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Psychedelic White

Psychedelic White: Goa Trance and the Viscosity of Race

Arun Saldanha
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Psychedelic White
    Book Description:

    A rich ethnography, Psychedelic White explains how race plays out in Goa’s white counterculture and grapples with how to make sense of racism when it is not supposed to be there. Challenging the prevailing conception of racial difference as a purely social construction and offering insights into the global underground music scene, Psychedelic White presents nothing less than a new materialist approach to race.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5429-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ethnography as thought
    (pp. 1-10)

    Where do we start thinking? Which are the encounters that enable new concepts to be sensed?

    let’s see. when we came in there was a huge number of brits and some rich indians and a few backpackers, still very few tranceheads. so it wasn’t entirely sure whether it would get to be a “good party,” in the sense that the party would survive the morning and thus become magical. i met t—when it was starting to get light. he was sitting at the banyan tree with some japanese guys, and he said, after he’d seen that dark indian trancehead...

  5. 1 Psychedelic Whiteness
    (pp. 11-20)

    Anjuna’s psychedelic trance scene cannot be understood outside its hippie legacy. There are clear continuities between Goa’s psy-trance scene and the legendary fluorescent Furthur bus of the Merry Prankster, which brought Ken Kesey’s delirious multimedia “acid tests” across the United States and into Mexico. These continuities express what this book is about: psychedelic whiteness. In an essay on the American hippies, Stuart Hall usefully summarized the eclectic practices and attitudes that defined them.¹ Hippie culture literally held together through the adoption of black slang and what Hall calls “assumed poverty”; enacting Jack Kerouac’sOn the Road;an identification with American...

  6. 2 What Materialism?
    (pp. 21-27)

    In understanding Anjuna’s tourist practices as creative, I have been inspired by popular science writing. This may seem strange for someone trained in media studies and cultural geography, but I’m encouraged by the fact that some Anglophone scholars of Deleuze, such as Manuel DeLanda, are arguing that the humanities and social sciences have largely failed to grasp the deeply creative nature of the material world.¹ The difference that matter itself makes, as opposed to the difference that consciousness makes of it, has on the whole remained elusive to the human sciences. This is because they have insisted that matter (the...

  7. 3 Tripping on India
    (pp. 28-43)

    Back to our story of white creativity, to hippies exploring the lines of flight that open up their bodies to other places and cultures. It isn’t difficult to understand why it was India that attracted their psychedelic interest. India’s rich philosophical, religious, and aesthetic history had been a source of inspiration for a long intellectual tradition in the West. Particularly Buddhism’s insistence on the fluid and monist nature of reality entered popular culture after Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley likened this mystical notion to their experiences on hallucinogens. For those interested in transforming themselves, India simplybreathedspirituality. By the...

  8. the researcher’s body
    (pp. 44-48)

    One morning, after a party at the temple on Anjuna Beach, I complained about the perils of participant observation in my field diary: “i really don’t know how one’s body is supposed to participate while one’s gaze has to observe: how do i become cartesian?” A central conflict of my fieldwork consisted in not being able to “come out” as a researcher. It wasn’t too difficult to blend into the at times aggressive economy of subcultural style—though it would get me anxious, I’d get fed up with the music. Yet it was difficult to forget that I was an...

  9. viscosity
    (pp. 49-52)

    Between 2001 and 2002, the concept of viscosity emerged as I tried to make sense of the ambivalent movements of different bodies in Anjuna. Observing again and again that certain spaces and times tended to attract hippies and ravers, which then made these spaces and times relatively impenetrable for Indians, I needed a concept to account for both the attractive forces between white tourists and the surface tension that enveloped them, without losing sight of the possibility that the boundaries could be (and were regularly) transgressed. I needed a concept in between solidity and fluidity. Viscosity is a decidedly materialist...

  10. 4 Goa Freaks
    (pp. 53-57)

    The ethical imperatives of modern embodiment were well known to sixties subcultural leaders such as Frank Zappa. Ethics is the relationship a body has to itself, the problematization of what a bodycan doin a given environment. When you freak out, you become conscious about the confines of your embodiment, about how you’re forced to behave and feel and listen. Zappa implores you to become someone different, a freak. Dance, drugs, dress are vehicles for gettingoutof your conventional place, into spaces of the future wherein national and racial belongings no longer hold and everything mutates into a...

  11. 5 Drugs and Difference
    (pp. 58-69)

    Psychotropic (literally “mind-altering”) drugs have long been quintessential to white transformations of self. There exist molecules that upon ingestion fundamentally change the way the human body relates to things, space, and time itself: what better way to ethically realign oneself? Psychopharmacology has gone some way in explaining how artificial mind alteration involves an intervention in the releases and pathways of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Nonetheless, the causes of intoxication don’t lie solely in the molecules. Different bodies react differently to the same molecules in different places. There are other forces at work apart from the neurochemical. A materialist psychopharmacology should be...

  12. 6 Trance, Dance, and the Trance-Dance
    (pp. 70-78)

    In modern culture, strong experiences tend to call for intellectual explanation. The concept of trance-dance was popular in the early nineties to capture the strong religious undertones of electronic dance culture, having developed alongside and sometimes interwoven with New Age philosophy and dance therapies. Dancing to the repetitive rhythms and evocative harmonies and melodies of Goa or other trance music, you might well sense the permeability of your bodily housing, not only to dissolve in communion with everyone present, but to connect to the earth and the entire universe.Eks-stasis:standing outside oneself. DJ Goa Gil, the world’s most famous...

  13. 7 The Psychopathology of Travel
    (pp. 79-87)

    Heaven and Hellwas Aldous Huxley’s sequence to his illustriousThe Doors of Perception.It asserted that opening one’s doors of perception was not only about mystical bliss, but could just as well lead to pain and horror. If I’ve just dealt with the ecstasy, now it’s time for the casualties. When psychedelics leads to hell, instead of transcending one’s body, one becomes locked up inside it. Huxley wrote:

    When the visionary experience is terrible and the world is transfigured for the worse, individualization is intensified and the negative visionary finds himself associated with a body that seems to grow...

  14. the trials of transcendence
    (pp. 88-89)

    The question has so far been emphatically Spinozist: What can a white body do? Can it escape the regimes of hometown, family, church, school, reason, work, consumerism, law, and army? Granted that white modernity in itself contains the potential of escaping it, of self-transformation, to what extent do hippies, travelers, and ravers manage to em-body that potential? Mobilizing the word’s longer history in problematizing the boundaries between self and other, center and margin, I have used the wordfreakfor those bodies experimenting with white lines of flight. “Goa freaks” is more properly a virtual pole toward which bodiestend...

  15. 8 Visual Economy
    (pp. 91-99)

    Anjuna is a place rife with visible social stratification. A piece in theNew Statesman(September 19, 1997) by British novelist Deborah Moggach claims that Anjuna incarnates a touristic “caste system.” At the lowest rank are the package-deal tourists, the untouchables like the author herself, who realize on the first day how untanned and square they look. At the highest rank are the venerable Goa freaks. “The brahmins are the old hippies; they’re the ones who have been here for years, smoked brown like kippers inside out. They whizz around on old Enfields—how superior people look on motorbikes! They...

  16. 9 Faces of Goa
    (pp. 100-109)

    Karin Larsen’s demographic history of Goa,Faces of Goa,shows how the area has always been at the crossroads of genetic, economic, and cultural flows.¹ Goa is indeed full of faces, very different faces, but nonetheless faces that demonstrably converge into relatively predictable forms, places, and rituals. This might be especially true for where tourism is concentrated (predictably, tourist faces do not feature in Larsen’s book). In Anjuna there is a barely mentioned structure of faces, a field of possibilities that Félix Guattari terms “faciality”(visagéité),underlying all interactions, which pushes actual bodies into behaving in certain ways, whether they...

  17. 10 Zombie Beach
    (pp. 110-121)

    Deleuze and Guattari have been accused of being “isolationist” in their conception of modern individuation. Peter Sloterdijk argues that Plateau 7 on faciality presumes an icy, hygienic logic in which bodies are passively selected and isolated from each other. Although this does not respect Deleuze and Guattari’s insistence on machinism, it seems fair to ask them: don’t bodies interact? We might then require an additional meaning of face, one that stresses the contagion and infection that occursbetweenfaces and bodies in everyday life. Sloterdijk suggests a number of more engaging ways of appreciating the face in Western history.¹ Few...

  18. 11 Sunlight and Judgment
    (pp. 123-127)

    As the last site of Anjuna’s visual economy I am going to analyze, the parties show howmusicinteracts with space, time, and light to divide populations of bodies. The subcultural panopticism that emerged in Anjuna reminds us that the production and reception of music are always something visual and collective (even if you close your eyes). Richard Leppert has demonstrated that all European music, despite its pretensions, has always been played by certain bodies, on certain instruments, within certain spaces and visual regimes. Far from being universal, the visual embodiment of European music constituted the bourgeoisie, domesticity, gender, and...

  19. purity as machinic effect
    (pp. 129-131)

    The racial situation that the visual economy of Goa’s rave tourism leads to is not a binary based on negativity and opposition (white against brown), but a positive process ofpurification,a filtering out of contaminant bodies that gradually results in white viscosity. Purification is something internal, and should be seen less as a negation of contamination than as the affirmation of homogeneity and momentum. It needs to be stressed that this purification is absolutely immanent to the ways that bodies interact with each other and their environment; that is, it is necessary to think of faces as not only...

  20. 12 The Politics of Location
    (pp. 132-143)

    Anjuna’s segregation reminds us that all bodies are located. Bodies are located not just in Euclidean space, but also in what many theorists call social space. Pierre Bourdieu’s work has been crucial in appreciating how a body’s position in uneven distributions of economic, cultural, and social capital delimits what it is capable of. The actual unevennesses in the world correspond to the virtual sets of possibilities (what Deleuze and Guattari call abstract machines, what Bourdieu calls “habituses”) available here and now to an agent. Although I would call the relationship between body and space emergent rather than dialectical, and although...

  21. 13 Cliques
    (pp. 144-152)

    A tourist is not at home. How tourists socialize reflects their foreignness in a tourist destination. Earlier, I discussed how the in-crowds of bars and beaches point to the little expressed fact that Anjuna’s socializing, far from being tolerant and open, favors a spatiality of cliquishness. In this chapter I’m going to argue that inside knowledge of traveling and the party scene, one’s first language, and private get-togethers further consolidate the separations between bodies. The virtual location of bodies in a global grid of mobilities, nation-states, language communities, economic regions, and cultural contestations delimits their actual location in the social...

  22. 14 Noise, Narcotics, Law and Order
    (pp. 153-165)

    Dr. Jawaharlal Henriques, talking about the parties, said: “Initially, it was, you know, not much of a financial thing.” Like all Anjuna’s residents, he knows to what extent trance music has become big business. If parties were ever simply get-togethers among friends, it was money that made the unlikely alliance of actors spontaneously emerge through the eighties and nineties, an alliance divided by wealth and phenotype, but held together by the thirst for profit. Much more than is the case with the flea market, the financial transactions of parties are obscure. But like the markets, the way parties are organized...

  23. 15 Dealing with the Third World
    (pp. 167-176)

    Given the power-geometries of race and money, how do whites conduct themselves in the face of poor, brown others of third-worldness? In the contact zone, difference (locational, economic, phenotypical, cultural) between bodies can either be tamed and solidified through the faciality machine or invite a reponse akin to what Levinas calls the face-to-face, in which both parties let themselves be swept away by the alterity of the other. Evidently, actual responses to difference are a mix of these two possibilities, but what remains important is the difference in the first place: the virtual capacity of an encounter to invite mutual...

  24. when the music’s over
    (pp. 177-181)

    Contact zones such as Anjuna are intense eruptions of unequal interactions between different bodies. A contact zone is like a motel, a mixture of mobility, an ecology of differential speeds. Researching such a zone means tracing how human bodies are located in the geographies of capitalism and white privilege. We cannot talk of embodiment without talking about globalization, the continuously shifting planetary constellation of the relative speeds and slownesses of populations, commodities, foods, electricity, water, viruses, currencies, data, weather systems, drugs, and so on—the “and so on” requiring empirical precision. Contact zones are about far more than the encounter...

  25. 16 A Machinic Geography of Phenotype
    (pp. 182-192)

    So far my ethnography. Now let me explain how it got me thinking. Through the distribution of subcultural capital, white psy-trancers in Goa use the intensities of music and drugs to delineate themselves from others. Dancing for hours on LSD, incorporating the etiquette of chillum smoking, letting themselves be united with the entire landscape, or, on the flip side, finding themselves imprisoned in India-psychosis: it is precisely the exoticist and reckless attitudes of foreigners toward India that make their embodiment distinctive. By stressing the corporeality of touristic and musical practices, especially as managed through sociochemical monitoring, I could show how...

  26. 17 Freaking Whiteness
    (pp. 193-205)

    The most influential thinker of racial difference remains Frantz Fanon. InBlack Skins, White MasksFanon argued persuasively that in our racist world, blacks are imprisoned by something akin to what I termed a visual economy, the terms of which are defined by whites. Thanks to the influence of Merleau-Ponty, Fanon is better suited for studying racial embodiment than the strongly Lacanian theories of race and colonialism that developed in his wake. In the famous “train passage,” Fanon presents racism as from the start a matter of reiterative Goffmanian encounters, of visible phenotype, differential privilege, cultural stereotyping, and emotions like...

  27. the molecular revolution
    (pp. 206-214)

    DJ Goa Gil likes to associate the unfolding of a good psychedelic trance party with the gradual liberation from what keeps human beings imprisoned: matter. The early night is earth, the middle night water, the late night (say, between 4 and 6 a.m.) fire. Dawn is air, and after that is ether. The trance-dance experience is a progressive communal transcendence of body; by midmorning you’re dissolved into a pulsating music-fractal-sun machine. We need to take Gil’s claim seriously, but with the concepts of embodiment, face, and location.Whois becoming ethereal, how, where—and who isn’t? This study took issue...

  28. Appendix: Field/Work
    (pp. 215-222)
  29. Notes
    (pp. 223-234)
  30. Index
    (pp. 235-240)
  31. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-241)