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States of Exception: Everyday Life and Postcolonial Identity

Keya Ganguly
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    States of Exception
    Book Description:

    A philosophical anthropology of everyday experience, this book is also a deeply informed and thought-provoking reflection on the work of cultural critique. States of Exception looks into a community of immigrants from India living in southern New Jersey-a group to whom the author, as a daughter of two of its members, enjoyed unprecedented access.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9235-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Gunga Gin and Other Anomalies
    (pp. 1-25)

    I first heard Rudyard Kipling’s “Gunga Din,” one of hisBarrack-Room Ballads,as a child. Although the prose and poetry of the West, especially in the tradition of English literature, is very much a staple of the contemporary schooling system in India, this poem was one that I had encountered outside the formal educational processes that locate and produce middle-class, Anglicized Indian subjects like myself. “Gunga Din” had been recited to me by a civil service colleague of my grandfather’s, and for many years it remained beyond recall, partitioned off in some recess of the imagination labeled “childhood.” It is...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Writing the Field
    (pp. 26-64)

    How does one prevent a laudable commitment to interdisciplinary work from becoming more a banal and self-serving skirmish than a serious engagement with (and across) disciplinary ideas? This is not only a question that has plagued cultural studies but also, albeit less immediately, a problem for all intellectual pursuits in which who does what, how, and most important,why,has to be settled as a matter of procedure.¹ I raise it in the context of discussing the constitution of my “field” because it seems odd that the very quarters that have issued calls for rethinking concepts such as identity, subjectivity,...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Antinomies of Everyday Life
    (pp. 65-87)

    The extent to which a middle-class community fits the designation “the postcolonial subject” makes an exception out of unexceptional lives. My examination of such a community may well invite the disdain often met by “unexotic” sociological inquiry. “The last sad look at the voluntarily damned” was the description Raymond Williams gave to “high” literary theory’s view of sociology’s mundane preoccupations.¹ But sociological criticism, particularly of the sort that takes its lead from Williams, from the literary sociology of Lucien Goldmann, or from the sociological studies of the Frankfurt school (now discounted because its aesthetic philosophies have assumed greater currency) continues...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Personal Memory and the Contradictions of Selfhood
    (pp. 88-116)

    “Would you like to hear Songsto Remember from Indian Films,theEvergreen Hits of Mohammed Rafi, orHaunting Melodies by Lata Mangeshkar”? This was the question with which my hostess greeted me as I entered one of the Indian households participating in my ethnographic arrangements. My arrival was a prearranged affair, and after some initial indecision, we decided that Lata’s lilting, female voice would be the least intrusive accompaniment to our proposed conversation. Earlier in the week, I had spent an evening querying the past with my hostess’s husband and a few other men from the community. At that...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Food and the Habitus
    (pp. 117-140)

    The sense one often gets in an Indian home is of having been there before. Not that all homes are identical but that,to the practised eye,all homes are familiar. Cues marking the arrangements of space and the placement of objects in the household are easily read by those for whom they are intended because they belong to a uniform code of propriety, obligation, and self-understanding—aspects that are central to the habitus of a social group. The idea of habitus is a formative one for thinking about everyday, taken-for-granted sites of discourse. Habitus, in Norbert Elias’s pioneering description,...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Dialectics of Ethnic Spectatorship
    (pp. 141-170)

    In the 1998 translated collection of Ernst Bloch’sLiterary Essaysthere is a highly suggestive discursus on the distinction in German between alienation(Entfremdung)and estrangement(Verfremdung).¹ The former, Bloch avers, has a peculiarly economic tint to it, “having been applied from earliest times in the context of commercial activity.” In the Hegelian tradition and particularly for Feuerbach, the word“entfremden”takes on the negative connotation of becoming alienated from oneself. Bloch tells us that only with Marx doesentfremdeget the final gloss of a “system of exploitation wherein nothing remains of the human being who is forced to...

  10. Afterword
    (pp. 171-180)

    What are the possibilities for dialectical thinking? At the risk of sounding hoary or pedantic, each of the discussions in this book has attempted to come to terms with this question—by no means to provide satisfying or complete answers but at least to square off against resistance to the very idea of dialectics. Even if the sun never set on the British Empire, there are those who prefer it do so for forms of inquiry that take their lead from the interrogation of value rather than the interrogation of the sign. Value—understood in materialist terms as the dissimulation...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 181-210)
  12. Index
    (pp. 211-214)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-215)