Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Market colonization of the virtual public sphere

XIII International Conference
Forum on Contemporary Theory, Baroda in collaboration with Department of English and Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh
Theme: The Virtual Transformation of the Public Sphere
15-18 December 2010 Venue: Hotel Parkview, Chandigarh, India
Thursday, 16th December Venue: Banquet Hall (Upper)
Friday, 17th December
Fifth Session (Plenary) Venue: Banquet Hall (Upper)
9:00 – 10:00 am Chair: Ravina Aggarwal
Speaker: Lewis R. Gordon, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA
    Topic:  “Market Colonization of the Virtual Public Sphere?”
Sixth Session 10:00 – 11:30 am Venue: Board Room
A3: New Media, New Identities Chair:    Deepti Gupta
a)     Vipan Pal Singh, “Media Culture and the Construction of Postmodern Identities”
b)     Nizara Hazarika, “Inventing the Self in the Public Domain of Cyberspace: A Cyberfeminist Perspective”
c)      Charulata Singh, “New Media Technologies and the Cultural Shift: Changing Dimensions of Public Sphere and Identities”
d)     Balaji Ranganathan, “The Virtual World and the Reconstruction of the Self”
B3:      Virtual Realities/Real Consequences Chair: Jaspal K. Singh
Venue: Conference Room
a)     Kalpana Purohit, “Being In-Between Two Worlds”
b)     Ankit Gandhi, “Online Blogging Communities Threatening Real Life Relations”
c)      Jyoti Rane, “Honour and Killing - Community Public Sphere vs. Public Sphere of a Nation State”
C3:  The Virtual Construction of Culture Chair: William D. Pederson
Venue: Banquet Hall (Lower)
a)     Shweta Rao, “Virtual Kitchens: Food and Community in Media”
b)     Alankar Kaushik, “The Public Sphere and Media: Vernacular Television Networks”
c)      Ankita Sharma, “Media and Degeneration of the Public Sphere: A Critique of the Ad World”
Seventh Session (Plenary)  11:45 – 1.00 pm
Chair: Javeed Alam Venue: Banquet Hall (Upper)
Speaker: Akeel Bilgrami, Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy and Director, the Heyman Centre for the Humanities, Columbia University, New York, USA
Topic:  “The Mentality of Democracy”
Eighth Session 2.00 –3.30 pm Venue: Conference Room
A4: New Media Sexualities Chair: James Winchester
a)     Bini B.S., “The Public Spheres of Vicarious Fulfillments: Live Sex on the Internet and the Performative Dynamics of Body and Sexuality”
b)     Dibyajyoti Borah & Ratan Deka, “Social Networking, Sexuality of the Closet and the Second Life”
c)      Golam Rabbani, “Media and Peeping Tom Culture: Disorienting Public Spectacle in the Evolution of Voyeurism”
d)     Sunita Manian, “New Media Erasing Boundaries or Erecting Barriers?: Gay/Transgendered vs. Kothi/Aravani
B4:      The Location of Literature
Chair: Rumina Sethi Venue: Banquet Hall (Lower)
a)     Marie Fernandes, “Reconstruction of Galeta from White Marble to Mechanical Cyborg”
b)     Supriya Agarwal, “Modernity and Gender in Shashi Deshpande’s Urban Novels”
c)      Urmil Talwar, “The Dialectics of Private and Public Spaces in the Poetics of Marginality in The Survivor
C4: Representations 2        
Chair: Anil Raina Venue: Board Room
a)     Geetanjali Bhagat, “Ironic Juxtaposition of Media, Ethics, Politics and Public Sphere: A Critique of Peepli Live
b)     Sanchita Choudhury, “Bāul Fusion Music Emerging as a New Genre in the Domain of Fusion Music Fuelled by Media of the Milieu”
c)      Rajyashree Khushu-Lahiri, “Stories of a Lifetime: New Media and Orality”
Ninth Session (Plenary) Venue: Banquet Hall (Upper)
3:30 – 4.30 pm Chair: Bishnu Mohapatra
Speaker: R. Radhakrishnan, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of California at Irvine, USA
Topic:  “Public Spheres and the Challenge of Self-Reflexivity”
Tenth Session (Plenary) 4:45–6:30 pm Venue: Banquet Hall (Upper)
Gurdial Singh’s Novel Unhoye (The Survivors) Chair: Gour K. Das
Speaker: a) M.L. Raina, Former Professor of English, Panjab University, Chandigarh
Topic:             “Modern, Postmodern, Pre-Modern: What Survives in The Survivors?”
Speaker: a) M.L. Raina, Former Professor of English, Panjab University, Chandigarh
Topic:             “Modern, Postmodern, Pre-Modern: What Survives in The Survivors?”
Speaker:        b) Rana Nayar, Professor and Head, Department of English, Panjab University,                      Chandigarh
Topic: “On Translating Gurdial Singh’s Unhoye
Speaker:  c) Gurpal Sandhu, Department of Panjabi, Panjab University, Chandigarh
Topic:     “Decentring Reality: Self, Tradition and Modernity”

Saturday, 18th December
Eleventh Session 9.00 –10.30 am   Venue: Board Room
A5: Blog/Twitter Politics Chair: Kanika Batra
a)     Soni Wadhwa Kar, “The Promise of the Sindhi Websites”
b)     Amy Parish, “Stuff White People Like, Blogging and the ‘Racialisation’ of White Subjectivities”
c)      Sumedha Iyer, “Twitter and the Public Intellectual”
B5: Literature and Technology Chair: Lovelina Singh Venue: Conference Room
a)     Manju Dhariwal, “A Vision of Virtual Sphere in Kafka’s ‘Penal Colony’: Its Relation with Introna’s ‘Obligation’”
b)     Nipun Kalia & Kriti Kalia, “From Ink to Pixels: Literature in a Digital Avatar”
c)      S. Sridevi Selvaraj, “A Study of Mediated Internet Literature – A Facet of Electronic Communities”
d)     Urjani Chakravarty, “Relevance Theory and New Media: Interpreting Pattern Change in Literary Criticism”                                                      
C5: Open Questions, Or, the Jury is Still Out on the New Media
Chair: Manju Jaidka Venue: Banquet Hall (Lower)
a)     Smriti Singh, “From an Imagined Community to a Virtual Community: A Borderless World”
b)     Aruni Mahapatra, “Sharing or Stealing? Some Reflections on Piracy and Ethics Today”
c)      Lovleen Bains, “Is New Media Helping or Hurting the Growth of Literacy?”
Twelfth Session 10.45–12:15 pm Venue: Banquet Hall (Lower)
A6: “Are We Socially Networked Yet?” Chair: Akshaya Kumar
a)  Mallika V. Kumar & P. E. Thomas, “Anonymity and Online Interaction – A Thematic Perspective”
b)  Sanghamitra Sadhu, “Fashioning the Self on the Sites: Plausibility of a Virtual Public Sphere”
c)   Mashrur Hossain, “2b/X2b=?: IM & d trnsloc8ing f a virtual sphere”
d)  Sukhdeep Ghuman, “The Ever-expanding Sphere of Cyber Communities”
B6: The Pedagogical Imperative Chair: Timothy Allen Jackson Venue: Board Room
a)     Pankaj Roy, “The Virtual Transformation of the Public Sphere: Media’s Role in the Growth of Learning”
b)     Meenu Gupta, “Virtual Worlds A Contemporary Pedagogical Reality of Teaching and Learning”
c)      Meeta Chatterjee Padmanabhan, “Some Real Problems Faced in the Virtual World of Online Learning”
d)     Rich Rice, “Writing for Life: Narrow­­­­­­­­­­­­­­–Casted Mass Convergence and the Consumption of Newly–Mediated Knowledge”
Thirteenth Session 12:15 – 1:15 pm Venue: Banquet Hall (Lower)
Open Session & Valedictory Chair: Prafulla C. Kar

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What a miracle it is that things work at all

Inward Christian Soldiers! from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob (Robert Godwin)
Interesting that early Christianity spread in part by virtue of the sadistic violence visited upon its adherents… Once Christianity became the state religion and the era of persecution ended, a new kind of "interior martyrdom" emerged, as serious seekers fled to the desert in order to find God in the solitude of the heart. These souls engaged in a kind of extreme seeking that is also difficult for us to comprehend. I mean, it's one thing to join a monastery and become part of an interior community, but they didn't exist until much later.

Then again, perhaps there are spiritual challenges and temptations in our day that people from even one hundred years ago couldn't imagine. Most of us will never know what amounted to constants among pre-modern people, including hunger, disease, war (up close and personal, not in a distant land), chronic pain, constant loss, and early death.

Thus, for any thinking person, the utter futility of the world must have seemed quite obvious. It's the same with the Buddha's advice -- it wasn't nearly as difficult to detach from the world when the world had so little to recommend it. What was one giving up, really? Few had any possessions, any private property, any aspirations, anything to read, or anything to do except subsist.

So in an odd way, the present world undoubtedly requires its own kind of spiritual athleticism in order to transcend it, since the temptations and distractions are so much greater. In a way, the more fulfilling the world is, the more pain there is. How did people in the past endure the routine loss of a child? I would guess that infant mortality was so high, that the vast majority of parents had lost at least one child. Nowadays, this constitutes a tragic minority. Indeed, even a miscarriage is an occasion for grief, whereas I can't imagine premodern people giving it a second thought.

As I speculated in the book, this must have affected the way the premodern psyche grew and developed. We now know that the psyche is formed on the basis of attachment to early objects, and that any kind of disruption in the attachment process leaves emotional and cognitive scars for life.

Of course we can never know with certainty, but there is good evidence that prior to modernity, parents didn't invest a lot of emotional energy in their children until there was a good chance they'd survive infancy, so I don't see how this could not have resulted in what we would call schizoid (i.e., detached), depressed, or paranoid personalities (i.e., bitter, distrusting, and angry people) on a widespread basis.

For us, the modern world is so alluring that we can forget all about transcendence. It gives the illusion that it can fulfill us, but this is a promise that it can never keep. Unconsciously, this attachment to the world probably just makes us feel less secure. In a perverse way, the more secure we actually are, the less secure we may feel, because we expect things to go perfectly. We can come enticingly close to controlling most of the variables in our lives -- which only makes it more maddening that in reality we are promised nothing.

I am sure this is what animates the angry and hysterical control freaks of the left. They always wants to make things "better," with no appreciation of what a miracle it is that things work at all. They have no earthly conception that the optimal will never be perfect, and that in pursuing perfection, they will only engender the sub-optimal. Their attempts at control always generate chaos, for which they recommend more of the same.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Unintended consequences of Maoism

‌‌Zizek is an outgrowth of a reactionary anti-Marxist and anti-materialist tradition that descends from the irrationalism of Schelling, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heidegger. He eclectically draws on the neo-Nietzschean and neo-Heideggerian thought of 1960s French post-structuralism, having adopted the ideas of its leading intellectuals—especially the post-Heideggerian psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan—when he was a graduate student…
Besides irrationalism, post-structuralism and psychoanalysis, a more recent influence on ‌‌Zizek has been the septuagenarian French philosopher Alain Badiou, an admirer of Mao, who advocates the petty-bourgeois concept of “politics without party” and maintains the voluntarist notion that “we must go from politics to economy and never from economy to politics.”[1]
‌‌Zizek has expressed similar-sounding ideas and also adopts Badiou’s mystical concept of the Event—a self-relating and self-inclusive phenomenon that appears to those who see themselves in its call, as it is characterized in ‌‌Zizek’s The Parallax View (2009).[2] …
That a charlatan and anti-Marxist like ‌‌Zizek is promoted as an important philosopher by a whole range of ex-radicals is a troubling symptom of the deep intellectual and political disorientation of this social milieu.
Curiously the Maoists had missed out on 1968 itself. Blinded by dogmatism, they assumed that an event led by students could not be serious…
There are no Maoists left now except for the unrepentant – but now bizarrely fashionable – philosopher Alain Badiou, who is still willing to defend the Khmer Rouge with Mao's chilling comment "the revolution is not a dinner party". But Wolin's book is not just about a strange few years of political folly. He argues that by a process of unintended consequences Maoism allowed a generation of French political activists to rediscover the language of human rights. This is not a totally original argument, but Wolin expounds it effectively. The Maoists might live with "China in our heads", as the saying went, but their political activism also caused them to explore what French society was really like.
Following Mao's dictum that "one must get down from the horse in order to pluck the flower", many idealistic young Maoist radicals went to work in factories. In the same spirit Foucault helped to found the Prison Information Group (GIP) to investigate and denounce the conditions in French prisons. This experience led him to substitute Sartre's idea of the all-knowing "universal" intellectual with that of the "specific" intellectual who comments only on concrete cases that he knows about. In another curious twist of history, it was through a Maoist-influenced group called Vive la Révolution that homosexual liberation first entered French radical politics in 1971.
For Wolin, then, if France is today less authoritarian than it once was, with a more active associative life where many people are engaged in causes such as the defence of sans-papiers – illegal immigrants – that is one of the legacies of the strange Maoist moment. If that's true, no wonder Sarkozy dislikes May '68 so much. Julian Jackson's books include France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944(Oxford).
Religions decline and proliferate Jakarta Post - Amika Wardana - Nov 11, 2010
It has been three decades since the secularization thesis predicted religion's role would decline in human sociopolitical life.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

How values shape human progress

Good Topic - Falls Short of Aim, August 6, 2010 By  Doug Norton See all my reviews This review is from: Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in the Economy
Economists gravitate toward explanation by incentives; but, values also constitute motivations for action. The premise of this book was to investigate the values-based explanations and demonstrate the "Critical Role of Values in the Economy". Sadly, if that was the aim of this book it was a disappointment. While the diversity of disciplines provides alternative perspective on values (their transmission, acceptance, evolutionary basis) the feel of the whole book is disjointed. There were, however, a few bright spots amidst several misguided articles. The particulars of the basis for my critique are below, but, overall I would still recommend the book as a first cut at a discussion about morality and markets. […]
This book on "the critical role of values" pursues only evolutionary explanations of values and disregards the role of religion in values formation. Sometimes this disregard is not merely from absence but is rather flippant. For example, Goodenough writes, "Where does the capacity for such internal commitments come from? Some look to religion, and indeed a divine, designing power would have good reason as a matter of mechanism design to put such a capacity into humans, a gift as essential to their eventual well-being as sight and locomotion. But such a divine gift is not the province of science; we rely on that wonderful mechanism for bootsrapping adaptive design: evolution." Not a peep about religion and the formation of values. What makes this more interesting is that this project was funded by the Templeton Foundation! […]
There is a sense that some of the authors begrudgingly admit that markets are overall a "good thing". This is captured well in Charles Handy's final chapter ". . . the urgent question now is how best to retain the energy produced by the old model without its flaws."
The authors are willing to admit that capitalism provides a dynamic environment in which innovation is allowed with greater incentive, but, they seem reluctant to embrace the outcomes of capitalism. One might think that the authors would say, "Yes, indeed we are reluctant to embrace capitalism ---look at all the cowboys out there screwing everything up!" (this book was being written in the midst of all the financial scandals). But, what is the alternative? More regulation?
The reliance of government would present plenty of public choice problems. Then, we must point to the importance of values in the political process! The critique is meant to elucidate the fact that human beings are flawed people and since humans comprise government, business, and other organizational structures those same problems will persist in all contexts unless values are strong. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Maharashtra’s contribution has been equal or even greater than that of Bengal

Economic Times - Home » Opinion » Interviews 31 OCT, 2010 ramachandra guha makers of modern india book 
Historian & sociologist Ramachandra Guha recently visited New Delhi for Penguin India lecture based on his book Makers of Modern India, which presents the writings and profiles of 19 men and women who nurtured the Indian political tradition. …
Is it a coincidence that a majority of those who have made it to your list, either for their place of birth or working, come from West India? 
(Laughs) I think it happened by accident. Maharashtra was the crucible of political activism and social reforms from the late 19th century till the 1950s. That tradition of reform has been ignored. One of the reasons is that their writings have been in Marathi. Another reason is that writings in Indian history have been dominated by Bengali intellectuals who know Bengali and write well in English. So they have been able to communicate with a national or global audience. Objectively, I would say Maharashtra’s contribution (to social reforms and political thinking) has been equal or even greater than that of Bengal. The more I read and researched, I was sure Maharashtra had contributed to social and political reforms much more than any other part of the country. Book: Makers of Modern India Indian Express 'Sectarianism is something I want to challenge with this book' Financial Express

So the point is that the society looked at Marathi people with a lot of hope, and when Sri Aurobindostarted sharing his opinion in Baroda, Madhya bharat and Bengal, it had a telling effect on the youth of that time and much of that lot ...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tremendous growth in intellectual interest in religion

Round table discussion on religion and politics on Friday, 19 November, 2010 at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Religion and Politics: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue

There is no doubt that religion is emerging as one of the most influential social forces in our times. Many old religious practices are being revived, new religious sects are coming into existence, the so-called secular political parties are reconsidering their strategies, a huge number of people are attracted towards religious discourses, religious identities have started playing an important role in political processes, violence in the name of religion is on the rise, and above all, there is a tremendous growth in intellectual interest in religion which is reflected by the proliferation of books published in this field. This is true not only in advanced capitalist countries and developing countries, but also in communist and ex-communist countries.

Scholars from different societies and disciplines are trying to grapple with the ferment which has been generated because of the renewed vibrancy of religion, which until recently was being written off as a declining, and diminishing force or just relegated to personal realm or belief. While some scholars have explained the phenomenon as a 'return of religion' (Derrida) and a kind of revenge or defensive mechanism against the offence unleashed by modernity, others have suggested that religion had always been a vibrant presence and it was the problem of perspective that blinded us to it. One can take the example of Rawlsian theory of justice in this context, which ignores religion as a social phenomenon.
One can also see this in Lacan's excommunication from the psychoanalytic community on the ground that he was giving importance to religion in his understanding of the individual's psyche; or the fear of Jung of being excommunicated because of his writings on Indian theories of consciousness which was considered as part of Hindu religious philosophy. Therefore, it is the change of the perspective that allows us to take religion seriously. Some scholars are suggesting that instead of a 'return of religion' what we are witnessing is entering in the era of 'clash of civilizations' (Huntington) or clash between 'high religion' and 'low religion' (Ernest Gellner). Of late, many scholars have started exploring the inner core of religion by engaging with it either in an abstract form (Derrida) or by exploring different religious communities (Foucault).

However, social sciences due to a variety of reasons, its epistemic bias, its historical roots in modern western science and in Enlightenment rationality, have arrived very late in the field, except sociology, where religion was studied with modern philosophical perspectives of Marx, Durkheim and Weber.
However, even in Sociology, till recently the starting point of most of the research was the 'secularisation thesis', which claimed that every society passed through various phases of secularization, ultimately, reaching a stage where there would be complete elimination of religion. It is interesting to note that it is only recently that the American Association of Political Science has decided to initiate a Journal of Religion and Politics. Despite the acknowledgment that religion has been an important source of knowledge for social sciences (Gulbenkian Commission Report 'Opening Social Sciences'), there has been hardly any serious engagement with religion.

There are two important issues that one can identify after even a cursory survey of the contemporary engagement of social scientists with religion. One, a phenomenon like religion throws a serious challenge to the way in which knowledge production has been organised in modern universities, by unsettling the premises on which knowledge systems have been raised. There is, therefore, a need to initiate an interdisciplinary dialogue to capture the multidimensionality of religion and its relation with the layers of reality (humans, nature and society), which social sciences claim to comprehend. The second, different societies have experienced religion differently and we need to take cognizance of this fact as it has ramifications for the perspectives social sciences have generated to understand. We know that most of the major religions have emerged in Asian societies and have spread from Asia to the rest of the world.
This provides us an opportunity to understand religion better and examine some of the established assumptions and larger philosophical questions in social sciences. Some scholars have started suggesting that such an exercise might render a fresh perspective for exploring reality as the epistemological challenge that this project throws, might alter some fundamental assumptions like 'Cartesian duality' (Zizek) which have served as the philosophical basis for contemporary disciplines falling under the broader category of social sciences.

We already have responses from Indian scholars who have reflected on these issues. Some of the Indian scholars are still following the Enlightenment framework to make sense of religious resurgence (Meera Nanda), but many of them have started questioning it. The latter have realised the specificities of experiences of Asian societies and have transcended the boundaries set by the modernist framework (Ashish Nandy, Sudhir Kakar, JPS Oberoi). For quite sometime, the debate on secularism in India avoided direct engagement with the issue of religion. Of late, however, it seems that scholars involved in theorizing secularism have started taking cognizance of the complexities religious experiences throw for this debate (Rajeev Bhargava). Similarly, the debates on development have now started taking cognigence of its interface with religion and religious communities (Gurpreet Mahajan, S S Jodhka) The Marxists scholars were generally guided by the 'opium thesis' ( D N Jha, Romila Thapar) but many of them have started arguing for fresh theorising on religion (Manoranjan Mohanty, Randhir Singh, Sudipta Kaviraj).
This shows that there is no uncontested perspective any more in this field and a churning is going on among the Indian scholars, as over the years the religious phenomenon has unfolded itself in the global context. One would agree that it is not difficult to locate similar trends among scholars from other Asian societies.

This round table has three inter-related purposes. One, it aims at bringing together scholars from different disciplines to share their perspectives, engagements and ideas on religion and politics. Such a sharing will help us in articulating the issues for future research. Two, it will try to bring scholars of two generations together to share their ideas. Interaction among scholars who have a sustained engagement with this issue and scholars, who have started engaging with them now, will help in shaping future scholarship in this field. Three, it has a long term aim of creating a community of scholars having interest in Asian religions to explore the potential of this engagement in terms of making serious intervention at the levels of theory and practice of religion and of social sciences. This is something we would like to do in a series of dialogues which we intend to organise in future among scholars from Asian Universities.

The round table will be organised around following sets of questions:

Session I: Religion and Politics in Contemporary Times: Mapping the Intellectual Concerns
Q1. How would you like to articulate your overall perspective of understanding reality?
Q2. Where do you locate religion in your perspective?
Q3. Where does religion figure in your current research concerns?
Q4. What are the ways in which knowledge production has been organized in modern universities? Are they adequate?

Session II: Resurgence of Religion: Golbalization, Identity and Politics
Q4. How do you see the current state of religion? Do you think it can be seen as 'return of religion' or resurgence of religion or is it just change in the perspective due to postmodernist challenge?
Q5. What has been the impact of globalization (or modernity) on religion?
Q6. Why is religion readily available ( or why is religion amenable to manipulation / subservient to political use ) for identity politics?

Session III: New Religious Movement: Philosophy, Politics and Social Change
Q7. How should New Religious Movements be studied?
Q8. Does Religious Movement throw any significant epistemological challenge to the social sciences?
Q9. Why are New Religious Movements attracting large number of people?
Q10. Does it offer any important philosophical challenge to the modernity?
Q11. Does New Religious Movement have the potential to play any role in the transformative politics?

Session IV Recapitulating the Interdisciplinary Dialogue

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Being vegetarian often forced Gandhi into marginal associations

We delight in showing how everything can be traced back to some previous thinker. 
Because the individuals entering into an assemblage are autonomous, assemblages constantly face the risk of falling apart or dissipating into thin air like so much mist. Anyone who’s formed groups and organizations is aware of just how precarious and fleeting these assemblages can be; or how much work these assemblages require to be maintained. 

As anyone who has ever done administrative work, organized a conference, or who has worked with others who share roughly analogous theoretical commitments in the work of movement building knows, collectives are hard work. The joke that’s been floated about for the last year is that forming collectives is like herding cats.
Collectives are assemblages of diverse actors, all milling about in different directions. These assemblages don’t simply consist of humans. No, they involve resources, materials, material infrastructures like power lines, buildings, staplers, paper, roads, etc. In this connection, a conversation during lunch yesterday made my jaw drop. Within the context of a heated debate about Levi-Strauss’s focus on the semiotic, on the domain of sense (and no, pointing out that he refers to nonsense is irrelevant to this point as nonsense is still a signifying determination in this structuralist model, i.e., a point about how language functions and generates sense), I remarked that when you look at live-time maps of internet traffic in the United States you notice that internet traffic comes almost entirely from the major cities and the coasts. In short, these maps also show us the distribution of internet infrastructure throughout the country. To this one of my dear friends remarked sarcastically “yeah, that’s the problem”. Well yes, I’m afraid, in part it is the problem. This exploded view map of internet infrastructure also maps on to political distributions in the United States.
In The German Ideology Marx and Engels note that one of the key contradictions in the capitalism of their time is the opposition between the city and the countryside, industry and agriculture. This exploded view schematic teaches us much the same thing, showing us how particular forms of politics map on to particular forms of infrastructure. The absence of readily available internet technologies creates a structure in which the people of rural regions only encounter those who share their own views. The only access is to people in church, at school, in the workplace such as it is, the local bar, etc.
Am I suggesting that making wi-fii freely available to all and that providing the infrastructure where this freely available wi-fii is a reality and not just an abstraction suddenly solves all our political problems? No. These technologies are only a component in a complex assemblage. However, just as having a child completely transforms your previous patterns of life, generating all sorts of deterritorializations, the introduction of such infrastructure surely introduces all sorts of new deterritorializations in such a context. The point is that these actors in a collective are not a matter of ideology, the signifier, norms, etc., and that so long as we focus almostexclusively on these things, these other actors become invisible to us. Are they imbricated with norms, signifiers, ideologies, and so on? Yes. The garlic in your pasta is imbricated with tomatoes, oregano, wine, etc., etc., etc. But these other actors introduce their own specific differences that deserve their own mode of analysis.
The advantage of thinking in terms of collectives and composition is that we focus on the work involved in producing solidarity and alliances… Solidarities and alliances that aren’t just solidarities and alliances between human beings, but where we also have to think about very concrete and basic things like how persons struggling for similar things despite the fact of being separated by hundreds of miles can communicate, interact, and coordinate despite this distance so that something of a collective entity can iterate itself or reproduce itself through time. All of this becomes invisible with baboon talk about events, truth-procedures, acts, and subjects.

As Leela Gandhi relates in her wonderful book Affective Communities, Mahatma Gandhi came to England without any strong anti-colonial desires. He was a vegetarian not out of personal ethical or religious reasons, but out of a promise he made to his mother. However, being vegetarian often forced him into marginal associations, groups that were more at the fringes of British society. Particularly, he fell in with Henry Salt and the Vegetarian Society by eating at their restaurants. It was while he was with them that he became radicalized. He embraced vegetarianism, anti-colonialism, and anti-capitalism. Gandhi's promise to his mother first isolated him, and then gave him a community. It fundamentally changed the way he would have experienced British culture and society, it fundamentally changed his life.
In this sense, ethics is not about isolation, but it can often cause that. Ethics is about changing and shifting where we find our community, where we find our energy and joy and connections. Vegetarianism has not been a deprivation for me, it has only opened up new vistas for experience and experimentation that I could not have found while my desires were rooted in the eating of flesh.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

We must become truly multi-disciplinary

I have great respect for Satprem but I prefer not to get caught up in this exhilarating rhetoric of impending dooms and the need for magnificent revolutions of consciousness.   Satprem, like many social thinkers, conveys his anguish with such burning passion that it can cause great agitation and frustration within the heart regarding the state of the world.   In the spiritual path, one has to detach oneself a little from the pressures of the world; one has first learn to remain silent, go within and wait for some inspiration to decide which cause to take up.
I have reached a state where I have become a little indifferent to the dire problems of the world.  It's a passing phase, and there are many such phases, and if at some point things change and I sense the need to do something, then I shall certainly do so.

The Word from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik
I am currently halfway through William Dalrymple's fascinating travels through the territories of ancient ByzantiumFrom the Holy Mountain. About the capital city, which is now Instanbul, Dalrymple notes that 72 languages were spoken in its bazaars in ancient times. Today, thanks to "national socialism," every minority has been chucked out, millions massacred and widespread tyranny rules. Dalrymple notes that this is where Christianity was born - and then taken to the West. He visits communities where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken, where worship is still conducted as in those early days, where the most ancient hymns are still sung.
He further writes about shrines where the common folk of today, both Muslim as well as Christian, continue to worship together. Yet, he also portrays a civilization that might just disappear - to be replaced by the uniformity of "community" imposed by the guns of "nationalists." This is what happened to India during the Partition. This is precisely the direction in which the "cultural nationalists" of the Hindutva type are leading our nation today. In the meantime, the USSA is spurring Islamophobia. War and civilization cannot go together. For the furtherance of civilization, cities, and markets, I do believe the word "catallaxy" is best.

I believe the refrigerator played an important role in generating new racial relations in the United States. Why? Prior to the refrigerator people faced the problem of the perishability of food. This necessitated living close to local markets so that you could go daily to get food. Unless you were a largely self-sufficient farmer, you therefore, by necessity, had to live in the cities if you were an office worker or industrial worker. With the advent of the refrigerator it became possible to buy perishable food for a week or more, thereby allowing for the birth of the suburbs. No doubt, racist ideologies played an important role in white flight, but notice that racism also begins to take on new forms and content as a result of these new geographical distributions.
I am not, of course, suggesting that this analysis is exhaustive or that the refrigerator is the cause of racism. The point of this example is to draw attention to the sort of complex interplays flat ontology wants to talk about and analyze. OOO wants to be capable of simultaneously engage in the sorts of analyses that theorists while Bhabha, Spivak, and Zizek engage in while also talking about technologies, resources, weather, biology, etc. OOO theorists think like cooks. Just as it would be absurd to say that the garlic causes the pasta sauce, it is absurd to suggest that it is the ideology or signifier causes racism. Garlic is a component in a composition that also includes the cook, temperatures, herbs, tomatoes, the stirring of the sauce, etc, all interacting with one another. Racism is a composition that involves signifiers, geographical distributions, infrastructure and how it restricts and enables access, technologies, persons, institutions, etc. We need a theory rich enough to think heterogeneous compositions in action that doesn’t produce counter-productive myopia arising from privileging one component of a composition to the detriment of a variety of other components. This means that we must become truly multi-disciplinary, learning about economics, geography, semiotics, history, technology, linguistics, etc. This is, to be sure, a lot of work, but it’s payoff is that it allows us to discern those key nodes and actors in networks where the introduction of new actants can have a profound impact on the composition as a whole. Critique and decoding is not enough. Sometimes simply building a road or making wi-fii universally available for free can initiate sequences of becoming that profoundly transform social relations.

The future is in cities like Kochi or Aurangabad or Barmer: in less than a decade Barmer will rival Jaipur, and within the foreseeable future become the second or third heart of Rajasthan.
It is this India which is crashing through the glass ceilings of our social and economic history. It has turned Marxism on its head; instead of seizing from the rich in order to give to the poor, it is churning out its own cream. It is driven by a passion to improve the individual self, but knows that this is impossible without changing the collective well-being. It is not socialist, and indeed might be suffering from generosity-deficit when it comes to those at the lowest levels of our tragically tiered social order. But it is social-democratic, in an European rather than American fashion, willing to tolerate positive discrimination even if it grumbles relentlessly while doing so. The grumble is human; but tolerance comes from the fact that it has itself benefited from reservation policies.