“A woman gets out of her four-wheel drive and starts determinedly to walk toward the infamous Woomera mandatory detention center for ‘unprocessed’ asylum seekers. Inside the center, desperate inmates (mainly Afghan, Iranian and Iraqi) have turned their protest against the inhuman conditions of their confinement inward, sealing their bodies against the inducements of food and speech with rough stitches through their lips. The white Australian woman who has come to fast with them in silence carries a placard bearing an uneven, homemade letters, the following consolation: ‘You are not alone.’ She wants to perform her consolation, to embody it, within view of the detainees, face to face, but a news camera on site catches the demise of her incipient project: an enraged security guard blocks her progress and pushes her back into her abandoned car.”
Can a small, and seemingly insignificant gesture such as the aforementioned constitute as a political act? How do ideals and legislation define individuals? What defines a community? Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought, Fin-De-Siecle Radicalism, and the Politics of Friendship, examines specific aspects of the anti-imperialism, postcolonial worlds and critiques to answer these questions. The “politics of friendship” exemplified by E.M. Forster’s famous defense “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” This laconic promulgation makes “friend” a metaphor for dissidence and cross-cultural collaboration. These individuals and groups intersected at different political and ethical junctures where their voices unified together for a common cause. Honoring Jacques Derrida’s Politics of Friendship, Leela Ghandi use historical frameworks and narrative to ascertain unacknowledged friendships and alliances among anticolonial mavericks that became endemic to the subcultures of late Victorian radicalism. As an ethically inventive enterprise, friendship became the most comprehensive way of signifying various “invisible” affective gestures that sought expression outside and against the ontology of communities and definition of belonging.
Leela Ghandi uses C.F. Andrews to corroborate the concealed “politics of friendship” as well as “affective cosmopolitanism”, an ethic-political symbolism and act that shows an unrelenting difference. Through his exegesis on the New Testament’s apostolic foundations, Andrew’s emphasized terminology such as “fellowship,” “friendship,” or koinonia in the Gospels, which admonishes the acquisitive forms of inherited or accepted identity and belonging. “When our Lord,” he writes in The Good Shepherd (194), ‘had chosen and ordained his first Apostle, He brought them so close to Himself that He called them no longer servants, but friends… ‘Greater love,’ He declares, ‘hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.’” Through obligatory sacrifice for or of friendship, Andrews renounces the ties that bind together individuals such as gender, species, race, and class. Through his creative variation on friendship, he conjoins utopian socialism, where he made acquaintances with Christian socialist circles.
Utopian socialism became a direct affective singularity where the individual and others become separated at the seams. This exposed the relationality between the divisions and exclusions which government, legislation, or colonial designate. Also, the space of relationality and or conjunction must have a self-othering, where the individual becomes identified in relation to the other. Fin-De-Siecle politics gain a retain a framework with ethics of “beyond” where it simultaneously transforms the present. Moving in this direction removes the constraints of contemporary postmodern thought where the hybrid subject can be ameliorated in a non-communitarian way.
The revival of utopian socialism from the perspective of postmodernism means that it is defunct, inoperable, and negative. Leela Ghandi ameliorates this problem by postulating an anti-communitarian communitarianism, where it reformulates an individual and subject-hood. In doing so, the individual becomes superseded by the singularity which fixes the former’s problem of being open to generalization and over extending. The latter provides an exclusive definition, where the individual cannot be assimilated to any system of resemblance. “Thus unlike ‘individualities,’ ‘singularities, as Agamben puts it, “cannot form a societas because they do not possess any identity to vindicate nor any bond of belonging for which to seek recognition. In the first instance, the state can recognize any claim for identity… What the State cannot tolerate in any way, however, is that singularities form a community without affirming an identity, that humans co-belonging without any representable condition of belonging.” The “politics of friendship” creates a new definition for the co-belonging of nonidentical singularities that moves away from the grasp of Kantian ethics, Marxist political agency, and other exotic definitions. This utopian mentality shows itself to be a genuine cosmopolitan, which is always open to change by those undetermined, but still bequeaths privileges to secure our identities.
Ghandi investigates anti-communitarian communitarianism further by weaving together the invisible ties of affiliations and friendships.In Towards Democracy, Edward Carpenter, a 19th century socialist, animal rights activist, prison reformer, and homosexual, passionately writes a diatribe against England and its empire. “These are her blessings of Empire! Ireland (dear Sister-isle, so near at hand, so fertile, once so prosperous), Rack rented, drained, her wealth by absentees in London wasted, her people with deep curses emigrating; India the same-her life blood sucked-but worse:/ Perhaps in twenty years five hundred million sterling, from her famished myriads, / Taken to feed the luxury of Britain.” Overtime,Towards Democracy became a classic and staple as a manifesto amongst dissident communities that reverberated Carpenter’s anti-colonial writing. His influence was substantial in journals such as Justicethat was produced by the Social Democratic Foundation. The journal maintained a polemical on British imperialism and declared that the empire should equalize the cause of workers at home and colonized races abroad.
Carpenter’s pervasive anti-colonial thought conjoins homosexuality, which is exhibited in his oeuvre through his sexual orientation. Eulogizing the experience and condition, Carpenter’s ethical and political ideology honored the ground that homosexuals stood on, where it represented a transitional space between others. These doctrines cannot be explained through discordant sexual activities, but from association, alliance, community, and reconfiguration.
Although Carpenter was an exemplary iconoclast by many contemporaries, his reception by other British homosexual activists was much different. Lawrence Housman, the homosexual-rights campaigner believed that Carpenter’s ethical eclecticism cloaked homosexual designs. Through his evasiveness, many believed that Carpenter obscured the social pressures that were associated with sexual orientation. Using Foucault’s “sexual speech acts” and thesis found in The History of Sexuality, Ghandi elucidates the issues that involve sexuality and possible reasons why Carpenter was reticent about of his sexual orientation. Foucault suggests that sex extends its scope of cartographic power where it becomes more than an act of judging, but also a way to manage and regulate. “The encroachment of a type of power on bodies and their pleasures.” A “sex act” did not constitute its exterior relationship to power, it was produced by the apparatus that it wanted to fight against. In Foucauldian terms, the anticolonial nation-state failed to recognize its perilous actions because it duplicated the regulation of the imperial statehood. Additionally, many claims of triumphant homosexuals that openly declared their sexual orientation was less likely.
Resonating Foucault, German activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs popularized homosexual sexual difference with prolific writings. Loosely basing themselves on passages found in Plato’s Symposium, Ulrich explains that there are two different types of aphrodite and uses the elder to exemplify a homosexual. The elder lacks two sexes and the genetic makeup presides over-spiritualized same-sex love, therefore, is not a man, and a member of the third sex. This third party aligns itself against the despotism of the world and sympathizes with repressed minorities. Using Ulrich as a source of inspiration, Edward Carpenter’s Love’s Coming of Age becomes a panacea for society’s ills such as sexual difference. Civilization could only be cured through homosexual physicians that would act as the interlocutor, or “intermediate types”. Homosexuality is an affective versatility, which would enable him to reveal to society “the wealth and variety of affectional possibilities which it has within itself” and could accommodate other groups with weaker frameworks.
The concept of friendship was the sinew of Love’s Coming of Age, where Carpenter critiqued society in a way that this act of kinship symbolized the exceptionalism of homosexuality. Due to the ambiguity of sexual orientation, the homosexual extended this privilege to his ally, the “savage”. Designed on Darwin’s phyletic ladder as sexually undifferentiated, the savage also became a symbol of intermediacy against the western’s categorization of sex. Although Carpenter’s reticent sexual orientation was caused by the Labouchere Amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, radical kinship signified a better form of life. Forcing homosexuals to go underground, friendship replaced the sexual dimorphism where it represented a disassociation of culture, color, and class. To Carpenter, this reinvented friendship where it was “destined… to arise again, and become a recognized factor of modern life, and even in a more extended and perfect form than at first.”
Analogous to Carpenter, Michelangelo has many sexual references that are found in literature and is praised as a part of fin-de-siecle homosexual apologetics. However, in each of these writings, the ambiguity of the sculptor’s man-loving asexualty. His abnormal predilection for male beauty and attachments is shown throughout Michelangelo’s oeuvre, and more subtly elaborated in the sculptural arrangements found in his last creation, Florence Pieta. The positioning of the figures around and supporting Christ, such as Virgin, Mary Magdalene, and Nicodemus are positioned in a way to symbolize love, eroticism, and remapping of gender. “The twice displaced Virgin, in turn, mirrors the Magdalene on the left, and in her positioning completes the profound relational inversions of the group, its challenge to the institutional priorities of generationality and generativity. The women, mother and female companion, traditional bearers of the vertical axis of genealogy (of blood, birth, and sex), now traverse the horizontal axis of affiliation (of voluntary association) across the body of christ. And vice versa, the vertical or filiation line descends intimately and dangerously along the upright male bodies of the friend-disciple Nicodemus and his friend-master christ. What is achieved, if indirectly, in this reformulation of kinship, association, and relationality is a contingent remapping of gender and erotic performativity.”
There is an exuberant amount of evidence that Michelangelo was consciously aware of the discrepant alliances that are depicted in Pieta that represented his desires. As he neared his completion of the sculptor, he approached it with a hammer and pulverized parts of it in an angry rage. What was left of the statue proves to not be arbitrarily chosen because when every time the hammer fell, it severed parts between the figures. “The left arm of Christ, breaking at the shoulder, took with it the Virgin’s inappropriately searching left hand; his left leg, slung over her lap, cracked into pieces. Another blow to the right arm of the Magdalene divided her connection from the body of Christ, even as his shattering right hand, amputated from wrist to knuckles, withdrew its tentative caress from her shoulder.” Through the violence destruction of the marble and group, shows the exchanging of lives, which is resembled by a life taking hammer, and a life-giving chisel to show the elegy of an impossible community.
The homo/heterosexual definition and its ideological apparatus were framed by evolutionary biology and social anthropology by Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. Most if not all of diatribes of 19th century homosexuals were in reaction to these monumental works. In Descent, Darwin discusses and defines “civilization”, which is a product of human will, increases the advantage of cultures over others, thereby, countering many the randomness of natural selection. The characteristics of “civilization” or advantages progression are developed through sexual selection and reproduction, not survival of the fittest. Defining the crucial signs of sexual difference, Darwin created a taxonomy of sexual selection in which only heteronormatitivty of western civilization could exist. “the sexes often differ in… secondary sexual characteristics, which are not directly connected with the act of reproduction; for instance, in the male possessing certain organs of sense or location, of which the female is quite destitute, or in having them more highly-developed, in order that he may readily find or reach her; or again, in the male having special organs of prehension so as to hold her securely.” Darwin investigated further and made a statement in regards to lower races or savages where “the men are more highly ornamented than the women, and… the women… perform the greatest share of work.”
Reverberating Darwin’s work, many intellectuals wrote in the belief that civilization was held through the practice of consensual and pleasurable reproductive sex, as well as the sexual difference that made this act possible. This positioned the nonwestern savage against the western homosexual in a way to make homosexual’s subsidiary to others. “Each sex is latent in the other, and each, as it contains the character of both sexes… is latently hermaphrodite. A homosexual tendency may thus be regarded as simply the psychical manifestation of special characters of the recessive sex, susceptible of being evolved under changed circumstances, such as may occur near puberty and are associated with changed metabolism.” These specific mutations of Darwin’s Descent of sexual selection created an unusual relationship with the homosexual and savage. Evicted out of heternormative western civilization, both parties merged into one another. Conjoining these two groups of pariah created an outside community or the “ontological difference” that is defined by Bataille. A vanguard of something new, vague, and foreign into the realm of relationality.
Another example of fin-de-siecle politics, radicalism and sense of ethical and existential urgency, vegetarianism became conjoined with anti-colonialism through the writings and actions of Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi. In his autobiography that was written during his prison term at Yeravada, My Experiments with Truth depicts his learning from various books of vegetarianism. During his three years of legal studies in London, Ghandi read books about vegetarianism voraciously, which became the catalyst for his activism. By 1891, Ghandi gained an executive committee position of the London Vegetarian Society and made initiatives to start a new vegetarian club in Bayswater. His disposition towards vegetarianism was amalgamated with political agonism through his writings to Indian readership “the vegetarian movement will aid India politically… inasmuch as the English vegetarians… more readily sympathize with the Indian aspirations (that is my personal experience).” Defiance of the imperial statehood shows the elementary form of hospitality and or xenophilia.
Vegetarianism as an anti-colonial movement began in the beginning of the 18th century where dissenting against abstention, restraining and critique of kreophagy began. Advocating for the defense of the animal kingdom came through compassionate writing where the polemical against western brutality and carnage was shown. Animals became equally a part of social conditions where the relationship between one another meant when man thrived, animal thrived as well. Conjoining humanitarian resolves with kreophagy became an overarching theme that was supported by many including the Humane Review. Additionally, many other movements and persons became involved, largely in part of not being included in society. “By the early years of the twentieth century antivivisection had become a fringe movement, appealing to an assortment of feminists, labour activists, vegetarians, spiritualists, and others who did not fit easily into the established order of society.”
As an imperial critique, many individuals argued against vegetarianism because of physical enfeeblement that resembled effeminacy. Bengali intellectuals stereotyped individuals by blaming the climate and the national diet of vegetarianism that made the country deficient in masculinity. This lack of strength also signified colonial vulnerability, where individuals could not physically fight against the overbearing English colonialists. “About Vegetarian diet I have to say this… So long as man shall have to live a Rajasika (active) life under circumstances like the present, there is no other way except through meat-eating. It is true that the Emperor Ashoka saved the lives of millions of animals by the threat of the sword, but is not the slavery of a thousand years more dreadful than that? Taking the life of a few goats as against the ability to protect the honour of one’s own wife and daughter, and to save the morsels for one’s children robbing hands-which of these is the more sinful?…the forcing of vegetarianism upon those who have to earn their bread by labouring day and night, is one of the causes of the loss of our national freedom.” The ideal of masculine beings and their brute counterparts brought together homosexual apologetics where they sought to remove the sex from the synonym of cruelty and bestiality.
At the emergence of animal reformers, utilitarian ethics was implicit, where the pleasure or happiness of all humans was relevant to animals as well. The inception of the movement mainly stemmed from Jeremy Bentham, as he criticized Immanuel Kant’s concept of ethics where he acquitted man of ethical obligation of animals. His writing can be viewed as a direct dismissal of Descartes ideas that animals were machines because they could not feel pain or sensation. A believer in civility and rationality that considered the greatest number, Bentham’s An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, denounces human dominion. “The day may come when the rest of animal creation ay acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny… The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate… the question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? But, Can they suffer?” These polemical footnotes struck a devastating blow to western anthropocentricism, and inspired many to get involved in protecting animals.
Although a victory for many animal activists, the reformation was formulated under a class bias that held more scrutiny against working class families and individuals. The arguments used for animals were overwhelmed by the evasion and policing of the poor where they were taught how to act like those of a superior class. This vigilant attitude was passed down to many workers where cab drivers were told to be on the look out for overworked and worn animals. Additionally, if you were a “respectable” house owner, it was your obligation to the state to intervene in the animals that were being abused and misused when carrying specific goods. Justifying government and legislative intervention and regulation of the working classes, other Utilitarians such as John Stuart Mill advocated for an “age of improvement”. Society was to move physically, morally, or intellectually forward and away from savage civilization where they lacked obedience and a right to democracy. Mill also implicitly defended society’s colonial imperatives as a way of dealing with barbarians and backward societies.
Inadequately governed societies such as India became the target of Utilitarian reformation, where customs and manners had to be restrained, developed and curated by obeying authority. This became the catalyst for Gandhi where his advocacy for conscientious law breaking is a rebuttal against the overburdening utilitarian government and British imperialism. Intertwining the utilitarian project with animal welfare, fin-de-siecle discordant attitudes advocated for two things. First, an effort to remove animal welfare from the utilitarian agenda, by extending its liberation with anti-colonialism and working class individuals. Lastly, the liberation of animals had to untie the knot between an archaic and uncivilized society, which was also known as ahimsa.
Affective Communitites: Antiolonial Thought, Fin-De-Siecle Radicalism, and the Politics of Friendship unveils the once hidden and seemingly mundane interaction or gestures of iconoclasts and 19th century Victorian radical movements with acuity. Enervating the binary subjectivism of postmodern thought, anticommunitarian community and politics of friendship designates a contemporary thought that emancipates an individual from the pretense of beguiling of irrevocable sexual dimorphism. It also engenders postcolonial studies to envisage a society that is different than what is depicted through the myopic lens of some intellectuals.