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20/11/2014

AnnLauraStolerInterviewedbyE.ValentineDanielinVolume24,Number3PublicCulture

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ValentineDaniel(VD):AmongthethingsIfindmostintriguinginyourwork,with

exceptionofyourfirstbook[CapitalismandConfrontationinSumatrasPlantation

lt,18701979],arethepoetictitlesofyourbooks,andevenofyouressays:Race

dtheEducationofDesire:FoucaultsHistoryofSexualityandtheColonialOrderof

ngs,HauntedbyEmpire:GeographiesofIntimacyinNorthAmericanHistory,

ongtheArchivalGrain:EpistemicAnxietiesandColonialCommonSense,Habits

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Volume24,Number3
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aColonialHeart.Eachoneenticeslikeapromissorynotepledgingtosharewith

readeraworkofpassionateintelligence.Whatpartdoyourtitlesplayinthe

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Also in Volume 24, Number 3


TheRisksofPreparedness:Mutant
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AndrewLakoff

ImaginingtheMarket:AVisualHistor

nLauraStoler(AS):Thankyouforevennoticinghowmuchtitlesmattertome,

NickyMarsh,PaulCrosthwaite
PeterKnight

l.AtitleisnotanaffirmationofwhatisbutofwhatIwantsomethingtobe.Itsnot

WhyIOccupy

descriptionofafaitaccompli.Sometimesitsclosertoasensibility,ahand

NicholasMirzoeff

etchedtoareader.Thehopeisthatthecontentandformwillmeasureup.

metimesthefigurative,thepoliticalproject,andtheprosaicconverge.Titlesare

allengestomyself,visionsIhopetoshareofthingsImayfailtoattain.Atitleispart

ique,partconversation.RaceandtheEducationofDesirewaspartcommenton

tonioGramscisdefinitionofstateprojectsastheeducationofconsent.Alongthe

chivalGrainwasaresponsetoWalterBenjaminandtoliteralistreadingsofhis

essingcalltoreadhistoryagainstthegrain.CapitalismandConfrontationwas

lesunfortunatesubstitutionforwhatItitledIntheCompanysShadow:The

EmperorsRiver:PhilippScholz
RittermannalongChinasGrand
Canal
CarolMcCuskerandPhilippScholz
Rittermann

SpaceandPoliticalPedagogyatthe
GardensofVersailles
ChandraMukerji

liticsofLaborControlinNorthSumatra,anallusiontolivingunderthepaleofthe

ntations,withinahorizonblottedbyinterminablerowsofrubbertrees,andto

ngsubsumed,asKarlMarxmighthaveputit,byanestateeconomy.That

adowwascastwhereveryouturnedinsquattervillages,prostitute

campmentsonestateperipheries,orhighpricedstoresonplantationgrounds.
IntheSumatrabook,Marx,broadlyconceived,seemedtobeyourguidinglight.

dyetthereisapartingofways:Marxwasateleologistyouturnedoutotherwise.

rxsnarrativesunfoldedinacertaindirection,fromdiagnosistoredemption.In

urbookthereisratheranorder(ordisorder)ofthings.Wasthisaconscious

oicetowritethebookinthismannerorsomethingyouwerecompelledtodoby

realitiesthatconfrontedyouinthefield?
IwasdrawntoNorthSumatraasamodernvortexofhighgearcapitalismbut

sstruckbyatopographyofrelations,things,practices,andvocabulariesthat

emedcolonialthroughandthrough.IhadexpectedsomeversionofJavas

ensivericegrowingvillages,withpeopledoingestatewageworkasawayof

tingby.IseizedonSidneyMintzstermareconstitutedpeasantryatthetailend

writingthedissertation.Butasitturnsout,thatispreciselywhattheywerenot.

documentintheDutchcolonialarchivesonlaborpolicystoppedmeshortbecause

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20/11/2014

AnnLauraStolerInterviewedbyE.ValentineDanielinVolume24,Number3PublicCulture

eemedtocapture,betterthananythingelseIhadseenorread,something

biguousandstrategicatplay.Itwasatermusedinthe1920sbyaDutchofficial

scribinghisvisionandstrategyforrecruitingJavanesetotheplantationsand

epingthemthereitwas,asheputit,tocreateasemblanceofpeasantvillage

fortheseworkers,nottheactualpossibilityoflivingofftheirownlandor

intainingthoserelationshipsthatcouldreallybeindependentandbeyondthe

adowoftheestates.
Areyousayingthatyousawinthiscolonialvisionsignsofanunsettlingorderof

Yes.AndItriedtounderstandwhatittooktorenderthoseconditionsaschosen

herthanenforced.
SothestrategicambiguitiesyouwitnessedinSumatrainthe1980swerethe

onialvestigesoftheunresolvedparadoxofenforcedchoices.Itisnowonder

nthatifoneweretohavereadthatbookwithteleologicalexpectationsas

medidoneisboundtobedisappointed.
Intheend,thebookisapeculiartakeonthecontemporarybecauseitspends

muchmoretimefoldingbackonthemakingratherthanthebeingofthose

rsonsandthatplace.AsIhaddonefouryearsearlierinJava,Icountedeverything

ouldgetmyhandson.Notonlydidthesefactsnotmeshwithpeopleslivesthey

emedsuperfluous,becausemuchofwhatwashappening,onandaroundthe

gesoftheestates,hadtodowithpreciselywhatcouldnotbecounted,withwhat

smadeuncountable:peoplegleaningandfeedingoffofwhattheysawastheir

efromtheplantations.Suhartosmilitarybackerswererakinginprofitsfromprivate

atesofficiallyownedbyothers,oftenwithChinesenames.Itwasasystem,from

tobottom,thatthrivedonwhatwasoffthebookswhatcouldntandwouldntbe

Sowastheplantersownlivedinworldoffscriptaswell?
Ibeganbyassumingastrategicallyreasonedsystem.ThemoreIunderstood

wmuchplantersfearsmotivatedtheiractions,thelessconvincedIbecame.The

ingbeforeIstartedteachingatMichigan[in1989],Nicholas(Dirks)hadaskedme

espondtoMichaelTaussigsessayCultureofTerrorSpaceofDeath:Roger

sementsPutumayoReportandtheExplanationofTortureforaworkshopon

onialismandculture.Ineverpublishedthetext,butitsquerystayedwithme:how

esoneunderstandthevastlydifferenteffectsthatfearandthethreatofviolence

ate?Youhavetobeabletoaccountfortherangeofintensitiesofterrorproduced

thedifferenceamongkillinganelephant,threateningaworker,mutilatingafamily,

dmassacringapopulation.TheseweretheinterpellatingspacesIsoughtto

antersannualreportsfromthe1920sand1930sreferredtosomethingthatdidnt

withwhatIthoughtIknew:awhiteproletariatthreateningtheplanter

sociationwithchantage.Blackmail?Awhiteproletariat?Howpoorlywerethey

sitionedtobeconsideredanoppositionalclass?Colonialhistoryhadrarely

eredfarfrompatandpredictableplots.Therewerethe(bad)colonizersandthe

ood)colonized.Orviceversa.Ispentmuchofthenexttwentyyearsattendingto

atmadethosecategoriesselfevident,tohowtheyworked.Didfearofawhite

oletariatexpressanactualthreatortheprecarityofasystemnotconfidentinitself?

artedbyfocusingonwhatcolonialauthoritiessawastheworrisomeedgesofa

ializedsystem,onlytofindthatasmuchconcertedworkoccurredatitscenter,

ngtorenderwhiteandEuropeanreadilyavailabletocommonsense.
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