Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Itinerant: Of Smells and Bells

Stepping out of a Lisbon home one warm summer afternoon, what hit the itinerant first was the stench. It wasn’t overpowering, but it was there, hanging in the air like a silent, but unwelcome guest at an intimate party. It was the stench of dog droppings. These droppings are an unpleasant fact of Lisbon life, given that most residents of Lisbon, unlike in some other parts of the “developed world”, do not normally scoop away the waste their pets create on public sidewalks. This tendency of course is pretty much like the attitude to waste in India, where we prefer to leave this task to the public sanitation workers. Perhaps this smell was so obvious because; unlike in the European winter, when these smells melt away with their source, under the beating of the unending rain, in summer the odours of city streets intensify, building up like the strong perfumes of spirits in snifters.

If the smell of dog droppings was the smell of this Lisbon street, then the stench of human waste is the smell that one associates with urban north India. It’s not a smell that goes away. On the contrary, this stench sticks to you, and not just to your skin, but to your memory. The stench returns to haunt you for years after you have left the Gangetic plains, coming back every time you think of the suffocating heat of the summer, when as in Lisbon, the odours of the street intensify in aroma. Indeed, after walking away from the smell of dog droppings on that street, it was the fecal smell of North India that hung suffocatingly like a plastic bag over the itinerants nostrils, like some phantom twin of the legendary third note of a perfume.

It seems a shame to not share the following anecdote while on the subject of the ubiquitous fecal presence in north India. While the facticity of this anecdote is dubious, the person who recounted the story swore it was true, producing as evidence, the fact that his brother once worked for the Indian Railways. The story tumbled out one festive evening when he advised us to not consume in any form the water that runs in the plumbing of the passenger coaches of the Indian Railway. It turns out that the lids of the water tanks on the roofs of these coaches would invariably be improperly fastened, coming loose in the course of the journey, exposing the water within to the elements.  What makes this situation bothersome is that as the (t)rusty steeds of the Indian rail swoosh towards their destination the currents of air created apparently sweep up all forms of minute particles in their path, depositing part of them in the exposed containers of water on their backs. Given the manner of waste disposal on the Indian rail, and the alternate use that the tracks and their vicinities are put to, it is not surprising that an examination indicated a high content of fecal matter in the water contained in these tanks!

It is smell that stays with you long after the moment has passed. Smell that strikes a bell somewhere in your subconscious and draws out memories long-forgotten, to be mulled over again. Some smells however, and indeed, their associated memories, one could do well without. 

(A version of this post was first published in The Goan on 8 Dec 2012)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Secular Riddle: Why Nandakumar Kamat Loved Bal Thackeray

For those who heaved a sigh of relief at the news of the death of Bal Thackeray, the response to his death was deeply agitating. Not merely politicians, but it appears the big names of Bollywood and sundry journalists seemed to be bend over backwards to pay compliments to a man who while doubtlessly a significant leader to members and partisans of the Shiv Sena, was responsible for much death and violence (not merely physical and material but discursive violence as well) in Bombay city and across those spaces in the country where his rhetoric had appeal. Of this violence, there has been not so much as a whisper in these accolades. It was pretty much in this vein that Nandakumar Kamat’s response in the Navhind Times to Thackeray’s death was crafted.

To a large extent, the writings of Nandakumar Kamat represent the perspective of the educated middle class segments of our society that imagine themselves to be secular. There are a number of interesting blindspots to their secularism however, that indicate the troubled nature of their commitment to, or understanding of, this virtue of contemporary democracy. It is for this reason that Kamat’s scripting of “Why Maharashtra Loved Bal Thackeray” needs to be reviewed.

Kamat’s eulogy to Thackeray, and let us make no mistake that his article is a eulogy, begins with an interesting insight into Kamat’s understanding of democracy. While a large number of Bomaicars were quite agitated by the decision to hold Thackeray’s cremation in Shivaji Park, Kamat justifies this decision by suggestion that the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan “was just bowing to the wishes of the people.” Kamat is clearly indicating here, his understanding of democracy, not as the rule of law over all people, or of democracy as the system that ensures the protection of the minority, but of democracy as majoritarian rule. This fascistic edge to Kamat’s eulogy unfortunately only deepens when he then goes on to evaluate Thackeray’s success in terms of his apparent appeal to the “grass-roots.” Masses and majority, these are two critical elements of fascism and there is not so much as a whimper of disagreement in Kamat’s essay.

In his eulogy, Kamat makes but a coy reference to Thackeray’s politics of intimidation and violence. He suggests that these politics were “basically the fear of demographic and cultural dilution followed by economic and political marginalization which creates a regional backlash in any state.” Thus Kamat is suggesting that the violent actions of the Shiv Sena were the result of the Maharashtrian inhabitants, who have first dibs on the city, feeling marginalized. Indeed this sugar-coating of a deeply problematic man’s poisonous, and avoidable legacy is carried further when Kamat suggests that Thackeray was a hero because he was able to, speaking “from his heart” give space for the Marathi middle class “looking for some respect, identity and recognition” a sense of “Maharashtrian cultural pride”.

Kamat has gotten his facts grievously mixed up however. He forgets that the borders of contemporary Maharashtra were forged recently, in 1960, as a result of the reorganization of the Bombay state into the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Prior to this there were cultural boundaries to Marathi territory, and unlike other parts of contemporary Maharashtra that could possibly claim a unchallenged identification with just one language, the city of Bombay was never a part of this wholly Maharashtrian cultural community. The city of Bombay forged its own cultural space, being the home of the East Indians, Parsis, Gujaratis (who in 1960 even claimed Bombay for their own state), Goans, Italians, Arabs, Persians, Britishers and of course the Portuguese, to name just a few. If today Bombay can be unproblematicaly be seen as Maharashtrian territory, it is because Thackeray was able to, subsequent to the 1960 inclusion of Bombay city as a part of the State of Maharashtra, craft Bombay as an exclusively Maharashtrian city through his politics of violence. Indeed, the Maratha and Marathi, were and are, as much migrants to the city of Bombay as any of the other groups that Kamat so condescendingly dismisses as “non Marathi migrants in Mumbai who have made the megapolis their permanent home.”

I would argue that Kamat gets his facts mixed up because he looks at the issue from another fascistic perspective, which is to see the world as naturally composed of monolithic cultural communities born when language and territory overlap. In the present case it could be Maharashtra and Marathi, but it could just as well be Goa and Konkani. It is because Kamat is sympathetic to this parochial (mildly racist even) view of the world, that he is able to make sense of, and justify, Thackeray’s politics. It is for this reason that Kamat does not see the complex history of Bombay, and restricts himself only to Maharashtrian history from “original Marathi sources” when attempting to understand and put forth the case of Balasaheb Thackeray.

There is no doubt that Balasaheb Thackeray was able to capitalize on the angst of the Marathi Hindu middle-class and dominant caste groups. However we have to be able to see that these groups do not, nor did they necessarily ever, have any primary right to the city of Bombay, nor indeed in the rest of Maharashtra (in the latter case they would have to necessarily share space with non-dominant caste groups). In the case of Bombay city, the Marathi migrants were merely one more set of migrants that through a stroke of fate gained dubious claim to first dibs on the city in the state carved out on racist lines. Further, we have to recognize that Thackeray’s politics of violence, is not the only way to deal with the “fear of demographic and cultural dilution” and “economic and political marginalization” that Kamat refers to. Indeed, Kamat himself points to the fact that Thackeray was vociferously against the democratic strategies that seek to negotiate economic and cultural marginalization outlined in the Mandal Commission Report.

The last issue that needs to be addressed in Kamat’s eulogy is his muffling of the strident Hindu nationalism that lay at the core of Thackeray’s rhetoric.  It is perhaps in this realm that the problematic nature of Kamat’s secularism comes across. Rather than acknowledge that there is a profound problem with Hindu nationalism, he seems to join those “secular” nationalist who seek to justify all but the most violent of Hindutva’s manifestations. Thus, Veer Savarkar, the possible mastermind of the Gandhi assassination, and leader of the Hindu Right, is presented merely as a “great Hindu nationalist and reformer”. There is also something of a dismissal of those who aware of Thackeray and the Shiv Sena’s Hindu nationalist history saw in the huge turnout at the funeral a “Hindu backlash”. More sophisticated social science research points out that conscious action is not everything. Groups very often unconsciously follow patterns that have been established. Thus there need not have to be a conscious effort to demonstrate Hindu power, Thackeray and the Shiv Sena spent decades making sure their every action was justified in terms of the rightful assertion of Hindu power. Furthermore, the stories of the forcible shutting down of shops, of extra-legal curfews policed by youth carrying saffron flags speak volumes about the death of Thackeray being used as one more example of the assertion of Hindu power.  Kamat’s silence on this front and his muffling of the strident Hindu nationalist positions of the Shiv Sena are deeply disturbing. They are disturbing because of one, or a combination of three possible reasons; he does not see Hindu nationalism as problematic, he is unaware of that Hindu nationalist violence is possible because of the silence which routinely greets it, or because it is assumed to be the work of lumpen lower class Hindu elements that can easily be held in check by upper-caste leaders. All three are profoundly erroneous.

Kamat’s eulogy to Bal Thackeray is deeply troubling because it indicated an acceptance of political violence directed by authoritarian leaders directing mobs, where rights seem to belong first to the people of the land, and then to those persons labeled as migrants. These migrants could be randomly defined on the basis of religion, language, caste or territory. These are signs of merely a superficial commitment to democracy and secularism. Bal Thackeray may have passed on, but his legacy it appears, may still linger on.

Goans should read essays such as "Why Maharashtra Loved Bal Thackeray" only with the greatest of circumspection. This is because, in the light of the demands for 'Special Status' such essays are softening up the public opinion for the kind of horrendous changes that Bal Thackeray wrought on Bombay. A good many Goans may believe that they are being marginalized in their own land, but the Thackeray route is not solution, since it will not address the needs of the truly marginalized within Goa, and it will be built on a Hindu majoritarianism, cleverly disguised as was the result of the Konkani language movement. No, Bal Thackeray, and Special Status, despite what many fondly believe, are not the response to Goa's challenges.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Itinerant Mendicant: The rules of the table

As a little boy, in the home of my mother, I learned my table manners well. Many years later, sitting at a table in an Urdu speaking household, I learned that these manners were so esteemed they were elevated to an etiquette, the Adab e Dastarkhwan. The rules were simple. When sitting at a table, and before serving oneself, make a mental count of the number of people at the table. Subsequently, take just less than the portion that would result from the notional division of the served food among the people at the table. This was your justifiable and polite share of the food. The assumptions of this Adab assumed that everyone at the table would be similarly courteous, leaving behind a substantial portion of food left behind. Once the first servings were exhausted, the great game of the Adab would begin, where the host, would press upon his guest to have more. The Adab requires that elegant guest politely decline, indicating that one had had one’s full. Not to be undone the host would press his entreaties to eat some more upon you. It was only on refusing about three times, the rules indicated, that it was proper for one to accept the offer of the host.

It was these rules of politeness I carried on my first trip across the seven seas to the New World. There in San Francisco, I was invited one evening to dinner at the home of a neighbor and friend. The main, course was a grilled salmon. There were three of us at table, and as I was serving myself, my mother’s voice that I had internalized kicked in. I took less than what I could have. Predictably, there was some salmon left over once every one was done with round one. This is when my host inquired of me, “Jason, you’ve hardly eaten! Would you like some more?” Recognizing the signal for the baroque dance of pressing, and refusal, and pressing some more, I politely refused, “Oh no!” said I, “I’ve had quite enough thank you.” The “American”, it appears, takes the word at face value. So onward proceeded my good host, to my mild discomfort, to the next guest “Flacko, would you like some more?” Flacko too, had apparently had quite enough, and so it turned out that my host, with a great sigh declaimed, “oh well, in that case, I might as well eat it myself and not let it go waste.”

Horrors! This was not the way it was supposed to be! What happened to those rules that first Mummy, and then my adopted Urdu family had stressed were fundamental to civilized life? Perhaps that was the first step of this mendicant’s itinerancy, realization of the post-modern condition. The moment when he realized that the world does not run by one single rule, but by a variety of rules. There is not one game, but a series of games. The trick lies in figuring out the rules (because there are always rule) before you get thrown out of the play.

That evening, after dinner, I returned home, hungry and cooked a farewell dinner for the certitudes of my pre-itinerant life. A new world was now beginning to open up.

(A version of this post was first published in The Goan on 10 Nov 2012)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Consuming Empire: The continuing vitality of the Indo-Portuguese

The fourth episode of the Semana da Cultura Indo-Portuguesa makes an interesting and critical innovation this year. Rather than restrict itself, as it formerly did, to the possibly provincial location of Goa, this year the Semana travels to the Indo-Portuguese world’s former metropole[1], Lisbon. This innovation is significant because, in doing so, the Indo-Portuguese (Goans and others) make a grand claim. They indicate to themselves, and to others, that theirs is not a provincial culture to be appreciated only among intimates and in the shuttered confines of the home. On the contrary, it is a cosmopolitan culture, crafted from the mingling of the Indian Ocean cultures, and must be justifiably appreciated universally. Indeed, as this essay will go on to suggest, the Indo-Portuguese, and Goa in particular, could lay rightful claim to being a centre of a cosmopolitan Portuguese culture. Hopefully, Lisbon will mark only the first of these international assertions of Indo-Portuguese culture.

It is because this year’s Semana da Cultura marks a break in certain traditions, however, that it is important for us to also acknowledge that the Semana must also articulate itself in a new language. If it fails to do so, then these bold cosmopolitan moves will get lost in the provincial imaginations that populate, among other places, the metropolitan imagination in Portugal. Take for example the manner in which the Indo-Portuguese encounter is largely understood in Portugal. If a Goan were to meet a Portuguese person in any part of the world, the Portuguese is bound to inquire of the Goan if there are still, fifty years after India integrated Goa into itself, signs of a Portuguese presence. What this Portuguese person is invariably looking for is the robust presence of the Portuguese language, or the presence of persons with metropolitan Portuguese ancestry and, finally, perhaps Portuguese architecture. In all of these cases, the ‘Portuguese’ or the Indo-Portuguese that they seek, is not only something tangible, but something that is seen to originate unambiguously in metropolitan, or continental Portugal.

There are a number of problems however with viewing the vestiges and the continuing remains of the Portuguese Empire in this manner. To begin with, the Portuguese language continues to remain in Goa, as it was in the period of Portuguese sovereignty in the sub-continent, a minority (though by no means dying) language. Secondly, given the racialist biases of the caste system, most (upper-caste) people would not acknowledge their non-‘Indian’ roots, even if these existed. Thus, most upper-caste Goans refuse to acknowledge a possible metropolitan ancestry. Given the manner that writing on and about Goa is largely written from these upper-caste location, imagination of the Goan self is largely trapped within these frameworks, and there is not much work, at least in the English language, that explores non upper-caste locations and histories of the Goan selves. Finally, there are many who will argue that except for some buildings in Old Goa, most of the civil and religious architecture that one finds in Goa, is not in fact Portuguese, but Goan, or at the most, Indo-Portuguese.

Those of us who are committed to a continuing dialogue between Portugal and Goa may feel somewhat fatigued by such a scenario, but before we attempt to redress this state of affairs, we should also underline the fact that in the first place, the manner in which this search for the ‘Portuguese’ in Goa, and the identification of the ‘Indo-Portuguese’ is set up by these well-intentioned metropolitan Portuguese, is in fact rather problematic. It is problematic because implicit in this search for traces of the Portuguese, there is the idea that genuine Portuguese-ness emerges only from continental, now nation-state, Portugal; that Goa is only the space for receipt of this culture; and finally, following receipt, Goa can only faithfully reproduce. Any deviation from the original is seen as being ‘syncretic’, which is to say, watered-down Portuguese. The term ‘syncretic’ represents one more challenge to understand the vitality of the Indo-Portuguese, since it sets up a binary opposition. Either something can be ‘Portuguese’ or it can be ‘Indian’. If it is not Portuguese, then it is ‘syncretic’, that is to say, not quite ‘Indian’, and definitely, not ‘authentically’ Portuguese. Indeed within this framework, the Indo-Portuguese is exactly that, one half Portuguese, a half whose Portuguese pedigree must be definitely ascertained.

The practical implications of these constructions of the Portuguese, is that the poor Indo-Portuguese (and I am thinking particularly of Goans) are doomed to ceaseless blind repetition if their cultural productions are to be understood as maintaining a link with Portugal. Thus, we have the unending repetition of the Corridinho, of the same old Portuguese language songs from the 1950s and such like. In a situation that T. B. Cunha, in his polemical tract The Denationalizaton of the Goans, both warned against and would have abhorred, this framework leaves no space for the Goan to engage in cultural innovation, and still have these innovations considered as within the frames of the ‘Portuguese’. There is thus clearly a need for us to articulate a different, or additional, paradigm[2] to understand the manner in which the Portuguese continues to robustly inhere within the Goan body politic.

Happily for us, the Lusophone world, in the metaphor of anthropophagy provides us with just the vantage point from which we can recast the relationship of the Indo-Portuguese to Portugal, and see the existence of a much larger Portugal beyond the usual, and unsatisfactory, understandings of Portuguese-ness in Goa.

While the word anthropophagy refers to the eating of human flesh, and is derived from the Greek words anthropos, “human being” and, phagein, “to eat”; there is a unique history of the Lusophone world to this practice of eating humans. Where popular Eurocentric imagination holds ‘African tribes’ to be cannibals, some scholars suggest that it was the target population of the slave trade in Africa who first developed the idea that the early modern metropolitan Portuguese were in fact taking people away to eat them. That they practiced a religion that stressed the eating of a divine human being who gave his life for them, perhaps only deepened this African belief about these Portuguese. As things came to pass, however, by some sleight of hand, it was these African groups that were then held by later Europeans to in fact be the cannibals! Anthropophagy however is different from cannibalism, a fact underlined by the Movimento Anthropophago (Anthropophagic Movement) one of the more important Brazilian literary and artistic movements of twentieth century Latin America. This movement pointed out, with reference to the practices of the Tupinamba tribe of the Amazons, that people were not eaten for the pleasure of the taste for human flesh or hunger, but to incorporate the essence and attributes of the victim who had been eaten. This logic is not foreign to South Asian understandings of the world. In this part of the globe, the leftovers of a superior being, be it a husband, guru, or deity, are often consumed, though without the element of equalizing present in the modern Brazilian interpretation of the act, precisely to incorporate the essence of the superior into one’s being.

What is critical to our understanding of the adoption of the anthropophagic metaphor in recasting the relationship of the Indo-Portuguese to Portuguese-ness, is that the Anthropophagic movement in Brazil was an attempt to challenge the centrality of Europe in the crafting of the Brazilian identity. Rather than the source of unmitigated good, Europe was seen as inherently problematic. It was largely the virtues of the indigenous, who had incorporated cultural forms from Europe, through this process of corporeal ingestion that were believed to be able to provide a new holistic direction to the development, not merely of Brazil, but Latin America and all of its peoples. What I seek to emphasize here, is the move that the use of anthropophagy metaphor sought to effect, which is that of liberation from the centrality of Europe as being the definer. The liberation intended was almost nationalist, being an attempt to assert an independence from the former metropoles of Latin America. In their imagining, anthropophagy could subvert meanings, destroy hierarchies, escape the oppressive forces of colonial relations, and transfigure their nihilistic energies into a source of vitality. My own use of anthropophagy, however, is not to assert a nationalist sensibility but, rather, like the Semana da Cultura, to transcend it. Nationality and national identities have their own place, but there is more that our identities and cultural capacities are capable of, and this is what I seek to underline in this text.

The contours of anthropophagy as developed by the Movement are no doubt riddled with their own problems, but a restricted understanding of anthropophagy, limited to the idea of bodily incorporation and reconstitution of that which is ingested has distinct advantages. It would allow us to see a role of the Indo-Portuguese as not merely derivative of the Portuguese, or incompletely Portuguese, but as Portuguese in their own right, having, in the course of their half-millennium-long encounter ingested, digested and incorporated the Portuguese and all that came in the wake of the Portuguese. The reverse is of course true of the continental Portuguese, though this is not seen as problematic in continental Portugal, where African, Chinese, Indic and other elements are seen as naturally part of the Portuguese fabric, not a syncretic, that is to say, add-on, part[3]. Indeed, one could argue that this inequality in relations is precisely because all along it is the metropole, that is metropolitan Portugal, alone that has had the right to be seen as the devourer, and not the colony. An anthropophagic moment, then, while asserting the communion between metropolitan and colonial, would also affirm a radical equality that has as yet, not been affirmed, despite the putative ‘Liberation’ of 1961 and its subsequent metropolitan recognition in 1974, neither in the metropole, nor in the colony.

The anthropophagic moment rests however on a crucial distinction that what we consumed was not Portugal the post-colonial nation-state, but Portugal the Empire. Further, by carrying forward the anthropophagic trope and simultaneously embodying the Empire, we can take the dismemberment of the Empire, in the wake of its forced decolonization, as symbolic of its butchering for consumption. What we are left with therefore, are those who partook in that banquet. This leaves us with the Angolans, the Mozambicans, the Indo-Portuguese, and the Portuguese of the Portuguese nation-state, all of whom, having consumed the Empire, now embody Portuguese-ness differently, yet equally. If we are today unable to perceive this equality of Portuguese-ness among the post-colonial guests at the banquet of decolonization, then it is because of the privilege of self-referentiality that has been taken up from this banquet by the former imperial centres. Thus Portugal the nation-state continues to bear the name of the Empire, just as the nation-state of India, takes on the name of the former imperial sub-centre of the British Raj. In both cases they use this name to be seen as The legitimate successor states, a practice that must necessarily be challenged to effect genuinely democratic postcolonial politics[4].

If the Indo-Portuguese is viewed in this anthropophagic light, then one would perhaps not be consumed with possible anxieties, experienced by some cultural entrepreneurs, of presenting only what is identifiably Portuguese or whose Portuguese ancestry can be traced. Anything, and everything, that the Indo-Portuguese produces is also instantly part of the Portuguese oeuvre, regardless of the intention of the producer. This move of affirming the Portuguese-ness of the Indo-Portuguese should not raise fears of erasing the identity of the specificities of, say, the Goans. On the contrary, the Goans would continue to affirm their individual identity. On the contrary, rather than see this as a validation of the continuing centrality of the metropole, this anthropophagic perspective would allow us to see multiple centres for Portuguese-ness and follow with equal interest the developments that are taking place in each of these spaces.

Thus, just as subsequent to Portugal’s incorporation into the European Union there has been a flowering in a variety of fields, so too, as Goa has been joined into the Indian Union there has been a transformation from the traditionally recognized Indo-Portuguese into a variety of fields. These influences have come from the larger world of the Indian Union, perhaps lesser so from the rest of the subcontinent. Cultural flows have been profound from the Anglophone world, in particular the United Kingdom and the United States of America, just as metropolitan Portugal has often been strongly attuned to cultural developments in the United Kingdom and ingests and incarnates contemporary cultural developments in the United States. The developments have taken place not only in Goa, but through its substantial diaspora, a diaspora not dissimilar to the metropolitan Portuguese, across the world, and in a variety of fields.

On the other hand, there is no reason for those who are concerned that a conversation with Portugal will come to an end as a result of this decentering of the Portuguese nation-state. The decentering of the post-colonial Portuguese State to allow for a recognition of multiple centres does not call for a cessation of conversation. It continues to allow for these conversations, but at the same time affirms that simultaneous conversations must also be conducted with other parts of the Lusophone world, as well as those parts of the world that while not being a part of the late Portuguese empire, were critical to creating the unique character of the Indo-Portuguese centre of that empire. Take for example therefore, the conversation that occurred with East Africa, those territories under Portuguese sovereignty, as well as those under British, both during the late colonial period, as well as earlier times. Or with Ethiopia, or with the Persian State. This decentring calls not for an end to conversation, but rather a broadening of the conversation to point to the depth of contacts that the imperial Portuguese period provided to the construction of the Indo-Portuguese character.

A shift away from the syncretic model of cultural impact towards the anthropophagic affords us a more profound way toward appreciating the Indo-Portuguese as it arrives in Lisbon this year. It allows us to recognize that the sub-continent can be an originary font of a vibrant and dynamic Portuguese culture, affording what scholars would call agency, to the Indo-Portuguese. It allows for continuing dialogues, not rooted only in the past, but conversations that can look forward to the future, building relationships and partnerships that are not necessarily limited to the cultural. Given the emphasis that is being placed here on a gustatory model, then, let us raise a toast to the Semana da Cultura Indo-Portuguesa and the affirmative step it takes to show us that the Indo-Portuguese is indeed alive and kicking.

(A shorter version of this essay was published in The Goan, on 20 Sept 2012.

I would like to dedicate this essay to my friend and colleague Prof. Dileep Loundo, via whom I first encountered the concept of anthropophagy, and who opened the doors to thinking about Goa from the Brazilian experience.

Further, I would like to share laurels for the crafting of this essay with Benedito Ferrão. And finally thanks to Miguel Vale de Almeida for some amount of publicity about the essay and the ensuing attention. )

[1] I would like to draw the attention of the reader to the specificity of usage of the words ‘metropole’ and ‘metropolitan’, terms I draw from usage in Postcolonial theory. Rather than refer to a significant urban setting, metropole refers to, and underlines, the centrality of the colonial capital. Consequently, metropolitan refers to that which belongs to the metropole, whether it be a person, a value, or object.
[2] I would like to stress that I find the complete discrediting and abandoning of one theoretical model for another rather problematic. Such abandoning and embrace erroneously suggests that one theoretical model can effectively capture complex realities and forces us into static models of appreciating dynamic social processes. Also, the abandoning of one model for another fails to take into consideration that after a length of time, a representational model does in fact come to mould reality, such that it cannot be dismissed as irrelevant, given that it now has a very real, embodied presence in the field of study.
[3] I would like to suggest however, that this acceptance is more appropriately restricted to culture of the Portuguese elite groups, rather than a feature of popular Portuguese culture throughout the nation-state. Following from its nineteenth century origins and subsequent development by the Estado Novo, this popular culture celebrates the assumedly hermetic cultures of peasant groups in various parts of continental Portugal. The elite groups on the other hand, rely on their linkages with the Empire, to demonstrate, through the quotidian use, or display, of Oriental objects, the length of presence as members of Portugal’s elite, or of their comfortable presence within this group.
[4] As I make this observation however, I am aware of other imperial politics that are at play, and this is the manner in which in this essay, Goa, the imperial sub-centre, swallows up the rest of the very wide and diverse Indo-Portuguese world. I make this observation only to highlight that I am aware of this failing in the text, and beg only for more time and opportunity when I will be able to elaborate on a broader understanding of the Indo-Portuguese and the manner in which it can respond to this cannibalistic devouring that Goa, and Goans, often undertake.