The Female Body

From Pashmina Murthy at Invisible Culture:

An examination of female infanticide across nearly two centuries can only locate and fix the infant in her absence. It is that disembodiment that is being archived, not the infant herself. To read the archive in relation to female infanticide is also to read the female body as archive. The body now documents for its readers signs of violence, apathy, misogyny, and greed. But it also denies full disclosure by locating its own “truth” elsewhere except in its own invisible body. Because the bodies of these infants were rarely, if ever, recovered, the kind of violence that was wreaked upon them might never be known. An infant that dies from being neglected embodies proof that it was never wanted, but the mutilated body of a new-born that was strangled or beaten reveals marks of a different cruelty . How might we account for these varying forms of violence? By structuring the death of the infant as a non-birth, the very conception of loss resists signification. Each death enacts the mythic origin of infanticide; it becomes a representation and a re-presentation of that originary loss, thereby entering the ritual performance of a scripted play and distancing itself from the violence and horror of the act. The ‘nothingness’ of the female infant, echoed in the absence of her body and the absence of affect surrounding her murder, can only be undone in the archives through an insistence on her displacement from a colonial accounting. A fantasy of detection and containment is operational here, which counters her tripartite absence on the physical, affective, and discursive plane. The absent female infant is written into presence as she gets signified through rumour, suspicion, and statistics, her textuality preserved and contained with the archival records and, indeed, in the archive itself – buried in the arkheia.

Read the whole thing here

We Are In Our Hands

We are in a state of global emergency that not enough people recognize:

Few would doubt that we are living at a time of emergency. The world’s population presently stands at 6.7 billion, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. That figure is projected to rise to 8.5 billion by 2030. It is understood now just how quickly the earth is warming, because of the increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases arising from human activity. If the earth continues to warm at its present rate, we know what our fate will be, and yet we seem set on destroying ourselves. Meanwhile, we are experiencing a fundamental shift in power away from the West; the emergence of China, India and Brazil, with their new wealth and aspirational middle classes, is putting an intolerable strain on the world’s finite resources. As I write the price of oil has reached $128 a barrel. It has never been higher. One need not be a pessimist to predict some kind of Malthusian denouement to the human story if we are unable or unwilling to alter our ways of being: scarcity wars, famine, large-scale environmental degradation.

Likely not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself why there does not yet exist a critical mass of people who are demanding that our governments, local, national and international respond to our state of global emergency.  I believe the answer is complex and thus multi-faceted as well as perhaps still partly hidden.  Perhaps some of us are too comfortable, yet that explains neither the inability of the comfortable to perceive adequately the threat to their comfort and the comfort of their children and grandchildren; nor what is sometimes understood to be the quiescence of those who are far from comfortable yet not powerless.

Just to get started on an answer to that question, for myself, I think that the interests of the very comfortable are fatally aligned with the source of that comfort: global capitalism.  Joel Bakan has written convincingly about the psychopathy of the large scale, usually multi-national and interrelated corporations that advance mercilessly toward the goal of maximum profit with little to no ability to respond to long-term degradation of both the labour force and the environment.  [See The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power and The Corporation Film]

Those who are identified with global capitalism by virtue of their own ability to maximize personal profits may well be engaged in folly or their own psychopathy, having convinced themselves that unregulated capitalism will inevitably prove capable of handling any difficulty thrown in its path, despite the facts; or simply because they’ve lost their ability to care about anything but enriching themselves.

What of those who are merely comfortable and increasingly  less so?  And those who are assumed, by many, to be simply too ignorant to know better, or powerless to do anything about it, though their “comfort” has been seriously compromised?

 From that psychological viewpoint used by Bakaan, I wonder if we aren’t all either suffering from some horrible combination of mass post and ongoing trauma, accompanied by combinations of dissociation, numbness, and learned helplessness; if many of us aren’t simply overwhelmed by the fuel crisis, food crisis, global warming crisis and other forms of environmental threat, unwinnable wars all over the world, various forms of oppression caused by totalitarianism or legitimated coercion and resulting inroads into the power of democracy and the rule of law as well as failing economies in the West and just general malaise.  To what should we pay attention?  Whom should we believe about both the proper identification of the sources of our problems and adequate resolutions?  What avenues of power can we access to force our leaders into addressing our problems?  What forms of organization will draw us into effective alliances across lines of gender, race, “class”, ability, ethnicity and nationality?  Can we address all of the emergencies at once or do we need to prioritize them?  If the latter, how do we prioritize such an impressive and pressing batch of emerging issues?

Just asking the questions can be overwhelming and depressing in itself.  It can lead to outright despair when we realize that our means of collective thinking, decision making and action have been seriously eroded by the advances of “post modern” capitalism.  We are more and more forced back upon ourselves.  We no longer live or meet together as communities of people living or working together in the same numbers that we did when we actually had cohesive neighbourhoods and communities; fewer and fewer of us are organized into unions of working people who can identify interests and act together to force the changes we need.  The complexity and amount of information  we need to gather and synthesize in order to craft realistic solutions is unheard of in history.  Post modern life keeps us busier and more distracted than we’ve ever been.

At the same time, we are discovering new ways of organizing and connecting with each other through advancing technologies.  I do believe that we will, inevitably, act on behalf of humanity and the planet and all it holds.  My question is, will we do it in time?  And when I ask that question, yet another question surfaces:  in time for what?  At this point in the questioning, I come to rest on hope and the small contributions each of us makes to the greater good.  And at this point, I wish I believed in a beneficent creator who has the best in mind for each of us and for all.  But I believe that “we” are in our own hands.  And I believe that is the most difficult thing to accept of all the things we face.

Femicide in India

Where are the women of India:

According to Nobel Laureate  Amartya Sen, there should be millions more women and girls living in India than there are. The acclaimed economist compared the natural ratio of men to women globally with the ratio in India, and twenty years ago had calculated that India was “missing” about thirty-seven million women. That number has escalated to fifty million today.

Rita Banerji ’90, whose photographs bravely document some of India’s least treasured citizens, explains, “Perhaps ‘missing’ is too innocuous a term for what is actually happening—the systematic and targeted annihilation of a group [through] female feticide, female infanticide, dowry-related murders, an abnormally high mortality rate for girls under five due to starvation and intentional medical neglect, and the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

Numbers tell the story in chilling detail:

  • Some one million female fetuses are aborted each year.
  • Midwives in some regions regularly kill the infant girls they deliver for as little as $1.50.
  • Dowry-related murders of women stand at about 25,000 cases a year.
  • A UNICEF report found that the mortality rate for girls under five is more than 40 percent higher than for boys the same age.
  • WHO and UNIFEM estimate that one pregnant woman dies every five minutes in India.

These conditions persist due to a deep-rooted mind-set Banerji describes as “unresisting acceptance of female genocide. It’s almost like ‘this is cultural, normal, how it is and will always be.’”

The rest is here

Rita Banerji has an online photo gallery with pictures of over 10,000 missing women and girls and is attempting to document the missing and put an end to the femicide.

Nuclear Bomb Power Politics

Hiroshima, August 6th, 1945 – August 6th, 2008:

The mayor of Hiroshima on Wednesday urged the next US president to work to abolish atomic weapons as the city marked the 63rd anniversary of the world’s first nuclear attack.

Some 45,000 people, including Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, gathered at a memorial to the dead within sight of the A-bomb dome, a former exhibition hall burned to a skeleton by the bomb’s incinerating heat.

They stood up and offered silent prayers at 8:15 am, the exact moment in 1945 when a single US bomb instantly killed more than 140,000 people and fatally injured tens of thousands of others with radiation or horrific burns.

Delivering a speech at the memorial, Hiroshima mayor Tadatoshi Akiba noted the United States was one of only three countries which oppose a UN resolution submitted by Japan calling for the abolition of nuclear arms.

“We can only hope that the president of the United States elected this November will listen conscientiously to the majority, for whom the top priority is human survival,” he said.

Akiba said the effects of the atomic bombing on the minds of survivors had been underestimated for decades, adding that “the voices, faces and forms that vanished in the hell” had never left the hearts of survivors.

With the average age of survivors now over 75, he said the city would launch a two-year scientific study of the psychological impact of the experience.

“This study should teach us the grave import of the truth, born of tragedy and suffering, that the only role for nuclear weapons is to be abolished,” the mayor told the service.

On the eve of the anniversary, children gathered in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome for a lantern march. Survivors burned incense before dawn broke.

An altar at the Peace Memorial Park quickly filled up with a mountain of flowers. A group of South Koreans performed a traditional dance to honour the dead, who included a number of Koreans.

“Children who evacuated buildings or went to work at factories on that day have not returned 63 years on… the atomic bomb deprived them of normal life,” 11-year-old school girl Honoka Imai told the service.

A Chinese representative, a diplomat, attended the annual ceremony for the first time in a move welcomed by the city, which each year invites representatives of the world’s eight declared nuclear powers to the event.

Previously India, Pakistan and Russia were the only nuclear powers that had sent representatives to the ceremony. The other declared nuclear states — Britain, France, North Korea and the United States — have never come.

Three days after the Hiroshima bombing, the United States dropped a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, which killed another 70,000 people in the southern port city.

Japan surrendered in World War II on August 15. The nation has since been officially pacifist and turned into one of the closest US allies, hosting more than 40,000 US troops.

Dozens of atomic survivors and activists protested in Nagasaki this week as a US nuclear-powered submarine arrived in Japan, just days after it emerged another sub may have suffered a small radiation leak earlier this year.

[emphases mine]