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<nettime> sarai.txt 2.1

Sarai txt 2.1

01 March 2005 - 01 May 2005

Content of the text version:
(Does not include the poster and the back page)

write to



- Shift!
- When Names are Swept Away / Notes from the Diary of a City Researcher
/ Taha Mehmood (Researcher, Information Society, Sarai)
- My Mobile Provider Thinks I am a Tsunami Victim / Paul Keller / from
the Reader List
- Distress Definitions: Falling Between the Lines / Clifton Rozario and
team / from the Reader List
- Story: A museum of objects

- Letter to the Reader / Dear Anonymous
- Seeing with Cardboard Days / Log from documentary Cardboard Days, dir.
Veronica Souto
- Improbable Imaginings of Improbable Spaces / from presentation by
Sharon Daniels, at 'Contested Commons, Tresspassing Publics' conference,
Sarai-CSDS + ALF
- No Thoroughfare / Cybermohalla
- A Man with His Notes in the City / Bhagwati Prasad, researcher, PPHP,
- Genderchanger (definitions)
- Why Do You Travel? / Excerpt from talk by Lusia Passerini
- Traces, Imprints, Flows / Independent Fellows, Sarai

- Credits


SIDE 01:

- Shift!

paradigm shift, tectonic shift, shifting sands, shifting path, shifting
course, late shift, night shift, make shift, graveyard shift, swing
shift, circadian shift, tautomeric shift, shift in emphasis, down shift,
up shift, stick shift, great vowel shift, shifting languages, language
shift, shifting blame, shifting burden, functional shift, population
shift, shifty-eyed, einstein shift, zero phase shift mirror, shift
clicking, red shift, shifting gears, shape shifting, shifting target,
shifting boundaries, shift the scene, shifting center, shiftless, shift
off, ever-shifting, shifting cultivation, perceptual shift, time-shifting


- When Names are Swept Away / Notes from the Diary of a City Researcher
/ Taha Mehmood (Researcher, Information Society, Sarai)


I am reading an excellent and insightful article by Jane Caplan on,
among other things, the politics of naming and identity. In the wake of
the Tsunami catastrophe, some of the issues raised were unfortunately
very timely. Some ideas that I have gleaned from the essay...

Since the 11th century BC administrators around the world have been
devising ways and means to deal with the question of how to re-identify
someone as the same person he was once known to be. How can one
re-individuate a person from other's like him?

Solutions came, but they were few and far between. They came as edicts,
decrees, laws, ordinances, administrative ramblings and diktats of the

Regimes were set in place to mark populations-first at birth, then
marriage and at death- till finally every social transaction that an
individual undertook during the course of her lifetime, became an
instance for enumeration.

Laws were formulated to assign a the name to a particular person. For
instance, 16^th century France had laws which allowed a person to take
assume from a given set of names only, and restrictions were in place to
disallow citizens to be named Jesus or Babeline or Lassalline etc.

Shifting, moving populations were made immobile by criminalizing
movement across, and within, territories. Identity was made the primary
and legitimate token for every 'citizen' to have a justifiable existence.

But what happens when these tokens suddenly disappear? Say, due to a
natural calamity such as the Tsunami?

The recent Tsunami disaster has left hundreds of thousands of people
stranded in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The biggest problem for
these people is yet to come-the loss of Identity Documents. As the ocean
spitted out and sucked in water, it took away with it everything they
ever had, including their identity papers-ration cards, birth
certificates, certificates of marriage and death.

What happens when your 'tokens of trust'-your voter ID card, driving
license, passport, ration card and property documents-disappear? And the
bank that contained trust deeds and LIC papers is literally, and
figuratively, swept away?

Who are you, then, in the eyes of the state? How does the state cope
with this? Does the state have a system in place to deal with a calamity
such as this, when the entire bureaucratic machinery is paralysed by a
systemic failure?

Taha Mehmood is a researcher with the Information Society project with


- My Mobile Provider Thinks I am a Tsunami Victim / Paul Keller / from
the Reader List

To: reader-list@sarai.net
From: paul keller<paul@waag.org>

I received my monthly bill from my mobile phone provider, Orange
Netherlands. Getting a monthly phone bill is nothing special; but one
which informs you that you are a Tsunami victim, and therefore credited
with =8042.05 for "extra phone expenses related to the Tsunami," is
strange. Especially if you were on a Jet Airways flight from Bombay to
Delhi, when the Tsunami ravaged the coasts of India and Sri Lanka.

It is no secret that mobile phone providers record the location data a
mobile phone generates, but under Dutch law, this data cannot be used
for anything other than invoicing purposes. Moreover, as far as I can
remember, I did not generate any data at all during the time the Tsunami
struck, as I replaced my Orange sim-card with an Airtel India branded
one, and switched back to Orange only on the 11th of January, 2005.

I am not comfortable with my phone company using this (non) data to
shower its timely benevolence! Not to mention, I was in Delhi during the
Tsunami which, thanks to its inland location and altitude, is probably
even less Tsunami-affected than Amsterdam.

It is not difficult to imagine the mechanics behind this situation. The
public relation geniuses at Orange saw in the Tsunami an opportunity to
build a personal relationship with their customers. They asked their
data-mining department for a list of all customers traveling to
South-Asia when the Tsunami struck. The data miners also procured a CNN
info-graphic showing the Tsunami affected countries, ran queries based
on this information, and arrived at a list of 'Tsunami victims'. This
information went back to the marketing department, and here the amount
of money available as contingency funds was divided by the number of
'victims'. The billing department accordingly credited each 'victim'
with the resulting amount. How should I explain that if I ever wish to
avail of such a facility, I will buy a travel insurance policy.

I called them and inquired why I was a beneficiary when I was in Delhi
the whole time, only to be told, "Well that is in the same region, isn't

best, Paul



- Distress Definitions: Falling Between the Lines / Clifton Rozario and
team / from the Reader List

Subject: Distress Definitions: Falling Between the Lines
To: reader-list@sarai.net
From: clifton d' rozario <clifton@altlawforum.org>

 From the 28th of December 2004 onwards, a group of us have been helping
with relief work in the Tsunami-affected villages of Nagapattinam (Tamil
Nadu) and Karaikal (Pondicherry).

One of the major problems that can be identified, is the limited scope
of the 'affected person' definition by the state. The attempt to define
'affected persons' has been an extremely problematic exercise and there
is much confusion over who is 'primarily affected', 'secondarily
affected' and 'not affected'.

While the initial approach was based on the lives lost and property
damaged, it was later rectified to a certain extent with the recognition
of petty traders, farmers, landless agricultural labourers, etc, as
'livelihood affected persons'.
The government in its orders has, until now, adopted a property-owner
centric policy while addressing livelihood issues in its rehabilitation
packages, and has only recognized those who own boats and go out to sea,
as well as those who own and operate small shops in the villages. In
terms of the farming community that owns agricultural lands that were
inundated by seawater, surveys have been carried out by the revenue
departments of various districts to assess the extent of inundation and
the degree of salination. Post the assessment, a Government Order was
issued to provide relief to farmers who have lost standing crops.

This categorisation of 'livelihood affected' has meant that in
formulation of rehabilitation packages, the people of the fishing and
farming communities that do not own boats, nets or lands, generally
remain ignored. It has also meant that the government has prioritised
the needs of the fisher-boat owning community to the detriment of
landless labourers. In Karaikal, fisher-people have received 60 kgs of
rice, while landless agricultural labourers have received only 5 kgs.
This is inexplicable, since both categories of people have lost their
livelihoods to the Tsunami- the fisherman having lost his boat / nets
and thus the ability to fish, while the landless agricultural labourer
has lost his/her work on lands, since these have been salinated. This
differential treatment has resulted in the landless facing serious food

However, the issue is not one of property / asset ownership alone. A
majority of the landless are dalits, and most vulnerable to facing
severe food crisis. What seems like an issue of class in purely economic
terms, becomes extremely complicated when located in a situation of
entrenched social hierarchy, where the poorest are also the community
most vulnerable to violence and discrimination by socially dominant castes.

Caste-based discrimination is exacerbated by the assumption on the part
of government agencies of communities being 'homogenous'. Fishing
communities comprise of three main castes- the Meenavar Community (Most
Backward Caste), dalits (Scheduled Caste) and Pazhankudi Makkal
(Scheduled Tribes). While the Meenavars own boats, the others are
engaged in ancillary manual tasks. Therefore while relief is
'caste-blind', this presumption leads to severe inequities in relief
disbursement. Even within the fisher-people, dalits have been excluded
from relief efforts.
Finally, within the 'affected persons' category, district authorities
seem to have prioritised and counter-posed the interests of those who
have lost their kith and kin, against people who have lost their
livelihood, to the detriment of the latter.

Excerpted and adapted from 'Relief and Rehabilitation of
Tsunami-affected persons in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry' and 'Exclusion
of Dalits and Adivasis in the time of Tsunami: The Case for an Inclusive
Relief and Rehabilitation Policy', by Uvaraj, Niruj, Arvind, Revathi,
Nitin, Deepu and Clifton.

The full text of the reports can be accessed at:


- Story: A museum of objects


A long, long time ago, there was a lake in a city. In the lake was an
island, and on the island, a village. The city saw many conquerers over
time. To protect their sacred objects from these conquerers, the
villagers buried them under the ground. Years passed, people left the
island and went away to the mainland. In the meanwhile, the city
expanded. The lake was covered, overlaid with buildings. One day, while
excavating a foundation for a new building, the buried objects were
found. The city council wanted the objects for the museum. But the
people of the land didn't want to give them away. The 'villagers' packed
them in newspaper and hid them away.

People wanted their own museum. But this was an expensive proposition, and

in any case, there were so many museums already. What was the point of a
new one? So, they began a project. People wrote histories of the
objects. They wrote about what the objects meant, and the moment at
which they had found them. Stories were woven around tales grandparents
might have told about the objects, if these had been handed to the
custodians by family elders.

They made a book of these objects: of the stories and of their photos.
This book is now kept in the 'museum'. The objects are kept in peoples'
homes. In the museum, you see the book. If you want to feel the object,
and build a possible future relationship with it, you have to wend your
way through the streets to the homes.

* as told by Conrado Tostado, visitor to Sarai, 2004



- Letter to the "Reader"

Dear Anonymous,

A lot of the texts and ideas presented in the /Sarai-txt/ issues are
based on the work of a number of researchers at Sarai, researchers
associated with Sarai, students associated with Sarai and the network of
Sarai independent research fellows, who together, constitute an
intricate web of knowledge producers.

This network is constituted by diverse sets of practices-making daily
diaries of notes, posting on lists, maintaining blogs, conversing with
people in the neighbourhood, locality and the city, meeting different
people, recording and transcribing interviews, listening to and
recording sounds of the city, making and circulating broadsheets,
playing with images, making graphic strips, meeting other researchers in
own and different cities. This also includes making archival collections
of footage, posters, stickers, booklets, cassette covers, maps,
documents, newspaper clippings, photographs and images. The city is
soaked in and recreated in different ways, through the intersections of
these practices and experiences, and questions gathered from them.

Our imagination of who a researcher is, deepens through this diversity
of researchers. The researcher no longer remains someone who has an
outsider's perspective to the realities she or he begins an engagement
with. Research becomes a part of everyday living, arising from the lived
and seeping into it. For instance, among these researchers is a young
woman who stays at home, busy in her household responsibilities and
relationships. Every week she sets up tasks for herself. One of the
notations in her daily diary is, "This week I will make a list of words
used in the house. If I were to remove the words used most often, in a
definitional way, for what is allowed in this dwelling, what would the
house become?" Her research questions emerge from her lived experience,
and because she is imbricated in it in a specific way, she produces
questions around her. And as she is part of the diversity of practices
of the network, she can access and experiment with different expressive
registers, and forms of circulation.

In the process of making this broadsheet, we become attuned to this
diversity of practices and nodes.

However, this density is not available to us when we begin to imagine
the public of the broadsheet-about you, who is reading this publication.
This is a question about the relationship of the public of the
broadsheet, with the broadsheet-what does our public do with the
broadsheet? What is the environment which this broadsheet becomes part
of, with you? What are the social relations amidst which it finds itself
once it reaches you?

When we begin thinking about this, we are confronted by a sparseness. We
have very few terms available to us for thinking about our public.
'Recipient', 'user', 'end-user', 'viewer', 'reader', 'consumer' of this
work are some of these terms. With these, our challenge becomes even
more urgent, because it sharpens the lines between the creator and the

How can we think outside the dichotomy of provider and receiver, and so,
think beyond and question an authorial conception of creativity and a
passive conception of users. The challenge is also to move away from
thinking of works as 'property', to thinking about the properties of
works, which can perhaps be best understood through the category of
circulation-through the networks through which they inhabit and pass
through different contexts, inflecting these contexts and being
inflected by them.

And so we solicit your help, dear anonymous, in thinking through the
metaphors which can be applied to you, which we can call you by. We
hope, our dear anon, that through correspondence and conversations with
us, you will help us deepen and work through these questions.

Looking forward,
The Broadsheet Collective

We would like to acknowledge a number of contexts which have hosted many
of the questions we are grappling with, and have expressed in this
letter. Among them are the meeting of Sarai Student Fellows (August
17-19, 2004), The 'Contested Commons, Trespassing Publics' Conference
organised by Sarai and the Alternative Law Forum (6-8 January, 2005). We
are particularly indebted to Peter Jaszi for his provocation to
critically evolve metaphors for the recipient of a work. An audio file
of Peter Jaszi's presentation can be accessed


- Seeing with Cardboard Days / Log from documentary Cardboard Days, dir.
Veronica Souto

TC 00 : 08 : 28

A middle-aged man stands in front of a magazine stand, a child clutched
to his shirtless belly. His smile is friendly. Next to him, a woman with
a pony tail looks around and chats. Her hand rests gently on the handle
of her trolley. They look into the quiet distance. Behind them, the
magazines are colourful, arranged in a square grid.

TC 00 : 08 : 50

A white train waits for passengers. The crowded platform is restless. As
many trolleys as people. A man indicates the time left before departure.
He checks all passes. Bodies move along the train, searching for place
to move into with their trolleys. A patient young man in checked pants
sits on the train window, watching the proceedings.

TC 00 : 10 : 29

A woman in a white shirt leans comfortably against the door of the
train. Talks animatedly. Neatly folded papers shift between her hands. A
man, his body bent towards her, listens closely with pursed lips. The
city landscape recedes away from them.

*TC 00 : 02 : 09*

It's late evening. A thick stream of people crosses an intersection.
Office-goers returning home. A man with a black leather paper holder
under his right arm, walks briskly. A pot-bellied man with a tattoo on
his arm squeezes through the crowd. Two shoulders graze.

*TC 00 : 02 : 11*

Night has fallen. Few pedestrians. A young woman in high heels walks
past. The headlights of cars even out all colour. People emerge as
silhouettes. A man in his late twenties, pushes a trolley/. /The
trolley. Neatly piled cardboard sheets. A huge black sack on top. A few
dark bags hang from the handle bars. Two wheels. His white shoes keep
pace with them. He disappears behind a dark pillar with a white poster.
Traffic lights blink =96 red, green. The city halts and moves on.

*TC 00 : 26 : 11*

A woman waiting at a bus stop eyes the stout, brown haired co-traveler
suspiciously. Moments of waiting turn endless.

*TC 00 : 08 : 09*

A young boy growls at the camera, his body half-hiding a cardboard
stacked trolley. His tall companion ruffles his hair. A smile is revealed.

*TC 00 : 02 : 24*

A young man stuffs a white sack, as tall as he is. Behind him stands a
department store, its glass walls encased in iron grills. A blue trash
can shines in the white light from the store. The gaze of a passer-by in
a yellow shirt fixes on the steady, lifting motions of the young man. He
pays no attention. The man in the yellow shirt moves on. A black sticker
on yellow tiles behind them announces, 'EMERGENCY'.

TC 00 : 31 : 25

The weighing machine calibrates =96 16.2, 16.6... The numbers move
haltingly and then come to a stop. Collections made from the refuse of
different streets in the city are measured.

Who are these figures who reach the city after sunset, roaming the
streets after dark, loading their empty trolleys with cardboard from the
garbage on the street? There must be a word they can all be described
by. In Buenos Aires, they are called Cartoneros, or Cardboard Collectors
- people who make their livelihood from the daily waste of the city.

Debates rage in the city: How can this new form of labour be thought of
with dignity? Who does rubbish belong to in our society? Thrown out of
homes, is it private property? Left out in the streets, is it the
property of the city? Can it belong to whoever claims it? Who can take
rubbish from off the streets?/

*Dias de Carton/Cardboard Days (2003, 51 mins.) dir. Veronica Souto,
Argentina. Type: Documentary. Language: Spanish

This text was written after a discussion following the screening of the
film at Sarai. Sarai hosts a film screening every Friday. See:

We wish to thank Breakthrough for providing a copy of the film.
_www.breakthrough.tv_ <http://www.breakthrough.tv/>


- Improbable Imaginings of Improbable Spaces

'Improbable' means 'unlikely'-but also 'marvellous' and 'tall', as in a
'tall tale'=85A tall tale speaks of an imagined and, sometimes, marvellous
world. Imaginings are points of departure for building something

For the past two years I have collaborated with Justice Now, a human
rights organisation, in documenting conversations with women prisoners,
and publishing them on the Internet. The title of this project refers to
the improbable, and the monumental.

Traditionally, monuments are associated with the 'monolithic' and
mono-vocal-a uniform and authoritative representation. But a monument
might be re-imagined as a 'repository', or archive for information,
objects and memories, which produce a multi-vocal representation of
social truths.

ImprobableVoices.net, comissioned for the online exhibition
'ImprobableMonuments', is the first publication resulting from our
collaboration. The website is a monument-repository of prisoner's
descriptions of the experience of incarceration, and their proposals for
a monument to the end of prisons. As improbable as it may seem, we are
actively imagining (and working toward building) a world without prisons.

Visits to the prison require adherence to invasive search and
surveillance procedures. I am registered and searched on entry. I am
allowed to bring in only a clear plastic bag with an ink pen,
identification, a blank legal pad and mini-disc recorder. The recorder
must be approved in advance. The serial number is registered, and the
device inspected on entry and exit. Only sealed discs are allowed.

After our interviews, the women are subjected to strip search and visual
cavity searches, that may be performed by male guards. Each of the
participants, however, has asked to have their full name associated with
their statements online, despite the possibility of retaliation by the
authorities. Each participant has a powerful story to tell. And a
powerful imagination of alternative 'monuments' in a prison-free world.

Beatrice-Smith Dyer's description of a monument-park:

"When you walk in, you would see tall beautiful statues of women-Muslim
women, Christian women and Jewish women, gay women, young women and old
women. They would be surrounding a pond, holding out their hands, with
water flowing out of their finger tips...There would be no wall saying
who the women were that had passed, but you would know. You could find
an area to sit in, with trees and swings hanging from the trees.

"Around the area would be a control panel. The control panel could do
what ever you wanted-you could have soft light or no light, play any
music you wanted, you could change the ambient temperature. You could go
down to another area with taller grass and deer. Each area would give
you enough privacy, so that if you wanted to sit with your lost love and
just talk to her, you could."

(Excerpted and adapted from Sharon Daniel's presentation at the
'Contested Commons/Trespassing Publics' conference organised by
Sarai-CSDS and the Alternative Law Forum, in collaboration with Public
Service Broadcasting Trust (6-8 January 2005, New Delhi). An audio file
of Sharon's presentation can be accessed at:

More information about the Improbable Voices project is available at:
www.improbablevoices.net_ <http://www.improbablevoices.net/>


- No Thoroughfare / Cybermohalla

It has been raining today and the colours of the evening seem deeper.
The yellow light of the street lamp is twinkling through the rain drops.
Clothes left out to dry on the clothesline got drenched in the downpour
today. Someone is preparing dinner in a cooker, its whistle echoing in
the street. A plastic bag is flailing, stuck between a railing and the
wire running over it. It's trying to loosen itself out of their grip.
The breeze is cool and moist today.

The house in front of me is known as the 'corner house'. There is always
a cot in front of its main door. A pack of cards, /bidis/, matches,
/hukka/ and a newspaper are lying on the cot. They are all wet because
of the rain. But there is no sign of anyone today.

I am the gate on street number 6 in the colony. I'm made of iron, and
painted black. A board hangs on me, saying 'NO THOROUGHFARE'. The board
is not heavy, but the words painted on it are a heavy weight that I carry.

The other gate is much better-off than I am. It is at the other end of
the same lane, and is also painted black. We look alike. But on it hangs
a different board. That board lists all the houses on this street, and
directions to get to each of them. The other gate has a big and a small
entrance through it. The small entrance is always open, and the big
entrance always shut. This gate looks quite happy. It is I who is
unfortunate because of this board that hangs on me.

Its just that very few people pass through me, now. I try and cheer
myself up by watching all the hustle and bustle in the lane in the
evening. Many people step out, and pass through the street at that time,
talking over the din of sounds. Children yell and squeal as they run
after one another, chasing and catching each other. Other children play
hide and seek. There is the sound of television from different homes.

This board didn't always hang on me. There was an incident in the
colony, after which it was placed on me. But I'm not very sure about
what this incident was. Before the board, people would take short cuts
into the lane through me, pass by with their two-wheelers. Because of
this board, they don't any more. But then, like I said, I'm not sure if
this is the only reason. If you have a clue about what the reasons could
be, please do tell me.

Dakshinpuri lab


Cybermohalla project of Ankur+Sarai-CSDS


The stranger is not the person who comes today and goes tomorrow, but
the person who comes today and stays tomorrow. He is, so to speak, the
potential wanderer. Although he has not moved on, he has not quite
overcome the freedom of coming and going...

George Simmel



- A Man with His Notes in the City / Bhagwati Prasad, researcher, PPHP,

He would cut a curious figure anywhere-black pants and shirt, white
jacket cut in the Nehru style but longer, wearing dark glasses even
inside a small, moderately lit room. But sitting just outside the
make-up room, with people flitting in and out, he doesn't strike me as
odd at all.

We are sitting inside a two-room studio where he is shooting for his
next album. He is a singer, who became an instant hit with his song
/Janaaza Mera Uthne se Pehle Mehandi Mat Lagana Tum/ in 2002. /"/Video
albums can't be made without the singer. People buy music albums for the
singer everywhere-in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, and even
Kashmir," he smiles. "These are places where my albums do well. In
Delhi, they are popular in different places-Uttam Nagar, Shakarpur etc."

It has been a long journey for this singer, whose voice is an everyday
companion to bus and truck drivers, among others who make long journeys
through different landscapes, in their lives. Mohammed Niyaz spent his
childhood in Sitapur near Lucknow, listening to and singing behind Rafi
and Talat Mahmood songs. Today, 'sad songs' are his specialty. "When I
first came to the industry, they said, '/Beta/, don't copy, develop your
own style'. I don't copy them, but take their support. Everyone
does-whether in /bhajan/, or in film songs."

Niyaz came to Delhi at the age of twenty, in search of work. "I worked
as an accountant for twelve years. Were it not for this job, I would
never have been a singer," he muses. But singing was his destiny. "Ma=
of my friends ran away from home to come here, but I wanted to take my
time." This time came with his father's illness and, being the eldest
son, responsibility for the family. An avid listener of old film songs,
he participated in the late evening and Sunday singing competitions
organised in, and around his locality. "Posters were put up all over.
The entry fee ranged between Rs. 10 and Rs. 50. I participated again and
again because I always won a position."

Then came his big break. "There was a competition on a larger scale tha=
the ones I had been participating in, called '/Yaad-e-Rafi'/. I sang
/Nain Lar Gaye Re/..., and won." One of the judges was a producer in a
music company. "He said I should consider joining the industry. There
was no looking back." Niyaz's childhood hobby led him to a perchance
local talent hunt. Today, besides the cassettes he has collected over
the years, lie his own three albums.

The beginning was rough. He started doing the rounds of companies, gave
auditions. Initially, he was turned away. "They said there was no marke=
for a voice like mine." Then in 1997 Altaf Raja's '/Tum to Thehre
Pardesi'/ became a super hit. He recalls, "The industry was a looking
for singers who could sing sad songs. I went back to one of the small
companies, called Jai, and said, 'I sing like Altaf'." His first album
was created. But he had to wait a year before it was released.

What does Niyaz think about this industry, which he followed as a fan,
and then made his way into, from an unwanted stranger, to promoting
himself through a likeness of voice with a known name, to becoming a hit
himself? His reply is of a person who recognises that destiny is not
what one person makes alone, and only for himself, "If Janaza Mera...ha=
not been hit, no one would have asked about me. People who were with me
then, today say, 'Niyaz mere saath gata tha', and get a break."

I take my leave from Niyaz, as he resumes shooting. On the way home, I
stop at a CD burning shop, where disks are created with the customer's
selection of songs. It is the marriage season. A boy comes and presents
the shop owner with a list of 'sad songs', extracts a promise of
delivery by evening, and leaves. I raise my eye brows quizzically. The
shopkeeper explains knowingly and in a matter-of-fact manner, "It's a
gift for the girl who's getting married. Probably his heart-throb." I
wonder if singing songs to himself, in quiet moments, this is not
another singer in the making, and make my way towards home.

Bhagwati Prasad

Bhagwati Prasad is a researcher with the Publics and Practices in the
History of the Present project in Sarai-CSDS.


- Genderchanger (definitions)

A small device or adaptor that changes the 'sex' of cables.
A plug with pins is male and one with holes, female. For a connection,
the pins fit into the holes. A genderchanger has two sides with holes,
or two sides with pins. This makes a connection between any port and
cable a possibility. A genderchanger makes the 'gender' of the plugs
irrelevant. Genderchangers are most commonly used to extend the length
of a cable, by connecting two cables together, or simply to change the
gender of a cable to the gender you need.



- Why Do You Travel? / Excerpt from talk by Lusia Passerini

It seems to me that in the 1970s, oral history was at the frontier of
history. Not for any particular merit, in and of itself, but because it
happened to have a particular function of helping to take a large
territory of history towards, what might be called,
micro-history-towards daily life and material culture, towards a
relationship with anthropology and folklore. Oral history added, through
'voice', subjectivity to history. Today, filmic sources, including
moving image sources, are in a similar situation for what concerns
history-in the sense that they too promise to add something new, to
enlarge the territory of the historian. What is this 'something new'?
One may be emotion.

Let me turn to my own experience. I interviewed the working class, for
the first time, in the mid-1970s. In the 80s, I interviewed women who
had been feminists in the 1970s. We were looking at who are the subjects
of social change. The categories that guided us, conceptually and
politically, were class, gender and age. In the 60s, in the context of a
political defeat of the radical left, a whole generation was trying to
transform politics into culture, and social history into cultural history=

What became very clear, slowly, was that something was lacking in this
complicity. It had a sense of assumed universality. It lacked the
realization that in fact we were particular beings. When I interviewed
the workers, or the women, it was assumed that they were the subjects of
universal history, that they were going to be the ones to change the
world as a whole=85it was west-centric, it was Euro-centric, it was the
assumption that they were still at the forefront of social change.

Then, in the 90s, I began work on two projects. One, a project in 1999
with cross-over women, concomitant with warring Kosovo. I did some of
the interviews in camps in Italy, where Rome Kosovo women were refugees.
The second, was a project with women migrants from Hungary and Bulgaria,
to Italy and Holland. During the course of these conversations, I felt
something had changed in the position between the relationship of the
self, and the other.
The interviews with the Rome Kosovo women struck me the most. These
women spoke of their experience in terms completely different from those
that the existing literature was attributing to them. Existing
literature assumed that Rome people are nomadic. How did they start
their narratives? By saying, "My house was burnt, I was thrown out of m=
house... I wish I could go back=85" They had a house. They were not
nomadic at all! These women's narrations were completely different from
most narrations I had ever heard. They were not narrations with a
beginning... they were associations =96 free associations.

When speaking of their reasons for migration, the women said, "Why do
you call us migrants? Migrants were those who were obliged to go because
they were poor. We are traveling." And of course some of them have had
to work. I mean they are domestic servants, some of them are
translators... many of them from Bulgaria work as dancers, some of them
might also be involved in prostitution. But love as a motif for
migration keeps emerging. They say, "I travel for love... I decided to
follow my husband," or, " I just went for a short time and I fell in
love and I decided to stay." In this, the subject is changing. The
subject presents itself as one for whom love is a primary motive. And
then, interestingly, they mentioned the complications that state
regulations and the European Union regulations create against love.

For instance in the Netherlands, when a person who is not from the
European Union wants to marry somebody who is, they have to produce
something that proves they are in love. Try to imagine this=85it's not
easy=85 I have seen dossiers with letters from the parents saying, "We =
sure they are in love." Or, there are love letters. A love letter is an=

incredible document to be used for this=85 this made me think=85 the stat=
of the Netherlands and the European union as an institutional
organization, are taking love as a marker of subjectivity. Of course
they are using it repressively. But this is nonetheless redefining the
position of the subject.
Excerpted from a talk by Luisa Passerini at the 'History, Memory,
Identity' workshop organised at Sarai-CSDS (14-16 January 2005)


- Traces, Imprints, Flows / Independent Fellows, Sarai

*What is that imprint whose source we cannot trace?*

Writing is an imprint upon the world. For this trace to be 'real',
however, it cannot remain imprisoned only on the paper, or screen, of
the writer, to be read by her eyes alone. And so the writer
publishes-her books travel to far corners of the world, they are
translated into many tongues, and become, she hopes, part of our common
imaginations. In this story however, we are never far from the writer.

How then do we think of the act of writing, and putting texts into
circulation, in spaces (such as the Internet) where we do not know the
writer through any of the markers we are accustomed to. We do not know
her name, we do not know if she is a 'she' or a 'he', or masquerading as
one or the other. We do not which part of the world she comes from, or
where she is going. What would be that imprint, whose source we cannot

(Adapted from the Independent Fellowship research proposal and postings
of Nitoo Das. Her project is titled 'Hypertextual Poetry: The Poetry of
MSN Poetry Communities'. river_side1@hotmail.com)

*What is it that flows create?*

Joshua Gonsalves is nervous. Bombay is a big city and he's never been
more than twenty miles from Mapsa. Everything is different here-people,
food, the air. Things will have to be learned quickly. Luckily for him,
Jonathan Pinto's letter writing formats, available at the corner book
store, list ways in which a house may be acquired, jobs found,
relationships with relatives back home, maintained. Marie Fernandez's
book of recipes is also useful-ingredients easily available back home,
but hard to find in Bombay's busy markets, can be replaced with local
substitutes which taste almost as good as the real thing.

People travel-leave home and go to new places. The motivation and
destination of this journey is not always of their choosing. Transitions
are eased however, by the knowledges put in circulation by those who
came before, for those who arrive now, and those arriving tomorrow. And
by reading advertisements for houses and jobs; singing in church with
hymnbooks in the local language; reading novels and stories which evoke
the journey they have just made, strangers to a city enter its
subjectivity. What is it that flows create?

(Adapted from the Independent Fellowship research proposal and postings
of Rochelle Pinto. Her project is titled 'Manuel in the City: A
Semi-Fictionalised Illustrated Book on the Arrival and Absorption of
Goan Migrants to Mumbai'. rochellepinto@yahoo.com)

*What is lost when flows ebb? *

Mir Baqar Ali, the last famous /dastango/ of India, died in 1928.
/Dastangoyee/ is an oral story-telling form, popular in central and
northern regions of South-Asia from the 11^th century onwards. The
stories revolve around the travels of Amir Hamza, the Prophet's uncle.
/Dastans/ are recited at street corners and /chowks/, crowded bazaars,
on the steps of mosques, during fairs and occasions of celebration.

Baqar Ali was a superlative performer. Tall and regal as a king, small
and frail as an old woman, he held his listeners spell-bound by the
ability to transform his diminutive frame into the character he was
playing. This was no ordinary feat, given the 'theater' of his art.

In order that dastangoyee would not be lost, in 1905 Munshi Nawal
Kishore hired three writer-narrators to compose a multi-volume edition
of the Dastan of Amir Hamza. The edition was immensely popular, and went
into several reprints, well into the 20^th century. Dastangoyee also
influenced other narrative forms: early Hindi and Urdu novels borrowed
heavily from its narrative structure, dastan conventions influenced Urdu
theater and the Hindi film industry. From the 1920's onwards however,
dastangoyee began to wane, and by the mid 1940's it was all but forgotten=

Why did the stories start to fade? Perhaps because the spaces for
narration changed, perhaps they circulated in so many 'versions'; the
'original' was forgotten, perhaps sometimes things slip out of
circulation. What is lost when flows ebb?

(Excerpted and adapted from the Independent Fellowship Research proposal
of Mahmood UR Farooqui. His project is titled '/Dastangoyee/: The
Culture of Story Telling in Urdu'. mahmoodfarooqui@yahoo.com)

The projects featured here are from the current cycle of fellowships,
beginning January 2005.

Information about the Sarai Independent Fellowship programme is
available at:

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