Spivak and the General Strike (and W.E.B. du Bois)

Gayatri Spivak will be in B.A.M.N. mag soon. In the meantime here is why she is still way ahead of the curve:

On the General Strike, an absolutely necessary, ‘keyword’ from Gayatri Spivak:


Gayatri’s next book is on De Bois and the General Strike.
A related post by here for the Occupy people is here:http://occupiedmedia.us/2012/02/general-strike/

A snippet from an interview here: http://jdrabinski.com/spivak-on-du-bois-and-black-reconstr…/

Three hours worth of an early version of Spivak’s DuBois strike stuff: here:https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/…/gayatri-spivak-du-bois-and-…/

But that was when she was then still working out the book. This excerpt from a 2011 interview:


> You cited Rosa Luxemburg as one of your heroes. Will you say more about why? Who else comes to mind in your pantheon of heroes as you think about Rosa?


> Since I’ve never been asked to account for why she is one of my heroes, I don’t know. I really have no idea. I would have to rationalize that answer. But I am going to teach her, in either the fall or the spring, and it will be on a few texts of the General Strike.

> The course will be called: Some Texts From The General Strike: Reflections On The History Of An Idea. I will distinguish this from May 68, from Naxalbari, and Tahrir Square and all that stuff. I have written a little about the fact that the Tunisian example was a singular subaltern speaking – the guy who burned himself- and there was, paradoxically, a political will created by the predatory government.

> I will go first into the pre-texts of the anarchists, but even before that, Chartism. Since I don’t do 19th century novels, 18th century novels, I will find out if there is a novel of Chartism, because I’m a literature teacher. And then I will teach Sorel and Benjamin’s Critique of Violence which leans on Sorel. Then I will teach Rosa Luxemburg and Gramsci, 1905 and Turin,

> Luxemburg’s book on the mass strike, and this will be my center.

> And then I will teach Du Bois, because people said that he made a mistake in calling the exodus of the slaves when the Civil War began a general strike. I don’t think so. He was very learned, he wasn’t making a mistake. I want to see why.

> And then I will do Gandhi. Because I believe the Non-Cooperation movement is mistakenly thought of as only ahimsa, non-violence. Non-Cooperation was much more a recoding of general strike with the generalized Hindu text of ahimsa thing. So I’ll do Gandhi and maybe the Gandhi-Tagore letters as they relate to this issue.

> And then I’ll do Tillie Olsen, because her novel Tell Me A Riddle, is certainly a story of the 1905 revolution, which is what Rosa Luxemburg’s 1906 essay is on.

> So that’s my 7 weeks, and that’s how I’ll teach her.

> But as to why she’s my hero – does anyone ever know? No I don’t know. But I did put down two things. Lack of fear – yeah, I suppose, but many people are fearless. I also put in her body warmth, but I’m just – I’m really rationalizing. I don’t even want to think about why she’s my hero. One must protect one’s heroes from these kinds of questions (laughter).

The rest of the interview is here, the next answer was about sex, See more at: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/…/interview-with-gayatri-chakra…

Karen Tam’s Curio Shop

here is a manifestation of Trinketization and exoticism, herewith endorsed – go visit!

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Terra dos Chinês Curio Shop

by Karen Tam (click on image for Facebook link)

July 9-August 22, 2015
Artspace (Peterborough, ON)

For my exhibition at Artspace, I am producing a large-scale installation entitled Terra dos Chinês Curio Shop to see how these objects may relate to contemporary everyday life and the politics involved with their display. Viewers enter a space that appears to be real but is a façade of “DIY chinoiserie,” styled after Chinatown curio shops circa 1930s. This hopefully will highlight the encounters that occur between specific locales and East Asian-influenced material culture and refer not only to mass production of pirated consumer goods in China but also to the questions that are always present where artistic production is concerned. The Chinatown curio shop as well as other similar sites function as both self-representational through the use of material culture to display and play off expectations of ‘tourists’ and visitors to a place of ‘exoticness’ and ‘foreigness’ that has been domesticated by the shop-owners, and the exploitation and commercialization of such display and curiosity. The objects within such spaces form a sort of collection and archive, and act as traces of a timeline of changing attitudes. While considered as everyday items for the Chinese family who would have run the curio shop, they would have been seen as novelties by ‘tourists’. This project also reflects and comments on the historical trade routes between China (the ‘Far East’) and Europe and North America (the ‘West’), chinoiserie and the production of objects for the Western taste and market, and the current shanzhai or copycat culture in China, the world’s manufacturer and is itself the largest consumer and producer of fakes.

Mutate nomine de te fabula narratur!

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 15.28.10I may have made the wrong book choice today, depressing read. But strangely ‘Precarious Japan’ reads true of elsewhere more than, or as much as, here. That these tales give ‘an eye-opening view into the darker aspects of modern Japanese society’, is something, but I don’t get so much that its about Japan in general as maybe also about the condition of all societies in prolonged and advanced stagnation, such as the economy of most of Europe after 8 years of austerity.

Anne Allison’s (Precarious Japan) stories of people going slowly crazy through the squeeze of expectation, order, hierarchy and poverty. Not exactly street or park sleepers, but the next rung up who sleep in net cafes or capsule hotels, scrape by day to day, cannot rely on family, have to care for infirm others (or who try to suicide with them and it backfires, killing themselves but only further injuring the crippled mother, for example in a case of a former singer cared for by her daughter), single mums walking out of the house leaving their two kids to starve, more suicides, teenage son kills his mother who has sold everything to keep him in computer games – the classic hikikimori stay-at-home type, [that I am in danger of becoming], the salary man who had to drop his teenage son off at a shelter because he had to work 19 hours a day because of a mad boss and the company structure. I expect these sort of stories exist in only slightly different form in the UK too, but I’ve not read someone who has gathered them together, even if here the author has lightly coated them with a veneer of theory derived from Butler, affect, platitudes about the 99% etc. The theoretical may be a prophylactic against horrors, but its not quite effective. Reading this is harrowing because it is so close to normal and everyday – the not quite invisible but easily overlooked slow motion apocalypse of stagnation. Mutate nomine de te fabula narratur.

OK, maybe more notes when I can stomach it. Credit due to the writing that it has such affect. Even if she thinks the term precarious comes from the 1970s and not from Marx in Capital, and of course all work for an employer is precarious, but this is nevertheless a very welcome, harsh, read.

Got to rush now to put out my recycling. Its plastic wrapper day.

[update] on recycling – I missed the pick up = great stress. But then looking about to see what else is about I found this, which seems like it will have much to teach me: “Visions of Precarity in Japanese Popular Culture and Literature”… [update extra} – ahhhhggg, it costs Y15000, for the kindle edition. How can people do research in this sort of privatised world of pay-walls and blockages].

[updated update] – have got to chapter four. am nearly wiped out. but then a bit of Bachelard and Bloch comes to save the day before we are back to daughters stabbing their fathers, a guy driving a truck onto the crossing at Akihabara, sarin attacks and maid cafes – ok, not in the same sentence – thankfully, but you never know what is coming with anthropology. But generally, thinking about this, it seems like a colourful stagnation has to be better than the bland grey stagnation we have in the UK – fanboy and fangirl culture here may be the equivalent pulp culture of say Simon Cowell’s twisted world, but he really does not really make it anywhere near close to being a viable contestant in this comparative game.

[and finally…] so, having finished it. I am struck that this presents as an anthropology of a whole country. Strange, till I remembered that doing that has been a default practice of anthro since Ruth Benedict’s Chrysanthemum and Sword. So we have fieldwork in the summer months, with the great east earthquake playing havoc with the drafts, cracks in the temporal narrative, and a few disjunctive repetitions (we are told over and over of the school lunch story, the lorry guy in Akihabara, and that Akihabara is the place for otaku and electrics, as if it was ever in doubt). At the end the author becomes a volunteer, which threw me back to my own ethnographic work in Calcutta 25 years ago. In some ways I am envious, in others disappointed because this could have easily been an even better book. Not that I want to edit, but well, good writing, and a flummoxing structure – perhaps a bit precarious then. If that was on purpose, its not quite come off. At least – spoiler alert – the ending did not leave me wanting to kill someone.

“History of India 1707-1857” (2010) Lakshmi Subramanian (Orient Black Swan)

LakshmiI have just finished reading the best book I have yet seen on the historical debates that come out of India for the 18th and 19th centuries.  Of course there are more focussed ones, like Ranajit Guha’s ‘Elementary Structures of Peasant Insurgency’, and maybe the historico-ficto ‘Queen of Jhansi’ by Mahasweta Devi, but this so-called ‘textbook’ prepared by Lakshmi Subramanian on the basis of her teaching Indian history is the whirlwind tour. It is both a revision and a primer as well as a major contribution to the debates. If you have read some of the background stuff, like the late C.A.Bayly or some of the Subaltern Studies material, you will get gaps filled in where you did not even know there were gaps, you will get contextualisation that makes you look at things anew, you have recommendations of where to go next, and will be able to situate revisionists and Marxists and orientalists and more. There are further readings, but its never the case that you are left wondering how or where to proceed. You will want to proceed. This is contagious writing. There are many exciting hints you will want to chase up – whether your interest be in merchants and the transformation inflicted upon Mughal India by economic adjustments, of which the arrival of Europeans was merely a (huge) factor, or if you want to seek out and follow coins, opium, trade routes, or resistance. The debates are never closed down. What did the arrival of maritime power mean for trade? What were the consequences of changes to taxation and travel? How should we approach Haider Ali, Tipu Sultan, the Dal Khalsa Sikh resistance or the Santhals? Your thing might be education and institutions of colonial knowledge, or Macauley’s minute and the Serampore printing and translation machine that was Carey and co mission. Fine. If it has been a part of the debate in Indian historiography, it appears here in a narration that is both conversation and deep contemplative scholarship. The tone is balanced and engaged. In a densely packed volume there is so much but it is never overwhelming, it is so very well told, and the drive of good teaching comes through (I will follow up even some of the things which I had already read, but clearly not understood, or rather not understood in context). The book is not huge, it does not look like a textbook (my only complaint would be that my copy was bound so the text was sometimes squeezed towards the book’s spine) but it is absolutely essential and refreshing – a refresher – for historians, wanna-be historians, politicos, sociologists, anthros, visitors and citizens. I picked it up at the Foreign Book depot as a stocking filler in December, but there is no season better than now to grab this one and get a little perspective. Lal Salaam