Interview with Naveeda Khan
Duration: 00:07:36; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 76.384; Saturation: 0.226; Lightness: 0.226; Volume: 0.270; Cuts per Minute: 0.132; Words per Minute: 212.707
SS: Can you elaborate on how the problem of 'becoming a Muslim' has anything at all to do with intellectual property rights? I am asking this with reference to the paper that you just presented
where you talked about a certain community, namely Ahmadiyas, stand accused in a court case of being 'counterfeit' Muslims, and how a theological controversy is sought to be resolved as per the
criteria of Intellectual Property Law.
NK:In my conference paper I sketched three strands of legal thought in relation to the Ahmadis that I saw emerge in Pakistan, between the 1970s and the 1990s. First, I gestured to the standing language within the Islamic tradition of how a good Muslim is a pious imitation of the Prophet.. I also showed how this language of pious imitation echoes within a conversation in the Pakistani courts as to whether the Ahmadi is a 'good' or a'bad' copy of a 'good' Muslim - who himself or herself is at his/her best an embodiment, a pious imitation of the Prophet. Finally, my paper moved to an extraordinary judgement rendered by the Pakistan Supreme Court in 1993, suggesting how these prior strands of thought tentatively using the language of the copy to demarcate the Ahmadi from the Muslim - Ahmadis being the copy, and Muslims being the original, this demarcation being complicated by the fact that Muslims are themselves imitations - can converge into a third and distinctly separate strand. Within this strand of thought, the notion of the copyright/trademark may be invoked to characterise the exclusivity of enduring aspects of Islam (such as the call to prayer, modes of ritual practice, building of mosques, etc.) for Muslims, therefore, making clear, almost commonsensical, the nature of Ahmadi infringement upon Islam and their violations of what it is to be Muslim. Moreover, this mere invocation of the copyright/trademark appears fecund in legal and pedagogical possibilities by which to cultivate Muslims to prevent further the Ahmadi encroachment upon inherited, now exclusive, modes of being Muslim. It was also interesting for me to see how the copyright/trademark was invoked. The standing law attending to the copyright/trademark was not extended to religious beliefs and practices. Rather, the Supreme Court wondered what an analogous set of intellectual property rights within the religious domain would look like, and how one might go about articulating them. However, at the same time, in and through this invocation it was as if modes of being Muslim became effectively copyrighted in imagination, if not actually so.
SS: How would you say that the understanding of intellectual property can gainfully engage with elements of cultural studies and history, which essentially deal with what we are talking about, the
production of selves? My question here is whether the self that someone produces is verifiable or not. I think that's uncertain. That's part of a fascinating array of questions of surveillance, identity, identification and authenticity.
NK:Of course anthropology, the discipline I am in and am most familiar with, does bring to debates over intellectual property concerns over the production of selves, and how the making of these selves are rendered problematic in a world in which copyright/trademark exerts increasingly stronger and stronger hold. At the same time, as you pick up very nicely in your question, it is not simply the loss of creative licence of the self to the world and its constitutive elements, but that the very procedures by which commercial rights are articulated and protected and objects authenticated should enter into processes of making selves. This entrance makes selves subject to new criteria of verification, criteria that are perhaps not as explicit as they might be in the domain of objects, suggesting how slippery the slope is for the modern self, with the ever extant possibility of the slide into, as you say, uncertainty. Yet, as I don't focus on how Ahmadis or even other Muslims subsequently interact with this 1993 judgment of the Supreme Court, or on the field of influence emanating out from this judgment, I unfortunately cannot speak to the profound shift that you are sensing, even within my paper.
NK: In anthropology, at least in the way it's
being talked about in the institution I'm a part of, there is considerable attention being paid to affect as it infuses thought. One must be attentive to the affect saturating or being initiated within a given assemblage of concepts, social fields, practices, etc.
This is not simply to say, as Peter Jaszi suggested in his talk yesterday in characterising the difference between cultural studies folks and lawyers, that the cultural studies folks are tapping
into the domain of culture.
NK: Affect is not culturally pre-given. Nor is culture as stable as Jaszi's preliminary comments suggest. Rather, I would insist that the understanding of affect that is most useful is one for which there is no cultural precedence, but one which is able to sense where culture may yet go. So with regard to the 1993 judgment, what I find really interesting in the Supreme Court's discourse is that it is expressing the desire for a certain relationship between a law, an affect, and a bodily recoil to found a set of rights analogous to the copyright/trademark within the religious domain. It is legal thinking infused with affect in its expression of pure possibility, of an opening into the future, of getting past a certain impasse over what it is to be a Muslim; this is what grips the imagination, rather than the delineation of new, more effective means of surveilling and punishing Ahmadis. Of course, the potential for the later effect cannot be denied either.
SS: And if we take the question the other way round? What can someone working in anthropology, working with cultural material on, say, the transformation of selves, take into the understanding of intellectual property?
NK:If I may be permitted to continue our earlier mutual line of thought around surveillance, it seems to me that a knee-jerk projection of Foucault's notion of governmentality, of the management of populations and individuals, onto any sort of statist discourse or action, a projection prominent no less in anthropology than in related disciplines, seems very problematic. It seems to me that it's also not theoretically or empirically feasible to point to the emergence of disciplinary regimes, because I am not sure that states operate with the same rationale across the board. If anything, in and through the IPdebates, a fraction of which I was privileged to witness in this conference, I only hear about the powers of the copyright/trademark intrinsic to itself even before it is yoked to state power. Within this domain internal to the copyright/trademark, copyright, as it is emerging, is not entirely sure of its own future. And that, it seems to me, is what everybody is trying to get at here today: that copyright is operating in lots of different sites, in lots of different ways. Sometimes it's harnessed to rights of access, of information. Sometimes it's harnessed to the conversation around the critique of authorship, etc.
NK: So in a way, what this conference really points to is the capaciousness of this legal genre, and the necessity for cultural studies, then, to attend to the fragility of the legal genre itself, its insecurities and its uncertainties; and not to think of it as an already done deal, as always already harnessed to the surveillance of the state. Therefore, in my paper, when I say the Supreme Court of Pakistan is trying to raise the state, or the ordinary Muslim, to the eye of God, that is not necessarily a negative thing. It's not necessarily about knowing all things at all times. It's also about a certain kind of divine glance on its own creation, which could be at times warm, loving, affectionate, but also at times vengeful and exasperated.
NK: And it is about moulding oneself in accord with that glance. So I don't see the harnessing of copyright to the discussion of who is a Muslim within the framework of the 1993 judgment as an immediate curtailment of rights, as an immediate extension of the surveillance of the state. I see it as an interesting move which has both threats and possibilities, some of which I have tried to sense here.
*Ahmadiya is a religious sect, founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani in 1889. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was born in a small village called Qadian in Amritsar, East Punjab. The followers of Ghulam Ahmad are known both as Ahmadis and Qadianis. In 1889, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad announced that he had received a divine revelation authorising him to receive the allegiance of the faithful. He later also declared himself the Mehdi and the Messiah. After his death, his followers
elected Maulana Nuruddin as his successor. Following the death of Nuruddin in 1914, the community split, with the majority remaining in Qadian and recognising Ghulam Ahmad as prophet. Since 1947, this branch, the Jamaat-i-Ahmadiya,has operated out of Rabwah, a town which they founded in Pakistan. The other branch recognised Ghulam
Ahmad as a reformer and established what came to be known as the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-i-Islam. There are followers of Ahmadiya (known as Ahmadiyas) in many countries, with a concentration in the South Asian subcontinent. In Pakistan, Ahmadiyas have been declared 'Non-Muslims'. Many tenets of the Ahmadiyas are similar to those of orthodox Islam. They revere Hazrat Muhammad, consider the Quran to be revealed scripture and respect the Ahadith as examples from Prophet Muhammad's life. They also abide by the call to offer namaz, zakatand keep the fast of Ramzan. They differ with other Muslims on the finality of Hazrat Muhammad's prophethood, and on details of the crucifixion and death of Jesues as well as on the role to be played by Jesus on the day of judgement.