September 20, 2012 § 4 Comments
In Amusing Ourselves to Death, a prophetic work on the impact of television on culture, the late media scholar Neil Postman compared two dystopias. One was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, a world of strict thought control and surveillance where dissent was drowned under screams of torture. The other was Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World, a culture of permanent distraction, immobilized by entertainment and diminished by superficiality. One society was watched by Big Brother; the other entertained by it.
Postman found Orwell’s vision irrelevant to western democracies. Modern society, he said, was less a prison than a burlesque. Like Huxley’s nightmare vision, culture was being impoverished by distraction and trivia, and thought devalued. The problem wasn’t so much entertainment as the habit of mind that resulted from being permanently stimulated and amused, leaving little space for reflection.
The case against television may have been overstated. It was after all a passive medium and individuals were free to walk away. Internet too in its first incarnation had limited claim on our lives. But things have changed dramatically with Web 2.0. We no longer just consume information; we also create it. Barriers to entry are lower and technical skills are no longer necessary. Combined with smart phones and wireless technology, we are in the midst of an epochal change. We are dependent on technology in a way we have never been before.
September 5, 2012 § 1 Comment
Last year I had my unpleasant run in with the UKBA. Because my bank balance had fallen below the required minimum of £800 in the final months of my PhD, the UKBA refused to renew my visa and I was asked to leave. The grounds for rejecting my visa were that I couldn’t meet the UK’s ‘maintenance’ requirements, even though I had been in the country for over 7 years, paid taxes, and contributed to the economy in myriad other ways. More importantly, I had just been hired as a senior lecturer at a UK institution of higher learning, so my capacity to earn wasn’t in any doubt. In the end I had to appeal the decision, go through months of uncertainty, and finally have the decision over-turned only after a campaign in my support by leading academics and intellectuals. The Scotsman and BBC Scotland were also immensely helpful in publicising my case. I thought my case was outrageous enough; but now a couple of thousand others find themselves in a similar situation thanks to the UKBA’s decision to withdraw the London Metropolitan University’s license to sponsor foreign students. In the video below you can hear some of them. Worse, Professor John Tulloch, a respected UK academic, a 7/7 survivor, has also been stripped of his British passport because of an absurd technicality.
In pandering to the xenophobic right, the government is gambling with the future of British Higher Education. This is madness at a time when a collapsing economy could really benefit from the money that foreign students bring in. Earlier this year 68 chancellors, governors and university presidents had written to David Cameron, warning him against the strict immigration policies that were going to lead foreign students to go elsewhere, costing the British economy billions. Universities are feeling the strain and the government is trying to place the burden for the lost revenue on home students, who are now made to pay exorbitant fees for degrees. This usually means the diminution of choices for students as they come under pressure to chose profitable disciplines. Social sciences and humanities inevitably suffer. The collapse began under New Labour, when education funding was slashed and top-up fees were introduced. Academic performance became less important than economic viability; highly regarded institutions such as Middlesex University’s philosophy department were shut down because they were no longer seen as being profitable enough. Things are now much worse. Universities spend more time marketing to a dwindling pool of students, academics spend more time chasing grants, managers spend more time searching for superfluous academics to lay off. It’s dog-eat-dog. It is unclear how bad things will get before those in authority reconsider the wisdom of their current policy. Academics have certainly done nothing to engender such reappraisal. The unions are compromised and for now most are just busy fending for themselves.
Also worth reading are Craig Murrays immensely important observations on the LMU scandal.
June 24, 2012 § 1 Comment
Donna Shalala suffers yet another indignity. The former Clinton administration official, who had been collaborating with the Israeli government to undermine BDS, had her comeuppance when according to YNet, she was ‘was held for two-and-a-half hours at Ben Gurion Airport during which she underwent a humiliating security debriefing because of her Arab last name ‘. Despite her services for the Israel lobby, she was recently invited to deliver the graduation speech at the American University in Beirut. Here is how she was greeted:
February 24, 2012 § 5 Comments
by Huma Dar
I am reminded of, yet once again,
if I ever forgot,
occupied with, all over again,
a crazy, intense
conversation with my students,
some weeks ago.
As Ibn ‘Arabi’s Moses,
we heard out of Time:
“take off thy shoes” (20:12).
Spurred by our reading
of Tayeb Salih’s tumultuous Season
of Migration to the North,
“a moment of ecstasy is worth the whole of life,”
Frantz Fanon’s Black tender Skin,
and the Whiteness
of colonial Masks that pierce us,
whirling with, in, and around us,
and the imprisonment
of four-hundred at San Quentin
– that notorious jail
from Hollywood’s dungeons.
January 17, 2012 § 3 Comments
by Mohamad Junaid
[This essay is a response to the emerging discussions over the ‘appropriateness’ of the use of the word ‘genocide’ in the context of the Indian military occupation in Kashmir on PulseMedia and elsewhere on Facebook.]
But, which language? Which one language expresses all joyous, exhilarating, or traumatic experiences?
When Kashmiris are told to be precise in their language there are largely two positions involved: one, a sympathetic (if inadequate and self-censorious) one, which suggests that following ‘the convention’ will allow for legalistic interpretation and some form of retributive or ‘restorative’ justice. Often such a position traps itself in legal discourse, and by seeking to bottle people’s experiences into tight categories, fetishizes those categories, and in the end reduces the depth of traumatic experiences to mere data points on the grid of classification. This compliant and self-disciplining position forgets the origins of law in violence (and the inverse), and how ‘law’ serves to maintain ‘order’—which is, in other words, the systematized, legally endorsed structure of oppression. The peculiar claim to universalism (to create a universal system of law) that drives this position pays no heed to where, and for whom, these supposedly ‘universal’ categories of law are created, and what connection law has with power or ‘international’ law with the empire. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 1, 2012 § 6 Comments
by Huma Dar
In today’s edition of Dawn.com, Jan 1, 2012, the renowned and beloved feminist poet, Fahmida Riaz has an article, “Understanding Manto,“ about Urdu literature’s enfant terrible, Sa’adat Hasan Manto. This year will mark Manto’s birth centenary. Thank you, Fahmida Apa, for writing this moving tribute! Sad indeed is the day when Pakistan cannot or does not publish Manto’s work, uncensored, unedited. Despite justified indignation, knowing our “guardians of morality and piety,” it aches my heart to confess, I am not surprised.
Ironically, the “Indian pirated edition” – even if we overlook the immense ethical difficulties with the issue of piracy, and the direly-needed resources that were (and are) thus withheld from Manto and his family — is still no guarantee of accessing the “original, uncensored text.” Christine Everaert in her book, Tracing the Boundaries between Hindi and Urdu: Lost and Added in Translation (Brill, 2009) painstakingly records many elisions, omissions, and additions in just a few of Manto’s stories as they’re carried from their original Urdu to the [pirated] Hindi versions. Some of these transformations are, of course, to ease the transmission of the literary register in Urdu to Hindi; others to simply make things more palatable for Indian nationalism. (Please especially see the Chapter II of this book for many examples…)
October 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
By Claire Chambers
What does it mean to be a writer of Muslim heritage in the UK today? Is there such a thing as ‘Muslim fiction’? If so, is it cultural background or belief that makes writing (or identity) Muslim?
My book, British Muslim Fictions: Interviews with Contemporary Writers (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), is the first in a two-part book project, which seeks answers to these complex questions. It is a collection of conversations with writers who live or work in Britain and have an intimate relationship with Islam, whether they are religious, cultural, or even – paradoxically – atheist Muslims, and whether South Asian, Arab, African, or European.
Over thirteen interviews, I talked to Anglophone writers including Aamer Hussein, Fadia Faqir, Hanif Kureishi, Leila Aboulela, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and PULSE’s own Robin Yassin-Kassab. This is a group of writers who are highly diverse but, like a loosely connected and often discordant family, they have much in common, through their connections both to Islam and the United Kingdom. As well as discussing their literary techniques and the impact that their Muslim heritage has had on them, I became increasingly persuaded that this body of writing shares certain preoccupations (relating to gender, class, the war on terror, al-Andalus, the Rushdie Affair, and a cosmopolitan outlook), and is some of the most important and politically engaged fiction of recent years.
As you can tell from my name, I am not from a Muslim background myself, although I was fortunate enough to grow up in Leeds in West Yorkshire, surrounded by many South Asian Muslim friends. As clichéd as it may sound, my worldview has also been crucially shaped by my gap year, 1993-94, which I spent teaching English in Peshawar, Pakistan, at the age of eighteen. I went on to specialize in South Asian literature in English as a postgraduate student, and continue to fuel my interest by return visits to the Indian subcontinent and by working with diasporic communities.
July 1, 2011 § Leave a Comment
June 30, 2011 § Leave a Comment
June 29, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Each day over the next week we’ll be publishing one of the six lectures on the theme of ‘Representation of the Intellectual’ that Edward Said recorded in 1993 as part of the annual BBC Reith Lectures.
The fourth lecture is titled: ‘Professionals and Amateurs.’
Professionals and Amateurs (30 mins): MP3