The Prose of Counter-Insurgency

Part I

Guha starts analyzing the discursive methods of the Counter-Insurgency historiography. Since the title we are aware that the author emphasizes not the historical fact but History as speech. For him the Insurgency “was a motivated and conscious undertaking on the part of the rural masses”, but not a product of the casualty or an irrational reaction. The rebellions were motivated for the will of the oppressive classes. Yet this conscious received little attention. The omission of the will and reason on the participation of the rebellions is named as a Counter-Insurgency discourse*. This approach uses metaphors to describe the social movements of the oppressive class as part of the natural phenomena. In other words all these movements are just natural reactions of the circumstances. And even when it is necessary to include the “human factor” it is going to be presented as a manifestation of a “very low state of civilization and exemplified in ‘those periodical outburst of crime and lawlessness to which all wild tribes are subject’”. The rebellions are an instinctive reaction, and almost mechanic to physical conditions or as a passive reaction against an enemy.

“…[I]nsurgency is regarded as external to the peasant’s consciousness and Cause is made to stand in as a phantom surrogate for Reason, the logic of that consciousness”

To explain the reasons of this Counter-Insurgency approach Guha analyzes the material and the form of the speech. The corpus of historical writing of the insurgency in colonial India follows three types of discourses: primary, secondary, and tertiary. “Each of these is differentiated from the other two by the degree of its formal and/or acknowledged […] identification with an OFFICIAL point of view, by the measure of its DISTANCE from the event to which it refers, and by the RADIO OF THE DISTRIBUTIVE AND INTERROGATIVE components in its narrative.  

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Guha’s analysis is a very important invitation for the critical reexamination of the History as a discourse from the dominant over the dominated. The author also shows some discursive strategies to create an effect of truth*, neutrality* and objectivity* in the historical material. One of the main elements to put attention is how the focalization of the facts change totally the perspective of the reader, and the most dangerous thing is that it creates a fake idea of the past as a static sphere of time. For example, if we read the Chronics of the Spanish and Portuguese of the century XV and XVI about the process of

the European re-identification of this continent, and the encounter between the European civilization with the civilization of this land we will have noted several discursive strategies that follows not a historical fact, but most of the time personal, institutional, or fictional discourses. And those old institutional, fictional, and euro-hegemonic discourses create by extension part of the disadvantageous idea of identity in several countries.

“What is an author” by…

Part I

      “What is an author” establishes a very similar conceptualization of the concepts of work as the Dasein of Heidegger: “It is a very familiar thesis that the task of criticism is not to bring out the work’s relationship with the author, nor to reconstruct through the text a thought or experience, but rather to analyze the work through its structure, its architecture, its intrinsic form, and the play of its internal relationships”. The Dasein (“En sí”) of Heidegger is “that entity which in its Being has this very Being as an only issue” (El “En sí” es un ente independiente que es válido y trascendente por sí mismo, sin ninguna relación de causalidad con ningún otro ente. Es decir, nos referimos a la potestad de la “cosa por la cosa misma”, a diferencia del “Para sí”; el “ente en relación con otros entres”). In this article* writing has a close relationship with death.  Writing is the inversion of the Greek tragedy hero. In tragedy, the sacrifice of the hero guarantees the immortality of the legacy of this character. The work gives life through death. In writing, the author sacrifices its being in the moment of the creation of an independent being. Thus we can establish an ontological parallelism between author and work, which implies a hermetic independence between them. The author cannot enter in the sphere of the work, for that reason the mortality of the author is evident thanks to the immortality of the work.

      This independence or ‘supremacy’ of the work as a Dasein, problemizes many controversies or tendencies in literature. First the notion of “National Literature” would be very vulnerable. This notion is not only related with the idea of the author, but also with the idea of nation, historical, and geographical context, and many other little branches. Secondly, the so called pretention of the “identity” through literature is also questionable, because it not only depend on the author, but also several authors that follow a similar ideological line related directly with socio-historical issues*.  Saint Jerome’s criterion to attribute the name of the same author of several works is the criterion that the traditional theory uses to attribute the concepts of “national” or “identity” to several literary works.

Is New York burning?

After watching Paris is Burning we have to start saying that the movie-documentary* is about a specific predominantly black (light skinned), gay (feminine), low class, community in New York. It focuses on a specific time and specific event: ball. NOT about a gay community in general, or “gay” as a sociological or psychological phenomenon. The movie* mixes sexual identity, with race and social class (between others). It also suggests an opposition between this ‘80’s ball newyorkinian black gay community, and a very specific white-American community. In other words, we are presented with two minorities inside the minorities, and two extreme poles in the American society.  Paris being used as a symbol follows a very interesting process of interpretation or fictionalization. First, we have the ‘lecture’ of this specific hegemonic white-American, rich, eurocentristic community that selects only some exaggerated elements of the capitalistic, classist elite of Paris. And on the other hand, we have a second lecture of this (already fictionalized, selected or distortionated) symbolic Paris by the ‘ball community’ whom are ‘performing’ a distortion of a distortion, and maybe that explains the theatricality (or even the grotesque-aestetic*) because the referent is twice far and is a double illusion.

If we start discussing race, class, fictions, minorities, etc., we must also discuss nationalities and languages. The idea of identity is so complex that we have to analyze how this construction changes depending on the ‘alterity’. For example, the ‘ball community’ and the white-rich hegemonic community shares at least two identitarian elements: nationality, because we assume that all of them are Americans (let’s point the fact that the movie* does not go any deeper into the Hispanic element of some people in the ball), and language: English is the only language in the movie and in a city like New York that is very diverse and multicultural, the exclusion of other languages seems to be deliberate decision on the parts of the filmmaker. But again nationality is something beyond the place of birth. It is a cultural construction that depends on the strongest and communal appropriations of the identitarian elements: race, class (socio-cultural and socioeconomic position), gender, sexual identity, etc. Language is another element where all the ideological construction reveals it self in the moment of the communication. Also we can notice that all these constructions are strongly related with the place and the language, USA and English. For example, we cannot talk about ‘whiteness’ in general because that would be a determinist pseudoscientific and pseudosociological position. “Whiteness’ in the way that it is planted in the movie* needs that ‘black community’, because it then only has a meaning in relation with the other.   Alterity process is first that the identity process.

Moving on to the article “Is Paris burning” I would like to ask:

What exactly does the author mean with the concept of subculture?

What kind of ideology is the author consciously or unconsciously reflecting with this concept?  

Is she homogenizing and over simplifying the racial controversy?