Thursday 6 June 2024

Spivak's Zwieschlächtig shite

 Consider the following passage from Spivak-

Zwieschlächtig does not mean 'the site of conflict'. It means 'ambiguous' or having a dual nature- e.g. a pig descended from both wild boars and the domesticated variety. Marxists might say 'labor-power' has a dual nature- it produces both use value and exchange value. But this has nothing to do with conflict or war. If I make a cake- my labor produces use value. If I sell the cake rather than eat it, there is 'exchange value'. 

During the Second World War, Burma, which was part of British India till 1937 and which was the home of about 200,000 Bengalis, had come under Japanese occupation. Calcutta had been bombed by the Japanese. They were defeated on Indian territory at Imphal. Many Bengalis had joined Bose's Indian National Army which fought on the side of the Japanese. Thus, for Spivak's generation, the Second World War was 'close at hand'. Many Americans had served in India during that War and Indians settling in the US in the Sixties would often be warmly received by such people.

Since the sub-continent had plenty of ethnic cleansing at the time of partition- and later during the Bangladesh war- the Holocaust wasn't particularly horrible. Stalin had done and would do similar things as would Mao. What was strange was that Hitler spent money on killing people. Why not just let ordinary folk get on with that job using agricultural implements? 

India was too poor to make very much of a contribution in either World War- at least relative to the Brits who lost 880,000 men in the Great War and 380,000 men in the Second War. India lost about 74,000 in the first War and 87,000 in the Second despite having a much bigger population.

 Nepal, not India, had the highest ratio of VC awardees relative to number recruited. Sadly, Independence meant that, unless you had taken a British or American passport, it could be very difficult to go visit your old neighbors across the border. Spivak is talking nonsense. She could have settled in the UK (where there was no visa control on Indians till the Sixties) at the same time as Ranajit Guha or in the US (after '65) but not in East or West Pakistan or Myanmar. Nehru passed a law requiring special permits for the reentry of those who had crossed the border in panic. Pakistan did the same thing. At a later point, Burma and Sri Lanka got rid of a lot of Indian immigrants. Bengalis know this full well. But Spivak has been living in a parallel reality where the Second World occurred only in Europe. 

One can understand today’s world with Woolf’s tiny moment of allusion to imperialism,

 Her husband had been a British civil servant in Ceylon. But there are no 'allusions to imperialism' in her work. This is because colonies were as boring as shit to her generation. 

but its enormity can only be gauged if we remember that, even as Mary Beton senior was taking the air on horseback in Bombay,

Virginia's aunt died in 1909 

Gandhi was rising in power and the first moves of an independence negotiated with the British were being made.

At that time he was an ultra-loyalist. Still, one could say that the 'Bloomsbury set' had given up on India at around the time Curzon was forced to resign as Viceroy. As HG Wells said, the Brits had no plan for India. They should simply clear out and leave the natives to their own devices.  

And even that must be supplemented. We must pray to be haunted by the subaltern who was silenced

Ambedkar was pretty vocal as were tribal leaders 

by the movement toward the Gandhi-Irwin pact of 1930,


a year after the publication of A Room of One’s Own.

There was no connection between the two. London's intellectuals knew India could have got what Ireland and Egypt and Afghanistan got in 1922 by about 1924 under the Labor Government. But Gandhi had surrendered unilaterally. The question was whether Gandhi could prevent the second Labor Government from delivering on its manifesto commitment to Indian independence. The answer was yes. But only because Indians were in no hurry to get rid of the British Umpire.  The 'subaltern' didn't want the Brits to leave because they hated the Hindu 'forward castes' more. 

Sumit Sarkar describes the pact as “a sudden retreat” from the original position held by the Indian National Congress,

Its original position was that of abject loyalty.  

and as a “historical puzzle concerning the change in Gandhi’s attitudes [that] cannot be solved in terms of pressure from Liberal leaders alone

the 'Liberals' had already joined forces with Motilal's Swarajists. They backed the Nehru report and were instrumental in securing the First Round Table Conference, which they made the mistake of attending. 

. . . . There is some evidence that the crucial role was played by [Indian] business pressure.”

Sumit Sarkar has shit for brains. Bombay struck a deal with Manchester and, after that, the Liberals lost salience.

 Gandhi explained at the Second Round Table Conference that the Brits must hand over the Army to the INC before departing. In 1939, he clarified that without the Army, the Muslims and the Punjabis (regardless of creed) would soon beat up the non-violent Hindus and steal all their nice shiny stuff.  Would they also sodomize the Hindus? Gandhi suggested that the Ahimsa fairy might protect their anal cherries. 

The economic facts would undo a binary opposition between Britain and India.

No. The fact that Hindus were shit at fighting is the reason they didn't want Whitey to slyly fuck off. Tagore was very insistent on this point. He'd lose his estates in the East if the Brits ran away.  

Such Area Studies–style social scientific research, complicating the textuality of European literature when it touches the global South,

No. If you know about India, you will know it is foolish to think Woolf had any interest in the place. She genuinely didn't care if Indian women were doing suttee or thugee or agarbatti. The Raj was as boring as shit. Don't go to India unless dysentery appeals to you as a way of life.  

would allow us to realize that the literary text in isolation does not lead directly to savvy politics.

Everybody already knows this just as they know that reading comic books in isolation does not lead directly to getting laid.  

And in this particular case, such work would show that the undoing of the colonizer/colonized binary by economic fact

the British Raj was economic. It was money that paid for the British army and navy and judiciary and bureaucracy which protected Indians from invaders- and each other. India chose to import 'invisibles' from the UK. Gandhi and Nehru may have pretended that the Brits were charging too much or that the Indians could do just as well on their own, but they were lying through their teeth.  

gives us the genealogy of globalization in its current manifestation,

Globalization began when Western Europe conquered the Americas and Africa and a big chunk of South and South East Asia. It was expanding into the MENA after the Great War. But the game was not worth the candle. Shitholes are welcome to rule themselves in howsoever shitty a manner.  

before postcolonialism or liberal multiculturalism began.

Post colonialism began in 1776. Multiculturalism is older than Alexandria.  

Spivak is writing to show that

To supplement Comparative Literature with (comparative) Area Studies allows us to rethink mere national-origin collectivities. What I have described is an obstinate attempt at a formal training of the imagination in the classroom...

It is nonsense. Comparative Literature benefits from background knowledge of geography and history. 'Area Studies' makes stupid kids stupider.  

In a rather trivial sense, capitalist imperialism is an effort to win the world for calculation.

No. Capitalist imperialism is what the Dutch and British East India Companies did. It was an effort to win a good return for investors. In India, this meant that 'munims'- accountants- previously paid by Mughals and Maharajas started working for the Brits.  

 The theme of calculation inspired by a vision of justice underlies Conrad’s staging of Marlow as the latter compares Belgian and British imperialisms

There was no Belgian imperialism at that time. King Leopold presided over a private company looting 'the free state of Congo'.  

and justifies the British variety: 'The conquest of the earth,

which may not be colonial. It may be post-colonial as when the 13 colonies got together and formed the USA which subsequently grabbed a lot of territory from the First Nations.  

which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an uselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to.'

Which is what the Americans did with such great success that everybody now wants a Green Card even if they are dark and have flat noses.  

The requirement for restraint underlies the whole story. Do not “go native,” become obliterated in another collectivity.

Don't do stupid shit.  

If you must listen to the sirens, have your men bind you to the mast. If you lack such restraint, you will discover how horrible it is to be truly uncivilized. 

But you can do stupid shit in your own country. Don't. That's all.  

Disgrace haunts my essay. It is the “real” response to Heart of Darkness, showing how, in this historical conjuncture, in a particular place called South Africa,

Congo is in Central Africa. This woman is a cretin.  

“going native” can be imagined.

Lots of Boers had 'gone native' centuries previously. There was a large 'colored' population. With hindsight, it was a mistake to exclude them from the franchise.  

Heart of Darkness is an early story about such work: the economic calculus of Belgian imperialism

Nope. The thing was a Joint Stock Company with investors though the Belgian King was the formal owner of that territory. It was only annexed by a reluctant Belgium in 1908 because of pressure from other countries.  

touching the raw edge of response from an Englishman who sees the complicity of the seemingly benevolent British imperialism with it.

Leopold had promised to run the place in a decent manner and not to tax trade. But his goons weren't decent at all.  

If to “go native” means to enter the community of others “responsibly,” so that responses can follow from both sides, this novel denies the teleopoiesis that can resonate with evil laughter (see note 5).

Because responsible folk tend not to cackle in an evil manner. But Kurtz hadn't really gone native- i.e. taken a lot of wives and raised a troop of sons while ensuring one of them succeeded him as the Chieftain of the territory he controlled.  The guy was simply a fuck-up. 

In 1996, Derrida wrote as follows: What is identity, this concept of which the transparent identity to itself is always dogmatically presupposed by so many debates on monoculturalism or multiculturalism, nationality, citizenship, and belonging, in general?

This is nonsense. Derrida, in his youth had to carry an identity card. The thing was only made non-compulsory in 1955. French identity was not 'dogmatically presupposed'. It had to be verified. Under Vichy, Derrida's card would also have disclosed he was Jewish. Germany still requires all adults to have a passport or identity card though you don't have to carry it at all times. Thus 'identity' simply isn't dogmatically assumed by any country or culture. No doubt, there may be some stupid debaters who assume stupid shit- but why worry about them?  

And before the identity of the subject, what is ipseity?

what a thing is in itself.  

The latter is not reducible to an abstract capacity to say “I,” which it will always have preceded.

Not in English. The cat has ipseity. It says 'miaow' not 'I'.  

Perhaps it signifies, in the first place, the power of an “I can,” which is more originary than the “I” in a chain where the “pse” of ipse no longer allows itself to be dissociated from power . . . mastery and sovereignty.

This simply isn't the case. Ipseity is an antonym for alterity- otherness. A broken chair has ipseity even though it is wholly disassociated from power or mastery or sovereignty or the sodomization of the subaltern in Singur. 

Two kinds of points are being made in the Derrida text: first, that the ethnos is already self-divided,

It isn't. Ethnos is an intension with a well defined, context specific, extension. There is a 'dokimasiai' type criterion which picks out all and only members of a particular set or class or category.  This may be a justiciable matter but there is a buck-stopping mechanism which ensures that the set is well defined. 

and second, that ipseity or self-sameness has something in common with the planetarity despot—pse reversed—claiming power and property.

Only if there actually is such a despot. Otherwise there is no 'extension' corresponding to the intension. A thing which does not exist has no ipseity.  

Identity politics is neither smart nor good.

Only if politics is neither smart nor good. But having no politics is itself a type of politics. One can say one has no identity, one is self-less, but that is merely a manner of speaking.  

Comparative Literature laced with Area Studies goes rather toward the other.

but gets confused and thinks Congo is in South Africa and that when the Japs bombed Calcutta during the second world war, Calcutta was actually in Europe because it was only in Europe that any fighting took place. 


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