Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Gayatri Spivak as Europeanist.

Gayatri Spivak describes herself as a 'Europeanist' i.e. an adept of such metaphysical arcana as feature in Derrida, Deleuze and 'Slap her; she's French'.

But (spoiler alert) the Nietzchean Fata Morgana- i.e. that sinister, all synthesizing, synaesthetic Wagnerian Ousia or World Historical spectacle which, if it doesn't kill you with boredom, only makes you wronger- the three aforementioned all reference, albeit under the sign of catachrestic difference, isn't actually European- i.e. Americanism's mimetic rival- but simply an equally manipulative, Small Town, wannabe TV News anchor type, Cheerleader/Sociopath who, back in Third Grade, got her tongue stuck to the backside of the Harvest Festival's giant ice sculpture of a cow. Her family fled across the Atlantic to fromage their heads in shame, but a decade later the girl returns, pretending to be an Overseas Exchange Student, to revenge herself on the fellow contestant in the Child Beauty Pageant who, faking friendly concern, advised her to French kiss that ice cow's ass for good luck.

Which, I suppose, is an elaborate way of saying that if Americanism is a metaphysical dogma, it is one of multiple realizability such that mimetic desire, and the pharmakon that requires, is depassed.

By contrast, Europeanism- by which I mean provincial Continental types having to make do with Phenomenology because only England, by reason of its doubling as New England, was so blessed by Providence that its every Political concurrency deadlock always ended up cashing out as but the inertial buffering ordained by Newton's Substantivist God-  Europeanism could never, by reason of Phenomenology's status as being totally fucked in the head, decompose any Theory of Mind type canalisation from its own Red Queen epigenetic landscape and thus, for never having a double, remaindered ever amongst Reason's doomed dialects.

Which is not to say Europeanism, like Indology, is wholly inutile but rather that it clusters not with the Humanities but the sub-Humanities. Thus, with Kant we have an Ethics fit for autistic Asimov robots, with Hegel a Theory of History for brain dead Bodice Ripper beefcakes & with Marx a Political Economics for the baby born of the joyless buggery between beefcake and robot- for only thus can a truly Proletarian caste be conceived- babies born any other way serving the state in  more ways than the simply reproductive.

Europeanism, as practiced by Spivak, is a convenient catch-all for stupid dirigiste ideas Europeans only had because they were too aware of an inferiority with respect to Information aggregation mechanism design compared to sea girt Anglo-America.
However, as the paleo-Leftist Terry Eagleton pointed out long ago, Spivak isn't really a Europeanist at all but just a Narcissistic corn fed American cheerleader for a vulgar eclecticism- the 'gaudy supermarket' is his lapidary phrase- whose major malfunction is her own pink and greedy little tongue stuck to the magisterial butt of Europeanism's ice cow.
Take a shufty at this-
'It should not be possible to read nineteenth-century British literature without remembering that imperialism, understood as England's social mission, was a crucial part of the cultural representation of England to the English.'
What is Spivak saying? When a Mongolian kid reads Sherlock Holmes or Dracula or Oliver Twist , translated into his own language,  it is certainly possible for him not to know and have no reason to remember that the country he is reading about had a Empire or needed reminding of that fact.
  Indeed, if nineteenth century English literature is worth reading, it must be possible to read it without remembering something bleeding obvious- viz that a country's literature presents its culture to itself- as well as something utterly false- viz. that Imperialism was understood as England's Social Mission by any actual Nineteenth Century Englishman or Englishwoman whatsoever.
This is because people can only have a Social mission to people in the Society they themselves inhabit. They can have a Military mission, a Trade mission, a Humanitarian mission, a mission of Enlightenment etc to people in another land. What they can't have is a Social Mission to them. As a matter of fact, a large number of English people believed that England had a Social Mission to its poor and vulnerable. Some still do.
Now it may be that there was some nut-job who thought that England should order its entire Society so as to be the best possible Imperial power ever. Thus, the Established Church should decide all issues of dogma only in the light of what is best for the Imperial project- perhaps incorporating Islamic and Hindu and Voodoo elements into the liturgy. The City of London, rather than pursuing private profits, should only back investments which make the Empire as viable as possible. The Schools- not just Halieybury, but also Harrow not to speak of establishments more hooligan or humbler yet- should teach Oriental and African languages, not Latin and French.
Did anyone actually suggest anything of this sort?
Joseph Chamberlain started off as a Republican but became an Imperialist. Surely he came to believe that 'Imperialism was England's Social Mission?'. Nope. He just wanted Imperial Preference- i.e. Protection for Plutocrats.
The truth is, Empires don't greatly matter. Naval supremacy does. British rule in India succeeded because it first removed as much 'loot' (the fruits of centuries of primitive accumulation) as possible, thus reducing the incentive for indigenous military formations, and then devised ways by which India could run a purely agricultural trade surplus sufficient to pay an extortionate 'home charge'.
This was only possible because, more by luck than cunning, British naval supremacy wouldn't be seriously challenged for the whole of the century.
What was not a matter of luck, but cunning 'mechanism design', was the increasing soundness of British finances. However, here, the relevant political battles had already been won in the previous two centuries. Once again, this had nothing to do with Imperialism. Indeed, Burke, as much as Paine, welcomed Washington's victory over booted Hessians while the former castigated the corrupt 'Indianism' of John Company as a greater threat to the Polity than the Jacobins.
Spivak, of course, is blissfully ignorant of all this.
She has something stupid and false to say so she tells us we really ought to read English literature only in the stupid and false way she requires.
But let her speak for herself-
'The role of literature in the production of cultural representation should not be ignored. These two obvious "facts" continue to be disregarded in the reading of nineteenth-century British literature. This itself attests to the continuing success of the imperialist project, displaced and dispersed into more modern forms. '
Literature itself is Cultural representation. This is not a 'fact' but a tautology because Literature is something cultural which represents. Its role in the production of cultural representation is the same as the role of cultural representation in its own production.
Suppose this is not the case. Suppose there is a convention whereby Literature- like the sahitya for a kirtan, or libretto for an opera- is never encountered alone but only as a factor of production in something else which qualifies as  'Cultural representation'. In this case, Spivak is not talking nonsense.
However, as a matter of fact, not abstract speculation, no such convention as mentioned above arose in connection with Nineteenth Century English literature. Spivak is talking shite.
Worse, it is paranoid shite- she thinks British Imperialism is some sort of malign force which continues to operate not by oppressing or exploiting people but by getting readers of Nineteenth Century English Literature to continue to ignore two supposedly 'obvious' facts which are a priori and empirically false and all this happens only coz that fucking Imperialism is being like a total bitch, dude, and once again refusing to change the laws of logic or the historical record so as to render Spivak's thesis less utterly shite.

Apart from the notion that the World is full of incompossible Ousias which have never actually existed but are Paranoid Political ideations simply- what is that thesis?
'If these "facts" were remembered, not only in the study of British literature but in the study of the literatures of the European colonizing cultures of the great age of imperialism, we would produce a narrative, in literary history, of the "worlding" of what is now called "the Third World."
Does this vaunted 'Europeanist' really think Maeterlink produced a 'cultural representation' of Belgium's 'Social Mission' to King Leopold's Congo? Was Buddenbrooks a 'cultural representation' of Germany's Social Mission to the Tanganikans or the Boxers in China?
What 'Worlding'- that is Heideggerian 'being-in-the-world'- as opposed to mindless atrocity, occurred  when the Germans suppressed the Maji Maji Rebellion or carried out atrocities in Tianjin?
Nothing interesting, it turns out. Spivak has some trivial  academic grudge to work off and History and Literature and Philosophy only exist for her massive misrepresentation so as to provide her a means to vent her spleen in the most grandiloquent terms possible.
'To consider the Third World as distant cultures, exploited but with rich intact literary heritages waiting to be recovered, interpreted, and curricularized in English translation fosters the emergence of "the Third World" as a signifier that allows us to forget that "worlding," even as it expands the empire of the literary discipline.'
In other words, this 'Europeanist' is peeved because non-European literatures are getting translated and taught and she's too fucking stupid and ignorant to get in on the act even though, lest we forget, she be a nigger from some Third World shit-hole herself and thus got that 'Worlding'- univocal between Tanganika and Tianjin- down pat.
This is not to say Spivak is wholly wrong about translations. Take a gander at this-
'When Chotti was fifteen. He looked and looked and found Dhani in the depths of the forest. Dhani sat on a stone beside a spring. He lifted his eyes when he saw Chotti. Chotti held his feet. Why grab me feet? Teach me ta shoot an arrer. Me? Yes. Ye are t’ god Haramdeo of archers. Why d’ye want ta learn? All Mundas shoot, no? What new skill will I teach ye? I want to win at Chotti fair. Oh, for that? Is that a nothin’ goal? Suddenly Dhani laughed at the sight of Chotti’s glowing face. How shall I teach ye, he said. If I hold an arrer the polis’ll again lock me up.'
'Teach me ta shoot an arrer.'  If a White had indeed put these words into the mouth of an Indian tribal, Spivak might have a point. But this is her own translation of the disgustingly patronizing Mahashweta- Ritwick Ghatak's idiot niece- and so Spivak's 'Worlding' turns out to feature not just infantilizing the tribal but also making him talk like Dick Van Dyck playing a Cockney Chimney Sweep.

Spivak thinks 'nineteenth-century feminist individualism could conceive of a "greater" project than access to the closed circle of the nuclear family.' Previous scholars had pointed out that women were not permitted access to the closed circle of the nuclear family in England. Men fucked other men and had babies. Women were kept in a kennel outside. Mary Woolstoncraft conceived of the project of feminist individualism at last gaining access to the closed circle of the nuclear family. Instead of men fucking men, to make babies, they would be taught to fuck women who, in consequence, would be let out of the kennel and into the bedroom. Spivak's great discovery is that nineteenth century feminist individualism could conceive an even greater project. Was it stuff like a married woman's right to dispose of her own property or a young woman's right to take up a learned profession? Don't be silly. Of course not.
But let Spivak tell you herself-
'This is the project of soul making beyond "mere" sexual reproduction. Here the native "subject" is not almost an animal but rather the object of what might be termed the terrorism of the categorical imperative.'
So there you have it. George Eliot read Kant and took the next boat to Heathendom to terrorize the natives, by gassing on about the categorical imperative instead of 'teachin'  'em ta shoot an arrer'  at each other.
Except nothing of the sort actually happened at all. Dickens' Mrs Jellyby owes something to the Clapham Sect but nothing to Kant. Women did campaign for things beneficial both to themselves and Society at large. Some, like Florence Nightingale, took an interest in colonial conditions by supporting organizations like the Indian National Congress. Annie Beasant, the champion of the Byrant & May matchgirls, set off for India after a conversion to Theosophy.
Not a single woman who took an interest in Colonial affairs did so only because she had read Kant or Bentham or any other such fuckwit.
But that doesn't matter to Spivak. (my remarks are in bold)
'I am using "Kant" in this essay as a metonym for the most flexible ethical moment in the European eighteenth century. Kant is a more flexible ethical moment than Rousseau? Seriously? The guy who says its wrong to have a wank is more flexible than the guy who gave himself a hernia jerking off?
 Kant words the categorical imperative, conceived as the universal moral law given by pure reason, in this way: "In all creation every thing one chooses and over which one has any power, may be used merely as means; man alone, and with him every rational creature, is an end in himself." It is thus a moving displacement of Christian ethics from religion to philosophy. Hamann, De Maistre, Hegel, practically everybody who was anybody didn't think any such displacement as Spivak suggests actually occurred.  Why is she being so stupid? As Kant writes: "With this agrees very well the possibility of such a command as: Love God above everything, and thy neighbor as thyself. For as a command it requires respect for a law which commands love and does not leave it to our own arbitrary choice to make this our principle."'
The "categorical" in Kant cannot be adequately represented in determinately grounded action. The dangerous transformative power of philosophy, however, is that its formal subtlety can be travestied in the service of the state. Such a travesty in the case of the categorical imperative can justify the imperialist project by producing the following formula: make the heathen into a human so that he can be treated as an end in himself'
This, then, is Spivak's great discovery- much parroted in subsequent 'Po-Co' screeds- a non-sequitur deduced from a string of non-sequiturs. 
It turns out philosophy isn't worthless shite but has a 'dangerous transformative power'. Not a power to actually do anything, you understand- i.e. in itself it remains worthless shite- however it is nevertheless a power that can be travestied in the service of the State because....urm...well, it just can, okay?
It's like how an onion farmer justifies his raping the land by saying ''The maxim- 'Make the onion into a human being so the onion can be treated as an end in itself' is indeed the basis of an universal moral law.' 
Why is Spivak telling us this silly story? Well, it turns out she's read Jane Eyre and Wild Sargasso Sea and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and come to a remarkable conclusion. Books written by White women which garner praise can only be read in one legitimate way because what they are all actually saying is- 'We are worthless gobshites. There is only one non-worthless gobshite in the Universe- viz. Gayatri Spivak. We too attain an aleatory non-shiteness in so far as we point to our 'Social Mission' to celebrate that worthless fuckwit.
'What? This isn't nonsense at all. It's all there in Derrida. Crack a book sometime, Terry Eagleton, you great big beardie you.'

Spivak says- 'In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Narcissus' madness is disclosed when he recognizes his Other as his self: "Iste ego sum."
Not Madness, but the Death Tiresisas foretold, supervenes on that 'Iste ego sum'. 
Gayatri babe, you fed on gesture political Leftism's Narcissism of small differences but were too stupid to go Mad and too brain dead to require a costly disconnection from the Teaching Machine so your bogus Third 'Worlding' is simply a case of 'Slap her, she's French' because slapping people feels good though, as the credits roll, we are left with this deflationary revelation- no actual French people were hurt in the making of the making of  the movie of your getting your tongue stuck to the butt of Europeanism's ice cow.

No comments: