Kill your darlings part 7

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

[Yup, but cut]

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kill your darlings #6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kill your darlin’s day 5 (missed a day) still slashing away, detritus for the record…

Things that were context then, needed to be updated now so go:

 

–  the New Cross Fire,[1] the Battle of Lewisham,[2] Brixton SUS[3]

[1] The New Cross fire occurred in 1981 and involved the tragic loss of 13 young lives in an incident many thought was a case of arson on the part of fascists against local youth. A massive protest march from New Cross into the centre of London took place with protesters chanting ’13 dead and nothing said’ in the face of police indifference and incompetence. An inquiry in 2001 was largely inconclusive, and leading up to the 30th anniversary of the fire discussion continues, for example at the guided walk part of the Border Infection workshop at Goldsmiths, noted here: http: //hutnyk.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/border-infection-goldsmiths-22-24-march-draft-tbc/

[2] Battle of Lewisham 1977 was a day of running protest against the National Front., commemorated in a peripatetic part of workshop, Migrating University, held at Goldsmiths, co-organised with Paul Hendrich. See http: //hutnyk.wordpress.com/2007/08/21/migrating-university-goldsmiths-to-gatwick/

[3] Stop under Suspicion (SUS) laws allowed police to disproportionately harass black citizens of London, fuelling tensions. Three decades later and similar police powers have lead to disproportionate numbers of Asian men being harassed, under the guise of ‘terrorism alerts’. With much less of a public outcry this time round. Even at the local bus stop: https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/dragnets-of-london/

day 4 of kill your darlings, the word hoard is desiccated & gets ever thinner.

Word salad for future plundering…

Cutting slabs out and leaving them here like meat carcasses hung up for curing…

For example, cosmopolitan and transnationalising nomad that I am (ahem, I wish) I am at present absent-mindedly watching what I assume to be the show ‘Japan Idol’ on an overhead TV in a Korean bbq joint. I am resisting tuning in so I may be wrong. I am in Japan, but given the restaurant, this could also be ‘Korean Idol’; how to tell without attending more carefully? I dismiss the effort, and let this just be, this time, background, even though the sound is awful, cranked out through not very state of the art loudspeakers, although it is not overbearing. I am simultaneously concerned with my meal, typing up notes from reading, and avoiding looking at Facebook. What concerns me most is the preparation I should really be doing, but I am also only attending to it with part of my admittedly lazy brain. I’ve a language lesson and should be better prepared for a test coming up in an hour. Japan/Korean Idol as revision session perhaps? It might be ‘Supergirl’, from China (see Jian and Liu 2009), so I already know that is not really going to help, even though I seem to be able to process popular culture and its moves more than I can the declensions of nouns or the – nightmare – pictographs of Kanji.

My students walk into class with iPhone buds in their ears. They also listen to ‘Japan Idol’, and more or less tolerate my insistence on subjecting them to music from old Indian cinema, or diasporic British South Asian sounds, and commentaries. The point of reference at first, to get them interested, was The Beatles, but they also show me the influence of other traditions and ideas that lead them to an interest in India and this course, and I realise that the direction and question of influence is never straightforward. Despite being able to point to ‘the discursive construction of an “East Asian Popular Culture” as an object of analysis (Chua 2006: 200) the criss-crossing of national borders extends and extends. Of course this is true for film, music, television drama, comic books, magazines, websites and fashion magazines. In Japan the visibility of Bollywood’s cultural product is small (Srinivas 2013: 616), and even more the marginal visibility of Bengali Art film is less than some, but this term rather more than nothing. What they will make of it as they collect points and units for their degree awards is really not clear – the hope that the famous obsessive fandom of Japanese youth can be accessed to promote learning is of course not far away. I have something of that tendency for sure.

Also for the films of Ichikawa Kon, even though my students expected me only to know Kurusawa and maybe Ozu. I am able to introduce them to a great – lost on some – figure from their own film culture. But it is Akira Kurusawa who was the better known in Bengal, and who is famously paired with Satyajit Ray as the twin stars of World Cinema from this part of the world. Ichikawa Kon and Mrinal Sen are perhaps the two antithetical alternatives to that mainstream crown. Kon’s films are sometimes profound, sometimes comic, sometimes political, and while I will not belabour this analogy, and the depth of attachment of the Bengali public to Sen is possibly greater than the Japanese appreciation of their own Kon, I certainly class them together. That other book awaits another time however, even as I note also the potential to write such a comparison through the crucial importance of their wives as partner-actresses and muse-like support. No, that book must wait, my language class first. And in Bengal, Mrinal Sen himself is hopefully still to make another film, even though he is pushing towards his mid-90s as I write.

 

**

The terminology most explicitly avoided that I would introduce here, but develop elsewhere, is the language of Maoist analysis of compradore complicities and specific semi-feudal semi colonial associations within media reporting. I once described the Malaysian Multi Media Super Corridor as an example of a semi-feudal, cyber-colonial land grab. This must be further explored today.

**

A problem perhaps to be addressed is how did militant anti-racist and anti-imperialist organisations from 30-40 years ago, lead to a scene in which we are so atomised and reified into discursive competition the best we have are individual celeb thinker-artists who say all these good things, but practically overlook the ways compliance and complicity are the order of the day.

Sometimes compromised and conflicted; sometimes published in the West, but sometimes not; always engaged, never satisfied with mimicry, hybridity or recuperation. There is an alternative in formation and emergent on the back of a political tradition that does not need to pay the lip service of yore to the powers of empires. Maybe new empires are in formation, but the stakes are open for a critical transformation – which will not need first amendment rights, but take them.

**

It seems to me that there is a push-me-pull-you kind of denial at the heart of contemporary politics, where an absence of anxiety about the decline of the left exists in a space within which verbose talk about the decline rests somehow in comfortable reassurance that invests hope in media promotional social movements that circulate horizontally, as Hardt and Negri, among others, applauded (2000). Confronted by the entertainment-industrial militarisation of every theatre of the world, albeit with differing levels of war-footing, but combative all the same, the contestation that gains most visibility is a digitised connected one, already recuperated in its very conditions of possibility. It exists as spectacle, contesting in a spectral spectacularity that cancels itself out. Auto-marginalisation and self-deprecatory egoism that things likes or hits or eyeballs can be monetised for change.org.

The self-regard of the online social movements which network according to the algorithms of a geo-demarcated globalism, offer spaces of partial, perhaps potential, disengagement in a staged subsumption. Vernacular globalisations that offer respite for a time, but ultimately wait in line to compromise. The identity and digital compartmentalisation of the political, and the atomisation of parts that any movement, articulated globally, requires, means that questions of strategy and tactics are resolved to simple impossible choices – departure into defeat or the path of endless competition for celebrity endorsement. The political struggle becomes one of recognition by the digital spectacular, and only algorithms of approval count, as like meets like, confirms like, the same. A viable politics of group mobilisation across difference is undermined in such competition, in a zero and one containment.

Working out how it came to be thus is less difficult than refusing the demonisation and disregard of the need to build alliances across difference without becoming sectarian and self-interested. It seems this is only possible outside of the famous mainstream formula circuit, and even then the secondary circuit’s structuring in terms of leagues and scaled promotion, threatens to narrow possibilities there. If there is only one world domain of action, one global agenda, then the possibility of working outside of expectations is already recuperated. That there are some who do not follow the formula is the promise that is still possible to win.

Writing far from the UK, thinking about South Asian film and diaspora from another corner of Asia, and given trends and movements, the angular influences of culture are thrown into sharp relief. How we figure patters of production and consumption of popular culture is never simple. Even influences are not readily tracked when they are apparent: the old reception models, and the dissemination models that proffered a uni-directional distributive formula from an advanced centre, are faulty.

**

In the face of declining interest in explicit politics there might be reasons to despair if it were not that a desperate necessity means migrants continue to struggle and bring realisation with them across the deadly borders they have crossed. A lament for those who die in the attempt – the sea of bodies that wash up on the Mediterranean shores, the parched deserts of Arizona, the driftwood from destroyed and floundered boats off the West Australian coast – and monuments to tenacity that the privileged cannot even measure, do not diminish the importance of the gift that migrants bring those that have died sedentary in their suburban homes.

A consideration of unpublished – even unwritten – comparative tracts within Asia must immediately take into account the framing that such conversations might have in the wake of the emergence of two new economic ‘superpowers’ in the twenty-first century, China and India – which would have perhaps more significance in terms of encounter than that between east and west (Chakrabarty 2000). I realise the word encounter has a particular history in at least one context here, but I don’t doubt the possibility of separating the brutality of one kind of encounter, with the police, and that more cosmopolitan and engagingly transnational encounter that might add to our cultural repertoire and sensitivities in the coming era.

Snip – day three casualties. Kill your darlings. Draft paras that did not make the final edit

Of course the screen has long been a global industry with a global logistics, and every ‘international’ production – a movie, drama or news – involves battalions of workers laying cables, assembling cameras, grooming talent, building sound stages, driving celeb vehicles, rushing here and there.

In general, the globalisation of cinema and television is no longer the extraordinary exceptional effort of, say, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (see Caton 1999) but the ubiquity of screen culture has meant a massive new participation in the production of images, from the somewhat romanticised ‘citizen journalism’ of ‘tele-democracy’, to the live-cam combat footage and embedded reportage of the military and security services, all deploying the latest buzzwords as codex for wider techno-social shifts.

Again Rajadhyaksha (2009) contests an ‘isolationist’ view of Indian television, noting the Doordarshan state monopoly was accused of a narrow ‘Delhicentric’ view of India and he argues for refocused attention to Indian cinemas in a global frame that must be taken seriously here. Madhava Prasad (1998) seemingly starts at the other end and takes political, economic and historical factors as key to understanding ‘Indian’ cinema and its relation to capital

Nalin Mehta’s study of satellite television remains closely tied to the medium of television itself, however much transformed by new modes of delivery. The ‘citizen journalist’ (Mehta 2008:248) and ‘tele-democracy’ (Mehta 2008:257) are terms that have insider network currency.

There are by now well-rehearsed ways of undermining legitimate commentary with equally unsubtle questions of motive and context in a wider racist imperialist codings that try to never reveal the white supremacist undercarriage. The use of other terms – madness, ADHD disorders, psychosis – to seemingly excuse or mitigate attacks with deeper systemic origins is recurrent. For example, the July 22 2011 deaths in Oslo, Norway at the hands of the terrorist killer Anders Behring Breivik, or those of white supremacist Wade Michael Page who killed 7 at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on August 5, 2012, or the 9 killed by Southern Rhodesia supporting, flag-waving confederate terrorist Dylan Roof on June 17, 2015, and too many other examples. As if taking down the confederate flag would erase the structural racism, public weapons, prison system, arms sales and interventionist wars that make the problems of systemic imperialism and racism the scourge of the world that merges also into commodification via industrial news production. We watch rolling 24 hour cycle coverage which evokes no compassion, only staged ‘compassion’ – behind which you know there are technicians, crew, director and sound operator all just doing their jobs, some of them wearing appropriate t-shirt slogans saying ‘I am Trayvon Martin’ even. No contrition from the media for its knee-jerk first reactions, invariably assuming the attacks were Al Qaeda or enraged Islamists responding to anti-Mohammed cartoons, and not much more than a contrived apology and business-as-usual as Breivik is identified as a self-declared ‘anti-Muslim crusader’ with a 1500 page manifesto and links to the English Defense League,[1] Page was a white supremacist crusader and member of racist skinhead neo-Nazi rock bands End Empathy and Definite Hate,[2] while Dylann Roof’s terrorist attack on churchgoers in Charleston was called a tragedy of bad parenting, despite rapid appearance of readily accessible evidence that he had been given weapons, groomed online and had planned the attack for 6 months.[3]

That the terrorist self-styles as crusader is no surprise, but again media attention focuses upon the lone-wolf, rogue element, and individuation so as to engender control, in the same way the manufacturing process divides items for management on the assembly line and market (see Adorno 1952/2005:39). This trinketisation ignores, even as we see it on screen, the intimate connections and overall tendential movement that should be diagnosed as a new and vicious military-informational complex, modeled and sold with glossy brochure News Corp and ‘dot.gov’ publicity campaign. It starts with so-called humanitarian bombing, moves through years of attritional combat, and extortion, assassination, murder-death-kill, and at best ends up with construction contracts and ongoing client state dependency with Obama and Clinton as its team B compliant democratic visage. At worst, dissolution, despair and destructive neo-fascist entropy of the Haliburton phase. A form of privatisation over scorched earth – the policy choice of the crusades – reinstates colonialism and now devolves to the bureaucratic distanced administration of the proxy globalised innovation and appears nothing short of permanent World War III. This blowback only begins to show as breaking news if you are not actually watching, taking the time to learn not to flinch from the implications.

[1] http://t.co/ScCFovi and http://t.co/dYRUtgk – last accessed 26 July 2011

[2] http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/08/07/1117507/-Southern-Poverty-Law-Center-on-Sikh-Temple-Shooter – last accessed 5 August 2013 See also ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/US/sikh-temple-oak-creek-wisconsin-officials-white-supremacist/story?id=16933779&page=2#.UCCeCKA3quI – accessed 22 June 2015.

[3] RT news http://rt.com/usa/268231-roof-racist-statements-planning-shooting/ – last accessed 22 June 2015.

More snips from the cutting room floor

Despite the geopolitical machinations of superpowers and regional interests, there has been through the crises of imperialism, WW2 and the independence period, a parallel progressive leftist culture reproduced through creative labour. Why would the current period be any different? Of course the corresponding possibility of solidarity coming from the West is beleaguered because already from the 1920s that solidarity was not from the West but in reaction to, and sustained by, anti-colonial struggles elsewhere – Russia, India, China, Vietnam, Angola etc. The crisis-ridden left movements of the North cannot take up solidarity in a directing role, nor even participate progressively in any way until the old mole is woken up, austerity is refused and the abundant institutions full of still not wholly privatised universities for critical thinking are given root and branch self-criticism.

Consider how the 1960s counter-culture was annexed and separated into units that could be variously controlled and managed is the story of our era, already long ago anticipated by Adorno. Many recent examples can be invoked, but if we began in the 1960s, we can look at how Black Power morphed into disco and global hip-hop under the scourge of CIA-led inner urban drug swamping and CONTELPRO political assassination. The flower-power hippies became computer geeks and SDS and the YIPPIES such as Abbie Hoffman and Gerry Rubin were left without any mass base – Hoffman drifted into covert flight, Rubin to the stock market. Feminism became identitarian careerism and international solidarity became exoticist revolutionary tourism. Queer militancy became pink pound shopping and Mardi Gras, if not primarily invested more in royal patronage and marriage equality than political mobilisation. Anti-racist multiculturalism more quickly than most other mobilisations was turned from economic redress after systematic bias into targeted small grants for ethnic arts festivals and annual religious or national dress commemorations. Most important, each of the counter-movements were separated and any alliance among them – Black Power + Hippies + Feminists + Queer + anti-racism, anti-imperialism – was too easily broken by money drugs and cultural identity.

 

Terms like Bollywood or Postcolonial may not be better or worse than others, however ‘pragmatic’ (Sundaram 2013: 137), with no intrinsic coherence except they insofar as they are useful markers along the way. If definition means replicating another of the paradoxes of the scholarly penchant for classification

 

The moral-legal framework of the nation and its orders, connections to tradition, patriarchy, transnational diplomacy, and conflict, becomes the object of analysis with film and television the never transparent but nonetheless unavoidable forum for its working out. Policy and corruption, statesmanship, scandal and progress are each thoroughly newsworthy as mediatised. In the end, everything is contained or coded through the screen, but in an inexorable variety that exceeds even population numbers – as many interpretations as critics, as many critics as viewers.

 

That these groupings used involvement in cinema as a vehicle for interventions into the public sphere is possibly true of all contexts for film. And so, an academic industry of course follows in the wake of screen media, like some sort of camp hanger-on modelled by Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage who sells her children into prostitution and slavery, running after the marching army of the 30 Years War (Brecht 1939/1980). All academic studies are in danger of becoming a similar sort of campaign support and the logistical supply troop for a comprehensive cultural takeover in the interest of some social groupings over others – media courses, conferences and journals with critique, scholarship even, when this suits the operatives of commercial advance and technological aggression. No longer a diminutive fuzzy furniture item in the corner of the room – if it ever was, always trying to take over like it did, with aspirations to be the centre of attention – television is now ubiquitous, as a mobile in your pocket, an iPad platform, an airplane seat, taxi cab, station concourse, large public screen, festival feature, cricket stadium scoreboard, plasma proliferation (McQuire 2008). Reassessment of the volatile political place of screens means that the referent of television, and the complicity of television studies as market support, is always overdue. The whole world is flicker and pixels, coming to get you, already invaded intimately (Nandy 1983) and won.

(Brecht, Bertolt 1939/1980 Mother Courage and her Children, London: Methuen.)

The illusion that the political somehow escapes television was always merely televised, and the economy seems now to perform for multiple media platforms, while socio-cultural change runs interference for a technological escalation that only sells us more [forms of] television. It does not matter that we are all always on screen and under scrutiny check in the garrison society. Or rather, it matters only insofar as the global economy is performed as TV, designed, like war, with all of us as screens. A co-constitution of camera and capital, such that the fiction of a single point of view – the camera, or the screen you are looking at now, even when it cuts from angle to angle – is the portal of a total commodification, which – with malevolent triangulation – condenses the multiple social input of a vast productive geo-political apparatus into the disguised and singular presenter speaking directly to you, telling you your news, encouraging you to laugh or cry and living your life right there, before your eyes, everywhere.

 

Sure, the uptake of cinema programming in healthy cross-fertilisation was one of the provocative bonuses for diasporic film – though this can never be endorsed without question as formulaic Bride and Prejudicial high finance dominate the scene. Now we see the ambiguity of so-called hybrid forms in disjunctive mode not only in the curiosities of Zee and NDTV pan-commercialism, but also the idiosyncrasies of flip channel goddery and the ready access of a global identification, for example of Shilpa Shetty and Jade Goody as superstars, or of Osama bin Laden and Barack Hussein Obama. Note already the couplet TV news stars are geo-political, and the alienation effect that such staged pairings should have still does not mean we understand that things are merely theatrical: this is not a Brechtian entfremdungseffekt.

The nationalist televisual project become global also fosters an orientalist TV which prevails in an Asia beyond Asia, where Global South Asia itself is vicariously and phantasmagorically screened – Michael Palin on tour in chapter two of this book. Indeed, it is the haphazard synchronisation of national and geopolitical that has most quickly expanded with the proliferation of screen culture large and small – culture televised, and no longer under pundit control.

If the cinema was festive, the news was stark, but both are dream media in a politics of interpretation: too often taken as media without mediation or meditation. Wanting to be Global but not universal, comprehensive without having to chase down every regional detail, inclusive but not exclusive – the political in the cultural is theoretical and conceptual when specificity is less urgent.

It is a cliché that there are two sides to every story, and yet. The other side of this story is that unpacking prejudice and exoticism makes possible an analysis that includes us all. To think of one place as uninfluenced by, and not influential upon certain other places just does not fit the facts. The politics of heritage and identity, diaspora and origins, of specificity and similarity, and conjuncture and formula means this book explores and evaluates a variegated and contingent political terminology for framing reconfigurations of power, and these reconfigurations are …

The analyses of just a few years back seemed to signal changes that are now even more epochal. Rajagopal had set this out clearly in 2009:

‘the media re-shape the context in which politics is conceived, enacted, and understood. Hindu nationalism represented an attempt to fashion a Hindu public within the nexus of market reforms and the expansion of communications, rather than religious reaction as such. Focusing on the moment of its emergence clarifies the historical conditions for the transition to a new visual regime, as it were, and at the same time shows the extent to which this emergence cannot be explained with reference to purely material circumstances’ (Rajagopal 2009:1).

This analysis has been not so much superseded as established, confirmed and extended by the narrowing of the global and the ubiquity of media technological fashioning. The gap between the screen and the remote contracts.

 

Reporting to that academy is not what this book is about. New methods surpass the old disciplinary rigidities to now take on an interdisciplinarity that is never just a please-everyone generalism and brand celebrity star-vehicle, even where regional genre and area studies have cini-star systems, grant approvals, book deals and a prestige prize.

 

Misrepresentations are not just that – the concepts of reification and recuperation can help us here. Against the national, diaspora or even South Asia, Global South is not a place or a constituency, but a perspective on the whole that has affinities with counter-culture solidarities, Black Power, international Marxist feminism, and internationalist anti-imperialism. The interests of the globe are at stake and the lessons to learn today are in a South Asian idiom. Even so, identity and regionalism in South Asia has too often been diminutive. Tamils, Bengalis, both transnational but neither, in political terms, bigger than the formal nation states to which they belong. Another possible regional perspective exists historically, a ‘subcontinental’ perspective that reaches beyond merely Himalayas to Lanka.

 

Whatever is said about media representation seems caught up in media representation, is it even possible to describe in absentia the prospect of learning something new, of developing further an allegiance to those parts of the planet, the majority, in which the protocols of Hollywood and Networks do not prevail? Is it still a quixotic gesture to insist upon another way of telling?

The challenge to found another third cinema movement on a grander cross-platform scale is not as great as sustaining the work that ventures towards such initiative. Other than media studies, the work ventured here is important for social theory, politics, geography, cultural studies, interdisciplinarity, but most importantly, the possibility of not succumbing to the one-flat-globe dominance of a mainstream.

 

 

 

This is what a revolution looks like – ahem, slash and burn editing – killing your darlings with the delete button

A dump post for bits cut from a manuscript. So yes, I will not be talking about Bababababadiouuuuu. But leave it here in case I need to retrieve it from the hungry mouse:

that atrocities here and there and the perpetual state of war cannot be swallowed whole means we need not agree with the philosopher Alain Badiou when he claims ‘being indignant’ about a state murder is insufficient because ‘a negative emotion cannot replace the affirmative idea and its organization, any more than a nihilistic riot can claim to be politics’ (Badiou 2011/2012). Badiou’s claim is contradicted by the evidence of consistent and sustained mobilisation against the violence of such encounters, and the question of deciding, far too quickly in Badiou’s case, where the violence begins and ends, and what is a riot and what is organisation. Useful insights can be realised through faulty representations but more generally, there is rage and organisation that goes together in opposition to the dominant. The point is to not join with the dominant so as to merely, even critically, help engross its surplus.

I guess it is easy to see why this needs to be cut, even if there is a point in there somewhere.

More seriously though, I also cannot use this now:

While in the USA this sort of policing occurs with armed officers more frequently, the extraordinary number of cases of, unprosecuted, police killing in the UK confirms that police ‘encounter’ is not a problem specific to any particular nation state. Flagrant examples piled up as I wrote these sentences from notes, white supremacy with a uniform, and a litany of the names of the dead makes for difficult ‘research’. Which is only to say – and saying it is never enough – that police violence is institutional, a part of state ‘counter-terror’ everywhere. In 1999 the Macpherson Report identified ‘institutional racism’ within the British police forces, in relation to the Stephen Lawrence investigation but with wider, limited, implications. Some years later, the ‘institutional’ narrative was brought out again with the disappearance of CCTV video of the police murder of Jean Charles de Menezes on Stockwell tube in 2005. Lists of the dead are abject, no wonder documentation of racist attacks sometimes appears in fictionaliased forms, in films like Sammie and Rosie Get Laid, in pop video such as Dog-tribe by Fun-da-Mental, but at the point of delivery the violence is real. Public sentiment is naturally to resist such violence. The reaction to the killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham in 2011 suggested more in terms of popular sentiment – that police killings are resented, that the civil compact is fragile, that revolt could transform polite complacency in a matter of days – just as much as the force and violence of political suppression needs a massive tabloid buttress for legitimacy, and carnival sponsorship, or photo-opportunism with a broom in Clapham, cannot resolve the tension.

 

Just as no police officer has been jailed for a death in custody in the UK and the full weight of the law was mobilised to halt the uprising on the third night when the ‘rioters’ in 2011 turned their attention to well-to-do Ealing, rather than Tottenham or Lewisham, people see the operation of hypocrisy and can locate who to blame readily enough. Police duty of care is flouted and ignored, and free rein was offered in Ealing as was evident to anyone who cared to look. It is also not without significance to me that the following August in 2012, the police operation to ‘protect’ the public at the Olympics were lauded, in the press after the fact, as having helped heal the wounds of a scarred city. I do not want to minimise the losses suffered and livelihoods ruined by the events of August 2011, but it seems to me that some new angles on the uprising are required in order to see it as it was – a stage managed media ‘riot’ graphed over the top of legitimate youth frustration built up over months of repressive austerity, cuts to services, the education maintenance allowance (EMA), and the student protests of 2010-early 2011.

There was of course a gap between the predominantly black youth organising and protesting the removal of the EMA that had supported so many disadvantaged families in keeping teens in education and the white, often middle-class, students who somewhat selflessly were protesting education fees they themselves would probably avoid by finishing their degrees before the introduction of the fees. The administration-led privatisation of education, and the political debate about this, was always about much more than issue of course fees, a message even the mainstream news media at the time occasionally comprehended. Yet, since vernacular conviviality is to be subsumed into the regulatory, the evident gap between two kinds of organising, and indeed at the protests, between those who were standing around waiting to be ‘kettled’ and those up for dancing and or a bit of barney with the police – and often it was South Asian youth in the latter contingent – was clearly a part of a struggle that would set coming directions. More creative modes of protest and articulation of dissent within the police kettles and refusal of the A to B march orthodoxy of the usual student protests should also be mentioned, even if they did not in the end prevail. The lessons of horizontal and cell based organising taken from observations of the ‘Arab Spring’, to the extent that it was possible to know via media, and before it was sabotaged by the reaction, did complicate the picture in the student demonstrations, and perhaps even set some of the scene for the following August. Thinking of protest as carnivalesque, as an alternative to predictable routes, and A to B protest marches, opened the possibility of going beyond the political conventions. This itself was perhaps part of the reason for the Police crackdown on student protesters, including significant jail time for a surprisingly large number, which in turn fuelled a degree of militancy that had been building to confirm the congealing roles. The gap, however, also still prevailed in august, with two kinds of ‘protest’ occurring would only be ‘theorised’ at a distance by largely the same groups that had contrasted ‘spikey’ versus ‘fluffy’ in the Criminal Justice Act protests of the med 1990s. Without even going so far as the reprehensibly fluffy ‘clean up’ broom movement photo op in Clapham, the site of white activists marching in a relatively orderly formation through Lewisham chanting ‘This is what a revolution looks like’ was a symptomatic incongruity and pointer that the lessons are still to be learnt.

 

It is no surprise that the variety of film reference consumes space that might have been given over to a shared theoretical effort. With the production of one thousand films a year – estimates vary, but hover around the Scheherazade number. All before anyone can cast about for angle or perspective. Especially if from these thousand and one films, only a very small number of these are discussed by experts in film studies.

 

And this brilliant but orphan squib from SV:

“Film analysis too often

  1. ‘restages the obvious as a major discovery’ (Srinivas 2012:79)

  2. talks itself into wanting to ‘pass’ in all contexts, then complains when this succeeds all too well, and hence benefits are withdrawn

  3. ‘Sometimes, you can’t understand what’s happening textually unless you are aware of the economic forces at work’ (Srinivas 2012:78)”

Srinivas, S.V. 2012 ‘Teaching India/Asian Cinema’, Journal of the Moving Image, 11:78-84

Srinivas raises key areas of problems for film studies: the different levels of attention, first of all to film and its excessive enjoyment; the pleasures of going to the cinema hall to sit in the dark awash with colour; to sit with others, on couches or in cinema halls or virtually, the problem of distribution; the grand claims of those who sit in the dark and proclaim themselves radical, subversive, pirates, revolutionaries, as if watching Jackie Chan in itself were progressive (see Srinivas 2012:79); that piracy can be reread and celebrated as theft and free content misunderstands both piracy and freedom (Srinivas 2012:81).

 

Moinak Biswas in a talk on ‘Ismat Chughtai and her Films’ (Biswas 2016) stresses the importance of Urdu writers in the development of Indian leftist culture and the movement of artists, writers and theatre workers and more from the Progressive Writers Association and IPTA into the film industry in Bombay.

 

Gehlawat would break with ‘adherence to a devotional paradigm’ (Gehlawat 2010:26)

 

‘On 26 June 1975, Indira Gandhi declared a State of Emergency, allegedly to prevent a conspiracy from undermining the progressive measures being undertaken by her. A national railway workers’ strike and broad-based popular campaigns in one of the more urbanized and developed states, Gujarat, and in one of the most backward, Bihar (campaigns which were both escalating into nationwide opposition movements) formed the background to the decision. Individual rights were revoked, including the right to move courts and the right to trial; over 100,000 arrests of political leaders and dissidents were made during the eighteen month period before elections were called side by side with political repression were measures to promote economic growth and equity, such as the Twenty Point Program, heralded as a ‘‘direct assault on poverty.’’ It gave priority to implementing laws on land ceilings, housing for landless labor, abolition of bonded labor and of rural indebtedness, and providing higher minimum wages for agricultural workers. Special teams were instituted in the large cities, to undertake house-to-house searches for undisclosed or undervalued property. Widely publicized campaigns against tax evasion and smuggling were launched, and within twelve months over 2,100 alleged smugglers were jailed and property worth over ten million rupees seized. Labor ‘‘peace’’ was achieved, with a dramatic decrease in strikes and lockouts of about 75 percent. The government’s aim appeared to be to stop at source all conceivable political opposition. Elections were suspended and press censorship instituted’ (Rajagopal 2009:47)

 

In Chandidas (1932, dir Deboki Kumar Basu) the burning of Rami’s home, and the fire taking the bird cage a poignant moment in the most poignant of films. Against the prohibitions of the bigoted temple priests, Chandidas chooses Rami and they leave for a new house

The game show format imparted, like cricket, to India is not offensive, nor should it surprise us that the abuse of legal process first devised by the British lingers. What we see played out on the hanging channel are the global effects of the terror psychosis that spread fear as revenge for national insult. 9-11 and 6/7 meant a bureaucratic anxiety was imposed as control. Internal Security, Homeland Defence, Prevent, Radicalisation and Human Terrain network Analysis are all variants of a prime-time police operation reliant upon fear of ideas and the burning of books. The pantomime factor is huge in the effort to make people in the west forget that they are far far more likely to die in a car crash than the proxy war of terror weapons sales push that occupies strategic imperatives in so-called ‘diplomatic’ planning.

 

‘The Indian films which pertained most to Third Cinema grew out of the New Indian Cinema of the 1970s and 1980s, and it is this movement to which I devote some attention here for two reasons: it is not treated elsewhere in these pages while remaining one of the important cinemas neglected (for a variety of reasons) by Western criticism – this even though the films produced by these radical filmmakers outnumber those of the Nouvelle Vague and the New German Cinema combined; the New Indian Cinema also constitutes a superb illustration all the difficulties and contradictions that filmmakers and film critics encountered and continue to encounter wherever Third Cinema has come into being. India’s “Parallel Cinema,” as it has come to be known in some quarters, remains unparalleled in its richness as a case study’ (Guneratne and Dassanayake 2003: 20)

‘The vanguard of the New Indian Cinema that began to emerge in the 1970s either studied under committed leftist filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak at Pune or abroad either at such centers of filmmaking as Moscow’ (Guneratne and Dassanayake 2003: 21)

 

Understanding then Pather Panchali or Baishey Shravana in this code brings only sadness and despair to the nation. Poverty, not independence would be a more adequate context, especially in a filmmaker like Sen who will track the communist left and Maoist political lineage in Bengal.

 

No romance of the beleaguered ethnic community. Austerity accounts for all associations other than big business and what community there is that can be applauded is a community of struggle. Struggle is not yet success, but the aspiration remains. Even where beset by inner city problems – code for drugs, gangs, crime, violence, hip hop – there is organisation. In the face of a collapsing left, even a crack house might in some conditions be shelter.