Responsibility in Crisis: Knowledge Politics and Global Publics
Universities, States of Emergency and Censorship
Veena Das


I find the invitation to respond to the text on the university after September 11th, written by David William Cohen, Michael D. Kennedy, and Kathleen Canning, is an invitation to engage in conversation that has a sense of the provisional and a sense of the therapeutic. [1] A sense of the provisional because the meaning of such an event for life in universities is not self-evident—despite the rhetoric of the world having changed after September 11th, universities have repeatedly faced such challenges both in the United States and the rest of the world—so the proclamation raises a puzzle. A sense of the therapeutic not as psychological healing but in the challenge of asking what a redemptive reading of such an event might mean. This paper is written to join this conversation—it is nothing more but nothing less, either.

On the challenges of September 11th to the university, Cohen, Kennedy, and Canning (see their paper in this volume) state the following. "After September 11, 2001, the precious qualities that had affirmed the university as a space that could be both of and in the world was marked as the openness and worldliness of the university, and the values associated with the cultivation of broadly shared communities of learning, had become heresies." Has this sense of malaise come about after the events of September 11th,Page  134 or is it part of the enduring conditions of the university as an institution of the modern nation state? I will argue here that the tense relation between the university as a site of freedom and as a site located within the institutions of the market and the state is part of its constitution—one that requires constant address. This tension, I submit, cannot be resolved once and for all.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows. In the first section, I revisit Kant's formulation on the conflict of faculties taking my education from Jacques Derrida and Hent de Vries's discussion of the same text. [2] Specifically, I ask, whether the formulation of the space of the university as a sacred space represents the fantasy that within the confines of the university we can somehow escape the human conditions of knowing. Assuming that the university cannot escape (or fully escape) the fact that it is part of the institutional set up of the nation state, the second section asks: how the proclamation of states of exception that have become prominent after September 11th serve to limit criticism? In the third section, I turn my attention to the everyday life of universities and argue that tropes of danger, unfinished nations, and security concerns spill into policies and programs of universities instituting forms of censorship that often go unnoticed. In the final section of the paper I shall address questions of responsibility—how are we to understand the relation between curiosity and freedom on the one hand, and the constraints placed on knowledge on behalf of the needs of the nation state on the other? My reflections are formed by my experiences in Indian and North American universities but also by pictures of what it is to take seriously the human conditions of knowing. [3]

Kant on the Conflict of Faculties

Jacques Derrida has suggested that Kant's intriguing text on the conflict of faculties provides an important point of departure from which to engage in a discussion on some of our present concerns. Going beyond the local context in which it was first formulated, Kant's text, written in 1798, sets the tone for a reflection on the university as a faculty or artifact of the state. As Derrida points out, the transformation of the university into a place in which a factory-like discipline was instituted led to a new social role for the philosopher and intellectual who was no longer seen as an artist or a technician but became a public servant and a teacher and thus an officer of the state. The academy in the late Middle Ages or the early modern period in Europe was still largely aPage  135 clerical institution and hence had no role to play in the emerging public sphere. Thus, it was not the space from which any criticism of absolute power, however oblique, could normally be waged. The re-imagination of the university on the model of rationality constituted the condition of possibility for knowledge both to serve the state and to monitor its power. [4] The combination of these contradictory functions in the same institution became possible because of the blueprint that envisaged a strict division of labor between faculties of the university. Those faculties that served the interests of the state could be seen as imparting knowledge for the ends of practical reason and those that served truth, unhindered by considerations of governments, could be seen as servants of theoretical reason. The former were allowed to be represented but not to proclaim any truths on their own behalf; the latter were obligated to speak but their discussions were to be confined to restricted publics of scholars and philosophers. Thus, one could say that censorship and freedom to pursue the truth were simultaneously instituted.

In his exposition of this watershed development, de Vries puts it in the following way. "But from Kant's day on, the scholar has above all been a functionary—a teacher, or Dozent—in an official institution of higher education in which the "entire content of learning" as well as the 'thinkers devoted to it' are treated in a factory-like manner...." Yet, in its task of teaching "the totality of what is presently known, the university, according to Kant, can only be based upon the fundamental belief in the possibility of a purely theoretical language, guided by truth alone." [5] As Derrida explains this contradictory impulse, the possibility of upholding this distinction is premised upon the distinction between being able to think and say (but for restricted public) and being able to do, act, and obey (in relation to the wider realm of the civil). The former function for Kant was invested in the "lower" faculty of philosophy and the latter in the "higher faculties of theology, law, and medicine."

The correspondence between the ends of the government and the division of labor between the disciplines of theology, law, and medicine corresponds to the functions of ensuring the eternal well-being of its population; its civil well-being through regulation of property and settling of disputes; and finally, the physical well-being of its individual members. Yet this rational, objective order of principles is not self-sustaining, for, as Kant says, it might be overruled by the natural inclinations of men who would prefer physical well-being over their Page  136civic well-being and their civic well-being over their eternal salvation. It falls to the "lower" faculty of philosophy to provide the necessary critique since the higher interests of the state demand that the "natural" inclinations of the population be kept in control for the long-term interests of providing a just order.

In their functions as clergymen, civil servants and medical doctors, the officials trained in the higher faculties are forbidden to contradict in public, the teachings that have been entrusted to them by the government—"from venturing to play the philosopher's role." In its own turn, the philosopher's pursuit of truth is to be carried on within the confines of the faculty and not taken to the wider public. Thus, the search for truth is encouraged within an instrumentalist framework as an antidote for the members of the higher faculty who will remain in danger of succumbing to popular adulation (since their knowledge serves the interests of the population directly), unless they are reined in by the constant examination of their knowledge through the labors of the "lower" faculty.

My interest in this story is that it invites us to rethink the notion of the university as a sacred space as formulated by Cohen, Kennedy, and Canning. If the idea of sacredness refers to a separation from the profane interests of the world or a promise of limitless freedom to pursue any kind of truth, then it is not only idealist and utopian—it fails to consider the importance of limits as the very condition for the pursuit of knowledge. These limits may be internal to the process of rational inquiry, as for instance, when I limit my claims to that which is knowable through reason, or these may be external as when inquiry is limited by considerations of ethics. Thus, the idea of the university as the site from which a critique of the present could be mounted cannot be made to rest on some utopian idea of freedom. The debate then must center on how we are to define the limits within which a university must operate and what the legitimate demands are that the state can place on the university. If the university is engaged in informing the state of its long-term interests, how are these to be determined and who gets the right to pronounce these? These questions are likely to become more urgent as the questions of determining the general will become more complicated in liberal democracies, as we shall see later.

Here I want to touch on another aspect of Kant's argument that invites us towards a more subtle engagement with the question of truth and Page  137freedom. In his Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, [6] Kant goes beyond the expected enlightenment struggle that would take up the cause of reason on the battlefield of the "irrational." As Stanley Cavell [7] tells us, Kant instead, deepens the Enlightenment, by showing that each instance of the irrational is a particular form of the distortion of reason. Kant calls the four members of this class—fanaticism, superstition, delusion, and sorcery. Each shows a route through which we can see reason having gone demonic. From this perspective, danger comes not from the propensity of the population to fall into a state of nature, but from the possibility that the fanatic pursuit of reason could itself fall into unreason.

In the next section, I consider the events after September 11th, especially the war waged by the United States against Iraq. We know that despite massive protests in the world and despite the failure to get a resolution from the UN in its support, the United States has used its superior power to wage what it calls a pre-emptive war. We also know that all arguments about devising other ways of getting rid of a vicious dictator in Iraq were completely ignored by the United States and Britain. It is also evident, that the decision to wage a war and even discussions on the companies that would receive lucrative contracts for rebuilding Iraq, were already in place when the UN Security Council was debating the issue of whether inspections were yielding results in terms of destruction of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a disorder resulting from people having fallen into a "state of nature." Rather the reasoning offered in support of the war resembles the distortion of reason that has come about in the form of a fantasy of becoming completely invincible, of overcoming all dangers that are inherent to being human, even of overcoming any uncertainty about other minds, and thus of refusing the human. Forms of censorship are now being invented in the North American university that derive from the power of the President to appropriate the right to declare war with a kind of reasoning that seems to closely resemble the distortions of reason outlined above. I do not think that we have moved from a condition of free inquiry to that of complete censorship as Cohen, Kennedy, and Canning seem to suggest; but there are important and even ominous changes that are taking place. In order to understand why universities seem to be so ready to be co-opted in accepting intrusions into their jurisdictions, we have to go deeper into the normal functioning of the university. After all, the transformation of the statePage  138 as a security state poses great threats to academic freedom but these threats have not made an appearance all of a sudden from nowhere like the rabbit conjured out of a magician's hat. I do not discount the role of contingency in these transformations but neither can we afford to ignore the trends that were already evident in the functioning of universities.

States of Exception and Limits of Criticism

That September 11th came to be constituted as a unique event is not in question. Although there was much debate in the academy as to how we are to interpret the meaning placed on the uniqueness of the event, there is little doubt that it paved the way for the political expression of ideas that signaled a huge shift in policy regarding war. It also instituted new practices of governmentality in the United States. [8] Right after September 11th, several representatives of the administration argued that the world had changed because the attack on the World Trade Center towers had changed the nature of war. Immediately after this event, I wrote that "...political language slides into the idea of America as the privileged site of universal values. It is from this perspective that one can speculate why the talk is not of the many terrorisms with which several countries have lived now for more than thirty years, but with one grand terrorism—Islamic terrorism. In the same vein, the world is said to have changed after September 11th. What could this mean except that while terrorist forms of warfare in other spaces in Africa, Asia, or Middle East were against forms of particularism, the attack on America is seen as an attack on humanity itself?" [9] The uniqueness of the event, then, lay in both the spectacular violence and in the way in which it came to be narrated. Because other experiences of dealing with militant and violent forms of political action were completely eclipsed in the discourse of terrorism in the United States, many people came to believe that the whole world had been altered by this act of terrorism.

Soon after September 11th, some scholars drew pointed attention to the fact that similar acts of violence had taken place earlier. For all the moral indignation at the terrorists, it is hardly a secret that the United States had itself supported dictatorships and provided support to those who it now considers to constitute an axis of evil. [10] Catherine Lutz titled her reflections on September 11th, "The Wars Less Known." [11] She opened her paper as follows. "The wars of the United states have been showered with prose suggesting that they burstPage  139 open not bodies, but history. War gives birth to new beginnings; the story goes, even moving the course of human events in positive, if also tragic ways. Given this belief in war's grandeur and its tectonic role, what followed September 11, 2001 had to be declared another good war. And because most of its victims were homefront civilians, it was called a war like no other. But while the hijackers who killed so many that day might have created a new kind of violent spectacle, they were not the authors of one of the human era's uniquely horrific events. For, I wearily note, we have been here before and we have been led to forget. Today's war without end began long ago, and it has produced both the corpses of battle and economic and physical causalities in other arenas."

Despite this and many other such voices from academics, intellectuals and artists, the political rhetoric has worked to create a sense of paranoia and to insist that September 11th has changed the world, requiring a doctrine of preventive wars. [12] In the administration's view, September 11th introduced a new kind of war because terrorists used such weapons as martyrdom and because dictators of rogue states did not care for the lives of their people. The assumption underlying these statements is that terrorists and leaders of rogue states are new kinds of subjects—less than human—because they produce killable bodies in ways that are different from the way that killable bodies are produced under the sign of the legitimate state. By a sleight of hand, both terrorists and leaders of rogue states, of which Saddam Hussein has become the paradigmatic example, have been denounced as evil. It was as if the United States had suddenly discovered the dangers of weapons of mass destruction—the entire history of how, where, and by whom such weapons were produced and circulated; who was the beneficiary of this proliferation of chemical and biological weapons and where did profits go, were wiped off the record.

All of which is, I too wearily note, is well known and its repetition will serve little purpose. What is alarming in this picture is that the most powerful country in the world, now espouses a doctrine of its extreme vulnerability and persuades a large public of an imminent threat to its security. As the document on the National Security Strategy [13] stated, it was necessary to adapt the concept of imminent threat to the "capabilities and objectives of today's adversaries." As the rhetoric of preemption replaces the strategy of deterrence, it is becoming clear that "self defense" as propagated by this administration is defined so broadly that any fear of an adversary is enough excuse to inflict massive harmPage  140 on the population of countries designated as rogue states. It is not considered necessary for the government to show that the threat is, indeed, imminent-it suffices to argue that sometime in the future, someone like Saddam will acquire weapons of mass destruction. Simple apprehension that a potential adversary is out there can trigger the offensive use of force. President Bush has repeatedly stated that all Americans need to be forward-looking and to be ready for pre-emptive action when necessary to defend not only the liberty of America but also to protect its key access to world markets and its position of preeminence. In other words, it seems increasingly likely that the state of exception is going to become the normal state of affairs.

And what of proof? To my mind, there is an amazing slippage between terrorists and rogue states with regard to questions of proof. Terrorists operate in the dark but they resort to spectacular violence—for the purpose of the violence is precisely to leave a signature. Suicide bombers produce their own bodies as killable in the act of killing others. [14] On the other hand, weapons of mass destruction that Saddam's regime is supposed to possess were presumably hidden, but they were not immune to the search processes in which the inspectors were engaged. In fact, one may argue that leaders of rogue states are as vulnerable as other regimes to attacks by terrorists. Therefore, why one should assume an identity of interest between terrorists and rogue states is not self-evident. Whatever evidence exists suggests that terrorists are much more likely to have received weapons from either legitimate states in the pursuit of their own geopolitical interests or through shadowy markets that operate very much within the recognized state structures. I would argue that there are, indeed, extremely difficult questions regarding the limits to sovereignty that the possession and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction raise. [15] However, this situation was calling for a legal strategy that would have allowed Saddam Hussein or other dictators to be charged with the crimes he is alleged to have committed. [16] Instead, the standards of proof demanded by the present administration seem to verge on a witchcraft trial. What prompts my thought here is that the rage for proof is like testing for a woman's witchcraft in medieval times by seeing whether she will drown, declaring that if she drowns she was innocent but if she does not drown, then she is to be put to death as a witch.

It will take many years of hard work to meticulously document how it happened that fanaticism, superstition, delusion, and sorcery came to bePage  141 seen as forms of reasonable discussion of national security in the United States. We do know, however, that earlier projects of empire that were also defended on grounds of national interest or of the white man's burden were similarly discussed in languages that mimicked rational discourse. [17] My argument is not that violence and terrorism are like spectral presences that shadow globalization but, rather, that the re-imagining of the world as full of imminent threats to the United States is likely to have a serious impact on the concrete ways that knowledge is structured in universities. It is important that we prepare ourselves to undertake serious research on the way in which the routines of teaching, research and administration, as well as our relations to students has begun to alter under these pressures—general statements will not be enough. This is the same sort of question that we have asked about colonialism and the subsequent Cold War—viz., how did these political processes influence the agenda of social sciences and humanities? The end of colonialism created a moral imperative in the newly independent countries in Asia and Africa that research in these disciplines should be ideally conducted under the sign of the nation as if this was the only vantage point from which social sciences could be engaged. The trend came under strong critique from the subaltern historians and from theorist of globalization such as Arjun Appadurai: the historical events came to be woven into social science research in complex ways. The same rigor with regard to documenting the impact of the Cold War on the formation of disciplines was not evident. [18] But we now need to move ahead and look at the Cold War itself in relation to a new geography of violence within a global context, for it is likely to reconfigure knowledge in the metropolitan centers and the so-called peripheries.

States of Emergency and the Everyday Life of Universities

One of the things that September 11th and the subsequent war against Iraq has done is to dismantle the distinction between finished and unfinished nations. Commenting on the dangers of the present doctrine of preemptive war, Neta C. Crawford writes, "If simple fear justifies preemption, the preemptions will have no limits since, according to Bush administration's own arguments, we cannot know with certainty what the other side has and where it might be located or when it might be used...If simple fear does not suffice, then how much of what kind of fear, justifies preemption? We need to tread aPage  142 fine line. The threshold of evidence and warning cannot be too low: simple apprehension that a potential adversary might be out there somewhere and may be acquiring the means to do harm cannot trigger the offensive use of force. This is not presumption but paranoid aggression, and it promises endless war. We must-stressful as it might be psychologically—accept some vulnerability and uncertainty." [19]

So, paradoxically, the universities in North America are likely to feel the same kinds of pressures that universities in other countries that were designated as "new nations" or "unfinished nations" had to face from their governments on the grounds that national security required control over the production and especially the circulation of knowledge. To take completely banal examples of these processes, universities in India were required, by administrative fiats, to obtain permission from the Home Ministry and the External Affairs Ministry before inviting a speaker from abroad even if there was no salary or honorarium to be offered. The way this functioned was that the rules became a matter of testing one's strength as a university professor against that of the bureaucrat. I know that in the Delhi School of Economics, where I worked for almost all my adult life, the rule was honored more in its breach. However, this did not mean that serious restrictions could not be placed on research activities. For instance, during the national Emergency in 1976, the rules that had always been in place but were sparingly used began to be deployed to coerce compliance or punish the critics of government. Similarly in recent years as the Government solidifies its agenda of Hindutva it has begun to punish universities and departments from which it expects dissent. I do not mean to exaggerate these constraints but it seems to me that one often assumes that censorship is a problem of dictatorial polities alone. The ways in which censorship comes to operate in democracies are different from the direct imposition in many dictatorial regimes and may even appear to many to be banal, but unless one is wakeful to them, one may slowly become complicit in accepting forms of authoritarianism. [20] This is what I take Kant to mean when he cautioned that the long-term interests of the state might be jeopardized if the faculty of philosophy did not have the freedom to pursue the truth for its own sake.

The erosion of liberties in universities is becoming evident after September 11th and state intervention in the conduct of universities is likely to become more blatant. One consequence of this is the undermining of thePage  143 building of global publics for, with few exceptions, universities have quietly accepted the routine intimidation of their own students who come from foreign countries or have foreign sounding names. Charles M. Vest, the President of MIT in October 2002 in the President's Report, formulated these issues with clarity and characteristic restraint. [21] He argued that new legislative and administrative directives imposing restrictions on international students had various facets—student tracking, limitations on access to curricula and research in the university, and the potential impact on the S&E workforce. He accepted the need to provide basic directory information on foreign students-such as, whether someone admitted on a student visa was, in fact, enrolled in the institution, or what was the area of his or her study. Beyond this, he felt that the presidential directive issued on October 2001, requiring that universities determine sensitive areas of a study that were off limit for foreign students would seriously curtail the capacities of the university and would constitute unreasonable restrictions on the freedom of scientific research. In the presidential directive the sensitive areas included nuclear technology, robotics, advanced computers, and materials. The President of MIT noted that while restricting access to sensitive areas is not new, it was earlier applied to areas of research that either were classified or were linked to immediate development of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Vest's report also drew pointed attention to the fact that over one-third of scientists and engineers in American industry were born elsewhere, with the number exceeding fifty percent in engineering and computer science. Despite the clear evidence of the positive contributions of foreign students to the scientific capabilities of the United States, it is intriguing that far from coming out in the open and acknowledging their contributions, the universities have tolerated all kinds of humiliations of these students in the name of security.

In their daily life, then, universities in the prosperous United States have become subject to the same kind of humiliation and erosion of autonomy as universities in other parts of the world. Like the corrosive power of banal nationalism to slowly eat away at the democratic capabilities of institutions, the forms of intimidation that appear banal or simply irritating, actually significantly reduce the free space for thinking. [22] They promote the distortions of reason and wear down the capacity of universities to inform the state about its long-term interests. In an atmosphere of paranoia and fear the universities in the UnitedPage  144 States are beginning to function like universities in many other parts of the world which are at the mercy of petty bureaucrats and self styled protectors of "national interest". To that extent, the distinction between nations secure in their nationhood and so-called unfinished nations has become unhinged. Instead of an absolute distinction between despotic and democratic regimes, we see emerging a general atmosphere of fear and a paranoid concern with security that can bring a democracy close to the very forces of despotism that it seeks to fight. I have watched with concern how many people in positions of leadership failed to demand that the administration provide reasonable proof that Saddam's regime possesses weapons of mass destruction or that his regime poses an imminent threat to the security of the United States. Instead, they were ready to give their approval for war because the President has told them so and they believe in the President of the United States who is the leader of civilized nations. The process bears some resemblance to the Frankfurt School's description of the fascist personality and fear of freedom but it is equally important to note that it has not managed to impose total silence despite memories of McCarthyism.

Questions of Responsibility

Although recent events may have forced this issue on us, I believe that questions about censorship and freedom need to be addressed continuously. Our pictures of the boundaries between knowledge as the pursuit of curiosity for its own sake and knowledge as instrumental, cannot remain stable. New sites for the production and circulation of knowledge continue to emerge, as do new standards for what counts as evidence and what counts as proof. These are issues that Paul Rabinow has examined in depth in his work on science and modernity. [23] I draw on his work specifically with regard to the emergence of novelty as an aspect of both modernity and curiosity. I give below some excerpts of a conversation between Rabinow and Tom White, his main informant who was formally the vice-president of Cetus Corporation. It seems obvious from the conversation that though Tom White is an industrial scientist (as opposed to a university scientist), what seems to drive his science is intellectual curiosity rather than clear-cut demands of industry. [24]

PR: What role does curiosity play in science?

TW: To me curiosity is an extremely powerful motivating factor. YouPage  145 know, food, sex, shelter, and stuff like could call it instinct or gut level, but we don't know. Henry Erlich [a senior scientist at Cetus] will justify his work on diabetes [as having commercial potential], and that's the right thing to do, but he just wants to know about how the whole thing works. He doesn't give a damn about whatever else is involved in it.

PR: What are the limits to curiosity?

TW: Boredom. I have seen curiosity end for some scientists. When it does end it is totally recognizable element in them.

PR: So, curiosity can die and become routine and boredom. But what about the other side: can you have too much curiosity?

TW: Yes, some people are so curious that they never complete a thing.

PR: But modernity faces the question of what are the limits to curiosity? There were the German medical and scientific experiments and so many others in the United States and elsewhere, which obviously cross the line of acceptable research or clinical practice...Perhaps there are no self-limiting principles within science itself to tell you not to do a particular experiment? Since curiosity and modernity combine to drive endlessly toward producing something new, perhaps the combination of newness and curiosity's boundlessness is the problem?

I have myself found this point of view (viz. that science cannot itself provide ethical limits) echoed in interviews with many scientists. [25] Indeed, the emergence of such disciplines as bioethics; the routinization of IRB procedures in universities; and other related developments are indicative of the fact that we expect limits to curiosity to be provided by some independent standards for which we wish to hold society rather than science to be responsible. [26] Rabinow's work is extremely important in showing us that new sites for pursuing scientific research have emerged in the world that have vastly complicated our pictures of industry and university. What I miss in this rendering, however, is the manner in which the very real material demands without which science could not be done at all in its present mode, have changed the balance between private and public interests in the university itself.

In recent examination of the corporatization of American universities, Masao Miyoshi draws attention to the fervent search for project grants and license income in the top research universities. [27] The most important concern seems to me to stem less from some idealist notion about freedom of thought and morePage  146 from the fact that universities often end up by subsidizing the corporate world. One may argue that the university-industry alliance leads to enhanced public goods since without this alliance the transfer of research into usable products for the consumer either would not happen or happen at a very slow pace. Some would argue, Moyshi says, that: "The transfer of federally funded research result to industry, the conversion of non-profit scholarship to for-profit R & D might well be deemed justifiable on the grounds that inert federal funds are being used and activated by private developers for public benefits." However, he then goes on to show the traps and snares in this argument. Instead of offering wide-open access to federally funded research, he says, the close alliance between university and industry with the related emphasis on patenting delays the dissemination of information or restricts it in other ways. Second, the beneficiaries of the academic technological inventions ultimately turn out to be not consumers but corporations. In addition, I would argue that the models for research laid out in the sciences then begin to inform social science research (if not humanities) so that routine evaluation of faculty is increasingly based on the number of grants they have received, and the number of papers published, rather than an exercise of judgment regarding the quality of research. In addition, as Marlyn Strathern has argued, the audit cultures introduced in universities are often out of joint with the temporality of teaching and research. For Strathern, the process of learning is not one of consumption but one of absorption so that there must a lapse of time between what has been taught and what has been learnt. Similarly, she argues that time must be set aside for all the wasteful and dead-end activities that inevitably precede genuine findings—yet, there is no space made in audit cultures for these non-productive activities as essential to the life of the university. Again, it is not my case that research grants are not important for doing certain kind of research or that maintaining something like a long-term cohort study is even possible without funding—rather, I suggest that we need to pay very close attention to the balance between different kinds of curiosities in evaluating research of faculty. [28]

If one were emboldened to produce an ethnographic study on how the evaluation of scholarship in terms of research grants and license income alters the academic culture of the university, one could show the demoralization among faculty who want to work on risky subjects, when outcome cannot be easily predicted. The kind of curiosity driven research to which Tom WhitePage  147 was alluding in his discussion with Rabinow, has to be constantly justified to university administration in terms of its capacity to generate grants or license income for universities. This is where the long-term impact of the corporatization of the university may turn out to be even more pernicious than we have imagined. Having come to the United States from India, when I first encountered the directives issued to universities to provide privileged information on foreign students from Arab countries, I assumed that the major universities would simply refuse to comply. If indeed, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, California, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Columbia, or Michigan (among many others) would jointly refuse to obey the administrative directives that take away their own jurisdiction over their students, surely there would be some impact on the policies of the administration on these issues? It took me some time to realize that the weak and sporadic dissent perhaps represented that universities were so dependant for funding on federal grants and their prestige as research universities was so tied up with funding that opposition was not a simple matter of withdrawing consent. [29] I remember that many academics in India learnt that the state could run roughshod over democratic freedoms during the National Emergency in India in 1976 and now under the Hindutva agenda of the state in India. The experiences of many academics with censorship around the world, both under dictatorial regimes and democratic ones, should invite us to reconsider seriously how we can redefine the legitimate interests of the state that the university is expected to serve? How are these to be balanced with the pursuit of truth for its own sake? How are new standards of research, especially in the sciences, to be supported materially? Finally, what does it mean for the life of the university to be placed within these contradictory demands? The formulation suggested by Cohen, Kennedy, and Canning, that the university was of the world and in the world, requires a cold, dispassionate inquiry from many angles on the meaning of the university. A simple scenario of before and after with regard to September 11th would betray the seriousness of the crisis we are facing.

Of Consent and Related Matters

Let us agree that political community would be impossible unless one was willing to recognize one's own voice in that of the other. In other words, one's willingness to be represented by someone else or the ability to representPage  148 constitutes the conditions of a democratic polity. Given that one cannot give consent everyday to what is being undertaken on one's behalf, it seems to me that the question of how a community of dissent may emerge becomes a question of vital importance. Right after September 11th, I felt that the necessity to inflict punishment on the "enemy" who was faceless, who was seen to be like a phantasm that could be anywhere and everywhere, defined the rhetoric of the administration. If I may be allowed to loop back to my earlier words, I wrote: [30]

The tremendous loss of life and the style of killing in the present wars-call them terrorism (including state terrorism), call them insurgency, call them wars of liberation, all raise the issue of theodicy. Yet, while in many other countries the wounds inflicted through such violence are acknowledged as attesting to the vulnerability of human life—in the case of American society there is an inability to acknowledge this vulnerability. Or rather the vulnerability to which we, as embodied beings are subject, the powerlessness, is recast in terms of strength. [31] And thereby the representations of the American nation manage to obscure from view, the experiences of those within its body politics who were never safe even before September 11th. While many have heard arrogance in these statements—to my ears they are signs of the inability to address pain. Consider the following passage in Nietzsche on the moment of the production of ressentiment ..."to deaden, by means of a more violent emotion of any kind, a tormenting secret pain that is becoming unendurable, and to drive it out of consciousness at least for the moment: for that one requires an affect, as savage an affect as possible, and, in order to excite that, any pretext at all." [32]

I was not suggesting any conspiracy theory, or that a pretext was needed for subsequent bombing of Afghanistan and the (then) threatened war on Iraq. What I was pointing to was the deep need to show the tattered body of the "enemy" as a rational response to the September 11th attacks. In the first instance, it seemed to me that this was the site of punishment as spectacle. Michel Foucault claimed, "...justice no longer takes public responsibilityPage  149 for that violence that is bound up with its practice." [33] On further reflection, though, it appears to me that theatrical display of sovereign power is only part of the story. There is equally the need to replace the nagging pain of the failure of America as a moral nation by a more savage affect. The "feel good about yourself" sense, so evident on the news media in the war reportage on channels such as Fox, seems a cover up for the fact that the "feel good" sense is disappearing from public life, as American citizens or others living in this country face up to the horrifying images of cluster bombs used by the alliance of the willing—while all the time condemning the regime of Saddam for its cruelties on its population. It is similar (or more lethal) to the pain of Hindus in today's India in witnessing the enormous pain inflicted on Indian Muslims on their (the Hindus') behalf. This is how many survivors of September 11th asked, what relation does their pain bear to the pain of the others—what kind of responsibility is theirs when successive regimes elected by them have supported military regimes, brutal dictatorships, and warlords mired in corruption with no space for the exercise of critical monitoring of politics in the Middle East? If violence has replaced politics in the present globalized spaces in these regions, then surely it is only by acknowledging that pain as "ours" that a global civil society could respond. Instead of replacing the pain with another more violent and savage affect, survivors and witnesses of violence would have to engage in a different way with the pain inflicted on them. [34]

It would appear to me that, after all, there is work to be done. I am reminded in my moments of despair (seeing how ordinary people can begin to take pleasure in such obscenities as the "mother of all bombs")—of the figure of Gandhi and his homespun technology of satyagraha or the insistence on truth. It was in the work of the everyday—spinning, cleaning, writing, fasting—that Gandhi found the resources for his struggle against the British rule. I suggest that we will have to invent our own forms of insistence on truth from within the everyday life of universities if the urge to fanaticism, superstition, delusion, and exorcism is to be overcome in the darkness of these times.

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1. It is my pleasure to thank David William Cohen and Michael Kennedy for their generous invitation to take part in the seminar on the university as sacred space held in Michigan in August 2002. I gratefully acknowledge the stimulating comments offered by participants and especially want to thank the graduate students at Michigan for their readiness to engage in discussions. Comments by Ali Khan, Talal Asad, Bhrigupati Singh, Sylvain Perdigon, Gyan Pandey and Pamela Reynolds were most helpful in revising the earlier draft. Ranen, Saumya, Jishnu, Carolina, and Sanmay directed me to various readings and engaged in heated discussions on what it was to do science in the university. I thank them for their love manifested in their readiness to offer constructive criticisms rather than paralyzing ones.

2. Immanuel Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties, trans. Mary J Gregory (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992); Jacques Derrida, Du droit a la philosophie (Paris: Galileée, 1990); Hent de Vries, Religion and Violence: Philosophical Perspectives from Kant to Derrida (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002).

3. I spent more than thirty years at the Delhi School of Economics; my experience of North American universities is much more limited.

4. de Vries points out that Kant's text deeply influenced the document Wilhelm von Humboldt drafted in 1809-10 as a model for the University of Berlin. It is not that there are on other models of the university, but they were more inclined towards one or the other function rather than to the imperative of combining both. In the United States, for instance, the Morrill Act of 1862, set the tone for the development of certain kinds of American universities and community colleges—especially important were the schools of agriculture, engineering, home economics and business administration. See also Clark Kerr, The Uses of University (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).

5. de Vries, Religion and Violence, 26-27.

6. Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limit of Religion Alone, trans. T. M. Greene and H. H. Hudson (New York: Harper and Row, 1960).

7. Stanley Cavell, The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).

8. On the way in which the crusade against terrorism strengthens the state's sovereign claim over a monopoly on secrecy and knowledge, see Deborah PoolePage  151 and Gerardo Rénique, "Terror and the Privatized State: A Peruvian Parable," Radical History Review 85 (2003): 150-163.

9. Veena Das, "Violence and Translation," Anthropological Quarterly 75, 1 (2002).

10. The moral absolutism in the statements about the evil character of the "terrorists" seems to induce a strange political amnesia. Prior to September 11th, the relationship between al Qaeda and the Taliban was well known to the U.S. and U.K. governments (indeed, the United States failed to act on detailed Russian intelligence provided to the UN in March 2001). While the British Foreign Secretary invoked the obligatory comparison to action against the Nazi regime and warned against appeasement right after September 11th, he had no hesitation (when Home Secretary a year earlier) in demanding the immediate removal from the United Kingdom of all the civilian hostages claiming asylum in Britain after their hijacked Afghani aircraft had landed at a London airport. See Jane's Intelligence Digest (2001) on how Russian intelligence on al Qaeda was ignored. On Jack Straw's pronouncements on the requests for asylums in the Afghan hijacking case, see <,2763,191495,00.html>. As for Iraq's use of chemical weapons, it is well to recall that in 1988 there was overwhelming evidence that Saddam's regime had used chemical weapons against the Kurds. In response to the gassing, sweeping sanctions were unanimously passed by the U.S. Senate that would have denied Iraq access to U.S. technology, but were killed by the White House. Prior to that, when chemical weapons were used against Iran in 1984, Donald Rumsfeld was the envoy who met the then foreign minister of Iraq, Tariq Aziz. At that time, the defeat of Iraq was considered contrary to U.S. interests. My point is not that such complicity with Iraq on the part of the officials in the present Administration requires any kind of public apology: that would be a foolish hope. We need to know if any lessons were learned from this on the dangerous consequences of supporting dictators by the United States that would be applied in formation of foreign policy. Of that, there is little evidence.

11. Catherine Lutz, "The Wars Less Known," The South Atlantic Quarterly 101, 2 (Spring 2002): 285-297.

12. Let us think of the genealogy of "terrorism" as constructing a form of forgetting. Thus, if one reads accounts so lynching from the victim's pointPage  152 of view, the term terror appears frequently as a description of the affect—it is only by deleting the experienced terror of the African Americans that anyone can claim that the experience of terrorism was something new in the United States.

13. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, D.C.: Office of the President, September 2002). The full text is available at <>.

14. The scholars who have dared to question the air of obviousness with which dividing lines are drawn to consider some kinds of violence as legitimate and other as illegitimate, have been unhesitatingly castigated as supporters of terrorism. Thus, Ghassan Hage documents the difficulties he has faced in providing an analysis of the practices of suicide bombers in Palestine. As he says, "I wonder why it is that that suicide bombing cannot be talked about without being condemned first. After all, we can sit and analyze in a cool manner the formidably violence of colonial invasion without feeling that "absolute" moral condemnation should be precondition or even a substitute for uttering an opinion about it". Ghassan Hage, "'Comes a Time We are all Enthusiasm': Understanding Palestinian Suicide Bombers in Times of Exighophobia" Public Culture 15, 1 (2003): 65-90. With a different descriptive strategy, Sylvain Perdigon says that he has tried to find " words circulated in the margins of the symbolic funeral of the first Palestinian female suicide-bomber, and on the possibility of an anthropological language which, in relation to this event, would not bear the signature of the Israeli state or of symmetrical Palestinian claims upon the members of the Palestinian community, nor be entangled too quickly in the moral debate and the ascription of innocence or culpability. Sylvain Perdigon, "Words around an Infamous Woman," Graduate Student Paper awarded the Hughes Prize of the Society of Medical Anthropology, 2002.

15. I would like to note, though, that the unchecked proliferation of other weapons also has serious consequences for the spread of violence and human suffering as the new kinds of wars in parts of Asia and Africa attest.

16. For what it is worth, my suspicion is that such a strategy would inevitably reveal the links between despotic states and democratic ones in the name of geopolitical interests and hence constitute a political risk to the leaders of western democracies that they are unwilling to allow.

17. For masterly exposition of these processes, see Uday Singh Mehta,Page  153Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth Century British Liberal Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).

18. For a detailed analysis of these questions with regard to the development of sociology and social anthropology in India, see Veena Das, "Social Sciences and the Publics," in Oxford India Companion to Sociology and Social Anthropology, Vol.1 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003), 1-32; Nicholas Dirks, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1999). I note that the interaction between global imaginations of areas and the local mapping of these imaginaries has unintended consequences. In the case of India, there was a strong investment in the idea that the emotional unity of the country could be forged by appeals to an ancient but accommodating Hindu tradition. It is not my case that this view was uncontested but rather that the battles in the social sciences and humanities were fought over terrains that were concerned with questions of nation building—these battles cannot be understood through some kind of tunnel view of history.

19. Neta C. Crawford, "The Best Defense: The Problem with Bush's 'Preemptive' War Doctrine," Boston Review, 2003, 28, 1 (2003): 50-54.

20. I offer one example of this. I wrote some papers on the Sikh militant movement using literature in Gurmudkhi, and recorded cassettes of the speeches of Bhindranwale that were banned but freely available. Apart from some efforts at intimidation, my liberty was never seriously threatened—however, the possibility that my "illegal" use of this literature could constitute a legal offence was sometimes troubling to me.

21. See Charles M. Vest, Response and Responsibility: Balancing Security and Openness in Research and Education, Report of the President for the Academic Year 2001-2002 (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, October 2002).

22. Consider the way thought is sought to be limited when in the name of civilization there are condemnations of those who are critical of the present stance of the government as "anti-American." Thus in a report produced by American Council of Trustees and Alumni, there was reference to a number of critical scholars as the "weak link" in America's fight against terrorism. See Jerry L Martin and Anne D. Neal, "Defending Civilization: How Our UniversitiesPage  154 are Failing America and What Can Be Done about It," <>. The group that produced this report was reportedly funded by Lynne Cheney, wife of the U.S. Vice President and Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat.

23. Paul Rabinow, Essays on the Anthropology of Reason (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996).

24. Rabinow, Essays on the Anthropology of Reason, 68-69.

25. Veena Das and Abhijit Dasgupta, "The Cholera Vaccine in India: Scientific and Political Representations," Economic and Political Weekly,35, 8/9 (2000): 633-645.

26. For an account of the debates on the practice of ethics, including the ethics of doing science in the university, see Michael Davis, Ethics and the University (London: Routledge, 1999).

27. Masao Miyoshi, "Ivory Tower in Escrow," Boundary 2 (2000): 7-50.

28. See Marlys Strathern, "'Improving Ratings: Audit in the British University System," European Review 5, 3 (1997): 305-21. See also her recent edited book on audit cultures in which there are some fine-grained analyses of the institutional practices around auditing and producing a marketable professional self. The authors, however, fail to consider the question of material resources needed to produce certain kinds of research that is dependent upon laboratories, equipment, large-scale trials, or large samples. See Audit Cultures: Anthropological Studies in Accountability, Ethics, and the Academy, ed. Marlyn Strathern (London: Routledge, 2000).

29. It is not that university presidents do not mobilize their faculties for any protest. For instance, faculty and staff at Johns Hopkins were rightly mobilized to appeal to their elected representatives when there was a proposal to make further budgetary cuts to the Sellinger Program in Maryland that supports the state's educational opportunities for Maryland students.

30. Veena Das, "Violence and Translation".

31. I noted then and I emphasize again that to acknowledge one's vulnerability and that we are not omnipotent is not to cast ourselves as helpless victims.

32. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals (New York: Vintage Books, 1969) 127.

33. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage Books 1979), 9.

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34. It is surprising that although the role of the United States in bringing Saddam to power and sustaining his regime is easy to document, there is no address to this issue in discussions of why innocent Iraqis should pay the price for the adventurism of U.S. policy among those who support war against Iraq. For an accessible, clear account of the role of the United States in Iraq, see Roger Morris, "A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making," New York Times, March 14, 2003, A27.