Opiates and the Volk

Digging out old snippets I’d forgot I kept handy – clearly not that handy, but near enough to the top of my inbox that I could find them again by accident: here it is: – in Marx’s ‘famous’ quote, it is really noticeable that few people open up the quote to see what Marx said in context. There are several translations, but I will spare you my cod philology about the differences between volkes as masses or peoples etc. But see this in context and it looks quite remarkably different. Marx writes:

“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.”

So. there it is – I hope you agree that the opium looks a little different now, eh god-botherers.

And that’s also why we keep religion and politics for conversations at Parties. Currently cooking the books on several hot plates, so here also today’s earlier word dump on debates: cf, thinking about the electioneering piggy pollies in the primaries in the US and the Brexit-Smexit in the UK – the great political debate non-starter for small-fry (on cuisine and writing hors d-oeuvres). What is going on though? Both sides serving up braised spam or an inflammatory buffet of irradiated beef and biscuit, half-baked pyromaniacs and home-brewed arsonists across the table mess with even the most poultry offers to cauterize this combustible stew, while gourmet confectioners dine out on a smorgasbord of swill, a catered distillation of half-chewed gum fed to the gluttons of the press, all consumers malnourished on a formulaic diet of ill-digested ruminant crud, while the butchers of etiquette gnaw the bones of contention at the feast of the dead, garnished with an aroma of burnt offerings on a menu of left-over table scraps. A dinner party of despair, sandwiches without meat, potatoes or ham.

Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities #ISSH2019

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Chairing the conference (note, no actual chair)

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.

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Guido Abbattista, University of Trieste (middle)
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Professor Guido Abbattissta from the University of Trieste in Italy said the conference ‘was an exciting experience’. Dr Arnab Choudhury from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said it was an ‘immensely wonderful conference, by far one of the most well-organised conferences I have ever attended’.
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Stephen Muecke Flinders University

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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.
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Professor Joyce Liu (NCTU Taiwan) and Professor Ursula Rao (Uni Leipzig, Germany)

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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’

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Professor Rao

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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.
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The conference had articles/panels on over 40 topics by cutting edge thinkers and on themes that remain urgent and pressing – for example, there was a session on the new area of sociobiology, there was the panel on education provision and socialization with a discussion of Vietnam and Australia on higher education successes. There was an engaging panel on participatory methods as a research tool eminently suited for new ways of doing research in the social sciences and humanities. Experts were involved and risking their ideas and critiques in every panel of the conference, though the discussions also spilled over into conversations in the corridors and in cafes afterwards. And the conference will continue to have an impact on scholarship in Vietnam and the region because the papers were published in a conference volume and some will be rewritten for journals and books in the coming months. The effect of the conference will help make TDTU one of the major centres in Vietnam for discussion of new research in these areas.
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The conference was open-ended and its assessment will continue long afterwards, with consequences that will shape ongoing research. As such, the papers presented are not only about new results, so much about new ways of going about getting those results and discussing those results – fostering a culture of research in the Universities that are open to the experience of social change, the challenges of the times and globally, shifting the locus of advanced research towards the region again, so that perhaps we will begin to arrest the so-called brain-drain where so much budding talent leaves the country for several, sometimes many, years . The conference will be part of a much-needed boost to refresh the social sciences and humanities.
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The key point to make is: that with such a large number of regional delegates – from India, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines – and a significant number of wider international guests – from the USA, Europe and Australia – this conference can be seen as a crucial establishing part of the project of making Vietnam, and TDTU, a key hub in the region for discussions about innovative research in the social sciences and humanities. It is highly appropriate then that this conference was held at TDTU – a young university, able to do things in a creative and exciting new way. We can only hope for more of this.
JH
Roshni Kamalika Giocvanni
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How to guides… Poppy cultivation

This amazing detailed description is from a book I had been battling to get hold of for a year or more – Amer Farooqui’s “Smuggling as Subversion” 1998:

Once the ground was ready, poppy was sown at the rate of 2 to 2. 5 ser of seed per bigha. The seed was sown broadcast. Apart from the several waterings already referred to, much weeding and loosening of soil had to be attended to in the following months. Besides, when the plants were five or six inches above the ground they had to be thinned to distance of three inches.

As much if not more demanding for the peasant was the extraction of opium. Opium is the ‘inspissated juice obtained by scratching the unripe capsules’ of the poppy plant and ‘allowing the milky sap, which exudes therefirom to dry spontaneously’ This job requires considerable expertise. Lack of skill incoUectmg the jiuice (chik) from poppy capsules could ruin the crop. The peasants ofMalwa were reputed to have sufficient expertise in collecting juice from the poppy by the of the 19th century. 

So much so that when it was found in Gujarat that ‘unskilful management’ by novices ‘in extracting the juice from the pods and preparing the opium’ was leading to a considerable Ioss the ‘assistance of a few Experienced Cultivators from Malwa’ was sought.

When the capsules were half ripe between January and early March, they were punctured with a small trident formed in an instrument of three short prongs on blades at a distance of about the fourth of an inch asunder. Using this instrument three vertical incisions would be made upwards in capsules.

Weather conditions prevailing between January and mid March were a critical factor in determining the nature of the harvest . Even minor variations in weather at this stage could tell on the poppy.

For collecting the juice, the practice in Malwa was to divide a field into four parts and take up ripe plants of two portions in a single day. Since the collection of juice had to be preceded by scratching of the unripe capsules the previous evening, on any given day juice would be scraped off plants of the first part (which had been operated on the day before), while towards evening incisions would be made on plants of the second part to permit collection of their juice, the coagulated latex, the next day and so on. The poppy capsule should properly be wounded late in the evening after sunset. It has to be left overnight after scarnfication and its opaque narcotic juice is collected next morning. The poppies could be bled three to four times for collecting their juice, and thus the entire operation had to be repeated as many times‘.

Smuggling – of tea to Scotland?

The Commission of Customs Scotland to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, reporting on the subject of trade with India, in 1812, examined Earl, Osborne and Ferrier (traders) on the question of smuggling ‘tea’. The answer is instructive – smuggling will increase if EIC ships are permitted to trade in Scottish waters. That is, lets be clear, English ships smuggling ‘tea’ to Scotland. Recall that these ships mostly carry other goods than tea, but in smuggling, the trick is not to declare. Records reported elsewhere – I think in Judt, have to check back – indicated some half a million pounds worth or goods a year was ‘pilfered’ from vessels in the Thames at London – that’s half a million of the declared consignments. The need to read between the lines – what does other ‘East India Goods’ really mean, and what does it not mean? The remittances off the books was a healthy trade for, in Feldbaek’s examples, for Danish shipping out of Serampore.

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Opium not as interesting as money for the parliament, even as…

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Reading various Blue Books and the like, parliamentary reports. This one on the East India Company struck me as typical, though the clipped coins distraction is of course curious enough to make the distraction distracting. I recall that Jacques Derrida writes on clipped coins in his essay Given Time, and George Caffentzis has a fascinating book on Locke: Clipped Coins, Abused Words, Civil Government: John Locke’s Philosophy of Money, both of which repay reading in the light of this old evidence from 1832. A certain smuggler-trader called Davidson is giving evidence to the parliamentary committee.

The casual racism, that the committee was more interested in dollars and silver than the opium trade – which as Marx of course recalls, was a vicious and vengeful trade – and as carried on by what is called the Country Ships, or Country Trade, which means those private traders not in the employ of the East IndiaCompany but often doing the work of its servants or agents, its officers, who made their cut on such up-country ventures, from Clive on.

90% of the cargo cotton and opium.

The dollar is clipped

It does not thereby lose in value (since weight in silver still applies)

Holes in the coins – sometimes for stringing, but often they are punched and clipped (the idea is that you clip a bit of each of a dozen coins and melt the bits up into a new coin, or you punch out the middle, as circle or square, and use it as a smaller denomination coin). Eventually this clipping, and punching, practice defeats the denominations, and weight reasserts its interest.

Which all for me is interesting and if you think its ancient stuff, just look in your pocket and see – the British two pound is a punched coin, with gold rim, silver (alloy) middle, the Australian 50 cent piece is clipped on all sides, as is the Brit 20p and the Indian 5 paise, Danish 1, 2 and 5 krone have holes, the Thai Bhat reminiscent of the counter punched ones (and for a time was very useful in cigarette machines in England, a healthy killing made by arriving with pockets full of Bhat when travelling to pommie). Also various denominations of the yen, oh and I see the new British pound is a tribute to the clipped coin too – OK, look again at the pound pictured above, I call it, the contemporary British pound coin is in effect a silent tribute to the age-old bastard opium trade, in the memory of Walter Stevenson Davidson Esquire, giving evidence below:

 

Do you happen to know whether Advantage has been taken of the Removal of that Restriction from the Import of British Manufactures into China from India?

I have heard it stated to be so; I have understood that it has been done profitably.

What particular Species of Manufactures?

I really cannot enumerate them.

They have not been to any great Extent?

No, I think not; principally by the Officers of Ships. I should think not to an Extent sufficient much to attract the Attention of the great Houses in India.

What were the chief Articles consigned to you for Sale in China by your Constituents?

The chief Articles were Cotton and Opium; they formed, I think, upwards of Nine Tenths of my Consignments.

What were your Returns?

Besides the Supercargoes Bills on the Indian Government, when they drew, I remitted very largely in Sycee Silver, the Production of China, in Tutenag, and many other Articles.

Any in Dollars?

Sometimes in Dollars. We were occasionally compelled to remit in Dollars, owing to the Difficulty of smuggling the Sycee Silver; but never resorted to that Mode, I think, when we could obtain the Sycee Silver.

The Dollar in China is very much beaten and broken, is it not?

Constantly cut and clipped in all Directions; it almost ceases to be a Dollar when it has circulated in China; there it is weighed as Silver; all Payments are made by Weight.

Is the Dollar, in consequence of this beating and breaking, diminished in intrinsic Value in China?

The Moment the Dollar is clipped it cannot be said to diminish in Value, because it will be taken afterwards just for its Weight in Silver, although it be punched and clipped through and through.

 

(citation: ‘Affairs of the East India Company: Minutes of evidence, 25 June 1830’, in Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 62, 1830 (London, [n.d.]), pp. 1156-1164. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/lords-jrnl/vol62/pp1156-1164 [accessed 28 March 2018].)

Restored 18th century Danish tavern to be inaugurated today

[JH comment: now if you were plying the illicit opium trade on behalf of dodgy East India Company officials, you’d also need to stop by the Tavern and deal. I guess]

DanishTavernopenFrom; The Milennium Post

by Nandini Guha | 28 Feb 2018 12:20 AM

http://www.millenniumpost.in/kolkata/restored-18th-century-danish-tavern-to-be-inaugurated-today-287209

Kolkata: An 18th Century Danish tavern that was in ruins, has been finally restored into a 120-seater café and lodge overlooking the Ganges at Serampore, by the Ministry of Tourism and the Government of Denmank. The heritage property will be inaugurated on Wednesday by Indranil Sen, the minister of state for Tourism and several ambassadors representing the Nordic countries. The tavern dates back to 1786. Restoration work was taken up by heritage architect Manish Chakraborti and his team in 2015. “A lot of European vessels used to ply on the river during that time. They used to spend a night in transit at the tavern. When we took over restoration though, it was in ruins. The roof had collapsed and there was debris everywhere. Now the old building has been restored to its old classical beauty,” Chakraborti told Millennium Post. The cost of restoration has been borne by the National Museum of Denmark (Rs 3.5 crore) and the state Tourism Department (Rs 1.5 crore). The Tourism Department is presently looking for an operator to run the café and it is expected that it will be fully operational in a month. “The important thing is that the government is investing in a heritage building that has now been converted into a reusable commercial space. As far as the menu is concerned, the operator has to keep in mind that this is Serampore and not Park Street. The pricing could be similar to cafes like Flury’s or Mrs Magpie. And of course, it will be a boost for the state’s tourism prospects,” added Chakraborti. Chakraborti had earlier won a UNESCO award for restoring the 200 year old St Olaf’s Church in Serampore, again an initiative of the Government of Denmark and the West Bengal government.

http://www.millenniumpost.in/kolkata/restored-18th-century-danish-tavern-to-be-inaugurated-today-287209