Monthly Archives: August 2017

QUOTE – Benedict Anderson



For museums, and the museumizing imagination, are both profoundly political. p. 178

Monumental archaeology, increasingly linked to tourism, allowed the state to appear as the guardian of a generalized, but also local, Tradition. The old sacred sites were to be incorporated into the map of the colony, and their ancient prestige (which, if this had disappeared, as it often had, the state would attempt to revive) draped around the mappers. This paradoxical situation is nicely illustrated by the fact that the reconstructed monuments often had smartly laid-out lawns around them, and always explanatory tablets, complete with datings, planted here and there. Moreover, they were to be kept empty of people, except for perambulatory tourists (no religious ceremonies or pilgrimages, so far as possible). Museumized this way, they were repositioned as regalia for a secular colonial state. p. 181-182

It was precisely the infinite quotidian reproducibility of its regalia that revealed the real power of the state. It is probably not too surprising that post-independence states, which exhibited marked continuities with their colonial predecessors, inherited this form of political museumizing. p. 183

Interlinked with one another, then, the census, the map and the museum illuminate the late colonial state’s style of thinking about its domain. The ‘warp’ of this thinking was a totalizing classificatory grid, which could be applied with endless flexibility to anything under the state’s real or contemplated control: peoples, regions, religions, languages, products, monuments, and so forth. The effect of the grid was always to be able to say of anything that it was this, not that: it belonged here, not there. It was bounded, determinate, and therefore – in principle – countable. p. 184

For the colonial state did not merely aspire to create, under its control, a human landscape of perfect visibility; the condition of this ‘visibility’ was that everyone, everything, had (as it were) a serial number. This style of imagining did not come out of thin air. It was the product of the technologies of navigation, astronomy, horology, surveying, photography and print, to say nothing of the deep driving power of capitalism. p. 184-185

Archeology was an unimaginable enterprise in precolonial Southeast Asia; it was adopted in uncolonized Siam late in the game, and after the colonial state’s manner. It created the series ‘ancient monuments,’ segmented within the classificatory, geographic-demographic box ‘Netherland Indies,’ and ‘British Burma.’ Conceived within this profane series, each ruin became available for surveillance and infinite replication. As the colonial state’s archaeological service made it technically possible to assemble the series in mapped and photographed form, the state itself could regard the series, up historical time, as an album of its ancestors. The key thing was was never the specific Borobudur, nor the specific Pagan, in which the state had no substantial interest and with which it had only archaeological connections. The replicatable series, however, created a historical depth of field, which was easily inherited by the state’s postcolonial successor. The final logical outcome was the logo – of ‘Pagan’ or ‘The Philippines,’ it made little difference – which by its emptiness, contextlessness, visual memorableness, and infinite reproducibility in every direction brought census and map, warp and woof into inerasable embrace. p. 185

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, London: Verso, 2006

Photos from Fischli/Weiss, Visible World, 2003

QUOTE – Francis Fukuyama

Rather than a thousand shoots blooming into as many different flowering plants, mankind will come to seem like a long wagon train strung out along a road. Some wagons will be pulling into town sharply and crisply, while others will be bivouacked back in the desert, or else stuck in ruts in the final pass over the mountains. Several wagons, attacked by Indians, will have been set aflame and abandoned along the way. There will be a few wagoneers who, stunned by the battle, will have lost their sense of direction and are temporarily heading in the wrong direction, while one or two wagons will get tired of the journey and decide to set up permanent camps at particular points back along the road. Others will have found alternative routes to the main road, though they will discover that to get through the final mountain range they all must use the same pass. But the great majority of wagons will be making the slow journey into town, and most will eventually arrive there. The wagons are all similar to one another: while they are painted different colors and are constructed of varied materials, each has four wheels and is drawn by horse, while inside sits a family hoping and praying that their journey will be a safe one. The apparent differences in the situations of the wagon will not be seen as reflecting permanent and necessary differences between the people riding in the wagons, but simply a product of their different positions along the road.

Alexandre Kojève believed that ultimately history itself would vindicate its own rationality. That is, enough wagons would pull into town such that any reasonable person looking at the situation would be forced to agree that there had been only one journey and one destination. It is doubtful that we are at that point now, for despite the recent worldwide liberal revolution, the evidence available to us now concerning the direction of the wagons’ wanderings must remain provisionally inconclusive. Nor can we in the final analysis know, provided a majority of the wagons eventually reach the same town, whether their occupants, having looked around a bit at their new surroundings, will not find them inadequate and set their eyes on a new and more distant journey.

Francis Fukuyama, The End of History, London: Penguin, 1992, p. 338-339