Saturday, August 06, 2011

Vivan Sundaram on the artists' call for boycott

Each one of us will respond to a greater or lesser degree to a historical moment, a place, a movement, to express our solidarity. But one does not need to recount at every point all the ills that beset the world's nation-states and thus cancel every political call on that basis.
                                                                                   Vivan Sundaram, in the Hindu, 6 August 2011.

For context, see Girish Shahane's posts on N. Pushpamala's call for a boycott of a show in Israel. (Shahane, of course, clearly doesn't support cultural boycotts of any kind.)

I <3 Vivan Sundaram.


km said...

Boycotting is easy. But to make things easier for the artists, they should be given a clear set of criteria on what countries are suitable for exhibiting their works; countries that meet the Artists Seal of Approval.

You know where I'm going with this.

Space Bar said...

km: Do you really think so or are you saying it because boycotts and suchlike make you uncomfortable, or because you think they achieve little?

See Elvis Costello. See Roger Waters.

Me, I think for those who know little and care less,a call for boycott at least concentrates attention on something that surely deserves discussion and debate.

Oh - and this, from the recent protests in Tel Aviv:

"The organisers have striven to keep the movement as inclusive as possible, incorporating left and right, secular and religious, Jews and Arabs.

They have avoided publicly making connections between the amount spent on settlements and the military for fear of being branded anti-occupation activists." (emphasis mine. Link.)

km said...

I am **outraged** by the Israeli government's official line on Palestine but I am also unclear about what such boycotts do to change the government's behavior. Hence my unbridled cynicism. (Though I fully agree with you about the spotlight the boycott may help shine...)

Pardon me for I am going into full-blown Old Cranky Man mode for a second. (I am old and I am cranky, goshdarnit.)

If spotlights and behavior-changing is what we are seeking, why are prominent artists not boycotting USA and UK (and our beloved allies) for the Iraq/Afghanistan incursions?

Isn't it cute that Roger Waters, a man who confessed a long time ago that "money is a hit/so don't give me that goody goody bullshit", should boycott the Israel concert when he's had no qualms with playing in countries with equally questionable track records as Israel? (Hint: filling in stadiums at $80 a pop is a sweet, sweet thing. And you don't even have to learn to play new songs!!!)

I really wish old English rockers would start with boycotting their own country for all the morally reprehensible things done by their government in the last 200 years before satiating their activist desires in Tibet and Palestine.

But - as you said - this is about a spotlight and that's OK.

P.S.: Dylan recently played China and predictably, a chorus of "HYPOCRITE!!!" rang out in op-ed pages. They demanded that he boycott the concert. Oh the earnestness!

Space Bar said...

km: Fair enough.

I have to say, though, that I don't think what is happening around Israel is only a question of spotlighting issues about Palestine. There is a concerted BDS on and a cultural and academic boycott adds weight to the campaign.

I completely agree with you about having to talk about why such boycotts do not take place against the US, UK or other European countries trying to get their foot back in in different parts of Africa.

To which, see the quote I highlighted at the top of this post. "one does not need to recount at every point all the ills that beset the world's nation-states and thus cancel every political call on that basis."

(Actually, this is the reason why I chose this from a lot of what was sensible in Sundaram's letter to the Hindu: because I knew a statement of support here would induce questions about the US, UK, etc. This is not the first time, after all.)