Last week, I turned in another short essay. That one was tricky in the same way as critical geography - you can point to things and say ‘that’s a postcolonial text’, but there’s not much by way of a detailed explanation of what postcolonialism is about.

I took the essay because I figured I could do with learning more about postcolonialism… and I studied postcolonial theory! I took whole module on it, we all had to read Edward Said’s book on Orientalism. Did I forget everything? At least that essay was a test run, I’ll have to write another longer one due in January next year.

It has already come up in class (not by me) that some of the frameworks we’re learning are a little too individualist, in that they don’t look at institutional or structural practices. For example, take the call to “decolonise your mind” - it’s a caricature but it works as a shorthand for the general attitude. If we work to ‘decolonise academia’, we get woke, self-aware academics who all acknowledge privilege. This is very good, but meanwhile union organisers are still being assasinated in Columbia.

British-trained pilots are flying over the skies of Yemen, dropping British-made bombs on a population dying of starvation and disease. Economists from Chicago are still writing the budget policies of indebted Third World countries. Coloniality is not only a mental process. Perhaps it’s unfair to juxtapose the two, it just feels bizarre that there could be a whole sphere of decolonial ideas which are reluctant to engage with really-existing colonialism.

There’s also a tendency to focus a lot on native or indigenous people, as some kind of alternative to modern state construction/nation-building. It comes out very strongly in the literature that indigenous people are important. I mean, they are important, sure, but the discourse is a little unsettling, ascribing indigenous practices with a sort of purity or supreme innocence which is definitely problematic. Maybe I just haven’t understood it in full.

Postcolonial Theory and the Spectre of Capital (Chibber, 2013) does a better job of criticising postcolonial theory than I ever could. Unfortunately I only just started reading it after submitting the essay.

I also went to see Peterloo with the Labour Club at my local independent cinema.

Peterloo poster

The film almost sets up the pro-democracy protesters as naive. We all know what’s coming at the end, and the film is coy about it, as if trying to dismiss that position of knowledge in hindsight. When the liberal politician implores the protesters to non-violence, it’s a big warning to the audience. The politician holds faith in the (false) principle of reasoned civilised debate, he thinks that democracy can be won by the force of argument, not the force of arms. So that moment when the protesters give up their weapons, if it were a pantomime the audience would be screaming “don’t do it!” at the stage. Of course, this makes the final massacre all the more poignant… as if the soldiers aren’t only killing the protesters, it’s also the symbolic death of reformism.

The film does a good job of teasing out the different factions among protesters and among the magistrates. It also puts in a lot of work setting up the social context: industrialisation, unemployment, mass urbanisation, the Corn Laws. This is accompanied by beautiful mise-en-scene, with very carefully-framed shots of factories, streets, hills, and dingy interiors. However, it’s also three hours long, and it doesn’t have an intricate-enough plot or an exciting enough pace to sustain that running time. I was already waiting for it to end by about halfway through.

Lastly, a baby was killed during the massacre, and this is shown in the film. I didn’t know it was coming, it just happens, the actual scene is very brief but it’s difficult to forget. Coming out of the cinema everyone else was also a bit shocked by it. The actual massacre isn’t gory, or even gratuitously violent, but it is brutal, it sticks with you in your gut.

limits to capital

I received the new updated edition of ‘Limits to Capital’ (it’s 50% off - along with the entire Verso catalogue until the end of the year). I don’t know what is actually new about this edition, haven’t even got past the introduction yet. I’m committing myself to try to read it in full, or at least in linear order, rather than just flicking between chapters.

Ubuntu upgrade

I upgraded my laptop up to the Ubuntu Mate 18.10 release. The only noticeable difference from 18.04 LTS is a thin line separating applications from the top and bottom toolbars when they’re maximised. Previously the behaviour was that maximised applications integrated seamlessly with the toolbars. Still, the lines are only cosmetic, functionally it works the same.

EDIT: The Windows button now opens the start menu! It didn’t do that before.

At the weekend I went to London to attend the congress of a minor left-wing political party. I’m not sure how much I want to talk about this… I got to spend a while with Buti Manamela - a South African MP and Deputy Minister for Higher Education. Here’s a slightly awkward photo of us.

awkward selfie

Also, the food was delicious. I had Persian Iranian rice, which was sweet, I think it had pomegranate in it.

yummy rice

Here’s a friend holding up his framed special edition of Pravda to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution. This was produced by the КПРФ?

Robin with Pravda poster

While I enjoyed catching up with people, going back and forth on the train each day was exhausting.

sunrise from the train window

London is more inaccessible from Leicester than I expected.

London Bridge train

Yesterday I had another long day. A morning lecture, followed by a meeting, followed by a seminar, followed by a long panel discussion in the evening which one of my colleagues (Sharda) was speaking on.

panel discussion