Nishant (latelyontime) wrote in arounddecorner,

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Of Dystopias and nightmare. Session # 2

Required Reading: Ashish Nandy's 'The Beautiful Expanding Future of Poverty".

A look at what we did...or tried to anyway!
City as Dystopia.

  • Utopia and Dystopia as two mutually defining categories. We argued that they are both spaces that exist in the 'realm of the mind' and are more, strategies of representation, rather than a pre-given characteristic of a given place.

  • Visuals of Dharavi slums and other spaces in crises where we could read Dystopia in the way the places were represented to us.

  • Once we realise that representations work at a conscious level - that the techniques employed and the meaning making process deployed are both conscious efforts - we also need to look at the 'ethics' of representation. Who speaks for whom, is as important an issue, as why is it being spoken about.

  • Also linked to the question of how is a space represented, is the notion of the technology that frames the representation. From movies to music to documentaries to print, the media and the technology that are used in the process of representing/defining a space are also to be taken into consideration.

  • Understand that Dystopic narratives of a space as generally created for a political tool or purpose. The reason why Dystopic narratives would be created can range from discontent to reform.

  • Different notions of dystopia as framed by the paradoxes of 'lack' and 'excess.' Dystopic spaces are not always marked by a lack of something, but sometimes, also by an excess of something - as in the case of the movie clip from Matrix: Revolutions. A completely cyborgified world is the other extreme of the deprived world. For more examples of dystopic narratives have a look at H.G. Wells' The Time Machine or at George Orwell's 1984.

  • The city, then we decided, can also be looked upon as a dystopic space. There are certain notions of the city which are at large, which allow us to look upon the city as one such space - of terror, deprivation and oppression.

  • The forces governing a city can be political, economic, social and cultural - Most of the times these are not mutually exclusive categories and generally are intermeshed, each with the other.

  • A look at Nandy's arguments about Poverty, destitution and the glorification of the same to understand that categories of Planning, Development and Progress are fluid categories and do not remain constant over time and geographies.

  • The glorified dystopia:

  • The beautiful expanding face of Poverty
    -Ashis Nandy

  • The myth of development is that it shall remove poverty forever.

  • Different kinds of poverty for different parts of the world: American poverty is different from the poverty in say Sub Saharan Africa.

  • Two latent aims of Development agenda:

  • That poverty is rendered invisible, that it no longer remains salient in public consciousness

  • That the notion of poverty is stretched and redefined all the time so that a large section of the people pull themselves above an ever-shifting poverty line.

  • The status of development to any large multi-ethnic societies makes them lost interest in removing poverty.

  • This is true especially of Democracy when once, the governance is established and the number of the ‘poor’ dwindles, the political parties are not interested in the cause of the poor.

  • The concern for poverty in normal journalism, normal social sciences, normal politics is passe.

  • We all know that poverty exists but through a series of psychological subterfuges we can deny them and thus avoid any unease.

  • The number game to define the poor: The shift from stating high numbers to stating low numbers.

  • With new defining parameters of poverty, it is possible that in a few years, like bonded labour, poverty will simply disappear.

  • We are trying to get socialised into a new style of poverty management.

  • Was India once really so underdeveloped that four-fifth of Indians lived under the poverty line?

  • Is it now so developed that only one-fifth of its citizens can be considered poor?

  • Poverty versus Destitution

  • Poverty is not destitution.

  • By collapsing these two terms we have redefined all low consuming, environment-friendly lifestyles as poor…unfit for survival in contemporary world.

  • Poverty and bio-diversity.

  • Destitution as a recent phenomenon.

  • Shift from agricultural economy to modern globalisation.

  • “Many communities did not they were poor until development agencies told them so.” the non-monetary wealth was neglected and they were judged in hard cash.

  • In this century we have mastered the art of looking at large sections of humanity as obsolete and redundant.

  • The idea of underdevelopment has redefined many indigenous peoples as only the poor and the oppressed.

  • We speak of them as people with no history but an abstract entity. We push them into histories by eroding their histories.

  • To speak on behalf of the poor and the oppressed makes sure that we don’t hear their voices in the first place.

  • Destitution usually means zero income in a fully modern, contractual political economy.

  • Consumerism has made sure that the differences between the lifestyles of the rich and the poor are no longer there. The poor have the same things as the rich, but just cheaper, fourth rate versions of them.

  • The transformation of poor to the destitute has been through positing new models of aspiration and defining ‘basic’ amenities of lifestyles required for one and all.

  • Our notions of poverty constantly change and the poverty line is never stable. The concepts of subnormality and abnormality also change to redefine the normal.

  • The gist of arguments:

  • On the one hand, poverty cannot be eliminated through development because there seems to be an iron law of democractic politics in large, multi-ethnic, diverse societies.

  • Development thus wedded to democratic politics and globalisation, actually produces destitution.

  • Poverty cannot be eliminated because of the glorification it has with it.

  • Individual poverty removal is the only agenda for globalised economy and consumerism force you to get over the ever shifting poverty line.

  • Looking at the changing ways of understanding cities. From City of joy to City of Terror. Introducing to us the idea that the very forces that are touted as the defining moments of the cities can oftentimes be looked upon as the forces that threaten its existence. Looking upon technology, especially, as a defining grid of city spaces and giving instances of how technology can also destroy the entire space of the city.

    And on other notes, romaland tux13 welcome abaord! :)
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