". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Imperious Drive

This last week Antipope's Charlie's Diary examined "Fantasy Shibbolths" here.

Earlier this month Charlie's Diary took on "Science Fiction Shibboliths" here.

In the course of both of these articles and the discussions of the subject matters that follow, empire, imperialism and colonialism were unavoidable topics.

Yet we get this silly article about SF/F in the LA Book Review here, that complains the person from part of the former UK empire is not employing the correct terms to talk about SF/F.  Both writers, the subject of the criticism and the critic, miss the really important points that writers of sf/f  such as Charlies don't.

Empire, above.

Empire, below.

Fantasizing that sf/f -- or any pop culture -- saves the world is alike to living in an imperialist theme park because the default of the field is always empire one way and another. It's impossible to argue that steampunk isn't about class and empire, though the field is to be applauded in fact on how many diversities of empire it can envision.

Which is why even an article about the #1 UK television baking show speaks of it in terms of the yearning for empire even in desserts and faux competition here (NY Times article so use one's paywall work-around of choice).

It’s astonishing to think that not even a century ago, Britain was the largest, most effective and arguably the most brutal empire the world had ever seen — one of the fundamental political institutions that structured the entire world. This might explain why British national identity, such as it is, continues to manifest itself in signifiers left over from the days of Empire: gin, tea, cricket, flags, those wretched “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters, all of them now zombified and divorced from their material basis. Their appeal is the dream of an endless summer of Pimm’s, bowls and thwarted romantic expectations on the lawn of a great country estate, as if this lifestyle could ever be made possible without the violent exploitation of around one-third of the population of the earth. Ten years ago, adorning oneself with these signifiers might have been considered a somewhat alternative statement. Since then, though, they’ve gained a great deal of popularity, to the point where they’re firmly established in the mainstream of middle-class culture in the British Isles.
For sf/f, telling doncha think, the author's use above of "zombified?

Which brings one to another new restaurant that has opened in the neighborhood, that largely and loudly beckons the truly non-historic consciousness of the young tourists in their deluded fantasy of finding NYC's historical golden past of of a hip and happening underground -- a cultural rebellion of the above ground fortunate --proclaims itself as serving up an authentic colonial Indian food experience (owned by recent immigrants from either Pakistan* or -- India). Is this a sign of the desperate times in which the underground, the vast majority of the world live, that the formerly colonialized too feel it necessary to mine the hip hip hooray above ground colonial golden past of empire, in order to survive in a new world.  Will we be seeing the Native populations of North America open theme park restaurants celebrating the fun and delicious era of the Trail of Tears?


*  Here it has been noticed that often restaurants owned by people of Pakistani origin bill themselves as "Indian" because this designation is understood more easily by the young and the tourists who are honestly ignorant of both history and geography.

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