Category Archives: notes to self

Mother of Pearl

Moving from detective fiction in Thailand to commercial reproduction makes sense when its Angela Savage. This is my next non-work read:

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Some review snippets lifted from Angela’s blog:

Marian Woolf’s review A gripping story of surrogacy, sisters and power dynamics in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald

Surrogacy and the complicated moral and ethical questions around commercial reproduction is a minefield. The decision to use a surrogate, to become a surrogate, or to facilitate a surrogate pregnancy, are all examined in Mother of Pearl.
However, Savage is interested in more than the individual, and uses surrogacy as a lens through which to probe the differences between Third and First World choices. She tiptoes into frustration at the inward nature of Australian charity, our generosity towards our own relatively wealthy society while seemingly immune to the already poor elsewhere.

Ultimately … Mother of Pearl is a book about relationships – between people, countries and cultures – between those who have, and those who have not.

Linda Jaivin reviewed Mother of Pearl for The Saturday Paper.

‘At times, each character veers dangerously close to stereotype… But author Angela Savage is too skilful a writer to deal in clichés. As the narrative of this, her fourth novel, develops, each of the women reveals herself to be more complex and capable than she first appears.’

Savage, who writes with a tough mind and tender heart, tackles the moral and ethical issues around surrogacy with an unsentimental yet sympathetic eye: this is a novel, not a polemic.

Ken Hayley in the Courier Mail, writes:

‘Even a hard-bitten old codger like myself found certain passages of this work tearful going … Authorial attention to technical detail combined with raw emotional honesty and cross-cultural empathy has produced a narrative of resounding depth … This book is a window opening onto an intersection of economic choices and biological imperatives. We have here a rough literary equivalent of the Mexican movie Roma, except that Savage sees the view, with equal clarity, from both sides.’

And then from the transit lounge sales page for the book, the blurb followed by a review by Christos:

A luminous and courageous story about the hopes and dreams we all have for our lives and relationships, and the often fraught and unexpected ways they may be realised.

Angela Savage draws us masterfully into the lives of Anna, an aid worker trying to settle back into life in Australia after more than a decade in Southeast Asia; Meg, Anna’s sister, who holds out hope for a child despite seven fruitless years of IVF; Meg’s husband Nate, and Mukda, a single mother in provincial Thailand who wants to do the right thing by her son and parents.

The women and their families’ lives become intimately intertwined in the unsettling and extraordinary process of trying to bring a child into the world across borders of class, culture and nationality. Rich in characterisation and feeling, Mother of Pearl and the timely issues it raises will generate discussion among readers everywhere.

‘This is a story of family and motherhood, and also a story of culture and exploitation that asks us to think through the costs of our insatiable desire in the West to have everything. What I find remarkable about this novel is how it refuses easy and lazy judgement, how it takes seriously questions of loss, longing, and our human need to connect with each other.’

Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap

and finally:

‘A beautifully crafted novel from an incredibly gifted writer. Angela Savage explores the ethical minefield of international surrogacy through the stories of three women, desperate but determined to repair the broken parts of their lives The prose is as precise as it is poetic, the characters so deftly drawn. I read this book compulsively, racing to its poignant conclusion with my heart in my throat.’

Melanie Cheng, author of Australia Day and Room for a Stranger

 

With reviews like this…

Schzmexit

More notes for the novel…

Brexit schzmexit we need much more to fix it so that neither Tories or Labour can govern.

While a Party of the New Type is formed and has the wherewithal to assure us (and its members) that it can deliver the means and organisation necessary to feed, warm, house, cloth and educate many populations.

FB will not help here as it would syphon off enthusiasms into some cul de sac app. It is a cul de sac par excellence. But email and instacomms will still be of use in the transition. After that we can make up new online cell structures and reading games (of our favourite communist authors and sci fi). I accept that we don’t yet know what else participatory media can deliver when nationalised and democratised as a means of government (to nationalise FB and google should be among the first actions of a new governance).

The general programme must be a variant of: first seize the banks, army, arms trade, mining and broadcast media – all for closure. Arm the people and make the printing presses a public service. Especially immediately close the arms trade and banks and reduce mining to necessary and minimum. Recall all troops and demob. Open the barracks to the people. Arm migrants as well – the militia will not be nationalist. require compulsory reading of Adorno’s essays on why National Socialism and Education must strive for the never again that is in the dark heart of corporate Europe. Corporate boards of course to be locked up – the only temporary and very last persons to be contained in jails, and even then released after reeducation (or shot as recalcitrants in a bloody purge of the bourgeois embolism).

Any similarity to persons living or dead – is a blueprint for what to do next. The novel is not a viable form in the digital age if not multi-authored and openly prescriptive. Let 1000 flowers of thought contend. Let the blood of the few nourish the many – the martyrs will be authors. The first among martyrs shall me the main character or each and every modernist drama – try Harold Bloom for treason, Gregor Sampson for false witness, Harper Lee for sentimentalism, and Naipaul for egotisms. Let them spend a month in stocks along the Thames Walk, but in comfort, with the basic needs of toilet and bathing so forth attended to by the new serving class employees of the state, the family Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Buck’s Palace will have long been transformed into a hospice for recovering homeless, refugees, migrants and as needed – no questions asked.

Minimalism

I want to keep this response handy.

One may think that the essay form does not suit minimalism, and really you needed just to send a postcard. Something short. But the short descriptive, meaningful and useful thing is no easy task. Adorno here might have been critical of Benjamin for fetishising, and mystifying the aura, of reducing the complexity of capitalism into something that resolved itself into a singular image – the angel of destruction, the frozen moment in a glass snowdome. Maybe Benjamin was onto something, that I also call trinketization. My preference is for Adorno’s critique though – every small trinket has become a monetary cipher, and the profound cultures of tradition and meaning, and belonging cannot be reclaimed from the market – they just become exotica, a broken nostalgia that cannot be put back. Innocent no more. We are forced to face the naked truth at the end of every fork as consumers crunch down on every every thing.

Worker or Labour

Note for later… on the difference between worker and labour. Is it not obvious there are questions to ask here about demarcation – is a worker everyone under capital? Are there worker hierarchies that are more than strategies of containment/control – setting x worker up against y, a buy-off of the worker elite, dumping of disposable workers, erasure of all other possible modes of being subject to the bullshit of work that is neither fulfilling or worthwhile (to who?), alienated work v. work you would do no matter what

In Marx: the concept of worker and labour power shift analytically across the book of Capital. Under capitalist relations the workers sell their labour power (capacity to labour, more productive than the cost of reproducing it) but not all labourers are so lucky (misfortune) to be able to sell their labour power. The unemployed, partially employed, the drifters and vagabonds, the mothers and children in training, the elderly are also all responsible to maintain their capacity to work, their labour power, even when not in employment as workers. Marx uses simple reproduction in his examples in the earlier chapters of capital, but if you read just the introduction of chapter 16 (Ch14 n Tieng Viet I think, the start of Vol thu Nhât, Phân 1) you see him explain about the narrow and the wide notion of the productive labourer, and also introduce the concept of the collective worker. The worker in the narrow sense produced surplus value, indeed value in general, the collective worker would include those that do not produce surplus value, but help other people produce it – for example as a teacher, when I am not producing a profit for the university boss, I add to the capacity of the students to produce surplus value, I do not produce that value myself except as part of the collective labourer. Again, it’s very important that Marx not be read without a dialectical conception of all of his categories, including worker – we actually discussed just this in relation to the early parts of Hegel that we read together.

Yet again to re-read the start of Chapter 16 (TV 14) – the difference between a sausage factory and a university is negligible. Hilarious and fun Karl.

Rosa now more than ever

Rosa now more than ever
Or why Rosa is someone who should be read at this point in time.
   To be a student of Rosa Luxemburg today is assisted hugely by the (hopefully ongoing) publication in English of her Complete Works, starting with the two volumes out so far on her anthropology studies and course on economics. This alone is enough to extend fourfold what most leftists might know of her, which is usually only a half-digested something or other about ‘spontaneity’ and a disagreement with Lenin.
   Now, over and over, more than ever, I see people worrying both about spontaneity and vanguards. They say it’s all terrible or it’s all fine (actually this borrows an early move from Mao, but still…). The communists hate the anarchists and the anarchists hate the communists, basically, for being too much like each other in all the ways that are wrong.
   My friend David Graeber for example says of the squares, Occupy, yellow vests and all future horizontal protests, that:
‘These new movements do not need an intellectual vanguard to provide them with an ideology because they already have one: the rejection of intellectual vanguards and embrace of multiplicity and horizontal democracy itself‘ infoshack, radioshackorsomesuch.com
Hence the need for Rosa. Against the idea that all we need is already delivered by those who say we don’t need the Party (albeit we don’t need some old fart Party, against the party I would lead, which would be available only to people who could name the stations of the Kronstadt). Anarcho adventures into the void will not do.
   At the same time, communist comrades are incensed that the anti-Leninist and verbose anarchists are undermining their theoretical primacy. Ha ha. Well overdue. As if their political, and philosophical, purity had been baptised and sanctified in previous militant vanguardist struggles such as … wait, I’m, where? When? Theoretical struggles perhaps. Bloody minded entryism, penetration and destruction. Fuck them too.
   So, Rosa for the Party and in symbiosis of a new moving type, moving with the masses – becoming masses, finding their unities, alongside and with Rosa, forming the Party that can keep forming across time. Since time is all the meantimes and meanwhiles where everyone but the caviariste class knows it’s long past the time when the shitty conditions in which most find themselves are such that with this up we cannot put.
Hence, Rosa now more than ever.
   A few brief words though. In common reception of Rosa, in particular with the spontaneity question, there really is a dangerous and defeating mistake made if Rosa‘s commitment to the masses is ever taken to mean no active organisation by the Party within the class forces. There were certainly, also shown in the Letters (same publisher, should be cheaper though), so many ways in which Luxemburg was committed to tendencies and factions within the Party, within the International and within the general Left movement. Her relationship with Kautsky grows fractious over time, her squabble with Lenin is really resolved by the time of the Bolshevik uprising, and between times Lenin had been visiting Rosa and stoking her cat – and being scratched by said kitten, because not all cats fell for Lenin right away. Though in due course…
   Luxemburg was well aware of the need for the class to be organised and able to move with the workers whenever the possibility presented itself, and without the ability to organise the Party to swiftly move into place alongside the ‘spontaneous’ uprising, there would be nothing afterwards. Listening to the sounds of adventurism crashing on the rocks – we need adventures and rock-moving teams (not rock spiders lying in wait with their entryism of doom). Rosa now more than ever. Albeit what organisation there was would be in large part itself only possible because of the tireless devotion of Luxemburg (or Cam) urging on the uprising at meeting after meeting. And indeed, what claim could she have for even being discussed by anyone other than adventurers at the barricades since we all know that her insurrection was crushed, she and her former lover murdered, by a repressive militarist counter-revolution. No, it would be dangerous not to realise that reaction is always already coming and that we also need to organise defense in offense. To say listen, stand aside, wait, all these give space for the reaction – fill the gap with forward and better, biger adn more power to the movements.
   Reading Luxemburg can show us why now more than ever. She does not come across in her writings, or even in her actions as revealed in her biography, or the letters, as someone with a blind faith in going out to the streets. She goes out in the streets. Also, she reads, she teaches, she deploys vast troves of footnotes and argument in an ongoing polemic that always sought to teach, but was always making space for contemplation, education and polemical life that was more than simple or naive spontaneity.
   Her effort was to make links with those on the streets, and she did this as a life-long commitment, and through long patient but urgent work, through talks, classes, writing and editorial meetings, with those inside workplaces and working class areas of the city so as to build the organisation around issues such as hours worked, wages, prices, subsistence, work organisation and justice for women, justice for murdered workers, justice for all. And forever pushing for a better argument and better outcome, aspiring to get the idea accepted that the communist dream was something that could be. Could be by force of her will perhaps, but as an illustration, and a model to be replicated, the path to a revolution that can be sustained is made clear.
   Her polemic with co-revolutionaries always strove towards improving her own as well as their capabilities, through argument to express her own will to clarify and build a revolutionary capacity. And to be able to present her ideas before the masses and at any time strive for the uprising that after-all was – and today has been for a long time again – well overdue. Listening all the time, she is never silent, since participation in the revolution comes from saying, loudly, what is happening, what you can see.
   And read, with care. Rosa does not say no to the Party, does not say no to Party organiser going out to talk to the masses, urge them with ‘fire in their bellies, and their minds’, but she does say no to a Party that is above the dictatorship of the class, no to the dictatorship of a Party or of a clique –yes to ‘dictatorship of the class’ which means dictatorship of the proletariat ‘in the broadest possible form on the basis of the most active, unlimited participation of the mass of the people, of unlimited democracy’ (On the Russian Revolution).
   Without the Party, Luxemburg is nothing, the revolution is nothing, and the masses have no voice. The Party is the organisational form that best coordinates the preparedness required to build alongside the spontaneous uprising of the masses when its best chances arrive. On many occasions the potential of such an uprising might seem more or less apparent, but without robust organisational preparation in place, the political movement will always lack consequence, be subject to fluctuations of spontaneity in the random sense – as opposed to the general sudden realisation that now is the time we have been preparing for, and when the Party serves the masses as a rallying cry, vehicle for articulation direction and aspirations for a path out of the horror of persecution, oppression and inequalities.
   Many skirmishes and test case battles prepare the ground for spontaneity of the revolutionary type. These disconnected struggles are the school for revolutionaries, the training and honing of skills in single issue campaigns, in local initiatives, in building comradeship and Party organisation. They cannot yet be the mode of transition to a communist future but they develop the possibility. Through local wins, and no doubt losses, coordinated battles and preparedness, anticipation, analysis and expectation – knowing perhaps a little more though this of what we might expect – the groups that work together learn together and will face down the tanks together. The Tanks are coming. Do not think Rosa now more than ever means they won’t – the ruling class will want to through us all in the canal. But we will swim. For this, reading, writing, distributing newsletters and papers, forums and research groups, all build – and crucially, reproduce – potential for spontaneity. Swimming in the spontaneous flow.
   The reading and research group is not the only form in which this Party as the vehicle of the wider class interests can articulate and hone its skill base, but it is all the more important because this form of organising has a role in defining and producing knowledge and analysis of the situations in which we are faced with oppression, exploitation, desperation and despair at the hands of capital.
   The urgency of the situation. it is never all day every day, and a part of it is reading, together. meet to plan and talk, if only over a paragraph n between urgent tasks and planning. This research group, that has read its way into a Marxist analysis will move forward and articulate further connections with the oppressed  and offer the classes knowledge not by telegraphing it in, or posting it on this blog, but by sharing not only knowledge as knowledge, but knowledge as a knowledge making process. A revolutionary act whose patron figurehead is also Rosa. Now more than ever. What then if in the current conjuncture those who rise up in protest do so on the basis of having come together over time to develop a shared analysis of the ways an exit from capitalism and oppression can be achieved with equally for all?

Handy hints on cracking up

F.Scott-Fitzgerald’s ‘crack-up’ as a model for going on with when needs must and all around have been ripping each other to shreds in a mass fraternal suicide:

‘I must continue to be a writer because that was my only way of life, but I would cease any attempts to be a person—to be kind, just or genierous. There were plenty of counterfeit coins around that would pass instead of these and I knew where I could get them at a nickel on the dollar. In thirty.nine years an observant eye has learned to detect where the milk is watered and the sugar is sanded, the rhinestone passed for diamond and the stucco for stone. There was to be no more giving of myself—all giving was to be outlawed henceforth under a new name, and that name was Waste.

The decision made me rather exuberant, like anything that is both real and new. As a sort of beginning there was a whole shaft of letters to be tipped into the waste basket when I went home, letters that wanted something for nothing—to read this man’s manuscript, market this man’s poem, speak free on the radio, indite notes of introduction, give this interview, help with the plot of this play, with this domestic situation, perform this act of thoughtfulness or charity. The conjuror’s hat was empty. To draw things out of it had long been a sort of sleight of hand, and now, to change the metaphor, I was off the dispensing end of the relief roll forever’ from The Crack-Up (posthumous FSF, edited by Edmund Wilson 1945)

– Gets better as it goes on:

But enough.It is not a matter of levity. If you are young and you should write asking to see me and leam how to be a sombre literary man writing pieces upon the state of emotional exhaustion that often overtakes writers in their prime —if you should be so young and so fatuous as to do this, I would not do so much as acknowledge your letter, unless you were related to someone very rich and important indeed. And if you were dying of starvation outside my window, I would go out quickly and give you the smile and the voice (if no longer the hand) and stick around till somebody raised a nickel to phone for the ambulance, that is if I thought there would be any copy in it for me.

Steve Redhead: Theoretical Times

I’ve read most of Steve Redhead’s work over the years. Maybe not all the Virilio stuff as I leave that to Sophie, but this is the next one I’ll read:

Theoretical Times

Redehead TTimes

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And why now? – should have been earlier of course, but I am less often in bookshops with ready cash, and just found out the terrible, most terrible, news of Steve’s passing.

“Am deeply sad to find that just over a week ago the scholar Steve Redhead died. There are many tributes, well deserved. In Manchester in 1994, in another university and in a different discipline, how great was it that a (then) law prof took an interest in a talk on Derrida’s Marx book by an unknown postdoc and in conversation suggested archives I could read on the history of anti-racism activism in the UK, without which no “Dis-Orienting Rhythms”, among so much else. RIP Steve Redhead. Hope his family and friends and especially Tara Brabazon will be fine, despite condolences never being anywhere near good enough.”

 

Bollywood and women

For the reminder files, an email response to a student met doing Capital in India proposing a PhD on women in Bollywood. I'm not sure I'm the one to ask and if my response is any help, but here it is:

"Sorry its taken a few days to get back to you properly. I have been travelling.

I've read your research proposal and thought about what you ask, and mainly I have some questions for you before I can answer really. Well, I can make some guesses at what you might want as an answer and give some suggestions, but really I'm not clear enough on your circumstances to best advise.

There are some corrections to be made on your text, but they are minor grammar ones and hardly the sort of thing that matters, especially if this is a draft that will change. I've ignored them as they are minor infelicities of speaking, extra prepositions and so on. Mistakes anyone can make in a longer text. So, first question – is this a draft?

IF this is a draft, are you committed to this study in this form? I mean, the image analysis, textual analysis, and interviews with spectators aspect seems, well, of a certain vintage. Is this kind of analysis the best we can do? Will it provide any result that achieves what you perhaps want it to – and, most importantly, what is that? What is the purpose of the analysis in the widest possible sense? The promotion of women in films? An understanding of this? A critique of this? There are many other possibilities.

I ask about this because there are people you might seek to work with who have done similar sorts of studies, using similar methodologies. I can suggest some perhaps. There are others who would possibly seek out students to do things a bit differently.

Another similar question, which shapes who might be suggested as a person to work with for PhD has to do with your engagement with a certain version of feminism. There are of course many versions, and not all scholars would put Laura Mulvey and Angela McRobbie in the same box, and some might find their work dated as well – there are others, doing good work. And not necessarily white western feminists. Of course not all women of colour feminists are the same also – ranging from identity to feminism-marxism you of course find the same range of variation. You must at least engage with these scholars. I guess I am asking if for this study you even need the version of western feminism that you set out in your draft?

Maybe you do want to do a study that is particularly focussed upon some version of feminism like that of McRobbie. I cannot think then who to suggest, but you could ask her. Similarly, you could ask Laura Mulvey. But then, I'd suggest asking someone like Meeta Rani Jha for advice. Actually she did interviews with women viewers of Bollywood film for her PhD. I've not read it in its final version, but read early chapters a can confidently say I am sure its really very good. I'd encourage you to look her up. I am not sure if she is teaching now, but she is on facebook.

My next set of questions are also pretty naive on my part. But why do you want to go abroad to do this research? If it is to connect to western feminism, then it of course makes sense, but for a PhD from abroad… well, the reasons are several, but in this day and age it is not a matter of access to materials. With good internet you can get everything you need in India book4you.org, and sci-hub though surely questionable sites in terms of copyright, will get you any text you need. My strong belief is that you should choose where to do your PhD by going to work with someone whose writing you really like.

That may be, as noted, Mulvey or McRobbie. Or someone else. There are certainly people in India that would be great to work with on this topic. If you have not considered this, then you must – IIT Kharagpur has Anjali Gera Roy and she is doing great and I think original work. Of course there are other stars in India eg SV Srinivas is really great, there is Moinak Biswas and Abhijit Roy at Jadavpur of course (as you know) and Madava Prashad in Hyderabad.

Anjali Gera Roy's work is not well enough known yet:
Gera Roy, Anjali (2010) '"Global flows": Ethnographic Studies of the Hindi Movie in Africa', Journal of African Literature and Culture 7(8):33-48.
Gera Roy, Anjali ed (2012) The Magic of Bollywood: At Home and Abroad, New Delhi: Sage.
Gera Roy, Anjali (2015) Cinema of Enchantment: Perso-Arabic Genealogies of the Hindi Masala Film, Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan.

Then, maybe there are other reasons for you wanting not to be in India – social, political even. I will not judge. Then you should look first to whose writing you like, then try to work with them. Have you heard of Rajinder Dudrah?

Check out:
Dudrah, Rajinder (2002) 'Vilayati Bollywood: Popular Hindi Cinema-going and diasporic South Asian identity in Birmingham (UK)', Javnost, 9(1): 19-36.
Dudrah, Rajinder (2006) Bollywood: Sociology Goes to the Movies, London: Sage.
Dudrah, Rajinder (2012) Bollywood Travels: Culture, Diaspora and Border Crossings in Popular Hindi Cinema, London: Routledge.
Dudrah, Rajinder, Elke Mader and Bernhard Fuchs (2015) SRK and Global Bollywod, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Raminder Kaur at Sussex University would be someone to consider working with. she has done brilliant work on a wider range of things, all of it is great.

See her works, among others:
Kaur, Raminder (2003) Performative Politics and the Cultures of Hinduism: Public Uses of Religion in Western India New Delhi: Permanent Black.
Kaur, Raminder (2013) Atomic Mumbai: Living with the Radiance of a Thousand Suns. Routledge, India.
Kaur, Raminder and Ajay J Sinha (2005) Bollyworld: Popular Cinema Through a Transnational Lens, New Delhi: Sage

I do not know if it is my place to even raise this, but have you funds for a PhD abroad in one of the expensive places (UK, USA)? I mean, there is very little chance of funding for Indian nationals for UK and US so its a big lottery if you are not already of independent means. Cost of living plus fees in the UK would reach £30,000 per year. Do not even consider converting that into rupees unless you are ready for the shock.

Which means, considering some of the less costly places to do a PhD.

There is Tejaswini Niranjana at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. I've no idea about fees there, or cost of living in Hong Kong, but the University is good and Tejaswini is a great scholar.

Of course I am not ruling out he US or UK if you have funds, and there are many people there.

I don't know enough about where and why you want to go. I repeat again that I think you should choose based on who you want to work with. Of course prestige of a programme also matters to some people (employers also) but in terms of quality of the research, you want to work with the people you think are the best.

I have not included anything specifically on women in my book just finished a few months ago, but I did try to survey what I thought was interesting in South Asian film studies in the recent period. Since some of the people I discuss are not mentioned by you, perhaps you would like to look at the book. I include it here (please NOT to forward to anyone). It will come out in India later this year I hope, also in more costly version in the UK. Its attached.

Check out form the bibliography there the work of Jigna Desai, Amit Rai, and Ajay Gahlawat.

You might consider working with the wonderful Earl Jackson at National Chao Tung University Taiwan. Their cultural studies dept, where I have been visiting prof and so has Madava Prashad, is really well respected. And Hsinchu is a very interesting city.

In the US also look at the work of H Mann, references in my book bibliography.

I hope it might be of interest and/or stimulate further thoughts. I'm sorry it was not in my competence to write anything particularly good on the role of women in films, though of course I do discuss related issues inevitably, Fire, Parched etc…

The book was what I was working on when we met. After working on it intensely after classes through that month, it was finished soon after.

Good luck
John"

Kill your darlings no. 9 – more cuts and buts…

[ninth in a series of scrapbook overflow/rejects]

Yet ‘Epistemological performance is how you construct yourself and the world as an object of knowing’ says Spivak at the University of Kwazulu-Natal 8th Annual Teaching and Learning on Higher Education Conference. This was a workshop on her book An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization, (Spivak 2012). The effort of trying to train oneself towards openness to how others perform, and making this a part of a way of reading that also would resist inevitable exoticism and complicity, perhaps requires a more nuanced dialectic to which many are often not adequately sensitive. Admirable that this constructs the world, life, knowledge as equitable domain of differences, or at least the chance to imagine such differences.

 

Paraphrasing: the construction of knowledge as a knowledge industry is a cul-de-sac of meaningless vocationalism, repetition skills and information processing, not wisdom or learning what can be learned…

[and I really regret losing this, but its for another book, with updates after reading a lot of fafffffffffffs]: No less a ‘firing squad’ than the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry soft peddled the war crimes and encouragements to reaction given by bleeding heart prime ministers of dubious reputation. Blair’s questioning by Chilcot was more a pre-election stump speech than investigation or war crimes tribunal – documentation here: http: //www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/ (accessed March 10 2010). With Chilcot not planning to deliver the final report until after the 2015 election, as of June 2015, still no sign of the report, and Blair had been appointed to yet another new post (‘Palestinians baffled by decision to appoint Tony Blair to chair European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation’ Telegraph June 13 2015). Still no sign of the report, mid 2015, but petitions to have Blair up in front of the War Crimes Tribunal widely supported, giving some cheer. When it finally came on 6 July, 2016 – a day before the ten year anniversary of the 7/7 London bombing – the report was buried in an avalanche of volumes, too expensive for popular reading, too thick for journalists to summarise, uninspiring for public commentary, and so buried in plain sight without any action on the calls to charge Blair.

 

[and these movie recommendations:]

This is true if the images are big political movement material, from Maoists fighting the Kuomintang depicted as a fanatic horde in the Barbara Stanwyck vehicle, The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933 dir. Capra) – an impressive film nevertheless for its early interracial romance – through to the ways violent political encounters in Vietnam were framed as humour, with the soldiers singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song: ‘M.I.C.K.E.Y’ as a dirge in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987 dir. Kubrick). That same year Robin Williams was making a joke of the ‘Police Action’ in Good Morning Vietnam (1987 dir. Levinson), reprising the compromises of journalism already shown with Mel Gibson dining out in The Year of Living Dangerously (1982 dir. Weir) or of medics portraying the earlier war in Korea as contemporary allegory in M*A*S*H (1970 dir. Altman). There are many examples. If the footage is too real or too harsh, it is relegated, even when screened. Controversy surrounded the allegorical execution of a boy in MIA’s Romain Gavras song video Born Free (2010), but the 2009 atrocity video of Tamils executed by the Sri Lankan military in a UN ‘refugee camp’ was ignored. Despite video ‘evidence’ entered into a public ‘news’ system that is not designed to offer due process under law, the Rodney King video was dissected and anatomised by lawyers to normalise and exonerate the violence of that arrest while Tonight Show TV hosts did jokes. Only where globally connected communities fight for justice denied is there any degree of return.

What has all this to do with the topic? Can’t we just have more about Bollywood and music video, an upbeat tempo, several layers of colour and a massive popular following? Why fill up this book with lamentations about violence and appreciations of the films of Mrinal Sen and Anand Patwardhan? Who are ‘you’ to enter this domain? Let the experts then talk of film and you talk of ‘police actions’ as war someplace else.

I watch the films so that you will too.

 

That this big tent includes some wide stripes, but despite criticisms of the cash-in and anti-Muslim bias, Chadha making Bride and Prejudice and Viceroy’s House is still among those examples that work against the trend Mann identifies of films without serious treatment of issues. Alongside, of course, if not as lucrative, the Kureishi films, and examples like Wild West (1992), East is East (1999) and several others. It is not impossible to agree that, except perhaps in a few rare films, it is difficult to find films that offer ‘serious treatment of diaspora lives or any real engagement with their foreign homelands’ (Mann 2014: 499).

Is it possible to suggest there is more to be done here even if it is hard to disagree with the assessment that ‘NRI films, with their overwhelmingly reductive, stereotypical approach to the West, contribute to Bollywood’s churning out of preppy, feel-good romances, with song and-dance sequences punctuated by little narrative, and filmmakers reduced to entertainers solely’ (Mann 20145: 499). If structure, reverse stereotype, liminal phase and open interpretive quest are considered it becomes clear that many other factors are in the mix. No easy classification should control the interpretive frame, even if there may be co-ordinates mapped, probes and provocations sent out, cartographers and depth psychology, conversationalists and even ethnographers deployed.

 

South Asian film and television studies here then operate a range of perspectives and themes that could, for the purposes of experiment, be placed within the allegorical orbit of multiplicity and at least mark out a relation to a slightly more complicated tracking of historical developments. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of this move, reassessment of themes allows a summary. This would necessarily include the allegorical, as discussed, but perhaps just as powerful is the shift from ‘high nationalism’ to decolonising psychological with studies like those of Nandy (1998: 18). In the return and realisation, if not culmination, of ideology critique enabled by work of Madhava Prasad and those he released, or unleashed, openings like the Journal of the Moving Image at Jadavpur and the consolidation of cultural studies at Bangalore show what has begun. Work in the UK on diasporic film (see Kaur and Sinha 2005, bibliography in Dudrah 2012) also includes new ethnographic studies on venues, distribution, the extension of culture through family, financially driven migration and multiplying technological formats,[1] but thus far this work still awaits any significant institutional commitment and funds.

[1] The early study of cassette culture by Peter Manuel in 1993 should not be forgotten. A trajectory then extending through the arrival of VCR and cassette tapes to the corner cable stall, the rewiring of neighbourhood connectivity and the explosion of satellites and portable screens, the purchase of technology is and its ‘alternate picture of globalisation’ in the pirate economy (Vasudevan 2013: 212, Sundaram 2009) now ends with the Internet bringing both global unity and ‘venomous diatribes’ on YouTube (Manuel 2013: 379).

 

The dynamic of political allegory requires a suture between specificity and the global, and film in diasporic and commercial circulation can provide that. The point is variously expressed.

 

In a different way, but with a parallel structuring, Moinak Biswas suggests that ‘the “person” becomes the last source of morality and ethics in the melodramatic world’. Black and white here infuses ‘ordinary human actions with larger significances’ (Biswas 2000: 128). The conjugal scene in private and intimate lives always also looks forward to the future, and so the family values variety of moral order claims general importance. The other political, outward facing, social critique, of class, of colonialism, oppression and war looks to the market sphere. It is for this reason that film can stitch between the family drama and the terror attack that makes cinema seem real even when not. The specificity of film and its interpolation of viewers has a global commercial imperative that was scaled up from the start: ‘The film industry in India from its very inception was intimately implicated in the nationalist project’ (Gopal and Moorti 2008: 10). Songs and scenes of melodrama convey and construct a sense of anxiety for the spectator-citizen even while delivering emotive pleasures and immersion, or through immersion ‘intimately implicated’ and the circulation of this intimacy ‘was decidedly internationalist in its mode of production and distribution’ (Gopal and Moortu 2008: 11). The mesh between a hybrid cultural ‘masala’ and the increasing imbrication with global commercial flows is the suture that must be reworked, sublated, detourned if Global South Asia would not merely sell conviviality to the world, in spite of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rogue! (2001).

There are by definition no agreed, fixed or stable global co-ordinates that can simply be plotted, mapped and drawn up on a vernacular grid ready for battle. It seems just as valid to be sceptical about concepts and political prescriptions as it is to give opinions on the world historical significance of artworks or films. Is this to elevate a few texts and ignore others because my reading and research list is faulty? I cannot watch every film, though childcare and YouTube facilitate extended viewing. [remember, I am cutting these sentences from the book because I think its rubbish. note to self, do not be tempted to put this back] Ostentatious excitation of the bibliography/filmography notwithstanding, would such a completion guarantee the power of the analysis?

 

‘Little attempt is made to unpick the problematic manner in which diaspora itself is often deliberately constructed as more open to the potentials of “performative” identity and hybridity than anywhere “back home”‘ (Banaji 2006: 31).

 

Ana Mendes takes up the Merchant Ivory films in a discussion of Rushdie and the film Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001 dir. Gowariker) to discuss the visual and exoticist nostalgia trope in films about the Raj, still potently representative of ideological positionings even when recognised as myth, reworked and reimagined for a diverse audience and yet still effectively romantic, hierarchical, and largely blind to economic injustice both during the Raj era and today. ‘Visual splendour’ in Merchant Ivory or in Lagaan evokes that fantasy Raj even in its ostensible critique, and Mendes contrasts the exoticism or self-exoticism of such films to the rejection of Raj revivalism that in part motivated My Beautiful Laundrette (Mendes 2007: 72).

 

The convergence of capital’s industrial production in cinema and new media and the docile bodies that consume and comment in the walled chat-rooms while cultural studies overestimates the resistive potential of media use and the susceptibility of the market to the enclosure of administration will perhaps not be undone. Festivals are a favourite of government officials wanting to provide economical panacea for the masses without risk of mobilisations less readily corralled – the festival as a fortress, and as commercial boosterism. The officially sponsored festival of the Global South as the last desperate attempt to distract from an empty administration of capital by hypocrites with weapons contracts. But since no amount of staged frivolity by nominated but beleaguered ‘community leaders’ can disguise from the community the violence inflicted upon that community, the life-support mechanism of civic bureaucracy flounders when people get together to talk about something other than sport. The alternative mobilisation rips these documents of barbaric proportion to shreds and scatters the enemies of the people to the four corners of the planetary Global South, zindabad!

 

Insisting on the more open connectivities can still, maybe, potentially, offer more than complicity with the market.

Kill your darlings 8

The footnotes are getting the chop chop treatment too. It is a sad sad day. A bad bad way to relegate people to the acknowledgements.

Is it just Truman World™? In his book Picturing Theory, anthropologist Jay Ruby discusses the ‘not illogical merchandising direction [of] The Truman Show [which] contains … “a catelog of products featured on the show, offered for sale and snapped up by its loyal international audiences”‘ (Ruby 2000: 250, quoting the Paramount Pictures Press kit for the film). Ruby’s point is that anthropologists cannot pretend to study people without the context of commercial capitalism ; similarly television without its connections would be television out of context. Yet, if Ruby wants to modernise anthropology, we might ask why his book is subtitled ‘explorations in film and anthropology’ (my emphasis), as if the explorer’s quest, Palin again, were something that did not need the idea of the pristine and untouched other as its slightly tarnished holy grail. I have always wondered why texts on visual anthropology, and film history in general, are fixated on the founding practitioners and nothing from ‘before’. I owe this point to Scott McQuire (1986, 2008), but also again in part to Theresa Mikuriya (2017).

kill your darlings 7 – soon there will only be seven words left…

An approach that experiments with a frame shift towards a political and allegorical register cannot keep up with that level of work, even as it relies wholly upon so much of it and tries to offer a related but limited meditation on a contingent perspective.

The slogan that sits behind both the success of diaspora and Bollywood film and the rise of Hindutva is a more radical political position – we are here because you were there – is not unrelated to the counter-reaction. The terror war that would be exoticism in one format – lyrical tunes, the films of Satyajit Ray – is in another time and place terror.

In his appreciation of the work of Stuart Hall, Madhava Prasad makes a powerful critical observation of ‘the indigenous dominant subject who wants to suppress the voices of the marginalised in order to maintain a semblance of unity and hold on to their own leadership position in the eyes of the world’ (Madhava Prasad 2014c: 193). Following Hall, Madhava Prasad agrees subjective working out or one’s position, and its contradictions, need not imply a resistance to theory, to not succumb only to autobiographic confessional seems a highly apposite critique given the traps that lie in wait for the postcolonial academic slowly detached from political movement of what is Left of the Nation. It is the residue of the theoretical in the residue of the struggle that can still be discerned in media studies, perhaps, and perhaps only there – the nation and the left having self-imploded beyond even confessional. The optimism of Madhava Prasad’s closing words can be reread as programmatic: ‘For the process of emergence to be successful, it must be simultaneously a transformation of the world into which we emerge’ (Madhava Prasad 2014c: 193).

This version of media theory emerged surrounded by, sometimes in contest with, historical, political science, sociology and anthropological scholarship offering sophisticated critical versions of the old semi-feudal, semi-colonial language of struggle. Indeed, SARAI grew into the space vacated by the activist neo-Gandhian wing of political science represented by Kothari, Nandy and Visvanathan. These latter thinkers were already deeply invested in South–South work, and Nandy had served on election commissions in neighbouring states, a not so secret politics. Can the suggestion of a model of global media studies that transcends the divisions and demarcations of regionalism and niche market sectarianism still account for diversity without normativity or the reduction of unity to mere comparativism?

The demonisation of Islam is also at base another example of a long term effort of capital to discipline any form of organised labour (see Du Bois 1998: 186). Capital in its crisis mode seeks scapegoats and by extension disciplines all those who would be potential scapegoats. Replace the word migrant with people and recognise that the discussion here can be talking about you, me, them, and all of us that move against fear – to see this migration is to see the demographic that induces fear – if all those who were on the move also formed a movement, something would be happening that would make the American Civil War and the French Revolution look like prayer meetings.

Empire did not fold, it morphed into arms sales and chaos diplomacy under cover of Merchant Irony nostalgia films.

If the desire to provide answers and a tool box or useful kit of what to do next is set aside for a minute as a dubious self-aggrandising cul de sac, might it be plausible to look back and try to make sense of why betrayal, loss and repetition seems to follow in repeat cycle. Might it be possible then to look at interventions made now, in alienated, individual, however distorted form, as the squeezed remnants of a sentiment that has been washed through global media, prejudicial representational profiling, demonisation, ideology and propaganda, etc., but still ask where and into what that immense energy dissipates? For sure, much energy is lost in the brutal squander of labour migration, with reserves of futility and despair no doubt, and moments of resistance and refusal of the State’s effort to channel that migration into appropriate reserves, but some of it also gets tracked in strange versions of media theory, pirate modernities, wanna-be alternatives, albeit atomised, and isolated – and institutionally co-opted, formations of radical thought not quite able to rethink the global in terms adequate to the modes of subsumption/restructuring that they necessarily tail. Murdoch Star, Soros Open Society, Google Don’t Be Evil, are out and out the neoliberal versions, but what then of people like Madhava Prasad and his subsumption theory of Bollywood, Ashish Rajadhyaksha and the extension of Bollywoodisation to the labours and commodities surrounding film marketing globally, Ravi Sundaram and others on pirate networks delivering cut-rate DIY cable connections etc… Potential here may be nothing, but it does seem plausible to at least try to see how these sorts of things can be said only because there was a Global South politics – tricontinental, non-aligned, pan-African, Comintern – once upon a time, which is now still operative but too often shorn both of its politics and its collective character.

Yet it might be the case that we need to adapt Ravi Vasudevan’s astute question about the ‘too rapid re-anchoring of the new technical fluidity of the cinema signifier in the politics and sociology of contemporary India’ (Vasudevan 2000: 22). If this same socio-reading were merely scaled up to the fragmented global that is diaspora, and its appearance in negative form in geo-political exoticist-terror full ideological spectrum, might this also be too fast a solution? Should every geo-political conflict be coded tradition versus modernity, or the star persona everyman (Bachchan) versus the villainous thug/naxalite insurgent?

This work in its progressive avatar might update the third cinema, transcend world cinema and extend the global Internet with tricontinental connectivities beyond imagination.

It could be that Global South Asian film and television is read as a lament for what might have been if the ‘third cinema’ had been more generalised. Not even a regional cinema, but a multifaceted and informed ecology of media critiques. Perhaps such a formation still exists despite the manifest surface occupation of the spaces of cinema by corporate and financial concerns. Dominated by a star system, entertainment press and multiplex/satellite distributor interests, there is nevertheless the requirement to speak to audiences not yet wholly lost.

If ‘third cinema’ theory arose ‘in response to world-wide liberation struggles and decolonization movements’ (Guneratne 2003: 3) then what is the shape of cinema’s response to ‘reconstruction, in Du Bois’ sense, or as a globalisation-driven assault upon the cultures of anti-colonialism? If the ‘tricontinental call to arms against social injustice and post-imperial exploitation’ (Guneratne 2003: 4) was distilled through the inspiration of reading Ho Chi Minh, Franz Fanon, Che Guevara and Amilcar Cabral, then also the films of Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and even Satyajit Ray lent materiality of the image to sentiment.

 

The media work that inspired reconfigurations of the objects of media studies in the recent period, its overflow into the political, did not grow organically out of media studies so much as the politics of earlier mobilisations imported, albeit in disguised ways, while the process of digitalisation and indeed atomisation was already underway. I want to ague that the energies of an older collective politics was hard-wired into those who then developed the new media studies, even when they most disavowed the collective project, even as that collective project was actively undermined by digitalisation. Perhaps even when that project was being dismantled by those who inherited the places it had carved, there was still the inverted potential of a revival always already there, operating as a target and a distraction, a self-delusion and justification, deceptive and promising all the same.

South Asian film theorists are doing work in continuity with, but in atomised form, the older Bandung, non-aligned, Comintern moments. This atomisation of struggles matches the ways trendy theory has mutated into celebrity, in say Hardt and Negri or media activists on Facebook etc., where the politics is direct address to power, not organising alongside and in solidarity. In Hardt and Negri recuperation by capital via the publishing industry is too easy, but the new South Asian media theory does not necessarily get picked up so much, so I want to both critique how it plays into demonisation and celebrate its last gasp residues of a greater potential. This potential is the importance of popular culture forms adopting and borrowing a myriad of styles – and able even to ‘tame the exotic’ (Monty 2010: 123). Offering a powerful allegory for cosmopolitanism even as it must always be remembered that borrowing and exchange has its hierarchies and power brokers all the way down.

Sometimes cultural representation goes off on its own and makes more mileage and covers more territory through technology than the efforts of contestation for space could ever achieve. Zee TV for example caters across Europe for South Asian diasporic expressive culture in ways that could not find, or have not yet found, mainstream visibility (Dudrah 2010: 164). Perhaps the visibility is achieved through exactly the horizontal broadcast that Zee provides, unable to compete for space with national broadcasters forces a transnational and becoming dominant pan-European Asian television. China TV and NHK are somewhat far behind in this respect, and NDTV and web-based services do not yet viably compete. How would we start to valuate the implications of Zee-sharing on a greater South Asia, or, very plausible if we consider the reach of K-pop into Japan and other places, the softening of particular cultural traits for a kind of regional or trans-continental palatability. Contrast Amitabh Bachchan or Nargis with Shah Rukh Khan or Ashwariya Rai, and you can begin to see how maybe some of the desi dust as been airbrushed away with today’s global stars.

None of this can presume to save the world as it is, though just to learn how to notice what is going on and what is good and bad about it would be a step forward. Simply put, see that demonisation of Muslims is not good, demonisation of migrants is not good, realising that migrant settlers are welcome and a boon, while nationalist xenophobia cannot reproduce a living caring world, is step one.

Is it any surprise that this would seem threatening to the hierarchical and static home nations and the elites who prefer no change, or at best incremental reform? Demonisation of migration and migrant community care – ‘they are living 15 to a room and sending money home/bringing their families’ – is the all too easy stagnant ideological nationalism that leaves us all the worse off. Breaking with xenophobia and adopting the migrant settler community model of social reproduction for all may be worth reconsidering. How would it look to support this? Would an influx of a certain film and television tradition be a battleground for such a contest? Not just Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge…

 

Was it movement that kick starts social transformation, and if so, what are the movements today, good and bad, public and covert, difficult or popular, and how does this change over time and focus in regions and globe? If it were possible to freely paraphrase a distilled version of Spivak’s language and keep it beside us as a toolbox for unpacking any media course or any political group, there might be a chance. A chance to ask the question that opens up eyes to what goes on with these screens. To ask: what if South Asia not Western Europe had done so well with the tools of trade and knowledge? Well, the weapons too, but the possibility of being the ones who ask for interpolation of others – who come by ship and demand, whether trader, anthropologist or film distributor: ‘hey you’ – need not be fixed forever more in a one-way model. Diaspora and post-national regionalism becoming a plurality of globalisms with a drive towards a multiply inclusive diversity and concern to not leave any member behind, leaving no-one to flounder in a new space, to settle everywhere as a community, this migration is can will be a transformation of the world.

 

 

Kill your darlings part 7

The slaughter of excess paragraphs and cul de sac ideas continues to leave this residue here in case I need to return…

There are several admirable reasons for leaving aside the conventions of contemporary film scholarship in favour of any development looking askance at the established discourse. Much of recent Euro-American film writing seems moribund, a routine formulaic of not exactly creative ambition. What escapes the old routines and presents itself as new – affective film, ubiquitous media, confessional personal contradictorily shallow self-exposure – seems to sidestep both traditions of scholarship and engaged politics. This leaves film studies at a point where any moves contemplated by a genuinely mobilised leftist population will too easily be recuperated and assimilated while effete intellectual posturing flounces about in pompous self-regard. Unless the adoption of robust work can break the circuit of self-referentiality and the same old authors citing the same old tomes, the result will mean only waiting, watching, and wasting away.

Courting foreign markets, scenes from abroad and increasingly co-production deals, although buttressed by a strong spectator-citizen base in the subcontinent, increasingly valuing the ticketing and advertising dividend of international viewers, the travels of cinema offer yet an untapped conscious political infiltration of unprecedented promise.

A furtive, underground, unconscious and melodramatic possibility is waiting, ready to crack its shell and burst integumentally from the storytelling machine, a moral machine, governed by Scheherazade from the start (Thomas 2014). It is no accident, though surely not intended, that we can discern a progression from an open and multi-directional marketplace to the walled-in privatised fortress compound of commercial, colonial, control. After so long under the corral of media enclosure, it now seems possible to reach forward from the neutral distraction machine and backwards to an older market-festival arrangement, and make a break with the containment…

 

[ha – guess which film I am no longer going to say this about:]

While this was not a hugely successful film, perhaps this is because the problem and its scenarios were handled in a somewhat timid and tepid way…

…and indeed the resolution tenuously turned back to the origins which had promised so much.

 

In terms of the technological, it is recognised, including in funded programmes perhaps too readily, but without doubt with great anticipation, that behind commentators’ statistical recitation of how many South Asian youth under 30 years old speaking English have mobile phones, the reach of digital capital into culture is unprecedented.

 

Taking a cue from debates in South Asian film and television studies, we can see that the technological register of commercial cultural industry activities of British youth show a quaint early adoption and quick adaptation to technologies that arrive as if from nowhere. They never come from nowhere of course, but they do seem to reach everywhere. The flexibility of youth and their ability to code-switch their attentive registers in rapid time is surely remarkable – but perhaps only to old codger analysts who are not quite as adept at setting up the VCR timer as they thought they were. But relate this to Siegfried Kracauer’s study of the Ziegfeld follies, and the film-going activities of ‘little shop girls’ who go to the movies after office work, and it suggests the beginnings of a perspective that sees the allegorical as material for a diagnosis of cultural fissures and where there are cultural fissures you then see transformation and change. The dynamics here, of course, are also in sway to advertisers and entrepreneurs who love to pounce on a next big thing, and the saturation of the new that enters daily life pushing aside traditions handed down from parents, which are sometimes quite sound if populist variants of socialism and practical working out of equalities, and indeed opposed to seeing the cultural coherence of whole communities turned toward brand identification and new shopping malls etc., – all this leaves one wondering at psychological pressures and the expression, and indeed manipulation, of desire is an incurable affliction of the system…

 

It is my conceit that the demagogues of diminished intellect can only ever talk of a few films, and in this chapter really there were just three, but this was a forced and fake necessity, and should we never admit our choices simply cannot stand in for them all – even if every sociology, like every allegory, and all words, lusting after anecdotes, is partial to gossip and has serious limits of philosophical, representational, constraints – rarely acknowledged. In the films under discussion in this chapter, there is blood, for example. On screen, in the remakes of these films, blood is red; it explodes and spreads like a stain. In real life, blood is never so red, and never so blue, as in the movie world. The reality of violence, whether racist attacks in London suburbs, or death squad beheadings in Libya, Syria, Yemen etc., is mediated in full colour, with the work of the secret services exposed, it is a gaudy shade of crime. This requires consideration as to the degree a staged violence, even when real, is translated in coded terms for culture industry consumption and what this consumer marketing does to affective and political sensibilities? Here, technology, audiences, ideology, psychology, affect and care converge in the chance to bring a creative, grinning, pleasure that takes hours out of the reproductive process as merely a way to repair the family, repair the self, or reconcile the self to the further engorging of surplus production, or its calculated transmutation into further opportunities to enjoy being together.

It is to easy to turn this experiment into a mockery of the extravagant claims of any film and television studies that examines a tiny proportion of the production of ‘a culture’ – as if there was a containment ring bounded around cultural forms in any way that makes sense. A thousand films per year you say, let alone considering the ethnographic reportage that links up and connects with the convoluted apparatus of the industry, the songs, magazines, popcorn sellers and distribution, production, agents, dreams. To get a handle on any cultural formation seems absurd at scale. Which leaves the allegorical designation wanting unless it is recognised as a strategically deployed interpretative intervention. Itself often the worst kind of scholarship is to ‘intervene’ in a debate, to make an interjection with the assumption that others will stop what they’re doing, listen, and change according to your wise points. Happy is the scholar who succeeds there without an inevitable ego overcooked meltdown immediately afterwards.

 

The perverse fortunes of Kureishi’s Omar on arrival in the House of Lords.

Palin plays comic in the sky, the Maoists have wider aspirations on the ground.

 

we can see the depth and stakes of the struggle. If some of the old elites had provided a buffer from an even more recalcitrant neo-fascist imperialism, that condition is now a leadership question with which there must be a reckoning. NATO and the US/UK military alliance playing political ‘great games’ with Asia as a target requires a political program that would certainly endorse Prashad’s principles for a new Southern Commission, but the organisation of such gains requires more than meetings in the central square and a few celebrity television endorsements. Using watchwords like social justice and imagination, Prashad declares in favour of ‘the principle of universal access by every person to certain basic needs – food, healthcare, employment, social security and so on’. He articulates a path towards this through ‘Land reform’ and ‘control over industrial processes’ (Prashad 2012: 290) so as to be able to introduce a universal ‘social wage’ and engage with the ‘creation of public goods’ without which ‘it is doubtful if any solution to the climate catastrophe can be envisaged’ (Prashad 2012: 291).

[Yup, but cut]

 

The book was written and written over, with conjectural concerns and shifting uncertitude. This can only be a record of trying to make sense for myself to myself of the workings of this exotica-terror goose-step – if others look over the shoulder, welcome, I hope sharing questions and readings can be useful. Is there a media studies for every decade, for every regime, epoch? Does the televisual deserve attention beyond screen disciplinarianism? Can inversions provoke renewal, instead of reverence for the silver screen, contempt for the small; instead of Eurocentrism, decenterism? Does diaspora count as a region, or a feedback loop? Is nostalgia always colonising?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kill your darlings #6

Now the collection of – clunky concrete poetry – things dumped here show just how rough the first draft really was. Out damn spot, out.

It is always possible, even advisable, to disagree with the cleavages comrade Badiou introduces to his speculations, especially where he proclaims he knows ‘full well that the kind of riot triggered by state murders – for example, in 2005 in Paris, or in 2011 in London [he means Duggan] – is violent, anarchic, and ultimately without enduring truth‘ (Badiou 2011/2012: 20-21 my italics). Badiou is here talking in the immediate aftermath of the uprising, and talking too soon to make such a call. Truth, what does it matter if you philosophise on the back on remote access news reports? Even if he had read more widely, perhaps, would he see that the sort of ‘riot’ discussed here does not ‘plunder’ and destroy ‘without a concept’, but rather can leave many concepts and be a part of an ongoing struggle, that continues and is protracted, unforgiving and unforgotten. Contra Badiou then, but for many reasons beside, …

Similarly, when Prashad laments the ‘revolution’ that Libya got as it deserved, it need not be so easily agreed that the loss of Gaddafi was not also a loss far greater

and let’s not even start on the complicated consequences of the stalling of the Tahrir Square occupations of the dissolution of the Gezi movement in Turkey under the threats and schemings of AKP’s Tayyip Erdogan

too much geopolitical brinksmanship and prosecution of age-old political manoeuvring that a Clive, Colonel Gordon or even Richard Burton or Rudyard Kipling would readily recognise.

In discussion of these political squibs that come to us haphazardly through a wholly ideological format of news and facebark, the arbitrary ordering of interpretive sequence by way of choosing to follow the names of a film and the dates of release of quite separate productions is as viable as any. I seek out images of the left on TV, I adopt my favourites as directors and promote them endlessly as if it were multivitamins for the soul. What has the order of choice to say about the analysis? Should the assemblage or the idiomatic be stressed first? The tendential hybridisation of proletarianisation that could be prioritised over the organisational or the strategic deployment of whichever convenient identity construct? To the extent that awareness of how these frames frame is even partially plausible in the marketplace of interpretation – though we set a high value on interpretations that are dysfunctional for the market, the sponsoring institutions, the conventions of disciplinary readership and the surveillance of state – is there merit in trying to escape the industry that will always profit from the double binding of a book and the promotional review of a film? Hard and soft covers. Sometimes it is bruising to learn that ego flounders on the double hypocrisy of resistance as method.

The catch in the digital, so far largely ignored in its implications, is that the charismatic piracy of its modernity is soon routinised. The bureaucratic infects the digital without opposition, indeed via the Trojans of an accelerationist digital humanities and the apolitical ontology studies and the like. I am appalled at the baneful consequences of the celebrity desire of those who talk so-called ontological affect, neo-Darwinism and flux theory simply to close out the ‘old’ honest critical Left in a dirty alliance with brand management institutionalism. No interest in revolutionary change, even a rights based individualism becomes an evolution of the fittest, loudest, twitter.

What levels of consideration need be sustained to rethink all media theory back again as critical social theory, and who would that put out of work? Would this especially destabilise the hegemony of Eurocentrism in social and media theory since dominant thinking in Europe and America assumes a preposterous transparency in home media while thinking all ‘foreign’ media is ideological.

Writing about theorists who have long experience of making the argument that the hegemonic viewpoint is itself constructed and construed in a prejudicial way against the interests of the South becomes an argument against the South. Soon to be published by a prominent big house left publisher with all the right recommendations. Without projecting uniformity or absolute coherence on these polarities, the suggestion at least merits spending time with those theorists of the South with experience and form in making the critique of colonial knowledge regimes, exoticism, orientalist,  ethnocentrism and hierarchy and not reporting them to the authorities…

It is difficult to comprehend how it is even possible to be the same species as someone who feigns concern while having active involvement in levels of brutal mercenary exploitation unseen since the Roman senate. Empire was a metaphor for theory, while fascism is a rarefied word invoking equal measures of anxiety and abuse within activism. But the demonisation and destruction of lives which are deemed not to matter, while others declare freedom, is a divided logic only possible for inhuman hypocrites. How can freedom be squared with extra-juridical assassination, torture, invasion and collateral damage – meaning random public death – in the same words and gestures that also ask for public approval, votes and money. More disturbing yet, the interests and lobbyists that gather support for this hypocrisy, and the unassuming gullible acceptance of a regime of terror that calls itself democracy.

Hutnyk

Tracking down the old man’s arrival records from Europe to Australia. He was a violent drunken shit, but I do appreciate at least his refrain about how we should have no regard for anyone who thinks that workers can’t read literature or that ‘these books are not for the likes of us’. School was not the only place to learn also, but all people should get into the school/library/gallery without any kind of entry bar. He valued university of life education in the wildest sense. He carried his encyclopaedias out of our burning house (when I was four) rather than lose them, along the way sacrificing his immigration records and Euro identity papers etc to the bushfires (perhaps for good reason, I dread to discover). 
Anyway, on the track of his records, I think I’ve found his 1950 arrival data – perhaps to Bonegilla (hi Glenda Sluga) and later to the Snowy scheme. There’s this helpful write up, to be absorbed also for its contrast to current Australian camp policy:

     List report

List with agency/person recording

Details report

Select  

Series details for: A12051 

Series number

A12051

Title

Migrant Selection Documents for Displaced Persons who travelled to Australia per Hellenic Prince departing Naples 4 December 1950

Accumulation dates

1950 – 1950

Contents dates

1950 – 1950

Items in this series on RecordSearch

483
All items from this series are entered on RecordSearch.

Agency/person recording 

1950 – 1950CA 51, Department of Immigration, Central Office

Agency/person controlling 

18 Sep 2013 – CA 9431, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Central Office – Immigration

Quantity and location 

3.06 metres held in ACT

System of arrangement/ control

Multiple number with occasional ‘R’ prefix

Range of control symbols

1-2 to 1000; R3 to R230-R233

Predominant physical format

PAPER FILES AND DOCUMENTS

Series note

Function and Purpose
This series consists of Migrant Selection Documents for Displaced Persons who travelled to Australia on the ship ‘Hellenic Prince’ departing Naples on 3 December1950 and arriving in Melbourne 10 January 1951.
Displaced Persons Scheme
At the end of the Second World War, many hundreds of thousands of people who had been brought to Germany from occupied countries to labour in German industry were unable or unwilling to return to their homelands which were occupied by the army of the USSR (mainly Poland and the Baltic countries – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, in addition to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia).
These people came under the care of the International Refugee Organization (IRO). They were screened, given the status of Displaced Person and housed in camps in Germany, Italy and Austria.
On 21 July 1947, the Commonwealth Government entered into an agreement with the IRO for the resettlement of European Displaced Persons in Australia. This scheme was subsequently known as the DP Group Resettlement (or ‘Mass Resettlement’) scheme.
Under this agreement, the IRO undertook responsibility for provision of transport (at its own cost) and the care of the Displaced Persons until their disembarkation in Australia. The Commonwealth undertook selection in Europe and responsibility for reception in Australia, placement in employment and care after arrival of all members of the family unit. Unlike the DP schemes already operating in the United States, Canada and various South American countries, the prospective emigrant did not need to secure personal sponsorship from a relative or friend already resident in the country, or from a welfare society, who undertook to provide support (in the way of accommodation and sustenance after their arrival and until they were self-supporting). Instead, in Australia, the government itself would fulfil this role, an important difference that caused the Australian scheme to be regarded with favour by the IRO, despite the costs involved in transporting the refugees such a great distance. (Conversely, some DPs favoured Australia as a destination precisely because it was so remote from Europe.)
During the lifetime of the DP Scheme, the Australian government’s official representation in Germany was the Australian Military Mission in Berlin, which presided over the recruitment activities by Australian Migration personnel. From 1948, the Migration Branch of this office was headquartered separately in Cologne, with the Selection Teams being accommodated at various locations in the British and American zones of Germany. They were heavy dependent for their operations on the goodwill and cooperation of the British and American military authorities since all basic needs such as accommodation food, transport and communications came from this source.
Eligibility for selection was based initially on standards of age, physical fitness and the ability to do manual work. At first, Australia expressly targeted single Baltic people. However, as the scheme progressed, and this limited source dried up, the target groups widened. In the next two years, while the emphasis on fitness to undertake manual work remained, restrictions on nationality, marital status and composition of family groups were gradually relaxed until, in April 1949, the scheme was extended to include all European nationals whose Displaced Person status was recognised by the IRO. (The status of DP was stringently tested; the conditions of eligibility occupy eight pages of the Constitution of the IRO.)
All applicants within the worker age limits under this scheme undertook to remain in the employment found for them by the Commonwealth for a period of two years from the date of their arrival, and their continued residence in the Commonwealth was subject to their observing this undertaking. At the end of this period, these conditions of entry were revoked and the DPs effectively became permanent residents with the normal rights of citizens to live and work where they chose.
To meet its responsibilities under the agreement, and to ensure an appropriate environment for the reception of the DPs, and for their absorption into the community, the Commonwealth set up its own Reception and Training Centres at Bonegilla in Victoria, Bathurst and Greta in New South Wales, Graylands in West Australia and Woodside in South Australia. At these centres, the new arrivals were again medically examined and x-rayed and interviewed individually to assess their employment potential, within the limited range of the government’s intent; men had been recruited to work as labourers and unskilled workers, women as domestics, nurses and typists. Generally, any professional qualifications and technical skills the DPs possessed were ignored.
During their stay in the Reception and Training Centres, usually about three or four weeks, the DPs were given a course of instruction in utilitarian English and the Australian way of life. During this time, they were paid a special social service benefit from which an amount was deducted towards the cost of their upkeep. (Migrants under this scheme were eligible to receive health and medical service benefits, sickness and unemployment benefits, Maternity Allowance and Child Endowment.)
Subsequently, as the scheme progressed, many other accommodation centres for dependants of workers were established in many locations, from Cairns in North Queensland to Cunderdin in West Australia.
After a slow start, owing to the shortage of suitable shipping (there was only the one voyage in 1947, and sixteen voyages in 1948), there was a great expansion of the program when more shipping became available in 1949. In that year, the number of ships on charter to the IRO peaked at forty (exactly half were USATs) and there were seventy-eight DP voyages to Australia. Despite a change of government in Australia (which removed from the scene the personal drive and commitment of Minister Calwell and installed a new ministry which favoured traditional British migration), the program continued at a high level through 1950 and 1951, but decreased as the IRO neared the end of its mandated existence.
When the IRO wound up its activities in early 1952, there were still many Displaced Persons in camps in Europe who had already been accepted for migration to Australia under the DP Mass Resettlement scheme and whose passages had still to be arranged. This migration continued until late 1953 (under the auspices of the International Committee for European Migration – ICEM), usually by placing small numbers of people on ships carrying migrants under other schemes, or on a scheduled commercial service, rather than on ships chartered solely to carry DPs, as done previously. The last arrival occurred in September 1953, bringing the total number of arrivals under this scheme to approximately 170,700 persons.
Most of the voyages originated in Bremerhaven, Germany. In the middle period, many Displaced Persons were transported to Naples, Italy, by train, from Germany and Austria. Other occasional ports of origin were Genoa, Nordenham (near Bremerhaven) and Rotterdam on the Atlantic coast, and Genoa, Venice, Trieste and Piraeus in the Mediterranean. A few voyages collected further DPs en route form camps in Lebanon and Egypt (mostly Yugoslavs) and one voyage collected Polish DPs from a camp in Kenya, East Africa. The department attempted to alternate the arrivals between Melbourne and Sydney to even out the flow of new arrivals to Bonegilla and Bathurst centres, respectively, with limited success. Occasionally, a ship was directed to disembark passengers at Fremantle, Adelaide or Newcastle, usually as a result of specific employment opportunities in these areas.
During the course of the scheme, in late 1950 and early 1951, a small number of persons, mostly pregnant women or elderly dependents, were flown by chartered aircraft from Europe to Australia. Almost all of these flights departed from Bremen or Rome.
There were also some arrivals both by ship and aircraft from a DP camp in the Philippines. These DPs were former Russian nationals who had been evacuated to the Philippines from Shanghai in early 1949.
(Many other persons who had been DPs in Europe migrated to Australia during these years as privately sponsored migrants; not under the government sponsored Mass Resettlement scheme. This is particularly the case for Jewish DPs sponsored by the Australian Jewish Welfare Society (AJWS) and the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC). These organisations were active in France and many of these voyages, by ships such as ‘Derna’, ‘Napoli’ and ‘El Soudan’, originated from Marseilles. There are files on these voyages in the Immigration Departments series A434; but, as the DPs involved were not recruited or selected by the Australian government officials, there are no migration selection documents for these people as there are for arrivals under the Mass Resettlement Scheme.)
The Ship and the Voyage
The ship ‘Hellenic Prince’ was chartered by the IRO to transport DPs to Australia. This voyage was her fourth DP voyage to Australia departing Naples on 3 December1950 and arriving in Melbourne 10 January 1951 carrying 953 DPs. The majority were mostly from Europe, Poland and the Baltic countries, in addition to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia and were composed of single males, single females, married couples and family groups.
Nominal Roll Nos 817-819 the Komlosy family disembarked at Colombo.
Nominal Roll Nos 855-857 the Bondarew family, disembarked at Suez.
The passengers disembarked and were transported by special train to the Department of Immigration Reception and Training Centre, Bonegilla departing from the ship’s side at 8:50 am and 9:50 am on 11 January 1951.
The Nominal Roll
A ship’s nominal roll is a list of all the passengers on board when the ship or aircraft departed from its port of departure.
A schedule of selected DPs for a particular voyage was assembled over some weeks by the Australian Migration Selection teams moving from one camp to another, interviewing potentially eligible DPs who had nominated for resettlement in Australia. Consequently, the schedule is first arranged under the heading of the camp and then by category of persons selected at that camp; that is, whether the DPs were single males, single females, married couples, etc. The names were normally listed alphabetically within each of these categories. When the schedule was complete (according to the passenger capacity of the particular ship), each person listed was allocated a number starting from number 1 for the first entry on the schedule and going through in one sequence to the last entry. The final form of the schedule of selected DPs thus became the ship’s nominal roll, and the allocated number against the entry for each person in the schedule was referred to as his or her nominal roll number.
At this point, the roll was typed up (in multiple copies) as the finalised list of approved migrants. However, there were often subsequent deletions (the names are still visible but are crossed through, usually in red crayon) as DPs who had been selected to travel had to be cancelled at the last moment, most frequently owing to the illness of a member of the family unit. To prevent the wastage of these available berths, a pool of cases (usually single males) was built up, after a time, at a camp at the point of embarkation (such as Bagnoli in Italy), which could be substituted to take advantage of these vacancies. These substitutes were known as Reserves and they were listed at the end of the existing roll in a new numerical sequence distinguished by an R prefix. Many nominal rolls therefore have two sequences of numbers, the main sequence and a sequence of Reserves.
The personal documents for each person on a voyage, that is, the records of the type which constitute this series (which also were sent to Australia on the same ship ), were arranged in accordance with this numbering scheme. The nominal roll numbers have therefore been adopted as the item control symbols for this series.
Multiple copies of the nominal roll were created in the Migration offices in Europe and accompanied the DPs on the voyage to Australia. On arrival here, copies were distributed to various government departments involved in the exercise, such as Customs and Social Services. A copy of the nominal roll for this voyage can be found in CRS A434, 1950/3/46121.
The same process regarding nominal rolls, and the same terminologies, applied to both ship and aircraft departures.
To aid identification, a considerable amount of personal information about the DP appears in the entry in the nominal roll. In addition to the name and nominal roll number, there was a reference to the CM-1 form (IRO’s record of interview to establish DP status), the actual DP status granted; Nationality, Religion, Marital status, Sex, Date of Birth, Age, Country and Place of Birth, Passport number and Place of Issue, and Occupation.
Given the difficulty for the overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic bureaucracy posed by the unfamiliar Slavic nomenclature, it quickly became standard departmental practice to use the nominal roll number as shorthand for the person. For this reason, the ship’s nominal roll and the person’s individual nominal roll number assumed a particular significance in the control of the records and the administration of the scheme generally.
As the nominal rolls were widely dispersed in departmental records and often difficult to identify, NAA staff have created an artificial series of copies of the nominal roll for each voyage and flight under the DP Mass Resettlement Scheme, registered as CRS A12916.
The records
The records in this series, in general, are those created by the Australian Migration Selection Teams in Germany and Austria; for each person, these consist of two main documents:
A Processing card (5 x 8 inch index card) which shows the applicant’s name, date of birth, sex, nationality, educational standard, fluency of languages, IRO eligibility, documents produced to support identity, address of any relative in Australia, religion, particulars of dependants, any civil offences, literary test result, date of arrival in Germany and from where. On the reverse of the card, there is provision for recording (very briefly) the reason for coming to Germany, recent employment history and suggested employment in Australia; there is also a signed undertaking to abide by the conditions applying to their migration to Australia, and acceptance and signature of Selection Officer.

A large format IRO Medical Examination Form. The front page of the form provides for personal identification and includes the Displaced Person’s name, date of birth, and physical characteristics such as colour of eyes and hair, weight, height and any distinguishing scars or marks. In addition, a passport-style photograph is attached (designed to ensure that the person presenting for the examination was in fact the person described). The remainder of the form provides for recording a succession of medical examinations by the IRO Assembly Centre doctor, the IRO’s Resettlement Centre doctor and finally by the Australian Medical officer attached to the Selection Team. There is often also a chest x-ray negative attached.

There may also be some records which were created by the IRO itself relating to the processing of the application for registration as a DP and for resettlement outside Europe. They contain the same types of personal information as the records described above, but often with more detail and with explanatory statements about points of nationality or ethnicity, or about family relationships.
System of Arrangement and Control
The items of this series are arranged by the nominal roll number, as described above. Generally the records relating to one person constitute one record item. However, in cases where a number of consecutive entries on the nominal roll constitute a family unit, the documents for all members of this family unit are grouped together as one record item (contained in one folder), and the control symbol for this record item is the range of nominal roll numbers of the individual persons. For example, a control symbol of ‘112-115’ indicates there are documents for four members of a family unit within the record item, with nominal roll numbers 112, 113, 114 and 115. Some records in the series include alphabetical prefixes and/or suffixes.
Records for each voyage are controlled as a discrete series.
Language of the material
In most cases, the language of the printed forms and the entered data is English but there is some German, French and other languages represented.
English was the official language of the IRO which, although headquartered in Geneva, was staffed predominantly by British, American and Canadian personnel. Almost all the recruitment action for migration to Australia took place in the British and American zones of German where English was the language of the governing authority (though German was the lingua franca of the DPs themselves). Relatively little recruitment activity took place in the French Zone of Germany (partly because the French government had little enthusiasm for European emigration) and none at all in the Russian Zone. The same comments apply to the situation in Austria.
Relationships with other records
Other original records created by the IRO in Germany and Austria relating to individual DPs are in the custody of the International Tracing Service, Bad Arolsen Germany (website at its-arolsen.org). The forms CM-1 contain information derived from the personal interviews which were part of the process of establishing eligibility for DP status and may be of particular value. In general, the archives of the IRO generally are held by the National Archives of France in Paris.
When the DPs arrived in Australia, all persons over the age of 16 years were required to complete an Alien Registration application. These forms are also in the custody of the National Archives and are progressively being added to the RecordSearch database. In general, they do not contain any more personal information than is present in the migrant selection documents.
The Bonegilla cards (CRS A2571) record, along with the usual personal details, the dates of arrival and departure from Bonegilla and the destination on departure. They also have a passport-style photo attached, taken at the camp (that is, not the same photo as can be found on the IRO’s Medical Form).
Finding Aids
There is no comprehensive index or other original register of DP records in the custody of NAA. However, the records relating to a particular person can be identified by keyword search, entering the person’s full name, in NAA’s RecordSearch database. Records relating to one voyage are controlled as a discrete series.
As mentioned above, NAA staff created, for reference purposes, an artificial series of copies of each nominal roll of each voyage and flight under the DP Mass Resettlement Scheme. This series is CRS A12916.
Custodial History
As each voyage was about to depart from Europe, the basic records (Processing Card and Medical Examination form) created by the Australian Selection teams for all the persons on that voyage were bundled up and forwarded on the same ship. (The documents for each person were loose, not pinned together or enclosed in a protective cover. Many DPs did not have the nominal roll number endorsed on their papers and were identified only by the names of the applicants.) The bundles were addressed to the Department of Immigration Central office in Canberra, but owing to space constraints in Canberra, the records were held at the Reception Centre in Bonegilla, where a very large quantity of such bundles gradually accumulated, arranged first by the voyage and, within that, by nominal roll number. However, whenever any subsequent issue or action arose in relation to a DP, the selection documents for that person were extracted from their place in this collection and sent to the Immigration Department in Canberra, or elsewhere, as required, where they were incorporated in a case file. There was so much demand for these records that an officer from the department in Canberra was stationed at Bonegilla expressly to deal with it; identifying, locating and forwarding the records as required.
In 1954, when the DP Scheme had ended, the DP records remaining at Bonegilla were transferred to the Department’s Kingston (Canberra) store in preparation for their transfer to the Archives. Despite the depredations that had been made, this was still the bulk of the record collection and was still in the original arrangement by voyage/flight. This material was transferred to the custody of the National Archives on 3 March 1958 and was accessioned as CP533/1. This accession consisted of 979 bundles occupying 354 shelf feet.
Three years later, a number of additional transfers were made. These were documents which had been extracted from the collection at Bonegilla and placed on case files, then subsequently culled from the case file when that file was to be destroyed. All of this material was arranged alphabetically by the persons surname, since often the relevant ship and nominal roll number were not known. A quantity of 49 bundles of this material (21 shelf feet) was transferred on 11 Feb 1961 and subsequently accessioned as CP900/2. A further 152 bundles (68 shelf feet) was transferred on 22 February 1961 and accessioned as CP899/4. In 1969, a further residue of this type of DP material was included with a large transfer of miscellaneous migrant selection documents from various migration schemes, which was accessioned as AA1969/339.
In 1954, the Liquidator for the IRO wrote to the Australian government proposing that the IRO’s records for each DP who had come to Australia should be forwarded to Australia for retention. These records related to the process of registration as a DP, the person’s engagement in the IRO’s Care and Maintenance program in the camps and the application for Resettlement outside of Europe. This documentation was subsequently forwarded from Geneva to Australia and this material was also transferred by the Immigration Department to the custody of the NAA in February, 1961. The quantity was 187 bundles, occupying 69 shelf feet, also arranged alphabetically by surname, and was accessioned as CP900/4. While in the custody of the Department, some documents from this material had also been extracted and used elsewhere, usually in tandem with the Australian-origin documents for the person.
Owing to the very large quantities of records involved and the absence of original control records, no attempt was made at this time to rationalise or to restore the arrangement of these records. Consequently, for the next thirty years, the standard of accessibility to individual DP’s records in the National Archives was very poor.
In 1999, Arrangement and Description section staff of NAA Canberra began a long-term project to restore this very large collection of personal documents (a total of more than 200 metres of densely packed loose documents) to its original arrangement and to enter each record into the RecordSearch database. This project involved researching the history of the DP scheme, identifying the voyages and flights that were made under this scheme, locating in each case a copy of the nominal roll and then identifying each document to a nominal roll entry so that the document’s original order and control could be established, then preserving and foldering the records and entering in the database. The project was completed in late 2002. Further work by Archival Description staff in 2009 resulted in updates to series registrations and series descriptive notes.
As some of the IRO records (accession CP900/4) had already been integrated with Australian-created material in the department, it was decided not to attempt to restore the separate existence of these two sets of records but, instead, to complete the integration so that only one record item would exist for each DP (or family unit.) Accordingly, all of the accessions mentioned above have now been integrated into one standardised arrangement which reflects the original arrangement by voyage/flight and within that by the nominal roll number, and with the IRO origin material, where it exists, present in the same folder.
There is at present a residue of documents which cannot be identified to a nominal roll entry and which at this time are controlled as a separate series, CRS A12685, for the DPs from Europe, and CRS A12701, for those from the Philippines. In addition, there are many nominal roll entries for which no documents were located during this exercise. It is believed these were extracted in the process described above and the case files on which they were placed are still extant. An ongoing exercise is underway to enter the vast quantity of case files in series A446 into the RecordSearch database and it is expected that many of the missing documents will be located during this process.
Sources
National Archives of Australia: A446, Correspondence files, annual single number series with block allocations.
Louise Holborn, History of the IRO (OUP London, 1956).
Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, No. 39, 1953 and No. 42, 1956.
Peter Plowman, Australian Migrant Ships 1946 – 1977, Rosenberg Publishing, Sydney 2008.
Peter Plowman, Emigrant Ships to Luxury Liners, NSW University Press, Sydney 1992.
A434, 1950/3/46121.

Rename Australia now – it is derivative and insulting, so let it be changed to Nomgolia or Yarra Yarra or #referendum #renaming #greatsouthernland #aussies

AcburkeandwillsWent for a passport renewal interview yesterday. Isn’t it really really overdue to change the name of the country to something other than Australia?

I mean, the term is a problematic one, given by Spanish, Dutch, British colonists – first given by Mathew Flinders writing in prison in Mauritius – terra australis incognita, and this name, Australia, proposed by Macquarie and authorised by the Admiralty. Why accept what those pirates had to say? Flinders adopted the phrase somehow from the Spanish “Austrialia del Espíritu Santo” (Southern Land of the Holy Spirit) – and sure it was holy in some sense, but certainly not incognita, nor nullis, as we know well. The Dutch preferred New Holland, but that is equally problematic, and given that they also used Austrailis, with no disrespect to the Dutch, why do we follow their ascription (and while we are at it, surely New Zealanders should get about to changing their name as well – Aotearoa (Māori: [aɔˈtɛaɾɔa]), is the obvious candidate). But what to rename the Great Southern Land? I am not going to propose we adopt anything from the Italians either, despite the very welcome migration of good cofeee adn pasta to Carlton etc., but in Latin, auster does connotes south or place from where the hot wind comes. It also had an earlier sense of East, and indeed the prefix aus can mean to shine or burn, ausre means dawn, if we look to the cognates: Greek eos “dawn,” auein “to dry, kindle;” Sanskrit usah, Lithuanian ausra “dawn;” Latin auster “south wind,” usum “to burn;” Old English east “east”.

Since other countries on independence from the colonial powers had no problem changing their names – Sri Lanka from Ceylon, Taiwan from Formosa – I think there is a case for renaming Australia in recognition of the potential for mass inward Chinese migration, perhaps New Tibet would be something to have in mind, lets call it Newbit. Or how about in recognition of the pomo linguistic muddle that we clearly have here around names, we could use Nomgolia. I like that because as a mostly arid country we have the potential to appeal to the Chinese as a migration destination option that would something like southern Mongolia. Well, sadly the racists won’t accept the argumentation that relies on China to populate the great expanses of the Murray basin, clearly we need to explore some indigenous names. Myself, coming from Melbourne, I like Yarra. We could name the country after a great river, apparently a koorie word for water, or waterfall, misheard by the early settler-colonists as a name for the river – yarra yarra they said, and pointed to the waterfall. So we could elevate that error as the name for the country in appropriate recognition of the early mistakes of occupation – a kind of sorry name gesture would not go astray. And after all, the droughts and flooding rains routine did leave some of the early error-making trekkers padding around in the desert begging indigenous folk for water – Burke and wills for example, set off to cross the country south to north, starting from the banks of the Yarra in 1860, died trying to get to Mount Hopeless on the way back (see the statue by Charles Summers, pic by Adam Carr).

I am proposing, as executive member of the Australian Government in exile, founded 1994, Manchester, now also with an office in Hsinchu City, that we have a referendum (that’s a fancy word for guessing game) on a new name.

My preference is for Nomgolia, but I would also accept Yarra Yarra. What do other people think?

[addendum: yes this was a Halloween post, but after all the pics of folks I know dressed in Halloween garb – adults I mean, not just kids – I wonder why it did not occur to me that we should just apply for US statehood. Especially as ex-glorious-leader Abbott crowed about so much in the UK this week, ever closer all the way ties. On Abbott’s overseas tour – does anyone know how he is getting back to Australia? – now is a good time to stop his boat, or plane, or broomstick]

Stagnation

Maybe the trick is to develop a strategy that will take advantage of the defensive struggles that capital is having itself. It is stuck in stagnation for good reasons – the collapse of its ability to refinance further rounds of accumulation (credit crunch continuing because the ratio of constant to variable capital is impossibly large), and now austerity brings crisis upon crisis since valourisation fails all the more with stagnation-driven desperation and cuts. The new technologies that frame a hoped for solution to the long term composition imbalance have seen initiatives in circulation (delivery drones! ocado home delivery, hardly high level labour growth here) but the staples remain resources and weapons (always good for productivity, with suitably racist ideological gimmicks like 9/11, 7/7, Libya, Syria, Charlie Hebdo to push along public approval). But new delivery technologies are hardly the ‘frames’ that Ned Ludd and the like attacked, though to be sure, the Luddites soon identified the enemy as the people wielding the new technologies not the frames themselves. Targetting those that manage the delivery systems is one level of activity. The other areas are weapons, mining, policing, war, and then privatisation as the attempt to monetise the entire private sphere in a last ditch scramble to colonise new domains for production, but there is only so much scope, and austerity limits consumer drives in any case.
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In all this, I think the targeting of profit taking is key. But not just the corruption, bonuses, tax breaks and peripheral moments of profit. The central crime is surplus value extraction and those overseer Captains of Industry who need to turn that surplus into capital through some sort of valourisation process with investment and innovation, well, they are probably the most fragile part of the plan. What would hurt profit taking more than having service workers, military and high tech workers all challenge the basis of that extraction? Under the banner of abolition of the wage system of course (and not some swap out for barter or work chits, but rather) A living wage for all, irrespective of origin, capability or age or sector of work. CEOs and the unemployed on the same rate (‘unemployment for all, not just the ruling class’, would be the slogan to appeal to the luxuriant fraction amongst us). Universal across the board abandonment of money and the money changers not just out of the temple, but the temples torn down, repurposed into hospices, refugee welcome halls, and bingo for everyone. Saul from Breaking Bad calling out the numbers. Huzzah!

Danish colonial ties

Danskemaritime

Some maritime gems in the library yesterday… ”Serampore had a certain importance to the illicit Anglo-Danish trade thanks to its facilities for anonymity and customs easements’ (Feldbaek 1969:199). Indeed, Feldbaek suggests that because of English East India Company restrictions, some 80-90% of goods sent from Bengal to Copenhagen were not consumed in Copenhagen, but moved along in various ways to London as the goods were shipped by English and Anglo-Indian traders working under Danish flags. In the late 18th century he suggests Serampore was more important than Tranquebar for the Asiatic trade (p232). This is in large part remittances because ‘by far the most part of the Anglo-Indian fortunes had to be sent to England through the foreign European companies (Feldbaek 1969:27) and banned ‘country trade’ by English EIC officials had been ‘driven underground and forced to seek cover of foreign European flags’ (Feldbaek 1969:11).

Precarity

More notes on Capital:

Marx’s word is ‘prekärer’ Capital Vol 1 LW640, also LW707– and when the trades unionist and the precarious are not on good terms, precarity throws, for example, Irish families from the gaity of hearth into ‘hotbeds of vice’ (LW707). He mentions those ruined Ludford women again. Sickness and death among the ‘troglodytes working on the Lewisham to Sevenoaks railway line’ (LW664-5) while Millwall, Greenwich and Deptford are in utter distress and destitution (LW668), there are more kids on opium – the godfrey’s cordial stocks running low (LW695). The parson and gentlefolk seem ‘frit to death’ (LW691) at this scene. All labour is of course precarious, depending upon how ‘frit’ the labourers can make the bosses.

At this point that Marx describes how worker recognition that precarity is a condition determined by their predicament in capitalism is key (D669. P793) Precarity is the condition of having been ‘set free’ of old ties to community and possession. So that Marx writes, with more than a hint of grim optimism:

‘as soon as the workers learn the secret of why it happens that the more they work, the more alien wealth they produce, and that the more the productivity of their labour increases, the more does their very function as a means for the valourization of capital become precarious: as soon as they discover that the degree of intensity of the competition amongst themselves depends wholly upon the pressure of the relative surplus population; as soon as by setting up trade unions etc., they try and organize planned cooperation between the employed and unemployed in order to obviate or to weaken the ruinous effects of this natural law of capitalist production on their class, so soon does capital and its sycophant, political economy, cry out at the infringement of the ‘eternal’ and so to speak ‘sacred’ law of supply and demand. Every combination between employed and unemployed disturbs the ‘pure’ action of this law’ (P793-4 D669)

The next move is to the colonies. Where violence is used instead of a reserve army. (Reference also to Sancho).

Rumford – some like it hot.

A crater on the moon named after him. Soup maker to the poor. And had a hand in formulating the second law of thermodynamics.

Mentioned by Marx in Capital, here is the entry from wikisoup:

Rumford’s Soup

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rumford’s Soup
Region or state Bavaria
Creator(s) Benjamin Thompson
Main ingredient(s) Pearl barley, dried yellow peas, potatoes, beer
Cookbook:Rumford’s Soup Rumford’s Soup

Rumford’s Soup was an early effort in scientific nutrition. It was invented by Count Rumford around 1800 as a ration for the prisoners and the poor of Bavaria, where he was employed as an advisor to the Duke.

As a reformatory measure, the Bavarian government intended to institute workhouses for those on welfare. Rumford’s charge was to provide the cheapest possible ration that was still a high-calorie, nutritious food.

Recipe

1 part pearl barley
1 part dried (yellow) peas
4 parts potato
salt according to need
Old, sour beer
Slowly boil until thick. Eat with bread.

Rumford’s soup is not noted as particularly tasty, but is palatable with long, slow cooking.

Nutrition and modification[edit]
Rumford’s soup is low-fat, with high protein and carbohydrate content — protein from the dried peas, complex carbohydrates from the potato and barley, and simple carbohydrates from the beer. Thus, Rumford’s soup was close to the optimum solution to the problem of cheap, nutritious food according to the knowledge of the day. Unfortunately, such knowledge did not extend to vitamins or trace elements. As a result, Rumford’s soup was often supplemented by corn or herring to supply Vitamin C and Vitamin D.

History[edit]
Rumford’s soup was a common base for inexpensive military rations in Central Europe for much of the nineteenth and twentieth century.

References[edit]
Molnár T. B. & Bittera Dóra: A gróf sparheltja (The count’s cooking range). Magyar Nemzet, 23 April, 2005.
“On the benefits of thermodynamics”, [1]
Categories: Copy to WikibooksSoups

God Complex

I cannot help but see debates about origins as theological. In religious studies we see two kinds of origin myth – in the Bible there is a God (well ‘the’ god) who intervenes upon the primordial swirl to separate out day from night, land from sea etc., then makes life and says that it is good. According to some anthropology I read way back when, in some parts of Papua New Guinea the ‘god’ is a crocodile who arrives the  with intent to eat men, and in thrashing about by their land, turns the area into swamps and marsh and rivers and land all mixed together. To the extent that men can kill crocodiles they might stop this thrashing about and so create dry land on which to live. See Gregory Bateson The Naven on this.

There is a debate over sovereign power versus the power of security – I read this as related to the theological approaches mentioned above. Agamben as monotheist, Foucault as pagan would not even do it justice as of course the thing is more complicated..

What does this mean for reading capital and the suggestion I made two years ago that sometime we might start reading Capital from section 8, so-called Originary Accumulation, before reading the rest? Reminding ourselves that the process of valourisation is ongoing [that ‘so-called’ is key].

It is not quite so simple as offering up some version of theological teleology in Marx as having an origin story in accumulation – the accumulation is not only at the ‘start’ just as I do not think his argument so easily fits a binary code of separating capitalists and labour in some co-constituting or contradictory embrace. It is also the case that the flux orientation of multivariant power is not simply randomisation interrupted by strategies of security – there is however agency of the class plausible here too, even as that is more evident against the hegemonic sovereign. Ahh mythology – and different versionings of the origin story, each obscure this possibility or intervening to make things really new. Thus ideology obfuscates.

Border residue

Spaces of Migration, just published by Pavement Books returns me to the suggestion on this blog some time ago, and no doubt elsewhere, that the discussion of borders has a too easy conception of space. Borders can be aural, temporal, conceptual, and proliferating right here. Where? He-re.

The policy pronouncements of the border authority replicates authoritarianism across the body politic. The compliance of some with G4s or other privatised border tools makes border agents of us all.

Abject humanity subjected to austerity and its justifications, proliferation of pollutants met only with fake environmentalist concern, the persistence, and indeed global extension of workplace ‘alienation’ viewed as nostalgia, deskilling/desktop killing for everyone, not just the ruling class – all this seems to generalise a lumpen character.

Maintain the reserve army and keep us all in fatigues seems the only strategy capital has in this crisis. Besides scrambling for a cut of course, and a crazy generous cut at that. Snouts in the trough, but keeping us all in the sty. Some are more in the mud than others, some are bacon, most are fed on swill – oink oink. The uniformed ones collaborate with the omnipresent butcher. Some are tagged with an RFID chip on their ear. Higgledy po.