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

Reflections on EmpireSubscribe to Reflections on Empire

Rethinking News Agencies, National Development and Information Imperialism

Looking back on the New World Information and Communication Order debate of the 1970s when the global domination of four western news agencies was seen as a form of information imperialism, this essay points out that in some ways it looks like there has been a further deterioration in the relations of power. But there has been both the significant growth of regional players since the 1970s and the internet since the 1990s. Against the background of the current paradigmatic shift of development communication from state-led to market-led development, and a comparative study of news agencies in China, India and Russia, it argues that there is scope for rearticulating the role and significance of news agencies, even within a flawed, hierarchical system, that is more positive than what the old discourse might have indicated.

Pandemic, Empire and the Permanent State of Exception

This essay considers a brief moment in the H1N1 flu controversy - the attack on the World Health Organisation by the Council of Europe - as exemplar of a type of struggle for sovereignty "post-empire". It extends Giorgio Agamben's formulation of the "permanent state of exception" to examine how member states of supranational organisations partially delegate their own capacity to declare health emergencies of varying scale and scope. It goes on to ask whether the structures of consciousness about the dangers of global disease and utility of promised disease control that was embedded in the will to expansion of classic empires have now been transformed into a new mechanism of control on behalf of a different type of translocal force.

Resurrection and Normalisation of Empire

An introductory essay to the special issue, this paper describes key factors that govern, and, at the same time, reflect the resurrection and normalisation of empire today. It elaborates on the normalisation of empire through three modes of thought and practice - the entrenchment of imperial exceptionalism as a norm of governance or political reason; the neo-liberal, economistic rationale for imperial intervention; and the historiographic redemption of empire. After presenting an outline of "imperial indifference", an attitude and practice that perpetuates the legitimation of empire, it describes the focus of each essay in the issue, and concludes with some thoughts on the futures of empire.

Adam's Mirror: The Frontier in the Imperial Imagination

To the centre of any empire, the frontier is a site of anxiety, of potential harm, of barbarians who could be marching towards the gate. The imperial imaginations of the medieval Arab dynasties, the colonial British, and now the United States have been dominated by this anxiety. We have to plant our historiographical feet in the frontier space of present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and north India to see the concerns which emerge from within a regional imagination, in a regionally specific conversation and in regional stories. Situating ourselves in the frontier reveals varied perspectives that are invisible to the imperial eye. To pay attention to the localised production of history and memory is to decontextualise the only context that appears relevant - the imperial one. This shift in perspective reveals that the oft-designated "frontier" has a centrality all of its own.

Imperial Democracies, Militarised Zones, Feminist Engagements

The post-11 September 2001 consolidation of imperial democracies and securitised regimes in the United States, Israel, and India mobilise anatomies of violence anchored in colonial legacies and capitalist profit-making. These regimes utilise specific and connected racial and gendered ideologies and practices at their social and territorial borders - in the us-Mexico borderlands, the West Bank and Gaza, and the Kashmir Valley. They exercise militarised and masculinised forms of control, surveillance and dispossession that illuminate the contours of national political subjectivities and the uneven construction of citizenship. These imperial democracies militarise all domains of social life, and discipline or imprison not just abandoned and criminalised communities, but all state subjects. The essay suggests that an alternative vision of connectivity and solidarity requires building ethical, cross-border feminist solidarities that confront neoliberal militarisation globally.

Digital Imperialism through Online Social/Financial Networks

Arguing that digital capitalism and digital imperialism function through the digitalisation of finance and the continuing financialisation of the globe through the apparent "inclusion" of the subaltern, this essay looks at the phenomenon by examining two online microfinance social networks. One is a non-profit website while the other is a for-profit one and their approaches differ to an extent. However, the ideological divide is very thin and both are complicit in and contribute to the digital imperialism that "produces" the subaltern online. The writers suggest that reflecting on this might be a step towards imagining alternative modes of online inclusivity.

Taming the Imperial Impulse: Realising a Pragmatic Moral Vision

The imperial impulse, or the tendency to dominate and exploit others, retains its hold on the hearts and minds of human beings. This essay does not suggest that humanity can once and for all overcome the imperial impulse, but emphasises making it unjustifiable in theory and untenable in practice. In other words, "taming" the imperial impulse, or understanding its rationale in ways that make empire unimaginable and imperial ideology unsustainable. This requires deliberate strategies, concerted action and deploying and supplementing existing normative and institutional resources for upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights everywhere. Instead of resorting to unilateral and extra-institutional "humanitarian intervention", it proposes that whatever political will and resources any state is willing to devote to protecting victims around the world should be directed at enhancing collective institutional action through the United Nations.

Indian Empire (and the Case of Kashmir)

This essay asks what the history of modern empire and of state formation within it can teach us about the formation and functioning of the state in decolonised, independent nations like India. It also considers the converse of this question - can an analysis of the centrality of a particular kind of state formation to the making of empire help us understand some of the deeply undemocratic imperatives and neocolonial ambitions of the postcolonial nation state today? It argues that crucial modes of governance, particularly the relation between the militarised state and its subject populations that characterised colonial empires, extend to the present moment. In addition, it examines the situation of Jammu and Kashmir to show how the government of independent India has renewed both colonial legislation and colonial attitudes to deal with challenges to its authority, particularly from populations at its peripheries who wish to choose their own form of national political formation.
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