Image: Blue Winged Teal. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Okay Ducks, here are your links from South Asia and Beyond!
Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, the Vice President of Afghanistan, has died of natural causes at age 57. Marshal Fahim fought along side the Lion of Panjshir, Ahmad Shah Massoud, during the Soviet Occupation. After Massoud’s assassination, Fahim led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban during the American invasion in 2001. He became the Defense Minister in the transitional Afghan government under Karzai. Human rights advocates frequently labeled him as a “notorious warlord,” but the Government of India at least viewed him as a close friend and ally.
The anti-corruption Aam Admi Party (AAP) of India has inspired a party by the same name in Pakistan. (Of course, neither party will actually make much dent in corruption, which (to paraphrase Akhil Gupta) is the force that binds the branches of the state and bureaucracy together.)
On March 5, 2014, the Nawaz Sharif government completed nine months in office, despite Pakistan’s continued economic crisis, chronic power shortages, and escalating sectarian violence. The military and the ISI are yet to show any inclination to wrest control of power from the civilians. In November, 2013 Sharif was able to appoint General Raheel Sharif , who is known to be politically less ambitious, as the army chief and General Rashad Mahmood as the chairman of the less powerful joint chiefs of staff. This has given him a space to deal with internal problems as the army headed by General Sharif is expected to go along with civilian wishes. But this harmony with the military may not last for the government’s full term, as in 1999 also Sharif had a few months of honeymoon period with his then army chief, General Pervez Musharraf.
Early indications are that the military’s approach this time around is to allow the democratic process to continue without its intervention. This is largely because the military knows it will not be able to fix Pakistan’s lingering economic and internal security problems if it takes over power and that it will lose whatever legitimacy it has left in the eyes of the Pakistani people. Pakistan’s judiciary and the media have helped to solidify the democratic forces up to a point.
Good morning Ducks, here are your links from South Asia… (I am not even going to pretend I know what’s going on in the Ukraine, Syria, Somalia, or Venezuela. I’ll stick to what I sort of know…).
Redhead Duck and offspring. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Vasundhara Sirnate at The Hindu writes passionately in defence of the offensive. While Indian liberals will (rightfully) continue to be upset at Penguin India’s capitulation to the so called “offended” feelings of a small and obscure group of Hindu fanatics, the liberals fail to realize that the increasing pressure to censor and protect the sentiments of various religious communities is actually just an extension of the dominant state ideology, what Manjari Chatterjee Miller labelled as “Post-Imperial Ideology” in her recent book Wronged by Empire. Miller argues that Indian prickliness (in international relations) toward perceived slights in status and Indians’ desire to consistently frame relations in terms of victimizers and victims is a major legacy of the trauma of colonialism. So perhaps it should not surprise us that in the domestic arena, the work of a brilliant (foreign) scholar of Hinduism can be painted as little more than an attempt to humiliate and offend pious Hindus. India will need to change more than its censorship policies (which are actually pointless in a digital age), it will need to change its hegemonic ideology — which is of course highly unlikely. In the meantime, the lesson for foreign scholars and foreign diplomats is clear: speaking boldly in India will result in little more than squabbles in which the foreigner is accused of deliberately seeking to humiliate the Indian state or people.
Arwin Rahi at the Diplomat argues that Afghanistan must recognize the Durand Line as its permanent border with Pakistan. Rahi is at least correct that Afghanistan needs to come to terms with this boundary — because for better or worse South Asia has inherited Westphalian definitions of statehood, but if anyone thinks that Afghan recognition of the border will end Pakistani efforts at influencing the character of the regime in Afghanistan, they are forgetting the broader strategic orientation of the Pakistani military.
Javid Husain at the Nation (Pakistan) calls for national reconciliation in Afghanistan to avoid a civil war. Unsurprisingly, he claims that the Afghan Constitution should be modified to meet the “reasonable” demands of the Taliban. Umm… right. Moving on… He also says that Karzai has displayed a “belated eagerness” to reach a deal with the Taliban, which indicates that the author was mentally on hiatus for the last decade. Despite the howlers, the article may indicate that there is at least a faction in Pakistan that would settle for using the Taliban as a kind of veto player (as opposed to seeking outright hegemony) in post-Karzai Afghanistan.
Image: White Back Duck. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Good morning. Here are your links …
Bilal Sarwary at the BBC gives us a glimpse of Helmand province that is rarely seen. He writes, “This type of checkpost is the real front line. There are poppy fields on one side, police headquarters on the other and constant fights with the Taliban.” So much for Operation Khanjar having made any impact at all…
Ajai Shukla at Broadsword Blog tells us that China is articulating its own vision of the Indo-Pacific, “the Maritime Silk-Route.” The MSR idea is currently about as robust as America’s “Pivot.” But who knows what the future holds…
Max de Haldevang at the LA Review of Books discusses Kyrgyzstan and the Uzbeks. De Haldevang writes, “Since 2010, Kyrgyzstan has celebrated Central Asia’s first electoral transfer of power, the creation of a progressive constitution, and the installation of a government that misses no opportunity to underline how they are residing over the region’s first parliamentary democracy. A reasonably boisterous civil society has developed, the media is relatively free — although word is that journalists’ support is easily bought — and, uniquely for the region, the leader is not an autocrat.” But it’s not all good news in Bishkek… Continue reading
Oliver Steunkel discusses “The Death of IMF Reform?” at the Post-Western World Blog. The US Congress’ rejection an IMF funding request by the Obama administration “… leaves the 188-nation group without additional resources and blocks an increase in voting power for China, India, Brazil and other emerging markets.”
Stephen Harner explains “Why China’s ADIZ is Necessary” at the China-US Focus blog. He argues, “The calculation and timing of China’s move may also evidence a reluctant realization that military-to-military dialogue with the United States was proving fruitless in achieving any reduction in provocative U.S. surveillance operations in the East China Sea… At the strategic level, China’s establishment of a clear ADIZ has been made necessary by the Obama administration’s military power focused “rebalance” (or “pivot”) to Asia.”
Stuart Elden critiques and interprets the notion of territory and human predation in the work of Grégoire Chamayou at the Funambulist. Chamayou contrasts Foucault’s icon of pastoral power, the shepherd, with the hunter of men. In Chamayou’s notion of cynegetic power, “Instead of leading the flock, the hunter follows to seize; it is a territorial power, but one that fluctuates between the fixed space of the city and the exterior, a power that is ‘not limited in its predatory extent by any external boundary. It is exercised, from a territory of accumulation, on the resources of an indefinite exteriority.'”
Hi. Here are some links to help you get your week started…
Richard Shapcott reviews Daniel J. Levine’s Recovering International Relations: The Promise of Sustainable Critique. The book is compared to P.T. Jackson’s The Conduct of Inquiry. Shapcott says that “Levine’s goal is to place the idea of a moral/ethical vocation at the heart of the discipline and to argue that the vocation requires international relations thinkers to approach their own theorizing with a different attitude or posture—one of humility and “sustainable critique.””
This year will mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. The New Yorker’s archive has an excellent review of recent historical interpretations of the causes and consequences of that great cataclysm. It is worth a read.
Neill Blomkamp’s “Elysium” packs a punch for an action sci-fi film even if its punches don’t land.
So yeah … Jodie Foster doesn’t give her best performance and the other roles for women in the film are completely lame. A beefy Matt Damon, bless his heart, is poorly cast. The core plot line doesn’t make much sense. Look, let’s face it, there is just no way Blomkamp can match the brilliance of his earlier hit, “District 9.”
Nevertheless, this film plays well with a range of contemporary possibilities/anxieties in the Global North: post-human bodies, surveillance drones, biometrics, the carceral archipelago, the securitization of migration, mega-favelas/globalized Gaza, privatized militaries, socialized medicine, the hierarchy of tongues, etc.
The film reminds us that globalization is as much about the construction of borders as their elimination. It shows just how uncomfortable we are with liberal ideas in practice. And it forces us to think about the reality of structural violence in our daily lives.
Aileen Blanley writes about Nisha Pahuja’s attempt to film a camp run by Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Through physical combat training and lectures, the group aims to transform girls in to “tigers.” The camp girls tigers sing: “Ask for milk, we’ll give you kheer, ask for Kashmir, we’ll slit your throats.” Blanley argues that Pahuja’s film “… succeeds in showing the camp’s ironic function as a safe house for adolescent minds and bodies at war with gender expectations—a space in which oppressive domestic and gender protocols are suspended, even as lecturers hold forth on how too much education is a bad thing, and how a Hindu woman’s duty is to follow the example set “5000 years ago” by women who conformed to their own “natural weakness.”
If you thought Bangladesh’s garment industry had problems, perhaps you ought to look at its ship breaking industry. Life expectancy in this industry is apparently 20 years less than in others in Bangladesh.
Vidhyapati Mishra wrties from the Beldangi II refugee camp that Bhutan is no Shangri-La, especially if your ancestors were Nepalese migrants to that kingdom. (So much for gross national happiness…)
Salman Adil Hussain reviews Deepa Kumar‘s Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. Hussain writes, “Kumar shines a bright light on liberal Islamophobia, and shows how the Obama administration’s emphasis on homegrown terrorism generated a lot of talk about ‘terrorists in our midst’ in the mainstream American media and presented right-wing Islamophobes with the opportunity they needed to (re-)popularise the old ‘Islamic peril’.”
David J. Morris asks: “How much does culture matter for P.T.S.D.?” The following quote from the article is powerful and worth contemplating: “The growing criticism of our current understanding of P.T.S.D. suggests that what was once ignored or treated as a failure of character—the soldier’s weakness—has now been medicalized to the exclusion of discussing its moral and spiritual dimensions. “It feels to me as if the U.S. civilian population has pathologized the veteran experience,” Elliott Woods, an Iraq veteran-turned-reporter, told me not long ago. “
Jon Hochstartner reviews the politics of one of my favorite Rockstar Games: Red Dead Redemption. Hochstartner argues, “In the end, Rockstar sides with the rebels, but quite unenthusiastically. And the publisher seems to go further, cynically suggesting government can never be representative of the people’s interests, no matter the circumstances, no matter how much the masses struggle. This, of course, leaves no room for progressive change.”
Evan Narcisse says “Slavery gives me a weird personal connection to Assassin’s Creed IV.” He writes, “Roll your eyes if you want but entertainment set in the days of yore tends to primarily come in the lighter shades of humanity’s spectrum. In an age when it seems like every other video game lets you rampage through New York City streets, Greco-Roman coliseums or Old World Europe analogues, I’m excited to trawl the waters of the Caribbean and pull into the ports of a homeland I’m still trying to know.” Continue reading
The Jerusalem Post reviews World War Z. Is this the most pro-Israeli film ever made? … Probably not – even the trailer shows the wall being breached. A Majinot mentality can’t work in a film whose motto is: “movement is life.”
The terrorist attack on Sunday in Bodh Gaya is a big deal, even if the Western press is slow on the uptake. This isn’t just the holiest Buddhist site in India; it is the holiest Buddhist site in the world without a doubt. (I’ve been there twice in the last twelve months and the security was pretty lax even though Indian authorities had months of warning that this attack was coming.) At the moment it is still unclear whether this is the work of Naxalites (Maoists) or the Indian Mujahideen/Al Qaeda. It is more likely the former than the latter given the Naxalite presence in the region, but if it is the latter it would mark a serious spillover of the Rohingya conflict from Myanmar.
Christopher Phelps reviews Philip Mirowski‘s Never Let a Serious Crisis go to Waste, which argues, “… neoliberalism was not dislodged by the financial crisis because it lies within ourselves. We now inhabit, he argues, “entrepreneurial” selves. Compelled to position ourselves in the market and rebrand ourselves daily, we manifest neoliberalism’s innate logic.”
Hi Duck friends. Here are some links to start your week…
Liao Yiwu served four years in prison for reciting his poem “Massacre” in memory of the 1989 Tienanmen Square protests. His horrifying prison memoir reminds us that “China remains a prison of the mind: prosperity without liberty.” More importantly, the memoir show the ways in which the Leninist-capitalist Chinese system of government and economy is replicated inside the prison. The poet’s memoir is a portrait of China painted in shit, but it is a rather telling portrait nonetheless.
Good morning. Here are some loosely connected articles on development, bureaucracy, and state power…
I am quite taken by James Ferguson’s metaphor of “swarming state power” as an alternative to James Scott’s “controlling state power” and thus as a way of understanding contemporary “development” (a discourse whose objects have apparently all but abandoned progress for the “hope of egress”). Ferguson helps us to understand both why so many development projects “fail” and what development projects are actually (i.e. functionally) doing even as they fail repeatedly and spectacularly. Surely, this metaphor of the state as a swarm, i.e. an enlarged bureaucratic state that engages usable objects without a coordinated and rationalized apparatus of planning and control, can be extended beyond the field of development?
Stephen Graham‘s essay on Foucault’s Boomerang is also worth a read. The essay reminds us that techniques of bio-power and bio-politics that served as the foundation for the surveillance state were the product of Europe’s colonial encounters. Nevertheless, these techniques have evolved rapidly toward a form that Graham calls “militarized urbanism.” The vision of urban spaces in capitalist heartlands as problematic sites or infected zones beyond the scope of the authentic national community fuels the incendiary politics of the right wing. Thus it is not surprising to see the emergence of a rightist discourse which weaponizes the bodies of migrants; and national security states that display an almost “instinctive anti-urbanism.”