I was looking something up and stumbled upon a quote of me that I did not recognise – that class ‘does not make much sense’. I am pretty appalled to be called left libertarian and neo-Weberian from a Northern think-tank (!!) – and completely misquoted – in this way by Ebert and Zavarzadeb in an otherwise marvellous chapter called ‘Hypohumanities’ from the 2010 book Class in Education: Knowledge, Pedagogy, Subjectivity, edited by Deborah Kelsh, Dave Hill & Sheila Macrine. I reproduce page 44 from that chapter, as follows:
Ha! – Do our authors think Marx and Engels really do have a bipolar view of class as ‘ossified and simplistic, if not simple’ – rather than this being a caricature that I expose. But no, I am associated somehow with Laclau and Hardt and Negri too – the very people I was critiquing in the book from which these misquotes are taken out of context. Yes, I said something almost like those they attribute, but there are important differences if you read with care. I’m afraid my point is missed and they attribute associations that do not stand up if attention is paid to the actual words, which are relational: ‘as much sense’ and makes ‘less sense’. They might also attend to the context in which these sense are deployed as there is no way that I am erasing production – on the contrary, I am making that same accusation of those who do not see class in the context on international production, outsourced imperialist capital and a brutal immiseration of a more diverse (non cloth cap wearing) global proletariat.
What I actually wrote in a book that spends a lot of time talking about Marx’s analysis of multiple class conflict in the Eighteenth Brumaire is that a notion of class from 1847 used today:
“does not make as much sense if rigidly restricted to a bipolar opposition of the kind necessarily sketched in the polemical opening of the Manifesto nor within rigidly maintained notions of nation. The working-class hero is best thought of as a far more diverse identity than that of the cloth-capped union man. For sure, the idea of class struggle makes less sense today in a national context but retains all its urgency and coherence if the international division of labour is, rather than ignored, taken as a key part of the calculus.”
I then do quote, on that same page, Gibson-Graham, and I see my interpreters do also, but it is a funny inverted honour to associate me with those I was saying were unable to even approximate Marx’s developed analysis (and recognise the Manifesto of Marx and Engels as a polemical text, about which their view moves). Marxism and class struggle are to be understood in a materialist international framework where ‘the immiseration of a global proletariat proceeds apace’ where the ‘division of labour prevails’ and ‘not to say the nation has no power, nor military might with heavy weaponry’ (p191)
Which leaves me a big surprised and amused that no matter how much one takes care to ask for at least some attention to the ways Marx’s text is framed and develops over his writing and rewriting and the contexts of that writing and the audiences, and which all the while should not be taken to be as ‘bad’ as so many commentators make out. Bad Marxism was the name of the book after-all, as if that had one single and only referent.
Of course in the end, its all welcome I guess – as I also pointed out on that very same page they quote, where I objected that:
“accusations of ‘bad’ Marxism as a way of silencing debate is an old routine. Divinations of correct line
Marxism act as a form of censure and as assertions of correct behaviour or discipline. The use of citation and counter-citation in hegemonic maintenance is not something ever completely avoided, the mystification of authority and pedagogic demonologies are also symptoms – there are so many contests and contexts. Given all this,
I am inclined to see debate over the line as evidence of vitality and leave it to the secret tribunal of the central committee to decide in the very last instance where we ‘really’ went wrong, so long as that grim finale never actually comes” (p 192)
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).
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:
Cỏc Linh Tuệ Giác = something like the image of the Holy Toad in culture and history.
Going to read this cultural history next and was super proud to receive a copy today from the author, my colleague at TDTU, Thầy Nguyễn Hiếu Tín.
And here he is as a TV star…
This book is about storytelling and music video – well, also politics and terror, performance and television.
The book tunes into music in three acts. I have written on these performers before, and so thank them again for the opportunity to return to their stories. The approach is a continuation of a research project and collective political effort that I joined when I first came to Britain in 1994. This iteration rehearses this work for London and in relation to twenty first-century terrors, as well as returning to a long beloved articulation of divergent interpretations of critical theory, especially the work of Theodor Adorno. In the introduction, there is a first rendition of the theme of pantomime, which will resonate throughout, and perhaps perversely, the end of the intro starts in on the end of the video Cookbook DIY, examined more fully in the next chapter. I advance this end because the point of this book is to record how peripheral ‘messages’ are too often ignored. In this sense, the project of ‘pantomime terror’ as distraction will be affirmed. I thank Aki Nawaz and Dave Watts for what is now a long collaboration.
The chapters are:
1. Introduction: London Bus :: Pantomime :: War Diary :: Mediation :: The Orange Jumpsuit :: Alerts.
2. DIY Cookbook: Visiting the Kumars :: A Suicide Rapper :: 1001 Nights :: Cookbook DIY :: Pantomime Video :: The RampArts Interlude (notes from a screening) :: All is War :: Back to the Kumars.
3. Dub at the Movies: Representing La Haine :: Žižek-degree-zero :: Derrida Writes the Way :: The Eiffel Tower :: Ruffians, Rabble, Rogues and Repetition :: Musical Interlude :: Riff-raff :: Reserve Army :: Coda: The Battle of Algiers :: Molotov.
4. Scheherazade‘s Sister, M.I.A.: Cultural Projects :: Storyteller Nights :: M.I.A. :: Born Free :: Sell Out, or Tiocfaidh ár lá :: Witticisms and Wagner :: Despot Culture :: Scheherazade in Guantánamo.
Read it here
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.
The conference proceedings and papers will be in English.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any further information.
Assoc. Prof. Le Thi Mai, Ph.D
Head of Sociology Department
22 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:
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.
This looks great and would have been a good thing to attend, but my diary window – and budget – is far too small:
*Small Interventions: Studies in the Miniature*
Numerous theorists have engaged with the idea of the miniature, including
Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Susan Stewart, and Andreas Huyssen. As
they and other thinkers have shown, the complex and contradictory nature of
the miniature speaks to issues of nostalgia, a desire for control and
containment, and gender and other norms. In popular culture, miniatures
crop up in diverse forms: from dollhouses to mini-Frappuccinos, from
spyware to nanotechnology, from closed ecosystems to manmade islands. The
proposed panel is interested in thinking about the status of the
miniature–whether a tiny book, photograph, or memento–as an object of
cultural study. We aim to ask how the miniature might (or might not) be a
useful genre or category with which to intervene in our traditional
disciplinary assumptions, our pedagogies, and our practices. How might
thinking about the miniature expand our possible objects of study? Might we
consider it a bridge to other fields? Possible paper topics might address
issues related to the miniature within the following contexts:
environmental, postcolonial, and cultural studies; photography and visual
culture; digital humanities; close reading and poetics; or urban planning
and architecture. This list is meant to generate ideas and is by no means
We are soliciting individual paper proposals to include in a
pre-constituted panel to be presented at the Sixteenth Annual Cultural
Studies Association Conference at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, from May 31-June 2, 2018. Interested presenters should send
their name, title, affiliation, email address, and a 150 word abstract. All
presenters must be members of the CSA to participate. Membership and other
information can be found at http://www.culturalstudiesassociation.org/.
Please direct inquires/ submissions to Shannon Winston at email@example.com or
Helen Kapstein at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than
Sunday, February 11, 201
[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.
Word salad for future plundering…
Cutting slabs out and leaving them here like meat carcasses hung up for curing…
For example, cosmopolitan and transnationalising nomad that I am (ahem, I wish) I am at present absent-mindedly watching what I assume to be the show ‘Japan Idol’ on an overhead TV in a Korean bbq joint. I am resisting tuning in so I may be wrong. I am in Japan, but given the restaurant, this could also be ‘Korean Idol’; how to tell without attending more carefully? I dismiss the effort, and let this just be, this time, background, even though the sound is awful, cranked out through not very state of the art loudspeakers, although it is not overbearing. I am simultaneously concerned with my meal, typing up notes from reading, and avoiding looking at Facebook. What concerns me most is the preparation I should really be doing, but I am also only attending to it with part of my admittedly lazy brain. I’ve a language lesson and should be better prepared for a test coming up in an hour. Japan/Korean Idol as revision session perhaps? It might be ‘Supergirl’, from China (see Jian and Liu 2009), so I already know that is not really going to help, even though I seem to be able to process popular culture and its moves more than I can the declensions of nouns or the – nightmare – pictographs of Kanji.
My students walk into class with iPhone buds in their ears. They also listen to ‘Japan Idol’, and more or less tolerate my insistence on subjecting them to music from old Indian cinema, or diasporic British South Asian sounds, and commentaries. The point of reference at first, to get them interested, was The Beatles, but they also show me the influence of other traditions and ideas that lead them to an interest in India and this course, and I realise that the direction and question of influence is never straightforward. Despite being able to point to ‘the discursive construction of an “East Asian Popular Culture” as an object of analysis (Chua 2006: 200) the criss-crossing of national borders extends and extends. Of course this is true for film, music, television drama, comic books, magazines, websites and fashion magazines. In Japan the visibility of Bollywood’s cultural product is small (Srinivas 2013: 616), and even more the marginal visibility of Bengali Art film is less than some, but this term rather more than nothing. What they will make of it as they collect points and units for their degree awards is really not clear – the hope that the famous obsessive fandom of Japanese youth can be accessed to promote learning is of course not far away. I have something of that tendency for sure.
Also for the films of Ichikawa Kon, even though my students expected me only to know Kurusawa and maybe Ozu. I am able to introduce them to a great – lost on some – figure from their own film culture. But it is Akira Kurusawa who was the better known in Bengal, and who is famously paired with Satyajit Ray as the twin stars of World Cinema from this part of the world. Ichikawa Kon and Mrinal Sen are perhaps the two antithetical alternatives to that mainstream crown. Kon’s films are sometimes profound, sometimes comic, sometimes political, and while I will not belabour this analogy, and the depth of attachment of the Bengali public to Sen is possibly greater than the Japanese appreciation of their own Kon, I certainly class them together. That other book awaits another time however, even as I note also the potential to write such a comparison through the crucial importance of their wives as partner-actresses and muse-like support. No, that book must wait, my language class first. And in Bengal, Mrinal Sen himself is hopefully still to make another film, even though he is pushing towards his mid-90s as I write.
The terminology most explicitly avoided that I would introduce here, but develop elsewhere, is the language of Maoist analysis of compradore complicities and specific semi-feudal semi colonial associations within media reporting. I once described the Malaysian Multi Media Super Corridor as an example of a semi-feudal, cyber-colonial land grab. This must be further explored today.
A problem perhaps to be addressed is how did militant anti-racist and anti-imperialist organisations from 30-40 years ago, lead to a scene in which we are so atomised and reified into discursive competition the best we have are individual celeb thinker-artists who say all these good things, but practically overlook the ways compliance and complicity are the order of the day.
Sometimes compromised and conflicted; sometimes published in the West, but sometimes not; always engaged, never satisfied with mimicry, hybridity or recuperation. There is an alternative in formation and emergent on the back of a political tradition that does not need to pay the lip service of yore to the powers of empires. Maybe new empires are in formation, but the stakes are open for a critical transformation – which will not need first amendment rights, but take them.
It seems to me that there is a push-me-pull-you kind of denial at the heart of contemporary politics, where an absence of anxiety about the decline of the left exists in a space within which verbose talk about the decline rests somehow in comfortable reassurance that invests hope in media promotional social movements that circulate horizontally, as Hardt and Negri, among others, applauded (2000). Confronted by the entertainment-industrial militarisation of every theatre of the world, albeit with differing levels of war-footing, but combative all the same, the contestation that gains most visibility is a digitised connected one, already recuperated in its very conditions of possibility. It exists as spectacle, contesting in a spectral spectacularity that cancels itself out. Auto-marginalisation and self-deprecatory egoism that things likes or hits or eyeballs can be monetised for change.org.
The self-regard of the online social movements which network according to the algorithms of a geo-demarcated globalism, offer spaces of partial, perhaps potential, disengagement in a staged subsumption. Vernacular globalisations that offer respite for a time, but ultimately wait in line to compromise. The identity and digital compartmentalisation of the political, and the atomisation of parts that any movement, articulated globally, requires, means that questions of strategy and tactics are resolved to simple impossible choices – departure into defeat or the path of endless competition for celebrity endorsement. The political struggle becomes one of recognition by the digital spectacular, and only algorithms of approval count, as like meets like, confirms like, the same. A viable politics of group mobilisation across difference is undermined in such competition, in a zero and one containment.
Working out how it came to be thus is less difficult than refusing the demonisation and disregard of the need to build alliances across difference without becoming sectarian and self-interested. It seems this is only possible outside of the famous mainstream formula circuit, and even then the secondary circuit’s structuring in terms of leagues and scaled promotion, threatens to narrow possibilities there. If there is only one world domain of action, one global agenda, then the possibility of working outside of expectations is already recuperated. That there are some who do not follow the formula is the promise that is still possible to win.
Writing far from the UK, thinking about South Asian film and diaspora from another corner of Asia, and given trends and movements, the angular influences of culture are thrown into sharp relief. How we figure patters of production and consumption of popular culture is never simple. Even influences are not readily tracked when they are apparent: the old reception models, and the dissemination models that proffered a uni-directional distributive formula from an advanced centre, are faulty.
In the face of declining interest in explicit politics there might be reasons to despair if it were not that a desperate necessity means migrants continue to struggle and bring realisation with them across the deadly borders they have crossed. A lament for those who die in the attempt – the sea of bodies that wash up on the Mediterranean shores, the parched deserts of Arizona, the driftwood from destroyed and floundered boats off the West Australian coast – and monuments to tenacity that the privileged cannot even measure, do not diminish the importance of the gift that migrants bring those that have died sedentary in their suburban homes.
A consideration of unpublished – even unwritten – comparative tracts within Asia must immediately take into account the framing that such conversations might have in the wake of the emergence of two new economic ‘superpowers’ in the twenty-first century, China and India – which would have perhaps more significance in terms of encounter than that between east and west (Chakrabarty 2000). I realise the word encounter has a particular history in at least one context here, but I don’t doubt the possibility of separating the brutality of one kind of encounter, with the police, and that more cosmopolitan and engagingly transnational encounter that might add to our cultural repertoire and sensitivities in the coming era.
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!
Now with Belgian chocolate.
And as a flapjack:
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…
Just started JD Taylor’s book, bought in Waterstones sociology section yesterday. Brilliant. I mean, the placing of this book in that shelving – shame its four floors up from ground. If there were two copies I would have moved the one I did not buy down to the new books section at the entrance, alongside stuff from Owen Jones and Russell Brand…
Dan by bicycle around Britain – possibly the last book to Unite the disparate multi Island nation (not one nation, emphatically not):
“I reach Leith, a port town now absorbed intoEdinburgh metropolis, but still retaining its own independent spirit. It’s a bustling though evidently impoverished place, by no means as grim as the early-90s immortalisation in Irving Welsh’s Trainspotting. The Banana Flats cotch over the scene like a piece of Thunderbirds’ concretopia, as colourful as a stubbed out snout. The old docks have now been gentrified by posh restaurants, luxury apartment blocks and a moronic Ocean Terminal mall, a non-place inflicted on Leith for once having any kind of character”
So in 20 years this will be the first of the many travel volumes of the by then portly, but still adjectively agile, latter day Jonathan Meades, William Dalrymple, Bill Bryson, Ian Sinclair. Only he will still seem precocious and young – eat your heart out Owen Jones.
“David meets me in the centre of Nottingham. A friend of a friend, he’s kindly offered me a place to stay and help repairing my bike. He smiles, is gracious and issues wise observations as I tail him up to Canning Circus. A local man, bike enthusiast and university researcher, his insights are as consoling as the porters we clink in the beer-garden.
In the Midlands, these working class communities where things were once made now seem abandoned of political importance. Poverty creeps. There’s a danger of seeking out some master to put it right, David warns. ‘We’ve found a problem, do something about it.’ He remembers the riots of 2011, the local police station getting firebombed. ‘For one small moment’, something important happened. Young people were out in the streets, talking politics and the future. They felt like they had power, that for a moment they might be heard…”
Reasons enough to buy the book. Info here: http://repeaterbooks.com/politics/another-island/
new book from pavement with chapters by Ffrench, Collier, Launchbury, Gledhill, Fuggle etc.,…
Edited by Sophie Fuggle and Nicholas Gledhill
As a trope, theme, myth and very real space, what is at stake in the frequent artistic, cultural and philosophical articulations of the beach in French thought? Adopting a variety of approaches, this is the question that the essays in this collection seek to address. The beach in twentieth and twenty-first century French philosophy, literature and visual culture represents both limit and liminal space. It is a site of multiple encounters with both the other and the self, of arrivals and departures, of both hedonistic freedom and colonial subordination. At the same time, it is the no-man’s land where, as Michel Foucault suggests at the end of The Order of Things, man’s image is literally washed away.
The essays compiled in this collection, explore the French and Francophone beach via the various encounters this complex and multiple space engenders alongside the role it has come to play in both a French and global cultural imaginary. Bringing together a range of critical perspectives from scholars working in fields such as literature, film, philosophy, gender and cultural studies, the collection analyses the violent erasures and appropriations associated with the French beach whilst also calling for a reimagining of the beach as creative, ethical space.
£18.99 (inc. postage)
Table of Contents
SOPHIE FUGGLE & NICHOLAS GLEDHILL
I. Beach Archaeologies
Beneath the Cobblestones, the Beach: An Idea in Everyone’s Mind?
Devant la mer: Thresholds of Fiction and Theory
Death on the Sand: From Tragic Humanism to Depressive Realism
II. Framing the Beach
Proust and the Beach as Écran
Vacance: Vacancy and Vacation in the Films of Jacques Rozier
III. War Zones
Bodies on the Sand: Corporeality and the Beach in the Films of Catherine Breillat and François Ozon
Colonies de Vacances
‘Elle ne sera bientôt qu’une épave soudée à ses rochers’: Women Writing the Wreck of Beirut
IV. Eroded Identities
Between Real and Ideal Space: Embodiment and the Beach in Michel Houellebecq
The Beach as Liminal Site in Abderrahmane Sissako’s Heremakono
THÉRÈSE DE RAEDT
Buy it here: http://www.pavementbooks.com/lalignedecume
The magazine is here: TheInvisibleFinger
Huge excitement building in Hsinchu East…
More of this sort coming: Jingmai in Taipei for example, but for the minute, a sort of first instalment Taiwan-style of an ongoing series by Sophie fuggle:
Sad to hear that the Shopping Hour journal (ex zine) has ceased publication. Here’s my little piece on Freud’s cocaine murder guilt complex in the pic – click to enlarge. It also serves as hat-tip to Prof Dave Boothroyd’s excellent book on drugs, and is result of a reading group on Interpretation of Dreams 100th anniversary way back in 2001. All the SH issues are here.
I’ve been reading his Bazaar book this last few weeks (its long, and its in a library I where I have reading but not borrowing rights). It is very much on topic for my research in Serampore, even if I am not a huge fan of his history style, its certainly way better than the sort of Brit historian you see on the telly (on a spectrum where Bayly is closer to Hobsbawn while Niall Fergusan is closer to Portillo).
Bayly’s books include; *The Local Roots of Indian Politics. Allahabad 1880-1920 (1975)
*Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars. North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1780-1870 (1983)
*Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire (1988)
*Imperial Meridian. The British Empire and the World, 1780-1830 (1989)
*Empire and Information. Intelligence gathering and social communication in India 1780-1870 (1996)
*The Origins of Nationality in South Asia (1997)
*The Birth of the Modern World. Global Connections and Comparisons 1780-1914 (2004)
*Forgotten Armies. The Fall of British Asia 1941-45 with Dr Tim Harper (2004)
*Forgotten Wars: revolution and the end of empire in British Asia, 1945-55 with Dr Tim Harper (2008).
*Recovering Liberties. Indian thought in the age of liberalism and empire (2011)
Click on the pic for a short obit and a link to one of his talks
Hey, you might want to go to this, even give a paper at this… get in touch with Sophie here.
Choose a genre (music, film, horror, sci fi), discipline (anthropology, sociology, management, psychiatry) or a favourite author (who has written a lot, Bataille, Burroughs, Spivak, Toer) and find at least one example of each of the following tropes (below):
not a complete list….
Following this -giant- boat by ethnography.
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.”
There is uncanny beauty in the monstrous. This, at least, is the feeling that seizes me as I stand under the colossal Ever Cthulu 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…
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Valmik Thapar, in Exotic Aliens: The Lion and the Cheetah in India, reports that Jahangir was gifted a giraffe. Anand Yang in Bazaar India: Peasants, Traders, Markets in Bihar, reports that ruler of Bengal [it was Shihabuddin Bayazid Shah (reigned 1413–1414)] gifted a giraffe to the Chinese Emperor. What a gift to give, a giraffe! The gift of a giraffe by Bengal to the court of China in 1414. Got to also get hold of an article by Sally Church ‘The Giraffe of Bengal: A Medieval Encounter in Ming China’. I’m afraid I have little to add on this but awe. Giraffes! Even if I also know the trade in long necked beasts goes back some time before these Mughal exchanges with Africa – here, a photograph from Konark temple near Puri, 11 century C.E.
Meanwhile, I am also reading reading Murari Kumar Jha, 2013, The Political Economy of the Ganga River: Highway of State Formation in Mughal India, c. 1600-1800. Seeking out Danish smuggling/piracy back in the day…
fn 97 The first reference to opium purchase by the VOC at Patna come in the year 1652, see W. Ph. Coolhaas, ed., Generale Missiven van Gouverneurs-Generaal en Raden aan Heren XVII der Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, vol. 2, 1639–1655 (’s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964), 622, Reniers, Maetsuyker, enz. VII, 24.12.1652. But even before the VOC started buying opium from Bihar, the Muslim merchants seems to have been purchasing this commodity for Southeast Asia. This becomes clear from the cargoes of one of the two ships which both were captured in 1649 by Leyel, a Danish commander, before they reached Balasore. The ship with opium was destined for Aceh, see Coolhaas, ed., Generale Missiven, 2:348–49, Van der Lijn, Caron, enz. VIII, 18.01.1649. In 1641 the VOC was already buying some opium at Surat for the Malabar Coast, see Coolhaas, ed., Generale Missiven, 2:145, Van Diemen, Van der Lijn, enz. XVII, 12.12.1641
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.
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…
Just bought this book hoping it adds to the discussion of Anxiety promoted by plan c and Inst for precarious consciousness on here recently:
The Age of Anxiety: Conspiracy Theory and the Human Sciences (Sociological Review Monographs)
by Jane Parish (Editor), Martin Parker (Editor)
But also because of the coda (below). For the record, some fanzines got interpolated way back, and indeed, I was never keen on the Xerox Files, but that image of Adorno as twiglet-munching couch alien really works for me. Redeemed-schemed.