A comment in David Biggs’s, generally very engaging, 2010 book Quagmire. One part early on seemed to clang like a cheap scooter hitting the railings of an old iron bridge… Biggs writes:
“Before Eiffel made millions of francs operating the Eiffel Tower, he had already made a fortune exporting hundreds of ironwork segments for colonial bridges and public buildings, including Sài Gòn’s General Post Office and market halls still standing today. The estimated cost for his spans in 1881 was eight million francs, approximately eight times the cost of building the Eiffel Tower in 1887”
and in a footnote immediately following Biggs refers us to a text called Les Travaux publics et les voices de communication en Cochinchine, by Cochinchine francaise (Saigon: Imprimerie nationale, 1880), p143.
So, I was thinking that does not sound quite clear, and had enjoyed the extensive background by Tim Doling debunking Eiffel’s involvement, at least as architect of the Post Office, and his documentation about two more likely candidates, Vildieu and Foulhoux. Nevertheless, Effel’s Cochinchina company did build some things, as Tim explains, there were:
“numerous structures in Cochinchina between 1872 and 1889. These included, amongst others, railway bridges (Bình Điền, Tân An and Bến Lức viaducts on the Saigon-Mỹ Tho railway line), road bridges (Pont des Messageries maritimes, Pont de Cholon/Pont des Malabars, Pont de Ông Núi, Pont de Rạch Lăng, Pont de Bình Tây, Pont de Rạch Gia, Pont de Long Xuyên), markets (Long Châu, Cao Lãnh, Ô Môn, Tân Quy Đông and Tân An), filter wells and canal/creek towpaths, as well as the imposing headquarters of the Halles des Messageries fluviales on the Saïgon riverfront – see https://gustaveeiffel.com/ses-oeuvres/asie/”https://www.historicvietnam.com/debunking-the-eiffel-myth/
Yet, of course even if Eiffel was not the architect, I wondered just what Biggs’s 1880 reference that supported his statement might say. Could it show Eiffel supplied some bits for the post office? I suspect that would mean some spans were shipped by Eiffel years earlier as the PO was built in 1887 I think – so Biggs’ source cannot really support that part unless the spans were just lying about for 7 years! What was the pre-order time for huge chunks of metal to be sent from France…? Is this of any interest, or is Biggs using his hat for a megaphone here?
And where are the market halls? I have now tracked down this 1880 text and am crawling through its arcane phrasings and the documented expenditure on various items such as Police stations, gendarmerie Soc Trang, Prison Central (the notorious one in Saigon presumably), and much more… One Eiffel item does seem to be mentioned as the record list includes 4k (I assumed piastres, but it seems to be francs) in 1871 for pont sur l’arroyo chinoise a Cholon. p55, but this would have to be planning as the bridge did not open for ten more years. Yet more promising is that in 1877 some 14k fr were allocated for the Hotel des postes and the comments column mentions Foulhoux as architecte, chef de la section des bâtiments civil. No other references to the post office that I can see. I reckon Eiffel, on balance, was looking elsewhere. Nice bridge though, this by Eiffel.
I wrote my first book as a critique of charity work in Kolkata, India. I attempted a critique of western ‘charity’ workers helping those they saw as the ‘unfortunates’ in classic development colonial style – of the many ‘volunteers’ in Kolkata at the time, the majority worked for Mother Theresa but the ones I hung out with were at a clinic run by a long time medico Jack Praeger. Mostly I was attracted to this lot because they were not as pious as those who came for Missionary work, they drank and drugged their way around the banana pancake trail (backpacker tourism circuit) and ended up in Kolkata as a kind of default. Yet, it was an international charity, and about 95%, of them were from outside India, though with a few Indian doctors doing part time work. The organisation did help people, mostly street dwellers with injuries or leprosy sufferers who were not treated by hospitals because of poverty and stigma, and the limited capacity of the medical system in communist but undeveloped Bengal (undeveloped because the pro-capitalist national govt moved industry away from the then communist state). Ideally, the state would provide all social care, including organising social service programmes (that I would distinguish from charity). Westerners took pictures of themselves doing this charity work, and sent them home as postcards and so on, and increasingly the international support came and funded more westerners to come and do ‘the work’ of volunteering (it had become a stop on the tourist trail, even mentioned in travel guides). But this work was still what the state should do and increasingly it became clear that street people were in a way just a photogenic backdrop for the westerners self-promotion. Here, media imagery, including films, sold the exotic image of the poor of Kolkata to the West. Even feature films were made – for example City of Joy with Patrick Swayze – and endless documentaries about the anti-contraception, love them till it hurts, ‘wizened old saint’ Mother Theresa, who got high profile donations from famous westerners who made a show of being photographed with the poor of Kolkata. Ma T, as Christopher Hitchens put it, was interested in helping the poor die as Christians (in a majority Hindu state) while people like Ronald Reagan, and the Savings and Loans scandal millionaire who shall not be named, had their photos taken with the poor and promoted their ‘good deeds’. So, the issue of representation was huge, but even more, the reasons why these people did ‘charity’ work had to be discussed – in a larger frame, pictures of their giving was more of a gift for themselves, self-promotion of their goodness. Gift and counter-gift – cf Mauss, The Gift; Derrida, Given Time etc. They could just as easily have donated to the medical facilities of Bengal, or quietly worked for industrial contracts to promote the economy and medical facilities, hospital development and inclusive policies, but no, the communist state was not their cup of char. I would think we need a very strict distinction to be made between charity and social service work. I think the issue of representation of children and the poor is always political, that exoticism and exploitation in imagery is real, and that integrating support for the blind, the poor, children etc must be organised through structures like local govt, community and institutions etc. What is most questionable here is what happens when ‘foreigners’ take over and think they can ‘help’ but really they are promoting their own self-image and unexamined values. Only some of this will be relevant now, for sure, but I wanted to rethink my experience and confirm the need to not call everything charity – better organised forms social service work (red summer) seem radically different to what international charity often becomes. And yes, in media studies, the issue of how we represent ourselves and ‘the poor’ (photogenic poverty) is without doubt still a significant concern.
Oct 22 1965 Sydney arrests
The report on this 1965 anti-war protest is marginally better than most current press release churnalism, of course it favours the Police and the future PM McMahon (who eventually presides over troop withdrawal), but its easy enough to read between the lines and see this was the start. So, a welcome find. At this time a Gallop Survey showed more than 50% of Australians supported the Menzies Govt’s decision to send troops to Vietnam (in April 1965 – before that only military advisors [and probably special ops had been there – see ‘The Sullivans’]). The first anti-War teach-ins were held in July that year.
“60 arrested in Vietnam war protest (Canberra Times, 22 October 1965)
SYDNEY, Friday. — About 60 people were arrested tonight during a demonstration against the Vietnam war in which more than 400 people threw Sydney’s peak hour traffic into chaos with a sit-down across Pitt and King Streets.
At one stage, some people feared that the demonstration would develop into a riot. Scores of uniformed and special police were rushed to the area at the height of the demonstration. Police cordoned off one-way streets as 15 radio cars and five police vans surrounded the demonstrators. Earlier, police and demonstrators ex-changed blows in the streets while others were dragged to police vehicles. Some people, caught in the melee, rushed at demonstrators and wrenched their banners from them, tearing them to shreds. The New South Wales Police Commissioner, Mr Allan, called for an immediate report on the incident. It probably will be ready for him late tomorrow. Police said late tonight that most of those arrested had been released on bail. They would appear in Central Court on Monday.
Peak hour traffic. The few who had not been bailed out would spend the night in police cells at Central, Darlinghurst and Regent Street police stations and would appear in court tomorrow. The demonstration began about 5pm as hundreds of workers left their offices. Many had trouble getting through the placard-waving, chanting crowd, and some were still caught there as police reinforcements arrived. The Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr McMahon, was leaving the Commonwealth Bank Building on Martin Place, where parliamentary offices are located, as the demonstration began. The demonstration began peacefully, but soon home-going city traffic was banked up to Circular Quay in the north and the Central Railway Station in the southern end of the main city area. Demonstrators paraded along the footpaths. They carried posters, on which were written anti-American slogans, and photographs of Vietnamese civilian casualties. They marched into Pitt Street during the peak hour and were blocked by police. … Some demonstrators sat and lay across the roadways. They still held aloft their banners, and chanted slogans protesting the Vietnam war. Fights broke out, and extra police moved in. Many people were arrested by police and loaded into vans. They were taken to Central, Darlinghurst and Regent Street stations. Mr McMahon was reported to have spoken to a demonstrator who carried a banner which read: “How can the Vietnamese be aggressive in their own country?” There was a brief exchange and Mr McMahon appeared to offer to shake hands. The demonstrator walked away. Scores of leaflets were handed out by those taking part in the protest, but most were thrown away. After the area had been cleared the leaflets littered the ground. Demonstrators included members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the Communist Party, the ALP youth body, women’s organisations including the “Save Our Sons” Movement and university students. Militant members of trade unions, including some officials, were reported to be among those who chanted, “One, two, three, four, We don’t want war . . . Five, six, seven, eight, End the war, negotiate.” Some chanted, “American casualties, one in 20, Australian casualties, one in 10.”
Militant action. Most placards were directed against American policy in Vietnam, although some attacked the Australian Government’s policy on conscription. A spokesman for the demonstrators said tonight that the demonstration was the forerunner of more militant action by the group. Until now they had been prepared to hold peaceful demonstrations in the Sydney Domain and other areas, but in future similar demonstrations were likely, he said. While demonstrators paraded, about a dozen sup- porters of the Australian- Vietnamese policy waved American and Australian flags as a counter protest.”
ISSH2021 is all online now thanks to the National Library of Australia – this was somehow automatic I guess because of the ISBN thing. Nevertheless, here you go: Conference proceedings : the 2nd International Conference on Innovations in The Social Sciences & Humanities 2021: ISSH 2021
Netaji aggregator post
I do not want to attract new madness, the old madness does well enough. Here, a summary of various items of fun fact* where *I use the term in the sense of fake news facts*:
Much respect to Netaji, I do of course wish (any of) this was true.
However, some years ago, on the trail of Subhas’s house here in HCMC, which we found, which still exists, though in a dilapidated state, someone was in touch and linked to a number of photographs of an Indian looking gentleman who is pictured at a Chinese pro Vietnam ceremony (can be discounted, read the ‘mobile phone photo story abdout ‘Evidence shows’ – link below) and a picture of the delegation to Paris a few years later allegedly as a member of the talks, with *confirmation* by the famous Madame Binh – head negotiator. Well, most likely not, even if the person does seem to have the correct features, but all other accounts suggest a plane crash. Though Taiwan airport logs no such crash – during a war, go figure – thus pouring aviation fuel on the rumour mill.
Me, personally, I am sure Subhas will return in the next few weeks and reveal that it is true he has been trading Cocaine in Vietnam, then living in China before walking across Tibet with Vikram Seth. Since then he has been living all this time as a sadhu in Varanasi and other parts of U.P., perhaps. Ha!
More likely is the French story that he died in Prison – the notorious Police Bot Catinat (lock up mentioned in Grahame Green’s Quiet American book) is not far from his house, and its the more likely tale really.
Here are the links:
Then, here are a few of the even more fun factoidifications of the endless rabbit hole that is Netaji studies:
Alive in Vietnam:
Dead in Vietnam:
Netaji in China
The Taiwan aircrash never happened:
and perhaps the best yet, also well documented : https://thewire.in/history/netaji-subhas-chandra-bose-gumnami-baba
Indeed, probably worth citing the entire post as, well, surely we can only wish this were all true, what a hero (somewhat unfortunately its only in The Wire, ah well):
“He lived incognito to perform some covert activities in Asian countries. He led an Asian Liberation Army which fought in the Korean War of 1952. The Chinese army that attacked India in 1962 was led by him. He wanted to emancipate India from the western influence but Indians could not recognise him, so he ordered the army to retreat. In Vietnam, he was guiding Ho-Chi-Minh in his fight against US imperialism. He went to Paris in 1969 to mediate for the Vietnamese in the ‘Paris Peace Talks’. Before that, he visited Tashkent to help draw up the Tashkent Pact between India and Pakistan on January 10, 1966. Lastly, he turned his attention to his native state and was in north Bengal in 1970-71 guiding the ‘Mukti-joddhas’ in their liberation war for Bangladesh.https://thewire.in/history/netaji-subhas-chandra-bose-gumnami-baba
Finally – never finally of course – the tributes continue in an effort to actually recognise the achievements of the man.
Me, I most like the story of him beating the black hole monument plaque with his slipper, as mentioned in my article https://www.academia.edu/17780537/THE_BLACK_HOLE in *Strangely Beloved* by the wonderful Nilanjana Gupta.
Thanks to Sarunas for the latest diversion into this quick sand trinketry.
[unpacking my] word hoarding
Bamboo airlines generous 45 kg luggage allowance, plus 25kg add on, and back troubling hand luggage…
On the hottest day of the year, leaving Notts at 39 for a positively balmy Hà Nội at 33.
And I swear I need each one of these tomes for an article I’ve not quite finished…
Down Down Deeper and Download
lots of things to download here.
The Stars in the Universe
Reposted from capitalnctu.wordpress.com
From TDTU amidst the detritus of the pandemic, this amazing work:
It makes some sense to check the most often quoted, beloved bits, and expand them a little to see what that author might also have been saying Sometimes it is quite a different, more nuanced, thing than the standard citation allows. As a possible example, the third sentence here
From: The Task of the Translator:
“Fragments of a vessel which are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details, although they need not be like one another. In the same way a translation, instead of resembling the meaning of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original’s mode of signification, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a vessel. For this very reason translation must in large measure refrain from wanting to communicate something, from rendering the sense, and in this the original is important to it only insofar as it has already relieved the translator and his translation of the effort of assembling and expressing what is to be conveyed.” Walter Benjamin,“The Task of the Translator,” Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York, 1969), p. 78.
Pantomime Terror and Global South Asia on Screen
Cheap paperback stocking stuffers… – though I wonder if 1 left in stock contradicts that whole value-scarcity thing. Pretty sure there is more than one.
5 min interview
I get the occasional cold call from secondary school students and always try to respond with some things that are expected and some unexpected. They might miss the mark, or be a bit wayward, but you know its a good sign when a year 11 student is interested in research. This one came from South Australia – literally five minuted response, so hardly even as taxing as the effort of posting it here (almost). The questions were about the Sundarbans, as the student Fariha had read a review essay on recent-ish books:
- Can you explain the situation that transpired in the Sundarban, after Cyclone Amphan hit?
To be fair, compared to you or anyone else with internet access, I cannot say anything much on this because I’m unable to travel at present and really, I would need to go and have a look for myself. Everything else I could tell you about the Sundarbans in the last year would be a summary of what is already online. I think having a look for yourself is the only way an anthropologist can say something different to what an year 11 researcher might find after a few weeks looking online. To some extent the habit of contextualising is something you learn with time, but if you are sensible you will know not to rush to judgement, to consider as many interpretations you can, and come up with your interpretation without thinking its always correct or final. That is the fun of research though, isn’t it.
- Why is the Sundarban area so important (culturally, ecologically, economically, etc.)?
Trees, people, animals. In Annu Jalais book Forest of Tigers, you can read heaps about the relationships of humans to animals and jungle. Its fascinating, and there is a lot to learn for all of us.
- What strategies are being implemented and/or proposed in the Sundarban to protect the site and local communities?
Hmmm, many, good and bad. You should investigate the Marichjhapi massacre for an example of something that went wrong.
- What determines the livelihood of the local people in Sundarban? How has extreme weather events such as cyclone Amphan affected their livelihood?
Much. Much. Much. Much. But then, ‘extreme weather’ is becoming less extreme in the sense that its hitting everywhere, so that by definition is not extreme but the new normal, however much we’d like to keep thinking its not. I mean, is ‘extreme weather’ or ‘climate change’ not just a way of talking about pollution without putting the blame of the top 100 corporations that easily produce the majority of world pollution, from plastics to carbon monoxide to toxins, to the entire commodity system?
- How does the local community’s perspective on the Sundarban and what solution do they perceive will help mitigate the impact of extreme weather events?
The mitigation you speak of requires a wider revolutionary movement, the return and even greater engagement of people’s organisations to wrest control of the means of production from the greedy plutocrats that currently dominate and ensure no voice of the people can be heard except when they are controlling the microphone (platform, outlet, forum).
- Some writers and scholars have highlighted that dating back to the colonial era, the government has historically offered little help to victims of natural disasters. Do you see any parallels between the situation then and now?
What is the difference between colonialism and neo-colonialism? Perhaps the difference is that while people know about it now, people do less about it. A kind of mass paralysis of everyone sitting in front of a screen nodding to the ever slowing heartbeat of their own disengagement.
- How has the nature of the Sundarban itself changed over time as a result of lack of consultation and lack of political will for a solution and how has that impacted the lives of the community?
Lack of consultation – sounds like a thing, but consultation with who? The lack of political will is real at least I guess, even as communities have been forced out of the area for various reasons.
- What do you think needs to change in order for the situation in the Sundarban to improve?
Overthrow of the ruling class, defeat of corporate culture, opportunism and bigotry, a real critique of the so-called ‘climate crisis’ (pollution/world destruction). Of which a research project like yours can be a start, but cannot be all we do – it can start with research but it must expand to get more people involved, more people need to be reading and learning about revolutionary theory and thinking long and hard about forming organisations that are collectively run, counter-hegemonic (look it up if need be – against the dominant) and in the business of informed critical engagement, questioning everything, accepting nothing (including this) and of course allowing for occasional five minute rants by grizzled old professors who wish they were a part of the coming global communist insurrection that will be the only thing that will save us all from rampant grasping crazy-ass capital.
Dark Tourism East and Southeast Asia at ASA 2021
This is the longer version, with all the discussion
Japan – Vietnam archives
Another set of items for the exotica files (link below), is a set of documents held in the national Archives of Japan and I think very useful for the next time we get to visit Hoi An (soon I hope):
The image below is Sataro Araki’s junk. He was a successful trader from Nagasaki who married one of the Nguyen clan daughters, and in Nagasaki she was revered as ‘Aniou’ – seemingly a derivation of the Vietnamese phrase used by a wife to get the attention of her husband – ‘Anh Ơi.
The rest of. the archive is well worth a look:
Lost in the supermarket
Colonial Hyperbole, with gaps
There are some crimes that are longer-term than others… As I am finding from spending part of the morning exploring archival images, such as this one. A ‘British propaganda poster from the Second World War, printed in England by A.C. Ltd, listing Britain’s 49 colonies. A soldier from the Ceylon Garrison Artillery takes pride of place in the centre, and the regimental badge of the force is displayed at the foot of the poster’. I am taken by surprise that neither India nor Australia could as a colony in this list, but nevertheless, I think the list is a start for reparation payments. How these can be implemented now that Boris has shifted all the assets to offshore accounts is obviously an administrative issue (armed force to descend upon Bermuda banks and the like with the queen’s bank account number to start).
Conference Proceedings ISSH2019
ISSH2019 Innovations in the Humanities and Social Sciences conference October 2019 Ton Duc Thang University – Conference Proceedings in full.
Indexed in the Clarivate ISI Conference Proceedings Index
By Theodor Anthony Apollo Hutnyk
Watch “Serampore & Denmark – A Living History by the Ganges” on YouTube
The bit where haunted buildings are mentioned strangely has the sound drop out, but there are some great things to explore still… and the drone and inserts could have been cheesy however they work very well. Credit due.
The Corporate Imaginary, In Thesis Eleven August 13, 2020
Co research in Vietnam for the anthropology classroom with Do Thi Xuan Huong, in Education Philosophy and Theory, 2020, with supplement rept_a_1752187_sm3452
The Pecuniary Animus of the University in Education, Philosophy and Theory, 2020
If the Tigers and Cyclones Don’t Get You, the Law Will, South Asia 2019
Global South Asia on Screen. Book, India only edition 2019
What did you do in the war? History and Anthropology 2019
Marx in Calcutta, CITY 2018
Global South Asia on Screen, Book, World Edition, 2018
Some recent texts on academia.edu
Double Injustice: Media Racism
Back in 2003 Imogen Bunting, whose birthday it would have been today, wrote this on the film INJUSTICE by Tariq and Ken. To date the film still has not been shown on UK television, despite all the awards and media acclaim and THE RELEVANCE OF IT STILL TODAY.
Originally posted 2006
This piece was written by Imogen for a possible book on the film Injustice. We approached 19 publishers for the book, but while screenings do occur now, because the film was banned/threatened for so long by the court injunctions of the Police Federation, no publisher seemed able to risk a publication. As you can see from below, the failure of the publishers (some respected left wing houses) was not because of the quality of the writing – here as ever Imogen was on the case.
Reporting black deaths in the British press: Injustice and the right to reply.
‘Black deaths do not have a good press, especially when they occur in the custody of our custodians…the media leads the public to believe that our guardians can do no wrong. Racism leads them to believe that blacks can do no right. The silence of the custodial system is compounded by the silences of racism’ (Sivanandan).
It is from within these silences that Injustice speaks. As Sivanadan’s resolute remark suggests, the film was, in part, a necessary response to the media’s selective and often dubiously scarce reportage. Why is it that the one thousand deaths in custody that have occurred since 1969 can largely have slipped through the pages of our national press whilst at the same time the deaths of Stephen Lawrence, Victoria Climbe and Damilola Taylor have, for instance, frequently made the front covers of both broadsheets and tabloids? When the key suspects in the murder of Stephen Lawrence were charged with committing a racist attack on an off duty black police officer the Daily Mirror’s front page announced ‘GOTCHA! Two down, three to go, as justice finally catches up with racist Lawrence thugs’. And yet, in the post-Macpherson world it is all too easy perhaps to be seduced by such jubilance. After all, justice for the death of Stephen Lawrence never did catch up with his killers. The justice just delivered was for a racial attack on a police officer. And, if we are to be cynical, it mostly provided a perfect space for the press to celebrate an apparently reformed Metropolitan police.
The same week however, on page eight of the Guardian we are told that when Christopher Alder died face down in a police station in Hull in 1998, he was surrounded by police making monkey noises. In a letter to his sister, the CPS reported that ‘it is not possible to infer that there was a racist motivation here’. This, less impressive judicial decision is far from the front page – ‘black deaths do not have a good press’. Injustice was a way of exposing the long and continuing history of (black) deaths in custody where a politically correct rather than a politically [engaged?] press had not been adequate. Exploring the press’ handling of the cases featured in the Injustice provides a way of understanding the sticky politics of reporting deaths in custody and may open up a space in which to re-view the cases.
Whilst it is probably a truism for those involved in the campaigns for justice of people who have died in police custody, it is worth noting at the outset a point all too often forgotten when Britain celebrates the freedom of its press and the quality of its news, that is:
‘The media do not simply and transparently report events which are ‘naturally’ newsworthy in themselves. ‘News’ is the end product of a complex process which begins with a systematic sorting of events and topics according to a socially constructed set of categories’ (Hall et al 1978:53).
Deaths in custody are reported within a wider media context of black deaths, which more often than not, are associated with crime, gangs and drugs. The furore over guns from the ghettos at the concerts of the So Solid Crew was synchronous with the trial of the killers of schoolboy Damilola Taylor. And, whilst providing stark contrast to one another, together portrayed a kind of black underworld where, as the Guardian noted, ‘Gun crime in London is at an all-time high, and black violence against black people of particular concern, with 21 deaths last year’. A few months later, rising crime rates were the front cover of all the national press, and the shadow home secretary announced that ‘everyone on the estates in our inner cities knows…it is gangs and drug dealers rather than the forces of law and order that are in charge’ (Guardian 12/7/2002).
When gangs and drug dealers have been repeatedly inferred as being black, the violence of the police force towards to black people, or the disproportionate figures of black deaths in custody can be seen not as racism but rather as the inevitable result of black criminality. This might be one of the ‘socially constructed set of categories’ within which black deaths in police custody are reported, or not. And what it effectively creates is the idea that the force of the police is ‘reasonable’. However, when the controversial stop and search laws make it five times more likely to be stopped if you are black, then already there is a disproportionate chance that in being stopped, the police feel that a certain degree of force is reasonable. Indeed race and crime are so closely associated by the media that the Guardian chose to quote the Voice editor calling for more stop and search in the face of rising street crime and gun related offences,
‘Most people would prefer not to be stopped and searched, but increasing crime is warranting that and the majority of people who have nothing to hide won’t mind very much’ (Guardian 5/3/2002).
So, Mike Best, portrayed as a spokesperson for black people, has reiterated the most cunning of media tricks, creating the functional equivalent of the deserving and undeserving poor. The emphasis is shifted from the fact that stop and search, undertaken by a self confessed ‘institutionally racist’ police force is a dubious and dangerous tactic. And again, it obfuscates the fact that people stopped and searched, such as Brian Douglas, or arrested on suspicion of robbery such as Wayne Douglas, are dead. It is not even that the people who ‘have nothing to hide’ always get off lightly. Moreover, following the theme of the deserving and undeserving, a great deal of post-Macpherson media spin has played on the idea that the police are now too afraid of being accused of being racist that they won’t stop black people. The delight with which the nation mimicked Ali G’s ‘Is it cos I is black?’ was a serious indicator of how little the term ‘institutionally racist’ had been taken seriously and, like Mike Best, black M.P Paul Boateng was showcased demanding that:
‘The power [of stop and search] cannot be removed – it is a vital tool in the armoury of the police. We must never lose sight in our response to the Lawrence report what brought it about – a gang of thugs on the street obsessed by knives. The police must have the power to stop and search for knives’ (Observer 28/2/1999).
In fact this ‘gang of thugs’ were a white racist fraternity and yet stop and search renders black people five times more likely to be stopped. Indeed this kind of neutralisation of the police in the press is common. A crucial aspect of deaths in custody is that, by their very nature they might provoke terror and anger in the public eye as we are forced to ask who can protect us from those who are there to protect us? And yet, deaths in custody have repeatedly been portrayed as almost an inevitability, or the just deserves of a minority of people on the wrong side of the law. An example might be a report of the death of Shiji Lapite that appeared in the Sunday Telegraph which ran:
‘Mr Lapite was arrested outside a nightclub in Stoke Newington, north-east London. During a struggle he was pinned down and his larynx partially crushed. He died of asphyxia and cocaine intoxication.’
In the same way, the Times made sure to note that Brian Douglas was, at the time of his arrest, thought to be ‘under the influence of either drugs or drink’. Whilst the Sunday Telegraph described how, when Joy Gardner’s mouth was gagged with 13 feet of surgical tape, the police had arrived at her home,
‘with an arrest warrant, restraining equipment…and the information that she tried to evade deportation before and had a record of violence’.
This is perhaps the most telling account in that it shows how a criminalised history or an inference of involvement with drugs is a resource that can be used by the police in the same way as an arrest warrant might be. Similarly, both Joy Gardner and Shiji Lapite were described first and foremost as asylum seekers. Read within the context of a media who infamously echoed Enoch Powell’s speech of Britain being ‘flooded’ by immigrants, it is easy to see how these deaths might have been construed.
A demand for information, accountability, and justice that might arise through reporting a death in custody is augmented by an inference of criminality. In these instances, police action no longer, it seems, is under such scrutiny. Middle England, reading the paper over their breakfast can rest assured that it won’t be them on the floor of Stoke Newington police station. Whilst, bombarded with spectacular reports of rising crime, drugs and guns, the police must be justified in their actions.
Looking at the press reports of all of the cases featured in the film exposes a pattern in the press’ handling of both deaths in police custody, and the relationship between black people and (usually violent) crime. When these issues converge, deaths in custody, rather than being an outrageous – and in this sense – morbidly newsworthy issue, become part of publicising the police in favour of ‘mentally unstable’ (Press release from Stoke Newington police the night of Colin Roach’s death in the foyer of the police station) ‘immensely strong’ (Daily Telegraph quoting P.C Wright’s description of Ibrahim Sey 26/1/1996) ‘violent’ (Sunday Telegraph quoting P.C Brian Adam’s description of Joy Gardner 30/11/1997) victims. Such dramatic adjectives are an example of how
‘media forms produce the urban (ghetto) as lawless, anarchic and violent…[and] from pop videos, Hollywood cinema, American police series and surveillance videos, the black male body has been an object of scrutiny’(Sharma and Sharma 2000:109).
Victims who have died in custody are somehow posed as Goliaths to the Metropolitan’s Davids whose political and technological strength is creatively overlooked. The figure of the big, black dangerous criminal becomes mythical and the police can be posed as heroes, risking their own safety to keep the streets safe.
An example of this use, by the police, of the media might be found in a report such as that in the Daily Telgraph whose headline was ‘Met officers to be given body armour and C.S gas’. Here, the death of Brian Douglas, following his arrest is noted within the context of police deaths. The article reads:
‘all members of the metropolitan police are to be issued with body armour in the wake of gun attacks that have left seven officers dead in the past five years’.
The implosion of Brian’s death with the death of police officers seems to suggest three key themes. Firstly that death is inevitable within police work. Secondly, that the death of a police officer on duty might be equivalent to the death of a citizen who is, for any reason, stopped by the police. And, thirdly, that the death of an officer is enough to warrant the introduction of more repressive measures [technologies?]. It is the press who have juxtaposed the stories of Brian Douglas death and the police death and, in doing so, have occluded the seriousness of both the frequency and similarity in the death in custody cases. The 1000 deaths since 1969 are not of course, juxtaposed with the 7 police deaths in 5 years, a statistic that might put the police death rate into some kind of perspective.
Breaking up the continuity of black deaths in police custody through intermittent reporting distracts the public from the chilling similarities in the cases. Beyond that however, for those families, friends and allies involved in campaigning for justice, the press’ spectacularisation of particular cases is extremely damaging. It sets up a dis-jointed politics where alliance must be traded for sympathy. Whilst the Guardian headline of a report into the death of Roger Sylvester was ‘Another death in custody, another family mourns’ (24/1/1999), what the article actually stressed was to not see the death as another of the same. Yet again, another family mourns, and yet ‘they are wary…of Roger Sylvester’s death becoming another Stephen Lawrence or Michael Menson case’. The fact is that in many respects, the death is already another Stephen Lawrence or Michael Menson case. The depoliticising of yet ‘another death in custody’ happens through the emotiveness of a family, in obvious disbelief, who, it was reported, in response to questions over a demonstration held outside the High Court said, ‘it had nothing to do with us’.
Along similar divisive lines, a large part of a BBC Newsnight report after the death of Michael Menson in Stoke Newington police station in 1983 was given over to P.C Paul Pacey, who demanded that:
‘you go out and talk to those people on the streets, just in the normal course of your duty and they’ll…talk to you about the police and about what happens to you back at Stoke Newington station…and they’ll say, “things happen to you back there” and you’ll say “well what?”, “well, I’ve heard stories…”, “Well, who off?”, “Well, people”, “ Has it happened to you?” “Well, no…” And its very hard to find. In fact I can’t find these people its happening to’.
Death in custody becomes the urban myth of a paranoid black community rather than a serious and discrediting narrative in the history of Stoke Newington police station. Injustice found the families and friends of ‘these people its happening to’ and in calibrating the deaths that have occurred over the last thirty years fill in the gaps left by the media.
These gaps are, it seems, so easily maintained because the usual model of reporting is impossible. When death occurs in the ‘custody of our custodians’ what ‘actually happened’ is only known by the police involved. The ‘news’ of a death in custody is framed by information given by a whole brigade of officials from the police, to the police coroners, to the Crown Prosecution Service, to the Police Complaints Authority into the nature of the death. Stuart Hall (et al) has noted that,
‘what is most striking about crime news is that it very rarely involves a first-hand account of the crime itself…Crime stories are almost wholly produced from the definitions and perspectives of the institutional primary definers’ (1978:68).
Within this are assumptions about the relationship between race and crime, crime and violence and violence and state-protection. So, from a pre-established context, it is really only the police who have a voice on a particular case. This process may be highlighted by the extent to which the press uses direct quotes from the police officers involved in the deaths. Cloaked in the officialdom of their speaking position, deeply subjective descriptions are used:
‘P.C Wright : “He [Shiji Lapite] was immensely strong. I was in fear for my life and P.C Macullum’s life”…P.C Wright believed the suspect’s “tremendous strength” might have been the effect of crack cocaine’ (Daily Telegraph 26/1/1996).
‘“She [Joy Gardner] was the most violent woman I have ever encountered”, said P.C Brian Adam’ (Sunday Telegraph 30/11/1997).
There is no space for counter comment – for an opposing claim. Both the ‘facts’ of the death and opinion or comment are given by the state. Disentangling this tightly woven knot of (mis) information becomes the private struggle of each family rather than a public and publicised campaign. The silencing of Injustice is another thread in this cloth, where each time a screening was due to take place, the cinema was threatened by the Metropolitan police lawyers. In privileging the voice of the state over and above the voice of those harmed by the state, the media reaffirms the position of an institutionally racist police.
‘we are now at the very heart of the inter-relationships between the control culture and the ‘signification culture’…In this moment, the media – albeit unwittingly, and through their own ‘autonomous’ routes – have become effectively an apparatus of the control process itself – an ‘ideological state apparatus’(Hall et al 1978:76).
Indeed there is a curious levelling mechanism that needs to go on with cases of death in custody. The Metropolitan police, especially after the Stephen Lawrence case, has worked incredibly hard on its image. It is almost as if the sympathy of the press is needed in direct proportion with the violence of the police. As Cohen has noted,
‘The more resources allocated to increasing the efficiency of repressive policing, the more manpower has to be poured [in]…to restabilize the public image of the force’ (quoted in Jefferson 1991:171).
A thousand deaths in police custody since 1969 is not a statistic that might enhance the image of the police. The double movement of repression and promotion is mediated by the press who, for example, in reporting the death of Joy Gardner at the hands of police and immigration officers explain how ‘sticky tape was wrapped around her head to stop her biting more officers’ (Sunday Telegraph 30/11/1997). The police restraining technologies are laconically justified despite the fact that they were fatal for Joy Gardner. The press have maintained the police framing of the event to such an extent that the possibility of alternative opinions, transgressive questions and redressive actions are edited out. ‘In this lost world of politics without conflict, division or debate, the spin doctors are always right’ (Gilroy 1999:12) and the only sniff of disagreement reported surrounds the suitability of particular technologies in particular cases. The fundamental questions of race, class and institutionalised violence are obscured by the histrionics of endless police reviews.
Relying on a benevolent media however, also has its dangers and limitations, precluding the politics and economics of why there are deaths in custody and of why black people are five times more likely to die in custody. A sympathetic press may have its own agenda within the status quo. In a global and historical level, the story of Stephen Biko, the anti-apartheid activist killed in police custody in South Africa in 1977 is best known perhaps by the film Cry Freedom, which, instead of telling the story of Biko, actually tells the story of Donald Woods, a sympathetic white journalist who tried to expose the killing of Biko in police custody. We can see that the story becomes one of a sympathetic white media rather than of the political economy of black death within the apartheid regime. The connections between the media as an apparatus of the state are eroded in portraying a laudable exception to the rule. Similarly, the problem of the media’s treatment of death in custody can not possibly be solved by having more black journalists, just as the police won’t stop being racist if there are more black officers. As Hall has pointed out,
‘The media do not only possess a near monopoly over ‘social knowledge’, as the primary source of information about what is happening; they also command the passage between those who are ‘in the know’ and the structured ignorance of the general public’ (1978:64).
Alternative media such as Injustice, made in collaboration with the families of those killed and screened in cinemas, social centres, political meetings and festivals reconstitute the desiccated narratives of deaths in custody. Marxists are not imagining things when they note that the ideological state apparatus of the mainstream media will always voice the opinions of the ruling classes. Hoping for a sympathetic report is, it seems, both naïve and insubstantial. However, it is crucial that the press are interrogated, challenged and disturbed by other voices, voices normally excluded from the debates. For deaths in police custody, the problem will always be that the victim is criminalized, and, ‘the criminal by his actions, is assumed to have forfeited, along with other citizenship rights, his ‘right of reply’ (Hall 1978:69). Restoring this right of reply has been, in a sense the project of Injustice. As it traces the struggles of the families of those who died, it recreates the space of comment – it re-collects the testimonies, it redefines the parameters of the debate.
Centrifugal Citation Conformity Machine
I was recently in an information briefing (which was very useful) about Web of Science and citations/searches. Here are some thoughts on how the system at present breeds conformity. Or at least, this is what I said, pretty much. very slightly odified to remove some names:
On Metrics as Tools
My concern – something I have discussed with a few others – is how there are some serious gaps in the Web of Science coverage for some areas of the social sciences and humanities. I wonder if you are interested in this discussion as well. I think there are a few important things to consider, or if they have been considered, make the thinking clear as to how they have been handled.
I work (and think) in a variety of different ways that sometimes seem to me to be specifically designed to fall between the cracks of the indexes. This started with noting that the journals I really admire, were not making it from ESCI to SSCI, or rather, some were even choosing not to. I don’t think I should say which ones, but a few I have had some reviewing or editorial exchange with have said they are pulling out of the indexing ‘game’ as metrics was both too blunt and too normative. There are also a few things, discussed especially, that were not being indexed. Smaller magazines for example, museum catalogues and artist books, visual research (I had taught ethnographic film for many years) and political pamphlets are falling by the way in the face of a normative centrifugal force.
The blunt version of the argument here is that the new Incites tools do not ‘incite’ enough – but rather encourage heading in the same direction that everyone else is heading in – collaborate with those who are most likely to collaborate with you, cite those who cite you, read those who read you etc. Sure, that perhaps has its merits in terms of group cohesion, but academic work should surely be, at one level at least, not about that at all. It is disagreement and difference we should seek, not everyone heading towards the same spiral of universal chanting “ISI ISI” as if a group of characters from a Thomas Pynchon novel had spring off the page in full riot gear. Doesn’t the tendency to seek out the most popular make it harder for new and novel ideas to get a hearing? At what point do the top citations, top metrics, top index procedures need to be disrupted by ideas might not even be recognised by ‘metrics’? Ideas that disrupt the play of uniformity, conformity, safety and repetition? Obviously, I am setting this out starkly to make the point clear, but I think there is a fundamental problem when we have 50 million papers that are there because, as you said, ‘we want to make the world a better place’ but some could argue that the world is demonstrably becoming less better, or at least a significant set of indicators would suggest that. maybe the 50 million need to not refer more and more to the centre, but seek more and more the alternative, angular, oblique and even opposite/oppositional ideas. Ahh, we are communist after all (though in communism there is also a tendency to centralisation, of course – as I said, overstating to make the point).
What mechanisms can be demonstrated within your presentation, or within the tools, that cater for the need to engage in a ‘ruthless criticism of everything’ as old beardo would have us do. The old man with a beard also saw himself as on the road to science, but that it was no easy path, there was work to be done. What could be entered into the search algorithms to ensure the critiques of normative and even hegemonic ideas in each area are challenged? What mechanisms in the search can be dysfunctional for the ongoing business model that is, frankly, no longer really fit for purpose in a degraded and entropic world…
I would love (ironic and hysterical laughter – cackle cackle hee hee hee) to see some explicit attention to how critical disruptive thinking could be built in as potions for the indexing process. I know indexing cannot be neutral, but can the biases run the other way sometimes? can you say how these questions might be addressed? And what great possibilities would be there if 100 flowers contended with 100 schools of thought in bloom…
Just to confirm that referentiality takes all kinds, my most often cited ISI works (ISI articles cited by ISI journals) show interesting trends. (All available on the download texts link in the sidebar).
Published:Jan 2005 in ETHNIC AND RACIAL STUDIES DOI: 10.1080/0141987042000280021
Authors: John Hutnyk Published:Jan 1999 in AMERASIA JOURNAL DOI: 10.17953/AMER.25.3.6W854588562P6575
Authors: John Hutnyk; Sanjay Sharma Published:Jun 2016 in THEORY, CULTURE AND SOCIETY DOI: 10.1177/02632760022051211
Authors: John Hutnyk Published:Jun 2016 in THEORY, CULTURE AND SOCIETY DOI: 10.1177/0263276406062700
So, in 1988 I was evading fieldwork or whatever it was – frankly, I had abandoned the very idea – and was hanging around with a writer whose short stories I had long adored, so much that I wrote to her. Vishwapriya L Iyengar – Vishwa – invited me to visit, cooked food, talked all day and night and into the next day. Talked so food that had been prepared went uneaten. Talked as her partner prepared posters for a Delhi Science Forum demonstration at JNU. And then took me one day by auto to the grounds of some closed I think electric station or even water tank, sort of diagonal from the science institute where there was a concrete T-rex – not far from Triveni. It was late. Delhi was getting cool at last – in those days the air was more like air, yet still it grew misty as the night closed in and the car horns muffled on. Anyway, we were there to meet some people who turned out to be rehearsing a play – workshopping roles, and joining in as the top-hatted factory boss. This was a performance for the picket line, theatre to be taken into factories. Shy, very clumsy, and not a little self-conscious, it was made all the more fun by a woman who turned out to be one of the organisers making fun, and in banter and laughter the mosquitoes did not seem to big a deal (until we stopped). Then food in tiffin tins, late into the night talk about all the theory of the world etc. In those days I was read up on D-school sociology.
It was about two weeks before Christmas, then Safdar was killed on 1 January. I left the next day thinking that there was too much I could not understand in India.
Books like this one planned by Sudhanva Deshpande for LeftWord show just how true that was. I am looking forward to reading more. No matter how much sociology you read, going to have a look for yourself is better, but harder.
There is more – click the link:
The Journey of ‘Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi’, Part 1
The Journey of ‘Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi’, Part 1
It was towards the end of July that the author, serial hashtagger and indulgent ‘Boss’, Sudhanva Deshpande, began sharing updates on the book’s progress on Facebook. Occupied with all kinds of tasks at LeftWord, Vaam Prakashan, and Studio Safdar – over and above the writing of the book – he could hardly be expected to sit down and talk to us about it. These updates were all we had as we grew more and more impatient.
Read on. There’s a lot here that didn’t make it into the final text. (Click on the sub-heads to see the individual Facebook posts.)
Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi will be out on January 1, 2020. Do join us for the book launch at Jhandapur that day.
I’m writing a book on Safdar Hashmi, Jana Natya Manch, street theatre, political activism, and the attack that resulted in Safdar’s and Ram Bahadur’s death. I’m going through Safdar’s papers. And every time it gets a little heavy, Safdar amuses me with his little doodles.
… and later that day
More doodles by Safdar Hashmi. Sometimes I want to say: Stop it Safdar, stop distracting me, can’t you see I’m working?
There is more:
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:
WordPress started counting text downloads of articles in July this year. Interesting stat.
So the books get quite a few
56 for Rumour of Calcutta 1996 (buy here)
26 for Pantomime Terror 2014
But just the occasional hit for individual papers like:
10 for British Asian Communism (2005)
6 for Semi-Feudal Cyber Colonalism (on the multimedia super corridor 1999)
and just the 1 for poor old The Authority of Style (first serious essay published 1987)
Unfortunately, Icannot easily cut and paste all the totals, but some are in the hundreds (thanks) and most of the papers are here.
Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities #ISSH2019
An International Conference at Ton Duc Thang University October 4-5, 2019
Innovations are the key. In method and analysis, in the ways in which scholarship engages with society and organisations today, there can be no doubting the relevance of the social science and humanities to all our pressing questions. The Innovations discussed at the conference challenged our thinking. The topics were wide-ranging and varied, the approaches distinctly alive; some of the papers demonstrated a vivid combination of theoretical and practical research, some were insistently in a humanities’-oriented style, others more forthright and strictly social science, and still others experimented with the form and tone of the social sciences. Perhaps while bringing new methods to Vietnam, the creativity of the social sciences and relevance of the humanities for contemporary understanding was brought out even more by the diversity of themes and perspectives. Of course the traditional scholarship of the social sciences was also represented, but in writing that has an urgency and verve that excited discussion.
See the conference reported on TV news HTV9:
The featured keynotes included a powerfully engaging presentation from Professor Stephen Muecke of Flinders University Australia. Prof Muecke is a hugely important voice in cultural studies and theorist of notions of the cultural landscape and ways of reading cultural relations between settler and Aboriginal Australia. His explanation of the walking method innovated by Aboriginal traditional landholders will inspire reflection and new practices, and perhaps some in Vietnam will want to take up the invitation of Aboriginal elder Paddy Roe to visit Western Australia and walk the ancient dreaming tracks near Broome with his family.
A keynote lecture by Professor Joyce Liu from National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan, on new methods of inter-Asian joint and multi-site research inaugurated a perspective on political and cultural research that promises new opportunities for collaboration and debate across borders. She spoke with an engagement that should never be sacrificed in scholarship while there are so many urgent and relevant issues upon which scholars must comment as the leading presenters of, explorers of, and advocates for ideas.
The conference as a whole addressed debates about why innovation and new methods in the social sciences and humanities in Vietnam are needed. This was to respond to clear demands within Vietnam for such methods and enthusiasms (perspectives of a number of Government and non-Government agencies have supported this with relevant statements, such as the government Global Challenges position papers in 2018, and the work of independent research units like Social Life). Mild Hombrebueno from the Philippines said she had ‘learnt a lot from the conference, built new networks, friendships and linkages’ and claimed enthusiastically:
‘I have been to other international conferences, but so far, this is the best experience I’ve ever had. The host university and the organizing committee were so accommodating even up to the last leg of the program. It was indeed full of intellectual discussions, where I made many realizations’
Participatory development projects need a new lease of life and a major rethink – and this was provided by Professor Ursula Rao from the University of Leipzig in Germany as she explored new thinking on the challenges of development in anthropology.
Ms Hombrebueno again commented:
‘meeting with Prof. Rao and her advocacy on Shaping Asia is just so exciting one! I am grateful [to have] the chance to be with the team’
Professor Elaine Carey from Purdue NorthWest in Indian a, USA, spoke on women and research on drugs in the archive, the depredations of the war on drugs and the lives of women drug lords were fascinating topics, with side excursions into the interests of American author William Burroughs and images from the press of mid-20th century Mexico and South America. The thinking here was deep as well as a gripping story – if there are no short cuts and no easy solutions, we are challenged at least to think hard – and it is also an inspiration to hear how we can also care about writing well, and hear this from the leading international scholars of our times.
See the conference reported on TV news HTV9:
“‘There is no document of civilization that is not simultaneously a document of barbarism‘” (Walter Benjamin Illuminations)
William Burroughs’ annotated Boys Scout’s manual has been reissued, and I am waiting for it to arrive so I can have another go a trying to reconcile the whole boy scout thing. Militarism in the blood by dint of generations of just doing what kids do when their fathers did it before them. The dodgy old hyphenated, Colin Baden-Powell had invented the concentration camp in Mafeking during the Boer War too. Can’t say a Boy Scout history is a reason to be proud. I first heard of the Burroughs manual from Mick T, so I rifled through an old travel diary into which a news clipping was folded. It included a photograph of five young Americans in combat gear beside a ‘Homeland Security’ bus. From the front page of the New York Times I collected it on May 13 2009 when last visiting Mick in New York. The image caught my eye and I recall this was the same day when newly discovered atrocity photos from CIA ‘facilities’ in Afghanistan and Iraq were to be published but were censored so as to avoid undermining the war effort and the troops at the front.[i] Anxious excuses were conjured for spin and impression management… Instead, we got the unbelievable shot of Explorer scouts tooled up for the kill.
The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s long-time missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and fire-fighters. Rereading the text ten years on is bracing, and Burroughs does not help the dark forebodings of the text.
“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.” (New York Times, 13 May 2009)
Blocking the atrocity images, then president Obama said he would fight any release of the new set of detention images,[ii] backpeddling from an earlier ‘release them all’ position after a word from Pentagon chiefs. This old strategy or submerging truth is reported on the same front page as the scouting story). But the bus picture contains a curious quirky little detail. Look at the line of action-figure scouts in the shot. The very last one doesn’t seem to think the situation is all that real. A big grin on his face, forgetting the seriousness of the security role-play; has he tapped his colleague on the shoulder to say he likes his combat trousers? ‘Dude, I got these on special at ‘Old Navy” says his colleague. ‘Awesome’. I wonder if there is perhaps-possibly-maybe a little chink of critique, on the part of the New York Times’ photographer or picture editor in this edge-of-the-image smile? Such good terror-fighting teeth too. I would ‘hope’ we read this scene against the grain. ‘Yes we can’.
The article offers a great many other howlers – including strange juxtapositions: one such follows on from the news that neophyte Explorer Cathy is ‘attracted by the guns’ and says: “I like shooting them … I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.” We then get the observation that the police who supervise this ‘training’ have been exploring in their own perversions: “There have been numerous cases over the last three decades in which police officers supervising Explorers have been charged, in civil and criminal cases, with sexually abusing them”.
It seems though we are safe. This is after all only a role-playing game, with Arab dress-ups and other harmless pantomime fun. We are assured that ‘the training … is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting’. OK.
Meanwhile, collected from the same paper, another photograph of another line of troops had caught my eye – commemorating the body of a soldier being returned to the US. RIP Michael P Yates, killed by one of his own in the counselling tent.[iii] The televised reporting of the return of troop bodies was of course suppressed by the previous President, Bush W, but the correspondence between the line of Explorer scouts and the solemn line of the troops in the second picture is poignant. (The death toll of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan topped 5000 soon after). This picture too appears a few pages before a full page ad taken out by a right wing group, suitably named the ‘Torture Truth Project’ that condemns those who would embarrass the US internationally by mentioning the ‘only three’ detainees that endured the notorious torture technique known as water boarding. The text of the ad takes on its own special rhetoric when it tortures the truth by warning that ‘we are losing the goodwill of people across the world’. Welcome to the USA today, in the New York Times.
The Scouts, as spawn of Sir Colin Baden-Powell, cannot be disassociated from the logic that developed the detention camp at Mafeking. Be Prepared. I remember this slogan and the implication of youthful disciplining, as is surely true for anyone who was a scout (sure, it was mostly fun of course, smoking behind the troop hall). My grandfather in the UK and father in the Ukraine were also enthusiastic adventurers. William Burroughs might have been a safer bet as father figure.
[i] New York Times, 13 May 2009
[ii] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/us/politics/14photos.html?scp=6&sq=obama&st=cse accessed 13 May 2009
[iii] curiously, the image is not reproduced in the online version of the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/us/14victims.html accessed October 20 2009.
Multitude redux Empire: wrong way, don’t go back, we should leave too.
People got wishful thinking a lot, and I am always for breaking the borders, but as this can be read from afar, I reckon yes, but the prognosis offered below by Hardt and Negri back in the Empire day ends up objectively anti-communist – the wrong side is lauded as abandoning the discipline of the system. What if rather, all the exploited under capitalism had pushed at the wall the other way, the former soviet block might not be a pit of cowboy corruption and proto-fascist gangsterism, but rather a renewal – walls can fall both ways, and maybe H&N were pushing the wrong way. I don’t mean everyone should now move to Mexico, but abandoning the shopping centre queues in favour of a Leninist discipline supporting an organised alternative to empty glitz is a long term better solution for all rather than this multitude exodus which does tend to me to sound a bit like Pol Pot’s year zero as well.
“A specter haunts the world and it is the specter of migration. All the powers of the old world are allied in a merciless operation against it, but the movement is irresistible. Along with the flight from the so-called Third World there are flows of political refugees and transfers of intellectual labor power, in addition to the massive movements of the agricultural, manufacturing, and service proletariat. The legal and documented movements are dwarfed by clandestine migrations: the borders of national sovereignty are sieves, and every attempt at complete regulation runs up against violent pressure. Economists attempt to explain this phenomenon by presenting their equations and models, which even if they were complete would not explain that irrepressible desire for free movement. In effect, what pushes from behind is, negatively, desertion from the miserable cultural and material conditions of imperial reproduction; but positively, what pulls forward is the wealth of desire and the accumulation of expressive and productive capacities that the processes of globalization have determined in the consciousness of every individual and social group—and thus a certain hope. Desertion and exodus are a powerful form of class struggle within and against imperial postmodernity. This mobility, however, still constitutes a spontaneous level of struggle, and, as we noted earlier, it most often leads today to a new rootless condition of poverty and misery. A new nomad horde, a new race of barbarians, will arise to invade or evacuate Empire. Nietzsche was oddly prescient of their destiny in the nineteenth century. ‘‘Problem: where are the barbarians of the twentieth century? Obviously they will come into view and consolidate themselves only after tremendous socialist crises.’’ We cannot say exactly what Nietzsche foresaw in his lucid delirium, but indeed what recent event could be a stronger example of the power of desertion and exodus, the power of the nomad horde, than the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the entire Soviet bloc? In the desertion from ‘‘socialist discipline,’’ savage mobility and mass migration contributed substantially to the collapse of the system. In fact, the desertion of productive cadres disorganized and struck at the heart of the disciplinary system of the bureaucratic Soviet world. The mass exodus of highly trained workers from Eastern Europe played a central role in provoking the collapse of the Wall. Even though it refers to the particularities of the socialist state system, this example demonstrates that the mobility of the labor force can indeed express an open political conflict and contribute to the destruction of the regime. What we need, however, is more. We need a force capable of not only organizing the destructive capacities of the multitude, but also constituting through the desires of the multitude an alternative. The counter-Empire must also be a new global vision, a new way of living in the world… If in a first moment the multitude demands that each state recognize juridically the migrations that are necessary to capital, in a second moment it must demand control over the movements themselves. The multitude must be able to decide if, when, and where it moves. It must have the right also to stay still and enjoy one place rather than being forced constantly to be on the move. The general right to control its own movement is the multitude’s ultimate demand for global citizenship. This demand is radical insofar as it challenges the fundamental apparatus of imperial control over the production and life of the multitude. Global citizenship is the multitude’s power to reappropriate control over space and thus to design the new cartography.”
Thanks J Adams for the reminder of this bit of Empire
My longe essay critiquing Empire is here
Articles to download
Screen Violence and Partition
Inter Asia Cultural Studies
(Not sure if you need to make an account to get these, but it works for me):
CLIFFORD GEERTZ AS A CULTURAL SYSTEM: A Review Article
THE AUTHORITY OF STYLE
SAFE || Eruptions: NYC MustTagAliens
Marlène Ramírez-Cancio, Brenda Iijima, Delores Jones-Brown, Diana Taylor, Gil Anidjar, Gregory Fried, Hamid Dabashi, John Hutnyk, Linda Martín Alcoff, Steven Pludwin, Daniel Skinner and Sunita Viswanath
Critique of Exotica: Music, Politics and the Culture Industryby J. Hutnyk
Jungle studies: the state of anthropology
CALCUTTA CIPHER: Travellers and the City
The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity, and the Poverty of Representationby John Hutnyk
The chapatti story: how hybridity as theory displaced Maoism as politics in Subaltern Studies
Brimful of agitation, authenticity and appropriation: Madonna’s ‘Asian Kool’
Book reviews : The Cambridge Survey of World Migration Edited by ROBIN COHEN (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995) 570pp. 75.00
Marx on India in 1857
Marx writes to document the outrages committed by the British in retaliation for the uprising in 1857:
“The Punjaub is declared to be quiet, but at the same time we are informed that ‘at Ferozepore, on the 13th of June, military executions had taken place’ while Vaughan’s corps – 5th
Punjaub Infantry – is praised for ‘having behaved admirably in pursuit of the
55th Native Infantry’. This, it must be confessed, is very queer sort of ‘quiet’”
(New York Daily Tribune August 14,1857. Correspondence London, July 31,1857)
Isn’t this sort of reading of British troop action as an archival trace of something more significant that ‘provoked’ the reactions of the British exactly the sort of reading strategy that the founding Subaltern Studies scholars like Ranajit Guha suggested as critical historical method?
Factory Inspections, in Chicago and more
Click on the link to go to the site.
And a huge number of other report on Inspections here:
And how about this one? Women in the Factory, 1922.
I will attach the entire Pdf if my wordpress memory space fits it here
Notebooks (Artaud’s for example)
Rereading 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.
Film India archive
Pretty excited to find parts of the FilmIndia archive online, especially 1948 with a (idiosyncratic) review of Sunny’s Mela (stars Nargis and Dilip Kumar). Also I am quite taken by the concept of ’emotional masochism’ used to describe the film. Other films reviews are in a caustic tone, with the phrase ‘hotch-potch’ appearing in at least three article titles I read, and ‘hotch-potch of coincidences’ possibly the most often repeated phrase. But great details, covers, and things not to be forgotten. Full credit for making this available (John McElwee donation to the Media History Digital Library, scanned from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art Library). A lock on resources, but opened up a little, thanks heaps.