Danish colonial ties


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).

Foul Lang**ge on the River


A ground level display in a vitrine (? Is it a vitrine when the glass is vertical) in the Guildhall Museum Rochester. See SF’s forthcoming post on prison hulks as part of her ongoing series on theme park prisons (our idea of dating is to visit jails – do not over analyse this. Emile and Theo tag along happily – especially if there is chain mail or Ned Kelly armour to try on). Rochester itself was pretty museum like – as if the touristy high street were put in resin in the 1950s going on 1870s, legacy of what the future thought Mr Dickens would like. Twee. What I am more interested in is the evidence here of rowdies on the river. Seems there’s a few still around today. Fuckers.

“Battle of Convoys Wharf”

Screen shot 2013-07-10 at 10.09.43Evening Standard piece on Convoys Wharf by Kieren Long

Published: 26 October 2011

Does it matter what’s underneath the pavement? Under our feet, in the earth, are the traces of the 2,000 years of Londoners, their coins and clothes, their trinkets and tools, the remains of their buildings and roads.

The question of whether this material, this soup of memories, should have any bearing on how our city develops is an open one for those building our city today, and one that has sparked an argument over the massive Convoys Wharf site in Deptford, which I visited last week. If Hong Kong developer Hutchison Whampoa gets its way, this 16-hectare riverside plot (the size of about 20 football pitches) in the borough of Lewisham will soon be home to 9,000 people in 3,500 homes, with a new school, shops and space for “cultural uses”.

So far, so good. But this isn’t just any slice of the river. Convoys Wharf was formerly the King’s Yard, built by Henry VIII in 1513 as London’s military dock and known across the world. It was the harbour to royal yachts, where Francis Drake was knighted aboard the Golden Hinde in 1581, and where Elizabeth I’s Spanish Armada-defeating fleet was built. It is a place of astonishing, nationally important historical significance.

Greenwich, just a mile down-river, with its colonnaded Old Royal Naval College, has become a world heritage site and will officially become a “Royal” borough next year. But it was Deptford that built the boats that made England powerful enough to conceive of and fund that architectural setpiece in the first place.

The plan submitted by Hutchison Whampoa is a regulation piece of urban design by commercial architect Aedas. It’s pretty uninspired, with the usual precision about residential unit numbers but vagueness about the kind of public life that might be found there. But the plan tries hard to link into its surroundings, and the proposed development will be much better than the gated communities of riverside west London. There is a recognisable street pattern, a bus route through it, along with a school and an attempt to make a high street with a mix of uses. Broadly, the plan is based on work in 2005 by Richard Rogers, whose principal insight was to try to continue the line of Deptford’s high street towards the riverside.

Perhaps most importantly, it also proposes public access to the riverside here for the first time.

But a group of local people accuse Hutchison Whampoa of recklessly ignoring the historical remains, and are pleading with the developers to reconsider their plan. They say the site should be given back more of its original character, that ancient remains below the ground should be available to public view, and that water should be reintroduced to the site by digging out the former Great Basin of the dockyard.

Chris Mazeika, who lives in the Master Shipwright’s house on the eastern side of the site, is part of a network of local bloggers and campaigners asking questions of Hutchison Whampoa’s proposal. He believes that there is something important about the history of the site that should be drawn out by revealing the remains or perhaps echoing the original layout of the dockyard.

“To reveal the remains would make it a much more distinctive and layered place,” he says. “When you walk down a road that has been established by hundreds of years of getting from A to B, and one that’s drawn by a planner – it’s a very different experience.”

The site today is rather eerie, a huge expanse of concrete with a few Sixties and Eighties warehouses still standing. There are no roads and no sense of how it all once fitted together. The riverside is spectacular, though. The wharf juts out into the river and the view from it takes in a vista from Surrey Quays to the west and Greenwich to the east. This timber platform will be transformed into a public park in Hutchison Whampoa’s plans, complete with river bus stop.

The Grade II-listed Olympia Warehouse (built in the 1840s) stands in the middle of the site, slightly askew to the riverside, a magnificent iron structure most recently used by Lewisham council as a storage facility for wheelie bins. It is the only historic building left above ground, and the proposals designate it vaguely as a “covered public square”. They aspire to something along the lines of Spitalfields Market. This all feels a bit sketchy at this stage, and the developer’s preference is to retain just the beautiful iron frame, perhaps adding to it a new glass envelope.

In anticipation of these remains being covered up by the new development, a huge archaeological dig is under way between the Olympia Warehouse and the river. The foundations and remains of the huge Tudor storehouse and the docks are clearly visible in the trenches. Two slipways, complete with timbers used to brace and support ships as they were constructed, look amazingly complete to my untrained eye. All this will be recorded, then covered over again and the new residential buildings built over the top. The remains will never be seen again, or at least not until Hutchison Whampoa’s buildings are themselves demolished, which could be 200 years away at London rates of replacement.

It must be said that the King’s Yard has long lost its Tudor character. Since the Second World War, successive idiotic owners chose to demolish the remaining buildings on the site and fill in the basin and slipways. Most jaw-dropping of all is that in stages between the Sixties and as recently as the Eighties, a Tudor storehouse was demolished and its foundations concreted over so that huge distribution sheds and warehouses could be built.

It is heartbreaking that so much has been lost.

None of that is Hutchison Whampoa’s fault. The group and its architects see Convoys Wharf as an opportunity to create a residential quarter they believe will be “modern and positive”. The architects say that the arrangement of the proposed apartment buildings perpendicular to the river somehow mirrors that of the historic slipways, and a proposed park on the site of the former double dry dock will evoke the history of what’s underneath, perhaps by using materials that suggest its former use. That to them is enough. My visit to the site convinced me that while the developers are very aware of what lies beneath, they don’t feel it of sufficient significance to prevent or slow London’s development. Aedas and Hutchison Whampoas have made a judgment that to preserve any remains for public view, or to reintroduce water into the site (as the Rogers plan proposed) would be uneconomical and (they told me) would be a hindrance rather than a help to make it a better place to live.

As for the campaigners, they are vague about what they are calling for and appeal to notions of memory, meaning and history that are not part of the usual property development vocabulary.

Mazeika, like many of us, finds it difficult to describe exactly what difference it makes to resurrect ancient street patterns, to uncover old docks. He favours gradual, incremental development, but that is never going to happen with such a large site under single ownership.

This seems an unbridgeable intellectual gap in today’s London. The nuanced understanding of the place that the locals advocate here in Deptford is mirrored all over the city by local interest groups, amateur historians, and concerned residents near large regeneration projects. But it has no way of gaining traction in a development process involving this much money, and that is a failure of our planning system and of imagination of the politicians who are the guardians of our city.

I respect Hutchison Whampoa and Aedas for trying to make a decent, mixed place that links into the surrounding community. I think (unlike some Deptford residents) that the scale and character of the spaces around the Olympia Warehouse will be fine, certainly better than the meaningless public spaces at equivalent developments of a decade ago (Paddington Basin comes to mind). The quantum of development, and its skyscraper-scale apartment towers, aren’t a problem to me, and the new public space by the river almost can’t fail to be enjoyable.

But in deploying standard urban design tactics the masterplan does find itself ignoring what makes this place special in the first place. I suspect the history of the site will be signalled in branding and signage more than any real, physical or spatial sense. And while it is a very difficult task to capture all these historical and cultural layers of a city in urban design and architecture, good architects should be able to do it.

When Convoys Wharf has been re-developed, the history of the King’s Yard will lie in a shallow grave underneath shiny apartment blocks and cappuccino bars. Professionals will move into the residential towers, which will probably be named after Drake’s Golden Hinde. And when their dinner party guests ask them where the docks used to be, they will reply: “I don’t know.”

The East India Company’s Deptford Shipyard

The origins of many, although not all, of Britain’s Black and Asian population lie in British traders’ search for profit around the globe. Britain was responsible for uprooting millions of people from Africa and Asia and scattering them across the world as enslaved or indentured labourers.During the 17th century, the East India Company established shipyards along the River Thames at Deptford (shown here) and Blackwall. There they built the large three-masted ships known as ‘East Indiamen’. These were used initially to trade in India for silk and cotton goods, spices, and other commodities; and later, as the East India Company extended its activities, for trade in south and southeast Asia, too.

National Maritime Museum BHC 1873 (c. 1660)
Copyright © National Maritime Museum, London



Zurker the Zucker(berg) punch…

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

Piracy as activism

Piracy as activism



In spite of its long and intense presence in the popular imagery, piracy is a concept that has only scarcely and timidly been linked to forms of political activism. Mostly seen through the lens of criminalisation and policing (including also the transgression of the existing order by the heroic pirates) piracy has rarely been analysed in relation to its influence in shaping the everyday life of contemporary communities. Mostly seen through the lens of criminalisation and policing (including also the transgression of the existing order by the heroic pirates) piracy has rarely been analysed in relation to its influence in shaping the everyday life of contemporary communities. Piracy, in the seas or lands or digital networks, encompasses a wide array of practices that shape, and often transform, these spaces and networks.



Free Gaza

Any surprise that Israeli commandos might ‘botch’ a raid on the boats of the Free Gaza flotilla should be tempered by the recognition that they planned this provocation, at night, with guns.

In response, a new Dunkirk? Another Malta convoy? Send all boats, Send in the navy, The Trident subs to find a use at last. To have the Gaza blockade broken for good would be the only viable response – and a show of what people organised can do against Military Muscular Zionist State Crazies.

Thinking of Ewa J from Goldsmiths, Edda M from the Border Infection event, and many others on the convoy.

(Pic of Lewisham STW on the way to Embassy with thousands – not the hundreds reported in tamed and insipid press)

Struggle for Justice is necessary. Free Gaza by whatever means. This time by donation.


[Readers will know I do not endorse charity giving – see Rumour – but note the distinction between buying a boat for the Free Gaza movement and other good causes. This one must float. Lets buy a boat, ahoy].


Monday, 04 May 2009 15:47 Last Updated on Monday, 04 May 2009 19:20 Written by Free Gaza Movement

“From the groundbreaking work of Gandhi and King to the ongoing example of the Free Gaza Movement, we can discern the transforming power of nonviolence at a crossroads in our history.”
-H.E. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the UN General Assembly

Dear Friends,

we desperately need your help. It’s with heavy hearts that we have to inform you that the Free Gaza ship, the DIGNITY, has been lost outside Larnaca port in Cyprus. Fortunately, no one was injured in the accident.

On 30 December 2008 the DIGNITY was rammed by the Israeli navy while on a mission of mercy to deliver critically needed medical supplies and doctors to the war-ravaged Gaza Strip. Thanks to the heroic efforts of its captain and crew, the DIGNITY was able to find safe harbor in Lebanon, later making its way to Cyprus for repairs. Early this morning we received a call from the Harbor Master in Larnaca, informing us that the ship was taking on water. While attempting to tow her to safety, the ship went down. An inquiry has begun into the circumstances surrounding her demise, possibly due to storm damage suffered during the night.

All of us in Free Gaza are deeply saddened by the loss of the DIGNITY. Since the Free Gaza Movement was founded in 2006 we have worked hard to overcome the siege of Gaza. Israeli policies of racism, ethnic cleansing and the brutal military occupation of Palestine demand our determined & direct resistance. When our governments fail to act, we – the citizens of the world – must stand up and make our voices heard.

To date, the Free Gaza Movement has organized seven voyages to Palestine, successfully arriving in Gaza Port five times. We have brought dozens of human rights workers, journalists, parliamentarians, and others to Gaza, as well as tons of desperately needed medical and humanitarian supplies. Free Gaza boats are the first international ships to sail to the Gaza Strip since 1967.

None of this would have been possible without you, our friends. Your emotional, political, and financial support is the foundation of all our successes.

We’re turning to you today, because we need your help now more than ever. Please visit our donate page for more information on how you can help ensure our continuing missions to Palestine. Please give generously.

Despite our loss today, we will not be deterred. In one month we will return to Gaza with the HOPE FLEET, a flotilla of cargo and passengers ships carrying significant amounts of humanitarian and reconstruction aid. Thanks to your support, we will go to Gaza again and again, until this siege is forever ended and the Palestinian people have free access to the rest of the world.

This is our solemn promise.

Sincerely Yours,
Huwaida Arraf
Greta Berlin
Eliza Ernshire
Derek Graham
Fathi Jaouadi
Ramzi Kysia
Vaggelis Pissias
The interim Board of Directors for the Free Gaza Movement

PS: We’re suggesting a donation of €50, but please give what you can. Your contributions will go directly toward the purchase and overhaul of new ship that can break through the siege of Gaza and help connect Palestine with the rest of the world.



burt_lancasterAlongside Barbara Stanwyck, my other fave mainstream movie star is Burt Lancaster (and though the woman on the beach in this still is, if you did not know, Deborah Kerr, Stanwyck and Lancaster teamed up together in “Sorry, Wrong Number” way back in 1948). As I am on a bit of a Burt tip this month, I watched “The Professionals” (1966) tonight. It is fantastic. Alongside his great “Crimson Pirate”, its one of the huge movies that show that the House Un-american Activities Commission (HUAC) really had a point, there were communists in Hollywood. Kaaabaaan! And it was a good thing too. More arty types might also enjoy Lancaster in Visconti’s very last film, “Conversation Piece” where Burt plays an aging Professor obsessed with trinkets. That kind of appealed to me too. What a trajectory – pirate – revolutionary – art dealer. Its a pity his involvement with the movie “Airport” ruined the run.

Manifesto for Thought-crimes.

Be ‘a’ creative,
even for autonomy,
for enhancement capability,
for institutionalization.
They say everything is new,
(out with the old)
but everything is contract
(same old same old)
Be energized,
Optimism of the will,
White noise.
This transmutation of meaning, as meaninglessness.
it speaks for itself, not to be theorized away.
quasi practical implication application,
web 3.0 (crash)
experiment (non-ordering, non hierarchical, non sequential)
organic, temporary, embodied, zoned,
A precinct model (polis, police).
vague qualmings about the Banksyification of art (street reblandings)
programmatic augmentation (but what programme?)
bios bios bios, oi oi oi
Art is yet again the opiate of the pseudo-intellect.
There are days when I am lost in the welter of words having unmoored themselves from the quay, instead of floating off to the horizon, they have sunk, or been scuppered. What I would rather see are pirate raids undoing these secure and buttressed fortresses of fear. There is so much horizon to explore, why cower in the bunker? Lock the captain in the brig, the scurvy swabs take the helm…

Thought Crime, its a joy.

(pic, Nation Records – come hear Aki Nawaz and others on Tuesday 26 February, at “Thought Crime – from the Lyrical Terrorist to Beenie Man” (Manifesto Club Night)- venue: Corbet Place Bar, 15 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR £5. Details here).

yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

So I searched out the lyrics of this song that I wanted to use as a send off for a pirate mate (gone sailing someplace) and I am somewhat astonished at the lyrics – the bit about the captains daughter seems particularly problematic, but, well, pirates eh (Yellowbeard, for example). Then I discovered the second version explication which made it seem better as the daughter was a metaphoric one (see the asterix below version two). But still the bit about being chucked into the back of a paddy wagon – now that I know is unpleasant, and I reckon would not have been acceptable in any shape or form, no matter how twisted the circumstances, to our much beloved departed comrade.

A ration of rum all round in honour of Paul Hendrich.

Version one:
“Drunken Sailor”

What do you do with a drunken sailor,
What do you do with a drunken sailor,
What do you do with a drunken sailor,
Earl-eye in the morning!


Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Earl-eye in the morning

Shave his belly with a rusty razor,
Shave his belly with a rusty razor,
Shave his belly with a rusty razor,
Earl-eye in the morning!


Put him in the hold with the Captain’s daughter,
Put him in the hold with the Captain’s daughter,
Put him in the hold with the Captain’s daughter,
Earl-eye in the morning!


What do you do with a drunken sailor,
What do you do with a drunken sailor,
What do you do with a drunken sailor,
Earl-eye in the morning!


Put him the back of the paddy wagon,
Put him the back of the paddy wagon,
Put him the back of the paddy wagon,
Earl-eye in the morning!


Throw him in the lock-up ’til he’s sober,
Throw him in the lock-up ’til he’s sober,
Throw him in the lock-up ’til he’s sober,
Earl-eye in the morning!


Version Two:

What’ll we do with a drunken sailor,
What’ll we do with a drunken sailor,
What’ll we do with a drunken sailor,
Earl-aye in the morning?

Way hay and up she rises
Patent blocks o’ diff’rent sizes,
Way hay and up she rises
Earl-aye in the morning

1. Sling him in the long boat till he’s sober,
2. Keep him there and make ‘im bale ‘er.
3. Pull out the plug and wet him all over,
4. Take ‘im and shake ‘im, try an’ wake ‘im.
5. Trice him up in a runnin’ bowline.
6. Give ‘im a taste of the bosun’s rope-end.
7. Give ‘im a dose of salt and water.
8. Stick on ‘is back a mustard plaster.
9. Shave his belly with a rusty razor.
10. Send him up the crow’s nest till he falls down,
11. Tie him to the taffrail when she’s yardarm under,
12. Put him in the scuppers with a hose-pipe on him.
13. Soak ‘im in oil till he sprouts flippers.
14. Put him in the guard room till he’s sober.
15. Put him in bed with the captain’s daughter*).
16. Take the Baby and call it Bo’sun.
17. Turn him over and drive him windward.
18. Put him in the scuffs until the horse bites on him.
19. Heave him by the leg and with a rung console him.
20. That’s what we’ll do with the drunken sailor.

*) A relative of the cat-o-nine-tails

Now check here for the bottle of rum lyrics.

Paul Hendrich

I can’t reconcile this at all – impossible and horrible that we (all crushed) have lost another great comrade. I can’t see how he had the time, but Paul was often a commentator on this blog. But importantly – among so very very much else that’s nearly impossible to list – Paul was key to organising so many events, actions, interventions. Small examples I saw – he was an instrumental voice in preparing the Migrating University/No Borders conference at Goldsmiths in September last year. The year before he was involved with the declaration of the traffic island in New cross as a site of buried treasure, pirate picnics and other free events on behalf of the Town Hall Pirates group he’d started. He helped open the “Failing Better” conference at Goldsmiths with his talk on the town hall slaver statues in 2006… and… annnd… more and more (see below)… I remember him best as the energy behind the Battle of Lewisham 77 walk and subsequent conference – seeing him at the organising meetings for these events with his usual unstoppable enthusiasm. Of course it took a lorry to stop him… That he can just be dead is incomprehensible, terrible, wrong.

The picture accompanying this post shows Paul in key position, immediately beside the megaphone at an activist event he orchestrated. This is the Battle of Lewisham walk, just outside the New Cross Inn. A sunny day in September.

Sophie Day – head of Anthropology Department, said to repost her letter below. I do so with a heavy heavy heart… and growing anger at the very personal way life is conspiring to take the best away from us. Thoughts to his wife Sasha and tiny daughter Agatha.

Dear All,

This is the letter I have sent to other Heads of Department for circulation to colleagues and students.

I am writing to tell you the very sad news of Paul Hendrich’s death. He was killed in a bicycle accident yesterday (Wednesday 16th January).

Many of you knew Paul and his death is a deep loss to us all. Paul was a very special person with some extremely rare qualities. His life was committed to engaging an everyday struggle against racism. His dissertation for the MA Applied Anthropology and Community and Youth Work, ‘Charting a new course for Deptford Town Hall’ (2006), developed through a campaign he initiated with the student union and led to further work commemorating the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade, including the Sankofa Reconciliation Walk in chains to Deptford Town Hall that he organised. He then hosted a conference at Goldsmiths to commemorate the Battle of Lewisham. Just before he died, he began a refugee health drop-in service in South London. Paul held a passionate belief that anthropology could and should be used for, and rethought through, the struggle against racism and it is this that guided his engagement with academia and his commitment to youth work. He deeply touched the lives of the staff and students at Goldsmiths as well as community activists by his commitment to this cause through campaigns, talks and conferences that he organised and participated in.

Paul completed his Masters with a distinction, a fact that he was quietly proud of, especially since he was the first person in his family to go to university. His brilliant dissertation will be published in the April issue of Anthropology Matters with an editorial from Alpa Shah. Goldsmiths Anthropology was particularly fortunate that Paul decided to pursue a PhD with us. At the time of his death, he was preparing to sail to Arizona, USA to research the various forms of activism that have taken shape around undocumented cross-border migration of Mexicans into the US.

Paul’s enthusiasm, generosity, kindness and inclusiveness drew everyone he met into the broader issues that he was thinking about and working on and those who were fortunate to know him could appreciate what a great youth worker he was and what a great field researcher he would have been. Paul’s research would have continued to make us rethink the theoretical and practical issues of engaging anthropology as praxis, and his death will be deeply mourned throughout Goldsmiths.

Paul was 36 years old; he was married to Sasha and had a one-year old daughter, Agatha. Sasha returned to work from maternity leave last week.

We shall write to Sasha shortly and are happy to forward letters you would like to send independently. Please mark envelopes for Sasha and leave at the Anthropology Office. We are organising a collection to which you are all invited to contribute via Sam Kelly (s.m.kelly@gold.ac.uk), which we shall forward to Sasha on Monday 28th January.

I shall write again as soon as we have news about the funeral arrangements.

I am sure you all join us in extending deep sympathy to Paul’s family,

Sophie Day on behalf of the Anthropology Department

Paul/visit of Pirates to New Cross Island

Paul/Migrating University (including translations which Paul helped collect).

Paul/Town Hall Trauma of History, See the forthcoming April issue of Anthropology Matters for Paul’s writing on this.


memorial –
saturday 9th February 10.30 start in Great Hall Goldsmiths

and reception 3-6pm at Lansdowne Youth Centre


Floating Prisons

This post from Subtopia is the sort of thing that puts blog-diary-experiment-notes like mine to shame. Even as I feel I need to skip over the authors first paragraph of self-deprecations (sorry) I find this really really useful. Sure, I have a long interest in prisons, see here, but if you want to start to get to grips with this floating carcereal violence (in a way more urgent than Foucault 101) then you gotta read the Subtopia post in full – and by doing so you also get to see the pics. So here is a taster, then click the link.

“…There is of course a long lineage of slave ships that date back probably as far as the birth of ancient civilization, but in more recent histories the prison boat (something different, though a seemingly natural progression) really started to evolve during the colonial era; and, not to our surprise, they served as a solution to the overpopulated modern prison systems that were falling apart, (not that different from today’s prison crisis or the similarly bursting detention facilities that hold scores of intercepted migrants, refugees and other global transients.) With that, it is hardly shocking that the construct of a floating prison continues to develop today”

Read the rest here.

four quibbles

Several arguments I’ve had lately have stalled in what I am tempted to call a kind of ‘ontological disarray’. That is, the people I start these conversations with, in affable conviviality (ie in the pub) seem to give up too quick and angry. We each know these are necessarily first moves, so why concede/defer? Is it because I am slurring my words horribly, and threatening to punch people? But I am pretty sure that is not what is going on, at least not every time. Here for the record are the themes:

1. Contemporary art is not revolutionary and smells bad

Artists and critics have merged in a discursive boosterism that promotes ‘contemporary art practice’ as the be all and end all of socio-cultural or intellectual worth. This is at its worst when the boosterism is mitigated by an enthusiastic embrace of, at least a rhetoric of, challenge, critique, interdisciplinarity or conceptual experimentation (these are not ‘the same’). Sometimes the prime pumped place of the artist-critic-practitioner is glorified as disruption, provocation, and even chaos. It seems as if the dilemmas and complicities that stalled Dada and mainstreamed Surrealism vis-a-vis politics (no less than three major exhibitions planned) plots the tempo of the treadmill upon which we are condemned to run forever.

2. Piracy-smear

Pirates have been in fashion for quite a while, despite the efforts of Disney and Johnny Depp. Is it just a shallow question then to ask if they are still worthy of our attention? – either as the forgotten first wave of neoliberal capitalism, or as cool multiculturalist anti-slavery activists with boats. This theme at least has a Deptford connection, and appropriately the argument was on the steps of the Town Hall – and was over the work of another of those celebrants of pirate-chic whom I quote here:

“The decade between 1716 and 1726 was the golden age of piracy, Marcus Rediker informs us. The significance of piracy during these years was twofold – it was multiracial and it was against the slave trade. They blockaded ports, disrupted the sea lanes. The pirate ship ‘might be considered a multiracial maroon community.’ Hundreds were African. Sixty of Blackbeard’s crew of a hundred were black. Rediker quotes the Negro of Deptford who in 1721 led ‘a Mutiny that we had too many Officers, and that work was too hard, and what not.’ They also prevented the slave trade from growing. This was the complaint of Humphrey Morice, MP, Governor of the Bank of England, owner of a small fleet of slavers, who led the petitioning to Parliament and who suffered severe losses in 1719, the year that serious blacking commenced. A naval squadron was sent to west Africa. Four hundred and eighteen pirates were hanged. The conjuncture of apparently very distant forces, struggle for common rights and the Atlantic slave trade, in fact met in intimate proximity” Peter Linebaugh in Mute

Linebaugh has a good line on Daniel Defoe though – and we can hear the echo of Marx’s comments on Crusoe from part one of Capital, which is always fun. Here is Linebaugh again:

“Robinson Crusoe, Mariner was published in 1719. The book dramatises the labour theory of value, glories in the intricacies of the division of labour, and puts the European foot (Crusoe) on the African neck (Friday). Alexander Selkirk, the actual person who was the prototype of Robinson Crusoe, died in February 1721 as a sailor in a naval squadron that was sent to west Africa to extirpate the piracy interrupting the slave trade” Peter Linebaugh in Mute

OK, Let’s discuss.

3. Consmopolitanism yak yak

The debate in Manchester called ‘the conversation‘, where I was lucky enough to share the stage with Mary Louise Pratt, descended into something not quite farce. Is the discursive effort deployed to elaborate an equitable global cosmopolitanism worth the effort? I mean, compared to other efforts to organise and institute an alternative to Capitalism? THe conceptual arabesques around cosmo seem very often to rehearse Eurocentric imaginings (Hedwig was right to say: ‘You, Kant, always get what You want’).Is this Kantianism from outside not quite close to a plan that contains cross-border disruptions in a cultural resource marketing regime? I have yet to consume all though, having just bargain bonus snapped up Kwame Anthony Appiah’s book Cosmopolitanism ‘because’ it has a special extra half-size promo wrap with picture and quote from none other than Kofi Annan. Whoa, bestseller! [Thus, more on this is to come – a longer post on the conversation with M-L-P that I have been saving… too lazy … to write up soon… promise…]

4. “Maoist” Philosophers are hot stuff, shaboody

Alain Badiou as the latest theorist refashioned from obscure secret to the next theoretico-personality cult idol of the chattering teacher-class, as reviewed by Peter Osbourne in Radical Philosophy. I was intemperate enough in my criticisms of this to suggest what those theorists who become publishing fashion (as it has to be said is the fate of AB, no matter how excellent are the efforts of Alberto Toscano et al) are rarely elevated on the basis of their personalities. Rather, the personality cult here is that of the veritable hordes parading amongst the campus seminar cliques carrying aforesaid idols’ books and quoting key concepts like badges. Of course I am not against sloganeering – heaven forbid – but a slower reading and a resistance to the way display table choices shape debates might be welcome. That conversations about Mao, or politics, or borders, or democracy are shaped by a confluence of The Today Show (radio current affairs) and the display of shiny books shelved by author name (in places like the LRB or Tate Bookshops) seems just another sad consequence of the same idolatry because the discussion never gets beyond personal presentation. The latest theorists now, the next ones quick. Shop shop shop. But I am among the worst in many ways – buying books on impulse because of the quality of the binding, because of an innovation in format (Iconoplush!) and other foibles that deserve attention. This is very far from Mao. As is Badiou. Try this instead: Comrade Gaurav at Goldies.

[Pics are Michael Leunig cartoons – from my Saturday paper every week in Melbourne through the 80s and 90s].


Pirates are “in” – see Jon B-M’s recent action in Canada. Why suddenly do so many of us catch the stench of privateering as it wafts from the harbour across the campuses… echoed in Mick Taussig’s course last term at Columbia on pirates too, and more

Posthegemony: “piracy, nomadism, and the state
The complexity and confusion regarding piracy’s political economy leads to, is amplified in, and exacerbates a similar set of confusions regarding piracy’s relation to the state. Moreover, an added complication here concerns first, the range of piratical activities and the nomenclature used to describe them, and second the historical vicissitudes of piracy from at least the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, in other words precisely during the period of the European state’s consolidation, and imperial expansion. Take the issue of nomenclature. Though sometimes all non-state maritime violence is considered under the label of piracy, the series of differing terms employed at other times indicates multiple attempts (often finally frustrated) to distinguish between different forms of violence, or more strictly its different degrees of legitimacy. Pirate, buccaneer, privateer, private man-of-war, corsair, filibuster, freebooter, coastal raider. . . all these terms indicate subtle differentiations, of which by far the most important is that between privateer and pirate.”

The Pirate Party

Check this out :

The Pirate Party “Because kidnapping and killing people on the high seas is exactly the same as sharing music with your friends!”


Music video contest!

For the Pirate Party, we want to show pirate-themed music videos while we dance. Thus, we are also holding a Pirate Video Remix Contest! The top three video remixes will each receive a snazzy FreeCulture.org t-shirt–a fine vestment for any pirate.


The remixes/mash-ups should feature at least 10 seconds of recognizeable pirates (the traditional ARRR MATEY sea-going pirates). The entire video doesn’t have to be pirates, but there should be a few clips to remind people that this is in fact a pirate party.
The music needs a beat that people can groove to. Extra points if the music is plunderphonics or otherwise exercises your fair use rights, but the primary requirement is that the music be danceable.
The music video should be placed somewhere online where we can download it, in a format that VLC can play. MP4 or MOV will work fine. Archive.org is an excellent place to host your video.
The deadline is April 21st, because the party itself is April 22nd and we need time to download the videos.

ta, bri

With Cat Like Tread… stomp stomp

Gulp, the week has flown by and being in Melbourne has landed me with the old allergies and hay-fever that is part of what keeps me away, but news sent from Pirate Paul reminds me that going back to England isn’t necessarily a return to the real: This item:
‘April 5, 2006: BBC News: “Terror fear over Clash fan’s song”
A phone salesman was hauled off a London-bound plane by police after his taste in music aroused terrorism fears. Harraj Mann, 23, asked a taxi driver to play The Clash’s London Calling through the vehicle’s stereo.
But the cabbie rang police after he heard the song which includes the line: “War is declared and battle come down”. Police said Mr Mann, from Hartlepool, was released without charge after his arrest on board a Bmi plane at Durham Tees Valley Airport. Durham Police said a security check revealed he did not pose a threat.’

Well great – profiling AND surrealism. The Clash were dodgy I agree, but this is five days after April Fool’s day, so its sets me wondering… I will think carefully and choose something equally provocative – perhaps ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ by Gilbert and Sullivan – for my ride home next week…

Drink and the Devil had done for the rest

As the New Year’s escape winds on, my reading regresses in a way (back to the classics of yore) and I’ve just reread Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”. No doubt there is a big incisive critique to be made here of the British Empire. The novel is full of stirring worthy stuff – so called pluck and courage, the good doctor and the bumbling squire, and young Jim. But I’ve just one real grumble: I was particularly annoyed at the way in which ‘our’ hero, that snivelling pup Hawkins (he deserts his post twice, he kills by accident, he is blind dumb in the face of treachery, he’d deserted his mother to go adventuring, he nearly loses the ship again, he does little to aid Long John Silver [our proper hero]) and he gets to live with the loot with narry a by-your-leave to the primary plunder that had amassed it [and I do not mean the plunder by the pirates, but the plunder of those that was pirated against – no-one thinks these ships were sailing the atlantic-caribbean routes for mere cruising pleasure do they? – the pirates were picking off those that had profitted by way of the slave trade. Our very own Cap’tn Drake for example]

Still, while Jim as narrator is merely a small annoyance, the trouble escalates when it comes to the booty. At least there is a great description of it, which comes to us in the voice of snivelling Jim:

“The next morning we fell early to work, for the transportation of this great mass of gold near a mile by land to the beach … I was not much use at carrying, I was kept busy all day in the cave, packing the minted money into bread-bags.

It was a strange collection, like Billy Bone’s hoard for the diversity of the coinage, but so much larger and so much more varied that I think I never had more pleasure than in sorting them. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Georges, and Louises, dubloons and double guineas and moidores and sequins, the pictures of all the kings of Europe for the last hundred years, strange Oriental pieces stamped with what looked like wisps of string or bits of spider’s webs, round pieces and square pieces, and pieces bored through the middle, as if to wear round your neck – nearly every variety of money must, I think, have found a place in that collection; and for number, I am sure they were like autumn leaves, so that my back ached with stooping and my fingers with sorting them out…” (p148)

So, Jim does a day’s work at last! And bends his back into a circle (hmmm, just how Prospero decribes the old witch in The Tempest, bent to a circle – curious correspondence). For all the talk of hanging the pirates, its funny that here he wants to wear the money round his own neck. And what’s this talk of Oriental coinage where the markings (writing) is all bits of spider’s webs? This classic othering means Derrida will have to spook the ghost ship (Johhny Depp to play him in the manner of Keef Richards too).

So, in this autumnal mood, and so soon after lamenting the ‘good ships’ and ‘blood and sorrow’ that was in the amassing, Jimboy is off back to England to – I daresay – live ‘appily ever after. Well, at least RLS leavs open the chance that things are also turning good for Captain Silver: there was still a hidden hoarde of bars on the Island – and we recall who kept the map… Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum…


Research (in search of pirate treasures)

I am seeing out the end of 05 in a hammock… and as I already said to some friends, I am looking at effects of the terror war on the tourist economy in these parts (South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippinnes) – where less and less rich westerners now tend to go – so that their old privileged haunts in five star hotels now come with empty swimming pools (well, a lizard and a palm frond at the bottom); colonial verandas where the cane furniture is piled up under tarpaulins; golf courses where the jungle has grown back to 6 feet high on the greens… workers doing nothing for no pay, but with nowhere to go… minor casualties of the new global order, yet devastating all the same…

back early Jan…

oh, and reading “Caliban and the Witch” – so far its a great book…

happy new year and all that..

The Golden Hind

From our good friends at “Avast Ye Applications”:

Seán Mac Mathúna writes: “There are four statues on the front of Deptford’s old town hall in NewCross Road. Three of them are connected with slavery in the West Indies: Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and Oliver Cromwell. In 1652, Cromwell had been a regular visitor to Deptford to oversee the building of two ships The James and The Diamond – built solely it seems, for expeditions to the Caribbean aimed at displacing Spanish power in the region. Maurice Thomson, a resident of the Manor House at Lee … was said to have been a personal friend of Cromwell’s and involved in these expeditions. They were part of a network of businessmen interested in the vast wealth that could be derived from the sugar/slave trade.”


and from the endearingly entitled ‘Enchanted learning’ site…:

“Sir Francis Drake (1545-1596) was a British explorer, slave-trader,privateer (a pirate working for a government) in the service ofEngland, mayor of Plymouth, England, and naval officer (he was anAdmiral).”


update: and the link under the word statues in this post will lead you to Paul Hendrich’s article on Deptford Town Hall.