Residency at Gallery 2 notes- inter cultural symptoms of the rise of a new (old) populism

Whilst I am doing some work at Gallery 2 as part of the Science Festival, I’m using at as some time to reach out to some new community groups for our upcoming projects, whilst at the same time trying to explore some issues that will inform our work over the next two years.

One of the things that we are concerned with is models of “inter cultural comunication” in particularl “inter cultural” arts practice, “inter cultural” being the current coinage.  Whilst I’m here, with some participants who will be around on Thursday and also just my notebook,  I’m thinking about models of the “inter cultural” which take into account culture as a contradictory mass, rather than a discrete and complete entity that can have some moment of recognition with another such entity.  This model owes, hopefully,  more to Lacan, Marx and the surrealists than it does to say, modes derived from community development and conflict resolution.

Part of this has been about drawing up list of “symptomatic” cultural exchange, in another blog post I will try and go into this more.  Today I just earned to share what I think is an interesting example.  In this example I think we see the building blocks of the Thatcherite story  (the Thatcher of Yes Minister- the plucky outsider from the provinces standing up to the pompous metropolitan “elites” etc), as well as something like the figure of Modi in India, an anti liberal and neo nationalist narrative couched in quasi anti imperialist language, and drawing on a thoroughly Indian articulation of that same Thatcherite narrative.

As Abrahamian notes in his “The Iranian Mojahedin” a lot of the “left” ideas deployed by Khomeini and the Khomeneists in their “radical” period were derived from ideas developed by early Mojahedin figures like Hanifnezhad, as well as from the great Anti colonial philosopher, translator and sociologist Ali Shariati.

Abrahamian goes on; “…when the Mojahedin, as well as Shariati, tried to speak to the modern middle class, they soon discovered that their message did not inspire the bulk of the intelligentsia, especially the secularised professionals, the older generation of white collared employees and, most important of all, the children of the university educated middle class.  But they were able to catch the attention of the modern educated children of the traditional and provincial middle class. One secular intellectual from the Old Left who, unlike most of his generation had made an attempt, however weak, to read Shariati, jumped to the conclusion that this “theorist of Islam” was advocating a “return to the caliphate”. He admitted in passing he had only made it through the first hundred pages of “Islamshenasi“.  Another left wing intellectual related how, when Shariati had lectured at Tehran University he could not bring himself to listen to his religious “gibberings” and instead paced up and down the campus muttering anti religious obscenities to himself.  For much of the modern intelligentsia this “return to Islam” was not only a leap backwards into the Middle Ages but also a step downwards into the provincial and narrow minded part of the lower middle class.” (emphasis added)

I would be really interested in what people who lived through the rise of Thatcher, General Zia or Modi and the BJP have to say about this, and if it strikes a chord.

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