One Word: The Meaning of ‘Hegemony’ – 一个词:“霸权”的含义

Opinion /

By Naeem Mohaiemen

01 Nov 2018

Opinion /

One Word: The Meaning of ‘Hegemony’

By Naeem Mohaiemen

1 Nov 2018

Naeem Mohaiemen on the ‘soft dominance’ that has made certain stories familiar and others strange


One Word: The Meaning of ‘Hegemony’ - 一个词:“霸权”的含义

Ritwik Ghatak, Jukti, Takko Aar Gappo (Reason, Debate and a Story), 1977. Courtesy: Nabarupa Bhattacharjee and Rita Productions 

Twenty five years after I first watched it, two scenes from Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides (1999) have stayed with me. An early sequence, in which a teenager explains her death urges to a bewildered member of hospital staff: ‘Obviously, Doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year-old girl.’ And the film’s closing lines, when the narrator recounts his inability, as a hapless teenage boy, to fend off the group suicide of the Lisbon sisters in a neighbouring house. (‘They hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us calling them from out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time.’)

Watching that film during its opening week, I thought: ‘I know you’ – and felt a sharp pang of dislocation from myself. Why was I already so familiar with the motifs of American high-school suburbia, though my own childhood imprint was thousands of miles away, in 1980s Bangladesh? If these were supposed to be shared stories, the flows were only in one direction. I haven’t yet met a European teenager with a treasured set of memories that include Amar Chitra Katha (a popular Indian comic book; more than 100 million copies have been sold since the imprint was founded in 1967); cassette tapes of Bhanu’r Kautuk (Bhanu’s Comedy); or the legendary romantic couple of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen, who captivated Bangla audiences in the 1960s. Meanwhile, by mistaking the vampires-and-shopping-malls sunlit noir of novelist Stephen King as my own story, I had lost part of the city and life I grew up in.

This sense of familiarity comes from the manner in which a set of experiences, and histories, have been normalized as ‘universal’; when making a work, wherever you may be from, there is an awareness that certain things can appear as elements in your work without requiring explanation or footnotes. I wondered about this freedom from over-explaining when I saw, with pleasure, that Raqs Media Collective had taken Bangla filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak’s last work, Jukti, Takko Aar Gappo (Reason, Debate and a Story, 1977), as an anchor for their curation  of the 2016 Shanghai Biennale. But would the audience take this gesture (and Geeta Kapur’s chapter about the film in What Was Modernism?, 2000) as  a familiar shared story or as embedded in ‘elsewhere’?

In Hegel, Haiti and Universal History (2009), Susan Buck-Morss argues that the Haitian slave rebellion was the template for Hegel’s master-slave concept. But references to dialectic struggle consider it the invention of only the European thinker. The European and American sense of entitlement and dominance of history pivots on the idea that theirs are the stories that matter. It’s a different version of a proposition Dipesh Chakrabarty made in Provincializing Europe (2000) – Europe gets to be theory and non-Europe is always the practice: proof of principles ‘established’ by Europe. The enchantment of this concept risks alienating  you from your own context, adrift at home.

In high school, I DJed on Radio Bangladesh’s World Music programme. In a half-hour slot, we had to play at least one Bangla song – and we did it grudgingly. Later, when I read ‘Pop Idols’, British-Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie’s contribution to Granta’s 2010 ‘Pakistan’ issue, I felt a surge of recognition – we had obsessively listened to the same British bands. I felt sad, too: why had I been so slow to listen to the songs that were being made around me? Nobody forced me to watch all those American films, certainly not in 1985 when VHS players were expensive and rare in Bangladesh. Video cassettes could be found in just two stores in Dhaka and the police would routinely raid them to seize ‘blue films’. And yet, we kept at it. By the time it premiered, the detached houses, flare pants, summer soundtrack and football pitches of The Virgin Suicides felt as familiar as our own lives.

Museums, universities and other institutions are now targets of critiques about decentring the canon and ending European hegemony in the production of culture and knowledge. Efforts sometimes focus on expanding: hiring non-white curators and academics, collecting works by non-Western artists, etc. These are necessary steps, but I wonder if they will be enough. Increasing the number of non-European protagonists is a way to disturb the status quo, but what to do with the way that the familiarity of certain stories (and the strangeness of others) has settled into our bones over generations? A change of gatekeepers alone won’t shift this.

The English language as a global flow melds with the triumphalism of capital in projecting European and American culture as world culture. Sometimes I mistake myself as part of this ‘we’, and then realize it is because of a century’s project of soft dominance. The late Mladen Stilinovic understood this with his work  An Artist Who Cannot Speak English Is No Artist (1992). I have been thinking about how the museum gets to a place where the majority world is not a therapeutic addition to what is already overrepresented, but a shared project. Expecting the Global South  to always ‘bring’ its narratives into the proscenium places all the burden on one side: for us to know equally our stories and yours – a project of twice the work. What is needed is much more joyous entanglement between the two, not only in listening to these stories, but also in their making: not as duty, but as pleasure – the way things could be.

Published in frieze, issue 199, November/December 2018, with the title ‘Same Old Stories’.

Naeem Mohaiemen

Naeem Mohaiemen works with film, installation and essays. He has translated texts by Farhad Mazhar and Syed Mujtaba Ali from Bengali to English and by Allen Ginsberg from English to Bengali. He is nominated for the Turner Prize 2018, on view at Tate Britain, London, UK, until 6 January 2019.

Issue 199

First published in Issue 199

November - December 2018

Opinion /

Decolonizing Culture
Naeem Mohaiemen
The Virgin Suicides
Amar Chitra Katha
Raqs Media Collective
Turner Prize 2018

Naeem Mohaie.2018年11月1日Naeem Mohaiemen谈到“软统治”,这让某些故事变得熟悉,而另一些则变得陌生。Ghatak,Jukti,Takko Aar Gappo(理性,辩论和故事),1977。礼貌:Nabarupa Bhattacharjee和Rita Productions在我第一次观看它25年后,Sofia Coppola的《处女自杀》(1999)中的两个场景一直陪伴着我。一个十几岁的女孩向一位困惑的医院工作人员解释她的死因的早期场景:“显然,医生,你从来都不是13岁的女孩。”电影的结束语,讲述者讲述了他作为一个不幸的十几岁的男孩无法抵挡自杀人群。在邻近的房子里的里斯本姐妹。(“他们没有听见我们呼叫,仍然没有听见我们从他们独自一人的房间里呼叫他们。”)在开幕一周看那部电影时,我想:“我知道你”——我感觉到自己一阵剧痛的错位。为什么我已经如此熟悉美国高中郊区的主题,虽然我的童年印记在数千英里之外,在80年代的孟加拉国?如果这些被认为是共享的故事,那么流动只是朝着一个方向。我还没有遇到过一个有着珍贵回忆的欧洲少年,其中包括《阿玛·希特拉·卡塔》(印度一本很受欢迎的漫画书;自1967年印迹建立以来,已经售出了1亿多册);不哈努尔·考图克(Bhanu's Kautuk)的盒式磁带;或者传奇的浪漫故事。上世纪60年代吸引孟加拉观众的乌塔姆·库马尔和苏奇特拉·森夫妇。同时,由于误认为小说家斯蒂芬·金的吸血鬼和购物中心阳光照耀的黑色小说是我自己的故事,我失去了我成长的城市和生活的一部分。这种熟悉感来自于一套经验和历史被规范化为“普遍”的方式;在创作一部作品时,无论你来自哪里,你都会意识到,某些东西可以作为元素出现在你的工作中而不需要解释或脚步。锿。当我高兴地看到Raqs Media Collective把孟加拉电影制片人Ritwik Ghatak的最后一部作品《Jukti》、《Takko Aar Gappo》(理性、辩论与故事,1977)作为主办2016年上海双年展的主持人时,我对这种免于过度解释的自由感到好奇。但是观众会采取这种姿态吗?(Geeta Kapur)关于电影的章节在什么是现代主义?2000)作为一个熟悉的共同故事还是嵌入在别处?在《黑格尔、海地和世界历史》(2009)中,苏珊·巴克·莫斯认为海地的奴隶反叛是黑格尔主奴概念的模板。但对辩证斗争的借鉴认为它只是欧洲思想家的发明。欧洲和美国人的权利意识和历史支配地位取决于他们的故事才是重要的。这是Dipesh Chakrabarty在《欧洲省会》(2000)中提出的一个命题的不同版本——欧洲变成了理论,而非欧洲总是实践:欧洲建立“原则”的证明。这个概念的魅力有可能使你脱离你自己的背景,在家里漂泊。在高中时,我在孟加拉国广播电台的世界音乐节目中学习DJED。在半小时的时间里,我们不得不演奏至少一首孟加拉歌曲,我们勉强地做了。后来,当我阅读《流行偶像》时,英巴小说家卡米拉·沙姆西对格兰塔2010出版的《巴基斯坦》一书的贡献,我感觉到一阵认可浪潮——我们痴迷地听着同一支英国乐队的演出。我也感到悲伤:为什么我这么慢,听不到我周围的歌曲?没有人强迫我看所有的美国电影,当然不是在1985,当VHS播放器是昂贵的,在孟加拉罕见。录像带只能在达卡的两个商店里找到,警察会定期搜查他们以夺取“蓝色电影”。然而,我们一直坚持下去。《处女自杀》的首映时,那些独立的房子、喇叭裤、夏季原声带和足球场都和我们自己的生活一样熟悉。博物馆、大学和其他机构现在成了批评的目标,批评他们如何端正教规,结束欧洲在文化和知识生产中的霸权。有时,工作重点放在扩大:聘请非白人馆长和学者,收集非西方艺术家的作品等等。这些都是必要的步骤,但我想知道它们是否足够。增加非欧洲主角的人数是扰乱现状的一种方式,但是如何处理某些故事的熟悉度(和其他故事的陌生度)几代以来已经深入人心的方式呢?光是看门人的改变不会改变这一点。英语作为一股全球性的潮流,融入了资本将欧美文化投射为世界文化的凯旋主义。有时我把自己当成“我们”的一部分,然后意识到这是因为一个世纪的软支配计划。已故的Mladen Stilinovic用他的作品理解了这一点:一个不会说英语的艺术家不是艺术家(1992)。我一直在思考博物馆如何走向这样一个地方,在这个地方,大多数世界不是对已经过度表现的治疗性补充,而是一个共享的项目。期待“全球南方”总是“带来”它的叙述进入舞台,把所有的负担都放在一边:让我们平等地了解我们的故事和你们的故事——一个两倍于工作的项目。我们需要的是两者之间更加快乐的纠缠,不仅在听这些故事,而且在制作它们:不是作为责任,而是作为乐趣——事情本来的样子。以弗里兹出版,199期,2018年11月/12月,标题为“相同的旧故事”。NaeimMaHeaveNeimMaHayman工作与电影,安装和散文。他把法哈德·马扎尔和赛义德·穆伊塔巴·阿里的孟加拉语译成英语,艾伦·金斯伯格的孟加拉语译成英语。他被提名为特纳奖2018,在英国伦敦泰特大不列颠举行,直到2019年1月6日。《199期》第一期刊登于《199期意见》/《非殖民文化》Naeem Mohaie..《处女自杀》Amar Chitra Katha Raqs Media Col特纳奖2018


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