Manan Ahmed’s Where the Wild Frontiers Are: Pakistan and the American Imagination is a collection spanning writing from this blog and elsewhere.
Jacob Silverman for The National:
A worthwhile political blogger doesn’t have to always be right, but he or she should be able to remain sober in the emotional maelstrom of politics or amidst national trauma. Ahmed repeatedly does this, particularly when he summarises the problems with the commentary appearing after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. “There is never a hint of any legislative or political legacy, any economic or social accomplishment,” he writes. “She is being remembered for who she was.” Potentially unpopular, this analysis is also shrewd and penetratingly precise. Our world could use more of it.
Nandini Ramachandran in The Sunday Guardian:
The size of its betrayal would’ve forced Manto into asking his fellow citizens what he once asked Uncle Sam — my country is poor, but why is it ignorant? This is a query that haunts Manan Ahmed as much as Manto, and his book is an antidote to the assumptions many make about Islamic societies. Wild Frontiers taps into the angry bewilderment of generations of postcolonial thinkers. Why is it, everyone from Frantz Fanon to Eqbal Ahmad to Mahmood Mamdani has asked, that modern civilisation insists on operating in binaries?
Salman Hussain in CounterPunch:
Geography, a sense of the place, its people, local histories, and memory, is from where Ahmed’s critique of power emerges and where it is located. … Critical scrutiny of the nexus of knowledge and power in general and the American empire in particular, is an abiding concern of Ahmed’s writings. … Ahmed belongs to the proud tradition of dissenting academic voices, and specifically one that utilized blogging to engage with the general public.
Razeshta Sethna for Dawn Books & Authors:
…this collection reminds us that detailed, incisive and intelligent blogging is about a free-flowing style. Ahmed makes regional politics easily accessible, reaching out to readers who perhaps may have no idea about the history of the political relationship between Pakistan and America. … Ahmed works as a “historian of the present”. He documents socio-political happenings, almost like a historian frantically archiving for the future…
Interviews with Manan Ahmed:
Amitava Kumar’s interview:
Manan Ahmed is a historian. He is also a blogger who started the blog Chapati Mystery. His blog-posts have been curated into a book that is coming out this month. Manan’s publisher asked me to write a Foreword to this book. (I did, but damn, I wish I had come up with the sentence “His is a canny insurgency of the keyboard and the kilobytes.”) I’m going to quote later from the Foreword, but first a brief interview with the author. The idea is to treat this occasion as a discussion of the phenomenon of academic blogging.
Rabia Mehmood’s interview for Express Tribune, Pakistan:
Ahmed’s writing on imperialism and media criticism could have affected his future as an academic, but Ahmed felt the need to blog his thoughts was critical.
Daisy Rockwell’s The Little Book of Terror is now out of print but below are some reviews and conversations:
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Vijay Prashad for CounterPunch:
The book is the NYPD dossier through the looking glass.
“Lapata” in Hindi and Urdu can mean ‘anonymous’, but also references the idea of something that has ‘disappeared’. Rockwell writes, “A part of me also wanted to escape the legacy contained within my real name, I suppose, that of my grandfather, Norman Rockwell. I wanted to make art without the burden of expectations that come with that identity.”
I would also posit that she writes for those Others who have been disappeared—by the media, by the state, by the Global War on Terror. When I think of her grandfather’s portraits, beloved in diners throughout the Midwestern states of my drive-through American youth, I remember that his work, too, involved painting the fantastic—though his subject matter appeared to be hyper-real. Here, his granddaughter Daisy paints the hyper-real as scenes from a seemingly unlikely world, just so that we (who do not want to know this real) can comprehend the fantastical nature of the times in which we live.
Anindita Ghose for Mint:
Although branded as “art/non-fiction/current events”, The Little Book of Terror isn’t neat reportage or artistic bravado. It is poignant and profane. It is the big book of things people don’t say in genteel society.
Aishwarya Subramanian for The Sunday Guardian:
As an artist, and one of a family of artists, Daisy Rockwell understands how crucial images are to the way we understand things. Her grandfather Norman Rockwell was responsible in his day for some truly iconic imagery. In The Little Book of Terror, a collection of essays and art, Rockwell considers the iconography of terrorism in America in the decade or so since 9/11.
Pankaj Mishra for The New York Review of Books:
I was struck by the artwork in The Little Book of Terror, a collection of paintings and essays by the artist Daisy Rockwell. The paintings, widely exhibited across the US this year, are powerful and bold artistic responses to the previous decade of relentless war, propaganda, and fear.
Interviews with Daisy Rockwell:
A Conversation Between Daisy Rockwell And Lorraine Adams at Bookslut:
The novels of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lorraine Adams, Harbor and The Room and the Chair, embrace parallel themes to those illustrated by The Little Book of Terror. Both Adams and Rockwell seek to explore subjective realities and ambiguous truths in the prosecution of the Global War on Terror, in a climate of public discourse that demands black and white rhetoric and trades in absolute certitudes. What follows is a conversation between Adams and Rockwell who recently discussed over email The Little Book of Terror, Rockwell’s paintings, and GWOT.
Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar for Time Out Mumbai
Your work was online and semi-anonymous for many years. What has been the role of the web and social media in your journey as an artist?
The web and social media have played a crucial role in my development as an artist in the last six years, since I left Academia. … I was isolated as an artist, having never gone to art school. I had no connections in the art world, and frankly still have very few. Having my work on the web has helped me find an audience all around the world. More lately Twitter has broadened that network and this has all enabled me to do exactly the work I choose without feeling the constraints of markets and agents and the like.
Daisy Rockwell’s modest project is to apply concentrated curiosity, imagination and a certain bleak humor to every face she studies.
Alex Hanson for Valley News:
That word again — random — belies the sophisticated agenda of Rockwell’s work. Rockwell said she isn’t trained as an artist, but her parents, Jarvis Rockwell and Susan Merrill, are both artists. The portraits of world leaders, of terrorists, of pop figures like the late Whitney Houston, merge the flattened backgrounds of Asian artistic traditions with the candy colors of pop art and the immediacy of current events.
How to reconcile the disaffected young American posing with his fluffy cat and the Shabab, the Somali terrorist group he hoped to join? Rockwell isn’t offering answers. She’s inviting us to look, which is something the photographs circulated by the authorities don’t do.
The relevancy of her paintings to the moment brings her work closer to that of her famous grandfather, who illustrated covers for the Saturday Evening Post, than a viewer might expect.
In her portrait of Alessa, Rockwell depicts him in bubble-gum pink tones, prone on a floral bedspread, cuddling with his beloved cat, Princess Tuna. Unsettling. The narrative of terror that we often see seldom contains photos of wannabe terrorists cuddling with their kitty cats, or of the underwear bomber as a sullen teenager, posing during a school trip.