Reproducing the Future: In Conversation with Sara Pursley
Silence in Iraqi Women’s Storytelling
By Gabriel Young
In Familiar Futures, Sara Pursley investigates how Western and Iraqi policymakers promoted changes in schooling, land ownership, and family law to better differentiate Iraq's citizens by class, sex, and age. Peasants were resettled on isolated family farms; rural boys received education limited to training in agricultural skills; girls were required to take home economics courses; and adolescents were educated on the formation of proper families. Future-oriented discourses about the importance of sexual difference to Iraq's modernization worked paradoxically, deferring demands for political change in the present and reproducing existing capitalist relations. Ultimately, the book shows how certain goods—most obviously, democratic ideals—were repeatedly sacrificed in the name of the nation's economic development in an ever-receding future.
Glancing Awry at Sikh Immigrant Life
By Shawk Alani
I learned from my grandmother and other Iraqi women in the small but growing diaspora community in the mid-1990’s in the Emirates that the telling and retelling of a collected repertoire of life events is a significant process. I learned that a life story can be found in singular moments and daily rituals. I also learned that it is a process both personal and communal, and always profound. The significance of the act of remembering people and their journeys was in the wisdoms and instructions and information inserted into retold life events. Telling life stories in Iraqi women’s gatherings enlisted a sacred attention in me that was simultaneously unimposing and unwavering. Enshrined between the syntax of words and storylines I found the power of memory, recitation, performance, and curation in the reproduction of life through stories.
Genealogies of Law Across Land, Peoples & Sea: In Conversation with Renisa Mawani
By Rajbir Singh Judge and Jasdeep Singh Brar
Central to the Sikh discursive tradition is contestation—debate about authorizing Sikh life, which is necessarily messy, refusing to be sutured into any singular moment. Contestations refuse the settling gestures necessary to enframing the Sikh community. This does not mean we can get away from pictures since, as WJT Mitchell (2005) writes, a picture “refers to the entire situation in which an image has made its appearance” (xiv). As phantoms and disembodied motifs, images appear, retract, and linger in this picture, which is, Mitchell continues a very peculiar and paradoxical creature, both concrete and abstract, both a specific individual thing and a symbolic form that embraces a totality (xvii).
Looking at Congo: Makala (2014) vs. Makala (2017)
Renisa Mawani speaks with Hardeep Dhillon on ocean, law and historical methods.
“Often when people wrote on law and colonialism, both – law and colonialism – appeared as monolithic rather than layered multi-dimensional. I was trying to problematize both. Which laws governed land, labor, and mobility? How did they work together and in tension? And how did these various legalities produce and regulate colonial contact zones? For example, the overlapping projects of land, labor, and resource exploitation brought different people into the same space, as fishers and cannery workers. But these bodies needed to be taxonomized and organized through conceptions of race, time, and history.”
Afro-Asian Capital and its Dissolution
by Yayra Sumah
“Negro nature had often asserted itself, but it was after all but human nature. They had never boasted that they were heroes, but they exhibited truly heroic stuff while coping with the varied terrors of the hitherto untrodden and apparently endless wilds of broad Africa.”
- Through the Dark Continent Vol. 2 (1877), Henry Morton Stanley
On January 16th, 2014, Congolese filmmaker and director Carolle Maloba wa Maloba, uploaded her documentary film Makala to YouTube. The film dealt with the work of charcoal laborers and the environmental impact that charcoal production was having on Lubumbashi, a city in DRC’s Katanga province. Three years later, Emmaneul Gras’ film of the same title, subject matter, and at times, even similar scenes shot, was released in 2017 by French distributor Les Films du Losange.
Recording the Objects of a Separation: in conversation with author Aanchal Malhotra
In this essay, Indrani Chatterjee argues that a convergence of global and postcolonial scholarship has led to a dominant mode of reading precolonial records in ways that are colonial in their perspective and political purpose. The essay traces this dominance between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries. The first section contains a historically specific discussion of wealth-in-people to situate Afro-Asians in the subcontinent. The second outlines two Mughal historians of the late eighteenth century who also remembered these Afro-Asian lineages in honorable ways. A third section outlines moments of emancipation during the nineteenth century that redeployed the same peoples for colonial navies and rendered them into subalterns. The fourth section concludes with a brief discussion of modern historiography, which places all Afro-Asians in diaspora and confirms nationalist border thinking.
How I Met My Great-Grandfather: Archives and the Writing of History
How does one write the historical memory of the Partition of India, as told through the objects people carried with them while crossing borders? A string of pearls twisted into a dupatta, a scarf, or a cubic inch-sized Guru Grant Sahib hidden within the folds of a dastaar, a turban. What Aanchal Malhotra writes about, however, is not just these objects. She uncovers layers of material memory, finding nostalgia, trauma, and both personal and national identity within them. Radhika Shah converses with Aanchal Malhotra on materials, memory and history as seen through objects.
Theories from the South II: Interview with Aditya Nigam
In this article, historian Sherene Seikaly reflects on a decade of research, contingent, accidental, and unconsciously autobiographical, to explore archival practices and the writing of history. What happened to a man of capital who survived the catastrophe of 1948? What allows an archive to survive that event? What stories does it record and what does it render invisible? She recounts her experience of stumbling across family papers that carried the story of Naim Cotran as a “man of capital.” She details Naim’s consumerism, his financial investments and property, and his land dispute with his brother, and then traces his experience of dispossession after the Nakba as a refugee in Lebanon.
Political theorist Aditya Nigam’s works have provided us with essential tools to theorize the contemporary experiences of capitalism, and to interrogate the received philosophical history of capital. This is the second part of a conversation to emerge out of the workshop "Equality and Difference: Theory from the South", on 29th September 2017. The questions were jointly addressed to Prathama Banerjee and Aditya Nigam over emails.