ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Vinay LalSubscribe to Vinay Lal

The Tavistock Square Gandhi and the War on Terror, War on Non-violence

Gandhi's statue at Tavistock Square dates back to the 1960s but in the wake of the recent bomb attacks in London, its presence has a somewhat ironical significance. That a proponent of non-violence could provide an answer to violence seems ominously fitting, but what Gandhi divined about colonialism - that it is a 'pact' between the coloniser and the colonised - is something that can shed light on the modern culture of violence, which in some perverse way has come to link perpetrator and victim alike.

When the Voiceless find Voice

Physical assault, harassment and rape - all point towards the massive sexual disequilibrium that exists in our tremendously patriarchal societies today. The story of Mukhtaran Mai of Pakistan who was gang-raped by men in her village points towards another dimension as one comes to grips with the grim reality that even those women who have tried to fight back have been systematically suppressed.

The Wal-Mart Story

Nothing more epitomises the American ideal of 'corporate bigness' than the retail giant Wal-Mart. Yet its critics reveal their political naivete when they limit their criticism to instances of Wal-Mart's exploitation and iniquitous employee policies, while leaving untouched the entire political ideology of bigness that has made American society the most consumerist on earth.

Witch Hunts in the Academy

One element of the present dominant conservative consensus in America is aimed at rescuing the university from the nay-sayers, radicals, communists and relativists who are alleged to have taken over the American university and subverted its charter of academic freedom. There is already a movement afoot to create a 'student bill of rights' and Florida has introduced a legislation that would give students the right to sue professors who persistently introduce 'controversial matter' into the classroom.

Torture: An American Success Story

Part of the extraordinary success of the US democracy resides in the fact that its political rituals preclude any real possibility of the emergence of dissent and are designed to reinforce conformity and consensus. The singular fact remains that well over 95 per cent of all presidential nominees to cabinet-level positions in the course of American history have been confirmed by the senate, and Alberto Gonzales's confirmation as attorney general was a foregone conclusion. In many other countries, the disclosures that have taken place about Gonzales' approving the use of torture might not have been at all possible. But is it not more scandalous that, knowing all that the American public does know about Gonzales and his ilk, it should make no difference. Torture now joins the never-ending list of American success stories.

Enigmas of Exile

The idea of ?exile? formed the principal narrative behind Edward Said?s life and work. In Said?s own words, his early life was a series of displacements; later in life, he came to see western culture as fundamentally a creation of exiles. But to understand the idea of exile as Said construed it, would entail a ?contrapuntal? reading of it. For Said, exile was a ?permanent? state and not as conventionally understood, a transient stage. While this contrasted ironically with his empathy for the Palestinian cause ? a nation of people in exile ? for Said, the exilic mind was one that refuses to habituate itself to academic pieties, to accepted readings of texts, to the satisfactions of power and to the comforts of surrender to some transcendent force.

US Elections : What the Electorate Voted For

The recent US elections have set to rest some commonly held notions about American democracy. Not only did the Democrats not run a distinct campaign on the 'war on terror' theme, that a large chunk of American electorate voted for George W Bush can be seen as an apparent vindication of the Bush worldview of a unipolar world divided between 'good' and 'evil'. Such affirmation of support by the electorate has perhaps widened the gulf between Americans and the rest of the world.

Rwandan Summer of 1994

We Wish to Inform you That Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch; Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 1998; ISBN: 0-374-28697-3; pp 356. Sacrifice as Terror: The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 by Christopher C Taylor; Berg, Oxford and New York, 1999; ISBN: 1 85973 273 9 (cloth); 1 85973 278 X (paper); pp 197.

Reading between the Frames

photographs. Though photographs could Reading between the Frames be widely disseminated, unlike the real trophies, they did not provide incontro- Burden (and Freedom) of Photography vertible proof of masculine prowess: it Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs by Christopher Pinney; Reaktion Books, London, 1997; University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1998; pp 240, $55.00 cloth, $29.00 paper.

Little Merchants of War-Land Mines as Sentinels of Death

Land Mines as Sentinels of Death Vinay Lal IF the cold war has ended, humankind has nonetheless not been rid of the scourge of war. In the five years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the shorter time since the demise of the USSR, the traffic in arms and ammunition has shown no signs of diminishing; if anything, the aftermath of the Gulf war provided American companies with new defence contracts worth billions of dollars, and military expenditure in the entire west Asia saw a spectacular increase. Even as George Bush announced a new initiative for bringing peace to west Asia and placing limits on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the US, which today commands 57 per cent of the world's arms market, had already negotiated massive new contracts for arms transfers.' Far from abating, regional conflicts show signs of having escalated, and new conflicts have arisen in other areas, such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, and many parts of the former Soviet Union. The withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan did nothing to bring an end to the conflict in that region, while the ambivalence of western powers has allowed Bosnia to become the world's most unforgiving battlefield. All these conflicts, however, retain a visibility even when they do not command the attention of the world, and even the bitter civil war over Kabul, for which western powers seek to take no responsibility, has not entirely vanished from the horizon of our conscience.

Beyond Alterity

Beyond Alterity Vinay Lal The Rhetoric of English India by Sara Suleri; University of Chicago Press, Chicago; 1992; pp ix + 230. IT is with a frontal assault that Sara Suleri, who established her reputation of few years ago as a formidable writer of English and a major voice in the literature of the south Asian diaspora with a finely nuanced memoir entitled Meatless Days, begins her new study of "English India", a work that she locates "within the discourse of colonial cultural studies" while questioning some of the assumptions which have governed that discursive field. Suleri argues that the study of colonial discourse has been too bound to the idea of otherness, to the binarism of east and west, female and male, colonised and coloniser, to allow the decent ring of master-narratives to which it aspires and which has been so critical for the arguments now associated with postmodernism and post-coloniality. No doubt the idea of alterity was indispensable to the formulation of a critique of the ideology and epistemological imperatives of the coloniser, and as Suleri would hardly deny, the brunt of historical and literary scholarship before the advent of 'colonial cultural studies' did not have the political edge that most sensitive readings of colonialism are able to furnish today. Nonetheless, the binarism in the study of colonial discourse has obfuscated the "necessary intimacies that obtain[edj between ruler and ruled", which created a "counter-culture not always explicable in terms of an allegory of otherness", much as it has occluded an awareness of the fact that 'colonial cultural studies' is beset by its own binarisms, such as "the assignation of "cultures' to colonialism; of 'nation' to post-colonialism" (pp 3-7). Suleri maintains that "to interpret the configurations of colonialism in the idiom of such ineluctable divisions" is to overlook and deny the "impact of narrative on a productive disordering of binary dichotomies"; the overdetermination of difference hides the "anxiety of empire" found in colonial and post-colonial imaginations (pp 4-5).

Wonder and Exploitation in European Adventurism

care to discuss all the different aspectsof policy including the impact of agricultural policy on the nutritional status of people. But somewhere along the line in approaching the solution to the problem they have sought simplistic ones assuming that while more food may become available, more is consumed by many, more energy may beexpended in securing it resulting in little anthropometric change. It is rather surprising that conclusions such as the above can be drawn while it is well known that there is no linear relation between production and consumption.

Pages

Back to Top