Nargis with Shah Rukh Khan or Ashwariya Rai, and you can begin to see how maybe some of the desi dust as been airbrushed away with today’s global stars.

None of this can presume to save the world as it is, though just to learn how to notice what is going on and what is good and bad about it would be a step forward. Simply put, see that demonisation of Muslims is not good, demonisation of migrants is not good, realising that migrant settlers are welcome and a boon, while nationalist xenophobia cannot reproduce a living caring world, is step one.

Is it any surprise that this would seem threatening to the hierarchical and static home nations and the elites who prefer no change, or at best incremental reform? Demonisation of migration and migrant community care – ‘they are living 15 to a room and sending money home/bringing their families’ – is the all too easy stagnant ideological nationalism that leaves us all the worse off. Breaking with xenophobia and adopting the migrant settler community model of social reproduction for all may be worth reconsidering. How would it look to support this? Would an influx of a certain film and television tradition be a battleground for such a contest? Not just Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge…

 

Was it movement that kick starts social transformation, and if so, what are the movements today, good and bad, public and covert, difficult or popular, and how does this change over time and focus in regions and globe? If it were possible to freely paraphrase a distilled version of Spivak’s language and keep it beside us as a toolbox for unpacking any media course or any political group, there might be a chance. A chance to ask the question that opens up eyes to what goes on with these screens. To ask: what if South Asia not Western Europe had done so well with the tools of trade and knowledge? Well, the weapons too, but the possibility of being the ones who ask for interpolation of others – who come by ship and demand, whether trader, anthropologist or film distributor: ‘hey you’ – need not be fixed forever more in a one-way model. Diaspora and post-national regionalism becoming a plurality of globalisms with a drive towards a multiply inclusive diversity and concern to not leave any member behind, leaving no-one to flounder in a new space, to settle everywhere as a community, this migration is can will be a transformation of the world.

 

 

Kill your darlings part 7

The slaughter of excess paragraphs and cul de sac ideas continues to leave this residue here in case I need to return…

There are several admirable reasons for leaving aside the conventions of contemporary film scholarship in favour of any development looking askance at the established discourse. Much of recent Euro-American film writing seems moribund, a routine formulaic of not exactly creative ambition. What escapes the old routines and presents itself as new – affective film, ubiquitous media, confessional personal contradictorily shallow self-exposure – seems to sidestep both traditions of scholarship and engaged politics. This leaves film studies at a point where any moves contemplated by a genuinely mobilised leftist population will too easily be recuperated and assimilated while effete intellectual posturing flounces about in pompous self-regard. Unless the adoption of robust work can break the circuit of self-referentiality and the same old authors citing the same old tomes, the result will mean only waiting, watching, and wasting away.

Courting foreign markets, scenes from abroad and increasingly co-production deals, although buttressed by a strong spectator-citizen base in the subcontinent, increasingly valuing the ticketing and advertising dividend of international viewers, the travels of cinema offer yet an untapped conscious political infiltration of unprecedented promise.

A furtive, underground, unconscious and melodramatic possibility is waiting, ready to crack its shell and burst integumentally from the storytelling machine, a moral machine, governed by Scheherazade from the start (Thomas 2014). It is no accident, though surely not intended, that we can discern a progression from an open and multi-directional marketplace to the walled-in privatised fortress compound of commercial, colonial, control. After so long under the corral of media enclosure, it now seems possible to reach forward from the neutral distraction machine and backwards to an older market-festival arrangement, and make a break with the containment…

 

[ha – guess which film I am no longer going to say this about:]

While this was not a hugely successful film, perhaps this is because the problem and its scenarios were handled in a somewhat timid and tepid way…

…and indeed the resolution tenuously turned back to the origins which had promised so much.

 

In terms of the technological, it is recognised, including in funded programmes perhaps too readily, but without doubt with great anticipation, that behind commentators’ statistical recitation of how many South Asian youth under 30 years old speaking English have mobile phones, the reach of digital capital into culture is unprecedented.

 

Taking a cue from debates in South Asian film and television studies, we can see that the technological register of commercial cultural industry activities of British youth show a quaint early adoption and quick adaptation to technologies that arrive as if from nowhere. They never come from nowhere of course, but they do seem to reach everywhere. The flexibility of youth and their ability to code-switch their attentive registers in rapid time is surely remarkable – but perhaps only to old codger analysts who are not quite as adept at setting up the VCR timer as they thought they were. But relate this to Siegfried Kracauer’s study of the Ziegfeld follies, and the film-going activities of ‘little shop girls’ who go to the movies after office work, and it suggests the beginnings of a perspective that sees the allegorical as material for a diagnosis of cultural fissures and where there are cultural fissures you then see transformation and change. The dynamics here, of course, are also in sway to advertisers and entrepreneurs who love to pounce on a next big thing, and the saturation of the new that enters daily life pushing aside traditions handed down from parents, which are sometimes quite sound if populist variants of socialism and practical working out of equalities, and indeed opposed to seeing the cultural coherence of whole communities turned toward brand identification and new shopping malls etc., – all this leaves one wondering at psychological pressures and the expression, and indeed manipulation, of desire is an incurable affliction of the system…

 

It is my conceit that the demagogues of diminished intellect can only ever talk of a few films, and in this chapter really there were just three, but this was a forced and fake necessity, and should we never admit our choices simply cannot stand in for them all – even if every sociology, like every allegory, and all words, lusting after anecdotes, is partial to gossip and has serious limits of philosophical, representational, constraints – rarely acknowledged. In the films under discussion in this chapter, there is blood, for example. On screen, in the remakes of these films, blood is red; it explodes and spreads like a stain. In real life, blood is never so red, and never so blue, as in the movie world. The reality of violence, whether racist attacks in London suburbs, or death squad beheadings in Libya, Syria, Yemen etc., is mediated in full colour, with the work of the secret services exposed, it is a gaudy shade of crime. This requires consideration as to the degree a staged violence, even when real, is translated in coded terms for culture industry consumption and what this consumer marketing does to affective and political sensibilities? Here, technology, audiences, ideology, psychology, affect and care converge in the chance to bring a creative, grinning, pleasure that takes hours out of the reproductive process as merely a way to repair the family, repair the self, or reconcile the self to the further engorging of surplus production, or its calculated transmutation into further opportunities to enjoy being together.

It is to easy to turn this experiment into a mockery of the extravagant claims of any film and television studies that examines a tiny proportion of the production of ‘a culture’ – as if there was a containment ring bounded around cultural forms in any way that makes sense. A thousand films per year you say, let alone considering the ethnographic reportage that links up and connects with the convoluted apparatus of the industry, the songs, magazines, popcorn sellers and distribution, production, agents, dreams. To get a handle on any cultural formation seems absurd at scale. Which leaves the allegorical designation wanting unless it is recognised as a strategically deployed interpretative intervention. Itself often the worst kind of scholarship is to ‘intervene’ in a debate, to make an interjection with the assumption that others will stop what they’re doing, listen, and change according to your wise points. Happy is the scholar who succeeds there without an inevitable ego overcooked meltdown immediately afterwards.

 

The perverse fortunes of Kureishi’s Omar on arrival in the House of Lords.

Palin plays comic in the sky, the Maoists have wider aspirations on the ground.

 

we can see the depth and stakes of the struggle. If some of the old elites had provided a buffer from an even more recalcitrant neo-fascist imperialism, that condition is now a leadership question with which there must be a reckoning. NATO and the US/UK military alliance playing political ‘great games’ with Asia as a target requires a political program that would certainly endorse Prashad’s principles for a new Southern Commission, but the organisation of such gains requires more than meetings in the central square and a few celebrity television endorsements. Using watchwords like social justice and imagination, Prashad declares in favour of ‘the principle of universal access by every person to certain basic needs – food, healthcare, employment, social security and so on’. He articulates a path towards this through ‘Land reform’ and ‘control over industrial processes’ (Prashad 2012: 290) so as to be able to introduce a universal ‘social wage’ and engage with the ‘creation of public goods’ without which ‘it is doubtful if any solution to the climate catastrophe can be envisaged’ (Prashad 2012: 291).

[Yup, but cut]

 

The book was written and written over, with conjectural concerns and shifting uncertitude. This can only be a record of trying to make sense for myself to myself of the workings of this exotica-terror goose-step – if others look over the shoulder, welcome, I hope sharing questions and readings can be useful. Is there a media studies for every decade, for every regime, epoch? Does the televisual deserve attention beyond screen disciplinarianism? Can inversions provoke renewal, instead of reverence for the silver screen, contempt for the small; instead of Eurocentrism, decenterism? Does diaspora count as a region, or a feedback loop? Is nostalgia always colonising?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kill your darlings #6

Now the collection of – clunky concrete poetry – things dumped here show just how rough the first draft really was. Out damn spot, out.

It is always possible, even advisable, to disagree with the cleavages comrade Badiou introduces to his speculations, especially where he proclaims he knows ‘full well that the kind of riot triggered by state murders – for example, in 2005 in Paris, or in 2011 in London [he means Duggan] – is violent, anarchic, and ultimately without enduring truth‘ (Badiou 2011/2012: 20-21 my italics). Badiou is here talking in the immediate aftermath of the uprising, and talking too soon to make such a call. Truth, what does it matter if you philosophise on the back on remote access news reports? Even if he had read more widely, perhaps, would he see that the sort of ‘riot’ discussed here does not ‘plunder’ and destroy ‘without a concept’, but rather can leave many concepts and be a part of an ongoing struggle, that continues and is protracted, unforgiving and unforgotten. Contra Badiou then, but for many reasons beside, …

Similarly, when Prashad laments the ‘revolution’ that Libya got as it deserved, it need not be so easily agreed that the loss of Gaddafi was not also a loss far greater

and let’s not even start on the complicated consequences of the stalling of the Tahrir Square occupations of the dissolution of the Gezi movement in Turkey under the threats and schemings of AKP’s Tayyip Erdogan

too much geopolitical brinksmanship and prosecution of age-old political manoeuvring that a Clive, Colonel Gordon or even Richard Burton or Rudyard Kipling would readily recognise.

In discussion of these political squibs that come to us haphazardly through a wholly ideological format of news and facebark, the arbitrary ordering of interpretive sequence by way of choosing to follow the names of a film and the dates of release of quite separate productions is as viable as any. I seek out images of the left on TV, I adopt my favourites as directors and promote them endlessly as if it were multivitamins for the soul. What has the order of choice to say about the analysis? Should the assemblage or the idiomatic be stressed first? The tendential hybridisation of proletarianisation that could be prioritised over the organisational or the strategic deployment of whichever convenient identity construct? To the extent that awareness of how these frames frame is even partially plausible in the marketplace of interpretation – though we set a high value on interpretations that are dysfunctional for the market, the sponsoring institutions, the conventions of disciplinary readership and the surveillance of state – is there merit in trying to escape the industry that will always profit from the double binding of a book and the promotional review of a film? Hard and soft covers. Sometimes it is bruising to learn that ego flounders on the double hypocrisy of resistance as method.

The catch in the digital, so far largely ignored in its implications, is that the charismatic piracy of its modernity is soon routinised. The bureaucratic infects the digital without opposition, indeed via the Trojans of an accelerationist digital humanities and the apolitical ontology studies and the like. I am appalled at the baneful consequences of the celebrity desire of those who talk so-called ontological affect, neo-Darwinism and flux theory simply to close out the ‘old’ honest critical Left in a dirty alliance with brand management institutionalism. No interest in revolutionary change, even a rights based individualism becomes an evolution of the fittest, loudest, twitter.

What levels of consideration need be sustained to rethink all media theory back again as critical social theory, and who would that put out of work? Would this especially destabilise the hegemony of Eurocentrism in social and media theory since dominant thinking in Europe and America assumes a preposterous transparency in home media while thinking all ‘foreign’ media is ideological.

Writing about theorists who have long experience of making the argument that the hegemonic viewpoint is itself constructed and construed in a prejudicial way against the interests of the South becomes an argument against the South. Soon to be published by a prominent big house left publisher with all the right recommendations. Without projecting uniformity or absolute coherence on these polarities, the suggestion at least merits spending time with those theorists of the South with experience and form in making the critique of colonial knowledge regimes, exoticism, orientalist,  ethnocentrism and hierarchy and not reporting them to the authorities…

It is difficult to comprehend how it is even possible to be the same species as someone who feigns concern while having active involvement in levels of brutal mercenary exploitation unseen since the Roman senate. Empire was a metaphor for theory, while fascism is a rarefied word invoking equal measures of anxiety and abuse within activism. But the demonisation and destruction of lives which are deemed not to matter, while others declare freedom, is a divided logic only possible for inhuman hypocrites. How can freedom be squared with extra-juridical assassination, torture, invasion and collateral damage – meaning random public death – in the same words and gestures that also ask for public approval, votes and money. More disturbing yet, the interests and lobbyists that gather support for this hypocrisy, and the unassuming gullible acceptance of a regime of terror that calls itself democracy.

kill your darlin’s day 5 (missed a day) still slashing away, detritus for the record…

Things that were context then, needed to be updated now so go:

 

–  the New Cross Fire,[1] the Battle of Lewisham,[2] Brixton SUS[3]

[1] The New Cross fire occurred in 1981 and involved the tragic loss of 13 young lives in an incident many thought was a case of arson on the part of fascists against local youth. A massive protest march from New Cross into the centre of London took place with protesters chanting ’13 dead and nothing said’ in the face of police indifference and incompetence. An inquiry in 2001 was largely inconclusive, and leading up to the 30th anniversary of the fire discussion continues, for example at the guided walk part of the Border Infection workshop at Goldsmiths, noted here: http: //hutnyk.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/border-infection-goldsmiths-22-24-march-draft-tbc/

[2] Battle of Lewisham 1977 was a day of running protest against the National Front., commemorated in a peripatetic part of workshop, Migrating University, held at Goldsmiths, co-organised with Paul Hendrich. See http: //hutnyk.wordpress.com/2007/08/21/migrating-university-goldsmiths-to-gatwick/

[3] Stop under Suspicion (SUS) laws allowed police to disproportionately harass black citizens of London, fuelling tensions. Three decades later and similar police powers have lead to disproportionate numbers of Asian men being harassed, under the guise of ‘terrorism alerts’. With much less of a public outcry this time round. Even at the local bus stop: https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/dragnets-of-london/