Over three decades ago Homo Baba wrote the following shite.
The time of the nation The title of my essay -- DissemiNation -- owes something to the wit and wisdom of Jacques Derrida,
not Jerry Lewis? Sad.
but something more to my own experience of migration. I have lived that moment of the scattering of the people
Nonsense! Baba never witnessed any genocide or holocaust or foreign invasion or big famine which might cause the 'scattering' of people.
that in other times and other places, in the nations of others, becomes a time of gathering.
Homo is Parsi. His people ran away from Muslim persecution in Iran to Hindu India. Homo then moved to England and finally America. The pay is better there. Those who want better pay do certainly gather there.
Gatherings of exiles and emigrés and refugees,
Baba was none of these things. At best, he was an economic immigrant.
gathering on the edge of 'foreign' cultures; gathering at the frontiers; gatherings in the ghettos or cafes of city centres; gathering in the half-life, half-light of foreign tongues, or in the uncanny fluency of another's language; gathering the signs of approval and acceptance, degrees, discourses, disciplines; gathering the memories of underdevelopment, of other worlds lived retroactively; gathering the past in a ritual of revival; gathering the present.
Baba did nothing of this sort. He taught English Literature to English speaking people. I think this had something to do with 'intellectual affirmative action' or 'diversity' and 'inclusion'.
Also the gathering of the people in the diaspora: indentured, migrant, interned; the gathering of incriminatory statistics, educational performance, legal statutes, immigration status -- the genealogy of that lonely figure that John Berger named the seventh man.
the migrant worker or 'guest worker'. Berger didn't get that East Germany had them just as much as West Germany. But Capitalism paid them better and gave them superior rights.
The gathering of clouds from which the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish asks 'where should the birds fly after the last sky?'
He was able to return and live in Palestine in the last decade of his life.
In the midst of these lonely gatherings
lonely people may gather but they then cease to be alone
of the scattered people, their myths and fantasies and experiences, there emerges a historical fact of singular importance.
No. A fantasy may emerge and it may gain importance. Facts don't work that way.
More deliberately than any other general historian, Eric Hobsbawm writes the history of the modern western nation from the perspective of the nation's margin and the migrants' exile.
But that is also how the history of Israel was written in the Old Testament. The history of modern England is written from the perspective of pretty marginal Celtic or Roman or Anglo Saxon or ex-Viking Norman dudes. France is named for immigrant Francs. Lombardy is named for immigrant Lombards.
The emergence of the later phase of the modern nation, from the mid- nineteenth century, is also one of the most sustained periods of mass migration within the west,
No. The Dark Ages saw bigger, more sustained periods of mass migration. Still, it is true that German emigration to the US peaked in the 1880s after which Italians, Russians and other groups became more important. However, the US was more of a modern nation state than any country from which it received immigrants.
and colonial expansion in the east. The nation " fills the void left in the uprooting of communities and kin,
White Americans are descended from people who uprooted themselves. They wanted a better life and ran the fuck away from their communities and kin.
and turns that loss into the language of metaphor.
A metaphor is a figure of speech. It is not a language. Why not speak of the machinery of the spanner or the cat that is a meow.
Metaphor, as the etymology of the word suggests, transfers the meaning of home and belonging, across the 'middle passage',
which refers exclusively to African slaves transported to the Americas.
or the central European steppes,
Eurasian steppes which end in eastern central Europe.
across those distances, and cultural differences, that span the imagined community of the nation- people.
No. People moving from one place to another use the word 'home' to signify a different address where they have taken up residence. Metaphor has no magical power to transfer the meaning of my home. Otherwise, some figure of speech could magically turn me into the current occupant of the White House- which would confuse the fuck out of Biden.
Incidentally, no 'nation-people' have an 'imagined community'. They have a real country inhabited by real people. On the other hand, I am the King of the 'imagined community' of Iyerland but it is exclusively populated by leprechauns.
The discourse of nationalism is not my main concern.
Because it is legalistic when it is not a matter of political economy. Homo is ignorant of such things.
In some ways it is the historical certainty and settled nature of that term against which I am attempting to write of the western nation as an obscure and ubiquitous form of living the locality of culture.
No western or eastern nation is any such thing. The Kingdom of Iyerland is a different matter. Cultures have no locality. One can live the life of a cultured Englishman in Beijing or New Delhi just as a plenty of people in London live in accordance with traditional Islamic or Sikh or Hindu culture.
This locality is more around temporality than about historicity:
like the Kingdom of Iyerland to reach which you have to get drunk at a particular pub in Kilburn on an August weekend in 1984.
a form of living that is more complex than 'community';
is a 'Tarskian primitive'. It is not complex.
more symbolic than 'society';
if a form of living is more symbolic than an abstract term, it means it is completely imaginary.
more connotative than 'country';
if I say 'this is Indian food' or 'Indian music' I am using the word for a country in a connotative manner. But what is connoted by this 'form of living' Baba is babbling about? Can we say what sort of food or music or dress accords with the form of living Baba is invoking? No. It is wholly empty
less patriotic than pattie;
more rhetorical than the reason of state;
reason of state is not rhetorical. It is economic or strategic.
more mythological than ideology;
i.e it is a fairy tale- if it is anything at all.
less homogeneous than hegemony;
Baba is just picking up any two words which being with the same letter and comparing them. We too can say that our way of living is more commercial than commuting and more democratic than demagogy and more harmonious than heraldry.
less centred than the citizen;
more imbecilic than the individual
more collective than' 'the subject';
less concertinaed than the 'the object'
more psychic than civility;
but less physical than chemistry
more hybrid in the articulation of cultural differences and identifications - gender, race or class - than can be represented in any hierarchical or binary structuring of social antagonism.
because we are only talking about leprechauns or things sillier yet.
In proposing this cultural construction of nationness as a form of social and textual affiliation,
Baba is saying there is a Baba-Nation of blithering idiots
I do not wish to deny these categories their specific historicities and particular meanings within different political languages.
Very good of you, I'm sure. The rest of us were shitting our pants just in case you had denied those categories in which case they would have gotten very very angry and refused to buy us any more drinks.
What I am attempting to formulate in this essay are the complex strategies of cultural identification and discursive address that function in the name of 'the people' or 'the nation' and make them the immanent subjects and objects of a range of social and literary narratives.
Why bother? The strategies are simply. For India, there are 'Janata' (People's parties) as well as National Parties- e.g. Bharatiya Janata Party or Indian National Congress. It is easy enough to do something similar for other countries. There are plenty of 'literary narratives' of this sort. Baba himself mentions Hobsbawm's 'Making of the English Working Class' which was useless because the fellow was neither English nor working class.
My emphasis on the temporal dimension in the inscription of these political entities
everything is inscribed 'temporally'- i.e. ever a period of time, however short.
-- that are also potent symbolic and affective sources of cultural identity
they may be, they may not. There have been plenty of failed populist ideologies or political factions.
-- serves to displace the historicism that has dominated discussions of the nation as a cultural force.
The nation is not a cultural force. Nationalism may be, but then again it may not. There can be no historicism of what does not exist.
The focus on temporality resists the transparent linear equivalence of event and idea that historicism proposes;
Nobody says an event is an idea. Maybe the cretin means that ideas are linked to events- e.g. the publication of a book, or the occurrence of an economic or military crisis.
it provides a perspective on the disjunctive forms of representation that signify a people, a nation, or a national culture.
There are no 'disjunctive' forms of representation. In drawing a cat you don't draw the dog which it isn't.
It is neither the sociological solidity of these terms, nor their holistic history that gives them the narrative and psychological force that they have brought to bear on cultural production and projections.
It is nothing else.
It is the mark of the ambivalence of the nation as a narrative strategy -- and an apparatus of power -- that it produces a continual slippage into analogous, even metonymic, categories, like the people, minorities, or 'cultural difference" that continually overlap in the act of writing the nation.
There is no act of 'writing the nation'. There is Nationalism and there are narratives about Nationalism. These narratives may feature 'the people' and hold horrible views of 'minorities'. Cultural differences may be viewed as evidence of moral or spiritual inferiority. But none of these things 'overlap'. They are separate. The Right Wing narrative of the Nation is different from the Left Wing narrative. Why is Baba denying this? Does he have any evidence? No. He is just babbling nonsense.
What is displayed in this displacement and repetition of terms is
nothing because there is no fucking displacment.
the nation as the measure of the liminality of cultural modernity.
No. Cultural modernity is not liminal. It has crossed the threshold of the Past and has become contemporary.
Edward Said aspires to such secular interpretation in his concept of 'wordliness' where 'sensuous particularity as well as historical contingency ... exist at the same level of surface particularity as the textual object itself" (my emphasis),
Said thought that people like himself were 'worldly' in the sense that their academic work had some real world political impact- e.g. his Literary Scholarship helped the Palestinian cause. But it didn't really. Baba has had zero political impact in India, England or the US.
Fredric Jameson invokes something similar in his notion of 'situational consciousness' or national allegory, 'where the telling of the individual story and the individual experience cannot but ultimately involve the whole laborious telling of the collectivity itself'.
This may have seemed true of 'Mein Kamf' or 'Discovery of India' but wasn't really. Economic and strategic considerations are all that matter. Anybody can tell a story.
And Julia Kristeva speaks perhaps too hastily of the pleasures of exile -- 'How can one avoid sinking into the mire of common sense, if not by becoming a stranger to one's own country, language, sex and identity?'5 -- without realizing how fully the shadow of the nation falls on the condition of exile -- which may partly explain her own later, labile identifications with the images of other nations: 'China', 'America'.
The truth is simpler. She was stupid.
The nation as metaphor: Amor Patria; Fatherland; Pig Earth; Mothertongue; Matigari; Middlemarch; Midnight's Children; One Hundred Years of Solitude; War and Peace; I Promessi Sposi; Kanthapura; Moby Dick; The Magic Mountain; Things Fall Apart.
But none of the nations invoked by the authors of the above was a metaphor.
There must also be a tribe of interpreters of such metaphors
why? Anybody can read a fucking novel. We don't need some cretin to interpret a shitty little story to us. Only thickos study Literature at Uni.
-- the translators of the dissemination of texts and discourses across cultures -- who can perform what Said describes as the act of secular interpretation.
Only priests can do sacred interpretation.
'To take account of this horizontal, secular space of the crowded spec- tacle of the modern nation ... implies that no single explanation sending one back immediately to a single origin is adequate.
Unless you are doing something useful, like law or economics. Nobody gives a fuck about retards teaching 'Literature' to thickos.
And just as there are no simple dynastic answers,
save in India where it is 'vote for Rahul Baba. He may be stupid but not Homo Baba level stupid.'
there are no simple discrete formations or social processes'.
Save for specific, utilitarian purposes- e.g. law or econ.
If, in our travelling theory, we are alive to the metaphoricity
irreality not metaphoricity. A person- even if imaginary- is not a figure of speech.
of the peoples of imagined communities -- migrant or metropolitan -- then we shall find that the space of the modern nation- people is never simply horizontal.
Save for every useful purpose.
Their metaphoric movement requires a kind of 'doubleness' in writing; a temporality of representation that moves between cultural formations and social processes without a 'centred' causal logic.
Which means that when writing your CV you can explain that you were King Arthur in Camelot during your gap year. This is cool if you are applying for a job as a Chinese leprechaun.
And such cultural movements disperse the homogeneous, visual time of the horizontal society because 'the present is no longer a mother-form [read mother-tongue or mother-land] around which are gathered and differentiated the future (present) and the past (present) . .. [as] a present of which the past and the future would be but modifications'.
If Said represented its intellectual face, it is no wonder the PLO fucked up!
The secular language of interpretation then needs to go beyond the presence of the "look', that Said recommends, if we are to give 'the nonsequential energy of lived historical memory and subjectivity its appropriate narrative authority. We need another time of writing that will be able to inscribe the ambivalent and chiasmatic intersections of time and place that constitute the problematic 'modern' experience of the western nation. How does one write the nation's modernity as the event of the every- day and the advent of the epochal?
In the manner of a Dickens or a Doestoevsky or, indeed, a JK Rowling. Professors of worthless shit should concentrate on getting their students to tie their own shoe-laces.
The language of national belonging comes laden with atavistic apologues, which has led Benedict Anderson to ask: 'But why do nations celebrate their hoariness, not their astonishing youth?'
Anderson's nation did not celebrate its Druids and showed little curiosity about the place from which the Angles or Saxons had come from.
The nation's claim to modernity, as an autonomous or sovereign form of political rationality, is particularly questionable if,
we are ignorant of both history and the law.
with Partha Chatterjee, we adopt the post-colonial perspective:
Nation States were created out of the cadavers of Empires.
Nationalism . .. seeks to represent itself in the image of the Enlightenment and fails to do so.
It predates the Enlightenment. Indeed, it predates the Old Testament.
For Enlightenment itself,
Enlightened Emperors whose subjects spoke many different languages were totes cool
to assert its sovereignty as the universal ideal, needs its Other; if it could ever actualise itself in the real world as the truly universal, it would in fact destroy itself.
Nonsense! Wilsonism would not have destroyed the American or French or Portuguese Republic.
Such ideological ambivalence nicely supports Gellner's paradoxical point that the historical necessity of the idea of the nation conflicts with the contingent and arbitrary signs and symbols that signify the affective life of the national culture.
This may or may not be the case. Which arbitrary signs and symbols signify the American- is it the cowboy hat?- or the Britisher- the bowler hat?- or the Indian- the Gandhi topi? The answer is that, outside the realm of cartoons, such signs and symbols had no great currency.
The nation may exemplify modern social cohesion but Nationalism is not what it seems, and above all not what it seems to itself... The cultural shreds and patches used by nationalism are often arbitrary historical inventions. Any old shred would have served as well. But in no way does it follow that the principle of nationalism ... is itself in the least contingent and accidental.
Unless, that is exactly what it is. If there are no scope and scale economies available to a Nation within its 'natural boundaries' it won't fucking exist. This is contingent on stuff to do with technology and trade routes and external and internal threats.
The problematic boundaries of modernity are enacted in these ambivalent temporalities of the nation-space.
No. Some stupid shitheads may talk about 'problematic boundaries' but they don't thereby belong to any nation-space. The merely teach useless shite.
The language of culture and community is poised on the fissures of the present becoming the rhetorical figures of a national past.
Only in the sense that we are all always on the point of falling through an inter-dimensional portal into Bridgerton World where I am Queen of the Leprechauns and my daughter is Lucy Liu.
Historians transfixed on the event and origins of the nation never ask, and political theorists possessed of the 'modern' totalities of the nation -- 'Homogeneity, literacy and anonymity are the key traits' -- never pose, the awkward question of the disjunctive representation of the social, in this double-time of the nation.
What is awkward about asking why the Brits have medieval ceremonies for their King's coronation? The thing is popular and, anyway, we must think of the tourists.
It is indeed only in the disjunctive time of the nation's modernity
which is the same as the 'disjunctive time' of reading this on your smartphone while taking a dump
-- as a knowledge disjunct between political rationality and its impasse, between the shreds and patches of cultural signification and the certainties of a nationalist pedagogy -- that questions of nation as narration come to be posed. How do we plot the narrative of the nation that must mediate between the teleology of progress tipping over into the 'timeless' discourse of irrationality?
Danny Boyle did it easily enough for the London Olympics opening ceremony. But he has talent. Baba is a babbling blathershite. Nobody will pay him to plot anything at all.
How do we understand that 'homogeneity' of modernity -- the people -- which, if pushed too far, may assume something resembling the archaic body of the despotic or totalitarian mass?
There was never any such body. The French or Bolshevik terror was organized by a power-elite.
In the midst of progress and modernity, the language of ambivalence reveals a politics 'without duration', as Althusser once provocatively wrote: 'Space without places, time without duration.'
what is provocative about that? Did Einsteinian Space-Time get angry and fart loudly in Altusser's face?
To write the story of the nation demands that we articulate that archaic ambivalence that informs modernity.
It does no such thing. Modernity just means that 'Tardean mimetic targets' are contemporary rather than located in the Classical Age. Romanticism may be anti-modern, but, equally, it may be mad or addicted to drugs. But that involves no ambiguity or amphiboly.
We may begin by questioning that progressive metaphor of modem social cohesion -- the many as one -- shared by organic theories of the holism of culture and community, and by theorists who treat gender, class, or race as radically 'expressive' social totalities.
They don't share shit. 'Organic theories' stress the duty to sacrifice life, liberty, freedom of every sort, for the Folk to whom one is united by blood and soil or some such shit. Theorists of gender, class, sexuality etc. make no similar stipulation though they can be just as crazy and vituperative.
Out of many one:
13 colonies coming together so as to be strong enough to fight off any external or internal threat.
nowhere has this founding dictum of the political society of the modern nation
it only applies to Federal nations with 'dual sovereignty'. It does not apply to India which is unitary not Federal.
-- its spatial expression of a unitary people --
which Indians are because of Hinduism.
found a more intriguing image of itself than in those diverse languages of literary criticism that seek to portray the great power of the idea of the nation in the disclosures of its everyday life; in the telling details that emerge as metaphors for national life.
a detail is not a metaphor though it may involve synecdoche or metonymy.
I am reminded of Bakhtin's wonderful description of a 'national' vision of emergence in Goethe's Italian Journey, which represents the triumph of the realistic component over the Romantic.
Winckelmann and Goethe were neo-classical.
Goethe's realist narrative produces a national-historical time that makes visible a specifically Italian day in the detail of its passing time, 'The bells ring, the rosary is said, the maid enters the room with a lighted lamp and says: Felicissima notte! ... If one were to force a German dockhand on them, they would be at a loss.'
Lawrence Sterne could have said the same thing. Goethe was a great admirer of his.
For Bakhtin it is Goethe's vision of the microscopic, elementary, perhaps random tolling of everyday life in Italy that reveals the profound history of its locality (Lokalitat), the spatialization of historical time, 'a creative humanization of this locality, which transforms a part of terrestrial space into a place of historical life for people'
Germany was poor and behind both France and England. Germany was not what it would later become for the Russians. At that time, it was a poor country which supplied Princes or Princesses to provide heirs to the English or Russian throne.
The recurrent metaphor of landscape as the inscape of national identity
'inscape' is a metaphor- Gerald Manley Hopkins'
emphasizes the quality of light, the question of social visibility, the power of the eye to naturalize the rhetoric of national affiliation and its forms of collective expression.
No it doesn't. One could equally speak of the desert wastes of the Bedouin's soul or the impenetrable jungles at the hear of which the Buddha smiles. The meaning is 'Islam is only fit for camel jockeys' or 'Indian religions are only cool if your big choice in life is whether to be eaten by a tiger or trampled by an elephant.'
There is, however, always the distracting presence of another temporality
only if we are off our heads on drugs- not otherwise
that disturbs the contemporaneity of the national present, as we saw in the national discourses with which I began. Despite Bakhtin's emphasis on the realist vision in the emergence of the nation in Goethe's work,
The German nation was already ancient. In International Law it something like it has been recognized since 962 AD.
he acknowledges that the origin of the nation's visual presence is the effect of a narrative struggle.
No. Goethe actually had to travel to Italy in order for it to have a visual presence for him. No great 'narrative struggle' is involved in writing like Lawrence Sterne.
From the beginning, Bakhtin writes, the realist and Romantic conceptions of time co-exist in Goethe's work, but the ghostly (Gespenstermassiges), the terri- fying (Unerfreuliches), and the unaccountable (Unzuberechnendes) are consistently 'surmounted' by the structural aspects of the visualization of time:
one could say this equally of a guy taking a shit while looking at his smartphone.
'the necessity of the past and the necessity of its place in a line of continuous development ... finally the aspect of the past being linked to a necessary future'. National time becomes concrete and visible in the chronotope of the local, particular, graphic, from beginning to end.
Only in the sense that Galactic time becomes concrete and visible in the Nicaraguan horcrux of the neighbour's cat.
The narrative structure of this historical surmounting of the 'ghostly' or the 'double" is seen in the intensification of narrative synchrony as a graphically visible position in space: 'to grasp the most elusive course of pure historical time and fix it through unmediated contemplation'.'
Nobody has done this. On the other hand the Nicraguan horcrux of my neighbour's cat can fuck you up something chronic if you don't lend me a tenner.
But what kind of 'present' is this if it is a consistent process of surmounting the ghostly time of repetition? Can this national time-space be as fixed or as immediately visible as Bakhtin claims?
If Bakhtin told Baba that his dick was invisible, would he really roam around naked from the waist down? It may be that some images are better than others at representing a particular time or place which is of importance to a particular nation or religion. Many a sinner has found their way to Christ by seeing a painting of the nativity and some may be more 'national' than others. But is that what Baba is getting at? No. He seems to think Bakhtin and Said were like Physicists who had discovered something fundamental about Time and Causality.
If in Bakhtin's 'surmounting' we hear the echo of another use of that word by Freud in his essay on The Uncanny, then we begin to get a sense of the complex time of the national narrative. Freud associates surmounting with the repressions of a 'cultural" unconscious; a liminal, uncertain state of cultural belief when the archaic emerges in the midst or margins of modernity as a result of some psychic ambivalence or intellectual uncertainty.
Freud was so clever, he could cure you of homosexuality provided you had a good job, weren't gay, and could pay him lots of money every week.
The "double' is the figure most frequently associated with this uncanny process of 'the doubling, dividing and interchanging of the self'.
The double is associated with doubling. Who would have thunked it?
Such 'double-time' cannot be so simply represented as visible or flexible in 'unmediated contemplation'; nor can we accept Bakhtin's repeated attempt to read the national space as achieved only in the fullness of time. Such an apprehension of the 'double and split' time of national representation, as I am proposing, leads us to question the homogeneous and horizontal view familiarly associated with it. We are led to ask, provocatively, whether the emergence of a national perspective -- of an élite or subaltern nature -- within a culture of social contestation, can ever articulate its 'representative' authority in that fullness of narrative time, and that visual synchrony of the sign that Bakhtin proposes.
Yet has happened and is happening all over the place. Why not question whether an automobile manufacturer can get people to buy his cars by placing advertisements on TV? After all, is there not a 'doubling' of the product and the emergence of a dual temporality in the advertisement itself? How can we prevent the customer from entering 'TV-land' and buying an 'advertisement car' and then live a TV-advertisement life, rather than go to the showroom and buy our product?
Two brilliant accounts of the emergence of national narratives seem to support my suggestion. They represent the diametrically opposed world views of master and slave which between them account for the major historical and philosophical dialectic of modern times. I am thinking of John Barrell's splendid analysis of the rhetorical and perspectival status of the 'English gentleman'
who existed because the English were doing smart things and thus were getting rich
within the social diversity of the eighteenth- century novel; and of Huston Baker's innovative reading of the 'new national modes of sounding, interpreting and speaking the Negro in the Harlem Renaissance'.
Which featured talented people. Huston Baker was not talented. But he was smart and would have amounted to something had he studied Law or Public Administration or something of that sort.
In his concluding essay Barrell surveys the posi- tions open to 'an equal, wide survey' and demonstrates how the demand for a holistic, representative vision of society could only be represented in a discourse that was at the same time obsessively fixed upon, and uncer- tain of, the boundaries of society, and the margins of the text. For instance, the hypostatized 'common language' which was the language of the gentleman whether he be Observer, Spectator, Rambler, 'Common to all by virtue of the fact that it manifested the peculiarities of none'
This is foolish. Plenty of English Gentlemen would have thought it very queer if a fellow member of White's or Boodle's started talking in the manner of an Addison. It is a different matter that a well spoken Classicist might be of use to the Ministry even if, au fond, the fellow was Irish or a red-headed Scot.
-- was primarily defined through a process of negation -- of regionalism, occupation, faculty -- so that this centred vision of 'the gentleman' is so to speak 'a condition of empty potential, one who is imagined as being able to comprehend everything, and yet who may give no evidence of having comprehended anything'.
A desirable characteristic in a member of a Jury who must make determinations of fact without any prior knowledge of the circumstances of the case.
A different note of liminality is struck in Baker's description of the 'radical maroonage' that structured the emergence of an insurgent Afro-American expressive culture in its expansive, 'national' phase.
The plain fact is some African Americans were always expressive in every manner worthy of praise and conducive to dignity. This didn't help them any.
Baker's sense that the 'discursive project' of the Harlem Renaissance is modernist is based less on a strictly literary understanding of the term, and more appropriately on the agonistic enunciative conditions within which the Harlem Renaissance shaped its cultural practice.
This was nonsense. It was obvious that African Americans had, thanks to their productivity and enterprise, both created a market as well as developed cultural commodities which appealed to all regardless of culture or geography. If there had been anything to 'discursive projects', African-Americans would have discovered what it was and used it to the advantage of their people and the world.
The transgressive, invasive structure of the black 'national' text, which thrives on rhetorical strategies of hybridity, defor- mation, masking, and inversion,
just like every other creative text of a novel or witty type.
is developed through an extended analogy with the guerilla warfare that became a way of life for the maroon communities of runaway slaves and fugitives who lived dangerously, and insubordinately, 'on the frontiers or margins of all American promise, profit and modes of production'.
Clarence Thomas may be descended from such 'maroons'. The 'talented tenth' were not.
From this liminal, minority position where, as Foucault would say, the relations of discourse are of the nature of warfare, emerges the force of the people of an Afro-American nation, as Baker 'signifies upon' the extended metaphor of maroonage.
Jamaica had plenty of maroons as did parts of Guyana and Brazil. But there was no reason for them to go in for 'relations of discourse'.
For warriors read writers or even 'signs':
It takes a lot of courage to keep scribbling when all around you the bullets fly and your commanding officer suggests that you will be court-martialled if you don't pick up your weapon.
these highly adaptable and mobile warriors took maximum advantage of local environments, striking and withdrawing with great rapidity, making extensive use of bushes to catch their adversaries in cross-fire, fighting only when and where they chose, depending on reliable intel- ligence networks among non-maroons (both slave and white settlers) and often communicating by horns.
Back in the Eighties, we would often see Baba hiding behind bushes in Hyde Park. We assumed he was engaging in sodomy. Actually, he was writing shite like this.
Both gentleman and slave, with different cultural means and to very different historical ends, demonstrate that forces of social authority and subalternality may emerge in displaced, even decentred, strategies of signification.
Similarly, both the heavyweight boxer and the paralytic demonstrate the force of the Nicaraguan horcrux of the neighbour's cat. Yet, the former is very strong. The latter is very weak. This suggests that Nicaraguan horcruxes don't have any fucking power.
This does not prevent them from being representative in a political sense,
The gentleman had representatives in the political sense. They were the guys he voted for or otherwise put into the legislature. The slave didn't matter in any political sense.
although it does suggest that positions of authority are themselves part of a process of ambivalent identification.
No. They are independent of any such process.
Indeed the exercise of power may be both more politically effective and psychically affective because their discursive liminality may provide greater scope for strategic manoeuvre and negotiation.
Not if they don't have any power.
It is precisely in reading between these borderlines of the nation-space that we can see how the 'people' come to be constructed within a range of discourses as a double narrative movement.
We see nothing of the sort. Some pedagogues or jobbing journalists may have claimed to speak for the people or to have some special knowledge about them. But this had nothing to do with the 'border-lines' of the nation-space which were determined by military, commercial and administrative means.
The people are not simply historical events or parts of a patriotic body politic. They are also a complex rhetorical strategy of social reference where the claim to be representative provokes a crisis within the process of signification and discursive address.
No. The people are a particular set of individuals whom it is useful to refer to for a specific purpose. They are the 'extension' of a set or class. No crisis occurs when we are talking because it is easy to talk. However, in a juristic context, if we reveal something damaging to our interests, there may be a big penalty. But rewards or punishments have nothing to do with either crisis or lysis.
We then have a contested cultural territory where the people must be thought in a double-time; the people are the historical 'objects" of a nationalist pedagogy, giving the discourse an authority that is based on the pre- given or constituted historical origin or event; the people are also the 'subjects' of a process of signification that must erase any prior or originary presence of the nation-people to demonstrate the "prodigious, living principle of the people as that continual process by which the national life is redeemed and signified as a repeating and reproductive process. The scraps, patches, and rags of daily life must be repeatedly turned into the signs of a national culture, while the very act of the narrative performance interpellates a growing circle of national subjects. In the production of the nation as narration there is a split between the continuist, accumulative temporality of the pedagogical, and the repetitious, recursive strategy of the performative. It is through this process of splitting that the conceptual ambivalence of modern society becomes the site of writing the nation.
Either the 'nationalist pedagogy' is authoritarian- i.e. dissenters are beaten, killed, or otherwise punished- or it simply doesn't matter. The more entertaining narrative wins and gets rewarded by the market. Concentrate on being entertaining and you don't have to bother with the tedious shite Baba has vomited up.
The tension between the pedagogical and the performative that I have identified in the narrative address of the nation, turns the reference to a 'people' -- from whatever political or cultural position it is made -- into a problem of knowledge that haunts the symbolic formation of social authority.
No it doesn't. If nobody buys your shite you haven't actually done anything 'pedagogic' or 'performative'. You have no authority- social or otherwise. True you may be a Professor of useless shite but everybody despises you and believes you will soon be Me-Tooed by a obese, brain-damaged, quadriplegic Lesbian of Colour who also happens to be your Head of Department, not to mention your Sister-Mommy.
The people are neither the beginning or the end of the national narrative; they represent the cutting edge between the totalizing powers of the social and the forces that signify the more specific address to contentious, unequal interests and identities within the population. The ambivalent signifying system of the nation-space participates in a more general genesis of ideology in modern societies that Claude Lefort
a useless tosser. Totalitarianism is about total control of the economy. That's all that matters. Gorby gave up Party control of the Economy. The Soviet Union promptly fell apart because of a scissors crisis. Lefort, even in his last book, simply didn't get this. He thought people had voluntarily subjugated themselves to the Party for some arcane reason only he understood. The truth was simpler. The Eurasian landmass faced a simple problem- viz. how to get the primary sector to disgorge surpluses for the secondary sector. Only one solution was feasible- direct control. Why? The answer has to do with the theory of rent contestation. Either the entire land mass would be vulnerable to invasion and unceasing regional wars or else either a Dynastic Autocrat or a bunch of thugs who never fought openly with each others would run things.
has described so suggestively. For him too it is 'the enigma of language', at once internal and external to the speaking subject, that provides the most apt analogue for imagining the structure of ambivalence that constitutes modern social authority.
So saying 'language is mysterious' explains why stuff people say about stuff is mysterious- right?
I shall quote him at length, because his rich ability to represent the movement of political power beyond the blindness of Ideology or the insight of the Idea, brings him to that liminality of modern society from which I have attempted to derive the narrative of the nation and its people.
He was a stupid nutter who did not stand upon the threshold of anything save madness. But this was par for the course in the French Academy.
In Ideology the representation of the rule is split off from the effective operation of it
The same is true of football.
.... The rule is thus extracted from experience of language;
You don't have to speak any language to play football. Some dogs can do so.
it is circumscribed, made fully visible and assumed to govern the conditions of possibility of this experience
nobody makes any such assumption. Kant was trying to go from experience- which we know is possible because we have it- to an a priori judgment about inner faculties of which we have no experience whatsoever.
.... The enigma of language -- namely that it is both internal and external to the speaking subject,
is like the enigma of shit or spit or sperm- right?
that there is an articulation of the self with others which marks the emergence of the self and which the self does not control -- is concealed by the representation of a place 'outside' -- language from which it could be generated ....
If such concealment is occurring it must be the case that there is something we can say right now which transforms the universe into a wet hen which is seeking a publisher for her dissertation on Abhinavagupta's affair with, his sister, Confucius.
We encounter the ambiguity of the representation as soon as the rule is stated; for its very exhibition undermines the power that the rule claims to introduce into practice.
Very true! If you are told that, as a rule, if you jump out of the window you will sustain severe injuries when you go splat on the pavement, you immediately jump out of the window because stating a rule undermines the power that the rule claims to introduce- viz. the force of Gravity.
This exorbitant power must, in fact, be shown, and at the same time it must owe nothing to the movement which makes it appear .... To be true to its image, the rule must be abstracted from any question concerning its origin; thus it goes beyond the operations that it controls .... Only the authority of the master allows the contradiction to be concealed, but he is himself an object of representation; presented as possessor of the knowledge of the rule, he allows the contradiction to appear through himself.
Very true! Newton's Law of Gravity was widely accepted because he floated about in the Air.
The ideological discourse that we are examining has no safety catch; it is rendered vulnerable by its attempt to make visible the place from which the social relation would be conceivable (both thinkable and creatable) by its inability to define this place without letting its contingency appear, without condemning itself to slide from one posi- tion to another, without hereby making apparent the instability of an order that it is intended to raise to the status of essence .... [The ideological] task of the implicit generalisation of knowledge and the implicit homogenization of experience could fall apart in the face of the unbearable ordeal of the collapse of certainty, of the vacillation of representations of discourse and as a result of the splitting of the subject.
Stalin had an ideology. If you didn't like it, he killed you. Lefort rated Trotsky. But Stalin was able to get an ice-pick into his brain.
How do we conceive of the 'splitting' of the national subject?
Easily, if you are Indian. You may be of the wrong religion and have to run away across the border. If you don't split, licketyspit, you get split in two with an axe.
How do we articulate cultural differences within this vacillation of ideology in which the national discourse also participates, sliding ambivalently from one enunciatory position to another?
Easily enough if you come from India. You say the minority is an 'invader'. Not till those Muslims/ Sanatan Dharmis/ Brits or whatever are all exterminated can the people enjoy peace and prosperity.
What comes to be represented in that unruly 'time' of national culture, which Bakhtin surmounts in his reading of Goethe, Gellner associates with the rags and patches of every- day life, Said describes as 'the nonsequential energy of lived historical memory and subjectivity' and Lefort re-presents again as the inexorable movement of signification that both constitutes the exorbitant image of power and deprives it of the certainty and stability of centre or closure? What might be the cultural and political effects of the liminality of the nation, the margins of modernity, which cannot be signified without the narrative temporalities of splitting, ambivalence, and vacillation?
The answer is 'nothing at all'. The nation has no fucking liminality. Get over it.
Deprived of the unmediated visibiLity of historicism -- 'looking to the legitimacy of past generations as supplying cultural autonomy' - the nation turns from being the symbol of modernity into becoming the symptom of an ethnography of the 'contemporary' within culture.
But only shitheads do 'ethnography'. Don't do it and you won't suffer any such symptom.
Such a shift in perspective emerges from an acknowledgement of the nation's interrupted address, articulated in the tension signifying the people as an a priori historical presence,
Nobody has done so. Everybody says God created humanity which then branched of into different races or else the thing happened by Darwinian evolution.
Nobody has ever said there was an English, or any other, nation before the Universe began.
a pedagogical object; and the people constructed in the performance of narrative, its enunciatory 'present' marked in the repetition and pulsation of the national sign. The pedagogical founds its narrative authority in a tradition of the people, described by Poulantzas as a moment of becoming designated by itself, encapsulated in a succession of historical moments that represents an eternity produced by self-generation.
No nation has ever had any such theory. We don't really think 'self-generation' will enable us to survive the 'Big Crunch'.
The performative intervenes in the sovereignty of the nation's self-generation by casting a shadow between the people as 'image' and its signification as a differentiating sign of Self, distinct from the Other or the Outside. In place of the polarity of a prefigurative self-generating nation itself and extrinsic Other nations, the performative introduces a temporality of the 'in-between' through the 'gap' or 'emptiness' of the signifier that punctuates linguistic difference. The boundary that marks the nation's selfhood interrupts the self- generating time of national production with a space of representation that threatens binary division with its difference. The barred Nation It/Self, alienated from its eternal self-generation, becomes a liminal form of social representation, a space that is internally marked by cultural difference and the heterogeneous histories of contending peoples, antagonistic authorities, and tense cultural locations.
This is equally true of a family or a cricket club or a brothel. But it is not 'informative' at all. We might as well write 'The cat, alienated from its eternal self-generation, becomes a liminal form of social representation, more particularly when the baby tries to pull its tail.'
This double-writing or dissemi-nation, is not simply a theoretical exer- cise in the internal contradictions of the modern liberal nation.
because it can equally be applied to a cat or a cricket club or a place which sells crumpets.
The structure of cultural liminality -- within the nation -- that I have been trying to elaborate would be an essential precondition for a concept such as Raymond Williams' crucial distinction between residual and emergent practices in oppositional cultures which require, he insists, a 'non- metaphysical, non-subjectivist' mode of explanation.
One which we can easily supply. How come both the prostitute and the priest have the same brand of smartphone? The answer is, it is cheap, reliable, and the local mobile phone dealer gives a discount to both priests and prostitutes because he has certain proclivities which means he is always in need of absolution.
Such a space of cultural signification as I have attempted to open up through the intervention of the performative, would meet this important precondition. The liminal figure of the nation-space would ensure that no political ideologies could claim transcendent or metaphysical authority for themselves.
Yet there are plenty of nation-spaces where political ideologies- some founded in Religion, others in Marxist-Leninist texts- claim precisely that.
This is because the subject of cultural discourse -- the agency of a people -- is split in the discursive ambivalence that emerges in the contestation of narrative authority between the pedagogical and the performative.
The contestation quickly ends when either a beating is awarded by the gendarmerie or else the market rewards that which it finds useful or entertaining.
This disjunctive temporality of the nation would provide the appropriate time-frame for representing those residual and emergent meanings and practices that Williams locates in the margins of the contemporary experience of society. Their designation depends upon a kind of social ellipsis; their transformational power depends upon their being historically displaced:
But in certain areas, there will be in certain periods, practices and meanings which are not reached for. There will be areas of practice and meaning which, almost by definition from its own limited character, or in its profound deformation, the dominant culture is unable in any real terms to recognize.
Why? Because 'practices and meanings' are 'economic' in the sense that they use up something scarce- even if this is only leisure time. Much depends on technology and the sort of surpluses which are available. But this is an ideographic matter.
When Edward Said suggests that the question of the nation should be put on the contemporary critical agenda as a hermeneutic of 'worldliness', he
is fully aware that such a demand can only now be made from the liminal and ambivalent boundaries that articulate the signs of national culture, as 'zones of control or of abandonment, of recollection and of forgetting, of force or of dependence, of exclusiveness or of sharing' (my emphasis).
Said, poor fellow, may have had to teach shite but he genuinely wanted his people to get back a lot of land and to lead prosperous lives. But this meant the exercise of either military or diplomatic skill of a rare order rather than a bunch of guys just lining their own pockets and exporting terror all over the place.
Counter-narratives of the nation that continually evoke and erase its totalizing boundaries -- both actual and conceptual -- disturb those ideological manoeuvres through which 'imagined communities' are given essentialist identities
But neither matter in the slightest.
For the political unity of the nation consists in
prevailing over, one way or another, every external or internal threat. Having a sensible economic policy is helpful in this matter though, in the end, military force may determine outcomes.
a continual displacement of its irredeemably plural modern space, bounded by different, even hostile nations, into a signifying space that is archaic and mythical, paradoxiically representing the nation's modern territoriality, in the patriotic, atavistic temporality of Traditionalism.
That shite is useless. Bhutan, we may say, is traditional. But it used force to expel its Nepalese minority. Let us see if they can stand up to China.
Quite simply, the difference of space returns as the Sameness of time, turning Territory into Tradition, turning the People into One. The liminal point of this ideological displacement is the turning of the differentiated spatial boundary, the 'outside', into the unified temporal territory of Tradition. Freud's concept of the 'narcissism of minor differences' -- reinterpreted for our purposes -- provides a way of understanding how easily that boundary that secures the cohesive limits of the western nation may imperceptibly turn into a contentious internal liminality that provides a place from which to speak both of, and as, the minority, the exilic, the marginal, and the emergent.
But that whole house of cards can collapse once the Army is called in. Narcissism doesn't matter. What matters is not getting a hole in your head.
Freud uses the analogy of feuds that prevail between communities with adjoining territories -- the Spanish and the Portuguese, for instance -- to illustrate the ambivalent identification of love and hate that binds a community together: 'it is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left to receive the manifestation of their aggressiveness',
The Portuguese are very good at fighting. The greatest infantry soldier of all time was Anibal Milhais. He twice single-handedly kept back attacking German battalions.
The problem is, of course, that the ambivalent identifications of love and hate occupy the same psychic space; and paranoid projections 'outwards' return to haunt and split the place from which they are made. So long as a firm boundary is maintained between the territories, and the narcissistic wounded is contained, the aggressivity will be projected onto the Other or the Outside.
Freud was wrong. Aggression is projected if it earns a reward. The thing is economic. Game theory explains it in animals just as well as among men. But killing is a learned skill and also there are scale and scope economies.
But what if, as I have argued, the people are the articulation of a doubling of the national address, an ambivalent movement between the discourses of pedagogy and the performative?
If people can be the articulation of stupid shit, why not make them the articulation of Higher Mathematics and superior Medical Science?
What if, as Lefort argues. the subject of modern ideology is split between the iconic image of authority and the movement of the signifier that produces the image, so that the 'sign' of the social is condemned to slide ceaselessly from one position to another?
Then we could get the subject to 'slide ceaselessly' between something less fucking stupid. I suggest proving the Reimann Hypothesis on the one hand and finding the cure to Cancer on the other.
It is in this space of liminality, in the 'unbearable ordeal of the collapse of certainty'
which is perfectly bearable. What is unbearable is to have to sit through a lecture by Blathershite Baba more particularly if you need to take a dump.
that we encounter once again the narcissistic neuroses of the national discourse with which I began.
Some guys get paid to do 'national discourse'. They may have a neurosis but that doesn't matter because neuroses aren't real medical maladies.
Thirty years ago, people like me only cracked the pages of Spivak and Baba to laugh heartily at them. In our innocence we thought they were taking a fine revenge on the Whites who had forced our ancestors to answer questions about whether Hamlet was mad or merely pretending to be mad so as to get a job as a clerk.
Then, JNU and other such places started importing that shit. Homo Baba's 'DissemiNation' is Rahul Baba's theory that India is not a Nation. The chickens have come home to roost with a vengeance. Iran will have the last laugh on India. True, Rahul is only one quarter Iranian by racial heritage but he may yet do to India what the Turks failed to do. Homo, who is a full blooded Parsi, may not have intended any such outcome. Still, he has contributed to it. That must count for something.