Category Archives: anthropology

Recent stuff to read

Co-research in Vietnam for the anthropology classroom

New paper:
Co-research in Vietnam for the anthropology classroom
Do Thi Xuan Huong & John Hutnyk

50 free ‘eprints’ for those who want to read it now – https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/DJGVNGGB5JEUHXFUPYZF/full?target=10.1080/00131857.2020.1752187

This will in due course belong to a special issue on Education.

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What did you do in the war Pop?

Your article, What did you do in the war? Revisiting the WW2 memoirs of Stoker Thomas Mouat Tate, published in History and Anthropology, Volume 30 Issue 5, is now available for you to access via tandfonline.com.

Have you used your free eprints yet?
Now you’re published, you’ll hopefully want to share your article with friends or colleagues. Every author at Routledge (including all co-authors) gets 50 free online copies of their article to share with their networks. Your eprint link is now ready to use and is:

https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/HXQMUQEXDSEJEPAXUGJH/full?target=10.1080/02757206.2019.1626853

histanthr

Critique of Anthropology

This journal deserves your support – it has always been the go-to place for anthropology as it is now. Owes much to John Gledhil and the much-missed Steve Nugent.

My bits in CoA have been:

Bataille’s Wars 2008

Clifford’s Ethnographica 1998

Media Research Politics Culture 1996

Comparative Anthropology 1990

There is a vast amount of work goes into any journal, most of it without payment by a phalanx of younger anthros (they do not all march in step – more’s the better).

 

Sundarbans, Climate, Tigers, Law.

Liquidity of the Sundarbans:

If the Tigers and Cyclones Don’t Get You, the Law Will

This forms the first part of a new research concentration for me, and owes much to colleagues at Jadavpur Uni now battling the BJP monstrosity. This sort of work relies upon the University remaining an open, critical, creative and thinking place. And such works as discussed here – more than three, a whole series of works are considered, reaching back to when I first met the history and philosophy folks at Jadavpur – are indicative of what remains that is good in the university, despite all that is happening.

50 e-prints for those quick off the mark, here: https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/AVPTDBBTQNKUBBVHPHSV/full?target=10.1080/00856401.2019.1663884

 

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Comparison

Cities of Entanglements: Social Life in Johannesburg and Maputo Through Ethnographic Comparison.

By Barbara Heer  (2019 transcript Verlag, Bielefeld)

 

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and on page 282:

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yes, jealous the supervisory Hannerz get to say it: anths giving up what they cannot avoid. Ah well. If I was not already the enemy of anthropology in 1990, I was certainly aspiring to it.

And still:

https://www.academia.edu/37841048/City_The_museum_of_vernacular_regeneration

Innovations… Conference 4-5 October 2019, TDTU, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

http://issh2019.tdtu.edu.vn/

Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities

4th and 5th of October 2019.
Ho Chi Minh City, Socialist republic of Vietnam

Welcome to the website for the conference Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities, jointly organised by The University of Trieste, Italy; the Universität Leipzig, Germany; National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan; University of Warwick, UK; College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (CHESS) at Purdue University Northwest (PNW), USA; and Ton Duc Thang University, Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Conference Venue – Ton Duc Thang University

Address: 19 Nguyen Huu Tho Street, Tan Phong Ward, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Invitation and Call for papers:

For the International Conference 4-5 October 2019 at Ton Duc Thang University, HCMC, Vietnam, we would like to hear from those working on innovative approaches to public engagement in the social sciences and humanities. Methodological, empirical, archival or conceptual-theoretical work is encouraged, especially where a keen interest in application, consequence, practice or outcome is involved. Sometimes this is called impact on the one side, or intervention on the other, but we are nevertheless interested in all inquiries and investigations which advance the emancipatory possibilities of scholarship in a radically changed global context.

Social and cultural practices in both modern life and in the preservation of historical memory, could suitably connect sociology, social work, history, ethno-anthropology (museums, exhibitions, fairs, monuments, collective ceremonies), cultural tourism, eco-preservation policies, and other urgent contemporary social issues. Comparative studies are welcome, but not the only focus. We are especially interested in deep and detailed studies which have wider significance and suggestions for ‘best practice’. After many years of ‘interdisciplinarity’, or at least talk about this, we are interested to see examples where this works well in practice. We can assume all studies are comparative and interdisciplinary in a way, and all certainly have consequences, implications…

We are especially keen to hear from those working in three overlapping areas of engaged activity: these may be people working as anthropologists, historians, museum and preservation/heritage studies; cultural geographers, sociologists and in cultural studies; or on border studies, migrant labor and workplace and institutional inquiries. Our themes will interact within the structure of the conference, but we are keen in particular to go deeply into each area.

With Innovations in Public Engagement we anticipate discussions of the ways scholarship might best go about communicating in public the experience of the past and of human, cultural and environmental diversity, including technological and bio-political innovations and their contemporary reshaping of pasts and presents. Challenges to questions of who produces scholarship and why, for whom and by whom, can apply to past and present uses of knowledge, where the models of research and inquiry are actively reworked in the face of new public demands.

With Historical/contemporary practices and policies we seek to address issues related to contemporary forms of social conflict, including unequal citizenship and new racisms, the rise of right-wing populist movements and infiltration of religious power in secular governmentality, migrant workers as neoliberal slavery, questions of human trafficking and refugees, developmentalism and environmental pollution, crony capitalism and geo-economic zoning politics.

With Innovations of methodology, training and new skills for the future it seems to us crucial that our work respond to rapid reconfigurations of the very possibility and consequences of engaged social sciences and humanities scholarship. Whether the changing context is imposed by governments by industry or by civil society, when we deal with institutional change and competitive and imperative demands, we do need to develop new tools for knowledge(s) and new sensibilities/sensitivities. Education, reform and responsiveness, new skills and objectives, new modes of investigation and teaching in general. An urgent and targeted focus on how scholarship might remain relevant and critical in the face of global trends – funding cuts, social constraints, new demands, new conservatism, and crises of certitude.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam will be our venue, but it need not necessarily be the context or focus of all papers, nor are comparative, or East-West or ‘post’ or neo-colonial framings always to be foregrounded in the papers. We are interested however in papers that encourage us to think anew about the implications of where we are and about how to re-orient humanities and social sciences scholarship in contexts where rising tensions in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia call on us to innovate and apply once more.

On acceptance of your paper, we will provide you a letter of acceptance or an invitation letter for your visa application to Vietnam or financial sponsorship from your institution. Therefore, you are encouraged to submit your paper at the earliest time possible.

Language:

The conference proceedings and papers will be in English.

Important dates:

  • Abstract Submission: By February 28th, 2019
  • Notification of Paper Acceptance: Before March 30th, 2019
  • Full Paper Submission: By May 30th, 2019
  • Registration and Payment by: August 20th, 2019 (early bird discounts apply)
  • Conference Dates: October 4th– 5th, 2019

We look forward to receiving your contributions and kindly ask you to disseminate the call to your colleagues who may be interested in participating the conference.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at issh2019@tdtu.edu.vn if you need any further information.

________

Assoc. Prof. Le Thi Mai, Ph.D
Head of  Sociology Department

 

Screenshot 2018-11-26 at 16.03.23http://issh2019.tdtu.edu.vn/

Taussig’s negative sublime

From Palma Africana (2018)

“irradiation of the negative sublime”…

“With this admittedly top-heavy phrase I am referring to the death pall cast by the (X)paras and palm plantations; death of people and death of rivers, swamps, and land. This must seem a strange and melodramatic formulation, “irradiation of the negative sublime.” It sounds like a curse, plucking at language, twisting it into knots and reality too. What I have I mind is the spectral quality of evil or, in less biblical terms, the spookiness of cutting throats” (p140)

Articles to download

Screen Violence and Partition

Inter Asia Cultural Studies

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 09.58.40ScreenviolenceandpartitionIACS2018

 

Other downloads:

(Not sure if you need to make an account to get these, but it works for me):

Contexts for Distraction

HenriTomHutnykJohn

Clifford’s Ethnographica

HutnykJ.

Pantomime Terror: Diasporic Music in a Time of War

HutnykJ.

Music for Euro-Maoists: On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among Pop Stars

HutnykJ.

CLIFFORD GEERTZ AS A CULTURAL SYSTEM: A Review Article

John Hutnyk

THE AUTHORITY OF STYLE

John Hutnyk

Critique of Exotica: Music, Politics and the Culture Industryby J. Hutnyk

Review by: E. Dominique Midolo

Jungle studies: the state of anthropology

John Hutnyk

Comparative Anthropology and Evans-Pritchard’s Nuer Photograph y

HutnykJ.

CALCUTTA CIPHER: Travellers and the City

John Hutnyk

Poetry after Guantanamo: M.I.A.

HutnykJohn

The Dialectic of Here and There: Anthropology ‘at Home’ and British Asian Communism1

HutnykJohn

Sexy Sammy and Red Rosie? From Burning Books to the War on Terror

HutnykJ.

Bataille’s Wars: Surrealism, Marxism, Fascism

HutnykJohn

Music & Politics: An Introduction

HutnykJ.SharmaS.

Tales from the Raj

HutnykJohn

The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity, and the Poverty of Representationby John Hutnyk

Review by: Bodhisattva Kar

Adorno at Womad: South Asian crossovers and the limits of hybridity-talk

HutnykJohn

The chapatti story: how hybridity as theory displaced Maoism as politics in Subaltern Studies

HutnykJohn

THE DIALECTICS OF EUROPEAN HIP‐HOP

HutnykJohn

Brimful of agitation, authenticity and appropriation: Madonna’s ‘Asian Kool’

KalraVirinderHutnykJohn

Book reviews : The Cambridge Survey of World Migration Edited by ROBIN COHEN (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995) 570pp.  75.00

HutnykJ.

Photogenic Poverty: Souvenirs and Infantilism

HutnykJohn

Proletarianisation

HutnykJohn

Media, Research, Politics, Culture: Review article

HutnykJ.

Kiwi, the imaginary ethnographer

this is, you know, pretty great.

Please visit the show on the theme of Imaginary Ethnography in Experimental Music and Sound on the web space of Jeu de Paume: Fourth Worlds
And don´t miss to check the interactive work Phantom Islands –  A Sonic Atlas by Andrew Pekler commissioned by Jeu de Paume.

Fourth Worlds – Imaginary Ethnography in Experimental Music and Sound

Commissioner: Stefanie Kiwi Menrath

While cultural mixing has been a reality of all societies since time immemorial, there also exists a long history of circumscribing cultures as separate and geographically localized entities. Ethnographic field recording functions as part of this history of positioning and differentiating music cultures in the way that it links sounds to localities and positions them within a cultural cartography. In recent decades, a number of artists have countered static notions of culture and ideas of a territorialisation of music and sound with critical strategies of imagination and the imaginary. Through their work they ask: What are the imaginations inherent in the documentary technique of ethnography? How does the modern technology of field recording perpetuate a Eurocentric perspective of culture? Can sonic speculation destabilize cultural essentialisms or stimulate critical counter-memories?

Composer and trumpeter Jon Hassell set the stage with his eponymous 1980 album Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics (reissued in 2014): « I wanted the mental and geographical landscapes to be more indeterminate – not Indonesia, not Africa, not this or that »… « Something that could have existed if things were in an imaginary culture, growing up in an imaginary place with this imaginary music”. In Hassell’s music the notion of “Fourth World” creates an imaginary place for musical and cultural exchange: beyond the utopia of a conflict-free cultural melange or the dystopian clash of cultural forms, it offers to transcend merely additive notions of contact. Hassell’s “Fourth World” draws on the “otherworldly” quality of music as such: not as an extension of the literal, developmental three-world-model, but as an experimental exploration of the spatial and temporal references of music and sound.

Taking Hassell’s notion of Fourth World as a conceptual formation (not as a musical genre), « Fourth Worlds » (note the plural) turns its focus to a series of artistic approaches that navigate the history and present tense of violently colonial, playfully postmodern or brashly contemporary cultural differentiations. « Fourth Worlds » aims to resonate with transcultural sonic thinking that, as in Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic, elucidates the performative and mobilizing dimension of sound and the restless, recombinant qualities of diasporic cultures criss-crossing oceans and resisting monolithic notions of “roots”. In this context, imagination has also been rightly critiqued at length as an instrument of domination and “othering”: imagination plays its part in the spatiotemporal distancing from “other”, “traditional” or “ethnic” cultures – for example in the cartography of former “colonies” and “nation states” and in narratives of the “other”.
Imagination is central not only to this history but also plays a crucial role in contemporary practices of ethnography – be they applied to the field of art or in cultural studies. Strategies of imaginary ethnography think these fields together and methodically reassess imagination. Imaginary ethnography alludes to both the productive capacity of imagination and its reproductive elements: it relates to the “cultural imaginary “ as a negotiation of a vast archive of images and socially shared imaginations about “others”, but it also activates imagination as a creative capacity of making appear a new image of something that neither is nor was.

Taking this as its starting point, « Fourth Worlds » brings together a selection of musical and sound artists and theorists who question the discourse of “otherness” through speculation. Dubious origin myths, mock music archives and phantom atlases, counter-memories and digital diasporic nations as well as islands empathically tied by pacifism, imaginative travel journals, future archaeologies or reconstructions of soon to be lost worlds – the pieces selected for this exhibition project musical and artistic counterstrategies to the ethnographic urge of fixing cultures to places.

The Rumour of Calcutta – digital book

rumour-cover122 years ago my first book was typeset and laid out in the days before electronics – well, an electric typesetting machine was plugged into a wall, but no digital file was produced. Nevertheless, I had crossed out the digital rights clause in my contract with Zed so I own this. At last some kind anonymous soul has bootlegged it and set digital copy free on the nets, though its a large scanned file and the bibliography was left off (I’ve made a rough scan of the biblio but that too is a large file). Nevertheless, notwithstanding, and such like phrasings, the book is still one of which I am proud, if nothing else for trialling a way of citing tourist backpacker-informants, for its stuff on photography and maps and for the reviews it got (and indeed keeps getting discussed, for example on films – see diekmann2012) and especially for its critique of charity and what charity is for. In the context of do-gooder well-meaning hypocrisy, the effort of charity workers serves wider interests as well as their own, and only marginally any individuals they help – who would be better helped in better funded state-run facilities if the funds extracted through business-as-usual colonialism were, you know, made as reparations for the several hundred years of colonial plunder. Ah well, the critique stands up, the charity industry sadly thrives, second only perhaps to weapons in terms of so-called development, writing books does not yet always change the world as much as you’d like (and no, I did not ever think a book would single-handedly stop Mother Theresa, but…).

I would welcome new readers.

Download The Rumour of Calcutta here:  [John_Hutnyk]_The_rumour_of_Calcutta__tourism,_ch

Biblio here. Rumour biblio

And this retrieved by Toby:

Mushies

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing has written an amazing book. The Mushroom at the End of the World (2015) is all about forests and foraging and revitalising teaching and diasporas and and and – it’s a dense thicket and forest of meanings. There is much in it, but towards the end where generalities are I guess expected, it is only possible to nod sadly in agreement:

“ONE OF THE STRANGEST PROJECTS OF PRIVATIZATION and commodificarion in the early twentieth-first century has been the movement to commoditize scholarship. Two versions have been surprisingly powerful. In Europe, administrators demand assessment exercises that reduce the work of scholars co a number, a sum total for a life of intellectual exchange. In the United States, scholars are asked to become entrepreneurs, producing ourselves as brands and seeking stardom from the very first days of our studies, when we know nothing. Both projects seem to me bizarre — and suffocating. By privatizing what is necessarily collaborative work, these projects aim to strangle the life out of scholarship” page 285

The book is very much worth a look and could be a model for research presentation on global commodity chains and/or Trinketization.

Notebooks (Artaud’s for example)

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 22.09.17Rereading Jay Murphy’s book Artaud’s Metamorphosis and thinking about the 30,000 pages of notes Marx is said to have written in the last ten years of his life – and which are only slowly being released through the MEGA. Then find Jay has the following on page 207:

Artaud’s last works are above all, an action, a setting of forces into motion. In examining how he accomplishes this, largely from the springboard of the copious 406 lined school notebooks of which there are some more than 30,000 pages, at times there is the temptation to mimic his method by fracturing the field, separating out the elements that come into conflict, such as sound image text, or even their constituent bodily sources, and it is by such recourse that I isolate the treatment of the face and the voice at the end of this chapter; to see better how they interact, meld, hover, disintegrate or invade other elements…

I won’t reproduce his analysis because the whole book needs to be bought, and the notes still need to be written, but along with Walter Benjamin’s obsession with certain notebooks, whatever was in that case, add also anthropology’s note-writing fix exemplified in Mick Taussig’s drawings for I swear I saw This, and the entire complex of more or less uncanny parallels that revolve around the lined page, schoolbook or not, I’m hankering to generate some sort of method for handling the detritus of the (allegedly) declining years. Plus starting a new journal for my eldest now.

Artaud’s Metamorphosis is available in Berlin at Buchhafen. Or by post from Pavement.

 

Gunnersbury Bagh. (Kill your darlings 10)

[A set of cuts that jettison the last underworked section of the book – residue of a previous plan, now offcuts in the sawdust.]

Ethnography as a hobby or habit. The day off. 

With comrades, significantly not anthropologists, I visited the 2012 London Mela with this in mind: to make clear a parochial orientation, as comparative diasporic-settler dispensation, that conviviality and cosmopolitanism were not only buzz words, but also not much put into everyday political context. The Mela in Gunnersbury Park looks just like the Mela films I’ve described [forthcoming book]. I half expect a storm to rise up, the weather in so-called British summer is so unpredictable. The initial interactions we have are screen-time-esque, we pose for a selfie, someone is shooting video for Asianet or similar, vox pops on why we are here before we even get past the entrance gate. If it is also a media event inside it is also at least a welcome escape from wall-to-wall screen time, a temporary respite from media under the trees where the carcinogens and drones cannot so easily reach, and Wi-Fi options are rubbish. Phones in our pockets though, and texting to find each other when lost in the crowd works with a delay, perhaps because of the crowds, or the cops. The world in microcosm already begins to replicate the exotic locations of non-resident and diasporic masala drama.

We meet with friends and join conversations on the events of the day, we set about setting the world to rights, as Mrinal Sen once told me was the point of adda (personal communication 1998). There are a number of Melas held throughout the UK in summer – Nottingham, Leicester, Bradford are regulars – and researching South Asian musics made this too part of that amorphous festive research non-category then in its sonic register in the North of England. Anticipating relaxation and conversation, but also some stage action, as well as decent food, sunshine – it is London in summer, I am still wary – and carnival rides, we seek out the sensibility of diasporic South Asias in this idea of conviviality, the social reproduction of support and solidarity. Under austerity this is also strained and increasingly threatened, as ever, but still it can be identified. The idea of community as manifest in Gunnersbury Park, in the family groups welcoming relatives, children, friends and comrades in convivial festive embrace is the take-home experience of Mela.

At Gunnersbury Park there is the chance of taking an angular, or should it be greater, more expansive, interpretive perspective over the everyday routines that leave convention untouched. Mundane and routine and full of problems it may be, but life and food and music and weather are more nuanced than all your concepts and theories. Isn’t it important to think about these things more than the conceptual egotism of non-referential writing for impact, awards or self-advancement. 

This year the Ferris wheel is wholly commercial, but offered fun times and an atmosphere of celebration in contrast to the mood of the previous year just three weeks after London had been ‘consumed’ by riots AKA uprising after the police had killed the unarmed Mark Duggan. Other contextualising factors can be listed, but in the 2012 edition even before getting to the venue and the memory of the previous year’s uprisings, police panic and government rhetoric was on display amidst quite different feelings both before and after the Olympics event. I introduce my partner to a friend after we arrive and it turns out they both have previously lived in one of the most effected areas in 2011, the borough of Ealing was subject to ‘disorder’ on the third night of the uprising. What to say of those events? A vast number of words were spilled in the press and in research reports which tried to explain why London erupted in ‘spontaneous bouts of aggressive late night shopping’ as one government pundit glossed it on BBC’s Newsnight. A subsequent police crackdown, with emergency courts convened, and youths sent to prison for not paying for bottled water, buns, cans of drink or DVDs.

Looking back from Mela to the previous August, of 2011, there are videophone images of wrongful arrest added to a vast rota of unacceptable and flagrant disregard of process on the part of the police. No surprise was expressed about this in conversation with people too often at the sharp end of stop and search interventions in present-day London. While Mela is relaxed, it is impossible to consider any community gathering without remembering the wider record of murders by Police that to date have gone unaddressed in the UK. This because of the presence of numbers of Jankel armoured police vans and busloads of riot cops waiting in the streets not far from Gunnersbury Park. A vivid reminder that multicultural celebration has a harsh reception in some sections. The cops for one, but also the well to do art crowd, the bureaucrats and managers, those who are cops in other uniforms. Exposure of Police murders in London, as documented in the film Injustice (2000 dir. Fero/Mehmood), shows that community policing, with its stop and search power and ready-response teams, is no straightforward ‘service’ – friendly cops at a carnival – but rather comes across often as aggressive and provocative threat well beyond lawful regulations. If the police have an explicit duty of care, there are far too many examples where this has broken down in ‘broken Britain’.

The London Mela in 2012 was the tenth version of that event, and it was no surprise our next discussion about the Olympics served as contrast to the previous year of conflict. The Mayor of London’s ‘celebrations’ (strangely possessive mode of expression) for Eid ul Fitr had been moved to Gunnersbury Park because of the Paralympics. Boris Johnson’s sponsorship of the Eid stage at the Mela was quite some way from his celebrated – and heckled – appearance with a broom to clean up the streets in Clapham the previous year. Perception on the ground, as opposed to the media, often runs a different course. What this means is that political self-regard is a mere contrivance – the idea that Mela can suggest an alternative modality for thinking of culture, commerce and globality, a vernacular form of cultural exchange already there in the city, but countermanded by the presence of Johnson and the cops.

The impact of the Olympics raised discussion of a long history of disconnect between the white Left and the militant Black and Asian anti-imperialists. One comrade railed against the ways the SWP had mismanaged Stop the War (STW), claiming leadership of the activist coalition, failing to ‘Stop’ the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and presiding over a decline in numbers mobilised from the high-point of February 15th 2003, when two million people protested in London. Sectarian splits and squabbles left the organisation as a dysfunctional rump by 2007, while the wars escalated. Subsequent silence on NATO involvement in Libya was only confirmation of the ineffectual character of STW (Chandan 2015). So much so, even the suggestion that STW might ‘mobilise’ to attend the Mela and protest Johnson’s sponsorship was laughable. Sitting in the sun by the Eid stage, which was somewhat away from the commercial parts of the Mela further up the park in Gunnersbury, it was easier to enjoy a day out without the constant need to negotiate the egos of self-promoting anti-racist pseudo-Left posturing. This does not mean the day was without cost or exertion. Long queues for the food at the Moti Mahal restaurant tent, curiosity piqued at what the Rotary Association, the Red Cross or the Post Office had to offer amongst the various stallholders. Membership, health aid, and special parcel rates for the subcontinent were the obvious answers easily found. Clothing stalls sold tie-dye and kaftans from what seems like a much earlier era, and the travel company next door to the Bikram Yoga promotional stand made appropriate partners in the business of getting away from it all – the global extension and adaptation of yoga to suit varied European and North American audiences, regardless of culture, is phenomenal. Selling yoga back to South Asians as a novelty must be one of the strangest twists in the convoluted game. Wondering what people made of that. To look at London activism through the eyes of those in the British-Asian contingent, informed and critical of Islamism or Hindutva as represented in its war versions, is a necessary empathy that needs more effort. There are so many who are far more knowledgeable of the culture turned exotic and the cinema made subject of study than I can be, which means being left thinking there is still too much to learn. Yet the suggestion is readily accepted that on the one hand NATO attacks, on the other, the Olympics, might be taken as a dialectical code through which to understand ‘the two Augusts’ of festival Britain.

 

Olympic Mela I

The Olympics featured Akram Khan, Anish Kapoor and Eric Idle. The connection between the two Augusts as quite different manifestations of the ‘same’ South Asian cultural management was easy enough to put forward. One August was an uprising with slow but certain legal containment and subsequent media-managed clean up. The second August an extravaganza of merchandising, replete with invitations to well-known and unknown celebrity South Asian figures curating some of the events. The Olympic ceremony was choreographed by a master of ‘new intercultural’ dance, Akram Khan (see Mitra 2015); a twisted challenge to the Eiffel tower was offered by Anish Kapoor as ‘helter skelter’ in the form of the ArcelorMittal Orbit which stood outside the Olympic stadium in Stratford; Eric Idle provided the comic relief. Then Prime Minister David Cameron celebrated the Olympics as a triumph of British business. Uncomfortably, he had to negotiate a complex investment in attending the opening and closing ceremonies while denouncing the declining school sports programming that permits ‘Indian Dancing’ and other non-competitive formats. All the while mouthing platitudes about support for Islam as a religion of peace, while leading trade delegations to Arms Fairs to sell British weapons to despots – with Britain having the 6th highest grossing armaments industry, but the largest percentage of third world sales.

Eric Idle, of the Monty Python comedy team, was perfecting his version of bhangra-style dancing at the Olympic ceremony after singing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’. It would be mean to mock another of the pensionable comedy circuit over such a feel-good expression, but contrasted with the Prime Minister’s pronouncements, this may be considered the high point of political critique in neo-liberal multi-racist Britain. Idle dancing, while Akram Khan watches on and Anish telescoping the view from the tower. How can this confluence sit except as provocation to understand Global South Asia as a zone of interpretation in a war that has two polarities – bombing and exotica? More disturbing perhaps was that the closing ceremony was a kind of expression of release and frankly unexpected comforting celebration. Surprising success in track and field accompanied by no serious logistical breakdowns, and of course no terror ‘incident’ meant the closing ceremony contrasted massively with the atmosphere before the games. The Prime Minister no doubt daydreamed of a poll uptick, on the back of a recovering economy – which was not to be, as the recession seemed locked-in via a mix of austerity policies and permanent stagnation. Citizens wore their Olympics volunteer shirts for weeks after the event, and the stain on the capital from the previous August was seemingly erased. Or at least all those subject to austerity measures were silenced, or had migrated north. Prime Minister Cameron himself felt emboldened enough to praise the games and the people of London, even at one point mentioning its diversity. No mention of the weapons programme, the medals forged by Riotinto, the payback and corporate favours that secured the event in the first place, and his palpable relief to have bumped the criticisms of austerity off the front page of the press for a while. His Brexit demise still some way off, the critique of ‘Indian dancing’ managed to signal the two poles of a demonisation and exoticist versioning of Global South Asia together even as the image was simplified in a cultural attack. All that is wrong with contemporary Britain was put right in an imaginary fantasy of a sporting pay-off from the Olympics, with school children once again competing in robust, muscular, athletic contests and effete aerobic non-sports triumphantly excised from the curriculum. Global South Asia had thereby degraded under Cameron’s misrule in favour of an image of Eric Idle pointlessly ‘dancing’ while Britain rejoiced in a victorious new dawn of escalating armaments investment and a still greater, if secret death squad proxy war on terror compliment to austerity as the permanent solution to fiscal needs.

 

Melodrama of the worst kind, her Royal Richness, parachuting in with James Bond was the only saving grace, until the shock of recognition wore off and the multi-millions of extorted wealth in Olympic proportions reminded us that transference and projection are the vehicles of deceit. The allegorical national fantasy here is that 007 protection and a combat ready grandmother can keep the old Empire spirit alive, even if displays of the Koh-i-noor and other splendid stolen baubles are demoted to commonwealth events and shares in the mining industry, weapons trade and off-shore schemings are the real treasures of the day.

 

In the Mela event immediately after the Olympics it was possible to dwell upon the resources expended to put on and maintain these community cohesions. The logistics of carnival do not extend as far as they do for sport in general, where infrastructural dispensation from Whitehall confers responsibility to set up subsequent decades of enhanced school sports curriculum and competitive business initiatives. The work involved at Gunnersbury Park, without as many volunteers, but still some in branded identification t-shirts, was both incredibly popular and clearly taxing. The steward responsible for the cash box seemed distracted, the cleaners behind the scenes and the coordinators of the amateur Bharatanatyam dance groups were apparently underpaid but dedicated beyond the call. Others were volunteers of a more regular variety, staff of parents’ shops, regulars on the festival circuit, still others roped-in for a one-off. Who else works to make Mela happen? The website operators, those responsible for publicity and liaison with the press, including TV crews which came down at dusk – when the light is best perhaps – and took their story with a few sound bites from the organisers. An appearance by the local councilor, and security provided for them, band security, port-a-cabin monitor – and delivery, maintenance, catering. The significant effort of community organisation members to make an event like the London Mela go off well is not a negligible contribution to annual GDP. It is often unwaged work, not seen or remunerated, as if it were a freely given gift, but even here – as Marx would help us see – the contribution of all parts of the society to the society of surplus labour extraction somehow always contributes, in the end, to the reproduction of labour capacity and profit.

 

Olympic Mela II

Is it still plausible to talk of allegorical Mela if the London 2012 Olympics is presented as national-ideological and Global South Asian festival-exotica in turn? Analysis means working through the corporate-ideological in the use of the games to provide opportunities for Riotinto to forge the medals and ArcelorMittel to build the tower; the psychological-ideological category of internal revolt in the opening and closing ceremonial performances and the success of Mo Farah; and finally to contrast the threat of international terror-ideological in the surface–to-air missiles stationed very publicly in parks before the games with the affable performative-ethnographic exoticist Pythonesque rendering of the British nation as neo-Global South Asia at the end. Each of these interpretations accesses dimensions of the current corporate psycho-terror-exotic dispensation in turn. At the same time, I do not want to dismiss the critique of allegorical focus as homogenisation and must recognise the Games did function as a celebratory resolution and in fact transformation of a concerted pre-games anxiety. The weeks before the celebration and increased sensitivity to tabloid headlines on corruption and security stemming in part from the previous domestic and international year of rioting and war. The weeks after, a smug satisfaction, and continued austerity and war, with barely felt gestures such as Johnson’s sponsorship of the Eid stage and the installation of a wax figure of Madhuri Dixit at Madame Tussauds.

Is it too strange then to see the Olympics as a melodramatic staging of a festival of Global South Asia – the London Eye and the Ferris wheels of Mela as the chakra in the middle of the Indian national flag, the images of diasporic London in Bollywood cinema and Gunnersbury Bagh all as part of a representation of Asia that has escaped its moorings to do cultural duty for the geopolitical intrigues of business and arms traders.

 

 

Brand PhD. #gnnnngg

Can’t imagine the mad thinking behind this branding. In several ways a sign of the downward spiral. Or, a niche marketing gambit. What next: administrative razor blades, higher Education band-aids? I know there’s been a fashion chain called Anthropologie for a long time, but this. Pfffttt!

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Now with Belgian chocolate

And as a flapjack:

GRIL – Stoler “Duress”

A glitch in child sleeping patterns, and unemployment, means I’ve had a lot more time to think (and rethink) and of late get to read. So much so, that I now buy books and there is a chance I’ll get to them, and the ones on my device get read too. Mostly. here is one I am deffo gonna read (it) later:

  • Preface  ix

    Appreciations  xi

    Part I. Concept Work: Fragilities and Filiations

    1. Critical Incisions: On Concept Work and Colonial Recursions  3

    2. Raw Cuts: Palestine, Israel, and (Post)Colonial Studies  37

    3. A Deadly Embrace: Of Colony and Camp  68

    4. Colonial Aphasia: Disabled histories and Race in France  122

    Part II. Recursions in a Colonial Mode

    5. On Degrees of Imperial Sovereignty  173

    6. Reason Aside: Enlightenment Precepts and Empire’s Security Regimes  205

    7. Racial Regimes of Truth  237

    Part III. “The Rot Remains”

    8. Racist Visions and the Common Sense of France’s “Extreme” Right  269

    9. Bodily Exposures: Beyond Sex?  305

    10. Imperial Debris and Ruination  336

    Bibliography  381

    Index

  • Description

    How do colonial histories matter to the urgencies and conditions of our current world? How have those histories so often been rendered as leftovers, as “legacies” of a dead past rather than as active and violating forces in the world today? With precision and clarity, Ann Laura Stoler argues that recognizing “colonial presence” may have as much to do with how the connections between colonial histories and the present are expected to look as it does with how they are expected to be. In Duress, Stoler considers what methodological renovations might serve to write histories that yield neither to smooth continuities nor to abrupt epochal breaks. Capturing the uneven, recursive qualities of the visions and practices that imperial formations have animated, Stoler works through a set of conceptual and concrete reconsiderations that locate the political effects and practices that imperial projects produce: occluded histories, gradated sovereignties, affective security regimes, “new” racisms, bodily exposures, active debris, and carceral archipelagos of colony and camp that carve out the distribution of inequities and deep fault lines of duress today.

    About The Author(s)

    Ann Laura Stoler is Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies at The New School for Social Research and the author and editor of many books, including Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination and Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexualityand the Colonial Order of Things, both also published by Duke University Press.

Orientalism for kids – again

Am gearing up for another round of kiddy tv and hoping there are new programmes since the mind worms of Iggle Piggle and Peppa Pig did their damage. This time Theodor and I are reviewing the options for Annabel’s rapidly arriving toddler indoctrination sessions. First exhibit on review is Nicklodious’s ‘Shimmer and Shine’.

Flying carpets, shalwar kameez, wayang kulit shadow puppets, princesses and dragons (with bad breath). The two genies have 3 wishes an episode to bestow, of course wishes go astray, are wasted frivolously, but a lesson is learned. Nothing new then, and some pretty standard 1001 nights fare, along with a geography-hopping sampling of almost any magical tradition anywhere. Ok, not so worried about that, but there is a dad who eats popcorn – very suspicious. He may work in films. Big eyed anime influence, suburban values and cinema in-jokes. Does the obvious fun they had making this mean the stereotypes are somehow undone? Nope, but a popcorn munching genie is better than that 60s comedy dream of Barbara Eden.

Oh damn, there’s a prince in it, daft boy in specs – and now sitar fusion cartoon songs. I preferred the Beatles cartoon trip to India bit posted on my film course blog.
This is what we do on Sunday mornings…

Waste as Global Crime, Waste as Global Business. Containerised travels of Charmaine Chua

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 12.41.55I’d followed this story from the start, but as the journey dragged on I was only catching up much later, usually a month or so after the fact. This is the last of the series which follows a container ship on its travels – a HUGE container ship – as a meditation on ethnography and much else besides. Great project. Read back to some of the earlier posts, especially the first ones, for commentary on size. But this bit on waste is also worth retaining:

One of my first conversations with the captain when we were still in Oakland was about this very vexing problem of waste: as we experienced longer and longer delays at the US ports, the primary question on the captain’s mind was what to do with all the garbage the ship had accumulated. Recent US environmental regulations prohibited the release of these wastes into the 24-mile coastal waters off the US shoreline, and their presence was starting to give the captain a headache. “Grey water” – the collected dirty liquid from laundry machines and shower stalls, was nearing capacity in the tanks, so the laundry room had to close. Sewage could not be disposed, and food waste, biodegradable and otherwise dumped into the ocean every three days, was gathering the smell of rot and decay into corners of the deck. “Apparently,” said the chief mate, “the US does not want to shit where it eats.” – and so it protects its waters from waste, making the world’s ocean into its toilet bowl.

There is some rich irony in all this: environmental regulations declared a ‘victory’ for communities in the US may have alleviated the blight of pollution in US territorial waters (itself somewhat of an oxymoronic term), but this only means that that garbage is disposed of somewhere else – received, recycled, cleaned, and ingested by populations unable to escape from its detritus. I think often about this circulating image as an allegory for the inequalities of the global economy: boxes full of garbage, wastepaper and scrap travel east and are recycled to keep China’s manufacturing and packaging industries humming, while those same containers travel back west with goods made cheap by indentured labor – goods soon to be discarded in a yawning hole and brought back east again not long after they are purchased: computer chips, 6 month-old iPhones declared irrelevant upon the release of newer models, barely sturdy furniture, dollhouses, plastic utensils, etc. etc., the whole rejected flotsam and jetsam of our ravenous, bulimic society in giant landfills, representing a grand dialectical tussle between value and its antithesis.

In China, however, waste is business. Not only are a ship’s eastbound containers laden with refuse and scrap; the endlessly traveling ship is itself a massive waste-producer. As we neared the Chinese ports, the chief engineer and captain ran over the long list of overhauls and waste management procedures they would have to accomplish on top of the rush of cargo operations. In Hong Kong, I watched as a crane lifted a hulking mountain of garbage collected over a month at sea into a waiting barge below, the smell of heavy fuel and rotten food mixing together in the humid air. In Yantian, a sludge disposal company with a freshly-painted barge drew alongside the Ever Cthulhu in the harbor in the afternoon, and I watched as it lifted a pipe by crane onto the ship’s deck, and pumped 75 tons of sludge from the engine room’s tanks into the barge waiting below. The business of sludge management is “so lucrative”, the chief engineer says, that while companies in the EU charge shippers for its disposal, in China, companies purchase this black, sticky mess. When put through a refining process, half of this sludge is usable as fuel; the other half is burned off in a waste plant. So profitable is this business that after they were done with the job, the company sent gifts: the Chief Engineer received a few beautiful calendars, and the crew ten boxes of Tsing Tao beer.

Read the whole post here:

The earlier posts via here.

My May 2007 comment on Marx and the Theory of shit is here and a later follow up here.

City Requiem, outwitting paralysis to find ways to write anyway

Am pretty sure this page below is a kind of compliment, though it is an uneasy one. As I have said directly, never meant for there not to be many more inscriptions – how could I be the one to hold back the delude (apres moi?). Of course there should never be no reason to stop writing, just sometimes we could stop anthropologising (a moratorium on fieldwork!) and I always hope to write better, a forlorn task. Stereotypes-stereohypes, they keep getting back up again:

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From the book by Ananya Roy 2003 “City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the Politics of Poverty” Uni of Minnesota Press, which, despite my being cast as the paralyser, also ends with some beautiful lines that capture what I to was trying to do: ‘ my narrative of the city … can only be one of multiple and irreconcilable iterations’ Ananya Roy. As I think was expressed already in Ashis Nandy’s comment on the back cover of ‘The Rumour’.

both are worse – so both should be destroyed.

Follow the old mole.

Immediately after the collapse of the Documents project, after being expelled by Breton from surrealism, and in the wake of 1929 fiscal crisis, and after meeting Souveraine, Bataille has joined Contre Attack and writes his first major essays for Critique Sociale.

In a first application of a kind of Psychoanalysis to the State, Bataille discusses Homogeneity and Heterogeneity, order and formlessness

A discussion of the state – in terms of authority and adaptation – reduction of difference through compromise OR a strict authority.

Force for cohesion, compromises and adaptation/assimilation

Over against

counter forces that must be controlled, subject to violence (until the latter grouping is marshalled or congeals in an affiliation where anti-homogenous forces adopt the Lumpen – they cannot represent themselves until along comes Bonepart to represent them)

The heterogeneous is impossible to assimilate. The homogenous is useful – all that belongs – democracy, the heterogeneous is useless – sacred, waste, what cannot be assimilated

Regulated exchange versus psycho-social and political excess

[though his essay displays the influence of a somewhat exoticist abstract digestion of French anthropology and its seamles unseemly seizure upon a political project of an almost theoretically openended Marxism, or at least something reducible, later, to the anarchist project against the State/taking a distanced disregard of the block that is the state]

Mana – sacred power (Mauss)

Unproductive expenditure (Marx)

Trash, vermin, violence – affect, repulsion madmen, leaders, poets, mobs – the Lumpen – incommensurate

Fascist leaders are part of heterogeneous existence for various reasons – they will not compromise, they come from the place of the Lumpen (in the sense that they had been previously banished)

But with a force analogous to hypnosis, a charisma, they initiate an affective, seductive effervescence that – through a sort of transcendence of the befouled, senile, rank world, through a sadistic, militaristic, transcendent exclusion (of what could not be assimilated – what Bataille likes, the formless) restores formlessness into a unity of diverse elements that makes much of inversion, of the identity of opposites between glory and dejection, by always being the opposed and marginalised they claim the centre and the place of the sacer – their nature as ‘other’ permits them to represent all

Power here of mana, of the king, the sovereign – yes Agamben plagiarises from this, steals the crown – a divine supremacy (the fuehrer, a prophet – able to remain pure in the midst of an orgy of violence)

So some principles must be considered – Bonapartism is like fascism – paramilitary groups, surface similarities – the soldier then each equates his leader’s glory with his own – in uniformity, and in uniform, standing erect – the formless, lower orders are taught to march in neat lines and feel their power as his power

Infamy and slaughter are transmuted into honour and duty as the glory of a divine nature from the bottom up but religious and militarist, the chief leads the impoverished proletariat – what Mussolini calls a multitude (comment a propos Negri and Hardt??)

When these classes become aware of themselves as a revolutionary proletariat, when this proletariat becomes a point of identification for every banished element, then subversive forms are latched onto by those fallen and banished elements – who can only find these lumpen allies. Of course it’s the socialists that Bataille would like to have succeed here – too many fucking Trotskyites, he is reputed to have said – but he also recognises that it’s the fascists that can triumph too. Thankfully only the ‘very nearly indifferent attitude of the proletariat that has permitted some countries to avoid fascist formations’ – not the proposed strategic anti-fascist alliance of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat – such would both improve fascisms chances of taking hold just as it weakens/dilutes the proletarian struggle

Bataille does not want to save bourgeois society from fascism, but rather to see both destroyed. As if quoting Lenin.

Taussig on Kobane-Ocalan-feminism-anarchism-ISIS-Turkey-non-hierarchy-Mauss

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 12.09.10a incandescent reflective comment by Michael Taussig on his visit to Kobane, with images:

“Walking through the dust of the wind-blown ruins, I was greeted enthusiastically like the Pied Piper by well-dressed, well-fed, happy kids attached to a women in her forties in a long yellow gown who spoke effusively about resistance to the siege without once pausing for breath. It seemed like she really wanted to — had to – talk, and the kids hung on every word as well as teased us a little. One ten year old had a toy camera with which, held upside down and back to front, he would photograph us photographing Kobane.”

and on Ocalan

“The legend is all here: solitary confinement on a prison island for seventeen years since his 1998 capture in Kenya by the CIA and Turkey (with rumored Mossad support); an imprisonment that seems to have greatly boosted his charisma and power and, be it noted, given him the time to write and read widely; his quasi-religious conversion in prison from the Stalinist model of the hierarchical party to the anarchist idea of horizontal structures of democratic governance; the underlying, all-encompassing effulgence of feminism as not simply gender equality but as a cultural revolution in the meaning of maleness; plus a pronounced emphasis on care for the environment with all the heebie-jeebies of nationalism and ethnicity cast to the winds along with the hocus-pocus of the nation-state.”

You have to read the whole thing to get the context.

Also reports on the Suruc Cultural Centre bombing.

Thanks Ulker for the link

snippet of presentation advice for #dissertation

queneauon dissertation formats:

This is a stylistic question that I think depends on the overall shape/effect of the piece and what you want to achieve. It raises interesting issues in terms of overall impression you give a reader. The language, the layout, the kinds of typology, fonts, subheadings, the tone or way you may or may not echo different kinds of writing – range can be vast, from essay, chapter, article, breezy reflexive summary or policy report, government regulation documentation, legal opinion, scientific prospectus, conventions of the dissertation (several formulaic kinds including lit review chapter or not etc) and all through the varieties of literary expression or models – diary, letters, mix of all of these. It is even important in publishing – not for you just yet obviously, but maybe of interest soon – to consider the type of binding, cover endorsements, size of name/title on spine etc – all these things are factors when someone picks up a book in a shop. Then there is the whole other question of how it looks online, on kindle etc. queneau
But on this, the decision is totally yours – which option looks best to you. Usually go with gut instinct on this. I have no personal preference. Sometimes I write to numbers, sometimes as stream of consciousness… as above. Thing is to leave time to indulge such considerations, and kill all typos.

Museum of Innocence on smoking

For curio’s sake – and for its [mild] critique of anthropology – there is this short chapter from Orhan Pamuk’s ‘Museum of Innocence’. You only need to know that the ‘author’ of the text has been deliriously in love with Fusan for years. What is impressive however is the way empirical evidence gets into the novel, a documentation of this obsession. It is even possible to visit the museum and see the butts lovingly displayed.

IMG_1488 IMG_1489 IMG_1490

The Slow Boat to China

Following this -giant- boat by ethnography.

The Disorder Of Things

The following post is the first in a series of oceanic dispatches from Disorder member Charmaine Chua. She is currently on a 36-day journey on board a 100,000 ton Evergreen container ship starting in Los Angeles, going across the Pacific Ocean and ending in Taipei. Follow her ethnographic adventures with the tag ‘Slow Boat to China’.


“In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.”

– Foucault, Of Other Spaces

cc_EPL2_IMG_0666 Source: Author

There is uncanny beauty in the monstrous. This, at least, is the feeling that seizes me as I stand under the colossal Ever Cthulu[1] berthed in the Port of Los Angeles. The ship’s hull alone rises eight stories into the air; even from a distance, I am unable to capture its full length or height within a single camera frame. In describing the…

View original post 2,354 more words

Pre fieldwork

Was asked for advice on preparation for field research today…

It is always a good question. I think most anthropologists, in preparation for fieldwork, write a fairly critical ethical reflection on what they are about to do, but invariably the actual doing of it throws up things they could not really have anticipated. That in itself is interesting, and good. A kind of dialectic based on preparing for the unexpected. Perhaps this can be called the great philosophical angst and reflection form of the existential conundrum – boiled down to: how can you get yourself ready to be surprised?

Methods courses have always somehow been about this. The anthropologist or sociologist is someone who trains to seek out what they do not know. Most especially, or maybe ideally, to find something that they probably don’t even know they are looking for. How can this even be taught? Maybe it is a philosophical attitude, maybe it requires a certain kind of person, maybe it is always self-deception? We do tend to seek out what fits our understanding, what confirms our view of the world. Yet we also try to recognise that the only reason for doing anything is really to find out if it’s possible to see the world differently that we do now.

My advice is always to stay prepared for what you cannot be prepared for, even if it means disregarding advice… An old book, Kurt Wolff ‘Surrender and Catch’ might be worth a look in this regard.

and yet

On the other hand, my position has usually been that anthropologists and sociologists should not be inflicted upon the world. Keep them home – a moratorium on fieldwork for 20 years…

Iceland bible note

seeking out various links, not really knowing where they will lead. Reading the newspaper Friend of India from 1819, published in Serampore, this report on the distribution of bibles in Iceland caught my eye. Serampore Mission publishing house was the first translator of the bible into Bengali. This however treats of Iceland and poetry, though the flourish of words in the prose preamble is itself worth of study.
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Later, the same newspaper reports a story from a meeting of an anti-slavery group [Wilberforce in attendance] with mention of an ‘industrious girl’ spinning cotton. Recall that the export of spun cotton to India destroyed local weavers’ livelihoods… and left their bones bleaching on the plains (Marx in the NYDT 1853 quoting Gov-General William Bentinck).
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All this is from Friend of India Annual, Vol 2 1819 Serampore: Mission Press
Moral of the story: do not give money to these god-botherin’ people.