[Reader-list] Re: [Urbanstudy] Re: Problematizing Definitions
priyashakaul at gmail.com
Tue Dec 20 22:26:07 IST 2005
enjoyed you writing, as always. I agree with you on the
problematics of the entire 'rights discourse', but i feel as much as
it is derided in "intellectual circles" today, it continues to be
important because even though the city as a public space and its
subjective carving out in the lived sense remains wildly different
from differing standpoints, the important thing is that those
experiences and understandings are at one level related to ones rights
in the everyday sense of living rather than an objective/bounded and
defined legal sense. and the enforcement of these rights is
necessarily related to power (in the foucauldian sense) which
privileges the rights and understandings of some in society over
"Intervention" or alternatively the lack of it, therefore, in
whatever form, be it through government agencies or the NGO-type,
becomes a doubly problematic issue since it tends to become a
phenomenological exercise in what they think are the "rights" of the
rest of society.
On 12/20/05, zainab at xtdnet.nl <zainab at xtdnet.nl> wrote:
> Dear Mr. Reddy,
> Reading your email, some questions come to my mind:
> a). Is there anything as universal rights? What constitutes universality?
> b). How do we define culture? What acts constitute culturality?
> c). What is the relationship between culture and lifestyles?
> > It is not so much about definitions as it is about
> > conceptualizations--cluster of concepts, which are part of some theory.
> > And
> > such a theory filters what you experience of.
> > In the first case, it sounds like there is only one way of describing, or
> > like the rights-talk (or its variants) is the best way of describing.
> > Here,
> > the debate is not so much definitions, but to what extent theory of rights
> > does captures the experience of the natives? If one denies the
> > rights-talk,
> > one is not denying the phenomenon, that is, a coarse description competing
> > theories accept.
> > Abt the second case. Surely the ragpicker's experience is different from
> > yours. Do your and his experiences share any common structures? Assuming
> > that a common structure is being shared, the only way to defend such a
> > possibility is linking it to 'collective culturality'.: again, people
> > resort
> > to their pet notions of what culture is.
> > Idem for the third case.
> > All these cases share one thing: does whatever is seen in some place
> > constitute culturality? Those who answer in the affirmative share this
> > claim
> > as well: every practice is cultural; and such claims do have nothing to
> > say
> > about cultural differences, except that cultural difference is a
> > difference
> > in beliefs. The explanatory relation between practice and belief is
> > defensible only within the ambit of semitic theologies.
> > Best,
> > Reddy, V.
> > On 12/15/05, zainab at xtdnet.nl <zainab at xtdnet.nl> wrote:
> >> There are some of these days when I think about 'definitions' and I am
> >> bothered …
> >> 15th December 2005
> >> I have suddenly discovered the camera and am making pictures everywhere
> >> I
> >> go (these days).
> >> Yesterday afternoon, I was walking past the Grant Road Bridge, making my
> >> way to Lamington Road. Grant Road Bridge is the home to many pavement
> >> dwellers and drug addicts. At one point, I saw a child screaming and
> >> crying, drawing everyone's attention. The legs of this little boy were
> >> tied. He may have been about three years old. Next to him was his little
> >> sibling. She was a new born infant, deep in slumber, inside a pen. For a
> >> moment, I was shaken by the wailing of the little boy. For a moment, I
> >> was
> >> moved by the cruelty of the act of tying his feet. But when I brought
> >> out
> >> my camera, I decided not to moralize the picture, but to show one more
> >> aspect of street life in one part of the city. I did not have the
> >> courage
> >> to make the picture from forward. So I decided to go back and make the
> >> picture. I photographed. A little commotion ensued. A woman came running
> >> and she came up close to me saying, 'No photos', 'No pictures'. I was
> >> frightened. I decided to show her the picture I had made and delete it
> >> in
> >> front of her eyes to reassure her. She grabbed me by my arm and pushed
> >> me
> >> away, 'go away from here'.
> >> My guess was that the woman was mildly mentally deranged. She was very
> >> aggressive when she pushed me. I began to wonder why the child's legs
> >> were
> >> tied. My only guess is that maybe its mother did not want it to wander
> >> around the road in her absence; so this was a good way to keep the child
> >> put – basically safety of the child.
> >> The lady who pushed me may have been the mother. And again I guessed –
> >> perhaps she did not want me to make the picture, thinking that if I were
> >> a
> >> social worker type, I would take away her children thinking that she is
> >> a
> >> cruel mother and put them in foster care – I am only guessing here!
> >> What interested me about the experience was the definition of rights –
> >> are
> >> rights truly universal? In the context of lifestyles and cultures, do
> >> rights take on relative meanings? For instance, in the case of this
> >> child,
> >> there may have been perfectly legitimate reasons for tying his legs in
> >> the
> >> context of their lifestyle and culture – does the rights' framework then
> >> do unintended violence to such people and cultures? Does it give power
> >> of
> >> definitions (in the Foucaultian sense) to certain groups to intervene on
> >> behalf of the greater good (greater good questionable in this case)?
> >> 10th December 2005
> >> My classmate in the photography class is discussing a project idea. His
> >> project is to photograph garbage. He has been an NRI (Non-Resident
> >> Indian)
> >> and was irked by the sight of garbage when he came to India. He wonders
> >> how people can be so insensitive to something which is so evident. He
> >> wants to project garbage in a way that will make people want to do
> >> something about it.
> >> I had an interesting experience this morning. I was walking by the
> >> bridge
> >> on Byculla when I saw a rag picker picking up an orange fruit from the
> >> trash lying on the road. It was his breakfast. He ate hungrily and was
> >> reasonably satisfied as the pleasure of the fruit drew to an end.
> >> I wondered about garbage that evening. What is trash to me is food to
> >> someone else; trash irks me because I want a clean city, yet, that trash
> >> is food for someone else. Who defines dirty? Who defines clean? Are we
> >> Foucaultian here again in our everyday lives and practices?
> >> While re-picturing the rag picker picking fruit from the trash heap, I
> >> wondered, what are the points of negotiation between one group's ideal
> >> of
> >> a clean city and another group's city which exists through trash?
> >> (Perhaps
> >> trash is what makes up their city …)
> >> 8th December 2005
> >> Visiting Imambada has become a regular jaunt. I sit in Khushali Tea
> >> Café,
> >> a Muslim Irani Tea Joint to understand the notion of public space. This
> >> evening, as I was wading my way through the crowded and busy street of
> >> Imambada, I wondered about locality and lifestyles.
> >> A city is an agglomeration of different lifestyles, each emerging from
> >> local histories. In the process of creating the global city (Shanghai,
> >> Singapore, Hong Kong, King Kong!), we are either wiping away locality or
> >> are commodifying (read culture-izing) it through alluding to its 'unique
> >> culture', making it yet another Moroccan Birdcage as Jonathan Raban
> >> spoke
> >> in his book 'Soft City'.
> >> While wading through sweat and dust and grime (and experience), I was
> >> disturbed by the definition of public space and the image/s which the
> >> term
> >> 'public space' evokes. Maybe public space is what is clean, well
> >> maintained, a park, a garden, an open space, etc. In my worldview,
> >> Khushali Tea Café is a public space, one which is interesting and yet
> >> has
> >> problems of its own. One of the problems with Khushali is that it is a
> >> male centric public space. Imambada is a Muslim neighbourhood; women
> >> rarely come to Khushali on their own (and in this respect, my position
> >> as
> >> a researcher in the café is disturbing to me and to the store owner as I
> >> am constantly being watched 'as a single, lone woman'). If women come to
> >> Khushali, then they are largely accompaniments (read appendage) to the
> >> men. Yet, Khushali is a critical space where locality is produced and
> >> reproduced. It is a gathering space, a meeting space. Tea costs Rs. 3
> >> (and
> >> I bet it is the most fantastic and simple tea you would have ever had!
> >> Try
> >> with salt and lemon and the definition of tea will change …). The store
> >> owner, who is the tea maker and the space creator, has no pretensions
> >> about his existence – drink your tea if you like; don't drink tea; sit
> >> if
> >> you please without wanting to drink; do what you like! – and then he
> >> grumbles about having to wake up early and customers pouring till late
> >> at
> >> night – I have a 12 hour job, he grumbles, I have to wake up in the
> >> morning to run the water pump and I am functioning ever since then! Do I
> >> have a life? – and he goes on grumbling and making tea!
> >> Public space huh? Whose the public? What is public? Where is the space?
> >> What is the space? Why is the space? …
> >> …
> >> Definitions huh?
> >> …
> >> I am bothered …
> >> …
> >> Zainab Bawa
> >> Bombay
> >> www.xanga.com/CityBytes
> >> http://crimsonfeet.recut.org/rubrique53.html
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> Zainab Bawa
> Zainab Bawa
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