Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lahore Bibliography (Making Lahore Modern)



Gazetteer of the Lahore District 1882-1883 (1884). Lahore: Sange e Meel, 1989.
Gazetteer of the Lahore District 1883-1884.

Report of the Material Progress of the Punjab during the decade 1881-1891. Lahore: Punjab Government Press, 1892.

Census of India, 1891. Vol 19. Punjab and its Feudatories, pt. 1. Simla: Office of the Superintended of Government Printing, 1892.

Griffin, Lepel. The Punjab Chiefs, Lahore 1890.

Guha, Ramachandra. A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian Hitsory of a British Sport. London: Picador, 2002.

Anglo-Indian Domestic Life: A letter from an Artist in India to His Mother. 1862. Calcutta, Subornekha, 1984.

George, Rosemary. “Homes in the Empire, Empire in the Home. Cultural Critique 1994.

Gilmartin, David. Empire and Islam. 1988.
Gilmartin, David. “A Magnificent Gift: Muslim Nationalism and the Election Process in Colonial Punjab.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 40, 3, 1998: 415-36.

Barrier, N. Gerald. The Census in British India. Delhi: Manohar 1981.
Barrier, N. Gerald. The Punjab Alienation of Land Bill of 1900.

Bear, L.G. Miscegenations of Modernity: Constructing European Respectability and Race in the Indian Railway Colony 1857-1931. Women’s History Review 3, no. 4 (1994): 531-48.

Bahadur, Rai Kunhya Lal. “New Railway Station at Lahore.” Professional Papers on Indian Engineering. No. 1 1863-64: 207-8.

Aijazuddin, F.S. Lahore: Illustrated Views of the 19th century. Ahmedabad: Mapin, 1991.

Ali, Imran. Punjab Under Imperialism 1885-1947. Princeton University Press, 1988.

Adir, Gulam Nabi, comp. Chuha aur Plague Billi aur Chuha Aur Mohafize e Jaan Tika (Rat and Plague, Cat and rad, and a Guard). Lahore, 1890. ??????????

Lelyveld, David. “Aligarh’s First Generation. Muslim Solidarity in British India.” Princeton University Press, 1978.

Manucci, Niccolao. The General History of the Mughal Empire (1709). Books. Google?

Pook, A H . Lahore: A Brief History and Guide with Notes on the Darbar Sahib. Lahore: Faletti’s Hotel, 1914.

Scott, David. “Colonial Governmentality.” Social Text 43, 2. 1995.

Singh, Khushwant. Ranjit Singh: Maharaja of the Punjab. Bombay: George Allen and Unwin, 1962.

Sinha, Mrinalini. “Britishness, Clubbality, and the Colonial Public Sphere: The Genealogy of an Imperial Institution in Colonial India.” Journal of British Studies 40, 4. 2001: 489-521.

ARCHIVES at Lahore

Government of Punjab (Punjab Provincial Archives of Pakistan, anarkali’s Tomb, Civil Secretariat, Lahore)
Boards and Committees Department (General)
Home Department Proceedings (General)
“” (Jail)
“” (Judicial)
“” (Legislative)
“” (Medical and Sanitary)
“” (Municipal)
“” (Police)
Public Works department (general)
Lahore Municipal Corporation, Old Record Room Archives, Lahore Case Files

Ganga Ram

The other significant figure was Ganga Ram … who graduated from Roorkee with a degree in civil engineering in 1873, the first year Punjab University began offering courses. The son of a police officer from a village near Amritsar, Ram would become a well-known figure in the city and one of Lahore’s richest and most generous philanthropists; a woman’s hospital bearing his name exists to this day. (84)

Went to England to study architecture and practical engineering in 1883. Returned in 1884.

Bibliographic finds

Margaret MacMillan, Women of the Raj: The Mothers, Wives, and Daughters of the British Empire in India

She extensively cites

Flora Annie Steel and Grace Gardiner, "The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook" (1898)

Cumming, C.F. Gordon. In the Himalayas (1884)

Buckland, C.T. Skethes of Social Life in India (1884)

Caldwell, R.C. The Chutney Lyrics, 2nd Ed. Madras 1889.

Baden-Powell, Lt. General Sir Robert. Indian Memories (1915)

Billington, Mary Frances. Woman in India (1895)

Blunt, Wilfrid Scawen. India Under Ripon: A Private Diary. 1909.

Barnes, Irene H. Behind the Pardah. (London: 1897)

Mayer, J.E. ed. The Humour and Pathos of Anglo-Indian Life. (London, 1895)

Mitchell, Mrs. Murray. In India (1876)

Rowe, A.D. Everyday Life in India. (New York, 1881)

Wilson, Anne. After Five Years in India. (London: 1895)

Also Browsing:

Wolmar, Christian. Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railroads Transformed the World.

For his chapter on Indian railroads, Wolmar depends heavily on Ian Kerr.

Kerr, Ian. Engines of Change: The Railroads that Made India (2007)

Kerr, Ian. Building the Railways of the Raj 1850-1900 (1995)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Viceroy Archibald Wavell, "Jabber-Weeks" poem from 1946

Appears in Wavell: the viceroy's journal, Oxford University Press, 1973.

(July 1 1946)
I picked up Alice through the Looking Glass one evening shortly before the end of the Mission and wrote the parody below; I put it down here but doubt whether it is really worth preserving.

(From Phlawrence through the Indian Ink)
Twas grillig; and the Congreelites
Did harge and shobble in the swope;
All Jinsy were the Pakstanites,
And the spruft Sikhs outstrope.

Beware the Gandhiji, my son,
The satyagraha, the bogy fast,
Beware the Djinnarit, and shun
The frustrious scheduled caste.

He took his crippsian pen in hand,
Long time in draftish mood he wrote,
And fashioned as his lethal brand
A cabimissionary note.

And as he mused with pointed phrase
The Gandhiji, on wrecking bent,
Came tripling down the bhangi ways,
And waffled as he went.

Ed do, Ek do, and blow on blow
The pointed phrase went slicker snack;
And, with the dhoti, Ghosh and goat, he
Came chubilating back.

And hast thou swoozled Gandhiji!
Come to my arms, my blimpish boy!
Hoo-ruddy-ray! O Labour Day,
He shahbashed in his joy.

Twas grillig; and the Congreelites
Did harge and shobble in the swope;
All Jinsy were the Pakstanites,
And the spruft Sikhs outstrope.

"It’s very interesting," said Phlawrence a little wearily, "but it’s rather hard to understand."
"So is nearly everything in this country", answered Hobson-Jobson. "Shall I explain some of the difficult words for you?"
‘Yes, please’, said Phlawrence.
"Well, grillig is in the hot-weather at Delhi, when everyone’s brains are grilled before 2 p.m. and don’t get ungrilled till 2 a.m. Congreelites are animals rather like conger eels, very slippery, they can wriggle out of anything they don’t like. Harge is a portmanteau word, it means to haggle and argue; to shobble is to shift and wobble; a swope is a place open to sweepers. Pakstanites are rather fierce noisy animals, all green, they live round mosques and can’t bear Congreelites. Spruft means spruce and puffed up; outstrope means that they went round shouting out that they weren’t being fairly treated and would take direct action about it."
"That seems a lot for one word to mean," said Phlawrence.
"The Sikhs don’t quite know what it does mean yet," said Hobson-Jobson.
"Well, anyway, the Gandhiji seems to have been swoozled, whatever that means," said Phlawrence, "and I expect that was a good thing."
"But he wasn’t," said Hobson-Jobson, "they found out afterwards that he had swoozled everyone else."
"Thank you very much for your explanation," said Phlawrence after a pause, "but I am afraid it is all still very difficult."

Auden, "Partition"

“Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day/
Patrolling the gardens to keep assassins away,/
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate/
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date/
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect./
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect/
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,/
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,/
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,/
A continent for better or worse divided.//

The next day he sailed for England,
where he quickly forgot/
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,/
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.”

Also see Ramachandra Guha's article citing this poem from 2007:

Kedarnath Singh

Poem, "Broken Down Truck" Printed in Gestures, An Anthology of South Asian Poetry. (Sahitya Akademi, 1996)

It's been there since the last rains
I've seen it standing there
broken down and astonished looking
and it's sprouting

I see
a little creeper
edging along the steering wheel
A small leaf
hangs down next to the horn
as though it wanted to blow it
The truck creaking and groaning
with a noiseless tinkering
A nut's being loosened
A wire tightened
The broken down truck
has been entrusted
to the grass
and the grass seems eager
to change the wheels now

For me it's quite comforting to imagine
that by tomorrow everything will be fixed
I will wake up
and suddenly hear the blare of the horn
and the truck roaring off
to Tinsukia or Bokajan

Evening sets in
The broken down truck's still standing there
staring at me

I wonder
if it wasn't standing there
how difficult it would've been for me to know
that this is my city
and these are my people
and this
is my home

Trans. from Hindi by Manohar Bandopadhyay/Christi Merill/Daniel Weissbort

Here is K. Satchidanandan on Kedarnath Singh and modernism in Indian literature. From Indian Literature: Positions and Propositions. Delhi: Pencraft International 1999.

Modernism, and later postmodernism, in Indian languages came chiefly from those writers who had been driven to the urban environment by the pressures of day-to-say even while their roots lay in the villages. The alienation, loss of identity, nostalgia, doubt, tension, disenchantment and crisis of confidence all of which have been identified as the hallmarks of modernist literary sensibility are a byproduct of this encounter between the two worlds. Different writers have negotiated this contradiction using different strategies, for no modernist/post-modernist writer can afford to go back to the binary opposition of earlier writing where the rural is associated with simplicity, innocence and peace and the urban, with chaos, corruption and evil. [...] Any authentic expression of India's contemporary experience will have to avoid these extremes; the only way is to pluralize and complexify the representation so that it captures all the nuances of this tension. The fact thta our country's half-way industrialization has not achieved a genuine urbanisation and even for the urban worker, the village is the dream and the nest of kinships while the city is his reality by compulsion rather than by choice, makes the situation even more subtle and complex.

On "Tuta Hua Truck". Quotes from an interview with Kedarnath Singh [from Making it New 1995. Do I have this at home?]:

When I was working in that small town I told you about, I happened to see an abandoned truck beside the road, sprouting all over. A friend of mine commented that it had become a 'natural' phenomenon. Even after coming to Delhi, that theme haunted me. The poem was written in Delhi but it is not a Delhi poem. The whole life it depicts is that of those people who are like broken trucks. A truck is a modern machine but in a peculiar sense, it is a developed form of bullock-cart. I cannot dissociate the bullock-cart from the truck just as I can't separate the wooden boat from the huge concrete bridge. The whole story of development is a historical process from bullock-cart to truck and from boat to bridge. So for me, the broken, abandoned sprouting truck was the whole human life in those small towns. Life is there, as sprouting suggests, but there is also stagnation. The contrast is striking." (Satchidanand, 165)

Here is some of Satchidanand's own reading:

The concluding part of the poem is epiphanic. The truck here takes on a new meaning: it becomes a symbol of recognition, the only mark by which the poet can identify his home, his city and his people. Here the poem becomes the intense expression of an alienation. The advancing disintegration of social ties, the growing atomisation of society, the ever-increasing isolation of individuals from one another and the solitude necessarily inherent in such tendencies of fragmentation and privatization -- which are themselves products of alienation -- mark the predicament of man today, a state of dehumanization the poet finds hard to reconcile with. (166)

Irish Raj: Names and figures

Rajah Thomas. George Thomas, author of Maharaja of Tipperary.
Set himself up as a Rajah in his own territory, eventually defeated by the British army. Fell in love with Begum Somru.

William Henry Tone, brotehr of Wolfe Tone, who left the East India company's army to serve Indian rulers. Eventually killed during the storming of a fort.

Lord and Lady Dufferin from County Down, Northern Ireland. Viceroy of India at the time Kipling was there -- they knew each other in Simla, and Lord Dufferin's son twice proposed marriage to Alice Kipling (Rudyard's sister). "I've always liked Irishmen, but I draw the line at marrying them!"

Lord Dufferin himself: "Unless some definite line is taken in these matters, we shall soon have something like a Home Rule organization established in India, on Irish lines under the patronage of Irish and Radical members of Parliament." (Irish Raj, 14)

Sister Nivedita, born Margaret Noble in Northern Ireland in 1867. Recruited by Swami Vivekananda, who wanted her in part because of the "Celtic blood". She converted to Hinduism after moving to India in 1898.

Swami Vivekananda: "Let me tell you frankly that I am now convinced that you have a great future in work for India. What is wanted is not a man, but a woman; a real lioness, to work for the Indians, women especially. India cannot yet produce great women, she must borrow them from other nations. Your education, sincerity, purity, immense love, determination and above all the Celtic blood, makes you just the woman wanted."

On the other hand, Vivekananda again: "You cannot form any idea of the misery the superstition, and the slavery that are there. You will be in the midst of a mass of half-naked men and women with quaint ideas of caste...shunning the white skin through fear or hatred and hated by them will be looked by the white as a crank and your movements will be watched with suspicion."

Annie Besant.

First came to India in 1893. Associated with Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophist movement, unfortunately. Still, she met Gandhi through it, in London in 1915 (Gandhi had joined the Theosophical Society).

[James Cousins, editor of "New India" a literary journal in the model of the Irish literary revival].

She founded in 1892, a college at Benaras, called the Central Hindu College. In 1916, it became Benaras Hindu University. According to Narinder Kapur:" At the time of its inauguration, she and Mahatma Gandhi both spoke from the same platform. She was actively involved in the Indian freedom movement. She was one of the originators of the Home Rule Movement in India, and she started this in 1916, soon after the Easter Rebellion in Ireland. In 1917 she was elected President of the Indian National Congress, the major political movement that was clamoring for Indian fredom." (Narinder Kapur, The Irish Raj, 23)

Amy Carmichael, worked with Devadasis in southern India. Founded a community with rescued girls, called Dohnavur.

Margaret Cousins. Founder of the All-India Women's confeence. Came to India partly inspired by Annie Besant, at a Theosophical Society meeting in London.

A Cricketing Prince Comes to Ireland: "Ranjitsinhji Vighaji, Maharajah Jam Saheb of Nawanagar." 1872-1933. From Sarodar, in the western Indian province of Kathiwar. Trinity College, Cambridge. Apparently a famous cricketer.

Eventually bought Ballynahinch Castle. (Today Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, on the road between Galway and Clifden). Did a lot of fishing at Ballynahinch.... Alan Ross's book about him: Ranji: Prince of Cricketers (1983)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rediscovering my own article: The Communalization of Censorship

Completely outclassed by Manjunath Pendakur's article in "Gender & Censorship," but there it is.

The communalisation of censorship August 2006

By: Amardeep Singh

Censorship in India is increasingly out of the hands of government, and in the grip of self-appointed politico-cultural guardians.

The recent agitations in India against The Da Vinci Code, the US conspiracy film about the Catholic church, took some observers by surprise. For those who have been following the drift of India’s media culture over the past few years, however, the real surprise was that the film was introduced in the country at all. Indeed, the movement to ban The Da Vinci Code comes at the end of a long string of controversies involving religious communities who claim their sentiments have been hurt by films – including Deepa Mehta’s 1996 Fire and Rahul Rawail’s 2005 Jo Bole So Nihaal, to name just two examples. Religious conservatives have also instigated riots over purely non-religious films, such as the lesbian-themed Girlfriend, which was also vehemently criticised by gay-rights groups in India.

Despite the turn to globalisation and liberalisation, it appears that India is in the midst of a spike in banning and resultant self-censorship. Censorship continues to thrive in India – though in a new paradigm, with the Indian government reduced to the status of an enabling bystander, as the threat of communalist-inspired theatre-burnings make directors and producers more circumspect than they need to be.

This new culture of censorship is cultural rather than governmental, which is to say that while it tends to be backed by political parties, it is intensely communal. In the British Raj, as well as through most of India’s independent era, the main motive of state censorship in the domain of print was anti-popular: it aimed to stifle political subversion, whether it was anti-imperial propaganda in the 1910s or anti-Congress party writing in the 1970s. Up until the banning of Salman Rushdie’s allegedly anti-Islamic The Satanic Verses (one month after its 1988 publication) most works prohibited by New Delhi were political in nature, and criticised either a historical nationalist figure or the current administration – this is why Michael Edwards’ Nehru: A Political Biography was banned in 1975.

Since India became the first country to ban Rushdie’s book, however, censorship has become increasingly ‘communal’, and works about religious figures and mythic cultural heroes have had to confront censorship. When a book or film makes it to the market past the censors, it is still liable to arouse protests and violence, forcing publishers and producers to withdraw the ‘offending’ work. In 2004, American religious-studies professor James Laine’s book Shivaji: A Hindu King in Islamic India provoked the trashing of Pune’s staid Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute for helping the author with his research, even after the book had been withdrawn by its publisher.

As far as cinema is concerned, the official censor board had historically focused on vanquishing sex on the screen, rather than what was perceived as political subversion (though politics was unquestionably also suppressed). Today, the film industry has also been dragged down by the new censorious culture. Between 2000 and 2004, the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, did its best to ban any film critical of its policies. The attitude is exemplified by the prohibition slapped on two political documentaries, Anand Patwardhan’s film War and Peace, which focused on the nuclear tests of 1998, and Rakesh Sharma’s The Final Solution, which took on the Gujarat government of Narendra Modi over the 2002 riots.

With a secular United Progressive Alliance government led by the Congress party currently in power, the central government strictures may have been loosened, but state and non-state actors have already gotten the taste of censorship and bannings. And so, even where the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and the Supreme Court have ruled in favour of films such as The Da Vinci Code (with changes inserted in deference to Indian Christians), seven individual states have still found reason to ban the film. And in what may be the most absurd case of censorship of all, the state of Gujarat attempted to ban the inoffensive film Fanaa – not because of any objectionable content, but rather because actor Aamir Khan had the temerity to criticise Chief Minister Modi’s government’s handling of the relocation of villagers displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam.

Helpless censors?
There have been numerous attempts over the years to reform film censorship. A 1970s book provocatively called Bare Breasts and Bare Bottoms protested the incoherence of censors’ approaches to representations of sexuality, seething against the censors’ almost fetishistic concern that hemlines be maintained at a certain length, or that the camera not linger too long on certain parts of the female body. After the filing of an official committee report in 1976, some liberalisation was sanctioned, but not much really changed for Bollywood – except perhaps that the word ‘censor’ was replaced by ‘certification’. In 2002, the chair of the CBFC, Vijay Anand, tried to initiate another round of reforms, but he was quickly forced to resign.

Little of substance, perhaps, can be done on the official front now, anyways. The communalisation of politics has created an atmosphere where the expectation of societal censorship is playing a role in stifling creativity, even more than the post-production act of the official censor. Most of the time, agitations by an ‘offended’ religious community are pre-emptive efforts – driven by the expectation of insult, rather than the actual experience. In many cases, what is deemed offensive is vaguely defined, without regard to the contextual aspects of a book, film or work of art, which might explain or mitigate a potentially insulting image or phrase.

Take Bombay artist M F Husain’s work Bharat Mata, which was the target of a nationwide campaign and court case this past spring. The central figure’s nudity is respectful and beautiful, rather than exploitative, but has nevertheless been adjudged offensive by the cultural guardians of India’s self-image. Some paintings by Husain that feature Hindu deities in suggestive poses might admittedly be deemed offensive, but surely in this painting it is simply the idea of a nude Mother India that has led not just to criminal proceedings against the artist, but the threat of violence as well. One leader of the far-right Shiv Sena has offered INR 50,000 to anyone who will chop off Husain’s hands and deliver them to the Sena leader, the fiery but aging Bal Thackeray.

Similarly, the controversy over the film Jo Bole So Nihaal (a comedy involving a Sikh policeman) emerged despite the filmmakers’ extensive efforts to have the film approved by the leaders of the Sikh community in advance of public screening. In the end, the only objectionable aspect of the film cited by the Sikh organisations that condemned it was the use of the religiously-significant phrase in the title. But while that phrase perhaps suffers somewhat from association with what is a B-grade spy film, the Sikh faith is neither criticised nor attacked in the script. The subsequent agitations inspired a reactivated wing of the Babbar Khalsa (one of the oldest militant Sikh separatist groups) to set off bombs in two theatres in New Delhi, killing one and injuring almost 50.

Censorship devolution
While India as a whole seems to be marching towards liberalisation on both the political and cultural fronts, the future of censorship remains uncertain, partly because of a possible contradiction in the Indian Constitution itself. The very first section of Article 19 guarantees freedom of expression, but the second clause subsequently indicates that the government retains authority “to legislate concerning libel, slander, defamation, contempt of court, any matter offending decency and morality, or which undermines the security of or tends to overthrow, the State.” It is this text that is repeatedly cited by the state when it agrees to demands by religious groups to ban works of art: the security of the state. But security for whom, and from what? The irony is that the threat to security from censorious religious groups is the threat they themselves pose. It is hard to understand why the religious groups responsible for fomenting riots against offensive works are not being prosecuted, and in their places are writers, artists and filmmakers.

Certainly the question should be asked: What about images that are specifically created to offend, such as the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed? Or, along the same lines, what should be done with a film that fans the flame of communal hatred? With the anti-Islamic cartoons, it is always the prerogative of news organisations to decide whether or not to print a certain kind of image; the state need not get involved. Self-regulation could also work quite well in cinema. One could argue that a number of communally-inflected films were indeed released in the 1990s and early 2000s – the worst offender probably being the Partition super-hit Gadar in 2001, which featured a heavily slanted representation of Islam and Pakistan. And yet, these saffronised films were rubber-stamped by the BJP-friendly censor board of that period. Still, despite the surge of communally-themed films in the mid-1990s, it is worth noting that no film led directly to any reported act of violence against religious minorities. The attempt to suppress controversial material, on the other hand, has often had that result.

Though the current shift towards the ‘communalisation’ of censorship is not driven by the government, the government will have to take a leadership role in correcting the trend. An obvious solution is to abolish the current system of censorship by government altogether, removing it as an object in the agenda of religious groups. The maintenance of a censorship system in an otherwise free society is based on a paternalistic and oversimplified concept of what literary and artistic representations actually do. The paternalism is a holdover from colonialism, and is gradually declining as the authority of India’s old elites gives way to the new, technocratic, free-market order. But the misconception of the nature and function of the work of art remains widespread. It is mistaken to believe that watching or reading violent films and books will induce masses of people to commit acts of violence. In a mature democracy, questions about how to discuss religion ought to be worked out through public debate. Instead, what we have seen is the cancerous growth of a culture of banning and censorship, which exploits an aspect of the government’s paternalism for communalist purposes – not to maintain an environment of mutual respect and tolerance, but to undermine it.

Still searching for...

Raminder Kaur's "Censorship in South Asia" collection

Meenakshi Thapan, Ed. Embodiment: Essays on Gender and Identity. Delhi: OUP, 1997.

Contains an essay by Patricia Uberoi, "Dharma and Desire, Freedom and Destiny: Rescripting the Man-woman Relationship in Popular Hindi Cinema." (145-171)

Got hold of a collection called "Gender & Censorship". Edited by Brinda Bose. Kali for Women, 2006.

Contains an essay by Tejaswini Niranjana, "Questions for Feminist Film Criticism" which challenges Uberoi's essay, as well as theses from Lalita Gopalan. The volume also contains an excerpt from the "Report of the Working Group on National Film Policy (1980)" [chapter 14: Censorship]

Rachel Dwyer on Hindi film Realism. Melodrama and Darshan

From Cinema India.
Rachel Dwyer and Divia Patel.
Rutgers University Press 2002.

Indian cinema uses a certain type of realism, largely drawn from literary and middle-class sensibilities that are heavily influenced by Western culture. In the Indian film industry it operates in a melodramatic mode, a form often found in societies where the pre-modern is giving way to the modern. While some Hindi films are made in a more realistic mode, such as those influenced closely by the social concern novel and the Indian People's Theatre Association movement (for example the films of Bimal roy, which also drew on Italian neo-realism), others are more melodramatic.


Melodrama foregrounds language, as it makes all feelings exterior, with the characters verbalizing their feelings and creating discourses on their emotions. In the Hindi movie one of the key places for an outpouring of feeling is the song lyric, where visuals and language are simultaneously foregrounded. This also applies to the dialogues, which are often delivered, rather than spoken, in a grand theatrical manner, ranging from such formulaic expressions or already interpreted speech as 'yeh shaadi ho nahi sakti' or 'main teraa khun piungaa' to the realistic in films where realism dominates. (28-29)

Another issue that comes up often with regards to realism is the theory of 'darshan' in films (discussed on p. 33). The origin for the "dashan" idea is Diana Eck, though Ravi Vasudevan and Madhava Prasad also refer to it.

Madhava Prasad, who is keen to avoid orientalizing discussions of the cultural specificity of the Hindi film, is unable to avoid discussion of the practice of darshan(a). This term is used for a structure of spectation found in Hindu religious practice (and also in some social and political practices), in which the image authorizes the look (rathre than being merely its object), thereby benefiting the beholder. In other words, darshan is a two-way look, the beholder takes darshan (darshan lena0 and the object gives darshan (darshan dena), in which the image rather than the person has power. Ravi Vasudevan argues that darshan can have enabling as well as authoritative functions. He argued in an earlier article that the use of stasis and tableaux permits this hierarchical darshan, a contention I find persuasive. The star frequently appears in tableau scenes that seem to invite darshan, thus hierarchizing the look and giving the star associations with the traditional granters of darshan, notably kings and gods. (33)

Rachel Dwyer on the Bollywood Kiss: Quotes

Kiss or Tell? Declaring Love in Hindi Films
Rachel Dwyer.

From Francesca Orsini, Ed. Love in South Asia: A Cultural History. Cambridge University Press, 2006, 289-302.

Form of the Hindi film:
The form of the Hindi film, it has often been remarked, is a loose assemblage of parts. This is largely a result of its particular mode of production, as the various elements of the film are made by specialized personnel, such as dance directors, music directors, stunt directors and so on. As a consequence, the cinematic codes may vary from one section of a film to another, notably between the narrative and the song and dance sequences, with several important effects on the film. Ravi Vasudevan has argued that in Indian cinema the ‘relationship between narrative, performance sequence and action spectacle is loosely structured in the fashion of a cinema of attractions.’ [quoting Vasudevan: ‘The Politics of Cultural Address in a ‘Transitional’ cinema: a Case Study of Popular Indian Cinema,’ in C. Gledhill and L. Willliams, Eds. Reinventing Film Studies. (London: Arnold, 2000), p. 131. Vasudevan is quoting Tom Gunnning, ‘The Cinema of Attraction (1986)] (p. 289-290 in the Orsini volume)

Continuity and linearity:

In other words, this is an exhibitionist cinema in which linear narrative, driven by characters and the logic of the narrative itself, and the realist illusion of film are interrupted by spectacle and other ‘attractions’. The song and dance sequences form one of the major attractions in the Hindi film.
Erotic in Hindi cinema (continued directly from the passage above):
[A]s Asha Kasbekar has argued, they function mostly as erotic digressions from the main plot in the film, to allow ‘areas of heightened transgressive pleasure.’ [cited in Kasbekar, ‘Hidden pleasures: Negotiating the Myth of the Female Ideal in Popular Hindi Cinema.’ In R. Dwyer and C. Pinney, Eds. Pleasure and the Nations: the History, Consumption and Politics of Public Culture in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 286-308.] They provide voyeuristic pleasure although they often disavow their own voyeurism through various mechanisms such as refracting the audience’s glance through an on-screen viewer. My focus here, however, is on love and romance, and I will concentrate on the intimate and the romantic leaving aside these other concerns of sexuality and eroticism. (290)


As mentioned above, the erotic in Hindi films is largely contained in its song and dance sequences. Although the erotic content of films lies beyond the scope of this paper, it concerns us in that it is one of the main arenas of censorship of cinema in India. Hindi cinema has evolved its own code of showing the erotic and, to some extent, the intimate, though self-censorship or fear of cuts that might be imposed by the censor boards. These include the famous ‘wet sari sequences’ where the heroine, and increasingly the hero, are soaked by water, usually rain, and sing songs of love, longing and desire. (291)

On kissing. Refers to the absence of kissing in Yash Chopra films (294). Note that Dwyer is also author of a book on Yash Chopra.

On kissing in general:
It is often said that ‘Indians don’t kiss.’ This is of course, unverifiable. However, kissing is certainly described in the elaborate taxonomy of the Kama Sutra, which has a whole range of possible varieties of kisses and bites. The most that can be said is that kissing is something that Indians do not and should not do in public. I vaguely remember some minor scandal in India when the actress Padmini Kohlapure kissed the Prince of Wales, and another when same sex kissing was shown on the cover of Stardust magazine. This absence of public kissing may be seen as upholding national culture in the face of Westernisation and as such it became an unwritten rule of self-censorship in Hindi cinema. This is the usual argument explaining the absence of kissing in the cinema and may be located with other publicly expressed fears of the Westernisation of Indian intimacy as seen lately in the demonstrations held against Valentine’s Day in Bombay. The paradox of the absence of the kiss and the presence of the erotic can be explained by the frequent containment of the erotic within the song in the film. (294-295)

There is eroticism, but no kissing:
Given that the narrative sections of Hindi films use the classic conventions of Hollywood, one may expect the absence of the kiss to leave a gap. In Hindi films, the couple rush together and hug but do not kiss. This looks, comical, as in a moment of passion the hero and heroine hug in a most unerotic manner. In other instances, the light goes out or the camera pans or the lovers’ reflection in a pool is disturbed as they approach one another. Yet there is no prohibition on the erotic: in song sequences we see lips meeting, or almost meeting, and many parts of the body other than the lips. The only absence is a kiss on the lips.
One major reason offered within the Hindi film industry is that many of the top actors refuse to act in kissing scenes. Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and others simply refuse to kiss, so their directors and producers have to agree. […]
All along I have assumed that the audience wants to see kissing, but Prasad reminds us that, actually, the men in the audience do not want to see it, as it would undermine their patriarchal control. The reason for this could be that given kissing is not a public activity in India and the film audience is often a family one, the audience would be uncomfortable with such scenes in front of their parents and their children. (297-298)

The kiss is back:

Yash Chopra depicts a long kiss in Mohabbatein (2000), when earlier he would not have a kiss even between an adulterous couple depicted seemingly naked in a bedroom sequence (Silsila, 1981). One reason for this return of the kiss may be that the big budget glossy romance, which has dominated the box office in the last decade, is aimed at a younger audience of college students, who view films with their friends rather than their parents and who have more liberal attitudes to displays of physical intimacy. (299-300)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Film Adaptation: Auteurs and Authors. (Timothy Corrigan: Film and Literature)

Timothy Corrigan, "Film and Literature: An Introduction and Reader" (Prentice Hall, 1999)

Corrigan recommends an essay by Jean Mitry, "Remarks on the Problem of Cinematic Adaptation"

Dudley Andrew, Concepts in Film Theory

Judith Mayne, Private Novels, Public Films


In most discussions of adaptation, a key term is fidelity, a notion that asks to what extent an adaptation is true to or faithful to the original text. common discussions about fidelity and adaptation presume five questions in determining how faithful the film adaptation is: (1) To what extent are the details of the settings and plot accurately retained or recreated? (2) To what extent do the nuance and complexity of the characters survive the adaptation? (3) To what extent are the themes and ideas of the source communicated in the adaptation? (4) to what extent has a different historical or cultural context altered the original? (5) To what extent has the change in the material or mode of communication (a printed page, a stage, 35 mm film) changed the meaning of the work for a reader or viewer?

Other ways to approach adaptation are to replace notions of fidelity with terms that allow for more creative exchanges between the original text and its adaptation. (20)

Corrigan Quoting Peter Wollen on auteurs who are inspired by literary texts:

What the auteur theory demonstrates is that the director is not simply in command of a performance of an existing text...Don Siegel was recently asked on television what he took from hemingway's short story for his film, The Killers. Siegel replied that 'the only thing taken from it was the catalyst that a man has been killed by somebody and he did not try to run away.' The word siegel chose -- 'catalyst' -- could not be better. incidents and episodes in the original screenplay or novel can act as catalysts; they are the agents which are introduced in the mind (conscious or unconscious) of the auteur and react there with the motifs and themes characteristic of his work. The director does not subordinate himself to another author; his source is only a pretext, which provides catalysts, scenes, which fuse with his own preoccupations to produce a radically new work. Thus the manifest process of performance, the treatment of a subject, conceals the latent production of a quite new text, the production of a director as an auteur. (Wollen 112-113; quoted in Corrigan, 51)

(From Wollen, Signs and Meaning in the Cinema. Revised Edition. Indiana, 1972)

Dudley Andrew, on "Adaptation":

The broader notion of adaptation has much in common with interpretation theory, for in a strong sense adaptation is the appropriation of a meaning from a prior text. The hermeneutic circle, central to interpretation theory, preaches that an explication of a text occurs only after a prior understanding of it, yet that prior understanding is justified by the careful explication it allows. In other words, before we can go about discussing an analyzing a text we must have a global conception of its meaning. Adaptation is similarly both a leap and a process. It can put into play the intricate mechanism of its signifiers only in response to a general understanding of the signified it aspires to have constructed at the end of its process. While all representational films function this way (as interpretations of a person, place, situation, event, and so forth), we reserve a special place for those films which foreground this relation by announcing themselves as versions of some standard whole. A standard whole can only be a text. A version of it is an adaptation in the narrow sense. (quoted in Corrigan, 263)

More Andrew:

The making of film out of an earlier text is virtually as old as the machinery of cinema itself. Well over half of all commercial films have come from literary originals--though by no means all of these originals are revered or respected. (quoted in Corrigan, 263-264)

In the opening pages of Film and Literature, Corrigan refers to literary adaptations from the very early years of cinema, including Cinderella (1900), Robinson Crusoe (1902), Gulliver's Travels (1902), Uncle Tom's Cabin (1903), and The Damnation of Faust (1904). [Corrigan 17]

Fidelity vs. Fertility with "generality of the original":

Here the main concern is the generality of the original, its potential for wide and varied appeal; in short, its existence as a continuing form or archetype in culture. This is especially true of that adapted material which, because of its frequent reappearance, claims the status of myth: Tristan and Isolde for certain, and A Midsummer Night's Dream possibly. The success of adaptations of this sort rests on the issue of their fertility not their fidelity. (quoted in Corrigan, 264)

Andrew has three concepts of adaptation -- Borrowing, Intersecting, and Transforming. Borrowing is in the paragraph quoted above.

Intersecting is a little different:

Here the uniqueness of the original is intentionally left unassimilated in adaptation. The cinema, as a separate mechanism, records its confrontation with an ultimately intransigent text. Undoubtedly the key film exhibiting this relation is Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest. Andre Bazin, championing this film and this mode [What is Cinema, 142-149], claimed that in this instance we are presented not with an adaptation so much as a refraction of the original. Because Bresson featured the writing of the diary and because he went out of his way to avoid 'opening up' or in any other way cinematizing the original, Bazine claims that the film is the novel as seen by cinema.

[...] in direct contrast to the manner scholars have treated the mode of 'borrowing,' such intersecting insists that the analyst attend to the specificity of the original within the specificity of the cinema. An original is allowed its life, its own life, in the cinema. (Quoted in Corrigna, 265)

When it comes to "transforming" the text on screen, Andrew gets into a fair amount of theory -- how written language creates meaning vs. how visual images create meaning: "It is at this point that the specificity of these two signifying systems is at stake" (266). Eventually, he comes around to saying that there is a fundamental similarity between signification in the two forms:

Narrative codes, then, always function at the level of implication or connotation. Hence they are potentially comparable in a novel and a film. The story can be the same if the narrative unites (characters, events, motivations, consequences, context, viewpoint, imagery, and so on) are produced equally in two works. Now this production is, by definition, a process of connotation and implication. the analysis of adatpation then must point to the achievement of equivalent narrative units in the absolutely different semiotic systems of film and language. Narrative itself is a semiotic system available to both and derivable from both.

[...]We have come round to the other side of the argument now to find once more that the study of adaptation is logically tantamount to the study of the cinema as a whole. The system by which film involves us in fictions and the history of that system are ultimately the questions we face even when starting with the simple observation of an equivalent tale told by novel and film. (268-269)

From the Judith Mayne excerpt:

David O. Selznick:

I have discovered that the public will forgive you for any number of omissions--particularly of subordinate material which is not directly connected with the main plot--but it won't forgive you for deliberate changes. For that reason I have found it best to make the bridging scenes which span the omissions as suggestive as possible. That is, by picking up dialogue and even phrases from other parts of the book and using such to construct the bridging scenes, the audience is given the illusion of seeing and hearing that with which they are already familiar. (quoted Corrigan, 274)

(Selznick cited in Margaret Farrand Thorp, America at the Movies. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1939, 242-243.)

Mayne herself:

Spectatorship in the cinema evokes parallels between watching a film and reading a novel, and in this sense incorporates readership into the classical cinema. In a more general way, spectatorship in the cinema is structured by the relationship between private and public existence. The separation of private and public spheres to which the middle-class novel responds has, in the era of cinema, changed dimensions. Narratives of private and public life have been appropriated from one set of historical circumstances to another. (quoted in Corrigan 278)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bibliography for 6/10

Read Ashish Rajadhyaksha's entry on "Indian Cinema" in "World Cinema: Critical Approaches" (2000).

Looked briefly at Rashmi Dube Bhatnagar, Renu Dube, and Reena Dube "Female Infanticide in India" (2005). Would love to look at it more closely if I have time.

Jeremy Seabrook, "Life and Labour in a Bombay Slum" (1987) seems like an important antecedent to Suketu Mehta's "Maximum City." It was published the same year "Salaam Bombay" was filmed.

Signing out:

Timothy Corrigan, "Film and Literature: An Introduction and Reader" (1999).

Somdatta Mondal, "Film and Fiction: Word into Image" (2006). Has a chapter on Asian American "masala".

Arvind Rajagopal, "The Indian Public Sphere" (1999), a collection with a few essays by authors I'd like to follow up on.

Would like to get:

Tejaswini Ganti's chapter from "Censorship in South Asia" (ed. Raminder Kaur, 2009) (Signed out at Upenn)

Rachel Dwyer's chapter on Love in Hindi cinema in "Love in South Asia: A Cultural History" (recently returned @ Bryn Mawr; signed out at Upenn)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stuart Hall, Thinking the Diaspora: Home-Thoughts from Abroad

Stuart Hall, "Thinking the Diaspora: Home-Thoughts from Abroad" (In Postcolonialisms)

Interesting historical reference point at the opening of the essay SS Empire Windrush, which landed at the Tilbury docks in 1948, with "West Indian volunteers, returning from home-leave in the Caribbean, together with a small company of civilian migrants." This event is thought of as the beginning of the "birth date of the Afro-Caribbean postwar black diaspora" (543).

Hall on the reconfiguring that comes with diasporization:

However, it would be wrong to see these trends as singular or unambiguous. In the diaspora situation, identities become multiple. Alongside an associative connection with a particular island 'home there are other centripetal forces: there is the West-Indianness that they share with other West Indian migrants. (George Lamming once remarked that his . . . generation became 'West Indian,' not in the Caribbean, but in London!) (544)

The above quote reminds me of a similar effect for South Asian immigrants in the diaspora. At home, they are Punjabi Jats and Kashmiri Pandits. Abroad, they become "desi" -- or South Asian.

Hall quoting Iain Chambers:

We can never go home, return to the primal scene, to the forgotten moment of our beginnings and 'authenticity,' for there is always something else between. We cannot return to a bygone unity, for we can only know the past, memory, the unconscious through its effects, that is when it is brought into language and from there embark on an (interminable) analysis. (544-545)

(from Iain Chambers, Border Dialogues: Journeys in Post-Modernity. London: Routledge, 1990, p. 104.)

The "diasporic aesthetic" -- actually a term from Kobena Mercer!

Across a whole range of cultural forms there is a powerful syncretic dynamic which critically appropriates elements from the master-codes of the dominant cultures and creolizes them, disarticulating given signs and re-articulating their symbolic meaning otherwise. The subversive force of this hybridizing tendency is most apparent at the level of language itself . . . where creoles, patois, and Black english decntre, destabilize and carnivalize the linguistic domination of 'English' --the nation-language of master-discourse--through strategic inflections, reaccentuations and other performative moves in semantic, syntactic, and lexical codes. (549)

(Source: Kobena mercer, "Diaspora Culture and the Dialogic Imagination." In Welcome To The Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies. London: Routledge, 1994, 63-64.)

The idea of a "diaspora aesthetic" might be an analytic term we could use to describe MN's films. Where Kobena Mercer talks about the aesthetic as "most apparent at the level of language itself," we could say that it's embedded in Nair's filmic language...

Revisiting Arif Dirlik on "The Postcolonial Aura"

Arif Dirlik, "The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism." Critical inquiry 20 (Winter 1994): 328-356.

Cited in "Postcolonialisms." Ed. Gaurav Desai and Supriya Nair.

Postcolonial vs. Third World:

Even at its most concrete, the significance of postcolonial is not transparent, because each of its meanings is overdetermined by the others. Postcolonial intellectuals are clearly the producers of a postcolonial discourse, but who exactly are the postcolonial intellectuals? Here the contrast between postcolonial and its predecessor term, Third World, may be revealing. The term Third World, postcolonial critics insist, was quite vague in encompassing within one uniform category vastly heterogeneous historical circumstances and in locking in fixed positions, structurally if not geographically, societies and populations that shifted with changing global relationships. Although this objection is quite valid, the fixing of societal locations, misleadingly or not, permitted the identification of say, Third world intellectuals with the concreteness of places of origin. Postcolonial does not permit such identification. I wondered above whethe rther might have been a postcolonial consciousness, by which I mean the consciousness that postcolonial intellectuals claim as a hallmark of their intellectual endeavors, even before it was so labeled. Probably there was, although it was invisible because subsumed under the category Third World. Now that postcolonialisty has been released from the fixity of Third World location, the identity of the postcolonial is no longer structural but discursive. (564)

Quoting Gyan Prakash on the fundamental epistemological shift reflected by postcolonial criticism:

One of the distinct effects of the recent emergence of postcolonial criticism has been to force a radical re-thinking and re-formulation of forms of knowledge and social identities authored and authorized by colonialism and western domination. For this reason, it has also created a ferment in the field of knowledge. This is not to say that colonialism and its legacies remained unquestioned until recently: nationalism and marxism come immediately to mind as powerful challenges to colonialism. But both of these operated with master narratives that put Europe at its center. Thus, when nationalism, reversing Orientalist thought, attributed agency and history to the subjected nation, it also staked a claim to the order of Reason and
Progress instituted by colonialism; and when marxists pilloried colonialism, their criticism was framed by a universalist mode-of production narrative. Recent postcolonial criticism, on the other hand, seeks to undo the Eurocentrism produced by the institution of the west's trajectory, its appropriation of the other as History. It does so, however, with the acute realization that postcoloniality is not born and nurtured in a panoptic distance from history. The postcolonial exists as an aftermath, as an after--after being worked over by colonialism. Criticism formed in this process of the enunciation of discourses of domination occupies a space that is neither inside nor outside the history of western domination but in a tangential relation to it. This is what Homi Bhabha calls an in-between, hybrid position of practice and negotiation, or what Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak terms catachresis; "reversing, displacing, and seizing the apparatus of value-coding." (564-565)

(The Gyan Prakash essay cited is "Postcolonial Criticism and Indian Historiography," Social Text, no. 31/32 (1992): 8. Another essay often cited by Dirlik is "Writing Post-Orientalist Histories of the Third world: Perspectives from Indian Historiography. Comparative Studies in Society and History 32 (April 1990): 383. )

On the gap between diasporic postcolonialists and actual non-western intellectual communities over the value the term "postcolonial":

On the other hand, the term postcolonial, understood in terms of its discursive thematics, excludes from its scope most of those who inhabit or hail from postcolonial societies. It does not account for the attractions of modernization and nationalism to vast numbers in Third World populations, let alone to those marginalized by national incorporation in the global economy. Prakash seems to acknowledge this when he observes that "outside the first world, in India itself, the power of western discourses operates through its authorization and deployment by the
nation-state-the ideologies of modernization and instrumentalist science are so deeply sedimented in the national body politic that they neither manifest themselves nor function exclusively as forms of imperial power" ("PC," p. 10). It excludes the many ethnic groups in postcolonial societies (among others) that, obviously unaware of their hybridity, go on massacring one another. (568)

And here is Dirlik's payoff, the bitter medicine for postcolonial intellectuals:

What then may be the value of a term that includes so much beyond and excludes so much of its own postulated premise, the colonial? What it leaves us with is what I have already hinted at: postcolonial, rather than a description of anything, is a discourse that seeks to constitute the world in the self-image of intellectuals who view themselves (or have come to view themselves) as postcolonial intellectuals. That is, to recall my initial statement concerning Third World intellectuals who have arrived in First World academe, postcolonial discourse is an expression not so much of agony over identity, as it often appears, but of newfound power. (569)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Notes on Jameson essay: "New Literary History After the End of the New"

Fredric Jameson, “New Literary History After the End of the New.” New Literary History, 2008.

Found this essay by accident while browsing periodicals at Bryn Mawr library.

“It would be a little less superficial or ideological, perhaps, to examine all this from the standpoint of the canon. For was not the postmodern liberation from modernism grasped first and foremost as the liberation from the modernist canon, which is to say from the Eurocentric of Western canon of masterpieces that culminated teleologically… in what exactly? In expressionism, if not in pop art? In the Beatles, if not in jazz? In an international or jetset magic realism, if not in Faulkner? The new freedoms that postmodernity brought with it were in fact associated with this new artistic relativism, with the destruction of the Western canon and the eruption of all kinds of local and non-Western arts and expressions onto the historical scene, and felt as a decisive liberation by all kinds of non-Western artists and cultural workers.” (377)

Might be worth considering for my modernism/South Asia project. The way he's framing postmodernity here is as specifically aligned with non-western creative forms. But what about non-western canons and non-western modernisms?

“But the problem we have with thinking this kind of action at a distance lies in the dangers of culturalism: for although I found myself using that word for purposes of demonstration, it is precisely not culture at all that is at issue here, but rather uneven development and the very nature of the world system. If you want to have an even more paradoxical formulation, let’s put it this way: we can complain about the leveling and disappearance of local and national cultures, but we must never do so in the name of cultural difference, cultural pluralism, or multicultural tolerance—these uses of the culture words are preeminently ideological and tempt us down all the wrong paths. In globalization, there are no cultures, but only the nostalgic images of national cultures: in postmodernity we cannot appeal back to the fetish of national culture and cultural authenticity. Our object of study is rather Disneyfication, the production of simulacra of national cultures; and tourism, the industry that organizes the consumption of those simulacra and those spectacles or images. (379)

The name of Mallarme, to be sure, does suggest that it was from out of just such linguistic degradation and commercialization or reification that the great modernist projects emerged and tried “to purify the language of the tribe.” But this was the great quest and the great mirage of the modernist period, which is no longer with us. In postmodernity, the poets and writers create garbage installations out of their language and revel in its broken pieces (as with the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets); they scarcely dream of the revival of an authentic or utopian language any more, even in the other language zones where it might still be possible. (380)

Notes on Postcolonial Feminism

Notes on postcolonial feminism june 2010-06-07

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “Under Western Eyes”
Sara Suleri: "Woman Skin Deep"
Both in Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader

The first analytical presupposition I focus on is involved in the strategic location or situation of the category ‘women’ vis-à-vis the context of analysis. The assumption of women as an already constituted and coherent group with identical interests and desires, regardless of class, ethnic or racial location, implies a notion of gender or sexual difference or even patriarchy which can be applied universally and cross-culturally. . . . The second analytical presupposition is evident on the methodological level, in the uncritical way ‘proof’ of universality and cross-cultural validity are provided. The third is a more specifically political presupposition, underlying the methodologies and the analytic strategies, i.e., the model of power and struggle they imply and suggest. I argue that as a result of the two modes – or rather, frames – of analysis described above, a homogeneous notion of the oppression of women as a group is assumed, which in turn, produces the image of an ‘average third world woman’. This average third-world woman leads an essentially truncated life based on her feminine gender (read: sexually constrained) and being ‘third world’ (read: ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, religious, domesticated, family-oriented, victimized, etc.). (199)

Mohanty on “universalism”

First, proof of universalism is provided through the use of an arithmetic method. The argument goes like this: the more the number of women who wear the veil, the more universal is the sexual segregation and control of women. Similarly, a large number of different, fragmented examples from a variety of countries also apparently add up to a universal fact. (209)

Mohanty on the Veil:

While there may be a physical similarity in the veils worn by women in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the specific meaning attached to this practice varies according to the cultural and ideological context. In addition, the symbolic space occupied by the practice of purdah may be similar in certain contexts, but this does not automatically indicate that the practices themselves have identical significance in the social realm. For example, as is well known, Iranian middle-class women veiled themselves during the 1979 revolution to indicate solidarity with their veiled working-class sisters, while in contemporary Iran mandatory Islamic laws dictate that all Iranian women wear veils. While in both these instances similar reasons might be offered for the veil (opposition to the Shah and western cultural colonization in the first case, and the true Islamiciszation of Iran in the second), the concrete meanings attached to Iranian women wearing the veil are clearly different in the two historical contexts. In the first case, wearing the veil is both an oppositional and revolutionary gesture on the part of Iranian middle-class women; in the second case it is a coercive, institutional mandate. It is on the basis of such context-specific differentiated analysis that effective political strategies can be generated. To assume that the mere practice of veiling women in a number of Muslim countries indicates the universal oppression of women through sexual segregation is not only analytically reductive, but also proves to be quite useless when it comes to the elaboration of oppositional political strategy. (209)

Reading this paragraph reminded me why it might be important to find a way to provisionally defend a kind of universalism – one based on rights, not necessarily values.

Sara Suleri’s critique of Mohanty, in “Woman Skin Deep: Feminism and the Postcolonial Condition”

In the context of contemporary feminist discourse, I would argue, the category of postcolonialism must be read both as a free-floating metaphor for cultural embattlement and as an almost obsolete signifier for the historicity of race. There is no available dichotomy that could neatly classify the ways in which such a redefinition of postcoloniality is necessarily a secret sharer in similar reconfigurations of feminism most focal articulation of marginality, or the obsessive attention that it has recently paid to the racial body. Is the body in race subject or object, or is more dangerously an objectification of a methodology that aims for radical subjectivity? . . . . In contesting what she claims is a ‘colonialist move’, Mohanty proceeds to argue that ‘western feminists alone become the true ‘subjects’ of this counter-history. Third-World women, on the other hand, never rise above the debilitating generality of their ‘object’ status.’ A very literal ethic underlies such a dichotomy, one that demands attention to its very obviousness: how is this objectivism to be avoided? How will the ethnic voice of womanhood counteract the cultural articulation that Mohanty too easily dubs as the exegesis of Western feminism? The claim to authenticity – only a black can speak for a black; only a postcolonial subcontinental feminist can adequately represent the lived experience of that culture – points to the great difficulty posited by the ‘authenticity’ of female racial voices in the great game that claims to be the first narrative of what the ethnically constructed woman is deemed to want. (247)

Suleri is quite critical of Trinh T. Minh Ha’s Woman, Native, Other and Bell Hooks’ Yearning: Race, gender, and cultural politics. In both cases, her primary concern is with race-based identity politics. The quote she pulls from Bell Hooks is so atrocious, it made me wonder how anyone could take Hooks seriously.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More MN scholarhip directions

Need to look at:

Timothy Corrigan's "Film and Literature" -- particularly chapter 2, on film and literature.

Any articles from the journal "Adaptation."

Kum Kum Sangari on Qurratulain Hyder's "Aag Ka Darya"

Quote from Kum Kum Sangari on the relationship of the Urdu original to Hyder's English translation:

The innovative structure of Aag ka Darya had no precedent. The novel is staged in four historical periods : first, the expansion of the Mauryan empire under Chandragupta in the fourth century BC; second, the end of the Lodi dynasty and the beginning of Mughal rule in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries; third, the late-eighteenth-century beginnings of East India Company rule until its consolidation in the 1870s; and fourth, the two decades leading up to the 1950s that encompassed nationalist struggle, Partition, and Independence. These constitute four sequential yet discrete experiential moments that can neither be made amenable to a causal and teleological reading, nor slotted in as the discontinuous fragments characteristic of a high modernism. They are more readily grasped as a single constellation, as an individual attempt to apprehend a ‘civilization’, and as a doubled gesture repeated in a different conjuncture when the author’s own English version, River of fire , appeared in 1998. This was a fifth moment, rendered invisible by labels of transliteration or mistranslation, yet so powerful that I was compelled to reread Aag ka Darya backwards from River of Fire . It is a novel recomposed by the author: the changes in some narrative sequences and narrative voices remodulate it both in intention and effect. The basic spatial and temporal structure, however, remains unchanged; the four movements remain linked to each other through sedimentation and retrieval.

A little Urdu Scholarship

Continuing to practice Urdu -- after making major progress late last week in basic reading. Still struggle when I open BBC Urdu pages, however. I also took a peek at a Premchand story (Kafan; The Shroud) posted by Fran Pritchett, and struggled there too. One of the biggest limitations is of course vocabulary.

Fran Pritchett's definitive Urdu literature resources:

Pritchett's C.M. Naim resources

Premchand's Kafan in Urdu:

Kafan in Roman script:

Shurawardy's critical survey of the development of Urdu short stories and novels:

David Lelyveld in Annual of Urdu Studies (1994):

The Turkish word urdu, as a military encampment, appears in Indo-
Muslim texts from the middle of the twelfth century. Babar in the
sixteenth century refers to his own urdΣ-e mu‘all≥, the exalted camp. But
the word is not explicitly associated with language until the middle of the
eighteenth century. It was then that Arzu, Mir and others began to use
phrases like zubaan-e urdu-e sh≥hμ,2 zubaan-e urdu-e mu‘allaa, or, more
modestly, mu√≥vara-e urdu-e mu‘allaa—the idiom of the exalted camp. And
only at the end of the century do scholars begin to find scattered
references to the word urdΣ alone as a metonym for a language, which is
still more usually called Hindi. The idea that one could name a language
“military camp” had a built-in ambiguity, which comes out in the
floundering attempts of the early British grammarians to locate the
language and decide what it was and what it could be used for. Was it a
lingua franca, a “jargon” associated with the large, dispersed military
bands that so pervaded the Indian scene, a language of bazaars? Or was it,
as Gilchrist argued, the real spoken language of respectable people, in the
British sense, and an admirable literature?

But this name ‘Urdu’ became in later years an allusion to past time,
and an interpretation of it—specifically to Mughal India. From the Parsi
theater, the plays of Agha Hashr Kashmiri, the films of Sohrab Modi and
others, most notably K.K. Asif’s Mughal-e a‘zam (Mughal e Azam), what counts as Urdu for many people is bound up with images of Akbar, Jahangir, Nur Jahan and
Anarkali. My own interest, as an historian of more recent times, is in
these processes of cultural construction in the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries. In this paper, however, I will offer a brief speculation about the
nature of language and society in relation to the cultural authority of the
Mughal regime.

Most immediately, this paper is a response to Amrit Rai’s book, A
House Divided: The Origins and Development of Hindi-Urdu, first
published in 1984 and recently reissued in paperback.

Much of the rest of Lelyveld's essay is untangling some of the mess from Amrit Rai's 1984 book, A House Divided.

* * *

Alok Rai, in Annual of Urdu Studies

It might be interesting, at this point, to look at the evolution of the
name Hindustani. The colonial origins of the name are well-known. It
seemed entirely logical for the colonizers to assume that the people of the
place that they had conquered—Hindustan—should have a language that
could be called Hindustani. Apparently, the name “Hindustani” was not
unknown even before the advent of the British—although, obviously,
only outsiders could feel the need to name the unknown language(s) of
the strangers whom they encountered in the land of Hind. Thus, there are
sundry occurrences in sixteenth and seventeenth century Persian texts
(Faruqi 2001, 30). But the name of Hindustani never caught on among the
locals, as it were. Indeed, Gilchrist, writing in the late eighteenth century,
went on to say that he would use the name Hindustani, in preference to
all other names “of the popular speech of the country … whether the people
here constantly do so or not” (in ibid., 32; emphasis added). The interesting
question here concerns the limits of colonial knowledge, and also
the limits of the effectiveness of colonial knowledge—and, indeed, colonial
ignorance (see Lelyveld 1994). Thus, the ascription of a unity, albeit
false—and a misnomer—on the intercommunicating languages and dialects
of the people, particularly as this translated into administrative
practice and publishing activity, could hardly be without effect. Thus, the
colonial authorization of the name of “Hindustani” was bound to be
something akin to a self-fulfilling prophecy, with an ambiguous impact on
the fact or real existence of Hindustani, as a language-system that enabled
at least contigual communication even in precolonial times, particularly in
alliance with modern communication technologies. Gilchrist cites the famous
Orientalist H. T. Colebrooke on the existence of an
"elegant language which is used in every part of Hindoostan and the
dukhin, which is the common vehicle of intercourse among all well-educated
natives and among the illiterate also, in many provinces of India; and
which is almost everywhere intelligible to some among the inhabitants of
every village…."
(Rai 2000, 13)

This language, which could be called Urdu and Hindi, can only be Hindustani,
capacious and tolerant as it spans the range from the speech of
“well-educated natives” down to the demotic dialects of diverse peoples.
The name of Hindustani, however, remained confined to colonial
usage, in the main. Until we come to the latter half of the nineteenth
century, that is. Once it became crucial for the emergent Hindi-Hindu
savarna proto-élite, in the period after 1857, to make space for themselves
in the colonial administration1 the shared and overlapping linguistic space
had to be divided and split up. Then, the name “Hindustani” could mean
either that overlapping part of the continuum which was common to both
Hindi and Urdu—which was no fun at all if one was thinking of making
space for oneself in the zero-sum game of the colonial administration; or
“Hindustani” could mean that part of the continuum which was neither
Hindi nor Urdu—in which case it disappeared altogether, as it did for Mr.
Ghanshyam Gupta. As the politics of dissension gathered steam, and—
mixing metaphors madly—snowballed and ramified, “Hindustani” came
to denominate the terminological compromise which was advocated by
Gandhi, among others. However, compromise was the last thing anybody
had on their minds at that time, and “Hindustani” left both of the combatants
dissatisfied and suspicious: each saw the name as a Trojan horse for
the other side—even as it sought, with manifest contradiction, both to
distance itself from, and to claim, also for its democratic legitimacy, the
common terrain! In this kind of force-field, Gandhi’s compromise formulation
“Hindi or Hindustani” was doomed to failure. That “or” could connote
either alterity or identity. It could mean either that Hindi was the
same as Hindustani, so the mullah was up in arms, or that Hindustani was
an alternative to Hindi, so the pandit, quite as pugnacious, would have
none of it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tololyan on the journal Diaspora

Khachig Tololyan, "The Nation-State and Its Others: In Lieu of a Preface." (Spring 1991, 3-7)

On Ulysses:

To the citizen, Irish emigrants in America are part of the Irish nation, and so Bloom's answer has unacceptable implications. Throughout Ulysses, written as the Irish fought Britain and each other to make the Irish Free State between 1916 and 1921, Joyce uses the story of Odysseus's homeward journey to question the meanings of 'home' and 'nation,' and of keeping faith with a national culture while living elsewhere, in individual or communal exile. Ulysses examines the idea of longed-for but exigent home that the nation-state would become. (3)

And here is where he makes the connection between transnationalism and the idea of diaspora:

We use 'diaspora' provisionally to indicate our belief that the term once described as Jewish, Greek, and Armenian dispersion now shares meanings with a larger semantic domain that includes words like immigrant, expatriate, refugee, guest-worker, exile, community, overseas community, ethnic community. This is the vocabulary of transnationalism, and any of its terms can usefully be considered under more than one of its rubrics." (4-5)

Final interesting quote:

Diasporas are emblems of transnationalism because they embody the question of border, which is at the heart of any adequate definition of the Others of the nation-state. The latter always imagines and represents itself as a land, a territory, a place that functions as the site of homogeneity, equilibrium, integration; this is the domestic tranquility that hegemony-seeking national elites always desire and sometimes achieve. In such a territory, differences are assimilated, destroyed, or assigned to ghettoes, to enclaves demarcated by boundaries so sharp that they enable the nation to acknowledge the apparently singular and clearly fenced-off differences within itself, while simultaneously reaffirming the privileged homogeneity of the rest, as well as the difference between itself and what lies over its frontiers. (6)

In effect, diaspora studies must be allied to ideas of heterogeneity, the celebration of diversity rather than unity in the national imaginary. MN's films fit this paradigm quite closely. Even her "nationalist" films have a diasporic element to them.

William Safran on Diasporas

William Safran, "Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return" (Diaspora Spring 1991, 83-99)

First, the basic definition:

I suggest that Connor's definition be extended and that the concept of diaspora be applied to expatriate minority communities whose members share several of the following characteristics: 1) they, or their ancestors, have been dispersed fro ma specific original 'center' to two or more 'peripheral," or foreign, regions; 2) they retain a collective memory, vision, or myth about their original homeland--its physical location, history, and achievements; 3) they believe that they are not--and perhaps cannot be -- fully accepted by their host society and therefore feel partly alienated and insulated from it; 4) they regard their ancestral homeland as their true, ideal home and as the place to which they or their descendents would (or should) eventually return --when conditions are appropriate; 5) they believe that they should, collectively be committed to the maintenance or restoration of their original homeland and to its safety and prosperity; and 6) they continue to relate, personally or vicariously, to that homeland in one way or another, and their ethnocommunal consciousness and solidarity are importantly defined by the existence of such a relationship (83-84)

The points that are contestable with the Indian diaspora are 3, 4, and 5.

Here is what he says about the Indian diaspora in particular in this essay:

The Indian diaspora is a genuine one in several respects: its spread across three continents, its long history, its auxiliary (or middleman) role within host societies, and the varying attitudes of its members--ranging from integrationist to particularist. But the Indian diaspora differs in some important ways from that of the Jews and Armenians: an Indian homeland has existed continuously, that homeland has not been noted for encouraging an 'ingathering' (see Helweg), and Indian diaspora status has not always been associated with political disability or minority status. The homeland myth is not particularly operative where the Indian diaspora is in the majority (as in Fiji) or where it constitutes a large, well-established, and sometimes dominant minority (as in Trinidad and Tobago, Nepal, Guyana, and Sri Lanka). (88-89)

Why the concern with "genuine" diasporas? And why do the Jewish and Armenian examples have "benchmark" status, while the Palestinian, Chinese, Gypsy, and Indian examples are looked at as variants off of an originary model? (One obvious answer to this is the fact that the word had a longstanding history of association with the Jewish diaspora. But since we've expanded the definition, why presume there has to be a dominant model?

Diaspora Notes 1

Makarand Paranjape, "Displaced Relations: Disaporas, Empires, Homelands." From Paranjape, Ed. _In Diaspora: Theories, Histories, Texts_. Delhi: Indialog Publications, 2001: 1-14.

Vijay Mishra, "The Diasporic Imaginary: Theorizing the Indian Diaspora." Textual Practice 10: 3, 1996, 421-447.

Mishra's essay begins his is essay with a point contrasting his approach to diaspora with William Safran's in the opening essay of the journal _Diaspora_:

In the lead essay in the foundation issue of the journal Diaspora, William Safran for instance devotes a mere twelve lines to the Indian diaspora and not unnaturally oversimplifies the characteristics of this diaspora. Unlike most other diasporas whose first movement out of the homeland can no longer be established with absolute precision, the Indian diaspora presents us with a case history that has been thoroughly documented. This is largely because the Indian diaspora began as part of British imperial movement of labour to the colonies." (421)

The key distinction Mishra makes, however, is between old and new Indian diasporas:

This narrative of diasporic movement is, however, not continuous or seamless as there is a radical break between the older diasporas of classic capitalism and the mid- to late twentieth-century diasporas of advanced capital to the metropolitan centres of the Empire, the New World, and the former settlers colonies. Since these are two interlinked buthistorically separated diasporas, I would want to refer to them as the old ('exclusive') and the new ('border') Indian diasporas. Furthermore, i would want to argue that the old Indian diasporas were diasporas of exclusivism because they created relatively self-contained 'little Indias' in the colonies. The founding writer of the old Indian diaspora is, of course, V.S. Naipaul. The new diaspora of late capital (the diaspora of the border), on the other hand, shared characteristics with many other similar diasporas such as the Chicanos and the Koreans in the US. (421-422)

Paranjape, in his essay relies heavily on Mishra. He quotes Mishra's essay from SPAN for a definition of diaspora:

1. Relatively homogeneous, displaced communities brought to serve the Empire (slave, contract, indendured, etc.) coexisting with indigenous/other races with markedly ambivalent and contradictory relationship with the Motherland(s). Hence the Indian diasporas of South Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Surinam, Malaysia; the Chinese diasporas of Malaysia, Indonesia. Linked to high (classical) Capitalism.

2. Emerging new diasporas based on free migration and linked to late capitalism: post-war South Asian, Chinese, Arab, Korean, communities in Britain, Europe, America, Canada, Australia. (Mishra, quoted in Paranjape, 3)

Paranjape follows Mishra in critiquing Safran:

Safran's model, which he illustrates by listing the six features of diasporas-- dispersal, collective memory, alienation, respect and longing for the homeland, a belief in its restoration, and self-definition in terms of this homeland--aremore applicable to the Jewish than the South Asian diaspora. Mishra ("The Diasporic Imaginary" 443) considers Safran's characteristics of the Indian diaspora -- "middlemen role, long history, integrationist and particularist foci" -- to be "oversimplified." (4)

Paranjape does disagree with Mishra on at least one point -- he feels Mishra romanticizes diasporic culture too much:

Where I differ with Mishrra is in his privileging the diasporic to the level of a special epistemology which can be used to define postcoloniality itself. For instance, in 'New Lamps for Old: Diaspora Migrancy Border,' Mishra, carried away by his enthusiasim for 'diasporic analysis' over "a vague 'postcolonial' theory" (70), considers his essay to be, among other things, "a celebration of diasporas as the exemplary condition of late modernity" (67). Mishra contrasts the diasporic consciousness with older, primordial, ethnic identities, arguing that "diasporic epistemology locates itself squarely in the realm of the hybrid, in the domain of cross-cultural and contaminated social and cultural regimes" (71). . . . Despite acknowledging the danger that "diasporas may well become romanticized as the ideal social condition" ("The Diasporic Imaginary" 426), in effect, that is what the theoretical stances of critics like Mishra and Bhabha are tantamount to. Neither refers to the fact that diasporic communities are known, at times, to support the most rabidly violent and fanatical of causes, not just ideologically but financially. (4-5)

I tend to agree with Paranjape that romanticizing diasporization is a mistake.

That said, obviously the liberating effects of the diasporic condition are extremely important in MN's films. What is her theory of diaspora?

Paranjape picks up on Mishra's claim that Naipaul was the "founding father of the old diaspora," and disagrees with it (10), looking at Naipaul's relationship with his father as evidence that Naipaul was in fact defining himself by his rejection of the conditions of "old" diasporic life.

Paranjape also wants to assert an anti-diasporic perspective -- a nationalist perspective -- into conversations about diaspora. He brings it up in connection with his discussion of Midnight's Children as a diasporic text:

Midnight's Children, then, is about the decomposition of India, about its disintegration and dispersal. I would argue that this deconstructive narrative is an outcome of the new diasporic consciousness which, because it lacks internal coherence, cannot see any cohesion in the object that it describes. All that it can do is to try to incorporate its fictional India into a borderless, deterritorialized, but yet commercially lucrative marketplace whose multiple sites are scattered across the most advanced nation-states of the world. In a way, Mishra's own privileging of the diasporic imaginary legitimates his own (dis)location, while my essay may be seen as being grounded in a nationalist space. As a corrective to this view, I myself have argued that "there is no 'pure belonging; there is no 'pure' diaspora. What we must contend with, instead, are trypes of belonging and uprooting, affirmations and denials of identity, sameness and difference" (What about those who stayed back home? Interrogating the Privileging of Diasporic Writing", 9) (11)

* * *

Also reading from December 2009 issue of Journal of Postcolonial Writing, from the physical copy in the U-Penn periodicals reading room.

Read Julia Emberley's "A Child is Testifying: Testimony and the Cultural Construction of Childhood in a Trans/National Frame." Was not terribly enthused -- the sole example she works with is Deborah Ellis' "Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak," which was pulled from a children's curriculum in Canada after protests from the Canadian Jewish Congress. The material she adduces relating to testimonials, Freud, and so on don't seem to amount to very much. Anyway, the controversy over this book seems to have more to do with political biases and rhetorics (i.e., whether it's acceptable for north American children to be exposed to the point of view of a child who wants to grow up to be a martyr) than it is about the actual content (or effect) of the child narratives.

Also read parts of "To Be Good (again): The Kite Runner as allegory of global Ethics," by David Jefferess. Not terribly impressed here either. Confused about whether it makes sense at all to apply all this theory (Judith Butler, Anthony Appiah) with a book that has a problematic relationship to its ethno-cultural subject.

I actually enjoyed and learned the most from Bruce King's review essay, "Muslim Modernities." King made me curious to read Nadeem Aslam's "The Wasted Vigil." But he also unleashes somewhat of a tirade against Tabish Khair's book of post 9/11 essays, "Muslim Modernities." That's too bad, because I really like Tabish Khair as a fiction writer especially (might be interesting to write an essay triangulating the historical Manto with the "Manto" in "Filming").