The Fantasist of Calcutta has a plaque

Atrocities and alibi’s for dirty colonial deeds of the ‘robber baron’ Clive and his mates. Here is a plaque for John Zephania Holwell, who wrote his dramatically claustrophobic survivor tale several months afterwards as a kind of post-factum justification for the subsequent slaughter at Palashi. He goes on to be Governor and erects a monument to his own heroism, which survives 40 years and is forgotten until Mark Twain asks about it – thanks Mark. Pah, the monument is rebuilt – and still stands today, though moved to the grounds of the nearby church, partly because Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and crew slapped it with a  slipper, and chisels.

Hollwell plaque

Thanks to Claire who found this at King’s Guy’s Hospital. A plaque to the apologist of Palashi. I suppose it is too minor an atrocity – one among many – for the Rhodes must fall group to be deployed, but some annotation is surely necessary.

This chapter may explain why this is such an outrage. The man built a monument to his lies.



The Rumour of Calcutta – digital book

rumour-cover122 years ago my first book was typeset and laid out in the days before electronics – well, an electric typesetting machine was plugged into a wall, but no digital file was produced. Nevertheless, I had crossed out the digital rights clause in my contract with Zed so I own this. At last some kind anonymous soul has bootlegged it and set digital copy free on the nets, though its a large scanned file and the bibliography was left off (I’ve made a rough scan of the biblio but that too is a large file). Nevertheless, notwithstanding, and such like phrasings, the book is still one of which I am proud, if nothing else for trialling a way of citing tourist backpacker-informants, for its stuff on photography and maps and for the reviews it got (and indeed keeps getting discussed, for example on films – see diekmann2012) and especially for its critique of charity and what charity is for. In the context of do-gooder well-meaning hypocrisy, the effort of charity workers serves wider interests as well as their own, and only marginally any individuals they help – who would be better helped in better funded state-run facilities if the funds extracted through business-as-usual colonialism were, you know, made as reparations for the several hundred years of colonial plunder. Ah well, the critique stands up, the charity industry sadly thrives, second only perhaps to weapons in terms of so-called development, writing books does not yet always change the world as much as you’d like (and no, I did not ever think a book would single-handedly stop Mother Theresa, but…).

I would welcome new readers.

Download The Rumour of Calcutta here:  [John_Hutnyk]_The_rumour_of_Calcutta__tourism,_ch

Biblio here. Rumour biblio

And this retrieved by Toby:

Statues – 1970 Kolkata.

Mrinal Sen’s great film Interview begins with a few shots of the removal of colonial statues from the Maidan in Calcutta, shipped off to a closed space in Barrackpur Cantonment. You can enable the player here and watch the film (and so many others, its a treat):

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Marx in Algiers again

Of haircuts and Rhino coats…


This is the worked up text of a talk I gave in Chandernagore in February 2016. The photo is one I’ve failed to trace from the dates and evidence in the letters (see below) of the visit to the barber – if anyone is good at that sort of tracking, please let me know, the photographer of the first one is E. Dutertre, and the second, if authentic, probably the same.

[Added 3 April 2018 – increasingly the suspicion that the makeover photo is photoshopped is being confirmed. Michael Krätke includes the two portraits in a recent article with the caption:

“Figure 1. Left: last photograph of Karl Marx, taken by E. Dutertre in Algiers, on 28 April 1882.Right: a photomontage based upon Marx’s own correspondence, where he said that the photo was taken just a short while before he went to the barber to have his hair cut and his beard shaved off, and shows how he may have looked after his visit to the barber.
Left: IISH Collection BG A9/383. Right: creator and origins unknown.”

Krätke, Michael 2018 ‘Marx and World History’. International Review of Social History, doi:10.1017/S0020859017000657 page 13

There is also a fiction volume called Marx’s Beard I have not yet read, and marx in Algiers, mentioned elsewhere. So this story has a few loose ends still.

And the source for all this, the photo itself, Marx writes a ps in a letter to Fred on 28 April 1882 in Algiers saying he will pick up the photo in two days. From the MEGA 3(4):

28 April 1882 aus Algiers



[The rest of this article is being rewritten and will be linked to here in due course. Thanks to those who already downloaded a copy, and stay tuned for more after I deal with the substantial and helpful comments of reviewers].



City Requiem, outwitting paralysis to find ways to write anyway

Am pretty sure this page below is a kind of compliment, though it is an uneasy one. As I have said directly, never meant for there not to be many more inscriptions – how could I be the one to hold back the delude (apres moi?). Of course there should never be no reason to stop writing, just sometimes we could stop anthropologising (a moratorium on fieldwork!) and I always hope to write better, a forlorn task. Stereotypes-stereohypes, they keep getting back up again:

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 15.04.18

From the book by Ananya Roy 2003 “City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the Politics of Poverty” Uni of Minnesota Press, which, despite my being cast as the paralyser, also ends with some beautiful lines that capture what I to was trying to do: ‘ my narrative of the city … can only be one of multiple and irreconcilable iterations’ Ananya Roy. As I think was expressed already in Ashis Nandy’s comment on the back cover of ‘The Rumour’.