Issue 108: Fall 2011
Featured Open Access Article from this Issue:
Legal, Tender: The Genealogical Economy of Pride, Debt, and Origin
Table of Contents
Abstract: In contrast to various dominant representational themes through which Pakistan's history is rendered intelligible to many (Islam, Muslim nationalism), this essay particularly focuses on a debate surrounding the question of morality ("pure or perverse literature") connected to short stories on the 1947 partition of British India by Sa'adat Hasan Manto. By concentrating on Manto's writings, this essay revisits Pakistan's early history to demonstrate how, after the country's creation, there was continued debate among intellectuals about what would constitute a national culture--an incomplete discussion that may still be ongoing. Within this context, Manto enables the author to offer a critique of Pakistan's normative national history and to suggest a different path to understand the country's past and, possibly, to envision its future.
Abstract: Using exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen's novel Lajja (Shame), this essay addresses questions of the articulation of a vulnerable masculinity in the political arena. It contends that in South Asia the field of sectarian politics has become the site for asserting masculinity and also the site for the making and unmaking of citizenship. Tracking the production of minority citizenship and national belonging, this essay examines how Nasreen alerts us to the way in which forces of violence during a political crisis take as their favored expression the masculine assertion of will and capacity to violate, mutilate, and deform the bodies of the vulnerable; in this case, of vulnerable men. That this takes place in ways quite similar to the oppression of women opens up a range of questions about the pathological constitution of gender, desire, and even sensuality and materiality more generally. The essay analyzes how the minority man's experience of heteronomy and helplessness congeals in him a feeling of emasculation, which he, in turn, tries to overcome by performing violence over a subject even more vulnerable than himself. Thus, the essay argues that in order to force himself into reconciling with a brutal world, the minority man reconstitutes himself as a sadomasochistic, pathological subject who enacts violence upon himself and his dependents.
Abstract: This article discusses Giorgio Agamben's work on "bare life," or life with no political meaning. It argues that there is a critical absence in Agamben's work when it comes to women and gender, and it examines how the reproductive body complicates his concept of bare life and its corresponding figure, homo sacer, or sacred man. It does so through a discussion of Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 film Children of Men, looking at how the film's story line--an infertile world in which one refugee, Kee, is found to be pregnant--links pregnancy to political systems that regulate who gets counted as worthy of state protection. Agamben argues that it is possible to be physically alive but politically abandoned, and this is clearly the position Kee occupies as a refugee or "illegal" immigrant in the film. However, she gains political agency through the protection already afforded her fetus. Therefore, the film also shows us how it is possible to be politically protected but not yet physically alive through its focus on the status of the unborn child. Kee's body becomes the battleground for these two opposing forces as the film offers a critique of the politics of migration at the same time as it fetishizes the future child.
Abstract: This essay queers the critique of political economy through the analytical category of the household, focusing on the centrality of genealogical orders to the persistence of capitalism over time and in frontier spaces. In so doing, it makes an argument against a politics of recognition and rights, situating them as a matter of both the expansive embrace of capitalism and its periodic restoration of limits along genealogical lines.
Finance as Capital's Imagination?: Reimagining Value and Culture in an Age of Fictitious Capital and Crisis
Abstract: This essay seeks to contribute to the theoretical groundwork for a cultural studies of finance by recasting a Marxist theory of value toward an analysis of the politics of the imagination under financialized capitalism. My argument is as follows. (1) Social cooperation, creativity, and reproduction are the products of the ongoing negotiation of social values. This process is undergirded by the work of the imagination: the synthetic and creative quality of mind that allows us to both conceive of social totality and futurity and gain agency within them. (2) Capitalism is a socially destructive logic of social cooperation, a viral value paradigm that guides social action and agency toward its own endless reproduction and expansion. This implies a struggle over the dialectic of imagination and value. I suggest that imagination is the "living" aspect of "living labor." (3) Money is capital's material articulation of this struggle. It works by seeking to subordinate the rich, dense world of qualitative social values under its cyclopean logic of quantified economic value. (4) Finance is the redoubling of the complexities and abstractions of money. It creates a world-embracing matrix of signals that allows for a form of synthetic comprehension of social totality and futurity. It functions as capital's imagination. (5) The current rise of neoliberal financialization both relies on and produces the expansion of a financialized imagination on the levels of everyday life and of broader social imaginaries. This comes at the expense of the radical imagination.
Abstract: In Geometric Landscapes and the Spectacle of Force, the Pakistani artist Seher Shah works with archival images of the 1903 Delhi Durbar and contemporary images of the U.S. "war on terror." This essay examines how Shah's digital print binds together theaters of U.S. and British imperialism across the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, with specific attention to the performative effects of photography. Recent debates on the uses of the archive in contemporary photography highlight the affective qualities of iconic national or personal images. However, Shah's work resists such nationalist interpretations by delineating the expansive qualities of empire in the United States and in South Asia. By historicizing the Delhi Durbar as an aesthetic spectacle of empire, this essay highlights how geometric motifs of colonial India are linked to the architectural landscape of post-9/11 America. The essay also foregrounds a methodological question, one that underlines the vexed relationship between visual histories of South Asia and the visual economies of race and religion in the United States. Viewing Shah's drawings demands a different perspective on South Asian American visual culture, an aesthetic field that is triangulated among the legacy of British colonialism, decolonization movements on the subcontinent, and the emergence of the United States as a global power. Such a visual perspective shifts our focus away from a dominant American-studies narrative of the United States in Asia and toward an understanding of how colonial and postcolonial histories on the subcontinent produce a different set of visual memories for diasporic subjects in America.