Volume 4: Number 1, May 1 2000
Hitler's Minister of propoganda, Goebbels, is said to have remarked: "Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun."
This remark is cited often nowadays, but its exact meaning remains open to question. Did Goebbels dislike the word itself, preferring instead other words like "propaganda?" Or did he understand that "culture" implied an open space, available for diverse uses? Did he perhaps think of the word more specifically, recognizing in its invocation a particular historical move by leftists and others opposed to the Nazi regime, a move that made the pragmatic Goebbels resort to violence?
More than the parsing of the several, sometimes contradictory, senses of Goebbels's remark, it is useful to consider the particular set of circumstances in the West that makes such questions timely once more. The recent engagement with-some would say, the reification of-cultural studies in the Western academy is perhaps the most immediate context for many of us to have experienced the interest in "culture"-and the citation of Goebbels. That in itself is a phenomenon that has surfaced only in the wake of a tidal wave of racial and ethnic expression, as well as its commodification under late capitalism.
Some of those histories have played a part in our own focus on culture for this issue of Ghadar. It's worth remembering that an earlier incarnation of this publication, Sanskriti, was billed as "a journal of progressive Indian politics and culture." In this issue we have attempted to refocus on that fateful intersection of politics and culture. Such a concern is perhaps also reflected in our contributors' perhaps unintentional foregrounding of diasporic culture. Here in the US we have witnessed everything from Nusrat-mania to Madonna's passion for mehndi. What would it mean to attend to such cultural phenomena in political terms? Our "Fan Mail" section in particular attests to efforts to put the politics back into the mix.
To foreground culture is also to attend to the specific complexities of our expressive forms. What are the new, powerful identities that are being forged among South Asians, especially in the diaspora, and particularly through music? This issue of Ghadar is thus in part a response to the new vibes through which we are to imagine our selves and our social forms. Apart from the concern with culture that dominates its pages, this issue also includes an assessment, from the left, of the achievement of Nobel Laureate in Economics Amartya Sen-an example of the kind of accessible and authoritative critical piece we hope to continue to publish in subsequent issues.
The Indian left-and FOIL here claims a certain legacy-has not been inattentive to issues of culture. A recent issue of Ghadar highlighted, for example, the role of progressive writers' groups inside the Communist movement in India. Ours is an attempt to find in these pages the lineaments of a still undefined, and even unorganized, movement towards cultural resistance.
Or, in the absence of anything more positive, the proper words (sounds, images) for hating that which we find utterly oppressive.
[Offers of assistance with editing Ghadar and any submissions may be sent to Mir Ali Raza, at firstname.lastname@example.org]
[This issue was put together by Priyamvada Gopal, Biju Mathew, Raza Mir, Amitava Kumar, Rahul De', Niraj Pant, Gautam Premnath, Bikku Kuruvilla and Sharmila Rudrappa. Maya Yajnik provided technical support for the web page. We especially acknowledge the generous assistance of Mr. Basant B. Pant, who transcribed much of Anand Patwardhan's interview. Address all correspondence to: Ghadar, c/o Raza Mir, 153, Williams Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07304. Or by email to email@example.com.]
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