Monday, November 12, 2012

More on knowledge, procedural rules and requirements, and Brahminized hegemony in Left politics

In one of our earlier conversations on politics of social change, JT had noted how so much of the Indian left is occupied by Brahminized subjects who come from positions of privilege, having secured access to positions of leadership (intellectual or political) through access to instruments of education, the metropole, and the elite circles that operate in the metropole.

The Tam Brahms, Bong Brahms, and North Indian Brahms that occupy these elite positions often come from positions of privilege, having been born into families with privilege and access, and having been educated into the norms of civility and participation. Their theorizing of Marx or Lenin or Engels therefore is borne out from these positions of privilege, often played out in easy access to resources and tools of learning.

What then are the implications for Left politics and/or politics of social change when the discursive sites of articulation are themselves occupied by a Brahminized class that replicates privileges of feudal organizing of Indian society?

JT's coment made me reflect on what I will refer to as the Calcutta syndrome.

In early days of graduate work, when working on questions of subaltern politics, I had quickly discovered that the doors of the intellectual circuit from the metropole located in the global South were closed. The access to these Southern centers of knowledge production and their intellectual network partners in the North were limited to specific forms of elite politics and access.

So to participate in specific forms of Left politics for instance or to secure entry into certain intellectual circuits of the Left, one needed to have access to specific networks, know the right people, and engage with them in the right language.

What is even more so, the questioning of this privilege, I found is most often not welcome.

Some Marxist language is spewed off to undermine questions that interrogate the positions of privilege occupied by scholars/intellectuals/activists of the Left themselves. It is as if these intellectuals and politicians themselves occupy some sacred position that is beyond interrogation.

Most often, any form of questioning is seen as the questioning of the political process and legitimacy of the Left-based politics itself, and therefore is not welcome under some sham of Left unity even as the Left participates hook line and sinker with the liberalization of the economy, society, and culture.

As a result, the climate of interrogation and critical questioning is paradoxically utterly limited. The opportunities for social change are foreclosed because these positions of interrogation are already occupied by vanguardist intellectuals of Brahminized descent who work actively to maintain the status quo and silence opportunities of interrogation through their theorizing of a Left hegemony.

Acknowledging this very possibility of hegemonic co-optation of critique, CCA suggests the relevance of reflexivity.

The relevant question for CCA researchers then is the move toward reflexivity as an entry point toward interrogating one's own privilege and the ways in which such privlege is both a handicap as well as a positive resource for change. The first step toward engaging with CCA is in understanding profoundly one's own journey as an academic and the specific forms of access to dominant structures and resources that foregrounds the voices of academics within discursive spaces.

Questioning never stops. Questioning can not stop.

It is by centering the materiality of our Brahminized privileges and the foreclosures that are brought about through the taken-for-granted rules and rituals can we move toward a politics of continuous interrogation, questioning the bases for legitimacy upon which we make our pronoucements, knowledge claims, and political careers.

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