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Society for Comparative Studies in Society and History

Resistance and the Problem of Ethnographic Refusal Author(s): Sherry B. Ortner Source: Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Jan., 1995), pp. 173-193 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/179382 . Accessed: 26/11/2013 17:05
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Resistance and the Problem of EthnographicRefusal


SHERRY B. ORTNER Universityof California, Berkeley This essay traces the effects of what I call ethnographic refusal on a series of studies surrounding the subject of resistance. I argue that many of the most influential studies of resistance are severely limited by the lack of an ethnographicperspective. Resistance studies in turn are meant to stand in for a work being done these days within and across great deal of interdisciplinary the social sciences, history, literature,culturalstudies, and so forth. Ethnographyof course means many things. Minimally, however, it has anotherlife world using the self-as always meant the attemptto understand much of it as possible-as the instrumentof knowing. As is by now widely known, ethnographyhas come undera great deal of internalcriticism within anthropologyover the past decade or so, but this minimal definition has not for the most part been challenged. has been closely linked with field Classically, this kind of understanding work, in which the whole self physically and in every other way enters the space of the world the researcherseeks to understand.Yet implicit in much of the recent discussions of ethnographyis something I wish to make explicit here:thatthe ethnographic stance (as we may call it) is as much an intellectual (and moral) positionality, a constructive and interpretivemode, as it is a bodily process in space and time. Thus, in a recent useful discussion of and the historicalimagination,"Johnand Jean Comaroffspend "ethnography little time on ethnography in the sense of field work but a greatdeal relatively of time on ways of readinghistoricalsources ethnographically, that is, partly as if they had been producedthroughfield work (1992). What, then, is the ethnographic stance, whetherbased in field work or not?
1 An earlier and very different version of this essay was written for "The Historic Turn" Conferenceorganizedby Terrence McDonaldfor the Programin the Comparative Study of Social Transformations (CSST) at the University of Michigan. The extraordinarily high level of insightfulness and helpfulness of critical comments from my colleagues in CSST has by now become almost routine, and I wish to thank them collectively here. In addition, for close and detailed readings of the text, I wish to thank FrederickCooper, FernandoCoronil, Nicholas Dirks, Val Daniel, Geoff Eley, Ray Grew, Roger Rouse, William Sewell, Jr., Julie Skurski, Ann Stoler, and the excellent readerswho reviewed the article for this journal. I have incorporated many of their suggestions and know that I have ignored some at my peril. Finally, for valuable comments as well as for the heroic job of organizingthe conference, I wish especially to thank TerrenceMcDonald. 0010-4175/95/1792-0396 forComparative of Society $7.50 + .10 ? 1995Society andHistory Study

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It is first and foremosta commitmentto whatGeertzhas called "thickness,"to producing understandingthrough richness, texture, and detail, rather than parsimony,refinement, and (in the sense used by mathematicians) elegance. The forms that ethnographicthickness have taken have of course changed over time. There was a time when thickness was perhapssynonymous with exhaustiveness, producing the almost unreadablydetailed descriptive ethnography,often followed by the famous "AnotherPot from Old Oraibi"kind of journal article. Later, thickness came to be synonymouswith holism, the idea thatobject understudywas "a"highly integrated "culture" and thatit was possible to describe the entire system or at least fully grasp the principles underlyingit. Holism in this sense has also been under attack for some time, and most today recognize both the hubrisof the holistic vision and the anthropologists innumerablegaps and fissures in all societies, including the so-called premoder societies thatwere imaginedto be more integratedand whole than we fragmentedmoders. Yet I would argue that thickness (with traces of both exhaustiveness and holism) remains at the heart of the ethnographicstance. Nowadays, issues of thicknessfocus primarilyon issues of (relativelyexhaustive) contextualization.George Marcus, for example, examines the ways in which ethnographyin the local and usually bodily sense must be contextualized within the global processes of the world system (1986). And the Comaroffs emphasize the need always to contextualize the data produced throughfield work and archivalresearchwithin the forms of practice within which they took shape: "If texts are to be more than literarytopoi, scattered shards from which we presume worlds, they have to be anchored in the processes of their production, in the orbits of connection and influence that give them life and force"(1992:34). MarthaKaplanand JohnKelly also insist on a kind of density of contextualization,in their case by articulatingthe of the dialogic space within which a political history must be characteristics seen as unfolding (1994). If the ethnographicstance is founded centrallyon (among other things, of course) a commitmentto thickness and if thickness has taken and still takes many forms, what I am calling ethnographicrefusal involves a refusal of thickness, a failureof holism or density which itself may take various forms. This study, then, is about some of the forms of ethnographic refusal, some of its consequences, and some of its reasons, organized around the topic of resistance. A few words first, then, about resistance.
RESISTANCE AND DOMINATION

Once upon a time, resistancewas a relatively unambiguouscategory,half of the seemingly simple binary,dominationversus resistance.Dominationwas a form of power;resistancewas essentially relativelyfixed and institutionalized in this way. This binarybegan institutionalized to organizedopposition power

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to be refined (but not abolished)by questioningboth terms. On the one hand, Foucault (for example, 1978) drew attention to less institutionalized,more pervasive, and more everydayforms of power;on the otherhand, JamesScott (1985) drew attentionto less organized, more pervasive, and more everyday forms of resistance. With Scott's delineationof the notion of "everydayforms of resistance" (1985), in turn, the question of what is or is not resistance became much more complicated.2When a poor man steals from a rich man, is this resistance or simply a survival strategy?The question runs through an entire collection of essays devoted to everydayforms of resistance(Scott and Kerkvliet 1986), and differentauthorsattemptto answer it in differentways. Michael Adas, for example, constructsa typology of forms of everydayresistance, the better to help us place what we are seeing (1986). Brian Fegan concentrateson the questionof intention:If a relativelyconscious intentionto resist is not present, the act is not one of resistance(1986). Still others (Stoler 1986; Cooper 1992) suggest thatthe categoryitself is not very helpful and that the importantthing is to attend to a variety of transformative processes, in which things do get changed, regardlessof the intentionsof the actors or of the presence of very mixed intentions. In the long run I might agree with Stoler and Cooper, but for the momentI think resistance, even at its most ambiguous, is a reasonablyuseful category, if only because it highlightsthe presence and play of power in most forms of relationshipand activity.Moreover,we are not requiredto decide once and for all whetherany given act fits into a fixed box called resistance. As Marxwell knew, the intentionalitiesof actorsevolve throughpraxis, and the meaningsof the acts change, both for the actor and for the analyst. In fact, the ambiguity of resistanceand the subjectiveambivalenceof the acts for those who engage in them are among the things I wish to emphasize in this essay. In a relationship of power, the dominantoften has something to offer, and sometimes a great deal (thoughalways of course at the price of continuingin power). The subordinatethus has many groundsfor ambivalenceabout resisting the relationship. Moreover,thereis never a single, unitary,subordinate,if only in the simple sense that subaltern groups are internally divided by age, gender, status, and other forms of difference and that occupants of differing subject positions will have different, even opposed, but still legitimate, perspectives on the situation. (The question of whethereven a single person is "unitary" will be addressedlater in this article.) Both the psychological ambivalenceand the social complexityof resistance have been noted by several, but not enough, observers.3 Brian Fegan talks about being "constantlybaffled by the contradictoryways peasants talked aboutthe tenancy system in general, or abouttheirown relationswith particu3 The notion of ambivalence has become central to colonial and post-colonial studies more generally and is wortha paperin itself. See for example W. Hanks(1986) and H. Bhabha(1985).

2 Scott was of course drawingon a wealth of earlier scholarship.

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lar landlords"(1986:92). Moreover, the peasants of Central Luzon whom Fegan studied were psychologically uncomfortablewith both acts of resistance and acts of collaboration: to me privately about the strategems brokeoff Manymentalking theyuse to survive, to say theyfoundtheftfromthe landlord, for the landlord as guards,arms working Butwhatelse coulda person withchildren do? (1986:93) dealing,etc. distasteful. In a different vein, Christine Pelzer White says that "we must add an inventoryof 'everydayforms of peasantcollaboration' to balance our list of 'everyday forms of peasant resistance': both exist, both are important" Vietnam (1986:56). She goes on to presentexamples from post-revolutionary of varying alliances between sectors with differentinterests, including "the
state and peasantry against the local elite . . . the peasants and the local elite against the state . . . the state and individuals [mostly women] against [male]

household heads" (1986:60). Closely relatedto questions of the psychological and socio-political complexity of resistance and non-resistance(and to the need for thick ethnography) is the question of authenticity.Authenticity is another highly problematizedterm, insofaras it seems to presumea naive belief in culturalpurity, in untouchedcultures whose histories are uncontaminated by those of their the I no or of west. make such there nonetheless, neighbors presumptions; must be a way to talk aboutwhat the Comaroffscall "theendogenoushistoricity of local worlds"(1992:27), in which the pieces of reality,however much borrowedfrom or imposedby others, are woven togetherthroughthe logic of a group's own locally and historicallyevolved bricolage. It is this that I will in the discussionsthatfollow, as I turnto a consideration mean by authenticity of some of the recent literatureon resistance. I should note here that the works to be discussed constitutea very selected and partialset, and I make no claims to cover the entire literature.In this era of interdisciplinarity, than ever, scholarlyexhaustivenessis more unattainable but, more important,the works are selected here either because they have been very influentialor because they illustratea fairly common problem or both. In any event, the point of the discussion is to examine a number of problems in the resistanceliteraturearising from the stance of ethnographic refusal. The discussion will be organized in terms of three forms of such refusal, which I will call sanitizingpolitics, thinningculture, and dissolving actors.
SANITIZING POLITICS

It may seem odd to startoff by criticizingstudiesof resistancefor not containing enough politics. If there is one thing these studies examine, it is politics, front and center. Yet the discussion is usually limited to the politics of resistance, that is, to the relationshipbetween the dominantand the subordinate (see also Cooper 1992:4). If we are to recognize thatresistorsare doing more

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than simply opposing domination, more than simply producing a virtually mechanical re-action, then we must go the whole way. They have their own politics-not just between chiefs and commonersor landlordsand peasants but within all the local categories of friction and tension: men and women, parentsand children, seniors and juniors; inheritanceconflicts among brothers; strugglesof succession and wars of conquestbetweenchiefs; strugglesfor primacy between religious sects; and on and on. It is the absence of analysis of these forms of internalconflict in many resistance studies that gives them an air of romanticism,of which they are often accused (for example, Abu-Lughod 1990). Let me take one example, from a fine book that I admire on many other counts: Inga Clendinnen's AmbivalentConquests:Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan,1517-1570 (1987). Clendinnenrecognizes that there were Maya chiefs who had significant advantages of materialresources, political power, and social precedence. She also recognizes that, in this sort of polity, chiefs had many obligationsin turn to their subjects, includingthe redistribution of (some) wealth throughfeasts and hospitalityand the staging of ritualsfor the collective well-being. Yet the degree to which she emphasizes the reciprocityover the asymmetryof the relationshipsystematicallyexcludes from the reader'sview a pictureof some of the serious exploitation and violence of the Mayan political economy. Chiefs engaged in "extravagant and casual taking" (1987:143), "were allocated the most favouredland for the makingof milpa"(1987:144), and "were given the lords' shareof the game takenin a communalhunt [and]levied from the professionalhunters"(1987:144); their land was workedby war captives, and their domestic system was maintainedby "femaleslaves and concubines" (1987:144). Yet Clendinnenbalancesthe mentionof each of those instancesof systematic exploitation with some mention of how much the chiefs gave in return, culminating in an account of a ritual to protect the villagers from threatenedcalamity:"Inthose experiences, when the life of the whole village was absorbed in the ritual process, men learnt that the differences between priest, lord and commonerwere less importantthan their shareddependence on the gods, and the fragility of the human order"(147). Clendinnengoes on to say (1987:47) that"thecost of all this (althoughit is far from clear that the Maya regardedit as a cost) was war"which was waged between chiefs of neighboringgroups. In war, "noblecaptives were killed for the gods; the rest, men, women andchildren,were enslaved, and the men sold out of the country"(1987:148). What is wrong with this picture?In the first place, one presumesthat some Maya-the captives who were to be executed, and the men, women, and childrenwho were enslaved, not to mentioneveryone else in the society who had to live with the permanent possibility of such violence-"regarded it as a cost." In the second place, Clendinnennever puts together the pieces of her account to show that the sense of "shareddependence" of chiefs and commoners, insofar as it was successfully establishedat

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all, was in large part a productof the displacementof exploitationand violence from the chief's own subjects to those of his neighbors. There seems a virtualtaboo on puttingthese pieces together, as if to give a full account of the Mayan political order, good and bad, would be to give some observersthe ammunitionfor saying that the Maya deserved what they got from the Spanish. But this concern is ungrounded.Nothing about Mayan politics, however bloody and exploitative, would condone the looting, killing, and culturaldestructionwrought by the Spanish. On the other hand, a more thorough and critical account of pre-colonial Mayan politics would presumably generate a different picture of the subsequent shape of the colonial history of the region, including the subsequentpatternsof resistance and non-resistance.At the very least, it would respect the ambivalent complexity of the Maya world as it existed both at that time and in the present.4 The most glaring arena of internal political complexity glossed over by most of these studies is the arena of gender politics.5 This is a particularly vexed question. Membersof subordinate groupswho want to call attentionto gender inequities in their own groups are subject to the accusationthat they are underminingtheir own class or subalternsolidarity,not supportingtheir feminist men, and playing into the hands of the dominants. "First-world" scholars who do the same are subject to sharp attacks from "third-world" feminist scholarson the same grounds(see C. Mohanty1988). It seems elitist to call attentionto the oppressionof women within their own class or racial groupor culture, when thatclass or racialgroupor cultureis being oppressed by anothergroup. These issues have come into sharpfocus in the debatessurrounding sati, or widow burning, in colonial India (Spivak 1988; Jain, Misra, and Srivastava 1987; Mani 1987). One of the ways in which the Britishjustified their own dominance was to point to what they consideredbarbaricpractices, such as sati, and to claim that they were engaged in a civilizing mission that would save Indian women from these practices. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has in which "white men are saving as one this situation characterized ironically brown women from brown men" (1988:296). Thus, analystswho might want to investigatethe ways in which sati was partof a largerconfigurationof male Indiansociety cannotdo so withoutseeming dominancein nineteenth-century The attemptsto to subscribeto the discourse of the colonial administrators. have only multipliedthe contraset of contradictions deal with this particular dictions.
4 A parallel to the monolithic portrayalof resistors is the monolithic portrayalof the dominants. This is beginning to be brokendown, as for example in Stoler (1989). 5 The absence of genderconsiderationsin generic resistancestudies, and some implicationsof this absencehave been addressedparticularly by O'Hanlon(1989). See also White (1986). But for valuable ethnographicstudies of gender resistance per se, see Abu-Lughod (1986) and Ong (1987).

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Overall, the lack of an adequatesense of priorand ongoing politics among subalternsmust inevitably contributeto an inadequateanalysis of resistance itself. Many people do not get caughtup in resistancemovements, and this is not simply an effect of fear (as Scott generally argues [1985, 1990]), naive enthrallmentto the priests (as Friedrich argues about many of the nonresisting Mexican peasants [1985]), or narrowself-interest.Nor does it make collaboratorsof all the non-participants. Moreover, individual acts of resistance, as well as large-scale resistance movements, are often themselves and affectively ambivalent, in large part conflicted, internallycontradictory, due to these internalpolitical complexities. The impulse to sanitize the internal politics of the dominated must be understood as fundamentallyromantic. As a partial antidote to this widespread tendency, it might be well to reintroducethe work of the so-called structural Marxistsin anthropology and theirdescendants.Structural Marxism Bloch 1975 readeris a good place to start;see also Meillassoux 1981 and (the Terray1972) took shape as a response to this romanticizingtendency within the field of anthropologyand as an attemptto understandnon-Westernand pre-capitalistforms of inequalityon the analogy with Marx'sanalysis of class within capitalism. Tackling societies that would have been categorized as egalitarianprecisely because they lacked class or caste, structuralMarxists were able to tease out the ways in which such things as the apparentbenevolent authorityof elders or the apparent altruismand solidarityof kin are often in of grounded systematic patterns exploitationand power. The structuralMarxistproject took shape at roughly the same time as did feministanthropology.6 The two togethermadeit difficultfor manyanthropoloto look at even the simplest society ever again without included, gists, myself seeing a politics every bit as complex, and sometimesevery bit as oppressive, as those of capitalismand colonialism.7 Moreover,as anthropologists of this persuasionbegan taking the historic turn, it seemed impossible to understand the histories of these societies, including (but not limited to) their histories undercolonialism or capitalistpenetration,without understanding how those externalforces interactedwith these internalpolitics. Sahlins' account(1981) of the patterns of accommodation andresistancein play betweenHawaiiansand Europeansin the eighteenthand nineteenthcenturies;some of Wolf's discussions in Europeand the People withoutHistory (1982); my own (1989) history of Sherpa religious transformations,linking indigenous politics and culture
6 The structural Marxismin anthropologywere also contempobeginningsof (Franco-British) Marxism rarywith the beginnings of British (Marxist)CulturalStudies. The impactof structural on anthropology,as well as the fact that the field was still miredin the split between materialism and idealism in that era, probablyaccounts in good part for the delay of the impact of Cultural Studies. See Ortner(1984) for a review of anthropological theoryfrom the nineteen sixties to the eighties. 7 Some importantearly feminist anthropologywas directly drawing on structuralMarxism. See especially Collier and Rosaldo (1981).

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with larger regional (Nepal state and British Raj) dynamics; Richard Fox's (1985) study of the evolutionof Sikh identityundercolonialism-all of these show thatan understanding of political authenticity, of the people's own forms of inequalityand asymmetry,is not only not incompatiblewith an understanding of resistancebut is in fact indispensableto such an understanding.
THINNING CULTURE

Justas subalterns mustbe seen as havingan authentic,andnot merelyreactive, politics, so they must be seen as havingan authentic,and not merely reactive, come under culture.The cultureconceptin anthropology has, like ethnography, heavy attackin recentyears, partlyfor assumptionsof timelessness, homogeneity,uncontestedsharedness,andthe like thatwerehistoricallyembeddedin it and in anthropological practicemore generally.Yet those assumptionsare not by any means intrinsicto the concept, which can be (re-)mobilizedin powerful of culture, including ways withoutthem. Indeeda radicalreconceptualization andpoliticizationof the concept, has been going on for both the historicization andthe attacksuponits traditional at least the last decadeor so in anthropology; form areby now very muchin the way of beatinga deadhorse(see Dirks, Eley, and Ortner1994). In any event, like JamesClifford,one of the majorfigures in the attack on the concept of culture, I do not see how we can do without it (1988:10). The only alternativeto recognizing that subalternshave a certain prior and ongoing cultural authenticity,according to subalterns, is to view subaltern responsesto dominationas ad hoc andincoherent,springingnot from theirown senses of order,justice, meaning, andthe like butonly from some set of ideas called into being by the situationof dominationitself. of some of the most influentialstudies of Culturalthinningis characteristic resistance currentlyon the scene.8 Some of the problemswith this tendency may be brought into focus through a consideration of the way in which religion is (or is not) handled in some of these studies. I do not mean to suggest by this that religion is equivalent to all of culture. Nonetheless, religion is always a rich repositoryof culturalbeliefs and values and often has close affinities with resistance movements as well. I will thus look at the treatmentof religion in a numberof resistance studies before turningto the question of culturemore generally. In one of the foundingtexts of the SubalternStudies school of history, for example, Ranajit Guha emphasizes the importanceof recognizing and not disparagingthe religious bases of tribaland peasantrebellions (1988). Indeed this is one of the centralthreadsof SubalternStudies writings, a majorpartof its effortto recognize the authenticculturaluniverseof subalterns,from which
8 The work of the British CulturalStudies scholars is seemingly a major exception to this point. I would argue if I had time, however, that for much of the work in this field, the treatment of both culture and ethnographyis also "thin"(Willis 1977 is a majorexception). In any event, my focus in this section is on influential work that is much more obviously problematicwith respect to the thickness of culture.

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their acts of resistancegrew. Yet the degree to which the treatmentof religion in these studies is actually cultural, that is, is actually an effort to illuminate the conceptual and affective configurationswithin which the peasants are operating, is generally minimal.9Rather,the peasantis endowed with something called "religiosity,"a kind of diffuse consciousness that is never further explored as a set of ideas, practices, and feelings built into the religious universe the peasant inhabits. Guhaandothersin his grouparejoustingwith some MarxistIndianhistorians who share with bourgeois modernization theoristsa view of religion as backward. The SubalternStudies writers, in contrast,want to respect and validate culture,out of which peasantreligiosity as an authenticdimensionof subaltern an authentically oppositionalpolitics could be andwas constructed.YetGuha's own notionof peasantreligiositystill bearsthe tracesof Marx'shostilitytoward
religion, defining "religious consciousness . . . as a massive demonstration of

(1988:78). Moreover,insteadof exploringand interpreting self-estrangement" this religiosityof the rebelsin any substantive textual way, he makesa particular move to avoid this, relegating to an appendixextracts of the peasants' own accounts of the religious visions that inspiredtheir rebellion. A similarcasualnessaboutreligion, while paying it lip service, is evident in James Scott's Weaponsof the Weak(1985). The point can be seen again not only in what Scott says and does not say but in the very shape of his text. There is no general discussion of the religious landscapeof the villagers, and the discussion of religious movements in his area, many of which had significant political dimensions, is confined to a few pages toward the end (1985:332-5). During Scott's field work a number of rumors of religiopolitical propheciescirculatedin his area, as well as a "flying letter"containing similar prophecies. Like Guha's rebels' testimonies, this letter is reproduced, unanalyzed, in an appendix. The fact that "rarelya month goes by withouta newspaperaccountof the prosecutionof a religious teacheraccused
of propagating false doctrines . . ." is also relegated to a footnote (1985:335).

But culturalthinning, as noted above, need not be confined to marginalizing religious factors, nor is it practiced only by non-anthropologists(like Guha and Scott). In his landmarkwork, Europe and the People without History (1982), Eric Wolf devotes a scant five pages at the end of the book to the question of culture, largely in orderto dismiss it. And in his superbstudy of the Sikh wars against the British (1985), RichardFox similarly,and much more extensively, argues against the idea that culture informs, shapes, and underpinsresistance at least as much as it emerges situationallyfrom it. There are a numberof differentthings going on here. In part, Wolf and Fox (and perhaps some of the others) are writing from a sixties-style materialist
9 Of course the SubalternStudies school is complex, and a varietyof tendenciesappearwithin it. Shahid Amin's "Gandhias Mahatma"(1988) is more fully culturalthan many of the other writings, as is GyanendraPandey's "PeasantRevolt and IndianNationalism"(1988).

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position. Sixties-style materialism(in anthropologyat least) was opposed to giving cultureany sort of active role in the social and historicalprocess, other than mystifyingthe real (thatis, material)causes of formationsand events. At the same time, however, Wolf's and Fox's positions converge with later, and not necessarily materialist, criticisms of the culture concept (for example, Clifford and Marcus 1986) as homogenizing, de-historicizing, and reifying the boundariesof specific groups or communities. Coming from a different direction, Raymond Williams (1977) and other BirminghamCulturalStudies scholars(for example, Hall and Jefferson1976) were actuallyrevitalizingthe cultureconcept. Williams specifically wantedto overcome the split between materialism and idealismand to focus on the ways in which structuresof exploitationand dominationare simultaneouslymaterial and cultural. His approachto this was throughGramsci's notion of hegemony, which Williams defined as something very close to the classic anwith the thropologicalconcept of culturebut more politicized, more saturated relations of power, domination, and inequalitywithin which it takes shape. This was healthy for the culture concept and for an anthropologythat had moved significantlybeyond the oppositionsof the sixties. But it raisedthe old and "false consciousness." If dominationoperates specter of "mystification" in part culturally,through ideas and-in William's phrase-"structures of feeling," then people may accept and buy into their own domination,and the possibility of resistance may be undermined.Moreover, as James Scott argued, analysts who emphasize hegemony in this relatively deep, culturally of internalized,sense are likely to fail to uncover those "hiddentranscripts" resistanceand those non-obviousacts and momentsof resistancethat do take place (Scott 1985, 1990). In fact, of course, in any situationof power there is a mixtureof cultural dynamics. To some extent, and for a varietyof good and bad reasons, people which underwritetheir own domination. often do accept the representations At the same time they also preservealternative "authentic" traditionsof belief and value which allow them to see through those representations.Paul valuable Willis's now classic book, Learningto Labour(1977) is particularly in addressingthis mixtureof hegemony and authenticityinvolved in relationships of power. Willis's discussion of the ways in which the subcultureof the of the dominantcultureand working-classlads embodies both "penetrations" limitations on those penetrations-limitations deriving from the lads' own subculturalperspectives on gender-is highly illuminating. Some recent work by MarthaKaplan and John D. Kelly (1994) similarly underscoresthe cultural complexity of power and resistance. Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin and, less explicitly, on MarshallSahlins, Kaplanand Kelly frame their study of colonial Fiji as a study of contendingdiscourses within a dialogic space. Setting aside, for the most part, the category of resistance, they insist on the thickness of the culturalprocess in play in colonial "zones of transcourse"

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(1994:129), where "multiple grammarsoperate through contingently categorized people" (1994:127). The result is a complex but illuminatingpicture of shifting loyalties, shifting alliances, and above all shifting categories, as British, native Fijians, and Fiji Indianscontendedfor power, resources, and
legitimacy (see also Kaplan 1990; Kelly and Kaplan 1992; Orlove 1991;

Turner1991 and n.d.). Indeed, a large alternativetraditionof resistancestudies shows clearly that culturalrichnessdoes not underminethe possibility of seeing and understandThis traditionallows us to understand better ing resistance.Quite the contrary: both resistanceand its limits. Many of the greatclassics of social history-for Class (1966) example, E. P. Thompson'sTheMakingof the English Working and Eugene Genovese's Roll, Jordan, Roll (1976)-are great precisely because they are culturallyrich, providingdeep insight not only into the fact of resistance but into its forms, moments, and absences. Otheroutstandingexamples of the genre include Clendinnen's Ambivalent Conquest (despite its

weakness on Maya politics discussed above); William H. Sewell, Jr.'s Work and Revolutionin France (1980); and Jean Comaroff'sBody of Power, Spirit of Resistance (1985).
DISSOLVING SUBJECTS

The questionof the relationshipof the individualpersonor subjectto domination carries the resistanceproblematicto the level of consciousness, subjecform in tivity, intentionality,and identity.This questionhas taken a particular debates surrounding,once again, the SubalternStudies school of historians.I should say here that I do not launch so much criticism against the Subaltern Studies historiansbecause they are, in Guha's term, "terrible."On the conto theirwork because much of it is insightfuland trary,I find myself returning it is situatedat thatintersectionof anthropology, and also because provocative and studies that so many of us find ourselvesoccupying, often history, literary in awkwardly, contemporaryscholarly work.10 In any event, GayatriChakravorty Spivak has taken the SubalternStudies school to task for creatinga monolithiccategoryof subaltern who is presumed to have a unitaryidentity and consciousness (1988a, 1988b). Given my arguments about the internal complexity of subaltern politics and culture made above, I would certainly agree with this point. Yet Spivak and others who

Derridean)analysis go to deploy a certainbrandof poststructuralist (primarily the opposite extreme, dissolving the subject entirely into a set of "subject effects" that have virtually no coherence. Since these writers are still concernedwith subalternity in some sense, they themselves wind up in incoherent positions with respect to resistance.
10 The same is trueof otherpost-colonialhistoriographies (Africanstudies, for example), but I am less familiarwith their literatures.Indiananthropologyand historytouch upon my own longterm researchin Nepal.

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Let me say again that in some ways I am sympatheticwith what they are trying to do, which is to introducecomplexity, ambiguity,and contradiction into our view of the subject in ways that I have arguedabove must be done with politics and culture(and indeed resistance).Yet the particular poststructuralist move they make toward accomplishingthis goal paradoxicallydestroys the object (the subject) who should be enriched, ratherthan impoverished, by this act of introducingcomplexity. This final form of ethnographic refusalmay be illustrated by examiningan article entitled, "'Shahbano,"' on a famous Indian court case (Pathak and Rajan 1989). The authors, who acknowledge their debt to Spivak's work, addressthe case of a MuslimIndianwomancalled Shahbano,who went to civil court to sue for supportfrom her husbandafter a divorce. Althoughthe court awarded her the supportwhich she sought, the decision set off a national becausethe court'saward(and indeed Shahcontroversyof majorproportions bano's decision to bringthe case to a civil courtin the firstplace) controverted local Islamic divorce law. In the wake of the controversy,Shahbanowrote an open letter to the courtrejectingthe awardand expressingher solidaritywith her co-Muslims. aboutthe case runsas follows. The court'saward,as The authors'argument well as the larger legal framework within which it was made, operated througha discourseof protectionfor personswho are seen to be weak. But "to be framed by a certain kind of discourse is to be objectified as the 'other,' representedwithout the characteristicfeatures of the 'subject,' sensibility and/or volition" (Pathak and Rajan 1989:563). Within the context of such notion of resistanceis simply the discursive subjectification,the appropriate "refusalof subjectification,"(1989:571) the refusal to occupy the category being foisted upon one. Shahbano'sshifting position on her own case-first seeking, then rejecting,the award-represented such a refusalof subjectification, the only one open to her, given her situation. "To live with what she cannot control, the female subalternsubject here responds with a discontinuous and apparentlycontradictorysubjectivity"(1989:572). But "her apparent inconstancy or changeability must be interpretedas her refusal to occupy the subject position [of being protected]offered to her" (1989:572). Basically I agree with the authors' argumentthat every moment in the a differentaspectof Shahbano's developing situationshiftedto the foreground multiplex identity as a woman, as poor, as a Muslim. Indeed, it does not requiresophisticatedtheorizingto recognize thatevery social being has a life of such multiplicityand thatevery social contextcreatessuch shiftingbetween foregroundand background.I also agree (althoughthe authorsnever quite put it this way) that, for certainkinds of compoundedpowerlessness(female and may be the only poor and of minoritystatus),"therefusalof subjectification" several Yet there are the to problems with the subject. strategy available out. to be teased that need interpretation

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First, returningto an earlierdiscussion in this essay, there is an inadequate analysis of the internalpolitics of the subalterngroup-in this case, of the Shahbano. gender and ethnic politics of the Muslim communitysurrounding The authorsmake it clearthatthis is disallowed, for it would align anyone who made such an argumentwith the generaldiscourse of protectionand with the specific politics of the Hinducourtvis-a-vis the minorityMuslims:Transformcited earlier,the situationis one in which"Hindumen are ing Spivak'saphorism saving Muslim women from Muslim men" (Pathakand Rajan 1989:566), and any authorwho addressesMuslimgenderpolitics moves intothe same position. Yet one cannot help but feel a nagging suspicion about the on-the-ground Shahbano'sopen letterrejectingthe court's awardin the politics surrounding nameof Muslim solidarity.Is the "refusalto occupy the subjectpositionoffered to her"(1989:572) an adequateaccount of what happenedhere, or might we imagine some rathermore immediatelylived experience of intense personal pressures from significant social others-kin, friends, neighbors, male and female-who put pressureon Shahbanoin the name of their own agendas to renouncea monetaryawardthat she desperatelyneeded and had been seeking for ten years?Mightone not say that"herrefusalto occupy the subjectposition offeredto her"-the only kind of agency or formof resistanceaccordedher by the authors-is the real effect in view here, that is, the (analytic)by-product, rather thanthe form, of heragency?In my reading,Shahbano was attempting to be an agent, to pursue a coherent agenda, and rathercreatively at that. The shifting quality of her case is not to be found in her shifting identity(whether essentializedas subaltern consciousnessor seen as strategic)but in the fact that she is at the low end of every form of power in the system and is being quite actively pushed aroundby other, more powerful, agents. This readingbrings us to the second problemwith the discussion, and here again we must turntextual analysis againstthe authors'own text. The whole move is to de-essentializethe subject, to get away point of the poststructuralist from the ideological constructof "thatunified and freely choosing individual who is the normativemale subject of Westernbourgeois liberalism"(Pathak and Rajan1989:572). And indeedthe freely choosing individualis an ideological construct,in multiplesenses-because the personis culturally(and socialbecause few people have ly, historically,politically, and so forth)constructed; the power to freely choose very much; and so forth. The question here, however, is how to get aroundthis ideological constructand yet retain some sense of humanagency, the capacityof social beings to interpretand morally evaluate their situationand to formulateprojects and try to enact them. The authorsof "'Shahbano'"realize that this is a problem:"Where, in all these discursive displacements,is Shahbanothe woman?"(Pathakand Rajan 1989:565). But they specifically refuse to attendto her as a person, subject, agent, or any other form of intentionalizedbeing with her own hopes, fears, desires, projects. They have only two models for such attending-

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psychological perspectivesthat attemptto tap her "'inner' being," or a perheroic resistorsspective that assumes "individualizedand individualistic" and they reject both (1989:570). Instead, their strategy is to focus on the mechanicalinteractionof a varietyof disembodiedforces: "multipleintersections of power, discursive displacements, discontinuous identities refusing subjectification, the split legal subject" (1989:577). Thus, despite certain disclaimers at the end of the article, Shahbanoas subject (or agent? or person?) quite literally disappears. The irrelevanceof her understandingsand intentions(not to mentionher social universe, her history,and so forth)to this analytic project is starklybroughthome by the authors'own textual strategy of refusing to reproduceand interprettwo press interviews that Shahbano gave, one to a newspaperand anotheron nationaltelevision. The authorssay, "Wehave not privileged these as sources of her subjectivity"(1989:570). In fact they have not even presentedthem. of the subjectin this way cannotbe the only answerto The de(con)struction the reified and romanticizedsubject of many resistancestudies. On the contrary, the answer to the reified and romanticizedsubject must be an actor understood as more fully socially and culturally constructed from top to bottom. The breaks and splits and incoherenciesof consciousness, no less than the integrationsand coherencies, are equally products of cultural and historical formation. One could question, indeed, whetherthe splits and so forth should be viewed as incoherencies or simply as alternativeforms of coherence; not to do so implies that they are a form of damage. Of course oppressionis damaging, yet the ability of social beings to weave alternative, and sometimes brilliantlycreative, forms of coherenceacross the damages is one of the hearteningaspects of humansubjectivity(see also Cooper's [1992] critique of Fanon). A similar point may be made with respect to agency. Agency is not an entity that exists apartfrom culturalconstruction(nor is it a qualityone has only when one is whole, or when one is an individual).Every culture, every subculture,every historicalmoment, constructsits own forms of agency, its own modes of enactingthe process of reflectingon the self and the world and of acting simultaneouslywithin and upon what one finds there. To understandwhere Shahbanoor any other figure in a resistance drama is of all these constructions, coming from, one must explore the particularities as both culturaland historicalproducts,and as personalcreationsbuilding on those precipitatesof cultureand history. A brilliant example of this alternativeperspective may be seen in Ashis
Nandy's The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of the Self under Colonialism

(1983). Nandybegins by exploringthe homology between sexual andpolitical dominanceas this took shapein the contextof Britishcolonialismin India. He then goes on to considerIndianliteraryeffortsto reactagainstcolonialismthat in reinterpreted were in fact highly hegemonized, works thatwere "grounded of hypermassacredtexts but in realitydependenton core values [particularly then view and world from the colonial borrowed legitimizedaccording culinity]

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to existing conceptsof sacredness" examines (1983:22). Butthe book primarily individualliterary,religious, and political figures who sought "to createa new political awarenesswhich would combinea criticalawarenessof Hinduismand colonialism with culturaland individualauthenticity" (1983:27). Nandyis particularlyinterestedin the ways in which Gandhiandothermajorvoices of anticolonialism mobilized (andpartlyreordered) Indiancategoriesof masculinity, bothresistanceto colonialismand an femininity,and androgynyin formulating alternative vision of society. Again and again he views these oppositional figures, even when severely victimized in their personallives (see especially the discussion of Sri Aurobindo),as drawingupon culturalresourcesto transform their own victimhood and articulatenew models of self and society. l Nandy then comes back to the ordinaryperson who does not write novels, launchnew religious systems, or lead movementsof nationalresistance.In this contexthe seems to come close to the positionof the authorsof" 'Shahbano,"' for he argues(in a morepsychological language)thatculturaland psychological survivalmay requirethe kindof fragmented andshiftingself thatShahbano seemed to display (1983:107). Yet Nandy's discussion has a differenttone. Partly this comes from his earlier exploration of broad cultural patterns, showing that the boundariesbetween such things as self and other, masculine and feminine, and myth and history, are both differently configured and differentlyvalued in variousstrandsof Indianthought.The shifting subjectin turn is both drawing on and protectingthese alternativeculturalframes, as opposed to making a seemingly ad hoc response to an immediatesituationof domination. And, second, Nandy's subjects paradoxicallyretain a kind of coherentagency in their very inconstancy:"these 'personalityfailures'of the Indiancould be anotherform of developed vigilance, or sharpenedinstinctor
faster reaction to man-made suffering. They come . . . from a certain talent for

and faith in life" (1983:110). Thus, Nandy's subjects, whether prominent public figures or common men and women, retainpowerfulvoices throughout his book, while Shahbanorepresentationally disappears. Finally, however, it must be emphasized that the question of adequate of subjectsin the attemptto understand resistanceis not purelya representation matter of providing better portraitsof subjects in and of themselves. The importanceof subjects(whetherindividualactorsor social entities) lies not so much in who they are and how they areput togetheras in the projectsthatthey constructandenact. For it is in the formulation andenactmentof those projects that they both become and transformwho they are, and that they sustain or transformtheir social and culturaluniverse.
TEXTUAL RESISTANCE

Running through all these works, despite in some cases deep theoretical differencesbetween them, is a kind of bizarrerefusal to know and speak and
1 For anotherstrong work on Gandhi'sculturalgenius, see Fox (1989).

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write of the lived worlds inhabitedby those who resist (or do not, as the case may be). Of the works discussed at length in this essay, Clendinnengoes to greaterlengths thanthe othersto portraythe pre-colonialMaya world in some depth and complexity, yet in the end she chooses to pull her punches and smooth over what the material has told her. Scott, Guha, and Pathak and Rajan, on the other hand, quite literally refuse to deal with the materialthat would allow entry into the political and culturalworlds of those they discuss. The "flying letters"of Scott's peasants, the testimonies of Guha's peasants' visions, the press interviews of Shahbanoare texts that can be read in the of both the meanings and the mystirichest sense to yield an understanding fications on which people are operating.Whatmight emerge is somethinglike rich what we see in CarloGinzburg'sNight Battles (1985): an extraordinarily stance and complicated world of beliefs, practices, and petty politics whose toward the encroachmentof Christianityand the Inquisition in the Middle and"authentic"Ages is confused and unheroicyet also poignantlystubborn a very Nandy-esquestory. There are no doubt many reasons for this interpretiverefusal. But one is surely to be found in the so-called crisis of representationin the human sciences. When EdwardSaid says in effect that the discourse of Orientalism rendersit virtuallyimpossible to know anythingreal aboutthe Orient(1979); when GayatriSpivak tells us that "the subalterncannotspeak"(1988a); when James Cliffordinforms us that all ethnographiesare "fictions"(1986:7); and when of course in some sense all of these things are true-then the effect is a broadlydefined:the effortpowerful inhibitionon the practiceof ethnography other peoples in other ful practice, despite all that, of seeking to understand times and places, especially those people who are not in dominantpositions. is neverimpossible. This is stanceholds thatethnography The ethnographic the case because people not only resist political domination;they resist, or anyway evade, textual dominationas well. The notion that colonial or academic texts are able completely to distortor exclude the voices and perspectives of those being writtenabout seems to me to endow these texts with far greaterpower than they have. Many things shape these texts, including, dare one say it, the point of view of those being writtenabout. Nor does one need to allow this to happento resortto variousforms of textualexperimentation it is happeningall the time. Of course thereis variationin the degree to which differentauthorsand differentformsof writingallow this process to show, and it is certainlyworthwhileto reflect, as Cliffordand others have done, on the ways in which this process can be enhanced. But it seems to me grotesqueto insist on the notion thatthe text is shapedby everythingbut the lived realityof the people whom the text claims to represent. Take the case of a moder female suicide discussed in Spivak's famous essay, the one that concludes with the statementthat "the subalterncannot speak"(1988a:308). It is perhapsmore difficultfor any voice to breakthrough

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Spivak's theorizing than through the most typifying ethnography;yet even this dead young woman, who spoke to no one abouther intentionsand left no note before her death, forces Spivak to at least try to articulate, in quite a "realist"and "objectivist"fashion, the truthof the suicide from the woman's point of view: Thesuicidewas a puzzlesince,as Bhuvaneswari wasmenstruating at thetime,it was that clearlynot a case of illicitpregnancy. Nearlya decadelater,it was discovered she was a member of one of the manygroupsinvolvedin the armedstrugglefor Indianindependence. She had finallybeenentrusted with a politicalassassination. Unableto confront the taskandyet awareof the practical needfor trust,she killed herself. Bhuvaneswari had knownthather deathwouldbe diagnosed as the outcomeof waitedfor the onset of menstruation. .. illegitimate passion. She had therefore Bhuvaneswari Bhaduri's suicideis an unemphatic, ad hoc, subaltern of the rewriting socialtextof sati-suicide (1988a:307-8). With this discussion, it seems to me, Spivakundermines her own position (see also Coronil 1992). Combininga bit of homely interpretation of the text of the woman's body (the fact that she was menstruating)with a bit of objective in a radicalpolitical group),Spivak arrives history (the woman's participation at what any good ethnography both of the meaning provides:an understanding and the politics of the meaning of an event. Anotherangle on the problemof ethnographic refusal may be gained from the of the fiction with ordiconsidering implications metaphor.Reverberating the fiction this is not nary language, metaphorimplies (though exactly what Cliffordmeant)thatethnographies are false, made up, and more generallyare productsof a literaryimaginationthathas no obligationto engage with reality. Yet the obligation to engage with reality seems to me precisely the difference between the novelist's task and the ethnographer's (or the historian's). The and the historian are with anthropologist charged representingthe lives of who are or once and as we lived, people living attemptto pushthese people into the molds of ourtexts, they pushback. The final text is a productof ourpushing and theirpushingback, and no text, howeverdominant,lacks the tracesof this counterforce. Indeed, if the line between fiction and ethnographyis being blurred, the blurringhas had at least as much impact on fiction as on ethnography.The novelist's standard disclaimer-"any resemblanceto personsliving or dead is coincidental"-is less and less invoked12or less and less accepted. The redrasponse to Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses(1989) shows in particularly matic form thatthe novelist can no longerpretendthat, in contrastto ethnography or history,thereis nobodyon the otherside of his or hertext northatfiction can escape resistance.'3
12 See for example the quite different disclaimer in Don deLillo's fictionalization of the Kennedy assassination,Libra (1989). 13 I am indebted to Nick Dirks for pushing me on this point.

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Finally, absolutefictionalityand absolutesilencing are impossible not only because those being writtenabout force themselves into the author'saccount but also because there is always a multiplicityof accounts. The point seems simple, yet it seems to get lost in the discussionsjust considered.It is strangein this era of the theoreticaldeath of the authorto find theoristslike Spivak and Cliffordactingas if texts were wholly self-contained,as if every text one wrote had to embody (or could conceivablyembody) in itself all the voices out there, or as if every text one readhad boundaries beyondwhich one were not allowed to look. On the contrary, in bothwritingandreadingone entersa corpusof texts in which, in reality, a single representation or misrepresentation or omission never goes unchallenged.Ourjob, in both readingand writing, is precisely to refuse to be limitedby a single text or by any existing definitionof what should count as the corpus, and to play the texts (which may include, but never be limitedto, our own field notes) off againstone anotherin an endless process of coaxing up images of the real.
CONCLUSIONS

The point of this essay can be statedvery simply: Resistance studies are thin because they are ethnographically thin: thin on the internalpolitics of dominated groups, thin on the cultural richness of those groups, thin on the subjectivity-the intentions,desires, fears, projects-of the actorsengaged in these dramas.Ethnographic thinnessin turnderivesfromseveralsources(other thansheerbad ethnography, of course, which is always a possibility). The first is the failure of nerve surrounding questions of the internalpolitics of dominated groups and of the culturalauthenticityof those groups, which I have raised periodically throughoutthis essay. The second is the set of issues the crisis of representation-the possibility of truthfulportrayals surrounding of others (or Others)and the capacityof the subaltern to be heard-which has just been addressed.Takentogether,the two sets of issues convergeto produce a kind of ethnographicblack hole. Filling in the black hole would certainly deepen and enrich resistance studies, but there is more to it than that. It would, or should, reveal the ambivalences and ambiguities of resistance itself. These ambivalences and ambiguities, in turn, emerge from the intricate webs of articulationsand disarticulationsthat always exist between dominantand dominated. For the politics of external dominationand the politics within a subordinatedgroup may link up with, as well as repel, one another;the cultures of dominant groups and of subalternsmay speak to, even while speaking against, one selves may retain and, as Nandyso eloquentlyargues, subordinated another14; oppositionalauthenticityand agency by drawingon aspects of the dominant cultureto criticize their own world as well as the situationof domination.In
14 Nandy (1983) and Comaroff(1985) make a point of discussingthe ways in which subalterns may effectively draw on, and take advantageof, some of the latent oppositionalcategories and ideologies of Westernculture.

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short, one can only appreciate the ways in which resistance can be more than opposition, can be truly creative and transformative, if one appreciates the multiplicity of projects in which social beings are always engaged, and the multiplicity of ways in which those projects feed on and well as collide with one another.
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