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Ethnography, Literature, and Politics: Some Readings and Uses of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses
New Schoolfor Social Research
It is commonly acceptedwithin anthropologythat the discipline emerged as of project of writing a Universal History, yet not all anpart the Enlightenment would that thatinscriptionpresupposesa Westernperspective agree thropologists Such a disagreementdrawsits force, I would suggest, on non-European peoples. froman understanding of the projectas essentiallyrepresentational. However, the but of of consists not recording-and-remaksimply looking-and-recording project ing, and as such its discourses have sought to inscribe on the world a unity in its own image. and protoethnographies have, of course, often pitchedthemEthnographies of sinselves againstthat powerful current,producinga valuable understanding gularworlds, but inevitably only with minor social effect. We know that ethnoevolved as an integralpartof the great colonial graphicmodes of representation expansionof Europe(and especially of England), as partof the desire to underto it. The implicationsof thatfact stand-and manage-the peoples subordinated discussions about ethnogseem to me inadequatelyworked out in contemporary raphy. I do not mean to say that ethnographycan be reduced to the politics of imperialdomination,butthatit is, in variousways, insertedinto (andoccasionally against) imperializingprojects. Yet having said this, it is necessary to add that imperializing power has made itself felt in and throughmany otherkinds of writnot least the kind we call "fiction." ing, In this essay I want to consider a work of fiction, Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (1988a), for several reasons. First, because it is a textual representationof some of the things anthropologists study:religion, migration,gender and culturalidentity. Second, because it is itself a political act, having political consequencesfar beyond any that ethnographyhas ever had. And third, because it is generatedby the classic encounterbetween Western modernity-in which is situated-and a non-WesternOther, which anthropologiststypanthropology ically seek to understand,to analyze, to translate,to represent. In all the recentconcernwith writingethnographies we have, I think, tended to pay insufficientattentionto the problemof readingand using them, to the motives we bring to bear in our readings, as well as to the seductions of text and
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contextwe all experience. In readingsocial texts we inevitablyreproduceaspects of ourselves, althoughthis is not simply a matterof arbitrary preferenceor prejof power, and in networks udice. We are all already-constituted subjects, placed in reproducing ourselves it is also the latterwe reproduce.To do otherwise is to risk confrontingthe powers that give us the sense of who we are, and to embark on the dangeroustask of reconstructingourselves along unfamiliarlines. It is, easier to use our readingsto confirmthose powers. understandably, In what follows I want to distinguishbetween a numberof readingsof the Eubook, and to relate them briefly to a complex political field in contemporary rope. That is, of course, my own strategyfor reading, because I am persuaded thatthis text is generatedby and is a reflectionupon one very specific politicalculturalencounter-and that it is so read and used in postcolonialBritain. I shall thentry to reconstruct some authorialintentions,and place them within the political field, and follow thatwith a political readingof some partsof the novel. This of the modem categoryof "Literature"as it operates will involve a consideration within the text of the novel as well as outside it. It is necessary to stress that I the totalmeaningof TheSatanic Verses(whatever makeno claim to have captured "the Rushdie affair" in all its international to describe still less that may be), the pubramifications. My aim is to intervenein the political debatesurrounding lication of the book by raising some questions about the ambiguousheritageof liberalismas it affects non-Westernimmigrantsin the modem Europeanstate, in Britain.2 particularly A Political Setting Enoch Powell reLast December, the prominent British parliamentarian ferredto his notorious 1968 "rivers of blood" speech in which he had warned immigrantsin Britain:"I am talking," he againstthe presence of non-European now declares, "about violence on a scale which can only be described as civil war. I cannotsee therecan be any otheroutcome" (P. Roberts 1989:29). Twenty years ago Powell had advocated a two-prongedpolicy: a complete stop to any of those furtherimmigrationof nonwhites, and government-assisted repatriation in Britain. The first of these has been officially accepted by both majorparties, the second hasn't yet. But for Powell and otherswho thinklike him the situation the alien presence too large and too entrenched,and is now almost irretrievable, too many of them British-born. A year before the publicationof The Satanic Verses, the formerBelgian InteriorMinister,JosephMichel, said thatin Europe"We runthe risk of becoming like the Romanpeople, invadedby barbarian peoples such as Arabs, Moroccans, far afield and have nothingin comfrom who come and Turks,people Yugoslavs mon with our civilization" (Palmer 1988). Such sentimentsare neithervery rare nor confinedto right-wingparties in WesternEurope. There is generalizedhostility towardimmigrantsof Asian and African origin that finds expression in a varietyof forms rangingfrom racialmurder(see Gordon 1989) to discriminatory legislation (Dummett 1978; Moore and Wallace 1976). But particulardevelopmentsin recentyears have made thathostility especially sharptowardMuslims.3
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and local origin contributeto their organizationaldisunity) their demands increasingly evoke a unified response.112. it is not the case thatminoritieshave always had to make this kind of adjustment. The emergenceof radicalIslamic movementsin the Middle East-and most notablythe Islamic Republic of Iran-who openly declare the West as their enemy. and thereforeto live permanently in Britain they must-as political minorities-assimilate into that culture. thatpartof the immigrant populationthat is seen and referredto as being most alien.For increasingly. as set- This content downloaded from 115. belongs to a discourse about the limits of political society.ETHNOGRAPHY.107 on Fri. Africa. In Britainthey form a majorityof those who have come from the Indiansubcontinent-that is.AND POLITICS 241 To begin with. strictlyspeaking. to have special times and places set aside for worship.and to assertthemselves not as victims but as the heirs of an equal civilization who now live permanentlyin the West. Religious communitiesbelong. The liberal nation-stateconsists of an aggregate of citizens. sect. proletariansof ruralorigin importedto meet the needs of postwarindustrial expansion. The salience of the Muslimpresence in Europeis due not merely to numbers. each with the same legal personality.of course. in my view. equal members of and equally entitled to representthe body politic. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .and (2) the alteredsite of the Europeanencounterwith its European Other. has fueled long-standingEuropeanantipathies.5 The core values of nonwhiteimmigrantsarenot-so the hegemonic discourse goes-part of Britishculture. to the "private" domainwhere differenceis permitted. The notion (common certainlyin Britain)that the populationof a moder nation-statemust be committedto "core values. The Europeansense thatthese demandsconstitutea kind of perversebehavior is largely a reflection of two things: (1) the ideological structureof moder nation-states. an exceptionis madefor the Churchof Englandwhich. In Britain.4AlthoughMuslim groupsin WesternEurope are far from united (differences of language. Muslim immigrants have begun to organize themselves into mosque institutions. to slaughteranimals accordingto properritualrules.When Europeanswent to Asia. They do not simply ask to be includedin the widerpolitical society. since the 17thcentury. more interesting.But the domestic circumstancesare.LITERATURE. It is easier to deploy in discoursesthat exclude particulardifferencesthanin those which plausiblydescribewhat the "core values" of Britishcultureare-especially when Anglicanismis said to be a majorpartof that culture.but to political conditions both foreign and domestic. and the Americas. to educate their childrenin their own schoolsor at least in prescribedconditions.102. However. to civil and not to politicalsociety-that is. they make detailed demandsof the state to enable them to live out their lives in a culturallydistinctivemanner." an essential culturethat must be sharedby all if society is to hold together.They want to burytheirdead in theirown way.has had a centralinstitutionalandideological position withinthe state. What the Europeanmajorityfinds so provocativeis the immigrant'sexpectation that institutionalchanges will be made by the state to accommodate them in theirreligious specificity. the overwhelmingmajorityof non-European immigrantsin continentalcountriesare Muslims.
like sportandpolitics.107 on Fri.137. he wrote: The sectionof the book in question(andlet's rememberthatthe book in questionisn't actually about Islam.andthatthat mixture hasconsequences. but it is quite unequivocal: history (or ethnography) produces a kind of writing whose rhetorical status is quite dis- This content downloaded from 115. from be separated in a societycannot and..242 CULTURALANTHROPOLOGY tiers. politics.an Indianmovie star. It is political not merely because it claims to speak of political matters. however. he has also volunteered its authoritative reading. in his open letter to the Prime Minister of India.112.102.. not the postures adoptedby the English. divided selves. administrators. mixed. 1984:130.do mix. Thus. It is evident. I don't wantto be takenas saying thatthereis a single deep divide in Britain today that separatesMuslims and non-Muslimsin some simple way. political is thatpolitics I amsaying Foreverytext. at that. metamorphosis. Some British Readings of a Postcolonial Novel Salman Rushdie is not only the author of The Satanic Verses. On the contrary. published shortly after his book was banned in that country. Londonand Bombay) deals with a prophet-who is not called Mohammedliving in a highly fantasticalcity made of sand (it dissolves when waterfalls upon it). missionaries. this entire sequence happens in a dream..even worksof entertainment. Nothing that is publishedthere about Muslim beliefs and practicescan thereforebe without political significance.a context. love. thatfor some years now a new dimensionof politics has been emergingthat is resentedin Europe. He is surrounded by fictional followers. the fictional dream of a fictionalcharacter. But therecan be no doubtthatTheSatanic Verses is a political book.How historycould one get? [Rushdie 1988b:A27. thewaytheyoperate vacuum.they did not need to adoptthe "core-values" of the majority populationsamongwhom they lived. in a criticalessay on recentEnglish television serials aboutIndia: do not come intobeingin a socialand worksof art. Of course thereare protagonistsamong both who are intenton creatinga single divide. but about migration.. areinextricably andliterature.. although it is truethatany piece of literarywritingcan become politicized.they sought with great success to change them. not even in a work of fiction. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .but because it intervenesin political confrontations alreadyin place.emphasis added] muchfurtherfrom This gloss is not without its difficulties. What from history. Moreover. death. And a story in which it is theirpresumptuous behavior that needs explaining and correcting. As SalmanRushdieinsisted in 1984. But that immigrantsfrom those populations shouldnot presumeto act as thoughthey had a rightto somethingthatpower did not accordthem-that is quite anotherstory. and is consequentlybound to be fought over in structured an asymmetrically political terrain. one of whom happensto bear my own first name. althoughthatdivide is not conceived in the same way by both. andone who is losing his mind.emphasis added] [Rushdie Unlike Rushdie I do not hold that all literature is essentially political.
the central sacred text of Islam. the forces of inhumanityare on the march. [Rushdie 1989a:26. It is for this breachof taboo thatthe novel is being anathematized. . in a pamphlet entitled Sacred Cows (1989).It is timefor us to choose." he wrote. Six months later Rushdie supplied another reading. there is a representation of religious doubt. and (with or without God) the life of the soul.fulminatedagainst. into a whole: let the child do what it wants at This content downloaded from 115.. Indeed I shall argue that for many people the book has largely had the effect of weakening the possibility of a politics of difference in Britain today.102. Thus the latter piece concludes as follows: Inside my novel. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Doubt is neither the beginning nor the end of an exploration into new forms of moral and political existence. a powerfultribeof clerics has takenover Islam. True. with boos have been erected.clear event it originally was not. every nation. Outside it. but an uncompromising insistence on liberal Truth is what she feels Rushdie's work calls for. the distinguished English feminist writer Fay Weldon. She reads The Satanic Verses as bringing new certainty. One may not discuss the growthof Islam as a historical phenomenon.107 on Fri. his revelationinto the unambiguous. tinct from that produced in a novel. "What is it that motivates the shift?" and seek the answer not in speculations about the author's mind but in the wording of the texts in altered contexts. but that is a rhetorical tactic-after all.ANDPOLITICS243 LITERATURE. his life into a perfect life.6 Powerful taas if he were human. ETHNOGRAPHY. and set alight. its charactersseek to become fully humanby facing up to the great facts of love. Contrary to what reviewers8 have said about the book.7 This is no time for liberal tolerance. every belief. which has rapidly acquired a certain fame in its own right. One may not discuss Muhammad humanvirtues and weaknesses. Betteryou choose which side you are on. death.112. has responded to his second reading with a vigorous attack on the Qur'an." one of my charactersremarks.. "Battle lines arebeing drawnin Indiatoday. "Nowadays. emphasisadded] Why these apparently contradictory readings? Instead of trying to establish the right reading let's ask. emphasisadded] We can see that the shift is motivated by a sense of the overriding political priority now being faced: an apocalyptic war between Good and Evil has spilt over into Britain because The Satanic Verses has dared to challenge taboos set up by the Forces of Inhumanity. They have turnedMuhammadinto a perfectbeing. as an ideology born out of its time. I only hope it will not be lost by default. These are the contemporary Thought Police. "Secular versus religious. Somewhat quaintly she writes: The uni-culturalist policy of the United Statesworked. the light versus the dark. Rushdie has often told us that he lost his faith in religion a long time ago. Not doubt. welding its new peoples. a renewed sense of the divine." Now thatthe battlehas spreadto Britain. [Rushdie1989a:26. These are the taboos against which TheSatanic Verses has transgressed. from every race. We must reject the call for radical cultural differences in our British society. Thus Rushdie's friend. Rushdie's latter reading insists that its message is not doubt but conviction. not argument but war.
and by the certainty of their visions. too witty.244 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY home. likewise made prettydoubtfulby the contents. St. is at least food for thought. "I do not want to see Salman die." And who are they-one may ask uneasily-who do not bear the Lord's seal upon their forehead in Britain today? Perhaps it is people like Zaheera. Too far?Probably. ex-colleague of mine in an advertisingagency. but as a piece of revelatorywritingTheSatanic Verses readsprettymuch to me like the works of St.too moder. But rightfrom the beginning." she says. froth and foam to good purpose. too intelligent.emphasisadded] This reference to a fictional America is of course a condemnation of that immigrant difference which seems to threaten the assumed stability of "genuine" British culture. witty. and intelligent" must seem a little puzzling to anyone familiar with "The Revelation of Jesus Christ"-for the dominant theme in that apocalyptic prose is God's fearful revenge on those "without His seal upon their forehead. is too humane.9 Like so many Britons who have leapt to Rushdie's side. She is quite explicit that Islam must be debarred from this great work of subjective and national construction. for "The Bible. essential to the transformation of difference into unity. This freedomof expression-why do we have pornography How can that be fair? How a law of blasphemywhich only applies to Christianity? can they say this is a multi-racialcountrywhen thereis one law for Christiansandone This content downloaded from 115. although the claim that he shares an essential quality with someone described as "humane. left in. here in the school the one flag is saluted.by our own churchelders. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . a young Muslim teacher who has left her authoritarianfamily in Bradford to make her own life. 0 "Salman Rushdie. but they must first be authoritatively constituted as subjects who will make the right moral and political choices.102. [Weldon 1989:32. Fay Weldon is aware that Christian rhetoric can be harnessed in the cause of a secular crusade." she writes. in its entirety. let alone issue threatsif they are not obeyed. moder. Individuals have the inalienable right to choose. all may yet be well and our brave new God of individualconscience may yet arise.112. It is not a poem on which a society can be safely or sensibly based" (Weldon 1989:6). [Weldon 1989:42] Saints are privileged by their direct access to God. The emphasis on schooling as a political function. John the Divine at the end of our own [sic] Bible. The saint involved here by Fay Weldon is certainly the author of haunting religious imagery. andanywaynot whatthe majorityMuslimpopulationhere would want. not without argument. though not Christianity.But if into the weevily meal and the brackishwaterof our awful. Salmanthe Divine. to lay down rules of conduct" for the human race. this good yeast is dropped. She has reason to be critical of aspects of Muslim life-and indeed she speaks scathingly of the recent legal restrictions imposed on women in many parts of the Muslim world. and crazy. I have felt thateveryone was treatingthe Muslimprotestas if it was completely andlibel laws.107 on Fri. The Koran is food for no-thought. invokes a basic liberal principle.and allowed to fizz and fizzle. I don't even thinkthe book should be banned. the one God worshipped. awful society. the one nationacknowledged. thatis immoralandwrong.
But then he rereadthe text with "the help"-as he put it-of two Muslim friends.But the joyful resonancethatthe book has evoked among its mostly Westernreadersis a pointer to the conditions in which "our experiences" are defined. what gives it its authenticityas a culturalproductof cosmopolitanBritain.102. someone who stood up on television and told the White Britishhow racist they were.[butit] lies ill at ease with timid obeisanceto the latestliteraryandpoliticalfashions. someone I really used to admire. which only a rootless immigrant can undertake. the famous. what happens to the rest. The Satanic Verses. is An immensely daring and persistentlyprobingexplorationof the human condition. practices. and second. grounded in appeals to fairness and equality before the law. The moraland political uniformitythat some of ourbrothers andsisters as thenorm." observes Yasmin Ali. BhikhuParekh. The possessive for a collectivity. and the majority.profoundseriousnesslapses suddenly and without warning into pointless playfulness. For Yasmin Ali. Her sense of "unfairness" doesn't connect with any demand for extending the law of blasphemy.ANDPOLITICS245 ETHNOGRAPHY.He was delighted with it. the book's authenticityis confirmedby the seeming correspondence between its images and the individualreader'sexperience. it points to an old and unresolved anxiety about minority vulnerabilities in the modem state. and an acute comic eye. is that it reflectswith love and sympathy. for two main reasons: first. Intensely delicate explorationsof humanrelation- This content downloaded from 115.107 on Fri. has let us down so badly. which he has now set out in a thoughtful review (1989). and found himself making very different sense of it. Zaheera employs liberal arguments. The sacred is interlacedwith flippancy.112. because it showed that a fellow Indiancould handle the English language more brilliantlythan most Englishmen. for Muslims?And what hurtsso much is that one of our own. the joyful diversity of our subcontinental origins and experiences. liberal society's "always Others"? It would be misleading to suggest that all Muslims in Britain hold a negative view of the book.progressiveIndia. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .relatedto me last summerhow he first read the book with unreservedadmiration. If the freedom of public criticism is in fact restricted by laws that protect the sensibilities only of the rich. he said. pronounin "our experiences" claims to speak representatively but which collectivity? The beliefs. LITERATURE.is a denialof our todaywouldhaveus accept [Ali 1989:17] experiences. the holy with the profane. "One of the strengths of The Satanic Verses. Zaheera'sexperiencedoesn't qualifybecause it doesn't connormatively form to a secularliberal "literary" readingof the book. There are some-including some of the most Westernizedwho have supported it unreservedly as a celebration of a more progressive cultural identity. in his opinion. and attachmentsof the many immigrantMuslims who were hurtby the novel are clearly not included in "our" experiences. because its treatmentof religion seemed to advertisethe loyalty of a secularMuslim to a nonsectarian. [Alibhai 1989] Significantly.12 A Hinduprofessorof political theory in England. against the unfriendly reactions of the British majority-such as those expressed in Fay Weldon's pamphlet.
is signaled in this letter by the Hindu Marxist immigrant Gautam Sen (1989:6): When the crisis over The Satanic Verses first broke. For Gautam Sen the revised rereading was occasioned by developments in the British political context that appeared more threatening to all immigrants. I found myself cursing the in Rushdie's support." as well as "compassion and humanity" in the need to understand Muslim immigrant protest. Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I feel a real sense of emotional oneness with the "smelly. All sorts of racistsare crawlingout of the woodworkto clarify a more importantpriordivision between white societies and blacks. [Parekh1989:31] Like Zaheera. hurtand offend. my reflex response. (Why else would the notion of "empty lives" be applied to immigrants who have brought their non-Christian religion with them? Which authority defines the proper content of "full lives"?) There are of course well-intentioned and sinister versions of this categorization. The astonishing flight from elementary logic in the face of satanic. represents for be- This content downloaded from 115.107 on Fri. I was not borna Muslim." New Statesmanand Society. like that of many black radicals and anti-racists. and more angry shift than the one undertaken by Parekh. Parekh stresses the liberal value of "fairness.112.thoughI felt very bigots and signing a newspaperadvertisement disturbedat the price paid subsequentlywith lives in India and Pakistan. masculineforces by the heavyweight feminist intelligensia [includingFay Weldon] has been pointed out by Homi Bhabha ("Down amongthe writers. he points out.was one of anger. one is made uncomfortably aware that in a moder state such understanding and tolerance is often based on the medicalization of its "problem" subjects. But when he speaks. as others have done. black. together with the centralized control of compulsory schooling. dark aliens" who made the utterly assimilated Asian woman novelist BharatiMukherji "feel physically and emotionally harassed" by theirmere arrivalin Canada(Guardian.102. A concern with enforced assimilation is also a major concern of Shabbir Akhtar.246 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY ships and emotions are overshadowedby an almost childlike urge to shock. The Prophet Muhammad. transcendingany disagreementswithin white society itself. 19 July). of "the first generation of Muslims who turned to religion to give some meaning and hope to their empty lives" (Parekh 1989:31). and the chapters recounting the story of Mahound deliberately insulting to Muslims. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . But the events of the past monthshave drawnme inexorablycloser to the protestersagainst TheSatanic Verses. but I have to say that we blacks are all Muslims now. 28 July). Akhtar finds The Satanic Verses inferior as a work of fiction. who has written a passionately argued book on the Rushdie affair. leads to the following paradox: on the one hand liberal political theory insists on the sanctity of individual experience. an articulate young Bradford Muslim. that is to say on the categorization of religiously based identity as a condition of individual or collective pathology requiring curative treatment.'3 But in either case the strategy of medicalizing religious opposition. on the other it requires the state to construct and cure it. What obviously alarmed him most was the combination of paternalist and assimilationist attitudes displayed in all their self-righteous arrogance by the British middle class. Another.
for in Britain. like Zaheera. if applicable. which is cunningly Christianyet secular. Rushdie has the right. Clearlymost of them haven't. All this should be quite understandablein a capitalistsociety.102. This is not merely because religious belief is as a privatematter. however. Bourgeois law can't cope with the idea of malicious statementsleading to moral or spiritualinjurybecause it can't locate and quantifythe damage in money terms.takes the form of financialcompensationto the injuredparty.112.107 on Fri. Insult to religious identity is. may not be the formal legalistic incompatibilities(Akhtaris surely right in insisting that where there's a political will the legal means can be found). 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Free speech can be restrained when it is shown thatthe plaintiffsuffers materiallyas a consequence. to which referencehas so often been made in this matter. and supportsthe proteststo that end. like insult to individual or group honor. as pasticheTheSatanic Verses This content downloaded from 115. Nor is the problem simply one of prejudiceagainst Muslims (which certainlyexists). and even to criticize Muslimsfor theirerroneousbeliefs. he says. But are these demands. the politics of rule requires its immigrantsubjects to struggle with "the baffling idioms and codes of the white chameleon. Conservativeyet liberal.an attackon him is thereforeseen by Muslims as an attackon their highest moral and religious ideals. to disbelieve in any of the sacred teachings of Islam.He wantsthe book banned.14 Postcolonial Literature and the Western Subject's Self-Recognition have insistedthatmost protestingMuslimshaven'tread Manycommentators the book.ETHNOGRAPHY. I believethattheRushdie is notintractable.AND POLITICS 247 lievers the paradigmof virtue. What he wants is not an extension of the blasphemylaw as such.LITERATURE. The real difficulty consists in the British style of liberal politics.but ratherbecause of its peculiarnotionof "injury.calls the double standards less. While it is perhapstrue that such demandsare not "unacceptablyforeign to the spirit of Western democracy. a concept that modem law finds hardto deal with." it is arguablethat the assumptionby which they are propelledis regardedas "outmoded" by bourgeois civil society.It is clearly in the resolution wouldbe effectively fatalto theMuslim of theliberal interests andnon-Muslim to pretend thatIslamic demands constituency Rushdie's to thespirit of Western bookareunacceptably democconcerning foreign of beingmet?[Akhtar assessed. but an agreementthat the basic identity of Muslim immigrants-like that of all Britishcitizens-should be legally protectedagainstwanton attacks. However. To showthatit is incapable controversy of rational case. properly 1989a:123] His answerto this rhetoricalquestion is that they can be met if only Britishpoliticiansandcommentators were to recognizetheir "prejudiceandunfairattitudes' (Akhtar1989a:124). He is bitterat what of Westernpublic opinion. revolves aroundthe question of whether "material damage" can be provedwhich is why the legal penalty.'" regarded Thus the law of libel. Neverthehe.incapable racy. repressiveyet permissive" (Caute 1989:9). The real problem with the Muslim minority's demands. he is not entirelypessimistic. but not to do so in a provocativemanner.
to treatfictionas if it were fact. The case of TheSatanic Versesmay be one of the biggest categorymistakesin literaryhistory. it pointsup the basic confrontation: who cannot. the bourgeoislaw of libel insists on makingthat "category mistake. Since the context is uncontrolled. atmosphere. the novelist.not the imaginativereceptionof its politically situatedreaders. For example Penelope Lively. it can only be the imaginativeintentionof its author. Those who have been offended by The Satanic Verses are thusrespondingto the fragmentary natureof the text. But thenthe way this text has fed into very differentkinds of politicalpracticeis itself part of the reading. My argumentis that in this book This content downloaded from 115.that contexthas inevperformance itably become integralto the text.and alludesto as manynationalandreligious settings. sharedby innumerable who have commentedon The Affair. is less decisive thanit appears. the techniqueof literary pastichemakesit possible for a wide rangeof readersto recognize and seize upon partsof an entiretext. [Rushdie 1990a:20] authorsand literarycritics But Rushdie's argumenthere. is to makea seriousmistakeof categories. the concept of sharply differentiatedcategories is subverted. the fundamentalist position-according to which the text is self-sufficientfor arrivingat its meaning-is being taken here not by religious fanaticsbut by liberal critics. in the real political world. In what sense preciselycan Westernreaderswho have little familiaritywith these multiple referencesbe said to have read the book? To demandthat the act of "reading" must always conformto an a priorinorm of skills and knowledges is perhapsarbitrary.the attempt to includemore or less of it in the readingis itself partof the political struggle. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .actions. reproduceswords and phrasesfrom half a dozen languages. Oddly enough. the images Recognitionin itself tends to be a conservativeact. or here is a novelist tryingto explain his purposeto fundamentalists will not. The Satanic Verses is above all a deliberatelyprovocative rhetorical in an alreadychargedpolitical field.the text also producesa sense of delightedconfirmation. Fictionuses facts as a starting-place andthenspiralsaway to exploreits own concerns.112.At anyratemost people who have used it to commendor oppose particular policies in Britainhaven't read it in any conventional literarysense either. reproducing one possesses in memory.and that if a novel's meaninghas any externalauthority.102. Rushdie explains the classic literarydoctrine that fiction (unlike fact) is essentiallyself-contained.That is why. In that essay. understand whatfictionis or does" (Hindsand O'Sullivan 1990).For once the principleof the total self-sufficiency of the text is breachedby reference to the imaginativeintention of the author. But by evoking recognition of characters. events.Of courseit may be evoked as partof a strategyfor inviting the readerto think oneself into a new world."'5 Quite apartfrom the question of relevant context. sadly. as a face from my pastor presentgazed at me from withinthe pages of the book" (Ali 1989:17).248 CULTURALANTHROPOLOGY drawson a wide varietyof literarytexts. which are only tangentiallyhistorical.107 on Fri.Not to see this.16 As in this confession by an anglicized woman of Bangladeshi parents:"With each characterI squealedwith recognition. refers to a recentessay of Rushdie's:"I think. I don't imply by this thatrecognitioncan occur only in a conservativeproject.
107 on Fri.18And the textualizedmemories-the metanarratives-of a post-Enlightenment struggleagainstthe institutionalandmoralhegemonyof the in Europeandthe very recentacquisitionthereof secularliberties. Midnight's its voice"-as if onehasno voiceif one theNewYork Times as "a Continent finding in English andwhowrites anAfrican.17 .ETHNOGRAPHY. confounding the Western reader'sexpectationsof progressive narrative-an expectation that has become (fromCarlyleto Weldon) the indisputablemeasureof an alien text's sense. be argued that its aggressively enthusiasticreception by Western readers is proof that among them some very different nerves have been touched by this book? That among them images are joyfully recognized because they are already formed in the layered discoursesof a commonly inhabitedhistoricalworld? It is partlyto this phenomenonthat the Urdu Marxistpoet Aijaz Ahmed referredthreeyears ago when he observedthat Witarevalorized thefew writers whohappen to writein English beyondmeasure. The EnglishjournalistMalise Ruthvenis undoubtedlycorrect in observing that"The ragewith which this . "the homeless migrant.forexample. . insidehim." staI referto these familiarfiguresin orderto suggest thatthe representative tus of which Ahmed speaks is not simply accorded to a foreign writer seeking admission. novel has been greetedby a numberof Muslim organisations proves thatRushdiehas touchedupon some extremelyraw nerves" (Ruthven 1989:22-23). But can it not. anArab intellectual whois of anyconsequence of a "representative"is that to thelonelysplendour elevated he/sheis immediately world. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in Rushdie's of Salman Children thecharacterization ness. too. 1986:5] visited upon the head of an Asian. Among these. of those figuresof modernity. but because it bringsinto play they are all filled with an irrational metanarratives of Western modernity that conflict with Islamic textualities by which Muslim immigrantsin Britain try to define themselves. Aspects of the Bourgeois Rhetoric of "Literature" "Dr." "the self-fashioningauthor. For opposed to Western stories of progress there stands the Qur'an." writes Rushdie (1989a:26) in one of his many explanations. are the self-fashioning narrativesof militantly atheist readers who remembera repressive religious upbringingin Catholic or Low-Churchfamilies. does not speak in English. Aadam Aziz.a vacancy in a vitalinner chamber.the writer'stext is constructedfrom the startwithin a field of moder thatextendsbeyondthe activitiesof literaryfiguresto include reading-and-writing the scope of moder politics..AND POLITICS 249 recognitionis used as a device to addressthe middle-class liberal readerand to confirmher/hisestablishedpredispositions.112.LITERATURE. of course. one might add. eventhe "third a civilization." "the heroic inhabiterof a godless universe. . the text acquiresits representative authorityby tapping the networkof images and powers made available in that field and not another.102." I. my argumentis not that EuropeanreadersapplaudThe Satanic Verses because hatredof Islam. possessthesameGod-shaped This content downloaded from 115.19 Church Thus. The retribution Or even. thepatriarch in my novelMidnight's loseshis faithandis leftwith"a hole Children.a continent. in the same way. ."[Ahmed of a race.
which includes higher biblical criticism and Lutheranfundamentalism." of course-not the innumerable paperbackssold by the million in supermarkets.Unable to accept theunarguable absolutes of religion.112. Clearly the word "literature" in Rushdie's confession doesn't denote just any writing that addresses the world. that makes AlleIt is thus the possibility of transmuting religion into Literature luia's narrativeabout her mountainexperience an acceptableform of substitute This content downloaded from 115.And since The Satanic Verses as a whole reproducesthat postChristian approachto textuality. When Rushdie says "literature"he means a very specific body of writing.23Forthatgenealogy reveals a profoundshift widely appreciated froma hermeneutic methodthatwas essentiallyparasiticon a pregivensacredtext to one thatproduced Literature out of an infinite variety of publishedtexts. The Truth in her accountto the schoolchildren. or theology. Rushdie doesn't mean that he turned to books on political economy." and "poetry" for spiritualsustenance." "literarycriticism. airports. The of Literature as a moder emergence category of edifying writing has made it for a new discourse to simulate the normativefunctionof religious texts possible in an increasinglysecularsociety.2'The idea that Literatureis the quintessentialspace for producingthe "highest" normsof moder society has become quite familiar to us.24 superstition(the events in Titrepresent is more interestinglyat What of and Mahound).102.25 lipoor). chicanery (the story as the lework here is the familiarpost-Enlightenment conception of Literature for is a reason There source of presenting Alleluia gitimate good spirituality.and railway stationsby authorsthat "cultivated" readershave never heard of. Thus it is not mere personal prejudiceagainst Islam that leads Rushdie to it as psychosis (Gibreel'sexperiences).107 on Fri. philosophy. emergeswhen herexperienceis narrativized. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . kind of The remarkable value given to self-fashioningthrougha particular individualizedreading and writing is entirely recognizable to Western middleclass readersof "literary' novels but not to most Muslimsin Britainor the Indian subcontinent.22although the genealogy of that idea.20 eratemerginginvites the reconstitutionof authorialintention. obviously belong to moder bourgeois culture-not because unbelief is either moder or bourgeois butbecauseof somethingelse: the assumptionthatthe discoursecalled Literature can fill the role previouslyperformedby religious textuality. its seductivenessis likely to work on the former andnot the latter.250 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY hole. Her overpoweringsense of the sublime comes upon her at first in the form of a temporaryhallucinationof communion with God. and others like it. And not just any "fiction. I havetriedto fill upthe holewithliterature. Cone's mystical experience on the snow-toppedHimalayaswith sympathy(see pages 108-109). His statement. Rushdie's narrative interlacing of characters from novel and autobiography shouldalertus to the fictionalways the self is so often constructedin a literatureFor the politically engaged readerthis delibproducingand -consumingworld.is less thanit shouldbe. but that he read and wrote "fiction.
It is also to note that althoughthe strictly privatizedrole of religion in the moder Westernstate makes it easy for English believers and nonbelieversto assimilate it to the category of Literature. needthatlittle. For when we read that "secularist Sufyan swallowed the multiple culturesof the subcontinent"(p. modeled on the postmodernidea of an imaginativework of art. To say this is not merely to remindourselves of the enormous injustices of class.107 on Fri. symbols and languages. thatthatprivileged arena is preserved is notthatwriters wantthe absolute ensuring freedom to sayanddowhatever andwriters theyplease. more than merely life itself.26 So. in of the classical texts cultures" self-taught many (p. the truth of life.112. 246). Shakespeare.Not life itself. in his case it had turnedout to be the beginningof a curse" (p. allof us. The reason for But everydaylife is not so easily invented. 290). abandoned.LITERATURE. spoken language (his believing wife's bittercomplaints abouthis religious laxity) teaches him the evil that issues from actualritualpractice (his one-timepilgrimageto Mecca): "whereasfor most Muslims a journeyto Mecca was the greatblessing. James Clifford writes: no longer identities continuous cultures andtraditions.reinhabitedas this notion of culture. on the benefitsof propagating This content downloaded from 115. but The GreatBooks of Civilization(by Tagore.One may recall very here the recommendation of LordMacaulay.unimportant-looking room. thathe could "quote effortlesslyfrom from the militaryaccountsof JuliusCaesaras Rig-Vedaas well as Quran-Sharif. the truthof language standsagainstthe antilife of ritual. Twentieth-century presuppose individuals andgroups localperformances from(re)collected Everywhere improvise pasts. and taughthim the wisdom of life's sorrows. The bourgeoisdoctrinethat Literature is the truthof life is repeatedin a recent lectureby Rushdie (1990b:18): Literature is theoneplacein anysocietywhere. and many others) have fashionedthe gentle. has had a close connectionwith imperialculture. 243)-belongs to the same authorialreason. well as the Revelationsof St. architectof Britisheducationin India.To take a very recent example.Virgil.most Muslim immigrantsin Britainfind it difficultto assimilatetheir practicalreligious traditionsto this category.AND POLITICS 251 religiosity for the author-as well as a recognizableone for many Western and Westernizedreaders. 245). The practice of religion is transmutedinto malign utterance. John the Divine" (p. it is the devotion of this life to Literature thatwe are asked to admire.27 This doctrinehas gained such an ideological ascendancythat the anthropological concept of culture is now beginning to be thought of once again in the mode of Literature.102. Ovid.Lucretius. unworldlySufyan. [Clifford 1988:14]28 we can hear voices talking about everythingin every possible way. or to resist the impositionof someone else's invention. race.ETHNOGRAPHY. The strongly sympatheticcharacterization of Sufyan-"ex-schoolteacher. and gender that still exist. Nor does everyone in the moder world have an equal power to invent. suggests.within thesecrecy of ourownheads. drawingon foreign media. The bourgeois doctrine that Literatureis.Itis thatwe. readers andcitizens andgenerals andgodmen. too. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .
But the constitutingthathumanityare themselves the productof a particular assumptions history. and one who is losing his mind. And. . whereverBritishliterature spreads. As Norman Daniel (1960:102) noted: "it seemed very obvious to mediaevalChristiansthatMuhammad's behaviourwith women alone made it quite impossible thathe should have been a prophet.may it be attended andBritish virtue freedom! [citedin Baldick1983:197] by British How successful this project was historicallyis not the point here. to see whetherthis helps us understand Satanic Verses articulatewith the political terrainin postcolonial Britain.to "humanize" a figureis to insist on his sexual desire. . one might wonderwhetherthis object is best pursuedvia the fictionaldream of a fictionalcharacter. of Muhammadis (Althoughin this sense the hagiographicalrepresentation Khomeini-"the "humanized"in Rushdie's novel. discourse. .107 on Fri. weapon is to be wielded in the presence of a post-Christian audience-indeed with the seductionof thataudienceas a primaryaim-it draws astutelyon the long traditionof Christiananti-Muslimpolemics. after all. If the book is.then the literarydevices employed andpracticesof Muslimimmigrants in The Satanic Verses are entirely apt. their subversionrequiresa text that is a And as the weapon. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .an Indianmovie star. however.102. what needs to be underlinedis the fact that British literaturewas always an integralpartof the Britishmission in India. the very real contemporary Imam"-is heavily mythicized. centralto which is the Christianfascination with sex in the Prophet's life.to pronouncehim merelyhuman. by a discursive strippingof its successive disguises. I must stressthatit is not Rushdie'soriginalmotive in writingthe novel thatinterestsme here. but the authorialmotive as constructedin the literarytext and its political context.in the post-Christian of modernity. Is it also an integralpartof SalmanRushdie's mission? The Politics of a Partial Text I indicatedearlierwhen I quotedfrom Rushdie's commentson his novel that the rhetoricalstatusof the sections dealing with Islam was not entirelyclear.112." have suggestedthatthe sexual episodes in the novel's Severalcommentators accountof the Prophetserve to humanizehim.this humanistdoctrinedemandsof us a universalway of "being human"-which is really a singularway of articulating desire. Thus in the Christiantradition. Since these beliefs and practicesare part of their contemporary social existence.29 Like any imperializingorthodoxy. to disclose in it. This may indeed be so. On the otherhandif the book's primaryaim is to lampoonthe sacredbeliefs in Britain. Is it "historicalexploration"or not? I want now to addressmyself brieflyto authorial how form and content in The intention. and gesture in the body's economy. These two diametrically opposed rhetorical come togetherin the same polemical aim.252 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY thatliterature before thelightof whichimpious andcruelsuperstitions arefasttaking flighton the banksof the Ganges.to sexualize a figure was to cut him off tradition fromdivine Truth.) transformations This content downloaded from 115. at that. his essential human Truth. about the growth of Islam as a historicalphenomenon.
But the elements in Rushdie's armory are not solely Christian. but it is poor hismost Western readers will be ill tory. and not a sort of dream. The satirist need not be a believer.and how his propertyshould be divided. Since Muslims do not consider ahadith to be divinely revealed. only the rules relating to inheritance are to be found in the Qur'an. ahadith record the founding principles of a virtuous life. but the "vices" must be recognized as such by those against whom it is directed. by bleeding. [pp." When we call a piece of writing satire we are. The answer may well be "Because the dreams of demented Indian actors aren't scholarly treatises. so thatby experiencingtheir deathsto the full they might arrive at an understanding of the meaningof theirlives. and poorer ethnography-something unaided. why sectarian rules are presented as though they were accepted by all Muslims. It was as if no aspect of humanexistence was to be left unregulated. which Muslims believe to have been revealed by God via Gabriel. Of all the rules given in the passage I have quoted. The relevation-the recitation-told the faithful how much to eat. . but he must have a firm understanding of the moral This content downloaded from 115. how deeply they should sleep. but in collections called Hadith which contain the exemplary sayings and doings of Muhammad and his companions. rules aboutevery damnthing. and which sexual position had received divine sanction. no Suni collection contains a hadith prohibiting the consumption of prawns. For Muslims. Gabriel has nothing to do with them. emphasisadded] This passage is certainly amusing Biff! Smack! Wallop! stuff. 363-364. He vetoed the consumption of prawns. they are satire. claiming a respectable status for it. to equipped identify Most Islamic rules are contained not in the Qur'an ("the recitation"). A satire is supposed to deal with prevailing vices. until the faithful could scarcely bear the prospectof any morerevelation. Over the centuries there have been many attempts at putting together authoritative collections and classifying ahadith. so that they learned thatsodomy and the missionaryposition were approvedof by the archangel. LITERATURE. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Thus: Amid the palm-treesof the oasis Gibreel appearedto the Prophetand found himself spoutingrules.107 on Fri. They come also from that moder tendency which regards the establishment of rules as selfevidently restrictive of liberty. Gibreel the further listed the permittedandforbiddensubjectsof conversation.ANDPOLITICS253 ETHNOGRAPHY. those bizarre other-wordlycreatures which no member of the faithful had ever seen. and further. The question that any informed reader may want to ask is why the rules of Hadith are presented as having been revealed by Gabriel. for it is only at the momentof death that living creaturesunderstand that life has been real. rules.. Thus. And Gibreelthe archangelspecifiedthe mannerin which a man shouldbe buried.112. free. Nor does any Sunni canonical work contain the rules about sexual intercourse that are cited in The Satanic Verses. rules.whereas the forbiddenpostures included all those in which the female was on top. and requiredanimals to be killed slowly.andearmarked they might partsof the body which could not be scratchedno matterhow unbearably itch. of course. if a man fartslet him turnhis face to the wind. every principle of virtuous Muslim practice has a hadith authorizing it. a prohibition followed only by Shi'is. conversely. a rule aboutwhich hand to use for the purposeof cleaning one's behind.102. and there are many important differences in the ahadith accepted by the various sects as authentic.
however. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .32 with a liberaldistress at racist prejudicein contemporary cant. It was as if no aspect of existence was to be left unregu- lated.107 on Fri. Yet neitherin politics nor in morality is it an uncontestedtruthto say thatbeing unregulatedis being really free. throughoutEurope's 19th century.30 such expressionsof contemptfor the beliefs and practicesof Natives (Macaulay's "cruel superstitions")dependfor their force on superiormaterialpower.More important. is this: in deridingthe very idea of rules of conduct ("rules about every damn thing.254 CULTURALANTHROPOLOGY structure of the people he is satirizing. .112.This seems to confirm the suspicionthatthe sneer is directedparticularly at Muslim immigrantsin Brita small and vulnerable ain. an integral atory representations of part imperialpropaganda.33 Political Traces on a Postcolonial Life From what has been said so far. The pressureof public opinion resultedin a governmentcommission which recommendedthat ritualslaughterbe rendered illegal.102.. I think. Indeedderoghave been.Thatthe explanationis containedneither in the Qur'annor in any canonical hadithis of no concern to would-be satire of course-though one might feel that as an inventedexplanationit's surely somewhatfeeble in suggesting thatthe Prophet'sreligious practicewas directedat deliveringsheep andpoultryfrom philosophicalerror.. is the fact that most British readers will immediately associate this item with the notoriousmedia campaigna few years ago against what was describedas "that cruel and barbarous"Islamic practice. The item that is surely the most startlingin Gibreel's dream about Islamic rules is the repulsiveexplanationoffered for the way Muslims slaughteranimals for food to makethe meathalal (kosher). its attachment to religious ficulty that the determination light shall triumphagainstdarkness. The readerof The Satanic Verses should not allow herself to be misled by the accusationsof Britishracism it contains:such accusationsare entirelyconsonant More signifiBritain. which is a mode of moral engagement.only Now of course Rushdie is underno obligation to engage seriously with beliefs and practices that he rejects. communitywhich is alreadyin some difpolitically In a crusadetherecan be no scholfor traditions. Simply to representanotherpeople's beliefs and customs as vices isn't in itself satire-which is not to say that it is thereforewithouteffect. The tensions and contradictionsit reveals are far more interestingthan anythingthat takes place on the surfaceof the narrative. Otherwisethe writing degeneratesinto a sneer. but in choosing to laugh at them he situates himselfvery clearlyon the groundof quiteanothertraditionwhich is alreadypowerfully in place-that of the liberal ruling class in a postcolonial Western state.31 arly scruples. I do not want to give the impressionthat I thinkThe Satanic Verses is to be read entirely-or even mainly-in termsof the author'sconscious intentions." But unlike accomplishedsatire.and an essentialjustificationof its "civilizing mission. free") Rushdie invokes the assumptionsof liberal individualismthat have reachedtheirapogee in Thatcher'sBritain. but fortunatelyfor the Muslims the Jewish religious authoritiesprevailed upon the governmentnot to follow this recommendation.And they allow us to make a political This content downloaded from 115.The text of this novel is not in controlof itself.
In his desireto metamorphose thatkind of Englishman.Nor why he feels it is "her race and her class" that are betrayed. not her politics. his essentialplace. Yet in the final analysis. It is thus Pamela's sexual history. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and to Zeeny. Yet what is apparentto any careful readeris that Pamelabetraysnot "her race and her class" but her Indianhusband-by going slumming among immigrantsinstead of helping to complete and confirm his transformation into the authenticEnglishman. so it must be suppressedand displaced.and seeks to reproducea half-Englishchild. There is a double displacementat work here: for Chamchais at once the object of betrayaland the ultimatebetrayer-the self-hatingcolonial. is that Chamchareturnsto India. her betrayalis simply the motivatedfigureof his own impossible attemptsto become that differentspecies.112.. that constitutesreal betrayalof Chamcha precisely because it is a betrayalof an essential (i. 180).LITERATURE. Coming from Rushdie's Chamcha.yet Pamelamarrieshim because he is Indianand therebyadulterates her desired Englishness (heradulterywith Chamcha'sIndianfriendJoshi is merely a playing out of her marriage as racialadultery).AND POLITICS 255 readingof fragmentsof the novel. the radicalIndianwho mocks him for aping English attitudes. Chamcharesents Pamela's unwillingness to confirm him as a real English gentlemen. but only because it covers a comand ideas of genetic puritythat plex play between desires for self-transformation is not fully dissected in the novel. and despises her for her left-wing politics.marriageto an Englishwomanwill surelybringthe fulfillmentof his desire nearer.Rushdie's Chamcha makesa strikingremark:"Pamela.not himself. As concept and practice that ideology acquiredits most elaborate himself into developmentin BritishIndia. you may recall.34 The final resolution. Let me illustratebriefly. an English gentleman. In the course of a hymn to the glories of Shakespeare.102.Rushdie's Chamchastruggleswith an impossible ideological dilemma:to become English he must reject his essential Indianness. this doesn't quite explain his resortto the bitternotion of "treachery. raciallypure) Englishness. as opposed to its politics.ETHNOGRAPHY. as Rushdie'sChamchais." a discourse in which "Indians" have a differentplace. 398). Pamelais awareof Chamcha's desperatedesire for the very thing she rejects (p.107 on Fri." an accusationnever leveled at Zeeny. To be an "authentic" English gentlemen is to live out a racist ideology-to engage in discourses of "generative essence. Indeed he does know it but can't admit it to himself. made incessantefforts to betrayher race and her class" (p.e. his essential kind: This content downloaded from 115. However.Indeed. and knows that this unwillingness is relateddirectlyto her rebellious politics. at an Englishpublic school mustknow thatupper middle-class parents would not regard as betrayal a daughter'sradicalpolitics (mere "youthful idealism" is how they would view it) but her marriage to an Indian.this accusationis entirely apt. But why is her attitudeto her class representedas betrayal?Anyone educated. He cringes as she repeatedlysubvertshis attemptsat being English. It is inconceivable that Rushdie's Chamcha should be innocent of this knowledge. which was the topic of my previoussection. of course.
guilt-in spiteof his another chance. The stirringspeech allegedlymadein courtby SylvesterRoberts. and culturalconsequencesof British rule in India.112. But Mishal. If the old refused to die. is scarcely open to many immigrants."Zeenyoffered. [p. Thereit simplywas. even his affection for England38-and then forgives himselffor that destruction.Therewas no accounting forone's good humanity-hewas getting fortune. (Her petit bourgeois Englishnessis of course to be distinguishedfrom the gentleman'sEnglishnessto which Chamchaaspires. and reconstitutionof the subject. and in her radical politics-even though it must be understoodthat in a racist society she will not be seen as "English" by the English.emphasis But this optimisticresolutionis only possible after his father's death brings him a comfortableinheritancein India-an inheritanceacquired. who stays on to struggle for a nonracistEngland. his of his his alter wife. her dress. "My "I'm coming.althoughthe idea of deporting colored immigrantsto their country of origin is one that right-wing opinion in Britain. In such a moralitythere is no reason to suppose there can ever be an end to the cycle of destruction. a returnto his real place. daughterof the Bangladeshi caf6-ownerSufyan. it is the classic moralityof consumercapitalism. 464-465).andturned added]35 awayfromtheview." her. recognizableparts London. To thedevilwithit! Letthebulldozers come. As an empirical gener- alizationthis is of course prettysilly."he answered place. It is the social.has been burnedto death. But as a justificationfor destroyingthe old in the continuouspursuitof novelty. the incarnation corpsewith her half-Indianchild unborn.It seemedthatin spiteof all his wrong-doing. weakness. Chamcha'ssolution to the problem of conflicting identities.36 And also after his English of his self-betrayal."Come along. not the mythicizedorigins of Islam in 7th-centuryArabia. has always favored. Rushdie's Chamchadestroys his own past-his mother.self-forgiveness."Let'sgetthehelloutof here. her attitudeto her mother. readsoddly: This content downloaded from 115. an unnamed wife. bornandbredin Englandis alreadyin a crucialsense "English"-in her mannerof speaking. it is Mishal who lives while her immigrantparents-again symptomatically-are burnedto death. and new beginningsare all one can ever have.alias Dr.107 on Fri. takinghis elbow in its hand.37 his father. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . there is Mishal. Where there are no obligations to the past every destructionis only a new beginning. andthe view fromthis windowwas no morethanan old and sentimental echo.whose deathis recountedin the form of a casualpolice report(pp. It may be arguedthat Chamcha'sreturnto India is not the only solution to the immigrant'sdifficulties.) Nevertheless. 547. Indeed the book's arIndianand Pakistaniimmigrantsin contemporary ticulationof time is self-consciously mythical-an admiringreviewer identified it as "cyclically Hindu and dualisticallyMuslim"39-while its centraldilemma andresolutionare deeply rooted in historicallyspecific class situations.256 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY Childhood was over."Zeenat der. thenewcouldnotbeborn. that constitute the source of political problemsfor Britain. economic. ego Gibreel.If theold refused to Vakil's voicesaidathisshouldie. the new could not be born.102. her sexual behavior. After all.includingEnoch Powell. in accordancewith rules from the Divine Recitation.thatwas plain. UhuruSimba. ironically. friends.
Indeed. 414] In the light of an almost systematic destructionof immigrantdifference in the book (apartfrom skin color and a taste for curry) this passage assumes a selfmockingquality. Some British Uses of a Postcolonial Novel I have said something in this article about the readingsbut almost nothing aboutthe uses of SalmanRushdie's The Satanic Verses in the context of British politics. End of the Cone family of immigrants. We have been made again:but I say that we shall alsobe the ones to remake this society. considering what's been said aboutit. a profoundstatementof the immigrantas universalrepresentative of our epoch. the out-of-workradical Joshi. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . .107 on Fri.to shapeit fromthe bottom to the top. but with a nostalgia for the Englandno longer here to receive him. against the Irishpeasantry. True. there are virtually no immigrantsin the book. This content downloaded from 115. commits suicide after his comical attemptsat assimilation.112. and living now in straitenedconditionsthesehadnot andcould not have entertained the author'sillusions aboutEngland. The decent Englandthat Rushdie's Chamcha had idolized and wanted to inhabitwas also the countrywhose ruling class conducteda continuous war against its organized working classes. as some reviewers have claimed. the gentleman's England. there is the Cone family. and the two daughters. we are here to change things. . and emigrates to California where she settles down with a nice man. Rushdie's Chamcha has been excluded from entry into that class not merely because of racism. 270). LITERATURE. We shallbe thehewers of thedeadwoodandthegardeners of thenew. [p. Respondingto Valence's loud-mouthedpraise for Thatcher's class revolution. nor that of the England he had idolized and come to conquer" (p. large numbersof whom have settled in communitiesin the mill towns of northernEngland. Yet only a colonialized bourgeois could have worshiped a gentleman'sEnglandthat never was.102. nor do they appearto wish to assimilateentirely to "the core values" of British culture. I shall now deal with this theme briefly. Nor is it. each meets with an unpleasantlyviolent death. Yet significantly. but because (he graduallydiscovers) good old England. middle-classJewish refugees from Poland:old Otto.and againstthe diverse populationsabsorbedinto its vast empire.propelled by quite other aspirationsto migrate. and Chamcha himself. the father.What they do powerfullyconnect with are the highly ambivalentemotions generatedby an anglicized Indian'sgaze at the rulingclass of imperialBritain. Most Muslim immigrants. not his. .having very differentclass origins and religious traditionsfrom those of the author.AND POLITICS 257 ETHNOGRAPHY.It is ourturn now.his awakeningbegins not with a recognitionthat his yearning for the gentleman's England was based on illusion. The remarkablething about The Satanic Verses. apartfrom the Sufyan family.Is there a patternhere? Most Muslim immigrants in Britainareproletarians. The book's stories do not connect with the political-economicand culturalexperiences of this population. is no longer in place. is that it isn't aboutthe predicament of most immigrantsat all. They neither retireto where they came from. Chamchacomes to this unhappyconclusion: "It hadn't been Chamcha'sway.his widow Alicia becomes religious. Alleluia and Elena.
we are remindedthat it is. Therewas no secularoutrageat this symbolic book-burning. performed by Literature Whatevera full symbolic analysis of the book-burningmay come to look like. after all. "only a story. Therewas.41it needs to be stressedthat the two expressions of outrageare not equally balanced. "only paperand ink. When charactersin a novel are burnedto death (or vilified). of course. obtain the security evidently ways police protectionthey ceive the same practicaland ideological attentionthat liberal bourgeois society This content downloaded from 115. True.quite anotherto react with horrorat the symbolic act of burningit.This was done deliberatelyby the Muslims in that city to attractmedia attention-and that it got with a vengeance. SalmanRushdie's tragicpredicament-his havof some of theircoreligionists.is the case of Rabbi MordecaiKaplanwho redefinedclassical Judaism in accordancewith modernideas not as a religious faith but as a civilization that includedlanguageand custom: "When RabbiKaplanpublisheda prayerbook in 1945 embodyingthese ideas.comparingit with the notoriousNazi book-burnings of the '30s.It was "Literature"that was being burned. no liberaloutrageat the public burningof copies of immigration laws by dissenting Membersof Parliamentsome years ago. Thatreactionshould interestus as anthropologists.112. so thatwe can understand the sacredgeographyof modernsecularculturebetterthan we now do. perhaps. its public burningin Bradford.not just any printedcommuthe sacred role And it was burnedby people who did not understand nication. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . of the white British population.102. by governmentor liberal opinion. it was publicly burnedbefore an assembly of the Union of OrthodoxRabbis of the United States and Canada" (Goldman 1989). Commentators of various political persuasiondenounced this act with horror. after all. But it is also truethat BritishMuslims have publicly dissociatedthemselves from the Iranian prominent and that they are trying to restrainthe intemperatedeclarations pronouncement.I suggest. murders of black Britishcitizens by white racistshas never provokeda denunciation.Nor do black Britishcitizens who are constantlythreatened by white racists alordinary Their cannot reneed. Perhapsthe crucial difference in the case of the Bradfordevent (apartfrom the fact thatit was perpetrated by Muslims who must expect a generallyunfavorable press in the West) is that it was the burningof a novel by a famous literary author.40 in modernbourgeoisculture.107 on Fri." And yet a literalist responsedoesn't seem equally convincing to us when we are told that the book burnedis.42 to be the British police againstthe possibility of murder-is cering guardedby is this fact: the steady stream over the years of of the So too tainly part story. in that Muslim immigrants(like all South Asian immigrants)do not possess anythinglike the resourcesof power and violence availableto the British state.258 CULTURALANTHROPOLOGY In a sense the most startlinguse of this book has been. indeed. this double outrage has also become entangled with the issue of Khomeini'sshockingdeaththreatagainsta Britishcitizen. More relevant." The liberal expressions of outrageat this symbolic act-no less than the anger of South Asian Muslims at the publication of the book-deserve to be explored more fully than they have been. My point is thatit is one thingfor liberalopinionto rejectthe call for banning a publication.
45 regardsmulticulturalism disruptiveprinciple.Theydo notseem English to understand thrust that. Thus Hugo Young. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .112.102. famous author. Peaceful attemptsby immigrantleadersto petition for legal action banningthe novel are not merely rein hystericaltermsas a bid "to destroyBritishfreedoms.The hithertoconfused notion of multiculturalism is parliamentary now vigorously attackedin the name of core culturalvalues right across the political spectrum. is the melting-potpolicy. Thelaw protects us all. added] emphasis The intimidatingtone of this piece.one is entitled another which meetshisdemands. is typical of much media coverage of the Rushdie affair in Britain. including them. For LabouriteSean Frenchthe Bradfordbook-burningand the Muslim fury at Rushdiehave broughtabout a change of heartregardingthe virtues of multiculturalism: There hasbeenlittletimein Britain forthemelting-pot attitudes to immigrants-eson the left. delivered in imperialcadences.ETHNOGRAPHY.43 therefore.44 It is as a consequenceof the inequalityin power between immigrantsand the governingclasses that the book is being used as a stick with which to beat the in a varietyof political arenas-in education. and its resort to means that have always been lawful in moderndemocracies(parliamentary petitions. writes: Muslimleadersnow maketo destroyBritish or escapethe restraints of freedoms.there should be no liberal outcry that the foundationsof Westerncivilization are being attacked-but merely liberal expressions of dismay at the violent intoleranceof their lower classes.noryet hadcomprehension uponthem.Forthat. it seems to me.If anybody is to be radically transformedit must not be the Britishthemselves. Multi-cultural. But in fact such statementsare not directedat illegality in any strict sense. public demthe of onstrations-including shouting angry slogans46-and passionate argument in the media) is virtuallycriminalized. the well-known Britishliberalcolumnist. It wouldproduce society.LITERATURE. Wellwe nowhaveit. hasbeenconsidered alpecially mother-tongue teaching mostself-evidently the richesof a many-cultured good. Theirfuncone claim for which they can be allotted no scintilla of sympathyis the claim some This content downloaded from 115.Christian immigrants Caribbean (who were eager at firstto be assimilated)and the dominantwhite society is evidence enough of that. gives to an internationally thatwhen ordinaryBritishcitizens are threatened with deathby white racists.and immigrants constituencies. lies in the Britishanxiety about who and what is to be disrupted. and murdered. The unhappy fromthe historyof racerelationsbetweenEnglish-speaking. especially as it was common knowledge thatno arrestsfor breachof the law had actuallyoccurredat the time. surely. andScottish law. country whynotTehran? [Young 1989:3. If notGravesend.AND POLITICS 259 It is quite understandable.andthat to suggestto anyonewho does not like it thathe mightfind alone." jected but represented An Asian minority's wish to change the law. local government. But so too. The clue. [French 1989:6] as a French.like many otherson the left and the right.107 on Fri.
This continuouswork of historicalcontestation and reconstruction needs to be kept in mind when reading British liberal commentaries aboutthe Rushdieaffair. don't dare to try and change it-just leave our country. or redefinegiven traditionsand identities.107 on Fri. that it now possesses. Not experimentsin ethnographicrepresentation be our of intervention should but modalities sake. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . humanistconcept of "culture. My discussion of Rushdie's novel is motivatedby the assumptionthat the are fiction crucialissue for anthropological practiceis not whetherethnographies can be replaced by or fact-or how far realist forms of culturalrepresentation others. More precisely. But they can easily be translatedas hegemonic interests.112. and legitimacy.that "British culture"-originally "English culture"-began to acquirethe inclusive sense. There was a time when the values and aspirationsof the English working classes-as well as the beliefs and practicesof NonconformistChristians-were not includedin the secular.anda reformedsystem of city government. the concept of cultureitselfhas emergedas thepoliticalproductof a profoundhistoricalstruggle. and I want to returnto cently become the focus of much anthropological it finally. neitherrace norgender could become legitimatepolitics in modem states. so that the demand that immigrant minoritiesconcede withoutquestion existing "core values" if they are to be acceptedas full membersof the political communitybecomes revealedas a famous bourgeoisruse. What mattersmore are the kinds of political projectculturalinscriptions for their own are embeddedin. modify. develop. even. It was only with such recentdevelopmentsas adultmale suffrage.like all cultures. A Concluding Note I began this essay by addressingthe question of ethnographywhich has reinterest. populareducation. a legalized TradeUnion movement. It is a well-knownbut often convenientlysuppressedfact that not only have ways of life in Britainchanged radicallyover the last two centuries. a major question for anthropologistsconcerned with the West's Otherin the West is this: How do discursive interventionsby anthropologists articulatethe politics of difference in the spaces defined by the moder state? This content downloaded from 115. But it is worth examining critically what the assumptionamountsto. I wantto stressthatthis point has nothing to do with whetherBritishculture. This seems eminently reasonable-essentially democratic. primaryobject of conpolitical cern. it has to do with what gets includedand what excluded (how and by whom) in the constructionof a domainwithin which a legitimatepolitics can be practiced-a politics to defend.260 CULTURALANTHROPOLOGY tion is to convey a clear message to immigrants: if you don't like an arrangement which is a partof core British values.102. If thatprinciplewere ever to be conceded."47The singularityof Britainwas not definedin termsof an all-encompassingculture.is "mixed" or "pure". British "core values" appearto mean the historical values of the British majority.
112. 1. RaynaRapp. the Universityof Connecticut. To Tanya BakerI owe a special debt for her invaluableadvice and criticism and for her perceptivereadingof SalmanRushdie's novel which she sharedwith me. 'For a courageousinterventionby two anthropologistsat the height of the Rushdie furor see the interesting"Editors' Comments" in Public Culture. 5ThusEliot. capitalismor communism" (Rushdie 1988c:188).102. 6Wouldit be unjustto describethis referenceto a monolithic "Islam" directedby a "powerful tribe" as an opportunistic bid for supportin the West? Rushdie himself might have describedit so beforethe publicationof TheSatanic Verses: "it needs to be said repeatedly in the West thatIslamis no more monolithicallycruel. particularlyas it affects theirdemandsregardingeducation. Spring 1989. and Nur Yalman. Its culturalrole was not the consequence of divine grace. In the West there is now an increasing awareness of the ambiguous legacy of the Enlightenment. ences.Keith Nield. It is monumentallyabsurdto suggest thatbelief in Muhammad's uniquenessand in the unambiguityof the Qur'anas revelationis the product of a recentclericalcoup. Two decades ago Arthur Hertzberg assembled a powerful case to argue that the modem roots of anti-Semitism lay in the homogenizing thrust of post-Enlightenment "emancipation. who argued. This article is almost as much hers as mine. vol. no morean 'evil empire'thanChristianity. U. 2." Complete assimilation48 or the to mention other. I have benefitedfrom commentsmadeby all threeaudiences.107 on Fri.ANDPOLITICS261 ETHNOGRAPHY. 4A valuable discussion of English law as it affects Muslims in Britain. but of the constitutionalprivilege given to a religious institutionin the Britishstate. bothprincipleshave always been cardinalto Islamicpopularfaith and theologicaldiscourse. This content downloaded from 115.andthe Universityof Chicago. Kalpagam. is containedin Poulter(1989). 2Ishall deal with the politics of culturalconflict in Britainin anotheressay. I am gratefulalso to the following individualswho made helpful suggestions:JamesFaris. 3Usefulinformationon Muslims in Europe is contained in Gerholmand Lithman(1988) andKepel (1988). for the inseparability of religion and culturehad to concede thatthe Churchof Englandincludes "wider varietiesof belief and cult than a foreign observer would believe it possible for one institutionto contain without bursting" (Eliot 1961:73). from a conservativeviewpoint. more terrible. However minor that influence may now be said to be. It is incorrectand irresponsible to imply thatthereis a unity of doctrineamong even so-called fundamentalist regimes and movementsin the Muslim world today. no. it is the case that even nonconservatives do not contest the essentially Christiancharacterof "British nationalculture" in any significantmeasure. status of despised difference-not alternatives49-is the only option that the modem nation-state has been able to provide for its "minorities." Must our critical ethnographies of Other traditions in modem nation-states follow the options offered by liberal theory? Or can they contribute to the formulation of very different political futures? Notes Partsof this article were delivered at the New York Academy of SciAcknowledgments. LITERATURE. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .
Caute provides a useful account of dissatisfactionswithin the Bradford immigrant communitywith the political recordof the Labourparty.thatwe may perhapsget glimpses of a remarkable man.9 )." '3Thesinisterversions include those used in Soviet political psychiatry.A wearisome inconfusedjumble.112. as we mightin the State-Paper Office. But also in such statementsas the following by the eminent liberaljournalistO'Brien (1989) that in effect measures:"Arab and Muslim society is recommendspecific political and administrative sick and has been sick for a long time.he was confrontedwith a veiled threatof legal action: "Mr. Waterston's SelectionCatalogue. he does not supply the necessary disunderstanding tinctionbetween experience and its expression. While Williams's primaryconcern here is to rehabilitatethe notion of experiencein the face of Althusserianassaults. s. . the light versus the dark." There is a characteristic imperialassumptionhere that a cultivatedEuropeanhas no need to learn to read the texts of non-European cultures. incidentally.. he emphasizes its limitationsfor political in modem societies. Williams (1979:168-172). This content downloaded from 115.102. Any parentwho objects to Christianindoctrination a specific applicationto have his or her child exempted from that activity (EducationReform Act 1988.entanglement. the emigre.107 on Fri.long-windedness. Nevertheless. a shorterversion was reprinted Is inconsistencythe privilege of a writerof fiction-or only of a writerof fantasy? 8Forexample Bhabha(1989:35): "The book is written in a spirit of questioning." "4In this article. crude.262 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 7Consistencyis not exactly Rushdie's strong point. it was only as recently as 1988 that Parliamentlegislated that obligatorycollective worship in schools had to be of "a broadly Christiancharacter"(see Education mustmake ReformAct 1988.endless iterations. Rushdie respondedby leaving a message on my answer-phonesaying he was appalledthat I would thinkthe play which postulatedhis death could in any way be acceptableto him. 6. supportablestupidity." 9Thisjudgment. unreadable through of lumber. there's always a dangerin makinghasty equations(as Yasmin Ali adequate does) between "culturalproducts" and "authenticexperiences. '5Asindeed do SalmanRushdieand his legal advisers.As Mr. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . "when people try to define the world in termsof a starkoppositionbetween good and evil" (originallypublishedin the autumn/winter 1988 in Rushdie 1989b:1156). in short! Nothing but a sense of duty could carry any European masses the Koran.. It is time for us to choose") is surelybased on an implicit rule of conduct? '2Thedifficulties of constructinga coherent politics in the modem state on the basis of "experience" alone has long been recognized on the left: see. For since there is often a hiatus between experiencethat can't be adequatelyexpressed and what can be expressed but isn't quite to experience.We readin it. "Most of our problems begin. 'The imperiousdemandthat all good men and true must now come forwardto join the crusade ("Secular versus religious. for example. that he would resist its being performed. ss. Thus when the English playwright BrianClarkwrotea play alludingto Rushdie'stragicpredicament. 7). '?Afterall. it is as toilsome reading as I ever undertook.. interrogation the minority. doubt." he observedin a prepublication interview. and puzzlement which articulatesthe dilemma of the migrant. incondite. has a long lineage in the Christian West. Thus Carlyle (1897:64-65): "I must say.
Rushdie's agent saying that if we intendedproductionwe should send him a formal note so that he could 'establishSalman's legal rights. for throughthemthe readerdelivershis/herassent.The religious struggleof Nonconformistsagainstthe EstablishedChurchwas an extremelyimportant source of social and political rights in thatcountry.' The irony of Mr. Rushdieis nowhereportrayedor even named in the play it was easy to change the title to WhoKilled the Writer?(thoughit would be disingenuousto pretendthe play was not predicated on his position). LITERATURE. Freud'saccountof religion as a form of neurosis This content downloaded from 115. the divine creator. Rushdie's wishing to suppressa play because it offended him was so obvious that it became clear to me he could not be thinkingwell" (Clark 1990:21). the purpose of the exercise has been to enrich its status as a divine-and thereforemiraculousdiscourse. To what extent are such memories(as opposed to the experiences they recount)the consequenceof direct religiousrepression-and to what extentthe integrativeprincipleof antireligioussubjects? This questiondoes not presupposethat the memoriesmust be false. Thus Peter Fuller in his review of George Steiner's Real Presences in the Guardian: "I was drawnon throughpage afterpage by the sheerjoy of corroboration. Althoughsome recent specialists of Arabicliterature have tried to approach it as a "literarytext" (see. 'Abdurrahman 1969:13-19). '9This metanarrative often takes the historyof post-Revolutionary anticlericalism in France as paradigmatic.107 on Fri. Roberts(1979).But then rationalistaccountsof Christian religiosity took a similarview.therebysuppressingthe much more complicatedrole played by religion in England.112. idea thatthe Prophet'sreligiousexperiencewas due to mentaldisturbance 24The is a theme in more thanone 19th-century discussion of Muhammad. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .102. But I was shocked to be in receipt of a letter from Mr. 20For 2'In the Islamic traditionthe Qur'an is not regardedas literature-adab-in the critical modem sense of the term. 7It now appearsthat SalmanRushdie agrees with TheNew YorkTimes:his life's work is "to create a literarylanguage and literaryforms in which the experience of formerly-colonized. "'Since Freudwe have learnedto ask whethermodem autobiographical narratives preserve a puretruthor presentthe truthof interestedsubjects (see Spence 1982). 22It is nicely reproduced in Foucault's(1984) well-knownpresentation of Baudelaireas the paradigmatic figureof modernity(a literaryman. entrepreneur. still-disadvantaged peoples might find full expression" (Rushdie 1990a:18). you will note-not a bureaucrat. 230nthe emergenceof "literarycriticism" in late 18th-century Germanyvia biblical hermeneutics. see J. not even a journalist). for example.ANDPOLITICS263 ETHNOGRAPHY. an entire world of formerlycolonized peoples remainsunableto express fully their manifold experiences. not an not an engineer."' In such a reading therecan scarcelybe any room for thejoy of discoveringnew things-let alone undergoing the uncomfortable process of questioningone's complacency. an interestinganalysis of this modem phenomenonsee Gutman(1988). Until Rushdie. '6The recognitionsarehighly seductive. fashions and gifts an appropriate English literary language. but that in translating a remembered childhood experience of repressive-parents-using-religious-rules into "religious repression"the adult subjecthas entereda discoursethatalreadyhas high value in liberalsecularculture.
28Rushdie's own conceit of literatureas life has recently acquiredan astonishingformulation: "I wantto say to the greatmass of ordinary. 404).112. 32Besides. It is a that he seems always to quote from curiousfeatureof Sufyan's catholic taste in literature WesternGreatBooks (includingVirgil's Aenead) and never from Islamic texts-except. and who have providedmuch of the inspirationfor my work: to be rejectedand reviled by. is the romanticidea presentedhere that writers are necessarily subversiveof all authority. rationalist 25Note the author'sidentificationwith the fictionalpoet Baal (" 'Whoresand writers. of the sort I have known all my life.107 on Fri. no doubt.. This comment is consistent with my argument aboutthe book's critical site.Can it be thatthis authordoesn't understand 29Rodinson (1971) contains a "humanist" portraitof the Prophet.decent. as the ex-teacher Sufyan would have said . fair-minded Muslims.Mahound. and thereit's Indiansdoing it to Indians. 3In one of her more successful chapters. notablyHassan bin Thabit. contraryto SalmanRushdie's. with its mixture of similarto the one presentedin Rushdie's noveland weaknesses. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .We arethe people you can't forgive.102. It must be conceded that from a liberalpoint of view things are indeed always ten times worse in India. not aboutliving it.Whatit does not discuss is how thatnovel relates to the idea of internalcriticism. remarkably strengths and the role of sex in establishinghis "human" (and thereforemorally flawed) status is comparable. you see things happeningwhich are 10 times worse thanany of the things happeninghere. 26"Sunt lacrimae rerum. If you go to India these days.264 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY in his essay "Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices" belongs to this 19th-century tradition. such thingsare much worse in India:"It isn't a questionof makinga sociological example of London. Thus Muslims in the world are not what his novel is about. from the Qur'an. they are his novel-characters turningungratefully his own characters? againsttheircreator. The suggestion that the Prophetwas hostile to all poets is there were poets among his followers. is the privileged stage for every possible rep27Rushdie's pretentiousclaim that literature resentation-in itself incorrectbecause thatclaims too much and too littlefor literatureas literature-is still a claim aboutrepresenting life.' Mahoundreplied.but then her aim. if we are to creditthe narrator's assurance(and why should we?). predictably welcomedby most sensible readers.and often for racial reasons" (1989b:1155)." (p. so to speak. historicallyinaccurate: More curious. 33Taylor points out thatin contrastto liberaltheoriesof negativefreedom-where freedom consistsof the absenceof obstacles-doctrines of positive freedomare concernedwith "a view of freedomwhich involves essentially the exercise of controlover one's life. is not mockery. and one wonders why he avoids it later (1989). The questions addressedin the latter(blasphemyand free speech) are dealt with in a predictablemanner-and thereforeare. I see no differencehere. . however. 'Writersandwhores. 392). one's own characters is a shocking and painful experiencefor any writer" (Rushdie 1990a:53. emphasis added).Douglas (1966) offers a fascinatingexplanation of the dietaryrules in Leviticus which persuadesthe readerthatthey arecoherent.' "p. 30Walzer has writtenwell on the ancient theme of internalcriticism(1987). On this This content downloaded from 115. accordingto a commentmadeby Rushdieto his Englishinterviewerin London.
view one is free only to the extent thatone has effectively determinedoneself andthe shape of one's life. have to begin with Bachelard(1964).Thereis. isn't at all like his father's-it verges on the comic. observesonly that "In Shame. surprisingly..personallaw is administeredin accordancewith religious affilia36In tion. 82) and its frequentlybrutalor dismissive treatmentof women (which is not the same point as the one signpostedby Spivak's "Here again we have to recorda failure. Even Spivak. have been.102. lacks the existential depth of 'the businessmanprophet. the women seem powerfulonly as monsters. 210). 425). I suggest. Home Office Ministerfor race relations:"I am glad to be able to say that the particular concernsraised by The Satanic Verses. thatMuslim leaders have madepublictheirregretfor the behaviourof a very small minoritywho use the peaceful demonstrations as an excuse for violent disorder." which. I would suggest. 83). 82). LITERATURE. 34The Canadian writerMukherjicom-esclose to makingthis point (1989) but doesn't notice the class character of this sense of betrayal. mother'send. What-one is promptedto wonder-are the gendered determinants of dying? who loved Englandin the form of his lost English wife" (p. not to mention innumerablearticles in newspapersand periodicalscommentingin generalterms on the affair. for the most part.andDunn 1989.too. And the statementby JohnPatten(1989). of one sort or another"(p." Rules of behavior.ANDPOLITICS265 ETHNOGRAPHY.112.of a universalized"immigrant. and of Ruthven(1990). "Virgin Iron-Pants. are typically integralto what Taylor has called "freedom as an exerciseconcept. the female prophet." 35As Spivak(1989) has pointedout. in fact. handledin a responsibleway by the greatmajorityof the Muslims in this country. It's not his inability to portraywomen as impressively as he does men that I am worriedby (as in Spivak's "Ayesha. 4That this event has become a key symbol of the entire "Rushdie affair" is evident in the of the burningare used-as for example on the cover of Appigway iconic reproductions nanesi and Maitland(1989). oddly enough.' " p. India and Pakistan. 83). Perhapsone of Rushdie's most startlinginscriptionsof women occurs in the name given to a female characterin Shame (1983). Morris. I am grateful. TheSatanic Versesends with a sexual offer to the male heroSaladin." This content downloaded from 115." From the viewpoint of "freedom as an opportunity-concept"(negative freedom) rules define what may not be done and are thereforeno more thanobstacles (Taylor 1979:177). but the text's curious ambivalence which links progressiveviews aboutwomen's oppressionwith narrativeviolence towardthem. 41And any adequateanalysis would. none of his feminist admirershas objected to. 38"Chamcha." p. 1989:9.. A 37His woman who chokes to death on a fishbone while her affluentpartyguests dive under the dining table in fear of a Pakistaniair raid is not likely to provide the male hero with a dignifiedmodel for a seculardeath. perceptivecritic that she is. The concept of freedom here is an exercise-concept. And yet it is "the Imam" figure(Khomeini)who is accused-no doubt 39Mukherji playfully-of wantingto stop "History" (p. 42Pallister. In this context one cannotusefully speak of a generalized "colonial subject''-or for that matter. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .107 on Fri." p. . a disturbing incongruitybetweenthe book's overtlyfeminist gestures(what Spivak describes as "his anxiety to write woman into the narrativeof history.
but only of the embarrassmentfeltby liberals at the conflict between two "attitudes. and not just because of what had happened. Akhtar. Referring 44This to the 1958 Notting Hill Gate Riot." 49Which explainsAkhtar's(1989b) fearfulremark. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the Environment burned was by irate middle-class residentsof an attractiveruralarea publicly Secretary. an effigy of Nicholas Ridley.The Guardian. Aijaz 1986 Jameson'sRhetoricof Othernessand the "National Allegory.27 February." As for the Rushdie Affair: "what needs to be demonstrated.leftish sort of people. the Tory government'sHome Office minister for race relations. there is no doubtconcerning who'll be inside them. we can now see. scheduledby the governmentfor housing development. Ahmed." Nowhere in this article does Aitken speak of the terrorof black immigrants huntedby murderous whites in a white society. volume I. 45Seethe enthusiasticdiscussion of the documenttitled "On Being British" by John Patten. in which a gang of white youths terrorized blacks and were eventuallysentencedto four years each.107 on Fri.266 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 43This observationapplies equally to the condition of the wretchedhostages in Lebanon: innocentpersons held by ruthless men in appallingconditions and under daily threatof murder." Social Text 15. The troublewas thatthe 'riot' and its aftermath broughttwo cherishedliberal attiandthe belief thatunderprivileged young offenders tudes-opposition to racialharassment [in this case white racists]shouldbe treatedwith compassion-into directandembarassing collision.Shabbir 1989a Be CarefulWith Muhammad!London:Bellew. is that our secular Western democracies are not going to yield to militantIslam the very libertiesour ancestorswrenchedso recentlyfrom Christian theocrats"(Aitken 1990). And of course these protesters won.How often have we seen paid newspaperadvertisementsin which long lists of of these vicwriterstake a principledstandagainstthe inhumanpredicament distinguished tims? is nicely broughtout in a recentpiece by the liberalcolumnistIan Aitken.112. Cairo:Dar al-Ma'arif. 47SeeWilliams 1961.5 February.made at the height of the Rushdiecrisis in Britain:"the next time there are gas chambersin Europe. Still an indispensabletext for thinkingaboutthis question.and quickly. Ian 1990 Rushdieand the Notting Hill Syndrome. 4In one famous demonstration recently. This content downloaded from 115. This 'new Jew' had been borninto a society which askedhim to keep provingthat he was worthy of belonging to it.102.it caused pain in the souls of many. in an article by the politicaleditorof TheSundayTimes (Jones 1989). markedby a surprisingabsence:it containsno discussion of imperialism. it is. 1969 At-TafsirAl-Bayani Lil-Qur'anAl-Karim. he writes: "But the event caused particular anguish to liberal-minded." References Cited 'Aisha 'Abdurrahman. Unfortunately. 1989b Whose Light?Whose Darkness?The Guardian.this 'new Jew' was never quite told exactly what he had to prove and before which tribunal. Hertzberg (1968:365-366) writes:"a certaindiscomfortwas inherentin theirsituation. 480f the completely assimilated Jews during the 19th and 20th centuries. Aitken.
Eliot. David 1989 Labour'sSatanic Verses.112.H.Tomas. 17 March. ed. Appignanesi. Boston: Beacon. P. Yasmin 1989 SatanicBetrayals. T. 1989 The RushdieFile.James 1988 The Predicament of Culture.Arthur 1968 The FrenchEnlightenment andthe Jews. New York: PantheonBooks. Gutman.The Independent Clifford. Foucault. 5 May.New Statesmanand Society. H. Daniel. Ali. L. Rabinow. French. Thomas and the Heroic in History.Cambridge:Harvard UniversityPress. Bhabha.and P.20 July. Gordon. Hutton. G. and S. Guardian. Alibhai. Douglas. 1990 Letter.107 on Fri. Martin. Yasmin 1989 Why I'm Outraged. 19 February.Michel 1984 What Is Enlightenment? In The Foucault Reader. New York:ColumbiaUniversityPress.Homi andLiberalism.New Statesmanand Society. Caute.Sean 1989 Diary.Gaston 1964 The Psychoanalysisof Fire. London:FourthEstate. London:RunnymedeTrust. Lithman. 1961 Notes Towardsthe Definitionof Culture. 3 March. Gutman. Oxford:UniversityPress. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Maitland.Huck 1988 Rousseau's Confession:A Technology of the Self. London:Routledge & Kegan Paul.Anne 1978 A New Immigration Policy. 24 February. 24 February. London:George 1897 On Heroes and Hero-Worship Routledge& Sons.ANDPOLITICS267 LITERATURE.Brian on Sunday.London:Faberand Faber. Peter 1989 Review of Real Presences by George Steiner. This content downloaded from 115.The Guardian. Goldman. Norman 1960 Islam and the West.Paul 1989 JustAnotherAsian Murder. Hertzberg.102. H. Amherst:Universityof Massachusetts Press. Baldick. In Technologies of the Self. ETHNOGRAPHY.Ari 1989 Reconstructionist Jews Turnto the Supernatural. The New YorkTimes. Dummett. 1989 Beyond Fundamentalism Carlyle. 1988 The New Islamic Presence in WesternEurope. Edinburgh: UniversityPress.eds.eds.eds. Gerholm. Clark.Lisa. Mary 1966 Purityand Danger. New Statesmanand Society. and Y. Chris 1983 The Social Mission of English Criticism:1848-1932.New Statesmanand Society. Ltd. London:Mansell. Bachelard. S. New Statesmanand Society. 11 February. Fuller.
Robert. This content downloaded from 115. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Bhikhu 1989 Between Holy Text and Moral Void.Pat 1989 FertileGroundfor Fascism. Patten.London:Allen Lane. The New York Times. Parekh. O'Brien.102.David.John 1988 Human Rights Groups Fear Europe Will Close Its Doors to Immigrants. 4 February. May. 11 May.John 1989 The Muslim Communityin Britain. Morris.The Nation. Mukherji. New York:RandomHouse. O'Sullivan 1990 WritersWelcome Rushdie's Defence of "Satanic Verses. 1988c Zia Unmourned. Voice LiterarySupplement. Granta11. Unpublished Ph. PublicCulture 1989 Editors'Comments.March. London:Viking. 1988a The SatanicVerses.27 December. 1988b IndiaBans a Book for Its Own Good.Maxim 1971 Mohammad. 1984 Outsidethe Whale. Roberts. Pallister. L.The New York Review of Books. London:FourthEstate. M.21 February. Michael 1989 GroundRules for the BritishWay of Life. dissertation. Salman 1983 Shame. CambridgeUniversity. 28 March. The Bookseller. and J.Bharati 1989 Prophetand Loss. Kepel. 1755-70. Paperdeliveredat OcLondon. Diana.The Guardian. Public Culture1(2). Rushdie.Sebastian 1989 CulturalPluralismand Its Limits-A Legal Perspective. eds. Jones. ConorCruise 1989 Sick Man of the World: Conor Cruise O'Brien Reviews a SharpBook of Disobliging Truthsaboutthe State of Islam. Maitland. Dunn 1989 Muslim LeadersShun RushdieDeath Call. The Guardian. 1990a In Good Faith. New Statesmanand Society. AppignanesiandS. The Times. Palmer. on Sunday. Gilles 1988 Les Banlieuesde l'Islam: Naissance d'une Religion en France.In The RushdieFile. 31 March. toberseminarat Commissionfor Racial Equalityheadquarters. Ruthven. 18 February. 1989b Between God and Devil. The ManchesterGuardian Weekly.Julian 1979 German LiteraryCriticism. and A. Poulter.and T.107 on Fri. Paris:Seuil. 5 July. 23 July.Malise 1989 Review of TheSatanic Verses.D. Moore.112. Rodinson. Roberts.268 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY Hinds. Wallace 1976 Slammingthe Door.4 February." The Independent. The Independent 1990b Is Nothing Sacred?Extractsfrom HerbertRead MemorialLecture. The SundayTimes. Living Marxism. 2 March. 1989a The Book Burning. London:MartinRobertson. 19 October. 19 September.The Times.
Williams. ed. Gyatri 1989 ReadingThe SatanicVerses. Cambridge:Harvard UniversityPress. Gautam 1989 Letter. Public Culture2(1). Walzer.112. 4 August. Donald 1982 NarrativeTruth and Historical Truth:Meaning and Interpretation in Psychoanalysis. Young.107 on Fri. London:Chattoand Windus. 10 April. 1979 Politics and Letters.21 February.AND POLITICS 269 1990 A SatanicAffair. Spivak. London:New Left Books. Michael 1987 Interpretation and Social Criticism.ETHNOGRAPHY. Oxford:Oxford UniversityPress. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. New Statesmanand Society. 26 Apr 2013 03:00:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .102. Charles 1979 What's Wrong with Negative Liberty?In The Idea of Freedom. The New Republic. Fay 1989 SacredCows. Sen. A. Spence. 1989 The Sins of Salman. This content downloaded from 115. Taylor. Ryan. The Guardian. London:Chattoand Windus. Hugo 1989 Terrorising the Guardians of Liberty. Weldon. New York:Norton.LITERATURE. Raymond 1961 Cultureand Society: 1780-1950.
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