Thursday, January 15, 2004

For Person A.

A call from the Head Office

Why was she here? Inta didn't know. When the head office had sent her to the biannual convention, they had offered no explanation, and had given no brief as to her endeavours. She turned to look out the window, and observed, with some surprise, that the moon was still up. Inta slid her feet into the slippers provided by Hotel Rio Grande do Sul, sauntered over to the desk next to the window, and contemplated the imprint she had found the night before, "hlor u fang axaxaxas mlo", and the scribble beneath, "upward, behind the onstreaming it mooned."

She picked up the paper and twisted it around between her fingers, when she came across a scribble on the flip side of the sheet as well. It looked like a poem:


Yellow moon, yellow moon peeping through my window
Movie director, wheelchaired, observing murder

Keep it cool, keep it real (for real)
Stay where you are, moon
Be a moon, moon
Moon, moon

She jolted to the sound of the phone ringing.

"Hello, madam. Felix at the reception speaking. There's a call for you from the Head Office."

"Put it through," she said.

There was a crackling sound in her ear, a pause, and a deep, muscular voice, as if from far away, sighing as it uttered each word emphatically.

"Inta," it said. "You must make an appointment with the Master of the Mansion."


"You will receive further instructions." Dial tone. Felix: "I guess whoever it was hung up."

Inta put the receiver down, a felt as if she was falling. She was nineteen years old and she was falling from a skyscraper, passing windows where single mothers changed their babies' diapers, where whole families had their breakfasts, where old couples stared at her, pointing at her, because she was naked, her arms tied together behind her back, still falling, falling, young men inviting her to stay awhile, falling and falling, now gagged, her speech incomprehensible even to her own ears.

"Funny," she thought. "I'm falling from the skyscraper and I'm perfectly calm, as if for every floor I pass I get older."

Inta observed her image in a fractured window. Her face look wrinkled, her hair short, and her arms bruised. She had to get out, but first she had to get to the bottom.

A knock on the door.

"Are you all right in there? Madam? Are you all right?"

Inta opened the door.

"Oh, it's you Felix. Just had a nightmare."

Felix slipped her a note.

"You received this message this morning. Can I get you anything? Would you like some breakfast brought up to your room?"

"Thank you, Felix, that would be lovely."

She unfolded the note. It read: "Who told you it was all right to love me? Certainly not me. Midnight. By the town hall." Signed Mundt.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Letter from superego

Dear phatic,

At the Bourdieu-list, on 4 Jan 2004 at 16:54, Emrah Goker noted the journalistic/scholastic argument used by right-wing French (or Turkish) Republicans to support discrimination against young Muslim women ("We are trying to liberate them from their male fundamentalist oppressors by removing their foluard/turban") is only an excuse for the state elites' nationalist/irredentist angst.

I responded with a notion I seemed to remember from Ania Loomba's Colonialism/Postcolonialism (Routledge, 1998) that Indian nationalism came out of a struggle to control access to women. I just reread Loomba, and she's paraphrasing Partha Chatterjee on the matter:

Well before nationalism launches itself against the colonial state, anti-colonial nationalism attempts to create 'its own domain of culture (which includes religion, customs and the family). The supremacy of the West is conceded in the material world, whereas the spiritual world is claimed as the essence of national culture, one which must be protected and defended. The more colonised people imitate Western skills in the former sphere, the greater the need to protect the latter. (Loomba, p. 190)

I guess I must have confused these comments with Fanon's notes on the use of women as anti-colonial signifiers in Algeria. Not so strange, perhaps, since Chatterjee's and Fanon's sensibilities may sound similar (analogous). Fanon claims that French colonialist doctrines identified Algerian women and family relations as the crucial site for their onslaught against native culture:

If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the women; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight. It is the situation of woman that was accordingly taken as the theme of action. The dominant administration solemnly undertook to defend this woman, pictured as humiliated, sequestered, cloistered ... transformed by the Algerian man into an inert, demonetized, indeed dehumanized object. ... After it had been posited that the woman constituted the pivot of Algerian society, all efforts were made to obtain control over her. ... Thus the rape of the Algerian woman in the dream of the European is always preceded by a rending of the veil. (Fanon 1965, 37pp)

Fanon the explains how "the resistance movement demanded that the nationalist Algerian woman both veil and unveil herself in its cause. She was asked at first to Europeanise herself to penetrate the European quarters of the city, since the colonial regime assumed that Westernised woman would not be part of the resistance. The unveiled Algerian woman had to fashion her body to being 'naked' and scritinised, she had to move 'like a fish in the Western waters' while 'carrying revolvers, grenades, hundreds of false identity cards and bombs'. But such a woman is not unveiled at Europe's bidding, hence she does not signify loss of cultural identity but the forging of a new nationalist self. ... Some years later, when the colonial state understood that not all unveiled women were alienated from the nationalists, the Algerian woman was ordered to veil herself again." (Loomba 193-194)

Your humble servant,
T Fjeld
How to change reality *
(manual in 7 movements)

1st Movement.
Make a concession: Allow realistic intrusion into your text.

2nd Movement.
How is the world around you different from how you want it to be?

3rd Movement.
Articulate the realistic element as a fictional moment.

4th Movement.
How would it be possible for this fictional moment to reintroduce
itself into the real?

5th Movement.
Imagine a possible world in which the change you want may take place.

6th Movement.
In composition, allow for realistic coherence (avoid formal collision
with realism).

7th Movement.
Disseminate and Return.

* Footnote: 'Realism' is considered dominant (and) in its
contemporary manifestation.