Monday, May 16, 2016

What should you wear in an emergency?

Kaleidoscope's neighbour has an one year old girl. In a sad incident today the girl fell on a half cooked and still boiling fish curry. It was a sudden accident that attracted about fifteen people to gather and to instruct. The most significant question that came immediately after the decision of taking the child to a hospital nearby was what should her mother wear? She was in a nighty- a popular form of informal night dress which one is supposed to wear while remaining inside the home.

It was debated among the spectators and she was not given the privacy to change her clothes as the family has only a couple of rooms. She could not say a  thing but left hesitantly in her nighty.

When she came back in the afternoon. The discussion was how rational it was for her not to change her clothes, and that no one would mind, not even the men at roads who watched her on her way. This discussion continued for hours with an addition that it was an emergency otherwise you should not wear a nighty outside and how embarrassing it is to go out like that even in an emergency. 

P.S. The girl is fine now with some second degree burns on one of her legs which will take some time to heal.

I do not know about the woman and her feeling about the clothes and the discussion, whether this 'embarrassment' would ever be healed.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Archaeological Imagination and the imagined present: Reality and its Juxtapositions

This post is about the imagined nature of our present time. It is in support to the contention of archaeologists in the cultivation of imagination. It is important to note, at the beginning, that archaeology is considered itself as a discipline of imagination (Thomas 1996). To extend this argument I suggest that archaeology is about imagination not because of the paucity of material remains to 'reconstruct' our past, but more so because we live in imagined world and each and every moment of our life are imagined moments.
Before going into the abstraction of the imagined nature of our everyday living, I wish to present two cases of the jumbled up space in Haldia - my work place to show in what ways reality is misleading and reality is imagined.

CASE I: Haldia Govt College and the beer bottles nearby.

Haldia Govt College used to have a huge tract of land. I have gathered the information that the college had about 50 acres of land which was never fortified. Even today when college administration can identify about 25 acres of land it does not have any boundary wall. In 2009 after the famous Nandigram incident several families have started to take refuge nearby. Most of them were political refugees from Nandigram. Initially they set up shanties - make shift arrangements which eventually is converted to semi permanent structure. Now they have successfully brought electricity, installed hand-pump for water. One of the major occupation of these people is to bring and resell scrap materials which ranges from factory waste, smashed car scraps from highway accidents to beer bottles. Since there are two bars nearby, the most conspicuous material is beer bottles. There are thousands of beer bottles, hundreds of whisky, vodka bottles and many more country liquor bottles being stocked every week.
The beer bottles nearby the college building - juxtaposed space

Possible archaeological inferences: 

Its less than a hundred meters away from the college building. Therefore, in a site formation process the material remains that archaeologists might have is the college building. That means a building with blackboards, laboratory equipment and then thousands of beer bottles. What would they infer?
1. Bottles were most important aspect of education in 2016
2. Students were encouraged to drink because drinking has direct linkage to concentration that early men believed.
3. The educational institution had a wine manufacturing unit too.
4. Teachers and students used to drink together and drinking was an integral part of that civilisation.

CASE II: the removal of Lenin's statue

While there are several industries in Haldia, it nevertheless also had many strong labour movements under the leadership of CITU. The erstwhile Member of Parliament Mr. Laxman Seth provided leadership to install several association offices in Haldia. One of such office is  a two story building near railway track close to Bandar (meaning port) railway station. The most conspicuous emblem is a lively statue of V. Lenin.
The Lenin Statue which is now removed

Now, since there  is a political change in the state, the two story buildng known as Shramik Bhaban (building for labours) lies there, which is now a home to some of the still faithful followers of CITU. The building is slowly decaying without maintenance. The Lenin statue has been removed from the place.

Possible Archaeological inferences:

The material remains of the past symbolising left labour movement is decaying, perhaps being destroyed purposefully. With such removal of the statue if Lenin, now, the history only survives in the oral narratives. The more the time passes by, there is lesser chance to the history to survive with material remains. This is typical of power shift and an indifferent attitude towards history that makes even the present imagined.

The Imagined Present

While as  discipline with scientific hangover rooted from positivist philosophical tradition archaeologists were once hopeful about the possibility for a 'reconstruction' to a certain degree of accuracy. It has increasingly recognised the impossibility for a 'reconstruction.' It is impossible to reconstruct because of several practical reasons. First, there is paucity of material remains to reconstruct, second, even the written records may be misleading (written with a voice, voice of the powerful people), third, and more importantly there is juxtaposition of time and space (as we can see even in present time, the Haldia case matters, right?). 

While archaeologists and to a certain degree social scientists have accepted the fact that there is no single reality, and with the age of postmodernism we are increasingly stepping towards the multiplicity of reality. However, postmodern philosophy and postsructuralism talks much about the perspectives (an emphasis on how we see, rather than what we see, as we find in Woods, 2011, p. 7). 

However, what these juxtaposed realities suggests is that it is perhaps the time to rethink the present as well. Are we not living in a present which is filled with so many juxtaposed, jumbled up and hodgepodge, extremely heterogeneous realities and power play that whatever we think about time, and more importantly how we take note of it, how we fix it in our everydayness is also imagined?

We restore our faith in the material entities of our time. But can we really believe that the material reality is also constant and not a changing one? Or can we rest our assumption that there is any unchanging  narrative of the present? If we secure foundation of meaning and live comfortably in our narratives of the meaning, are we not living in an imagined reality?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Civilisation and question of love: part VI aggression, nature and our illusions

Taken from

One of kaleidoscope's favourite philosopher-cum-Archaeologist Professor Gordon Childe commented that civilisation is  time when people started to have an aggressive attitude towards environment.

What is an aggressive attitude?

It means at least three things,
A. You forget that the thing you are dealing with has its will and consciousness (at least it has its internal working)and you tend to deal with it as only a material to be tamed for your own purpose.
B. you tend to make it twisted for your own purpose.
C. You tend to behave violently when it resists!

How does it affect you?

When you are aggressive towards anything, what you do is that you pursue self interest maximization, you behave rationally (from your often restricted and selfish economic rationality only) to undermine the value of everything else.
Hence throughout the history of human civilisation we devised several shortcut methods for our own good. Here are few examples of such shortcut methods and potential dangerous outcomes.
1. No need to hunt grow your food
Result: high level of malnutrition in most part of the human civilisation, crop failure and famine even in 21st century Africa.
2. No need roam around, settle down
Results: power inequality, slavery, class formation (hence struggle!), resource accumulation, greed and warfare (even today)
3. No need to have individual identities, remember people in classes(kinship, age set,caste and so on)
Results: you tend to objectify people and do not dwell on the richness of individual relationships. You suffer when you cannot fit in to categories (everyone knows the pain of being attracted towards a kin and not being able to tell, even share with others)

So, what's now?

On the one hand we have developed aggressive attitude towards nature, people and other things, and on the other hand we have forcefully created our environment and the violently tried to adapt ourselves in. Today we occupy several different built in environments everyday where we are constantly adapting. In the morning we are at home then on road then on vehicle then at office with work then we break at canteen then again back to work then again on road, in a vehicle then back home again. I know the above sentence has been monotonous but just think about the tremendous psychological and also physical pressure we are taking to adapt ourselves in environments in which we are forced to adapt. To adapt to this complex world human babies have to spend almost one third of their life in learning!

When we tend to dwell in this complex world  of ours we are being told and made believe that civilisation is  gift to make our life easy! Kaleidoscope with his pea-size intellect is still searching for 'how civilisation has made our life easy?'

It has rather made us forget fundamental beauties of consciousness like falling in love, making love, appreciating nature as it is, living in harmony with others and appreciating the fact that world is a home for not only the human species but for all!