Pirate Reboot – Occupy Madagascar

Graeber, David. 2023. Pirate Enlightenment, Or the real Libertalia. London: Allen Lane.

In this entertaining book, the world of early eighteenth century Madagascar piracy, and the women they liaised with, turns out to have been the font of “a great historical achievement” in that “public assemblies”, with “a decentralized and participatory system of self-governance” (91), were brought into the pirate settlements and the subsequent Betsimisaraka “confederation”. This utopian scenario involves a fabled egalitarian, talkative (endless meetings – “The Great Kabary” 104), enlightened society beyond the reach of the Royal Navy and the East India Company – a “confederation” (87), that others call a kingdom, or, as Graeber calls it at one point, “nation” (100). This is where, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, as many as a thousand pirates settled, intermarrying with sexually “adventurous” local women keen on trade (52), holding shared views of “hostility to the slave trade” (96) and with aspirations for sending their offspring for education in England (98), and much else besides.

This is a rattling good yarn, hedged often enough with noting that the sources are thin, that the main text, A General History of the Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson – we are told three times – may or may not have been written by Daniel Defoe (xxiv, 12, 23) and in many ways is “intentionally provocative” (88). Graeber’s text is provocative, that is, and the provocations are many: that the relationships, and indeed the lives pirates were able to live on the islands, were effectively managed by local women, and with the arrival of the pirates, these women had been “liberated from earlier sexual restrictions” (54) – they were largely “sequestered” by Muslim or Jewish immigrants (52). As well, the salons in which such ideas were discussed in Europe were run by women we have also now forgotten (xii, 148, perhaps the books on Lady Blessington that clutter some shelves might counteract this). Provocations are to be welcomed of course – though how welcome the pirates were in Madagascar, at one point facing an uprising which saw most murdered in 1697, is not clear. There might be other reasons to wonder at the motivations.

Madagascar is massively interesting though, and there is much in this book on magic charms, myth, even some psychoanalysis, so it is a rewarding read. Yet, as Graeber mentions Defoe, as noted, several times, it’s a bit of a worry that he ignores the part of Robinson Crusoe that takes place on Madagascar – a rape and a massacre by Crusoe’s crewmates (see a forthcoming article in the Journal of Postcolonial Writing). Graeber stresses the ways the import of pirate democracy was brought into the settlements (this story is fodder for TV series like Black Sails, Crossbones, unmentioned here), and on this, his ethnographic work of some decades past, and wide reading of relevant texts, is harnessed to offer a great speculative discussion that must complicate any simplistic idea of piratical politics. Unfortunately, much of the existing scholarship on the history of Madagascar seems to suffer – we are told – from the dreaded “strain” of Marxist analysis (the “high water mark” 88) and an obsession with elites and the encroachment of the “system of trade” (88). These are problems that “corresponded to a period when Madagascar, like so many postcolonial societies, was itself experimenting with state socialism” (88). While it is hard to credit that only the work that departs from this focus is “superb” (88-89) it is nevertheless a very good point to stress that “political elite … primarily in the business of accumulating wealth and power” do tend to erase variety with the “intellectual currents” of “popular movements”. That however was the point of the initial critique of postcoloniality, used by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1993), for example, to refer to refer to the betrayal of the anti-colonial struggles by new elites claiming the mantle of decolonization in a “hoax” that reintroduced neo-colonial ways. Alas, this use of the term postcoloniality has also been erased by those who take it as a temporal historical noun rather than presenting a diagnosis of disappointment in what might have been.

Which is generally how this book ends up – a sense of disappointment that doubles as an imaginative rewriting of the script for a reboot of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, now set in the Indian Ocean, with Occupy Wall Street stylings. Indeed, although this is provocation, the echoes of Occupy explicitly ring the closing bell of the book, as we discover “99 percent of all this has been lost to us” (141). Graeber means the conversations of the general assemblies of the Madagascar revolution “have, of course, been entirely lost to us” (146), but an imaginative ethnographic reconstruction of “pirate utopias discussed in the salons of Paris under Louis XV” (149) should be a welcome idea – indeed, “its hard to imagine they weren’t [discussed], since at that time, they were being discussed virtually every-place else” (149).

Pirate-affiliated “Besimisarka women dominating markets, and forming commercial alliances with wealthy men to act as their commercial agents” so that these men – pirates remember, unsavoury scurvy lot – with “substantial amounts of tradable commodities” (68) could unload their plunder, should indeed provoke us to think of the origins of the global trade system. It might be worth sampling some more of the “scholarship” on Defoe/Johnson. Graeber ignores any engagement with this, but Defoe had at one point endorsed the idea that England should trade directly with the pirates and that the notorious Captain Avery should be offered a deal. Was Defoe involved in conversations ahead of his times or not? – he had apparently “suggested the possibility of offering” Avery “a pardon in exchange for a portion of his wealth in the Review of 18 October 1707” (Novak 2003: 581). Novak also notes that in a South Sea Company pamphlet (before it spectacularly failed in 1722), Defoe had written in favour of trade with the pirates settled in Madagascar (2003, 569). This should not surprise us at all, Defoe was an advocate, as Alan Downie notes, of colonial expansion “through trade, not through force of arms” (Downie 1983, 74). Yet he disapproves of pirates and illicit trade too (Downie 1983, 82n). He “is not the prophet of progress he is so often painted” and was “primarily concerned with the preservation of England’s present advantages” (Downie 1983, 78). Downie warns against distorting Defoe’s message (Downie 1983, 83). Underneath the piratical posturing in Johnson/Defoe, there is ultimately a commitment to business-as-usual that we might today register as neo-colonial today – we should ask about how anyone gets involved in this – women, pirates, their children, the intellectuals in the salons…

Defoe is against war and for trade. A trade underpinned by violence that wins for England 300 years of EIC and imperial dominance starting, more or less, with Drake and Raleigh writing their accounts as benign memoirs (Hakluyt [1589] 1962). Siraj Ahmed makes the case in his book The Stillbirth of Capital, that “commerce between English pirates and the East India Company […] occurred at the very origins of the British Empire” and via a deft allusion, finds that “Defoe had a much more critical understanding of ‘capitalism’ than we have attributed to him” (Ahmed 2012, 56).

It may be a “strain”, but the erasure of the antecedents of capitalism are found lying at the heart of capital to this day, as set out already by Marx as “the old dodge of every conqueror who buys commodities from the conquered with the money he has robbed them of” ([1867] 1990, 507). Plunder laundered through trade domesticates theft, making it difficult to conceive of the lost conversation here as being more than capital’s delusion about the propriety of its actions. Th pirates were not wrong to resist the British Navy, the opportunism of trade as a way out of a tight spot makes sense, the context is complicated, magic plays its part – yet, what it leaves us with today is continued duplicity and double-dealing. Seems to me that the “confederation” is alive and well, and we do well to be provoked to rethink who was involved.

John Hutnyk Feb 2023

Ahmed, Siraj. 2012. The Stillbirth of Capital: Enlightenment Writing and Colonial India. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Downie, J. Alan. 1983. “Defoe, Imperialism, and the Travel Books Reconsidered.” The Yearbook of English Studies, Colonial and Imperial Themes 13:66-83.

Fanon, Frantz. (1961) 2004. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press

Hakluyt, Richard. (1589)1962. Voyages (8 Volumes) Edited by John Masefield. London: Dent.

Marx, Karl. (1867) 1990. Capital: Critique of Political Economy. MEGA II(9). Hamburg: Dietz.

Novak, Maximillian E. 2003. Daniel Defoe: Master of Fictions: His Life and Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1993. “Situations of Value (Interview with Pheng Cheah).” Australian Feminist Studies, 17:141-162.

Post- Eiffel??

A comment in David Biggs’s, generally very engaging, 2010 book Quagmire. One part early on seemed to clang like a cheap scooter hitting the railings of an old iron bridge… Biggs writes:

“Before Eiffel made millions of francs operating the Eiffel Tower, he had already made a fortune exporting hundreds of ironwork segments for colonial bridges and public buildings, including Sài Gòn’s General Post Office and market halls still standing today. The estimated cost for his spans in 1881 was eight million francs, approximately eight times the cost of building the Eiffel Tower in 1887”

and in a footnote immediately following Biggs refers us to a text called Les Travaux publics et les voices de communication en Cochinchine, by Cochinchine francaise (Saigon: Imprimerie nationale, 1880), p143.

So, I was thinking that does not sound quite clear, and had enjoyed the extensive background by Tim Doling debunking Eiffel’s involvement, at least as architect of the Post Office, and his documentation about two more likely candidates, Vildieu and Foulhoux. Nevertheless, Effel’s Cochinchina company did build some things, as Tim explains, there were:

“numerous structures in Cochinchina between 1872 and 1889. These included, amongst others, railway bridges (Bình Điền, Tân An and Bến Lức viaducts on the Saigon-Mỹ Tho railway line), road bridges (Pont des Messageries maritimes, Pont de Cholon/Pont des Malabars, Pont de Ông Núi, Pont de Rạch Lăng, Pont de Bình Tây, Pont de Rạch Gia, Pont de Long Xuyên), markets (Long Châu, Cao Lãnh, Ô Môn, Tân Quy Đông and Tân An), filter wells and canal/creek towpaths, as well as the imposing headquarters of the Halles des Messageries fluviales on the Saïgon riverfront – see https://gustaveeiffel.com/ses-oeuvres/asie/”


Yet, of course even if Eiffel was not the architect, I wondered just what Biggs’s 1880 reference that supported his statement might say. Could it show Eiffel supplied some bits for the post office? I suspect that would mean some spans were shipped by Eiffel years earlier as the PO was built in 1887 I think – so Biggs’ source cannot really support that part unless the spans were just lying about for 7 years! What was the pre-order time for huge chunks of metal to be sent from France…? Is this of any interest, or is Biggs using his hat for a megaphone here?

And where are the market halls? I have now tracked down this 1880 text and am crawling through its arcane phrasings and the documented expenditure on various items such as Police stations, gendarmerie Soc Trang, Prison Central (the notorious one in Saigon presumably), and much more… One Eiffel item does seem to be mentioned as the record list includes 4k (I assumed piastres, but it seems to be francs) in 1871 for pont sur l’arroyo chinoise a Cholon. p55, but this would have to be planning as the bridge did not open for ten more years. Yet more promising is that in 1877 some 14k fr were allocated for the Hotel des postes and the comments column mentions Foulhoux as architecte, chef de la section des bâtiments civil. No other references to the post office that I can see. I reckon Eiffel, on balance, was looking elsewhere. Nice bridge though, this by Eiffel.

Maison Centrale de Saigon // General Sciences Library

Trying to read in the library but looking out the window at the reminder that this is no ordinary library experience.

A few parts from a recent text: Sophie Fuggle & John Hutnyk (2022) “Saigon’s penalscape: interpreting colonial prisons.” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 23:3, 443-458, DOI: 10.1080/14649373.2022.2108208

At the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, there is a photo of the old French colonial prison, the Maison Centrale de Saigon, once located on the street known as Rue La Grandière, now Lý Tự Trọng. This prison was notorious for its brutal treatment of those who resisted the colonial occupation, with several early communists executed in its courtyard, among whom one is now honoured with a commemorative statue, standing defiantly in that same courtyard. The former prison site today houses the General Sciences Library, a building in a 1970s style that is quaintly and quietly modernist, yet still imposingly functional, as a library should be. Having Lý’s statue stand in front of the library acknowledges the French colonial past of Ho Chi Minh City even as its architectural heritage and urban infrastructure is renovated, replaced, or rebuilt (Kim 2015; Harms 2011, 2016; Doling 2019) This is part of the story of the infamous extensive prison system that operated as part of France’s hundred-year occupation that, across the city, is told in complex and variegated ways via purpose-built memorial museums.


Maison Centrale was the departure point for many of those exiled to Côn Đảo. The journalist Jean-Claude Demariaux writing for La Dépêche d’Indochine in 1939,10 describes how he arranged to visit a prison guard for an “aperitif” in order to ensure a decent view of the prison courtyard on the morning of a transfer to the islands. Memoirs such as that of Bảo Lương (real name: Nguyễn Trung Nguyệt), related by marriage to Tôn Đức Thắng, tell of waiting to see what their fate would be, securing cigarette butts from the French prisoners held far more comfortably upstairs (Tai 2010, 150) and otherwise enduring torture and unsanitary conditions. The French admitted overcrowding in the prison as early as 1905 (Doling 2015b), though it was still in operation during WWII and not demolished until 1968.


While the War Remnants Museum and Museum of Southern Vietnamese Women both lay emphasis on the extensive network of colonial prisons, the few sites that remain within the city are largely unknown and unexplored by international tourists and domestic visitors alike. The former French Police Station on Rue Catinat, renamed Đồng Khởi, now houses the offices of the Department of Culture, Information, Sport and Tourism. Formerly this building was the sinister Police headquarters in which Vietnamese revolutionaries were subject to interrogation and torture. It was used in the same way by the Japanese during WWII and then again by the French on their inglorious return and the RVN Government, as Interior Ministry, until 1975. The French called the headquarters their Direction de la Police et de la Sûreté and it was known in Vietnamese as the Bót Catinat (Doling 2014b).


Across from the “hideous pink cathedral” of Notre Dame, as mentioned in Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American, it is where Inspector Vigot had his office and past which the narrator takes daily walks, heading “back by the dreary wall of the Vietnamese Sûreté that seemed to smell of urine and injustice” (Greene 2002 [1955], 42). Apparently, the dungeons have been flooded, but they were significant enough to warrant a commemorative plaque and feature in the memoir of Nguyễn Thị Bình, known as Madame Binh, the National Liberation Front delegate to Paris and head of the Provisional Revolutionary Government. Madame Binh tells of being beaten and interrogated within the headquarters. Followed by several years in Chí Hòa, she was released only after the defeat of the French at Điện Biên Phủ (Nguyen 2015, 100–104). Her younger brother Nguyễn Đông Hà survived seven years in Côn Đảo’s tiger cages.


[B]uilt in 1968, opened 1971 and only after 1975 inherited and maintained by the unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Doling 2015b). Nevertheless, the library does become a part of the story of resistance that shapes the penalscape in Ho Chi Minh City. A small plaque acknowledges the site of the former Maison Centrale de Saigon, pointing to the guillotine and brutal French colonial rule since its inauguration in 1865-66, and the long history of resistance within the prison, exemplified by young fighters and tragic martyrdom. We started this paper at Lý Tự Trọng Street renamed to remember the Vietnamese revolutionary who was held in the prison before being executed by the French at the age of 17. The prison was demolished in 1968 but had been slated for closure since the opening of Chí Hòa in 1953.

More here: Sophie Fuggle & John Hutnyk (2022) “Saigon’s penalscape: interpreting colonial prisons.” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 23:3, 443-458, DOI: 10.1080/14649373.2022.2108208


Defoe is as good at mocking Robinson as anyone, despite swallowing a thesaurus. In volume three: ”poor, wild, wicked Robinson” (316) “a churl, a morose, sour disposition, a covetous, avaricious, selfish principled man” (314). We should appreciate good examples of 18th Century invective.

But damn, turns out these Shipwreck cruises are shipwrecked too, closed down. Others take its place. Ode to a hammock.

Robinson at least had leisure in which to repent his earlier folly, while also condemning reproach and slander ‘as a kind of murder that may be committed by the tongue’ (317). Later, under a new heading, bawdy talk becomes a ‘sodomy of the Tongue’ (345).

On taking a survey.

My favourite Warramiri (?) story from Arnhem Land is of a maths teacher out on a river one time teaching kids to measure distances – how far to from the canoe to the river edge, how far to that mountain etc. It was hot, he asked them if they like swimming and were there any crocodiles in the river (this was long before Paul Hogan etc). They said “yes, this big” and gestured with their hands about a foot apart. “Oh, they are babies, we’ll be alright” said the teacher, and started to strip off his shirt. The kids freaked out insisting that the crocs were “this big” – two hands emphatically a foot or more apart. They were measuring the relevant size – the width of the croc’s mouth, not its length. Ha!. Habermas’s “Knowledge and Human Interests” had nothing on these kids. The maths teacher has retold this ‘lesson’ many times in the decades since.

Rosa on opium

Rosa Luxemburg The Accumulation of Capital, ch 18

“Consequently, a stricter law was passed [by the Chinese] in 1833 which made every opium smoker liable to a hundred strokes and two months in the stocks, and provincial [Chinese] governors were ordered to report annually on their progress in the battle against opium. But there were two sequels to this campaign: on the one hand large-scale poppy plantations sprang up in the interior, particularly in the Honan, Setchuan, and Kueitchan provinces, and on the other, England declared war on China to get her to lift the embargo. These were the splendid beginnings of opening China to European civilisation – by the opium pipe.”

Antique prints Dampier at Côn Đảo, reported sketch 1698

“Page no.297: ‘Een Jonk van Palimban.’ (Junk from Palimban on present day Sumatra, Indonesia). A scene that took place near Pulo Condore / Con Son Island an Island off the South Vietnam coast. Men with swords on the junk loaded with spices chase others off the boat, into the sea or the small sloop moored beside it. A larger sailing vessel in the background, anchored just off a coastline. Etching on a verge type handlaid paper. Description: This print originates from the 1698 Dutch edition of William Sewel’s translation of William Dampier’s travelogue: ‘Nieuwe Reystogt rondom de Werreld’ (A New Voyage Round the World), published in the Hague by Abraham de Hondt. Artists and Engravers: Engraver Caspar Luyken (based on monogram C.L. in some of the plates in the originating work).”

Oct 22 1965 Sydney arrests

The report on this 1965 anti-war protest is marginally better than most current press release churnalism, of course it favours the Police and the future PM McMahon (who eventually presides over troop withdrawal), but its easy enough to read between the lines and see this was the start. So, a welcome find. At this time a Gallop Survey showed more than 50% of Australians supported the Menzies Govt’s decision to send troops to Vietnam (in April 1965 – before that only military advisors [and probably special ops had been there – see ‘The Sullivans’]). The first anti-War teach-ins were held in July that year.

“60 arrested in Vietnam war protest (Canberra Times, 22 October 1965)
SYDNEY, Friday. — About 60 people were arrested tonight during a demonstration against the Vietnam war in which more than 400 people threw Sydney’s peak hour traffic into chaos with a sit-down across Pitt and King Streets.
At one stage, some people feared that the demonstration would develop into a riot. Scores of uniformed and special police were rushed to the area at the height of the demonstration. Police cordoned off one-way streets as 15 radio cars and five police vans surrounded the demonstrators. Earlier, police and demonstrators ex-changed blows in the streets while others were dragged to police vehicles. Some people, caught in the melee, rushed at demonstrators and wrenched their banners from them, tearing them to shreds. The New South Wales Police Commissioner, Mr Allan, called for an immediate report on the incident. It probably will be ready for him late tomorrow. Police said late tonight that most of those arrested had been released on bail. They would appear in Central Court on Monday.
Peak hour traffic. The few who had not been bailed out would spend the night in police cells at Central, Darlinghurst and Regent Street police stations and would appear in court tomorrow. The demonstration began about 5pm as hundreds of workers left their offices. Many had trouble getting through the placard-waving, chanting crowd, and some were still caught there as police reinforcements arrived. The Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr McMahon, was leaving the Commonwealth Bank Building on Martin Place, where parliamentary offices are located, as the demonstration began. The demonstration began peacefully, but soon home-going city traffic was banked up to Circular Quay in the north and the Central Railway Station in the southern end of the main city area. Demonstrators paraded along the footpaths. They carried posters, on which were written anti-American slogans, and photographs of Vietnamese civilian casualties. They marched into Pitt Street during the peak hour and were blocked by police. … Some demonstrators sat and lay across the roadways. They still held aloft their banners, and chanted slogans protesting the Vietnam war. Fights broke out, and extra police moved in. Many people were arrested by police and loaded into vans. They were taken to Central, Darlinghurst and Regent Street stations. Mr McMahon was reported to have spoken to a demonstrator who carried a banner which read: “How can the Vietnamese be aggressive in their own country?” There was a brief exchange and Mr McMahon appeared to offer to shake hands. The demonstrator walked away. Scores of leaflets were handed out by those taking part in the protest, but most were thrown away. After the area had been cleared the leaflets littered the ground. Demonstrators included members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the Communist Party, the ALP youth body, women’s organisations including the “Save Our Sons” Movement and university students. Militant members of trade unions, including some officials, were reported to be among those who chanted, “One, two, three, four, We don’t want war . . . Five, six, seven, eight, End the war, negotiate.” Some chanted, “American casualties, one in 20, Australian casualties, one in 10.”
Militant action. Most placards were directed against American policy in Vietnam, although some attacked the Australian Government’s policy on conscription. A spokesman for the demonstrators said tonight that the demonstration was the forerunner of more militant action by the group. Until now they had been prepared to hold peaceful demonstrations in the Sydney Domain and other areas, but in future similar demonstrations were likely, he said. While demonstrators paraded, about a dozen sup- porters of the Australian- Vietnamese policy waved American and Australian flags as a counter protest.”

Tim Page

Fighting the lurgie seemed the right time to read Tim Page’s book on train trips in Vietnam 20 years after his war photo stint – the Dennis Hopper character in the Coppola film “Apocalypse Now” was based on him – at the Directors Cut Premier I had a freebie ticket* and sat with Tim and his assistant, who woke him up for ‘his’ scenes.  Page died in August this year. The book is a travelogue by someone who knew their way around and/or was really just out and about to have a look for himself. There’s a link to a Tiếng Việt article here and one to an article by Sarah McLean who, until it closed approx 2010, ran the Indochina memorial media foundation Page helped set up here.

* I’d got in late I think as a wait list ‘return’ ticket, which I now imagine might have been his ‘plus one’ that he was not bothered to fill as its, frankly, a shoddy film whose only redeeming feature is that it exposes the insanity of US revisionist film history, and he’d have known that before I had.

Study Study Study – then read like Bhagat Singh

Most interesting post of the day, and by far, has been this attached article on Bhagat Singh and anarchism, shifting to socialism. A few points fist though. I find this the most urgent imperative support for the importance of using a good library. This can never be overstated. Get into the stacks, and learn learn learn (as Godard says Lenin said, though this popular Russian slogan appears as study study study*)

[*”By any means we have to set ourselves a task to refresh our government staff: first, to study, second, to study, and third, to study, — and then check it so that our science would not remain a dead character or a fashionable phrase (which, truth be told, happens often with us), so that the science really would penetrate flesh and bone, become a part of everyday life at the fullest and for real”.

Better Less, but Better; Pravda, №49 March 4, 1923; also: Compendium of Works (in Russian), vol. 45, page 391.

«Нам надо во что бы то ни стало поставить себе задачей для обновления нашего госаппарата: во-первых — учиться, во-вторых — учиться и в-третьих — учиться и затем проверять то, чтобы наука у нас не оставалась мертвой буквой или модной фразой (а это, нечего греха таить, у нас особенно часто бывает), чтобы наука действительно входила в плоть и кровь, превращалась в составной элемент быта вполне и настоящим образом».

Лучше меньше, да лучше, газета «Правда, №49, 4 марта 1923 года. Также: ПСС, т. 45, стр. 391]


Follow the link to read or listen to this piece from the wire.


Robinson Crusoe – 1902

This version of Robinson Crusoe, by the immortal Georges Méliès, was made 1902. This 12 and a half minute hand-coloured nitrate print was rediscovered and restored in 2011. The original film was 15 mins, previously only a short clip had survived. This is gold. It smashes the Pierce Brosnan/Tom Hanks versions, and all episodes of Survivor and the lamentable m-o-r of Desert Island Disks, redeeming Robinson (the colonial adventurer) for the ages, clearly it was always meant as satire (alas, Friday is still played for cheap racist laughs though).

“Saigon’s Penalscape: Interpreting Colonial Prisons in Vietnam” – first 50 Pdfs free

Your article, Saigon’s penalscape: interpreting colonial prisons in Vietnam, with Sophie Fuggle, is now published in Inter-Asia Cultural StudiesVolume 23 Issue 3

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Note to a friend (also to me as placemarker):

The Manifesto ​translation we have now ​seems​ pretty good, though I like the very first one in English​ in 1850​, I am sure you can guess, because the first sentence, ​”​ein gespenst geht um in Europ​a“​, which we have now as ​”​a spectre is haunting Europe​”​ was first translated, and published by the​ chartist and slavery abolitionist​,​​ Helen M​a​cFarlane​. Her rendering of that first line has it​​ ​as the immortal, ​and ​child terrifying: ​”​A frightful hobgoblin stalks throughout Europe​”​! Gotta love it. 

Macfarlane though married a vicar and died young​.

but it is probably well worth exploring her life and writing​

​This reminds me to read more about here – there is a biography​:


Darwin’s Political Wackiness

In the updated 1844 edition of the Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin offers his view on political systems (as indeed many do about the acephalous societies of South America – Clastres, even Lévi-Strauss) but here, well, not even ‘of its time’ is an excuse for this foolery – cheap shots at indigenous Australians and Maori notwithstanding, the structured racist-species-ism is built in:

‘The perfect equality among the individuals composing the Fuegian tribes, must for a long time retard their civilization. As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so is with the races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, the more civilized always have the most artificial governments. For instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when first discovered, were governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at afar higher grade than another branch of the same people, the New Zealanders, – who, although benefited by being compelled to turn their attention to agriculture, were republicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any acquired advantage, such as the domesticated animals, it seems scarcely possible that the political state of the country can be improved. At present, even a piece of cloth given to one is torn into shreds and distributed; and no one individual becomes richer than another. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how a chief can arise dU there is property of some sort by which he might manifest his superiority and increase his power. I believe, in this extreme part of South America, man exists in a lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world. … The Australian, in the simplicity of the arts of life, comes nearest the Fuegian: he can,  however, boast of his boomerang, his spear and throwing-stick, his method of climbing trees, of tracking animals, and of hunting’ (Darwin 1844: 241)

Voyage of the Beagle

Subhas gutted in HCMC (fire at 76 Hai Ba Trung, 1.7.2022)

July 1st, Ho Chi Minh City – 76 Hai Ba Trung – After a fire that started in an picture framing shop*, a large part of the house of where former Indian National Congress leader and then Second Imperialist World War (WW2) Indian National Army leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose last stayed in Saigon was severely damaged. (There’s Vietnam.net news footage below, after my photos). All of the roof seems charred and some metal structural supports are in place and most of the right side part of the building – largely separate – is gutted. The left side of the building seems to have intact rooms, though the roof is clearly all fire affected. I don’t want to pry, but its possible to see from the street, despite a flimsy wire barrier, some important family materials were lost – you can see the charred remains of a framed picture of a deity among that wreckage.

There had been in the past calls for the Indian Government to do smething to preserve this important site of heritage significance, though no doubt controversial for some.

* no coincidence at all that my first trade was as a picture framer

Here you can see that the roof burned, but a lot of the right side of the building itself was saved by the prompt arrival of fire brigade crews (see the news video at the end, the brigade were there within minutes).

Admittedly, my camera skills failed here today, as it was peak hour traffic on a busy road, so I did not have time to check or to climb over the barrier to get a better shot. Not even sure I should – there are personal effects here perhaps. Still, not identifiable at least in my dodgy images (Huawei, no filter)

The right side of the building is pretty much wrecked as we see here. The roof of the main part of the hours seems saveable, or at least a new metal support exo-skeleton has been fitted. No doubt many original fittings and fixtures have been tragically damaged beyond repair.

Happily the back of the building seems to have largely been spared, and today – 6 weeks after the fire, the driveway is still a thriving street food spot, with at least 6 different vendors and a dozen or so 4 seater tables providing alfresco, smokey aroma, dining.

The news report does not mention that this was the house where Netaji stayed. It does say the fire started from an infrared malfunction, that the fire threatened a nearby hostel, and that personal effects were damaged – and that it started in the art shop. Of course I am curious – this is a set back for any restoration, and so much of the old heritage buildings of HCMC are lost – though just down the street a little is the old opium factory that’s been retained and converted to upscale restaurants, in a twisted heritage gambit too – even the sign that indicated it was an opium factory is gone now though, even if the iconography on the gate remains obviously poppy (see Tim Doling’s posts on this at http://www.historicvietnam.com/wang-tai/).

For Subhas though, it is a major setback as he was promising to return to live here soon, or so ‘they’ say.

75 years of Indian independence suggests it is time for the India Govt to step in and fund a restoration.

See here for earlier Subhas in HCMC posts:

Netaji aggregator post

I do not want to attract new madness, the old madness does well enough. Here, a summary of various items of fun fact* where *I use the term in the sense of fake news facts*:

Much respect to Netaji, I do of course wish (any of) this was true.

However, some years ago, on the trail of Subhas’s house here in HCMC, which we found, which still exists, though in a dilapidated state, someone was in touch and linked to a number of photographs of an Indian looking gentleman who is pictured at a Chinese pro Vietnam ceremony (can be discounted, read the ‘mobile phone photo story abdout ‘Evidence shows’ – link below) and a picture of the delegation to Paris a few years later allegedly as a member of the talks, with *confirmation* by the famous Madame Binh – head negotiator. Well, most likely not, even if the person does seem to have the correct features, but all other accounts suggest a plane crash. Though Taiwan airport logs no such crash – during a war, go figure – thus pouring aviation fuel on the rumour mill.

Me, personally, I am sure Subhas will return in the next few weeks and reveal that it is true he has been trading Cocaine in Vietnam, then living in China before walking across Tibet with Vikram Seth. Since then he has been living all this time as a sadhu in Varanasi and other parts of U.P., perhaps. Ha!

More likely is the French story that he died in Prison – the notorious Police Bot Catinat (lock up mentioned in Grahame Green’s Quiet American book) is not far from his house, and its the more likely tale really.

Here are the links:

Then, here are a few of the even more fun factoidifications of the endless rabbit hole that is Netaji studies:

Alive in Vietnam:


Dead in Vietnam:


Netaji in China


The Taiwan aircrash never happened:


and perhaps the best yet, also well documented : https://thewire.in/history/netaji-subhas-chandra-bose-gumnami-baba

Indeed, probably worth citing the entire post as, well, surely we can only wish this were all true, what a hero (somewhat unfortunately its only in The Wire, ah well):

“He lived incognito to perform some covert activities in Asian countries. He led an Asian Liberation Army which fought in the Korean War of 1952. The Chinese army that attacked India in 1962 was led by him. He wanted to emancipate India from the western influence but Indians could not recognise him, so he ordered the army to retreat. In Vietnam, he was guiding Ho-Chi-Minh in his fight against US imperialism. He went to Paris in 1969 to mediate for the Vietnamese in the ‘Paris Peace Talks’. Before that, he visited Tashkent to help draw up the Tashkent Pact between India and Pakistan on January 10, 1966. Lastly, he turned his attention to his native state and was in north Bengal in 1970-71 guiding the ‘Mukti-joddhas’ in their liberation war for Bangladesh.



Finally – never finally of course – the tributes continue in an effort to actually recognise the achievements of the man.


Me, I most like the story of him beating the black hole monument plaque with his slipper, as mentioned in my article https://www.academia.edu/17780537/THE_BLACK_HOLE in *Strangely Beloved* by the wonderful Nilanjana Gupta.

Thanks to Sarunas for the latest diversion into this quick sand trinketry.

Captain Cook chased a chook…

… all around Australia, he lost his pants in the middle of France and found them in Tasmania.


Captain Cook rode a chook down the Murray River. Hit a rock, split his cock and left his balls to shiver.

Other variants…?

All provoked today by my son’s interest in rude rhymes (not about colonial plunder) and seeing this bottle on display at Lidl.

Dark days are these. Most peculiar honey…

Du Bois on Communism

I typed this out a week ago on Facebook and it was shared nearly 200 times on the first day. This, I think, indicates that the time is very much ripe…


“I have studied socialism and communism long and carefully in lands where they are practiced and in conversation with their adherents, and with wide reading. I now state my conclusion frankly and clearly: I believe in communism. I mean by communism, a planned way of life in the production of wealth and work designed for building a state whose object is the highest welfare of its people and not merely the profit of a part. I believe that all men should be employed according to their ability and that wealth and services should be distributed according to need. Once I thought that these ends could be attained under capitalism, means of production privately owned, and used in accord with free individual initiative. After earnest observation I now believe that private ownership of capital and free enterprise are leading the world to disaster. I do not believe that so-called “people’s capitalism” has in the United States or anywhere replaced the ills of private capitalism and shown an answer to socialism. The corporation is but the legal mask behind which the individual owner of wealth hides. Democratic government in the United States has almost ceased to junction. A fourth of the adults are disfranchised, half the legal voters do not go to the polls. We are ruled by those who control wealth and who by that power buy or coerce public opinion.

I resent the charge that communism is a conspiracy: Communists often conspire as do capitalists. But it is false that all Communists are criminals and that communism speaks and exists mainly by means of force and fraud. I shall therefore hereafter help the triumph of commimism in every honest way that I can: without deceit or hurt; and in anyway possible, without war; and with goodwill to all men of all colors, classes and creeds. If, because of this belief and such action, I become the victim of attack and calumny, I will react in the way that seems to me best for the world in which I live and which I have tried earnestly to serve. I know well that the triumph of communism will be a slow and difficult task, involving mistakes of every sort. It will call for progressive change in human nature and a better type of manhood than is common today. I believe this possible, or otherwise we will continue to lie, steal and kill as we are doing today.

Who now am I to have come to these conclusions? And of what if any significance are my deductions? What has been my life and work and of what meaning to mankind? The final answer to these questions, time and posterity must make. But perhaps it is my duty to contribute whatever enlightenment I can” (Du Bois 1968: 57-8)

Comparative Urbanism and who gets [funded to] compare

In the current conjuncture, with the increasingly complete capture of university research by corporate interests, only the alternative incorporation of research teams that start outside the university seems viable, resisting heavy-handed external oversight but stressing ethics. This is behind this is my current interest in Cora Du Bois’s Bhubaneswar project and her involvement in AAA at a very interesting time, but it also shaped my pre-pandemic attempts at fieldwork teams (stalled, but to be continued):

Click the image, then the pdf tab, to see the full text… here

Time, History, Politics, Art, Revolt – not being crushed to bits. This is a MUST SEE – of all things going on in the Integrated hyperventalated Spectacle this year, why, its Tom Buyard, a rare treat that will be worth doing the prep reading for and tuning in ready to roll.

Seriously do not miss this. Some call him Mr Modest, to others he is The Tattooist (with a nod to Raymond Redington’s Black List) but Tom Bunyards’s Spectacle/S.I. book is a great piece of serious work and no other scholar on the S.I and Hegel deserves your time and attention as much as this, so get it in the diary post haste and see you in the gloaming for this:

Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Interactive Conversation with Tom Bunyard (In Venue and Online – 1st February 2022)

Published by  Exploding Appendix at  January 21, 2022Categories Tags 

Photo of Guy Debord

The Situationist International (S.I.) was a political and social movement that ran from 1957 to 1972 that attempted to synthesise elements of Marxism and anarchist themes with ideas from avant-garde art movements such as Dada and Surrealism.  Although the Situationists cannot be reduced to an avant-garde art movement, Tom Bunyard notes that their “unabashedly utopian goal was to infuse lived experience with the passion, creativity and imagination that had previously only been articulated within the cultural realms of art and poetry.”

“For the Situationists, whose political goals had developed from their early concerns with avant-garde art, the modern revolution would afford a ludic, creative relation to lived time: art would cease to function as a means of representing and commenting upon life, and would instead become one with life itself. This would be achieved through using society’s previously alienated technological and creative powers to consciously create the ‘situations’ that compose lived time. Within modern society, they claimed, all such situations are dull, rationalised components of the spectacular social order; the all-encompassing revolution that the S.I. envisaged would, however, afford a social existence within which these moments of experience would take on more festive qualities.” (Bunyard, p5)

The Situationists imagined a revolution where the line between art and life would disappear. Rather than experiencing the world as passive spectators, we would become active agents engaged in shaping our own history.

Due to their utopian ambitions and deployment of aesthetic devises, the Situationist International has often been seen as an art movement, and their seminal text, Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (1967), is frequently viewed as a piece of media theory. Tom Bunyard challenges these assumptions. Although the Situationists emerged from a set of concerns with avant-garde art and culture, the ideas and ambitions of the S.I. extended far beyond the arts; Likewise, The Society of the Spectacle’s claims are not reducible to the contention that advertising and mass media constitute  pacifying spectacles. Bunyard argues that The Society of the Spectacle is more generally a book about time and history, in the sense that it “describes a society that has become detached from its capacity to consciously shape and determine its own future.”  In his book Debord, Time and the Spectacle, Bunyard provides an impressive reconstruction of Guy Debord’s political thought that centres around Debord’s preoccupations with temporality, and which demonstrates its connection to the writings of Marx, Hegel and Hegelian Marxism. In this session, we will be talking to Tom Bunyard about his work on Debord and the Situationists and exploring connected themes of avant-garde art, Hegelian Marxism, strategy, history, spectatorship, revolution and temporality.

This session will be run as part of the Exploding Appendix Avant-garde Art Practice and Research Group’s fortnightly meetup. The sessions are free and open to everyone. No prior knowledge of the subject matter is needed, but if people are interested, further reading can be found here:

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

Tom Bunyard, Debord, Time and the Spectacle: Hegelian Marxism and Situationist Theory

The Situationist International Anthology

Situationist Library

Situationist library

Debord’s film version of The Society of the Spectacle 

The online session will take place via Zoom (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86471639139?pwd=N0poczBnbUg4b2VUYVZJTVZZeSs4QT09). The meeting ID is 864 7163 9139.  The passcode is “914092“.

This session will take place both online via Zoom and in person at The Artist Residence, Brighton, UK. The Artists Residence can be found on 33 Regency Square, Brighton, BN1 2GG. Join us in Venue from 7pm and online from 730pm.  To book a free place in the venue, click here. For any questions  please message me at explodingappendix@gmail.com

This session will be run by Bradley Tuck and take place on the 1st February 2022 from 19:30 – 22:30 (UK time). If you have any questions please message me at explodingappendix@gmail.com

Follow the event on Facebook here.

Exploding Appendix
Exploding Appendix


Sir Fancis Drake – whose lucre profits helped Queen Elizabeth get out of debt and invest in the Levant and then the East India Company, from which in turn the plunder of Bengal feulled the industrial revolution… – here is the old slave-trading pirate doing a bit of coconut appreciation:

‘Amongst other things we found here a kind of fruit called cocos, which because it is not commonly known with us in England, I thought good to make some description of it.The tree beareth no leaves nor branches, but at the very top the fruit groweth in clusters, hard at the top of the stem of the tree, as big every several fruit as a man’s head: but having taken off the uttermost bark, which you shall find to be very full of strings or sinews, as I may term them, you shall come to a hard shell which may hold of quantity in liquor a pint commonly, or some a quart, and some less : within that shell of the thickness of half an inch good, you shall have a kind of hard substance and very white, no less good and sweet than almonds: within that again a certain clear liquor, which being drunk, you shall not only find it very delicate and sweet, but most comfortable and cordial.’ {From The famous voyage of Sir Francis Drake, 1577, in Hakyult 1972: 172).

Am intrigued how the coconut got to interest them as an innocent distraction amidst, basically, mutniny, piracy and plunder. More so perhaps than the mango with Dampier 100 years later (see here).

A replica of Drake’s Golden Hinde is tucked away in a corner of Southwark near the Borough Market as a fun pirate thing for kids, but its a dirty public secret that the man is a symbol of English connivance. The original Golden Hinde had been quartered at Deptford until it rotted away, significantly, appropriately, for a site that today is owned by the corporate Hutchinson Whampoa, themselves descendent from the Kowloon and Whampoa Dock trading company that provided dock facilities to those lovely opium traders, like Jardine-Matheson Co., among the founders of P&O, unloading their EIC-grown opium as they could not carry it directly up to Canton to flog to the Chinese except in smaller chop boats….

Drake rounds the globe, wia Magllelan’s straights and onto visit Southeast Asia, loaded up on plundered jewels, gold and silver from the Spanish, he then adds cloves and spices from the Moluccas before heading round the African cape and back to Blighty – with 6 tonnes of cloves, worth its weight in gold, much other treasure, bars of silver lifted from sleeping sailors, gold plate removed from Spanish churches in Chile, and jewels ripped – under royal license – from the hands of various poor suckers who happened to be on lesser well-armed boats. Elizabeth cashes her debts and funds the Levant, and then the EIC, and the rest, as old beardo says, is written in history’s annals in letters of blood and fire. Indeed, these are the letters of blood and fire – Drake in Hakyult, you don’t even really have to read between the lines to smell the sulpher.

Opium and Political Economy in Bengal

On why I think Marx’s writing style is misrepresented by the all-too-dour and serious commentators on Capital – you know, the famous ones published by big presses or with online lecture series… :) and anyway wanted to remember and article where I selected a few choice quips by the old beardo. The following is from an essay I called ‘Marx in Calcutta’ for City, in which I had been explaining a path Engels almost chose that would have meant Bengal, not Manchester, was key:

‘Marx’s commentary on Benjamin Disraeli’s ‘awful solemnity’ in a speech on what Marx calls, in an article for the ‘New York DailyTribune‘, the ‘quid pro quo’, and welcome,‘national rebellion’ of India in 1857 (Marx, NYDT, 14 August 1857).’


‘Marx’s articles in the Tribune on EIC opium are where he most clearly expresses his fascination with and condemnation of Clive, ‘the robber baron’ (NYDT, 8 August 1853).’ All this surrounds opium, a trade Clive helped introduce, ‘In Marx’s journalistic commentary he exposed ‘flagrant self-contradiction of the Christianity canting and civilization-mongering British’ in their efforts to ‘affect to be a thorough stranger to the contraband opium trade, and even to enter into treaties proscribing it’ (Marx, NYDT, 28 September 1858). This is the definition of hypocrisy, since despite also forcing ‘opium cultivation upon Bengal’ (NYDT, 28 September 1858) and arranging ‘for private ships trading to China’, the regulations governing this shipping carried a provision which imposed ‘a penalty to them if freighted with opium of other than the Company’s own make’ (NYDT, 28 September1858).’

All this is sort of what I meant in the ‘funny’ quip department, but the bit mentioning “Capital” I was looking for that directly speaks to funny slurs is later in my essay – sorry, could not locate it right away, but eventually did. Here goes:

“[Marx’s] ‘Critique of Political Economy’, is more than a subtitle of the book; it can be read as a sustained commentary on apologists for EIC extortion. His targets are EIC employees, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, and that ‘sycophant and fine talker’ Macauley, or immediate bourgeois critics of the EIC, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke. Then the critique takes as prime targets the apologist ‘learned professors’, those abstemious ‘penitents of Vishnu’ (Marx 1867[1996], 593), who train the EIC officer corps at Haileybury College, ‘population’ Malthus and Sir Richard Jones, both professors of political economy at the EIC training school. Alongside some anonymous—to Marx—texts on the benefits of the East Asia trade to Britain and the like, these are the majority representatives of the political economy he critiques.”

All the paras above are from my 2018 essay ‘Marx in Calcutta’, City, 22:4, 490-509 – you can easily find a pdf on the download page – ^^. But, lest you think I’d neglect the old dart’s opioid pandemic:

The opium trade of course was not something lost on workers in the UK, and Marx also mentions Godfrey’s Cordial which was fed to children so mothers could work. I had searched for a bottle for a while (reseearch purposes) and found an OHIO version of one on ebay – pictured – and where the following decription graces the page:

“Up for auction is a labeled medicine bottle advertising “Great Seal – Godfrey’s Cordial – The Styron-Beggs Co. – Mfg. Chemists – Newark, Ohio” with the original matching box. The label on this bottle and the box read in part “each fluid ounce contains one and three-fifth grains Opium” and then gives directions for use and “Antidote….. tickle palate with feather”. This bottle is embossed “Great Seal The Styron Beggs Co. Newark Ohio”, measures approx. 5″ tall x 2″ wide x 7/8″ deep and is in excellent condition with no damage. The box is printed with nice blue and red lettering with a skull and crossbones graphic and also is in excellent condition as shown. View the pictures carefully as they are part of the description. We will show or mention any notable defects. Please email if you have any questions or need clarification so you can be satisfied with your purchase . We will combine shipping for multiple wins if possible. Guaranteed Old & Original as is everything we sell. PLEASE SEE MORE LABELED MEDICINE BOTTLES (Nice grouping with similar ingredients) THAT WE ARE RUNNING NOW IN OUR OTHER AUCTIONS. Items sold with contents intact are for collecting/display purposes only and are to be handled with care. They are NOT to be ingested or used. By bidding and buying any item with its content you assume full responsibility, agree to these statements, and will deem Nostrums’; Quackery harmless in the event of any problems or accidents should they occur. For those of you who follow our auctions we WELCOME you back. For those of you who are new to eBay or have just found us you will not be disappointed with the service we provide and we hope you are successful in adding to your collections. At the beginning of each year we bring FRESH offerings of UNUSUAL items to eBay and we hope you bookmark us for future auctions for years to come. THANK YOU!” https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/godfreys-opium-cordial-label-bottle-504983523

Meanwhile, Mrs Winslow’s stay stoned in bed soothing syrup – fine for those who can afford velvet curtains and bedding – a little more serious for mums who had to work.

Assange and how truth does not set you free


On thursday 9th Dec 2021 the first 15 minutes of my lecture on Media outlined the reasons why the extradition of Julian Assange should be opposed and he should not have been locked up in 2017. Today. 10th December, the news comes that the British Court has caved to US pressure and ruled he can be extradited, though he can appeal – it drags on and on.

The rest of the lecture is about Police Killings – the film Injustice by Ken Fero and Tariq Mehmood and then the Working Day and factory inspections. The course is Mass Media and all the lectures can be seen here.



And here is a recent comment, and the crucial linked video, from just one of those who can see (I do not know who this is, but they seem correct to me – he was ShadyChancer in the Corbyn group and was dismissed by Sir Kareer Starwarmer):

Richard Burgon MP 

4ftt611S24pfanlaume1ui78  · X “Julian Assange is being targeted for exposing US war crimes – in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.Extradition to the US is not only an attempt to silence him – but to stop all journalists from speaking truth to power.We must continue to oppose his extradition to the US. This shocking video from Iraq, revealed by WikiLeaks, shows the killing of civilians and Reuters journalists. It’s just one example of the journalism that has led to the USA demanding the extradition of Julian Assange”.


Le Duan

VCP Gen Sec

‘wipe out the vestiges of petty-bourgeois ideology and the influences of bourgeois ideology, and in particular, firmly oppose individualism, the ideological source of revisionism. If there are communists who become revisionist it is because they are afraid of the hardship of the revolutionary struggle, of sacrifices, and only want to live an easy-going life, consequently they get addicted to bourgeois habits, ways of living and ideology: for these persons, the noble and fine communist ideal has disappeared [and] they only dream of the Western bourgeois way of living, and consider it as the model, their highest objective of struggle, they tremble with fear, compromise with and then ideologically surrender to the imperialists and reactionaries’ (Le Duan, speech to the Dec 1963 Vietnam Workers Party Central Committee, in “Selected Writings”, Hanoi: the Gioi Publishers p. 155-156)

“The Party’ s leadership constantly rests upon the principle of collective leadership. Personal arbitrariness is totally alien to its nature. No individual even one endowed with exceptional gifts, can ever understand and comprehend all things and events in all their aspects and ceaseless changes in form. Hence the necessity of a collective intellect. Only collective decisions taken on the strength of a collective mind can avoid subjectivism, which leads to errors with often dangerous consequences. Collective leadership is the highest principle in the Party’s leadership. This by no means lessens the personal responsibility of the leaders. At present, some comrades in a number of leading organs are not paying due regard to the principle of collective leadership. On the other hand, certain comrades rely on the “collective” to look after everything, and put the flame on the “collective” for every one of their own errors and failures without admitting their individual responsibility. We must put an end to this state of affairs.” Le Duan ‘The Vietnamese Revolution’ (n.d. but 1969-70 approx) in “Selected Works” 1994, p.316

Two Robinsons, one more to come…

Robinsonades: pertaining to allegories from the East India Company in Ceylon and other islands, from Marxism to Post-structuralism, and in which, dear reader, a 300-year-old adventure book may still have something to say’ in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 2020, 21:2, 279-286, DOI: 10.1080/14649373.2020.1766236 


Robinson on Con Dao: Mango Writing and Faltering Diplomacy in the Precursors to Crusoe in Vietnam’ in Southeast Asia Research 2021 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0967828X.2021.1994353#.YYVKsbiYIYQ.linkedin

Japan – Vietnam archives

Another set of items for the exotica files (link below), is a set of documents held in the national Archives of Japan and I think very useful for the next time we get to visit Hoi An (soon I hope):

The image below is Sataro Araki’s junk. He was a successful trader from Nagasaki who married one of the Nguyen clan daughters, and in Nagasaki she was revered as ‘Aniou’ – seemingly a derivation of the Vietnamese phrase used by a wife to get the attention of her husband – ‘Anh Ơi.

The rest of. the archive is well worth a look:


Lost Blue Books of India



DECEMBER 20th to 22nd 1937
Observations taken more than a
century ago, these* papers describe many things which are
no longer actual, and they are become records. Records
not tha​​ word recall long series of volumes edited for
the India Office and arrays of thick folios printed and issued
by several of the provincial Governments of India V Invalu-
able, however, as these are in regard to administration and
politics and economics and biography and the lives of British
and other European communities, they do not, except in casual
gleams, fill the void which is at the heart of Indian history,
uaiuily, our failure to conceive with what mind the peoples of
India lived through that history. For the Hindu period, though
at one epoch each district had its chronicle, its nila-pata of
‘blue-book’, as it was called
we have indeed no records, except
one or two formal histones and biographies and a number
of genealogies, rdjdvalis or va^dvalis, wh.ch are anything
but reliable. But at any rate we have enough of literature
through which transpires the genera] mentality ; and from
the epigraphical ‘records’ it has been found possible, as we
all know, to elicit much information concerning social and  
economic conditions.

my italics/bold.

Further fun with Blue Books

It seems in Sri Lanka a holy text was burnt… a ‘heretical’ text brought from Benares, but not burnt before it inspired the king (Kumaradasa) and some devoted souls…

From: https://atelim.com/input-by-the-sri-lanka-tripitaka-project-released-by-dhammavas.html?part=38


Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa.

circa 500 AD.

“In the days of Kumaradasa, King of Ceylon, there lived in the city of Southern Madura a
ruler Sri Harsha by name. At this time a clever but depraved monk visited the house of a
prostitute during the night, clad himself in a blue garb and returned to the Vihara after
day-break. His pupils observing this peculiar robe inquired of him whether his attire was
not improper. As numerous people had observed his extraordinary dress he stoutly
defended it and spoke highly in Its praise. His faithful subordinates who followed his
theory discarded the yellow robe and adopted the blue-coloured garb. This heretical leader
composed a philosopical work known as Nila-pata Darsaiia praising prostitutes, intoxicants
and the God of Love as the’ only three precious gems in the triple world while despising all
other “gems” as nothing but mere clay.”

“This great heresy began to spread with much rapidity and the new philosophical treatise
reached the bands of the King Sri Harsha who went through it critically. Pretending an
approbation of the new doctrine he assembled the followers of the novel philosophy
together with their whole literature into a special hall built for the purpose and set them all
on fire. The lingering vestiges of this false doctrine had a recrudescence in Ceylon during
the, reign of Sena II. In recent times, since the advent of the Portuguese, various kinds of
religious teachings began to appear in this land, At the present day the island of​ ​ceylon is
indelibly contaminated with the poisonous stains of those bygone times”

​I am now declared a devotee of the Blue Books of Sri Harsha, and as such I will reconstruct the text forensically from the ash and the blue smouldering smoke of imagination.​

​John, the bemused.

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