Zurker the Zucker(berg) punch…

Still a lot to be worked out but OK, why not gamble on FB not even being here in 8 years (as reported in the SMH today) and join this other (maybe nicer) pyramid scheme social networking site. I’m happy enough to say my invite is from Stewart Home – so get in early enough and it might not fall over on you – link page here: http://www.zurker.co.uk/i-226925-yvgyvoykwn


Deluded by the importance of writing, of setting down words in the hope that meaning, for writer and readers, coheres into something more than typing, I am convinced that there is a poetry, and a project, that demands and drives the page. Still. Television and video, internet, file-sharing, social media and meta-tagging all seem to have left the considered sentence behind. Instant messaging seems the antithesis of the timely analysis and prose that changes minds. Yet we do not have to fuck people over to survive, it is possible to change the way we think, there are times when it is necessary to go slowly, carefully and yet still crazily into the unknown. I have no idea if the topics I write on here are of interest. I do know it seems to me imperative we not ignore them. I do not know if I am right or wrong – I offer words experimentally.

current research interests (draft)

Current research interests include: global knowledge production and the history of ideas, archives and collections; architectural style and urbanization; trade routes, ports and the administration of commercial(ized) lives with multiple ‘locations’ (co-constitution and triangulation of sites); history of work and technology, especially with regard to mode of production debates; illicit trade and ‘piracy’ as catalyst for neo-liberal incursion; the politics of prisons and confinement.


Research in six areas is of particular interest at present:


– in terms of globalizing knowledge production, important scientific investigation and ‘collecting expeditions’ as well as key literary studies and publications which can be sourced to Bengal. For example, the first printed edition of the 1001 Nights was at Fort William College on the Hooghly in 1814 (ed: Shaikh Ahmad ibn-Mahmud Shirawani), as well as a second four volume edition (ed: William Macnaughten 1839) used by Burton for his translations (1885-86). In terms of collecting, this too must be sourced from the ‘other’ end than usually acknowledged. What labour and whose labour goes into collections, such as, for example, the Horniman Museum in South London which holds important records and collections of musical instruments related to Chhau dance traditions of Bihar and West Bengal, even as these collections are conspicuously uninterested in practitioners. In CCS Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay is also working on vernacular globalization and colonial era and East India Co. archive records regarding taxation on shipping, boats, on building boats, and port levy’s etc.


– in terms of architecture, the buildings of the East India company have significant resonance with those in other port cities such as Manchester and Melbourne largely by way of shared commercial enterprise in multiple locations. This is a record of connections amongst the global sites of early colonization that can sometimes be seen in buildings still standing (this is easier for later periods of course, compare the neo-Baroque of Calcutta’s Metropolitan Building on Jawaharlal Nehru Rd with Manchester’s ‘India House’, Melbourne’s State Savings Bank of Victoria, and the London War Office Building on Whitehall etc.).


– co-constitution of the Caribbean trade with the East India trade: the global connection reaches back to the earliest days – Job Charnock having ‘rented’, with military support, three villages on the Hooghly from 1690, The British had purchased land in Hooghly with silver gleaned from the sale of slaves in the West Indies (note: Charnok is not the ‘founder’ of Calcutta and the city was not ‘built by the British’ but by local labour. Reference mention of Saptagram in Bipradas Pipilai’s Manasa Mangala 1495).


– the changes in production narrative of the established scholarship might be reworked from the other end. In The Age of Revolution Hobsbawn notes that until the industrial revolution Europe had always imported more from the East than it had sold there (Hobsbawn 1975:34) and Marx notes the ruin of handicraft through the advent of machine production which ‘forcibly converts [the colonies] into fields for the supply of its raw material. In this way East India was compelled to produce cotton, wool, hemp, jute and indigo for Great Britain (Marx 1867/1967:451). The clue here is that these exports, crafts, conversions and re-organizations had to involve workers in situ – the changes were not produced from afar, but rather sourced on site. A history of labour, labour force, forms of work and workplace change, will look quite different if read from the ‘other’ end of colonialism.


– the Opium trade. This is often written up in terms of British gunboat diplomacy, but it is also curious how important the controversy was in Europe, how much of the sensibility of European public life was governed by events abroad. Marx, among many, also mentions the opium trade, recommending the Chinese ‘celestials’ legalize the drug so as to undermine the English traders. The baneful impact of opium is not only felt in China, but in India the trade ‘forces the opium cultivation upon Bengal, to the great damage of the productive resources of that country’ (Marx 1958 New York Tribune).


– colonial incarcerations – the development and adaptation of coercive punishments, legal protocols, discipline and incarceration. From the ‘Black Hole’ to contemporary terror laws’. Given the central role of the city in later political intrigues – Calcutta’s early ‘bad reputation’ is undeserved and should be countered. Thus if the Black Hole story must be told, it can be in a critical version: Marx calls the incident a ‘sham scandal’ (Marx 1947:81). In an extensive collection of notes made on Indian history, Marx comments that on the evening of June 21, 1756, after the Governor of Calcutta had ignored the order of Subadar Suraj-ud-duala to ‘raze all British fortifications’ in the city:

“Suraj came down on Calcutta in force … fort stormed, garrison taken prisoners, Suraj gave orders that all the captives should be kept in safety till the morning; but the 146 men (accidentally, it seems) were crushed into a room 20 feet square and with but one small window; next morning (as Holwell himself tells the story), only 23 were still alive; they were allowed to sail down the Hooghly. It was ‘the Black Hole of Calcutta’, over which the English hypocrites have been making so much sham scandal to this day. Suraj-ud-duala returned to Murshidabad; Bengal now completely and effectually cleared of the English intruders” (Marx 1947:81 my italics).


Marx also reports on the subsequent retaliation against and defeat of Suraj-ud-duala by Lord Clive (‘that Great Robber’ as he calls him elsewhere Marx 1853/1978:86), and Clive’s 1774 suicide after his ‘cruel persecution’ by the directors of the East India Company (Marx 1947:88). There seem to be very good reasons to conclude that the black hole incident is counterfeit. The single report from a ‘survivor’ some months after Clive’s savage response to Suraj-ud-duala’s occupation of Calcutta – the famous/notorious Battle of Plassey – reads very much like a justification forged to deflect criticisms of brutality on the part of the British forces.

Statistical measures in anticipation of the next issue of The Paper

The following are the top 20 searched for items that led people to my blog this year. There I am between possums and metropolis, or maybe more revealingly, between American Psycho and vampires. I see this as a kind of I ching-like divination of a significance I as yet do not grasp.

Search Views
bees 3,744
laika 2,500
burt lancaster 2,221
possums 2,116
hutnyk 2,107
metropolis 2,041
deborah kerr 1,664
trinketization 1,168
vera lynn 861
american psycho 833
john hutnyk 750
vampire 642
risk game map 530
tube zoo 461
risk game 353
cityscape 325
kufiya 270
imogen bunting 240
bees pictures 214
some like it hot 179
shut down london 172

CCS @ Clandestino Festival 9

Wanted: funding to document the Institute that does not exist/has already existed for almost ten years – Clandestino (notes for a funding proposal):

–       the research output is the Clandestino Institute itself, an ‘underground’ University of Sonic and Border Arts, a University that has no permanent presence, but can be understood in terms of documentation of experience as intangible heritage and intergenerational learning. A prospectus and associated materials.

–       Archiving of the ephemeral – undertaking documentation and study of a cross-border sound event – the Clandestino Festival in Gothenburg – means exploring new ways to present its ethos etc., The festival itself is the output, but a variety of means to document and preserve the overall experience, as intangible heritage, will be collected.

–       Sonic Heritage, in the context of preservation studies, what is Sonic Heritage and can Border Arts (as we explored in London, Berlin and Copenhagen – so for that matter not just sonic borders but also work that crosses borders in terms of audio-visual materials and performances) be considered as part of any Heritage programme (what special problems do we have when heritage is not part of a national project). This ‘output’ will be a position paper and archive defending this position, without positing or archiving – continually transformed and under erasure – a vanishing present. A virtual and verifiable sonic – cross border – performative and theatre ‘programme and policy’ document.

These are just notes for the Border, to cross the border, cross with borders, bored, boring, drilling, digging.

That is to say, looking forward to June 2011 Clandestino. Ideas welcome. (mark early June in your diary, head to Gothenburg. Summer, very long days, and, erm, hope for no rain this time please).

pap (D&G papparazzi)

bearsI was complaining to one of our brilliant students the other day that there was, at Goldsmiths, something of a viral effect of reading Deleuze and Guattari for the first time and deploying their work uncritically. Against the charge that I was dismissing them, I too quickly said ‘I am actually a fan of D&G, early D&G, but no fan of those who use them willy-nilly for pap‘ and did not explain what pap I meant. So, I have been suitably called to account and now provide some explication of pap. Fun it is too.

Pap is a kind of ooze made from crushed fruit or something.

It gets better when you turn to the books – Here are some dictionary definitions of pap:

1. Soft or semiliquid food, as for infants.
2. Material lacking real value or substance: TV shows that offer nothing but pap.
3. Slang Money and favors obtained as political patronage: “self-seeking politicians primarily interested in patronage, privilege, and pap” Fiorello H. La Guardia.
1. a soft food for babies or invalids
2. worthless or oversimplified entertainment or information
3. S African maize porridge [Latin pappare to eat]
Pap rendered as ‘favours for money’ (the false coin of Governmentality) is particularly good, and topical. As is porridge (which is what the British MPs who rort the system ought to get). But at risk of making this whole post an example of pap, here is the clincher – the final one:
Noun 1. pap – worthless or oversimplified ideas

drivel, garbage – a worthless message
2. pap – a diet that does not require chewing; advised for those with intestinal disorders

diet – a prescribed selection of foods
Pablum – a soft form of cereal for infants
3. pap – the small projection of a mammary gland

reproductive organ, sex organ – any organ involved in sexual reproduction
mammary gland, mamma – milk-secreting organ of female mammals