Books by JH

Authored books and edited volumes by John Hutnyk

Bad Marxism: Capitalism and Cultural Studies (2000, London: Pluto Press)
“Hutnyk packs more dynamite in his sentences than any other writer I know.” Amitava Kumar, Penn State University Cultural Studies commonly claims to be a radical discipline. This book thinks that’s a bad assessment. Cultural theorists love to toy with Marx, but critical thinking seems to fall into obvious traps. / After an introduction which explains why the ‘Marxism’ of the academy is unrecognisable and largely unrecognised in anti-capitalist struggles, Bad Marxism provides detailed analyses of Cultural Studies’ cherished moves by holding fieldwork, archives, empires, hybrids and exchange up against the practical criticism of anti-capitalism. Engaging with the work of key thinkers: Jacques Derrida, James Clifford, Gayatri Spivak, Georges Bataille, Homi Bhabha, Michael Hardt and Toni Negri, Hutnyk concludes by advocating an open Marxism that is both pro-party and pro-critique, while being neither dogmatic, nor dull.

Critique of Exotica: Music, Politics and the Culture Industry (2000, London: Pluto Press)
In this innovative book, John Hutnyk questions the meaning of cultural hybridity. Using the growing popularity of Asian culture in the West as a case study, he looks at just who benefits from this intermingling of culture. /What does it mean when Madonna dons a bindi or Kula Shaker incorporate sitar music in their music? When Cherie Blair wears a sari to a public dinner? When the national dish in the UK is chicken tikka masala? Is this a celebration of multiculturalism or cultural appropriation?/Focusing on music, race and politics, Hutnyk offers a cogently theorised critique of the culture industry. He looks at artists such as Asian Dub Foundation, FunDaMental and Apache Indian to see how their music is both produced and received. He analyses ‘world’ music festivals, racist policing and the power of corporate pop stars to market exotica across the globe. Throughout, Hutnyk provides a searing critique of a world that sells exotica as race relations and visibility as redress

The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity, and the Poverty of Representation (1996, London: Zed books)
(Photo credit (right): Ashis Auddy, Chitrabani)
An original study in the politics of representation, this book explores the discursive construction of a “city of intensities”.
The author analyses representations of Calcutta in a wide variety of discourses: in the gossip and travellor-lore of backpackers and volunteer charity workers; in writing – from classic literature to travel guides; in cinema, photography and maps. The book argues that Western Rumours of Calcutta contribute to the elaboration of an imaginary city which circulates in ways fundamental to the maintenance of an international order.

Throughout, the focusis on the technologies of representation which frame tourist experiences of Calcutta, particularly Calcutta as an image site of decay. For example, volunteer charity workers’ explanations of their experience fit into a framework which attributes blame locally. In this perspective tourist volunteers cannot acknowledge complicity in its own production of the city as a phantasmagoric space of poverty. Travellers visiting Calcutta are shown to be located in a place through which ideological and hegemonic effects are played out in complex yet coordinated ways which are to be analysed within the context of international privilege and domination. Here specific practices and technologies, of tourism, representation and experience, are intricately combined to reinforce and replicate the conditions of contemporary cultural and economic inequality.

A provocative and original reading of both Heidegger and Marx, the book also draws up on writers as diverse as Spivak, Trinh, Jameson, Clifford, Virilio, Bataille, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari.

Diaspora and Hybridity
Authored by:
Virinder Kalra, Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, UK, Raminder Kaur, University of Sussex and John Hutnyk, Goldsmiths, University of London.

What do we mean by ‘diaspora’ and ‘hybridity’? Why are they pivotal concepts in contemporary debates on race, culture and society?

This book is an exhaustive, politically inflected, assessment of the key debates on diaspora and hybridity. It relates the topics to contemporary social struggles and cultural contexts, providing the reader with a framework to evaluate and displace the key ideological arguments, theories and narratives deployed in culturalist academic circles today. The authors demonstrate how diaspora and hybridity serve as problematic tools, cutting across traditional boundaries of nations and groups, where trans-national spaces for a range of contested cultural, political and economic outcomes might arise.

Wide ranging, richly illustrated and challenging, it will be of interest to students of cultural studies, sociology, ethnicity and nationalism.

Edited volumes

Celebrating Transgression: Method and Politics in Anthropological Studies of Culture
(Berghahn: Oxford 2006). Co-ed with Ursula Rao. 256 pages, bibliog., index. ISBN 1-84545-025-6
Transgression is the stock in trade of a certain kind of anthropological sensibility that transforms fieldwork from strict social science to something more engaging. It builds on Koepping’s idea that participation transforms perception and investigates how transgressive practices have triggered the re-theorization of conventional forms of thought and life. It focuses on social practices in various cultural fields including the method and politics of anthropology in order to show how transgressive experiences become relevant for the organisation and understanding of social relations. This book brings key authors in anthropology
together to debate and transgress anthropological expectations. Through transgression as method, as discussed here, our understanding of the world is transformed, and anthropology as a discipline becomes dangerous and relevant again.

Travel Worlds: Journeys in Contemporary Cultural Politics (1999, London: Zed Books)
Edited by Raminder Kaur and John Hutnyk
(cover photo Karoki Lewis)
Everyone’s got a traveller’s tale, but Travel Worlds tells them with a sting:
African-American musicians head East for Kung-Fu kicks while paedophiles go for cheap sex pilgrimage; Western bible-bashers adopt missionary positions in India while heroic Saint George signs on as an Arab soldier in Britain; the scars of Partition mock the protocols of transit, while nomadic insurgents resist the Bangladeshi nation state with lyrical persuasion; Kula Shaker and Madonna trinketize the ‘Orient’ while dead tourists exchange values with travelling ‘terrorists’; British Mirpuris and Black women travel back to the ‘Old Country’ and beyond in ways that are not quite as they seem; and ethnographers collide with tourists in the carousel of Goa’s resorts.

Including poetry and fiction alongside academic essays, this book refuses simplistic dichotomies of north/south and east/west and confronts head on existing conventions of writing about travel in post-colonial, literary and cultural studies. In so doing, it sheds new light on:

– the shortcomings of border theories and nation-state parameters
– the politics of diasporic and transnational travels
– the relations between tourism and terrorism
– the limitations of ‘alternative’ tourism

Travel Worlds plots the politics of diverse journeys; it is ‘something of a travel guide, something of a hold-all backpack, and something of another compass’.

`Travel Worlds dares you to embark on a variety of journeys simultaneously-from magical-mystical tours that promise to fulfil the private fantasies of jaded tourists and eager missionaries to new journeys across old borders that have become terribly real by virtue of being more psychological than territorial. This collection explores exciting psycho-geographical spaces through journeys that somewhere along the way become journeys into the self.’ – Ashis Nandy.

Dis-Orienting Rhythms: the Politics of the New Asian Dance Music (1996, London: Zed Books)
eds Sanjay Sharma, John Hutnyk and Ashwani Sharma.  Downloads here(The image on the cover is from a Fun^Da^Mental album, Sieze the Time).

Blurring the boundaries between academic and cultural production, this book produces a new understanding of the world significance of South Asian cultural production in multi-racist societies. It writes back the presence of South Asian youth into a rapidy expanding and exuberant youth scene; and celebrates this as a dynamic expression of the experience of South Asian lives with an urgent political consciousness. One of the first sustained attempts to situate such production within the study of race and identity, it uncovers the crucial role that contemporary South Asian dance musics – from Hip-hop, Qawwali and Bhangra through Soul, Indi and Jungle – have played in the formation of a new urban cultural politics.

The book opens by positing new theoretical understandings of South Asian cultural representation that move beyond essentialist, outmoded and overdetermined accounts of ethincity in the cultural studies literature. Contributors then go on to narrate the formation of South Asian expressive culture coming out of the UK in a highly charged political context. Part three takes on the task of historical recovery, looking at the antecedents of political South Asian musical performance, autonomous anti-racist organising and problems of alliance with the white Left. The final part of the book engages with the movements and translations of cultural productions across the world, particularly in the fractured spaces of a postcolonial Britian in decline. In opposing all-too-easy ‘world music’ categorisations, the contributors also demonstrate throughout how the liberal alibi of multiculturalism can be challenged across the line of music and politics.

The book as a whole points to more productive ways of undertaking cultural study, a pedagogy committed to constructing forms of political engagement that do not reduce popular culture to the scrutinised Other or simply celebrate new expressive cultures as fragmented and hybrid. This book is required reading for students and academics in cultural studies and social theory; as well as for everyone engaged in anti-imperialist, anti-racist struggles.


‘Music and Politics’ special issue of Theory, Culture and Society Vol 17 no 3 2000 (co-ed with Sanjay Sharma)

‘Music and Politics’ special issue of Postcolonial Studies Vol 1 no 3 1998, (co-ed with Virinder Kalra)

‘Publicity’ section in the journal Left Curve No 29 2005 and no 31 2007



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s