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This chapter address the question as to why the postcolonial condition can be termed as one of predicament, that is to say a combination of contradictory circumstances—globally and specifically. This state of combination cannot be understood in terms of a theory of transition, but only as a state in its own right. The need for transformation of that condition demands that we analyse rigorously the paradoxes which define the postcolonial condition. The chapter takes up four sub-themes to explain the postcolonial predicament: (1) the postcolonial imprint on knowledge formation; (2) translation as part of producing the universal in the postcolonial age; (3) the migrant as the subject of the postcolonial predicament; and (4) postcolonial labour as the mark of this situation. The chapter argues that these four issues are global in nature, and hence what we know as the postcolonial predicament is global, and not merely specific to certain ex-colonial countries.
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“Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?” (May 1963); The note formed a part of the “Draft Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on Certain Problems in Our Present Rural Work”, which was drawn up under the direction of Mao Tse Tung, and was written by Mao Tse Tung himself. See— http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-9/mswv9_01.htm (accessed on 1 August 2011).
“The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force”—Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, trans. Joseph O’Malley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), introduction, p. 5.
Eleventh Thesis, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it”—Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach (1845); The most widely known version of the “Theses” is the one based on Engels’ edited version, published as an appendix to his Ludwig Feuerbach in 1888, where he gave it the title “Theses on Feuerbach” , Marx Engels Selected Works, Volume One, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969), pp. 13–15.
Theodor Adorno, “Cultural Criticism and Society” in Theodor W. Adorno, Can One Live after Auschwitz? A Philosophical Reader, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Rodney Livingstone and others (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), p. 147.
Adorno further wrote, “Cultural criticism is however able to reproach culture so penetratingly for prostituting itself, for violating in its decline the pure autonomy of the mind, only because culture originates in the radical separation of mental and physical work”— Ibid., p. 154.
Ned Rossiter in his Software, Infrastructure, Labour: A Media Theory of Nightmares (New York and London: Routledge, 2017) has discussed the logistical mode of production and acquisition of knowledge in details. See particularly the sub-section, “Digital Humanities and the Problem of Method”, pp. 58–60 in Chapter 3, “Into the Cloud”, pp. 51–76. Rossiter discusses the “computational turn” involving “taxonomy and political economy of software applications and the cultures of code operative within institutional settings across the world” (p. 59). Rossiter’s analysis of the data economy brings out from a fresh angle its implications for postcolonial production of knowledge.
Umberto Eco, Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2003).
Louis Althusser discusses this in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (New Delhi: Aakar Books, 2006), pp. 85–132.
Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I (1867), trans. Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin Books, 1990), Chapters 32–33, pp. 927–940.
Ibid., p. 940; Indeed, Capital from the first pages beginning with commodity and money to the last pages deals with the problematic of difference, translation and equivalence. This in one sense is at the core of the entire theme of Marx and the postcolonial age.
Marx wrote, “Of course the method of presentation must differ in form from that of inquiry. The latter has to appropriate the material in detail, to analyse its different forms of development, to trace out their inner connexion. Only after this work is done, can the actual movement be adequately described. If this is done successfully, if the life of the subject-matter is ideally reflected as in a mirror, then it may appear as if we had before us a mere a priori construction.”—Afterword to the Second German Edition of Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, volume I, p. 102.
Benedict Anderson commented, “The main thing is that good comparisons often come from the experience of strangeness and absences.” In “Frameworks of Comparison”, London Review of Books, Volume 38 (2), 21 January 2016 (pp. 15–18), p. 18.
This definition comes from Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History” in the Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984), p. 74.
Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, volume I, p. 160.
Presently, we can compare this position with the analysis by Georg Luckacs, History and Class Consciousness, trans. Rodney Livingstone (London: Merlin Press, 1971); Luckacs argued that market-based rationality takes on a scientific nature and is thus based on a separation of the objective and subjective sides of experience. However, this is only a prelude to the incorporation of all subjectivity into objectivity. By being completely incorporated into capitalism and thus its transformation into an object being complete, the worker becomes the subject of the revolutionary change, the subject of history. With the end of alienation, history ends, or the history of freedom, also history as freedom begins. However, the postcolonial condition tells us a more complex story. It recalls the fetishism, which Marx spoke of, hinging on money, law and several other instruments of measurement and equivalence, which make the incorporation of the potential subject (the human factor, social factor, the postcolonial or the political agency such as the nation) in the object-world of global capitalism possible. We shall discuss this question in detail in Chapter 9.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “The public person thus formed by the union of all other persons was once called the city, and is now known as the republic or the body politic. In its passive role it is called the state, when it plays an active role it is the sovereign; and when it is compared to others of its own kind, it is a power. Those who are associated in it take collectively the name of a people, and call themselves individually citizens, in that they share in the sovereign power, and subjects, in that they put themselves under the laws of the state.”— The Social Contract, trans. Maurice Cranston (London: Penguin, 1968), pp. 61–62. He further asks, “What then is correctly to be called an act of sovereignty? It is not a covenant between a superior and an inferior, but a covenant of the body with each of its members” (p. 77).
Ibid., p. 61.
Etienne Balibar, We the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship, trans. James Swenson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), Chapter 1 (pp. 1–10), “At the Borders of Europe”, p. 10; see also Nicholas De Genova, “The ‘Crisis’ of the European Border Regime: Towards A Marxist Theory of Borders”, International Socialism: A Quarterly Review of Socialist Theory, 150, 4 April 2016— http://isj.org.uk/the-crisis-of-the-european-border-regime-towards-a-marxist-theory-of-borders/ (accessed on 20 June 2016).
Ranabir Samaddar, The Marginal Nation: Transborder Migration from Bangladesh to West Bengal (New Delhi: Sage, 1999); Samaddar (ed.), Refugees and the State: Practices of Care and Asylum in India, 1947–97 (New Delhi: Sage, 2003); Paula Banerjee, Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury and Atig Ghosh (eds.), The State of Statelessness in South Asia (Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2015); also, Sandro Mezzadra, “Borders, Migrations, Citizenship”, trans. Maribel Casas Cortas and Sebastian Cobarrubias (2004)— www.observatorio.fadaiat.net/tiki-index.php?page=borders,+Migrations,+Citizenship (accessed on 12 June 2013); Mezzadra brought in the significant question of labour and labour market when he remarked in this article, “This tendency [conflicts over citizenship], exemplified most effectively (and usually dramatically) by migrants, plays an essential role in the material constitution of European citizenship as well as in the very functioning of the labour market within the various European countries. To such an extent, nowadays the border/confine can be considered one of the pillars around which citizenship and labour market is reorganized.” This point is developed further in Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, Border as Method, or the Multiplication of Labour (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).
“Borders are there to be crossed”, Jadaliyya— http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/23064/borders-are-there-to-be-crossed (accessed on 2 November 2015).
Patrick Barnard, “Notes on Syria and the Great Refugee Crisis”, Montreal Serai, Volume 21 (9), March 2016— http://montrealserai.com/2016/03/28/notes-on-syria-and-the-great-refugee-crisis/ (accessed on 5 April 2016).
Julian Reid, “Climate, Migration, and Sex: The Bio-politics of Climate Induced Migration”, Critical Studies on Security, Volume 2 (2), 2014, pp. 196–209.
Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World (London: Verso, 2002).
The recall of late nineteenth and early twentieth century experience narrated by Mike Davis is not accidental. Several studies reinforce the point of colonial patterns of migration being reproduced in postcolonial time. On this see some of the relevant writings—for studies of forced child migrations and women’s asylums see: Roy Parker: Uprooted— The Shipment of Poor Children to Canada— 1867 to 1917, (University of British Columbia Press, 2008) and Mary Geyer, Behind the Wall—The Women of the Destitute Asylum, Adelaide, 1852–1918 (Adelaide: Migration Museum, 1994); on coolie labour, see Rana Pratap Behal, Marcel van der Linden (eds.), Coolies, Capital, and Colonialism—Studies in Indian Labour History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) or the earlier classic work by Jan Breman, Taming the Coolie Beast—Plantation Society and the Colonial Order in Southeast Asia (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989); regarding famines see earlier cited, Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts and the Making of the Third World.
Of the many recent reports on this, International New York Times predicted, “mass migration poised to rise”, and stay that way—report by Rod Nordland, 2 November 2015, p. 8.
On the theme of postcolonial subjectivity, see two thought provoking essays in: Sandro Mezzadra, Julian Reid and Ranabir Samaddar (eds.), The Biopolitics of Development: Reading Michel Foucault in the Postcolonial Present (New Delhi and Heidelberg: Springer, 2013), Chapter 2; Judith Revel, “Foucault and His ‘Other’: Subjectivation and Displacement”, pp. 15–24, and Chapter 7; Julian Reid, “Interrogating the Neoliberal Biopolitics of the Sustainable Development–Resilience Nexus”, pp. 107–122; in the crowd of related writings, Etienne Balibar, “Citizen Subject’” in Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor and Jean-Luc Nancy (eds.), Who Comes After the Subject? (London: Routledge, 1991), Chapter 3, pp. 33–35; see also, Nina Power, “Towards an Anthropology of Infinitude: Badiou and the Political Subject”, Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Volume 2, no. 1–2, 2006, pp. 186–209.
Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (1857–1858), trans. Martin Nicolaus (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), p. 643.
Several studies in recent years form the basis of this formulation. See, Ishita Dey, Ranabir Samaddar and Suhit Sen, Beyond Kolkata: Rajarhat and the Dystopia of Urban Imagination (New Delhi and London: Routledge, 2013); Iman Mitra, Ranabir Samaddar and Samita Sen (eds.), Accumulation in Postcolonial Capitalism (New Delhi and Heidelberg: Springer, 2016); and Ranabir Samaddar, Neoliberal Strategies of Governing India (London: Routledge, 2016), Chapters 7–8.
The tanneries of Tangra, Kolkata, represent a classic instance of such labour. The finished and value-added product of Bata or an Italian design company calls for the most primitive work conditions geared towards processing raw hide, and reinforced by the most brutal controls. Caste is important in such labour composition, determining who will be members of the precariat class. See, R. Samaddar and D. Dutta, “Knowing the Worker—The Tannery Majdur of Tangra” in Parthasarathi Banerjee and Yoshihiro Sato (eds.), Skill and Technological Change— Society and International Perspective (New Delhi: Har Anand, 1997), 276–309.
We shall come to the issue of composition of postcolonial labour in Chapters 4 and 5.
The Supreme Court in the case of Bandhua Muktio Morcha (1984/SCC 389) held that even a piece rated worker is entitled to minimum wage. However, different minimum wages may be fixed for different employments and different classes of work in the same employment. Likewise, the minimum wage may vary according to hour, day, month or any other prescribed wage period.
Findings of a study on Orissa migrant women workers; “Impact of Increasing Migration of Women in Orissa”, study conducted by Sansristi, and supported by the National Commission for Women, Bhuvaneswar, 2007, p. 11.
For few relevant studies, see C. Ramchandraiah, A. C. M. van Westen and Sheela Prasad (eds.), High-Tech Urban Spaces—Asian and European Perspectives (New Delhi: Manohar, 2008); also relevant are studies of the dwelling places of workers engaged in informal work regimes. For instance—“Basti Redevelopment in Calcutta”, a report, http://cityrenewal.blogspot.in/2008/07/basti-redevelopment-in-calcutta.html (accessed on 20 November 2015).
Sandro Mezzadra, “Bringing Capital Back In: A Materialist Turn in Postcolonial Studies?”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 12 (1: pp. 154–164), p. 162; Mezzadra drew his analysis on the basis of reports on workers’ mobility in China and the labour regimes there. Related to this, interested readers may see Beverly Silver and Lu Zhang, “China as an Emerging Epicenter of World Labor Unrest” in H. F. Hung (ed.), China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), pp. 174–187; Herman Rosenfeld, “The Roots and Contours of Worker Rebellion in a Changing China”, The Bullet, Socialist Project, E-Bulletin No. 1244, 8 April 2016.
Social governance has been of particular importance as a governing strategy and pacification device in conflict prone areas, for co-opting women in affairs of governance and for neutralising the rebellious protests of Dalits and indigenous people. Social governance is the template to combine neoliberal and postcolonial modes of accumulation and appropriation.
Charles Tilly, Durable Inequality (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).
Ibid., p. 7.
Ibid., p. 9.
Such a predetermined path to socialism has always been heavily influenced by the concept of break, a complete rupture in the existing economy, which not only disallows any possible continuity of some of the old features of the economy, but ignores the possibility of what might be called an “invisible economy”. The philosopher who made the idea of break most famous, Michel Foucault, was also caught in this paradox. Thus, while in The Order of Things he focused on the discursive shifts in political economy, in his analysis of governmentality he presented a continuous and unified genealogy of the liberal account of economy. See on this, Ute Tellmann, “Foucault and the Invisible Economy”, Foucault Studies, 6, February 2009, pp. 5–24.
Theodor Adorno opened his book Negative Dialectics (trans. E. B. Ashton, London: Routledge, 1973) with these words, “ Negative Dialectics is a phrase that flouts tradition. As early as Plato, dialectics meant to achieve something positive by means of negation; the thought figure of a ‘negation of negation’ later became the succinct term. This book seeks to free dialectics from such affirmative traits without reducing its determinacy. The unfoldment of the paradoxical title is one of its aims.”—p. xix; recall the formulation by Hegel: “The result of Dialectic is positive, because it has a definite content, or because its result is not empty and abstract nothing but the negation of certain specific propositions which are contained in the result—for the very reason that it is a resultant and not an immediate nothing.”—G. W. F. Hegel, Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, (1830), trans. William Wallace, Section 82, p. 69, http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/index.htm (accessed on 18 June 2016).
All three essays of Mao need to be studied in this context: On Practice: On the Relation between Knowledge and Practice, between Knowing and Doing— http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_16.htm (accessed on 1 August 2015); On Contradiction— http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_17.htm (accessed on 1 August 2015); and On the Correct handling of Contradictions among the People— http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_58.htm (accessed on 1 August 2015).
V.I. Lenin, Conspectus of Hegel’s Science of Logic, Lenin Collected Works (Moscow: Progress, 1976), Volume 38, pp. 85–241.
Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics, p. 5.
Louis Althusser, “Surely, with a number of realities, which are precisely realities for Marx, whether superstructures, ideologies ‘national traditions’ or the customs and ‘spirit’ of a people, etc.…Surely, with the overdetermination of any contradiction and of any constitutive element of a society, which means: (1) that a revolution in the structure does not ipso facto modify the existing superstructures and particularly the ideologies at one blow (as it would if the economic was the sole determinant factor), for they have sufficient of their own consistency to survive beyond their immediate life context, even to recreate, to ‘secrete’ substitute conditions of existence temporarily; (2) that the new society produced by the Revolution may itself ensure the survival, that is, the reactivation of older elements through both the forms of its new superstructures and specific (national and international) ‘circumstances’. Such a reactivation would be totally inconceivable for a dialectic deprived of overdetermination…” (Italics Althusser’s)—“Contradiction and Overdetermination: Notes for An Investigation” in Louis Althusser, For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster— https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/1962/overdetermination.htm (accessed on 20 June 2016).
- The Postcolonial Predicament
- Chapter 2
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