Vinay Lal – The Future of (Cultural) Genocide
“The genocides of the future will likely be directed not at entire populations, but rather on what one might term sufficiently symbolic portions […].”
by Thorsten Pattberg
BEIJING- I recently came across the works of Vinay Lal, the writer, professor, and cultural critic. He has an impressive output and his theories on the sensitive field of Academic imperialism earned him a place among 101 ‘most dangerous’ professors in America [source: David Horowitz, The professors (2008). The field of ‘Academic imperialism,’ just like the related disciplines of ‘Cultural imperialism’ and, perhaps, ‘Orientalism,’ is not everyone’s park to walk.
Usually, critics of Western imperialism are derided, and at some point must surpass the strict boundaries of traditional academia and turn into public intellectuals to reach a greater audience. Noam Chomsky or Tariq Ali come to mind. Vinay Lal’s writing style is clear, engaging and provocative, supported by numerous historical facts from the point of view of the suppressed and deprived folks of our planet. Here are some extracts [source: Confronting Academic Knowledge, 2011]:
“In the 1980, 60 percent of scientists were described as being engaged, directly or indirectly, in defense research, a fact that, however much scientists, defense officials, policy experts, and counter-terrorism specialists may wish to resist its implications, has some bearing on the totalitarian nature of violence in the twentieth century.”
“What often furnishes a genocidal edge to total violence is immense disparities of power, and the late nineteenth century witnessed a number of developments that heralded the formal arrival of the genocidal twentieth century.”
“That is one principal reason why bombing from altitudes of 10,000 feet or more, where it becomes extremely difficult to distinguish military targets from civilian infrastructure, is now considered normative, even a form of moral bravery.”
“The forms of ‘humanitarian intervention’ are, let us recognize, just as asymmetrical as those colonial wars of expansion, conquest, and self-aggrandizement which decimated entire tribes or communities in the Americas, Australia, and Africa.”
The supreme role of the critic is to find beauty and ugliness in a piece of art. And, boy, is history beautiful and ugly.