The end of Representation

Trinketization


The end of Representation

I have taught a lot of great students in my (eight!) years in the anth department at Goldsmiths, and now finally it looks like my escape to full time graft in the Centre for Cultural Studies is going to be confirmed – yippideee (for better or worse – its gotta be easier than two half time jobs = 150%). Its also a time for somewhat wistful reflections, and, gotta say, things have been pretty flat for obvious reasons the past few weeks…

Anyway, fact is, I won’t be teaching the Representation course anymore, so thanks to Chris, Richard, Atticus, Lia, Carrie, Nick and Will who taught alongside. Thanks also to all those who wrote and made work – fantastic films and photography projects, multimedia and chaos performances – which were really the greatest part. So many good films – onwards and upwards. I cannot list the…

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The Pecuniary Animus of the University

After some time, and somewhat shorter (tighter) edited to be less of a devotional prayer for Thorstein Bunde Veblen, this piece – The Pecuniary Animus of the University – is out with Education Philosophy and Theory. Look out for more soon.

Thanks to the many who helped get this together with good advice, critique and suggestions. Its taken a while, but all to the good.

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This just in from Taylor & Francis. I comply, with a wink and a nod, but email if the 50 run out and I will work out a way…

“Want to tell others you’re published? Use your free eprints today
Every author at Routledge (including all co-authors) gets 50 free online copies of their article to share with friends and colleagues as soon as their article is published. Your eprint link is now ready to use and is:

https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/REBTG2ZTTJJDJ9VYDMPB/full?target=10.1080/00131857.2020.1735357

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You can paste this into your emails, on social media, or anywhere else you’d like others to read your article. Author feedback tells us this is a highly effective way of highlighting your research. Using this link also means we can track your article’s downloads and citations, so you can measure its impact.

 

The Syndication of Plagiarism SZ: (For Nicole Pepperell)

Back on the elite theorists are plagiarists bandwagon, to remind you that Zizek does not only repeat himself. At best this is laziness. And I don’t mean its lazy to repeat yourself, but to romp with other people’s words.

Trinketization

Was reading and discussing with a comrade Dinesh Wadiwel about his stuff on animals in Marx, and took up discussion of the bit from Capital 1867 edn , cited by Endnotes 2, on animals as general equivalent (dropped in subsequent editions). This since I am giving a talk on related themes: Marx, Animals, India, a certain rhinoceros, in Senegal this Saturday.

But then I did a search of the phrasing (english trans of 1867 edn from Value Studies by Marx <download here>). There, discovered a bit of suspect website scrubbing.

Let me put it neutrally, and let the people decide <the people know I have nothing against Zizek, except for my polemic in Pantomime Terror, that is: (see here)

OK, this involves two instances of people we know using that quote. Nicole Pepperell’s one from her blog in 2008, and Slavoj Zizek from Less than Nothing in 2012. Of course there is no guarantee…

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two Bengals

Somewhere I have a photograph of a piece of graffiti from Kolkata in the early 1990s. It shows three palms behind a brick wall on which is painted “Like the two Germany’s Bengal should be reunited”. (Cannot find it right now but will post it when I do).Of course, there is other news from India today, tragic violence in Delhi, a buffoon invited a buffoon to address 100,000 and other atrocities, but the good news was buried on page 6 as usual, and yes I know that is not what this railways initiative means, but 150 metres of track to go sounds like a useful development (for the record, the first partition of Bengal was proposed in 1905 and resisted, the second in 1947 we call partition and it was brutal, with ongoing effects, not least on the Jute Industry which lurched from collapse to collapse). Now this minor item of return.

From the telegraph today 22 Feb 2020

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Is it the wrong time to say Make Bengal Great Again, and get some hats?

Of course, there already is a hat – but it is from Cincinnati…

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

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

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

Comedy

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The times are those of distraction. Intensive scrutiny of slights and perceived hurts, while the libidinously ironic engage in rampant expressive display of mildly unacceptable comic-cum-outrageous transgressive provocation. At the same time substantial, world destroying, crimes of armaments, pollution, resource obsession, privatised prisons and obscene wealth carry on regardless.

While we should no doubt be interested in efforts to extend a ‘theoretical framework for how appropriations contribute to both the construction and reception of visual icons and how personification constitutes the main link between icons and their appropriations’ (Mortensen 2017: 1143) maybe we want to stress context as key to what is called personification. The personification is, we might contend, of a moment, a period, a, tragically, zeitgeist, that would identify as emergent, even established, cynicism on the run. Never wants to be tied down, and never thinks of its own identification as such, but fascism might be another name for it. Sure, we can recognise the difficulties of this as context – it looks back too far and the danger of any interest in Adorno is that some people think a postcolonial Adorno is not plausible. The contexts of appropriations that took place then, already dated in WW2, are also now, and the now is a time when the critical power of irony has been stolen. The memes and edgelord culture of the far-right thrives on a cynicism that is hardly worth the name, it is ironically cynical and all the worse. There is no telling some people. Yet, conversely, on the other side, an eroded ‘left’ politics is often where irony and perspective have been eviscerated by an unexamined warrior earnestness, exaggerated and solemn intensity, unable to recognise self-inflicted, humourless, damage and futility. The ancient idea of humour being about having a laugh has long, long gone, if from Freud and others, as we note, it never was without power plays. For the caustic circulation of name-calling and regimented thinking that refuses to laugh, even sometimes inappropriately, is what Adorno had already diagnosed as a taboo. An injunction that ‘nothing should be moist’ (Adorno), and even if this has still has not taken hold absolutely everywhere, sometimes even the moisture just tastes like what Michel Leiris called a ‘sexual lozenge’ (Leiris), an approved limit to desire imposed with a sales pitch effectively keeps us quiet, keeps us from getting at them with a bat as the bombing continues.

Centrifugal Citation Conformity Machine

I was recently in an information briefing (which was very useful) about Web of Science and citations/searches. Here are some thoughts on how the system at present breeds conformity. Or at least, this is what I said, pretty much. very slightly odified to remove some names:

On Metrics as Tools

My concern – something I have discussed with a few others – is how there are some serious gaps in the Web of Science coverage for some areas of the social sciences and humanities.  I wonder if you are interested in this discussion as well. I think there are a few important things to consider, or if they have been considered, make the thinking clear as to how they have been handled.

I work (and think) in a variety of different ways that sometimes seem to me to be specifically designed to fall between the cracks of the indexes. This started with noting that the journals I really admire, were not making it from ESCI to SSCI, or rather, some were even choosing not to. I don’t think I should say which ones, but a few I have had some reviewing or editorial exchange with have said they are pulling out of the indexing ‘game’ as metrics was both too blunt and too normative. There are also a few things, discussed especially, that were not being indexed. Smaller magazines for example, museum catalogues and artist books, visual research (I had taught ethnographic film for many years) and political pamphlets are falling by the way in the face of a normative centrifugal force.

The blunt version of the argument here is that the new Incites tools do not ‘incite’ enough – but rather encourage heading in the same direction that everyone else is heading in – collaborate with those who are most likely to collaborate with you, cite those who cite you, read those who read you etc. Sure, that perhaps has its merits in terms of group cohesion, but academic work should surely be, at one level at least, not about that at all. It is disagreement and difference we should seek, not everyone heading towards the same spiral of universal chanting “ISI ISI” as if a group of characters from a Thomas Pynchon novel had spring off the page in full riot gear. Doesn’t the tendency to seek out the most popular make it harder for new and novel ideas to get a hearing? At what point do the top citations, top metrics, top index procedures need to be disrupted by ideas might not even be recognised by ‘metrics’? Ideas that disrupt the play of uniformity, conformity, safety and repetition? Obviously, I am setting this out starkly to make the point clear, but I think there is a fundamental problem when we have 50 million papers that are there because, as you said, ‘we want to make the world a better place’ but some could argue that the world is demonstrably becoming less better, or at least a significant set of indicators would suggest that. maybe the 50 million need to not refer more and more to the centre, but seek more and more the alternative, angular, oblique and even opposite/oppositional ideas. Ahh, we are communist after all (though in communism there is also a tendency to centralisation, of course – as I said, overstating to make the point).

What mechanisms can be demonstrated within your presentation, or within the tools, that cater for the need to engage in a ‘ruthless criticism of everything’ as old beardo would have us do. The old man with a beard also saw himself as on the road to science, but that it was no easy path, there was work to be done. What could be entered into the search algorithms to ensure the critiques of normative and even hegemonic ideas in each area are challenged? What mechanisms in the search can be dysfunctional for the ongoing business model that is, frankly, no longer really fit for purpose in a degraded and entropic world…

I would love (ironic and hysterical laughter – cackle cackle hee hee hee) to see some explicit attention to how critical disruptive thinking could be built in as potions for the indexing process. I know indexing cannot be neutral, but can the biases run the other way sometimes? can you say how these questions might be addressed? And what great possibilities would be there if 100 flowers contended with 100 schools of thought in bloom…

cheers

Just to confirm that referentiality takes all kinds, my most often cited ISI works (ISI articles cited by ISI journals) show interesting trends. (All available on the download texts link in the sidebar).

Authors:  John Hutnyk 

Authors:  John HutnykSanjay Sharma Published:Jun 2016 in THEORY, CULTURE AND SOCIETY DOI: 10.1177/02632760022051211

Authors:  John Hutnyk  Published:Jun 2016 in THEORY, CULTURE AND SOCIETY DOI: 10.1177/0263276406062700

Authors:  John Hutnyk  Published:Jul 2016 in CRITIQUE OF ANTHROPOLOGY DOI: 10.1177/0308275X9801800401

Authors:  John Hutnyk Published:Feb 2002 in FUTURES DOI: 10.1016/S0016-3287(01)00032-5

The Sobraj Challenge

Well, I know, this is not such an appropriate headline and a bit cheeky to add it, but I find this article predictable and mind-boggling at the same time. Charles Sobraj escaped from this place, so now you can try too. Though the last line comparison with a similar program in, of all places, Telangana jail has a nice little earner attached.

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Illustrating the growing trend for dark tourism, Delhi’s Tihar Jail is opening cells for tourists to give them a first-hand taste of life behind bars in an Indian prison. Emily Eastman reports

For about £20, the “Feel Like Jail” initiative will invite tourists to sample life in Asia’s largest prison – living in a locked cell, eating prison food, sleeping on the floor, wearing a uniform and grinding wheat at 5am.

The prison, which sprawls across 400 acres and houses more than 16,000 inmates, has constructed special tourist cells that are separated from the main prison by high walls.

There’s also the possibility of meeting real inmates, although not the notorious criminals currently imprisoned there. Instead, only selected inmates will be allowed to live in the complex with tourists.

Speaking to India Today, a source said: “These prisoners will be shortlisted based on their behaviour while they are lodged in jail. It is important for visitors to share the same premises with these inmates so that they can interact with them, listen to their stories.”

A source within Tihar Jail said that the complex was reviewed in June. “The feedback by superintendent-rank officers emphasised that visitors could be kept with inmates of semi-open and open prisons.

“Also, the proper uniform of the jail must be provided to the visitors and she/he should be kept away from mobile phones and other special facilities,” they said.

Although cells have toilets, tourists will still have to sleep on the floor like a real inmate and phones will be removed for security reasons. Activities during the stay will include dawn exercises and daily activities such as painting and meditation.

There are rumours that the attraction could be a Delhi Tourism initiative, which is not so hard to believe when you consider that the prison already sells a wide-range of “TJ’s” branded goods – from textiles to furniture – made by prisoners.

It’s not the first time that so-called “prison tourism” has been used to attract visitors and generate more tourism receipts.

In the 1990s, English inmate Thomas Mcfadden started offering tours of San Pedro Prison in La Paz, Bolivia, where he was imprisoned after being convicted of drug smuggling.

Mcfadden’s tours were borne of a need for income – San Pedro operated as a mini city, with inmates required to pay for everything, including their cells – but modern prison tours seem to be built on demand from a niche segment of travellers.

Perhaps the first in India was the “Feel the Jail” programme at Sangareddy Prison, in India’s Telangana state. Similar to the Tihar offering, visitors were given a prison uniform, basic cutlery and toiletries while being stripped of their phones – and freedom – for 24 hours.

The prison’s superintendent Santosh Kumar Rai said in 2018: “30 per cent of the prisoners leave out of abrupt sheer fear and for those who do this, we levy an extra charge of Rs 500 [US$7]. But those who complete full 24 hours walk out with a new sense of freedom.”’

 

Really, that last bit just seems to ice the story as fully baked cake in contemporary India. A levy on fear and the feeling of freedom. Also, you can pay to get out – probably the most authentic part of the deal.

 

Potential History (of Trinketization)

Seems about to nail the head on the hit:

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


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

Research on posters

Can someone in the UK souvenir one of these fab posters for me please (for ‘research’ purposes). I find them amazing. Yes, I know, it was the flip-floppery on Brexit, the contempt of the class (failure to purge the party, and inexplicable tolerance of the Blairite Right with their vicous articulation of privilege in a virulently prejudiced class system) and media demonisation. And yes, more youth and more votes and etc.

But this poster is truly awesome:

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Is this poster even true – crikey, there were posters like this! So bad, I want one. The absolute gobsmacking craziness of the three-toed mugwumps that dreamed these up. Oh, wait, maybe here, and here, and here:

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Foolish to ask if Jeremy can sue them – sue who? – for this kind of smear. Its of the level of the “For Wider Streets Vote Conservative” poster (that I love, and used in Australia) or the Saatchi and Saatchi (Thatcherite) campaign posters of yore. Only lawyers would gain from such a move. And, well, maybe that will permit the luvvies to indulge in still more endless recriminations, rather than getting in the way of a larger necessary project. They will never be the ones able to transmute the interest in the ‘manifesto’ into something that really is for the many.

The point is, if you can hear this outside the triple echo-camber, with the three scourges of pointless reaction: going off social media for a while, sniping at everyone, or I told you so (well, I did – can only support labour for so long) you can get on with generalising and universalising the so-called little Britain manifesto. Then, whatever the vote tally that so reassures you however you do the sums, it is still the case that a left labour step towards a larger communist future has to be better than what Boris has in store.

(NB. Before I knew he was labour party, that Jeremy bloke came to demonstrations I’d helped organise – eg a London group against the Internal Security Act in Malaysia, a protest of 6 people outside Malaysian Airlines office decades ago. So, you know, if he keeps on, it is a good thing. He does not have to be Jezza the superstar to do worthwhile things). So, in return for joining an overlooked cause, please see the video:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FJeremyCorbynMP%2Fvideos%2F448002489199292%2F&show_text=0&width=476

Then, finally, to bring something forward from elsewhere,there is Neil Davenport, who I also knew as a journalist in Manchester long ago. He seems spot on to say:

‘It is wrong to assume that a re-run of mild social democracy was to blame for Labour’s catastrophe on Friday. Instead it was a reliance on continuity Blairism that led to the collapse of its northern heartland. There are a number of key aspects of Blairism that Corbyn and Momentum continued and went further with. The most obvious one was Blair’s peace with the EU and outright Europhilia, a position miles away from Labour’s old left and ex miner’s in the north. Secondly, the replacement of class solidarity with institutionalising diversity and identity politics, with the narrative of suspicion and at times outright hostility towards its traditional constituency.”

and to point out the pressing need to dismantle the middle-class drive

“to culturally reform the masses along middle class hairshirt lines”

Yes – it is high time to abandon that moralising sermonizing class and tone – the very middle-class hairshirt which is so beloved of moaners of many stripes. It has always been a less scratchy version of hairshirt than usually imagined. I mean, it seems like it comes in a whole variety of designer styles, slinky, sexy, never take it off, dom-fem versions, versions approved by your valet, gortex and microfiber outdoor hiking versions and more. Suits you sir, they say. Wearing political t-shirts with a 800 thread count. That hairshirt comes tailored and home delivered in Rugby and Superdry options. Nothing should be moist. They for sure aren’t taking it off for a proper scratch anytime soon.

Care – a Christmas Carol

gates

The inadequacy of charitable care as an international cure is evidenced despite the widespread propagation of philanthropic intervention. Bill Gates dedicates millions towards eradication of less glamorous diseases, and receives favourable blanket coverage across BBC World and other outlets. All manner of charitable organisations leech goodwill from the small-scale individual touristic concern through to huge Christian institutions with administrative apparatus and sans frontiers bureaucracy. Newspapers give support to campaigns to outlaw genital mutilation or to screen for trachoma, but a general inability to scale-up to the required distribution of universal well-being is structurally implied in philanthropic effort, even among those who would reject the injustice of global inequality. All very well-meaning and caring for sure, but fundamentally inadequate as a ‘cure’, dealing in a terminology of medical symptom and unable to confront the epidemiology of capitalism itself.

Here is a grotesque let them eat cake image – it shows the three billionaire amigos: Bill Gates, Akilo Dangote, Mohammed Ibrahim, and 2 women. The women are not named in the first five paras of the Forbes article I could read before the paywall closed on me. Erm, paywall? These are the richest guys in the world, and we all know no-one earns a billion dollars – do the math – you need to get $4578 per hour working ten hours a day every day for 60 years to ‘earn’ a billion. Of course, if you had $100 billion to invest in shares that rose 1% you would earn a billion in a day. Its nabbing that first $100 billion that is the trick. Anyway, instead of stealing all that money, there could be a global health service run by Governments rather than the discount Gates love-in reported here. Gates claims he pays more tax than anyone, at 10 billion on 106 billion, that is still a lower rate than I pay on my not even $1500 a month, and even as he says he’s given away $35 billion in charity, he is still ‘worth’ $106 billion (after tax? = good accountants). How can anyone be worth that, when clearly – do the math – they are still stealing the money, and asking you to smile at how generous their gifts are. Take a hike Bill. I mean, instead of thanking Gates for his self-aggrandising alibi donations in favour of a spot of science research, he could without fanfare pay proper taxes and that science x 10 could be funded by Governments without any of us having to see these cake-cutting bloated egoist philanthropists that even Charles Dickens would have mocked at Christmas.

Safdar Hashmi

So, in 1988 I was evading fieldwork or whatever it was – frankly, I had abandoned the very idea – and was hanging around with a writer whose short stories I had long adored, so much that I wrote to her. Vishwapriya L Iyengar – Vishwa – invited me to visit, cooked food, talked all day and night and into the next day. Talked so food that had been prepared went uneaten. Talked as her partner prepared posters for a Delhi Science Forum demonstration at JNU. And then took me one day by auto to the grounds of some closed I think electric station or even water tank, sort of diagonal from the science institute where there was a concrete T-rex – not far from Triveni. It was late. Delhi was getting cool at last – in those days the air was more like air, yet still it grew misty as the night closed in and the car horns muffled on. Anyway, we were there to meet some people who turned out to be rehearsing a play – workshopping roles, and joining in as the top-hatted factory boss. This was a performance for the picket line, theatre to be taken into factories. Shy, very clumsy, and not a little self-conscious, it was made all the more fun by a woman who turned out to be one of the organisers making fun, and in banter and laughter the mosquitoes did not seem to big a deal (until we stopped). Then food in tiffin tins, late into the night talk about all the theory of the world etc. In those days I was read up on D-school sociology.

It was about two weeks before Christmas, then Safdar was killed on 1 January. I left the next day thinking that there was too much I could not understand in India.

Books like this one planned by Sudhanva Deshpande for LeftWord show just how true that was. I am looking forward to reading more. No matter how much sociology you read, going to have a look for yourself is better, but harder.

https://mayday.leftword.com/blog/post/the-writing-of-halla-bol-the-death-and-life-of-safdar-hashmi-part-1/

There is more – click the link:

The Journey of ‘Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi’, Part 1

Author: LeftWord

The Journey of ‘Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi’, Part 1
It was towards the end of July that the author, serial hashtagger and indulgent ‘Boss’, Sudhanva Deshpande, began sharing updates on the book’s progress on Facebook. Occupied with all kinds of tasks at LeftWord, Vaam Prakashan, and Studio Safdar – over and above the writing of the book – he could hardly be expected to sit down and talk to us about it. These updates were all we had as we grew more and more impatient.

Read on. There’s a lot here that didn’t make it into the final text. (Click on the sub-heads to see the individual Facebook posts.)

Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi will be out on January 1, 2020. Do join us for the book launch at Jhandapur that day.

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26 July
I’m writing a book on Safdar Hashmi, Jana Natya Manch, street theatre, political activism, and the attack that resulted in Safdar’s and Ram Bahadur’s death. I’m going through Safdar’s papers. And every time it gets a little heavy, Safdar amuses me with his little doodles.

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… and later that day
More doodles by Safdar Hashmi. Sometimes I want to say: Stop it Safdar, stop distracting me, can’t you see I’m working?

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There is more:

https://mayday.leftword.com/blog/post/the-writing-of-halla-bol-the-death-and-life-of-safdar-hashmi-part-1/

What did you do in the war Pop?

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

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

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

histanthr

The model for teaching at TDTU – in collaboration with Đỗ Thị Xuân Hương and Võ Nguyễn Thiện Phúc

A short film made to explain a model of teaching for a class on Capital and Anthropology/Mapping at Ton Duc Thang University, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, 2018 – Director: Đỗ Thị Xuân Hương Camera and Editor: Võ Nguyễn Thiện Phúc

https://dai.ly/x7obout

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Transcript of the film in English and Tieng Viet Click Appendix_bilingual_Tieng_Anh_va_Tieng_Viet.

 

Opiates and the Volk

Digging out old snippets I’d forgot I kept handy – clearly not that handy, but near enough to the top of my inbox that I could find them again by accident: here it is: – in Marx’s ‘famous’ quote, it is really noticeable that few people open up the quote to see what Marx said in context. There are several translations, but I will spare you my cod philology about the differences between volkes as masses or peoples etc. But see this in context and it looks quite remarkably different. Marx writes:

“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.”

So. there it is – I hope you agree that the opium looks a little different now, eh god-botherers.

And that’s also why we keep religion and politics for conversations at Parties. Currently cooking the books on several hot plates, so here also today’s earlier word dump on debates: cf, thinking about the electioneering piggy pollies in the primaries in the US and the Brexit-Smexit in the UK – the great political debate non-starter for small-fry (on cuisine and writing hors d-oeuvres). What is going on though? Both sides serving up braised spam or an inflammatory buffet of irradiated beef and biscuit, half-baked pyromaniacs and home-brewed arsonists across the table mess with even the most poultry offers to cauterize this combustible stew, while gourmet confectioners dine out on a smorgasbord of swill, a catered distillation of half-chewed gum fed to the gluttons of the press, all consumers malnourished on a formulaic diet of ill-digested ruminant crud, while the butchers of etiquette gnaw the bones of contention at the feast of the dead, garnished with an aroma of burnt offerings on a menu of left-over table scraps. A dinner party of despair, sandwiches without meat, potatoes or ham.

Critique of Anthropology

This journal deserves your support – it has always been the go-to place for anthropology as it is now. Owes much to John Gledhil and the much-missed Steve Nugent.

My bits in CoA have been:

Bataille’s Wars 2008

Clifford’s Ethnographica 1998

Media Research Politics Culture 1996

Comparative Anthropology 1990

There is a vast amount of work goes into any journal, most of it without payment by a phalanx of younger anthros (they do not all march in step – more’s the better).

 

Bougainville Independence in 10 Days to shake the world…

A long time coming, it is likely that Bourgainville will be independent – and still may or may not reopen the mine that made Riotinto billions. 15k dead seems a bargain for all that copper now, right guys (ps. you deserve to be dragged from the boardroom at 6 St James Square and fed to the sharks).

This is from Australian Foreign Affairs (dodgy source, sure but its for hte details):

 

13 NOVEMBER 2019

WITH JONATHAN PEARLMAN

The future of Bougainville

 

In ten days, the people of Bougainville will start voting in a referendum on whether to break away from Papua New Guinea and create a new state. A decisive majority is expected to vote for independence. The long-awaited referendum marks the start of a new era for the province, following Australian colonial rule for most of last century and the civil war (from 1988 to 1998) that left between 10,000 and 20,000 people dead. Last Wednesday, Mauricio Claudio, an American who is the chief electoral official, said the two-week voting period is likely to be peaceful, credible and “joyous”. “The people of Bougainville have waited for this moment for decades,” he said.

But challenges will arise in the aftermath of the referendum. According to a peace deal signed in 2001, the result of the vote will not be binding but will be followed by negotiations between the Port Moresby and Bougainville governments. This process was proposed by former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer, in December 2000, to end a deadlock in talks between PNG and Bougainville leaders.

In a recent book on the referendum, Anthony Regan, an Australian National University researcher and former adviser to Bougainville parties, noted that Downer gave both sides “separate assurances” to win support for the referendum. To the Bougainvilleans, Downer insisted that a pro-independence vote – like the one in Timor-Leste – would be backed by the international community and lead to statehood. To Port Moresby, he said that the fate of Bougainville would ultimately depend on PNG’s parliament – a claim that persuaded PNG’s leaders that they could reject a vote for independence and retain Australia’s support.

Now, as the referendum finally arrives, Canberra will have to abandon this evasive diplomacy. Instead, it should endorse Bougainville’s peaceful and seemingly inevitable move towards independence. Australia is well positioned to use its close ties with PNG to encourage swift and equitable post-referendum talks. During the civil war between the PNG military and Bougainville separatists, Australia was perceived by Bougainvilleans as being on PNG’s side, particularly as Canberra continued to support its military. But Australia has since conducted peacekeeping operations and provided substantial aid to the region, which has improved its reputation there.

As journalist Ben Bohane wrote in the most recent issue of Australian Foreign Affairs, Australia has largely avoided commenting on the prospect of independence – which has prompted many Bougainvilleans to assume it supports PNG. Bohane, who covered the civil war and will be in Bougainville for the referendum, said Australia should now help to resolve the island’s status and must not be regarded as blocking independence. “Australia, along with New Zealand, should act as ‘honest brokers’ and help to nudge all sides towards a final settlement, rather than allow long-running resentments to fester, which could result in more distant powers such as China increasing their involvement,” he wrote.

One of the main challenges facing the province involves the reopening of the controversial Panguna mine, which has one of the world’s biggest copper deposits. In the 1960s and 1970s, Australia – then the colonial power – allowed the development of Panguna. It was this mine, originally operated by a forerunner of Rio Tinto, that sparked the tensions between local landowners and the PNG military that led to the civil war. The mine was closed in 1989 but in recent years, various Australian entities have been eyeing its reopening. However, the initial concerns of local landowners, such as over environmental degradation and financial exploitation, still remain.

The PNG government’s attitude towards independence is unclear, but there are signs that it is ready to embrace a new collaborative future with Bougainville. Last Wednesday, a reconciliation ceremony was held in PNG between former fighters from the PNG military and from Bougainville. Both sides apologised, and accepted each other’s apologies – they shook hands, broke bows and arrows, and together planted a coconut tree. PNG’s former military commander, Major General Jerry Singirok, described the war as the worst event in his country’s history, adding that he blamed it on his government and on foreign entities. Bougainville’s fate, he said, should be determined by Bougainvilleans. “It was not my choice to go to Bougainville,” he said. “I was only an instrument of a state institution.”

 

 

Immigration force

Some may wonder why Britain quite likes having a cheap labour force available for illicit work, yet politicians spend huge amounts of time presenting their tough on immigration and border control credentials. Here is the previous PM when she was Home Office minister playing her immigration card: Theresa May’s statement in parliament from 26 March 2013 is at the root of the problem: May was announcing that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) was being split up, but she was whistling another doggy tune:
 
“The government is splitting up the UK Border Agency. In its place will be an immigration and visa service and an immigration law enforcement organisation. By creating two entities instead of one, we will be able to create distinct cultures. First, a high-volume service that makes high-quality decisions about who comes here, with a culture of customer satisfaction for businessmen and visitors who want to come here legally. And second, an organisation that has law enforcement at its heart and gets tough on those who break our immigration laws”
 
Get that – a law enforcement organisation, with a separate culture of being tough on immigration (the other part will just kow-tow to big business mates). Now no-one thinks the UKBA was up to snuff. I mean even the doyen of Labour moral fibre, molasses spine, Keith Vaz called it the UK Backlog Authority that day, but letting loose the dogs of a special policing unit, under her own office, and of course obsessed with being seen to be tough, was, well… you know how it pans out, again and again and again. And this does not end with trite pointing fingers only at those that encourage people to risk entering refrigerated tombs on wheels. The Tories have a huge share of the blame here, and if Labour didn’t still have a bunch of immigration phobic rightwingers in the bloated centre-right of the parliamentary party, I’d say it would be reason to vote the tories out in the coming election. If one went in for that voting malarkey (as opposed to offering them all a free trip on the Virgin Orbit test rocket – Launcher one, 31 October – having set the controls for the heart of the sun).
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downloads

WordPress started counting text downloads of articles in July this year. Interesting stat.

So the books get quite a few

56 for Rumour of Calcutta 1996  (buy here)

26 for Pantomime Terror 2014

But just the occasional hit for individual papers  like:

10 for British Asian Communism (2005)

6 for Semi-Feudal Cyber Colonalism (on the multimedia super corridor 1999)

and just the 1 for poor old The Authority of Style (first serious essay published 1987)

Unfortunately, Icannot easily cut and paste all the totals, but some are in the hundreds (thanks) and most of the papers are here.

Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities #ISSH2019

ISSHo (55).jpg

 

An International Conference at Ton Duc Thang University October 4-5, 2019

Innovations are the key. In method and analysis, in the ways in which scholarship engages with society and organisations today, there can be no doubting the relevance of the social science and humanities to all our pressing questions. The Innovations discussed at the conference challenged our thinking. The topics were wide-ranging and varied, the approaches distinctly alive; some of the papers demonstrated a vivid combination of theoretical and practical research, some were insistently in a humanities’-oriented style, others more forthright and strictly social science, and still others experimented with the form and tone of the social sciences. Perhaps while bringing new methods to Vietnam, the creativity of the social sciences and relevance of the humanities for contemporary understanding was brought out even more by the diversity of themes and perspectives. Of course the traditional scholarship of the social sciences was also represented, but in writing that has an urgency and verve that excited discussion.

 

\
guido
Guido Abbattista, University of Trieste (middle)
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Professor Guido Abbattissta from the University of Trieste in Italy said the conference ‘was an exciting experience’. Dr Arnab Choudhury from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said it was an ‘immensely wonderful conference, by far one of the most well-organised conferences I have ever attended’.
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ISSH (5)
Stephen Muecke Flinders University

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The featured keynotes included a powerfully engaging presentation from Professor Stephen Muecke of Flinders University Australia. Prof Muecke is a hugely important voice in cultural studies and theorist of notions of the cultural landscape and ways of reading cultural relations between settler and Aboriginal Australia. His explanation of the walking method innovated by Aboriginal traditional landholders will inspire reflection and new practices, and perhaps some in Vietnam will want to take up the invitation of Aboriginal elder Paddy Roe to visit Western Australia and walk the ancient dreaming tracks near Broome with his family.
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ISSH (54)
Professor Joyce Liu (NCTU Taiwan) and Professor Ursula Rao (Uni Leipzig, Germany)

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A keynote lecture by Professor Joyce Liu from National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan, on new methods of inter-Asian joint and multi-site research inaugurated a perspective on political and cultural research that promises new opportunities for collaboration and debate across borders. She spoke with an engagement that should never be sacrificed in scholarship while there are so many urgent and relevant issues upon which scholars must comment as the leading presenters of, explorers of, and advocates for ideas.

The conference as a whole addressed debates about why innovation and new methods in the social sciences and humanities in Vietnam are needed. This was to respond to clear demands within Vietnam for such methods and enthusiasms (perspectives of a number of Government and non-Government agencies have supported this with relevant statements, such as the government Global Challenges position papers in 2018, and the work of independent research units like Social Life). Mild Hombrebueno from the Philippines said she had ‘learnt a lot from the conference, built new networks, friendships and linkages’ and claimed enthusiastically:

‘I have been to other international conferences, but so far, this is the best experience I’ve ever had. The host university and the organizing committee were so accommodating even up to the last leg of the program. It was indeed full of intellectual discussions, where I made many realizations’

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ISSH (93)
Professor Rao

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Participatory development projects need a new lease of life and a major rethink – and this was provided by Professor Ursula Rao from the University of Leipzig in Germany as she explored new thinking on the challenges of development in anthropology.

Ms Hombrebueno again commented:

‘meeting with Prof. Rao and her advocacy on Shaping Asia is just so exciting one! I am grateful [to have] the chance to be with the team’

Professor Elaine Carey from Purdue NorthWest in Indian a, USA, spoke on women and research on drugs in the archive, the depredations of the war on drugs and the lives of women drug lords were fascinating topics, with side excursions into the interests of American author William Burroughs and images from the press of mid-20th century Mexico and South America. The thinking here was deep as well as a gripping story – if there are no short cuts and no easy solutions, we are challenged at least to think hard – and it is also an inspiration to hear how we can also care about writing well, and hear this from the leading international scholars of our times.
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ISSH (66)
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The conference had articles/panels on over 40 topics by cutting edge thinkers and on themes that remain urgent and pressing – for example, there was a session on the new area of sociobiology, there was the panel on education provision and socialization with a discussion of Vietnam and Australia on higher education successes. There was an engaging panel on participatory methods as a research tool eminently suited for new ways of doing research in the social sciences and humanities. Experts were involved and risking their ideas and critiques in every panel of the conference, though the discussions also spilled over into conversations in the corridors and in cafes afterwards. And the conference will continue to have an impact on scholarship in Vietnam and the region because the papers were published in a conference volume and some will be rewritten for journals and books in the coming months. The effect of the conference will help make TDTU one of the major centres in Vietnam for discussion of new research in these areas.
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ISSH (51)
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The conference was open-ended and its assessment will continue long afterwards, with consequences that will shape ongoing research. As such, the papers presented are not only about new results, so much about new ways of going about getting those results and discussing those results – fostering a culture of research in the Universities that are open to the experience of social change, the challenges of the times and globally, shifting the locus of advanced research towards the region again, so that perhaps we will begin to arrest the so-called brain-drain where so much budding talent leaves the country for several, sometimes many, years . The conference will be part of a much-needed boost to refresh the social sciences and humanities.
/
ISSHo (9)
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The key point to make is: that with such a large number of regional delegates – from India, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines – and a significant number of wider international guests – from the USA, Europe and Australia – this conference can be seen as a crucial establishing part of the project of making Vietnam, and TDTU, a key hub in the region for discussions about innovative research in the social sciences and humanities. It is highly appropriate then that this conference was held at TDTU – a young university, able to do things in a creative and exciting new way. We can only hope for more of this.
JH
Roshni Kamalika Giocvanni
ISSHo (23)
ISSHo (28)

Sundarbans, Climate, Tigers, Law.

Liquidity of the Sundarbans:

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

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

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

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 08.57.06

Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, saying…

From The Undercommens: Fugitive Planning and Black Study:

Harney and Moten 2013-30Harney and Moten 2013-29

 

So, as a youngster heading out to do what damage I could to the world, I inadvertently joined, as if by accident and certainly by bluff, a research project in which, in the end, it turned out that the leader, when report time came around, decided that the report back to the funding council should say that I had been incapable of doing the research required. This  because I was too cautious in not wanting to orientalise the other,. Damning indictment. I saw the thing rather differently – having joined the project to maim it, there was nothing cautious in a critique of lame versions of identity, hybridity, and oooh, culture. The critique of ethnomusicology logically followed, for form’s sake, and of exoticism, of egoistic cult scholarship and professor-ism, of the inheritance of baubles and trinkets of election to a clergy that no-one believed, not even themselves. There wasn’t even any need to condemn them as they condemned themselves, and the riposte ‘I thought you were dead’ still brings laughter and joy. In amongst the ashes and horrors, and rent-a-kill terrors. They do have the resources that still make some things possible, get in an grab some, since soon it will be gone. And all the while give some back, not just lip – I have lent out more books than I own, and I own a lot of the bloody things. leaving them lying around (though particular about not leaving them spine open, or on a wet bench. Yes, bloody things they are – written in letters of blood and fire, shares of a capital produced through pain and struggle just to escape beyond the enthusiasm-sucking routine of having to pay the rent and feed the kids while syphoning a substantial packet off into projects, and more books, because, yes, the research councils were a bit wary after that. Oh, and then apparently named the enemy of anthropology from within. I’ll take that too. With chips. More soon.

International Conference on Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities at Ton Duc Thang University October 4-5, 2019

International Conference at Ton Duc Thang University October 4-5, 2019

Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities

Innovations are the key. In method and analysis, in the ways in which scholarship engages with society and organisations today, there can be no doubting the relevance of the social science and humanities to all our pressing questions. The Innovations to be discussed at the conference challenge our thinking. The topics are wide-ranging and varied, the approaches distinctly alive; some of the papers demonstrate a vivid combination of theoretical and  practical research, some are insistently in a humanities’-oriented style, others more forthright and strictly social science, and still others experiment with the form and tone of the social sciences. Perhaps bringing new methods to Vietnam, the creativity of the social sciences and relevance of the humanities for contemporary understanding is brought out by the diversity of themes and perspectives. Of course the traditional scholarship of the social sciences is represented, but in writing that has an urgency and verve that will excite discussion.

The features include a keynote lecture by Professor Stephen Muecke, a hugely important voice in cultural studies and theorist of notions of cultural landscape and ways of reading cultural relations between settler and Aboriginal Australia. His walking method will inspire reflection.

A keynote lecture by Professor Joyce Liu on new methods of inter-Asian joint and multi-site research inaugurates a perspective on cultural research that promises new opportunities for collaboration and debate across borders, and with an engagement that should never be sacrificed in the social science and humanities. There are many urgent and relevant issues upon which scholars must comment as the leading presenters of, explorers of, and advocates for ideas

The conference as a whole addresses debates about why innovation and new methods in the social sciences and humanities in Vietnam are needed. This is to respond to clear demands within Vietnam for such methods and enthusiasms (perspectives of a number of Government and non-Government agencies have supported this with relevant statements, such as the government Global Challenges position papers in 2018, and the work of independent research units like Social Life).

Professor Ursula Rao will explore new thinking on the challenges of development in anthropology. Professor Elaine Carey on women and research, in the archive, on drugs. There are no short cuts and no easy solutions – we are challenged to think hard with the leading international scholars of our times.

The conference brings articles/panels on 43 topics by cutting edge thinkers and on themes that are urgent and pressing – for example, there is a session on the new area of sociobiology by Jon Solomon and Samiksha Bahn, or there is the panel on education provision and socialization with discussion of Vietnam and Australia on higher education successes and problems. There is an engaging panel on participatory methods as a research tool eminently suited for new ways of doing research in the social sciences and humanities. Experts and serious scholars are involved in every panel of the conference, though the discussions will spill out into conversations and publications that will continue to have an impact on scholarship in Vietnam and the region. The effect of the conference is to make TDTU one of the hubs in Vietnam for discussion of new research in these areas.

The conference is open-ended and will continue long afterwards, with consequences that will shape ongoing research. As such, the papers presented are not only about new results, so much about new ways of going about getting those results and discussing those results – fostering a culture of research in the Universities that are open to the experience of social change, the challenges of the times and globally, shifting the locus of advanced research towards the region again, so that perhaps we will begin to arrest the so-called brain-drain where so much budding talent leaves the country for several, sometimes many, years . The conference will be part of a much-needed boost to refresh the social sciences and humanities.

The key point to make is: that with a number of regional delegates – India, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines – and a number of wider international guests – from the USA, Europe and Australia – this conference can be a crucial establishing part of the project of making Vietnam, and TDTU, a key hub in the region for discussions about innovative research in the social sciences and humanities – highly appropriate then that this conference will be held at TDTU – a young university, able to do things in a creative and exciting new way.

More soon…

See https://issh2019.tdtu.edu.vn

Jadavpur University and the pecuniary investment jealousy rag (need some infrastructure surely).

I don’t have cause to say so often enough, but I consider Jadavpur a second alma mater for me (just as second breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so is what I have learned at Jadavpur over 30 years sustaining). There is a long background behind this below, but those with the ability to read between the lines can make the necessary analytic dot joinings…

Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 19.32.59

 

In a widely shared post on FB Somak Mukherjee writes passionately about what is being done to Jadavpur:

Friends and colleagues there [at JU]; I applaud your sense of integrity and courage. Stay safe. The machinery of politics is not merely random and arbitrary, but peculiarly random in its vengeful rhetoric.

Absolutely wonderful to see a large turnout yesterday for the protest procession. Current or former students, kudos to you.

A humble request in anticipation of a rising narrative, maliciously aimed at the students community of the university: that Jadavpur’s “aimless and disorganized environment/ politics” is the result of a decline in academic standard”. This rhetoric will find a large following/support in a rising section of Bengali bourgeoisie welcoming unprecedented cultural regression in our city/state. Political IT cells will ensure this narrative finds wide currency in tv shouting matches/whatsapp forwards/facebook communities.

Nothing is further from the truth. Students/teachers/scholars there already know this. But please combat this narrative with consistency and conviction.

Jadavpur University is still among the top five public universities in the naton: an astonishing feat considering the comparative but consistent against state public universities in India in the last several decades. When looking at rankings, please consider the fact that IITs lack the diversity of disciplines taught here. There are Depts+schools+centers= almost 60 academic units alone in this university, outnumbering JNU. This university always punched above its weight in the national arena with a self assured recognition of being an underdog. It champions underdogs going beyond the tired binary of success/failure in meritocracy.

I had to do a little bit of research for an article about the recent academic progress of JU. Some facts:

a) Under a specific scheme of RUSA ( Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyaan) aimed at 10 state public universities, JU has been a rare exception in timely utilization of the funds disbursed in the last 4 years.

b) There are only two state public universities getting the coveted Institution of Eminence (IOE) tag: Jadavpur and Anna. If the 1000 Crores indeed get disbursed over the next five years, it can potentially double the university budget ( Proviso: this fund, apparently, cannot be allotted for additional posts: a MHRD criteria. Bizarre.) for research and overall infrastructure. Again, JU qualified despite the odds, countering indifferent and arrogant educational bureaucracy at the center. At least three major newspapers in only the last weeks have published confused and misleading news reports about 1. Amount of funding requested and, this is more crucial, 2. the proviso of state government providing the supplementary funds, attaching negative comments from state government officials. Again, apparently there is no proviso that the full funding is tied to supplementary funding from “bankrupt” state govern An independent verification and clarification of this might be useful.

3. 2018 FET placements have been astonishingly good.

Story 3 was tucked away in the corner of page 8 of a Bengali daily recently. Story 1 was hardly reported. Story 2, as I mentioned, has been reported in a confusing and self contradictory manner. My larger points: this fits a narrative of intention of the mainstream India ( English or vernacular) about which specific optics about the university should be fed to public discourse. The spectacle of passionate protest, while incredibly effective, can also take time in realizing the double edged sword of the media rhetoric. This is why the awareness of the institutional progress can be quite useful.

This university was once “unfashionably” nationalistic in pre-independence time. It did not care when critics railed against the university enrolling revolutionaries as mature students. This university employed one of the greatest 20th century Bengali poets despite his lack of formal ‘qualifications’. This university made a 25 year old founding HOD of its economics department. Then, it was made fun of for its suburban obscurity. Yet it thrived: because of its gloriously scattered intellectual currents relished the accusation of suburban subversions with delightful irony. Times changed: hell, KP took over jurisdiction. But JU remained sufficiently downmarket for the elite of the ‘proper south’ and yet marvelously dreamy for suburbia kids like myself.

I know these are deeply cynical times, but I will stick my neck out and say: best days for Jadavpur are yet to come. If you agree then good: strength of optimism can be quite revolutionary itself. If you disagree, then disregard this rant as an inevitable outcome of suburban longings. Jadavpur was never Calcutta’s university. It was/and still is, a gateway university.

Global South Asia On Screen: India only edition.

via Global South Asia On Screen: India only edition.

Screenshot 2018-12-26 at 10.22.29

Available from Aakar Books Here.

Rest of the world here (bloomsbury paperback in November)

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4826-8949

 

Just because its only out cheaply in India does not mean you canot still buy stauff – the Hardback is 20 quid on some sites.

ANd there are a few older things still kicking about:

 

John Hutnyk is the author of Bad Marxism (Pluto Press, 2004) and Critique of Exotica …
The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity and the Poverty of Representation [John Hutnyk] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.

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:

Screen Shot 2019-09-09 at 14.32.15

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…