The Binary Code

Thus, within the last hundred years, we have seen two algorithms of identity making in a political society: to pick and choose from a portfolio of individual identities in an inegalitarian society versus a singular identity in an egalitarian society.

The Literature of Converts

One useful way, albeit at a high level of generality, is to think of Chinese science fiction as a literature of converts — the literature of a culture that has embraced the monotheism of technology while retaining nostalgia for the polytheisms of an agrarian past. 

The God of all Sufferings

God, like an absentee landlord, is rarely seen, even if we live on his premises and pay rent periodically in form of worship.  Viewed thus, God and the evil in the world are reconciled through a technique of sidestepping, a pragmatic form of messianism if you will. History, in this view, comprises of events and God exists outside history itself.

Textures of Time

His insistence of privileging primary documents over psychologism of internalized oppression has therefore led his work to be accused of — horror of horrors —  conservatism, especially among the “faux radicals” who thrive in America’s well funded corporate universities.  

Sea Battles on Land

Whereas tradition once privileged on circumspection, restraint, self-abnegation — often at the cost of individuality — there was an implicit agreement that society en masse didn’t need “smart” men. But by our times, when reason is enshrined as a means to self-improvement, it is little surprise that our societies reach for darker and discredited ideologies to break free from the ideologies brokered, bartered, securitized, and marketed by the ‘smart’ men.

The Inner Worlds of Other People

Perhaps, a century from now, future historians will look back at our Facebook posts and Twitter feeds to discover a society that rather willingly inverted the diary-writing habits of its ancestors and began to pour its inner thoughts onto public forums.

Photography and Meaning

Historically, across societies, to understand our representations of reality — be it paintings, engravings, photos — we have relied on the stability of contexts to arrive at homogeneous and mutually reinforcing meanings. But this contextual stability has come undone thanks to varying forces in play: migration, social media, manipulated and manufactured news.

The Theater of Death

For grief to survive publicly, it needs to be deemed marketable, preferably with the banality of a self-help manual.  At the minimum, a germ of communicable optimism must be present in its ectoplasm.  The infrastructure of commerce demands once the natural disaster is past its due date, in order for the deaths and grief to survive in our collective memory, it must find ways to smuggle itself as an event of reaffirmation. 

A Biographer of Self-Deceptions

Naipaul leaves behind at least two generation of writers — mostly male and often from the developing world who recognize in his self-assessments the awkwardness of their own engagement with the West — who span the political spectrum.  

The Inner Lives of Other People

For much of history, human subjectivities have been “porous”. However with the rise of scientific reasoning, constructs that we traditionally relied upon — curses, ghosts, spells, jinns, angels, blessings, demons, gods — to explain our worlds have had to relinquish their explanatory claims. The result has been that the phenomena we took for granted as ‘facts’ of how our world was put together moved from the ‘outside’ to the ‘inside’.

Good Fences Make Lonely Neighbors

Even in everyday language, I noticed a shift. Instead of referencing lands by an old markers — the land where the tamarind tree blooms or the grounds where the toddy tapper was bitten by a snake — the lands were now explicitly tagged with the name of their owners. Nature had become indistinguishable from property.

The Sounds of Silence

We wade through the detritus of sound with the recklessness and joy of addicts. It is amidst this recognition that the tree outside my window, and the need for trees in our cities, acquires a meaning that transcends their physical form. They become great absorbents of the furies of the city.

A Brief History of Time

Irrespective of your belief in religion or membership in a community of co-believers, modernity declared that individuals and societies belong in the same flow of time — each is subject to the same imperium of the clock wherein one second follows another.

In praise of amateurs

All that exists at that moment is the task at hand, with neither its past nor its future apprehensible to the performer. It is what our ancients called ‘sadhana’, a state of performative being that is indistinguishable from meditation.

Dreams of a Muslim Cosmopolis

Amidst  such conflicting pulls of history, the art of liberal historiography has tried to shepherd constitutional democracy as and when it has found breathing space amidst military coups by elevating liberal heroes like Jinnah over above the religious voices.  What Dhulipala, in a way, has done is broken ranks and written in a part for those who are deemed as villains of our progressive, liberal age — the Islamists.

Memoirist of Fire

Since Atahualpa was executed by Pizarro in the 16th century, waves of violence under one pretext or another lashed over these regions rich in minerals, forests, and water. That said, Galeano repeatedly noted, even during these ‘plague years’ of 20th century authoritarianism, people laughed and cried, made love and fought, gossiped and conspired after reading novels and poems.

The knowledge of our own finitude

Geographical systems seem so terrifying in their consequence, so relentless in their march, so impervious to human presence. It is little surprise that geography, or even nature, rarely preoccupies the modern mind except when disaster arrives home in the form of fire or a tsunami.