On Seeing a Bull’s Skull in a Bicycle Seat: Innovative Archaism


  • Sudesh Mishra




How may indigenous practices from Oceania open up the possibility of a future occluded by the long epoch of surplus accumulation? This future is not unforeseeable, but rather one that co-exists as an impeded possibility in the present. The global South—whether as time, space, value or figure—inhabits the order of the non-synchronous and archaic vis-à-vis the global north as dictated by the normative law of surplus accumulation. In this paper I draw on Theodor Adorno’s insight concerning the co-presence of the archaic in the time of modernity to argue that the perspectival aspect of modernity is built on the act of looking at something while looking through it. In other words, seeing concerns the paradoxical act of not-seeing,of looking through some aspect or dimension of whatever one is looking at. If, however, silence were to discover speech, and we commenced to look at what we have been taught to look through, modernity starts to take on an altogether different aspect. The Global South of Oceania, in particular, turns into a region of innovative archaisms, counter-national imaginings, surplus-subverting practices and communal forms of ecological ethics. This paper contends that archaic indigenous practices, in concert with scientific knowledge, may be in advance of the modern in offering a pragmatic response to the climate-related crisis generated by modernity.
Keywords: Global South, Fiji, Oceania, Arcaism, Temporality.


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