Friday, 1 August 2014

Agitating the Frame/ The Song of the Shirt

Agitating the Frame: Five Essays on Economy, Ideology, Sexuality and Cinema by Slavoj Zizek from Navayana.

The world today, not in the least Europe, is facing an unprecedented crisis. There is more food to eat, more ideology, sexual permissiveness, exhaustive laws, regularization of banking and other financial institutions, and, Slavoj Žižek argues, more privacy. Yet, the level of disbelief and frustration with regard to hunger, sexuality, law and order, the economic situation, politics, and the notion of public space is palpable. Is this not just because we continue to be seduced by a patchwork of easy but wrong answers but because the allure of those answers leads us to asking the wrong questions?

Žižek illumines a dense path through the works of Daphne du Maurier, Jean Pierre Melville’s The Army of Shadows, the films of Lubitsch, the place of violence in the Buddhist system of moral conduct, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, the assertion that Gandhi was more violent than Hitler, pedophilia in the Church, the maternal aspect of North Korean leaders, the crisis in Cyprus and Greece, the larger economic meltdown and its denial by the very people who are responsible for it.

In the process, we are invited to question some of these answers, and to return to the questions. Žižek then goads us to develop tools that might help not only in reframing the questions but make us look at the very frame with skepticism.

In our Essays and Nonfiction section, Rs. 295, in paperback, 204 pages, ISBN: 9788189059651

The Song of the Shirt: Cheap Clothes Across Continents and Centuries by Jeremy Seabrook from Navayana.

Labour in Bangladesh flows like its rivers—in excess of what is required. Often, both take a huge toll. Labour that costs $1.66 an hour in China and 52 cents in India can be had for a song in Bangladesh—18 cents. It is mostly women and children working in fragile, flammable buildings who bring in 70 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange.

Bangladesh today does not clothe the nakedness of the world, but provides it with limitless cheap garments—through Primark, Walmart, Benetton, Gap. In elegiac prose, Jeremy Seabrook dwells upon the disproportionate sacrifices demanded by the manufacture of such throwaway items as baseball caps. He shows us how Bengal and Lancashire offer mirror images of impoverishment and affluence.

In the eighteenth century, the people of Bengal were dispossessed of ancient skills and the workers of Lancashire forced into labour settlements. In a ghostly replay of traffic in the other direction, the decline of the British textile industry coincided with Bangladesh becoming one of the world’s major clothing exporters. With capital becoming more protean than ever, it wouldn’t be long before the global imperium readies to shift its sites of exploitation in its nomadic cultivation of profit.

In our Art and Architecture section, Rs. 495, in hardback, 287 pages, ISBN: 9788189059644

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