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Rushdie Talal Asad

Rushdie Talal Asad

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Published by Mehmid Ashik
salman rushdie midnight children. novel about indian nationalism.
salman rushdie midnight children. novel about indian nationalism.

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Published by: Mehmid Ashik on Jul 10, 2013
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Ethnography, Literature, and Politics: Some Readings and Uses of Salman Rushdie's TheSatanic VersesAuthor(s): Talal AsadSource:
Cultural Anthropology,
Vol. 5, No. 3 (Aug., 1990), pp. 239-269Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological AssociationStable URL:
Accessed: 05/05/2009 18:56
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=black .Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with thescholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform thatpromotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
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 American Anthropological Association
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Cultural Anthropology.
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Ethnography,Literature,andPolitics:SomeReadingsand UsesofSalmanRushdie'sThe Satanic Verses
TalalAsad
NewSchoolforSocial Research
It iscommonly acceptedwithinanthropologyhat thedisciplineemergedaspartof theEnlightenmentprojectofwritinga UniversalHistory,yetnot all an-thropologistswouldagreethatthatnscriptionpresupposesaWesternperspectiveonnon-European eoples.Such adisagreementdrawsitsforce,Iwouldsuggest,fromanunderstandingftheprojectasessentiallyrepresentational.However,theprojectconsists notsimplyoflooking-and-recordingut ofrecording-and-remak-ing,and as such its discourseshavesoughtto inscribeontheworld aunityinitsownimage.Ethnographiesndprotoethnographiesave,ofcourse,oftenpitchedthem-selvesagainstthatpowerfulcurrent,producingavaluableunderstandingf sin-gularworlds,butinevitablyonlywithminor social effect.We knowthat ethno-graphicmodesofrepresentationvolvedas anintegralpartof thegreatcolonialexpansionofEurope(andespeciallyofEngland),aspartof the desire to under-stand-andmanage-thepeoplessubordinatedo it. Theimplicationsof thatfactseem to meinadequatelyworked outincontemporarydiscussions aboutethnog-raphy.Ido not mean tosaythatethnographycanbereducedtothepoliticsofimperialdomination,butthattis,in variousways,inserted nto(andoccasionallyagainst)imperializingprojects.Yethavingsaidthis,itisnecessarytoadd thatimperializingpowerhas made itselffelt in andthroughmanyotherkinds of writ-ing,notleastthekind wecall"fiction."InthisessayI want to considera work offiction,Salman Rushdie's TheSatanicVerses(1988a),forseveral reasons.First,because itisa textualrepre-sentationofsomeof thethings anthropologiststudy:religion, migration,genderandculturaldentity.Second,because itisitself apoliticalact,havingpoliticalconsequencesfarbeyond anythatethnographyhas ever had. Andthird,becauseit isgeneratedbythe classicencounterbetween Westernmodernity-inwhichanthropologyssituated-anda non-WesternOther,whichanthropologistsyp-icallyseek tounderstand,oanalyze,totranslate,orepresent.In allthe recentconcern withwritingethnographieswehave,Ithink,tendedtopayinsufficientattention o theproblemofreadingandusingthem,to the mo-tiveswebringto bearinourreadings,as wellas to theseductionsoftext and
239
 
240 CULTURALANTHROPOLOGY
contextweallexperience.Inreadingsocial texts weinevitablyreproduceaspectsofourselves,althoughhisis notsimplya matterofarbitrary referenceorprej-udice. We are allalready-constitutedubjects, placedin networksofpower,andinreproducingurselves itis also the latterwereproduce.To do otherwiseis toriskconfrontinghepowersthatgiveus the senseof who weare,and to embarkonthedangerousaskofreconstructingourselvesalongunfamiliarines. Itis,understandably,asierto useourreadingsto confirmhosepowers.Inwhatfollows I wanttodistinguishbetweena numberofreadingsof thebook,andto relatethembrieflytoacomplex politicalfieldincontemporaryEu-rope.Thatis,ofcourse,myownstrategyforreading,becauseI ampersuadedthat this text isgeneratedbyandisa reflectionupononevery specific political-culturalncounter-andthatit is so readand usedinpostcolonialBritain.Ishallthentrytoreconstructomeauthorialntentions,andplacethem withinthepolit-icalfield,and follow thatwith apoliticalreadingof somepartsofthe novel.Thiswill involve a considerationfthe modemcategoryof "Literature"asitoperateswithin the textof the novelas well asoutside it.It isnecessaryto stressthatImakeno claim tohavecapturedhe totalmeaningof TheSatanic Verses(whateverthatmaybe),still lessto describe"theRushdie affair"inallits internationalramifications.Myaim is tointervenenthepoliticaldebatesurroundinghepub-licationofthebookbyraisingsomequestionsabouttheambiguousheritageofliberalismasit affectsnon-Westernmmigrantsn the modemEuropeanstate,particularlynBritain.2A PoliticalSettingLastDecember,theprominentBritishparliamentarianEnochPowell re-ferredtohisnotorious1968"riversof blood"speechin which hehadwarnedagainstthepresenceofnon-Europeanmmigrantsn Britain:"I amtalking,"henowdeclares,"aboutviolenceon a scalewhichcanonlybedescribedascivilwar.I cannotseetherecan beanyotheroutcome"(P.Roberts1989:29).TwentyyearsagoPowellhadadvocatedatwo-prongedpolicy:acompletestoptoanyfurthermmigrationofnonwhites,andgovernment-assistedepatriationfthosein Britain. Thefirstof thesehas beenofficiallyacceptedbybothmajorparties,the secondhasn'tyet.ButforPowelland otherswho thinklikehim thesituationisnowalmostirretrievable,healienpresencetoolargeandtooentrenched,andtoomanyof themBritish-born.Ayearbeforethepublicationof The SatanicVerses,theformerBelgianIn-teriorMinister,JosephMichel,saidthatnEurope"Weruntheriskofbecominglike theRomanpeople,invadedbybarbarianeoplessuchasArabs,Moroccans,YugoslavsandTurks,peoplewho comefromfar afieldandhavenothingncom-mon withour civilization"(Palmer1988).Suchsentimentsareneitherveryrarenorconfinedtoright-wingpartiesinWesternEurope.Thereisgeneralizedhos-tilitytowardimmigrantsof AsianandAfricanoriginthatfindsexpressioninavarietyof formsrangingfromracialmurderseeGordon1989)todiscriminatorylegislation(Dummett1978;Moore andWallace1976).Butparticulardevelop-mentsinrecentyearshavemade thathostilityespeciallysharpowardMuslims.3

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