[Reader-list] RE: [Urbanstudy] Re: Problematizing Definitions, exploitation and 'toil'

sebastian Rodrigues sebydesiolim at hotmail.com
Sat Dec 24 21:38:28 IST 2005


I now wonder what is the place of the boy with tied legs that Zainab 
described and attempted to photograph. Is that practice to be legitimized or 
no? Even if it may be good for the mother I am not sure it the same for the 
little boy - her son. I have experienced along with my brother being tied to 
a coconut tree as children as disciplinary exercise by my grand mother. In 
her upbringing in the Prtuguese colony of Goa it was perfect thing to do. 
Yet we resented it and did not forget about it for a long time. In fact when 
she died it took couple of weeks for tears to roll down from my eyes. I 
experinced certain lind of cold feelings at her death. And I came up in the  
situation of economic, social as well as political maginalized background. I 
understand what the situation of that boy, his emotions, his psyche will be 
going through at this act of violence.  Irrespective of relativeness of 
Human rights this violence is condemnable as any other at macro scale. Only 
in this situation the boy had no means to articulate to express his feelings 
whils his legs are tied. Yet if leaves to grow up then he will express it 
his own way.

My parents too  came from the thinking that legitimizes administration  of 
violence. But everytime I faced it I accumulated that much hatred against 
them. The social and political system around justifies the violent acts in 
almost classes, castes against children. It is high time that this needs to 
be punctured someway.


>From: anant m <anant_umn at yahoo.co.uk>
>To: solomon benjamin <sollybenj at yahoo.co.in>,Prem Chandavarkar 
><prem at cnt-semac.com>
>CC: reader-list at sarai.net, bhuvana 
><b.raman1 at lse.ac.uk>,urbanstudygroup at sarai.net,bhuvana r raman 
><bhuvanaramanin at yahoo.co.in>, schari at lse.ac.uk
>Subject: [Urbanstudy] Re: Problematizing Definitions, exploitation and 
>Date: Fri, 23 Dec 2005 03:11:20 +0000 (GMT)
>to take solly and prem's ( and in a tangential way,
>chari's work)  further,
>i think in recent times, proxying for the subaltern
>has become a hazardous business ( re. prem's remark
>about how proxying involves some of the myths
>constructed through portraiture).  i can think of many
>instances in hyderabad but perhaps the most dramatic
>crisis of both proxying and portraiture was seen in
>zahira sheikh's spat with Teesta setalwad and CJP last
>year.  zahira, for those who may not be familiar with
>the case, was the girl from a small town near baroda
>who became very important not only to teesta but to
>secular NRIs world over because of her claim that she
>was eyewitness to the ghastly burning down of best
>bakery. (not insiginifcantly, zahira's brother had a
>hindu wife and one of the looters that night was a
>muslim and all of them are small town poor). when
>zahira recanted and accused teesta and cjp of having
>capitalized on her testimony to advance their own
>interests, it was a traumatic event for all of the
>metropolitan secularists spread all over the world.
>anil dharker was the most eloquent in vocalizing the
>confusion: "Who, or what, is Zahira Sheikh?" he wrote
>in his column. "Is she victim, heroine or mercenary?
>It's a tangled story, so she could be all of these at
>different times, or some of these at the same time...
>But if her case is confusing, it's only because
>everything that happened in Gujarat in February-March
>2002 is topsy-turvy."
>Actually there is enough evidence to argue that the
>confusion was largely of metropolitan secularism to
>which, Zahira was meaningful only as    "victim,
>heroine or mercenary." If she defies the place
>allotted her, the most charitable explanation we could
>come up with was that the poor girl must have gone
>crazy (some indeed suggested this possibility).  But
>what if we were to take her seriously ? What if her
>initial claim that she was eyewitness to the incident,
>  her subsequent recanting and her accusation against
>Teesta (and CJP) were all a way of negotiating a
>security for her life and livelihood to which the
>Hindu right and the secular middle class were equally
>a threat ?
>Zahira's claim that she was eyewitness to the incident
>was challenged from day one by her sister in law,
>according to news reports of that time.  But, we
>refused to take the sister in law seriously at that
>time because it would undermine our crusade for our
>secularism. And then, when zahira accused teesta (and
>CJP) of capitalizing on her evidence, we pretended
>that she was talking about CJP  receiving slush funds
>and thus again refused to take it seriously. there
>were other ways of reading zahira even at that time:
>what if she meant that  you guys are globe trotting
>because i am obliging you by playing the role of the
>victim.  so why should i be undertaking these
>hazardous bus and train journeys and be uncertain
>about what will happen to my life after this is all
>over. such an assumption would have require us to
>engage with her very differently. but instead we got
>righteously indignant. the cjp kept telling her that
>she has to fight this "for her own sake and for her
>dharker moves unerringly:
>"Zahira stayed in Mumbai happily for a year, moving
>freely, even making three unescorted trips to
>Vadodara. But just before she was to testify in court,
>came her volte face, turning her erstwhile friends
>into sudden foes and her erstwhile foes into
>protective friends. Her new "friends" now give her
>"protection" of the kind chief ministers give their
>captive MLAs before the head-count to prove their
>"What compelling reason made her do a complete
>flip-flop, so much so that she has earned the wrath of
>her community and her neighbours in Vadodara have
>burnt her effigy? We don't have to be rocket
>scientists to figure out who are the potential
>beneficiaries of her changed testimony. But her
>advisors have probably miscalculated: How much
>credibility does Zahira have now? And they have
>overlooked the brave workers at the Bakery who have
>already testified, given eye-witness accounts of the
>horrific happenings and identified a considerable
>number of the accused. "
>But it is the conclusion that Dharker arrives at that
>is the most significant:  "You cannot expect NGOs to
>do the job every time. In any case, isn't the delivery
>of justice an essential duty of any government? Even
>with a Congress-led government in Delhi, there has
>been no change in the attitude of either the home or
>the law ministry, no sense of urgency in pursuing the
>In this vacuum, do we then need an autonomous
>organisation, which is well-funded and dynamically
>led, which can suo moto take up cases anywhere in
>India? It will need to be flexible in its approach,
>taking the initiative when it can, cooperating with
>NGOs when it can't. It will need access to an
>independent investigative agency (like a new, improved
>CBI). And it will need the clout to stop state
>agencies from interfering in its cases. Sounds like a
>lot? It probably is. But who will deny that we need
>something like this?
>Dharker doesnt tell us to whom or what will such an
>autonomous organization be accountable. One can only
>hazard a guess. To middleclass righteousnes or to use
>the more appropriate sanskrit expression: janagraha!
>So what does this tell us about the city ? I think it
>tells us much, if we can carefully trace the ways in
>which this entire drama played out between baroda,
>gandhinagar, bombay, london and new york and how the
>past was invoked and the renewed vigor with which
>gandhiji was being claimed by the secular metropolis.
>to me the most moving image in it was  yasmin,
>zahira's muslim sister in law trying to clean the
>bakery and establish a tenuous claim on it while
>explaining the family politics to a visiting
>journalist. but perhaps that should be another thread.
>--- solomon benjamin <sollybenj at yahoo.co.in> wrote:
> > Hi,
> > Spurred by this interesting discussion, I join
> > reflecting on two recent events. First, in the
> > recent
> > past, encountering (After Santos) a world famous NGO
> > in India's most famous metro! Second, a meet with
> > the
> > author and a quick read of a very interesting
> > chapter
> > "Can the Subaltern Accumulate Capital" Chapter 5 in
> > 'Fraterrnal capital' by Sharad Chari (Permanant
> > Black
> > 2004). Both of these link to what Anant and Prem
> > focus
> > on, and particulary, the point of "Proxy" and
> > 'Portrait'. From Chari, the difference between
> > 'toil'
> > and 'exploitation'.
> >
> > With this, I want to return to Zainab's peice. This
> > is
> > not just in the people she talks to, but their
> > location in metro context of intense contestation --
> > in economy, in good locations, and access to basic
> > services. Such contestations are shaped not just of
> > "urbanization" but rather big bucks of the World
> > bank,
> > and some of the largest private gloablly connected
> > capital. Located in this, are the Proxy and Potrait
> > --
> > a role now well funded within NGO circles who are
> > close partners to big capital from being
> > commentators
> > on the side lines. And their location bang in the
> > middle of such contestations is their ability to
> > paint
> > a picture of how people live and espicially work.
> > The
> > brochures set in the donor targeted glossy, potrait
> > a
> > "page 3 imaginary" of a future life style statement
> > /advertisment! No problem if the mills get shaped
> > into
> > malls, we have it all there. And paralleled is the
> > 'proxy' -- where one gains the ability to speak for
> > the masses.
> >
> > Here I point to not just to the NGOs promoting
> > INDIA's
> > new Lifestyle Statements, but also to those who
> > perhaps equally distanced from the hidden voices,
> > trudge a path of exploitation, and in doing so,
> > remove
> > contest of any substance.
> >
> > It's here that in Chari's chapter 3 & 5 (and the
> > book
> > is highly recommended!) that we find 'toil' (rather
> > than 'exploitation') as a useful way to unmask both
> > 'proxy and potraiture'. Chari traces in a
> > wonderfully
> > deatiled way the organization and dynamic of work
> > and
> > in doing so, reveals a politics that sharply
> > counters
> > that of those who choose to speak on behalf of the
> > masses and to hide away the complex locational
> > contests which they assist and reward from the
> > global
> > big bucks.   And this is not just in India's most
> > famous metro. It's got a parallel in it's other
> > silicon valley (a read on the water privatization in
> > Bangalore in the recent issue of Down to Earth:
> >
> > Here we have another globally aspiring NGO that is
> > responsible for 'structured civil society
> > participation'. I am sure Anant could pose similar
> > examples from what he has termed as a 'contractor's
> > city' now also on the global way.
> > With all this, Prems' list of useful questions find
> > a
> > distinctly important urban context.
> > Solly
> >
> >
> > --- Prem Chandavarkar <prem at cnt-semac.com> wrote:
> >
> > > Let me - like Anant - stick my neck out in "the
> > > presence of a whole
> > > bunch of cultural studies folks".
> > >
> > > Was just reading Gayathri Spivak's essay "Can The
> > > Subaltern Speak".
> > > Spivak examines philosophical production, such as
> > > Foucault, Deleuze and
> > > the Subaltern Studies Group, who seek to unmask
> > the
> > > workings of power in
> > > order to reveal voices that are typically not
> > heard.
> > >  While such
> > > analyses often start from a critique of
> > > essentialism, they tend to posit
> > > other essences through the construction of
> > > monolithic and anonymous
> > > presences such as "the workers' struggle" or "the
> > > history of the
> > > subaltern".  And because these essences are
> > > monolithic and anonymous,
> > > they involve the erasure of individual identity.
> > > Therefore any attempts
> > > to speak for the subaltern eventually construct
> > > representations that
> > > erase their identity.  It does not matter whether
> > > this comes from the
> > > activist philosopher or from the organic
> > > intellectual who has risen from
> > > the subaltern ranks.  The organic intellectual
> > > destroys his/her status
> > > as a subaltern by attempting to represent the
> > > subaltern.
> > >
> > > Spivak draws a distinction between two forms of
> > > representation.
> > > 1. Proxy - the attempt to speak for, as in
> > politics
> > > 2. Portrait - the attempt to speak of, as in
> > > philosophy
> > > It is important to distinguish between these two
> > > forms.  While proxy may
> > > appear to be more genuine since it demands
> > > engagement (speaking 'to' the
> > > subaltern, and not just speaking 'of'), it should
> > be
> > > realised that the
> > > myths and beliefs constructed through portraiture
> > > affect the basis on
> > > which choices of proxy are made.
> > >
> > > All this ties back to the point Anant made - when
> > > Zainab interacts with
> > > the woman and child some meaning is produced, but
> > > when she reports it to
> > > this discussion group the woman and child are
> > > excluded and we now are
> > > aware of two different languages operating, and
> > > immediately wonder which
> > > one is more authentic.
> > >
> > > So returning to the question "what constitutes
> > > culture?" - we must first
> > > ask if the question is worthwhile.  To ask the
> > > question at all implies a
> > > belief that it is answerable, which in turn
> > involves
> > > an assumption that
> > > culture has already occurred in an observable
> > > fashion.  This assumption
> > > immediately pushes culture into the past (it does
> > > not matter whether
> > > this is the immediate past of yesterday, or the
> > > remote past of history).
> > >    And culture is most alive when it is in the
> > > present, when it is
> > > actually experienced.
> > >
> > > So rather than asking 'what is culture' it is more
> > > worthwhile to ask:
> > > 1. What is the basis on which claims to define
> > > culture operate,
> > > intersect and compete?
> > > 2. What are the politics, myths, beliefs,
> > > genealogies and spatial
> > > practices that underpin the construction of such
> > > claims?
> > > 3. What are the traces we leave in space that
> > > eventually accrue into
> > > memories and symbols?
> > > 4. What are the conversations and intersections
> > that
> > > take place between
> > > tacit experiences and explicit definitions of
> > > culture?
> > > 5. (Most important to us) What is the complicity
> > of
> > > the intellectual in
> > > all of these processes?
> > > 6. How can we individually use such critique to
> > > construct our own
> > > ideology and ethics?
> > >
> > > Prem
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > anant m wrote:
> > > > hm. i hope i am not making an ass of myself in
> > the
> > > > presence of a whole bunch of cultural studies
> > > folks.
> > > > i think it is better to think of a geneology of
> >
>=== message truncated ===
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