Category Archives: historical

Domesday’s eastern roots.

It seems like that old “goodness gracious me” sketch about the funny uncle that was claiming everything in Britain was ‘Indian’ was, – yup, Indian – accurate after all:

Reading Wittfogel and on page 214 he finds the Domesday Book, tdocumenting property rights for landlords of yore, has Arab [Saracen – Ghengis – ok, almost Indian] origins…

‘When in 1066 the Normans conquered England, some of their countrymen had already set themselves up as the masters of southern Italy, an area which, with interruptions, had been under Byantine administration until this date: and some of them had established a foothold in Sicily, an area which had been ruled by Byzantium for three hundred years and after that by the Saracens, who combined Arab and Byzantine techniques of absolutist government.

We have no conclusive evidence regarding the effect of this Byzantine-Saracen experience on William and his councilors. But we know that in 1072—that is, thirteen years before William ordered the description of England—the Normans had conquered the capital of Sicily, Palermo, and the northern half of the island. And we also know that there were considerable “comings and goings” 43 between the Italian-Sicilian Normans and their cousins in Normandy and England, particularly among the nobility and clergy. The latter happened also to be actively engaged in administrative work.44 No wonder, then, that on the basis of his knowledge of the period Haskins, the leading English expert on English-Sicilian relations in the Middle Ages, suggests “the possibility of a connexion between Domesday Book. and the fiscal registers which the south had inherited from its Byzantine and Saracen rulers.” [cites himself]

Haskins’ hypothesis explains well why a typically hydraulic device of fiscal administration appeared in feudal Europe. It also explains why for hundreds of years afterward this “magnificent exploit” had no parallel in that area. Evidently, systematic and nationwide registration was as out of place in feudal society as it was customary in the realm of Oriental despotism’ (Wittfogel 1957: 214)

 

from Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power and yes, the Orientalism and the anti-communism are strong in this one, and comparative studies on this scale are wild speculation at the level of conclusion, but int he detail, well, the detail is amazing. It is like a randomised global free association generator.

Tipu’s Tiger should be Tipu’s – ship it back to the Bagh.

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We should ask V&A head honcho Tristram Hunt if he plans to hand any of the booty back.

The famous sepoy being eaten by a tiger should surely be repatriated to Seringapatnam. It was stolen after Tipu was defeated. I guess responsibility lies with Wellesley, but that the V&A did not itself first ‘acquire’ the object, that is no reason not to return it to the place it was stolen from. Elgin marbles are broken, but this piece is still operative and would be a great draw at the Summer Palace in Daria Daulat Bagh
Who is up for a campaign for this. See pic – they make the most of it here: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/tipus-tiger
also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVPq_7kIufw&feature=emb_rel_end

Potential History (of Trinketization)

Seems about to nail the head on the hit:

‘Surrounded here by the wealth of objects, documents, images, and resources available in public and private museums, archives and universities, I soon felt obliged to delve into the study of worlds that the accumulation and dubious ownership of such wealth helped to destroy. This was a natural expansion of my interest in the potential history of Palestine and its destruction. I came to understand that the structural deferral of reparations for slavery was the organizing principle of imperial political regimes as well as the intellectual wealth of universities. The challenge became how not to become imperialism’s ambassador and not to normalize the privileged access to these objects offered to scholars, and rather to recognize others’ rights to and in them’ (Azouley 2019:xv)


Ariella Aïsha Azouley 2019 Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism, London: Verso. 

What did you do in the war Pop?

Your article, What did you do in the war? Revisiting the WW2 memoirs of Stoker Thomas Mouat Tate, published in History and Anthropology, Volume 30 Issue 5, is now available for you to access via tandfonline.com.

Have you used your free eprints yet?
Now you’re published, you’ll hopefully want to share your article with friends or colleagues. Every author at Routledge (including all co-authors) gets 50 free online copies of their article to share with their networks. Your eprint link is now ready to use and is:

https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/HXQMUQEXDSEJEPAXUGJH/full?target=10.1080/02757206.2019.1626853

histanthr

Sundarbans, Climate, Tigers, Law.

Liquidity of the Sundarbans:

If the Tigers and Cyclones Don’t Get You, the Law Will

This forms the first part of a new research concentration for me, and owes much to colleagues at Jadavpur Uni now battling the BJP monstrosity. This sort of work relies upon the University remaining an open, critical, creative and thinking place. And such works as discussed here – more than three, a whole series of works are considered, reaching back to when I first met the history and philosophy folks at Jadavpur – are indicative of what remains that is good in the university, despite all that is happening.

50 e-prints for those quick off the mark, here: https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/AVPTDBBTQNKUBBVHPHSV/full?target=10.1080/00856401.2019.1663884

 

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Frantz Fanon on Care, and more.

‘To care for someone is not only to give him or her the possibility not to die, it is above all to give him or her the possibility to live’ (1954 Bilda clinic journal – in Alienation and Freedom, p321).

And from his letter of resignation:

A society that forces its members into desperate solutions is a non-viable society, a society that needs replacing. The citizen’s duty is to say so. No professional morality, no class solidarity, no desire to refrain from washing the dirty laundry in public, can have a prior claim. No pseudo-national mystification finds grace when up against the demand to think (Fanon, Letter to the Resident Minister, 1956)

 

And then I read some more – the whole volume is great and basically 800 pages in two days later, I feel like I’ve learned something and now have to go back and read The Wretched of the Earth again. So many reasons to be a fan of Fanon. For example, around the time of Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, when we know from De Beauvoir that Sartre was eating amphetamines by the handful, Fanon spends three days non-stop talking with Sartre. This is before Sarre rattles off the intro to Wretched.

Then on his library – at the end of the book there is one of those ‘what was in his library’ things. Fanon has some Plekhanov, a bit of Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, not much Marx, (the 18th Brumaire of course, the Critique, Anti-Duhring and something else), but lots and lots of Mao. I guess pamphlets he may have picked up in China. Also, Merleau-Ponty, Bachelard and a few other French thinkers of the 50s.

And Freud. It seems Fanon annotated his copy of Interpretation of dreams with quite hostile marginalia. For every time Freud uses the word ‘primitive’, as in ‘in primitive cases the sex drive is…’, Fanon would write the word ‘Bastard’ in the margin, with an angry exclamation mark. Choice. He was similarly unimpressed with Jung’s primitivism, though I have not found out what he thought of Mandalas and all that. Of course Fanon did start off heavily committed to electric shock treatments (to ‘clear’ a patient before rebuilding their personality) so criticism of Freud is worth a bag of salt, but he also went on to develop institutional therapy, and indirectly – through a follower – his Tunis clinic influences Guattari the the Bordo, and he was a huge practitioner of open psychiatry, that I now find out was started pretty much in Nottingham in the 19th century or so with the Mapperley clinic, eventually ransacked by Care in the Community, and now a National Health Trust facility that has been in deep trouble for various irregularities with funds and because the orderlies were writing the facebook comments on behalf of patients ‘who could not write for themselves’ or something like that (some TV expose).

All of this comes after reading Alienation and Freedom. How great to have a new Fanon collection of previously obscure and unpublished work, including all his psych essays and his dissertation. Alienation and Freedom basically doubles the amount of Fanon text in the public domain. And the critique of colonialism is a sharply relevant now as it was when France was the brutal colonial power it still tries to be under the armed wings of NATO.