And Another

Want more? Want more bad writing combined with bad thinking? Right then.

This is from a review by Azfar Hussain of Dis/locating Cultures/Identitites, Traditions, and Third World Feminism by Uma Narayan.

Narayan’s preoccupations with the problematics of the representations of sati in Western feminist discourse indeed remain intimately connected to other representationalist discursive areas, namely dowry-murders in India and domestic violence-murders in the United States — issues that she takes up in the third chapter of her book. Narayan takes a hard, critical look at the ways in which dowry-murders in India are framed, focused, and even formulated in US academic feminist discourse, while pointing up the dangerous problems kept alive by Western culturalist epistemological approaches to Third-World subjects, identities, traditions, and cultures. She argues that while crossing “borders” in the age of globalization, images, narratives, and the entire chain of events pertaining to the Third World lose their national and historical differentia specifica under the homogenizing epistemic logic of some readily available connection-making apparatuses. As Narayan further argues, such apparatuses — informational, ideological, and mediatic as they are — continue to provide visibility to dowry-murders in India and relative invisibility to domestic-violence murders in the US, thereby serving the hegemonic.

Thereby serving the hegemonic, you see. Perhaps if Hussain had said what he says more clearly, he would have been too embarrassed to say it – which is one use of jargon: it makes it easier to say absurd things. But then one has to wonder why people want to say absurd things. Why do Hussain and Narayan want to argue that Western feminists should not ‘frame, focus and formulate’ dowry-murders in such a way that they are made more visible? Why do they want to summon all this portentous suspicion about the whole thing? Isn’t there enough real oppression and racism and colonialism in the world, without going to all this trouble to translate moral or humanitarian attention into something that ‘serves the hegemonic’?

Just a bit more, by way of edification and entertainment.

Such a self-critical interrogation begins to complicate the very question of identity itself in ways in which the continuing “colonialist” process of constructing “Third-World” identity and also even the practice of conjuring the ghost of authenticity haunting that very identity (as exemplified in various brands of counterproductive, essentialist identity-politics these days) are all brought into productive crises. For Narayan, indeed, the question of identity continues to constitute a predominant concern throughout the book. And her insistence on historicizing and contextualizing identity and difference within the deeply specific national contexts — instead of just celebrating or, worse, fetishizing them — seems right on the mark. According to her, the fetishization of difference and identity only renders them vulnerable to ongoing hegemonic appropriations in the metropolis.

Oh, those ongoing hegemonic appropriations in the metropolis. Don’t you just hate that? You know, you can’t get a cab, and the restaurants are all booked, and everything is so expensive, and then on top of all that – ongoing hegemonic appropriations! It’s unbearable!

20 Responses to “And Another”