Time, Finance & Cinema

On October 28, 2011 by admin



Geeta Patel

In a real-time, single fifteen-second take shot with a still camera, a man walks slowly, the end of his stick feeling its way across slightly uneven earth, dotted withstones, blotched with green. He moves diagonally across the frame, his body hugging the low raised mound that runs upward from the lower left-hand corner to the upper right-hand corner of the frame and divides one field from its neighbor. The shot continues in real time as the camera pans down and stays frozen to capture the movement of two feet that travel from the frame’s lower right edge to the upper left edge, following the track laid down by the stick. A jump cut moves the camera outward into another shot in which the man, Wannihami, is silhouetted against the trees and sky, walking across a wide expanse, spade across his back. The camera is immobile, and Wannihami’s real-time movement bisects the frame. He walks out of the frame; the film cuts. When Wannihami reappears he has reached his destination; the camera lingers on him standing in front of a grave, trees behind his upper body. Spade in both his hands, he lowers himself to his task. The film then cuts fluidly between Wannihami’s feet darkening the frame’s upper left corner, and the spade swinging past them in an arc in and out of the frame. The rest of the frame is filled with the earth covering a coffin; Wannihami’s body centered on the screen hunched forward to its task, arms hard at work; a close-up of Wannihami’sface calmly intent, resolutely at rest as his hands fill the screen, entering from the right to scrabble at the softening ground. Each scene is only two or three seconds long, each taken from a different angle, each recorded with a still camera, though the cuts produce the illusion of a moving camera. The circular repetition of the scenes, the circular movements in each frame, turn the linear frame-by-frame temporal continuity into one action that keeps on coming back. The only sounds are ambient: stick tapping, the soft suss of wind, Wannihami’s spade scratching as it tears at the hard packed earth, Wannihami’s hands clawing the ground as it begins to break apart. As Wannihami walks to this place of burial, a minute-long single shot taken with an immobile camera reveals a woman holding a water pot against her hip, standing before a water source, who spots Wannihami outside the space of the frame. She startles, drops her pot, and hurries out of the frame. The film returns to Wannihami’s repeated labors, shot after shot. Suddenly the center of the frame is dense with people who begin running down into it from every direction; they take over Wannihami’s task. The digging becomes a social event; the film cuts back and forth between Wannihami’s brother-in-law digging and people crowding the frame, huddled over the grave. The coffin is pulled out, shouldered across bodies, its seal broken and opened. Wannihami’s hands reach in. What the coffin inters, revealed as it pops open, are sticks, shards of timber, rocks. What ought to have been in the coffin was a body, the body of Wannihami’s son, Bandara.

The scene echoes the opening sequences of this film, Purahanda Kaluwara (Death on a Full Moon Day), the one that introduces us to Wannihami, the blind father, whose Tiresias-like vision gifts the film one of its narrative continuities or story lines. In this early series of scenes, the camera also follows the end of a stick feeling its way across slightly uneven earth, cracked dry, dotted with stones and blotched green. Two feet follow the stick. Wannihami’s stick enters the frame from the lower left corner, pursued by one foot, then a water gourd, and finally both feet. The camera stays still until the feet begin moving away out of the frame through the upper right corner. The camera then proceeds along with Wannihami’s feet, accompanying him from behind as he squats, and in the middle of his movement down to sitting, cuts to the front. We see Wannihami dividing the frame in half, water to his right, cupping the lower corner of the frame with light. Again, the only sounds are ambient: the nimble touch of a stick feeling its way, feet shuffling behind, the soft suss of wind and water. As Wannihami sits, the camera follows him downward; his stick is across his shoulder, body leaning forward into it and his hand is stretched out with a clay cup toward the water.

The film ends with Wannihami squatting before the same tank, rain washing his face as he watches boys playing in the water. Water is echoed by the coffin. Water opens the film. Water closes the film. Water and coffin: both turn iconographic and become characters in the film.

Purahanda Kaluwara, directed by Prasanna Vithanage, a well-known Sri Lankan director of independent films, was produced in 1997, released for screenings in international film festivals, and banned by the Sri Lankan government when it was to be shown in Sri Lanka in 1999. It was finally screened in Colombo on September 28, 2001. Vithanage had run into trouble with the army while he was shooting the film; the army felt that the film “discouraged soldiers and neglected military families.”1 The Sri Lankan government had finally banned the film under the emergency powers granted to itself after the Elephant Pass debacle in 2000, because of its supposed effect on soldiers, on military morale, and on future recruitment.2 Vithanage took his case before the Supreme Court, fighting for artistic freedom and freedom of speech, and the Court granted the release of the film with a problematic judgment that, though it did not address the terms of Vithanage’s demand, permitted the film to be shown in theaters in Sri Lanka.3

Purahanda Kaluwara is a complex film told in a deliberately straightforward fashion. It is the story of a family and a village near Anuradhapura, an old capital of Sri Lanka famous for its early irrigation systems and man-made lakes, the site of pilgrimage for Buddhists and historical tourists, where one of several free trade zone factory areas is located.4 The village sits at the heart of what isconsidered a “dry zone,” the north-central province of Sri Lanka, south of the area in which the Sri Lankan army and Tamils under the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) have been at war for many years. When the film was shot, the area had been under the grip of drought for three years; crops were hard to grow, and paddy cultivation had come to a virtual standstill, families were struggling to survive and one of the few options they were left with was to send a member off to join the military and onto war. Global factory production, in the form of both a literal factory economy and a war economy, supplemented the local agricultural economy.

Young women went off to unreliable labor in factories in free trade zones, to urban areas, or to the Middle East as housemaids. Young men signed up for an uncertain life in the army. The money they earned at war took the form of salaries and compensation paid for lost parts of bodies, or paid out to families on the death of soldiers. This money, brought or sent home, provided the capital to invest in local projects, houses, roofs, and material things, to pay off loans borrowed in times of trouble and owed to money lenders, and to pay off taxes owed to the government.5

What is it about this film, a visual meditation on the political economies of water, labor, and death, that lends itself to my interrogation of queer temporality? Scholars who track queerness in the global South through the materiality of bodied subjects professing to a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender identity, or even through “acts” that might read back into identitarian form, will find no satisfactionin Purahanda Kaluwara.6 Rather, Purahanda Kaluwara stages queerness through looking askance: at the reproductive futurities fleshed out in the seductions, complicities, and pressures offered, sold, or mandated by neoliberal nationalisms. In refusing to resolve itself into heterosexuality as heteronormativity,7 this film finds its lineage in the ruminations of writers who contemplate temporality in early modern Europe.8 The possibilities shaped out of marital heterosexualities can only come to fruition through the supplement of the salaries accrued in war or by capital offered in compensation for a soldier’s mutilation or death. Money paid out in the event of maiming or death, salaries earned in the service of judicially sanctioned murder, are the promissory notes on which a seemingly unhampered form of proprietary heterosexuality can gather its allure and assure its calm future.9 The one couple awaiting their turn at proprietary heterosexuality is Wannihami’s daughter Sunanda (her name translates as giving pleasure or delight) and her fiancé. Sunanda works secretly in a free trade zone factory. She and her fiancé, a bricklayer, are relying on Bandara’s salary and then the compensation paid out at his death to enable their marriage. Without Bandara’s salary or the death compensation, Sunanda’s fiancé will probably have to sign up for war, too; at the end of the film the future of the marriage remains uncertain. Like other Sri Lankan films such as Me Mage Sandai (This Is My Moon) directed in 2000 by Ashoka Handagama, Purahanda Kaluwara breaks down the temporal logic of reproduction: reproduction of an order of heterosexuality emboldened not so much by marriage and its division of labor as by the breeding of capital through economies of war.10 Both films are engaged in the “quenching of reproductive timing.”11 The war in Sri Lanka produces the conditions under which various desires are shaped. It is through war that dead bodies, and their logic of incorporation, yield capital to proprietary heterosexuality.

Incorporation is a word that simultaneously traverses multiple political economies. One is the literal, affective, and psychic relationship between the dead and the living manifested through the coffin at the heart of burial during war — the dead whose countenances must not be seen and who are entombed in the ground as well as in the psyche. Attachments formed specifically under these conditions are those that appear to call forth melancholy. Melancholy has a long-standing and venerable poetics in South Asia. Love lyrics sung, scripted, and written in many languages since the seventh century rely on melancholic feeling for their aesthetic juice (rasa). Melancholia was one of the feelings anyone who lived the life of a lover in poetry had to have. But war in Sri Lanka, and the political economy that it birthed, brought the melancholia of love lyric into the syncopations of everyday life by giving rise to two kinds of circulation. The first arises from the dearth of wood for burning corpses and the demand that families not see the bodies of dead soldiers. Families who commonly conduct a wake and bury their dead are not permitted to look at the face of their loss. Other families who sit with the body after they wash it, and before they burn it and release the ashes, must live with the unseen entombed dead interred forever in the ground near where they live. These families, accustomed to seeing and then releasing the dead, are unfamiliar with living with a corpse close by. Eternal entombment without viewing, so essential to melancholia, sifts into the dailiness of other attachments and eventually, as in the case of Judith Butler’s exegesis, seems to become necessary to the self itself. It is no accident that Freud wrote “Mourning and Melancholia” in the horror of World War I. That war, which blasted bodies open, sent them home in closed coffins, faces unseen, wake unlived, provided the political economy that brought forth the entombed incorporations of melancholia.

The other circulation, which supplements that of affect and material, is of capital in the forms of insurance and pensions (as incorporated finance or finance that gambles on corporeality and finance that gives life to the future of corporations). Insurance and pensions are the monetary assurances provided by the improperly entombed dead soldier who went to war for his family that the financial forms to which he gave his life (as an insured or as a pensioned working life) would come back to his family in lieu of him. The most corporealized forms of global finance are insurance and pensions (literal cash transferred from a salary to a corporation). This cash provides a large bulk of the money that travels across borders. Other financial transactions are dematerialized. All these forms of circulation deploy rhetorical calls for the renewal of dead matter for their literal and/or persuasive effects.

Corporealizing desire, necessary to most queer projects conducted in and about South Asia, does not in and of itself repudiate the logic of incorporation through death. War instantiates desires here (including those for proprietary heterosexuality) that rely on certain forms of futurity such as those embodied by compensation — paying in the present (as debt and surplus) to accumulate credit toward an envisioned or expected possible or probable future.12 In this future, reproduction arrives at its proper conclusion, but since this future is simultaneously also a possible or probable one, reproduction may never get there. All these circuits stage the temporalities of the nation-state as they are produced through their relation to war capital.13 Purahanda Kaluwara takes on space-times as fields of reproduction — heterosexuality, incorporation, temporality, war, and nationstate rebirthing. This is its queered project. In this essay I turn to physics, supplementarity, and incorporation to delineate the processes through which Purahanda Kaluwara, in taking on reproductive temporalities, offers a particularly potent example for queer projects entailed in interrogating the reproductive futurities of contemporary capitalism and the naturalization of the selves “on offer” through investments in capital.14

Supplementary Temporality?

Purahanda Kaluwara, Vithanage’s most perfect film to date, is a rumination on time. It is through the visual and aural mediations of temporality that Purahanda Kaluwara tells its queered narrative; the film visualizes temporality as much more than merely a mandate to undo the time of reproduction. The film performs its time through pacing: the camera lingers on Wannihami as he sits thinking; it slows down to a standstill as it follows movements across frames; it cuts across movements of objects, actors, rain, releasing them to ambient time and then speeding up to shift into a different kind of temporality. Space-times are established through objects, conversations, thought, ritual; they are thinned and thickened, coagulated and released.15 The physics of time established over the course of the film’s action allows the film to move in and out of the mobilities of temporalities. Time in the film is not standard cinematic time — it is not a freestanding, flattened ruler, measuring itself out in ordered increments that recapitulate the sequenceof film frames, one following upon another. Time is instead embodied, shaped, emboldened, fleshed, as space-time distorts through the gravity effects of politics, events, poetics, space, music, religion, tropes. Mourning, religion, and feeling all give temporalities the densities of various space-times. Vithanage, a filmmaker whose mandate is realism, is intimate with the tempos of capitalism and the visual chronopoetics of capitalism’s drumrolls. This film attends to those tempos as interferences, entanglements, and complexities using chronopolitics, chronotopes, chronosomas.

Many orchestrations of capitalism’s times turn to the linear, the ruler against which one moves back and forth, or the cyclical that forms a return. Both these orchestrations seem to be mobilized against a flat space, Euclid’s two dimensions that enable a scripting or writing of geometric forms. When such temporalities are rendered more complex, they are usually constituted against a graph with two axes that can then generate lines or circles into the three-dimensional spatiality of Descartes or by the movement into chaos, in a closed system, and across time that is the hallmark of James Clerk Maxwell’s generalization of the second law of thermodynamics, or by the Newtonian constitution of time as simply there, as the backdrop against which nature plays its games.16 Time as simply there proffered Newton the possibilities through which speeds or accelerations of bodies were to be drawn. Even when people speak of the space-time of capital, they rarely move much further than the Galilean-Newtonian, or they might move as far as Maxwell.

This is apropos, given Newton’s own allegiances to capital written as his memorials and papers on currency, coinage, value, and trade as the warden and then master of the mint in Britain and his attempts to establish a gold standard.17 This is also apropos, given that Maxwell lived during a middle-Victorian era replete with the emergence of industrialization and the railways. Euclidean, Maxwellian, and Galilean-Newtonian visualizations of temporality either produce space and time as a backdrop or separate the two and convene temporality as an axis, a framing through which bodies moving in space can be transported or can travel. The elements are clear, infinite ether-filled space, infinite time and finite body, whose finitude is settled as limitations in space, a point of density that does not have any effect on the space around it.18 The body’s temporality is given through its position in ether-filled space; these elements assume a godlike observer whose capacities must be different from and outside the object being observed. The temporality of Galilean-Newtonian mechanics was and continues to be the time of the continuous now, traveling indefinitely into the future in a monochromatic direction. Under this regime the past could be foretold in an easy way, just by going back to the now of that past; futurity followed the same rules.19 The familiar image of this particular spatialized time is the clock, seconds graded exactly.

One’s quotidian intimacy with the clock is managed through either sound or sight; one hears ticking or sees the hands moving, settling easily into their gradations. Consider, however, a case of clock use, the kind of seemingly secular practice one might narrate if one were writing about time in the style of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ruminations in Philosophical Investigations: I look up from writing this essay and say to myself, “I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to write this, I have only an hour left.” Here I am speaking at least two different kinds of time.

One is produced through the feeling I have as I write of a sense of time’s passing, perhaps even a sense of not inhabiting the temporality given to me by a clock. The other is constituted through a clock as something I turn to as I calculate how much more time I might have in my linear day, or in my linear week apportioned into events. Ensconced in my lament (I can’t believe . . . I have only) is perhaps also a form of labor time, what Gayatri Spivak in another instance considers “the body’s timing displaced onto the value-form,” the time I might have lost to the labor of writing, that I was to expend in the labor of preparing for the class I am to teach the next day, or putting together an agenda for the meeting I have to run the next day.20 The most common retellings of this story of my day turn to its simplest monological avatar, the “temporal monoculture” of the clock or the week, linear apportionings of time as a calculative device (93). What is divvied up and given to other disciplinary places to calculate are the coagulations of temporality through lament, or the stretching of time’s clock sitting at the heart of the Gregorian calendar in this story. It is not that these “other” times are simply lost; they are found again and again in the proper places given to them, the places where they have been established and the places from which they emerge once more as a challenge that supplements the clock.

Mourning, for example, contorts space-time.21 Anyone who has mourned knows well the feeling of looking up after one has been lost in grief or looking back after sitting next to someone whose life is fading away and realizing that what the clock tells you will never come close to what you experienced. The incredible suffusion of feeling so necessary to mourning, the almost meditative state one enters where each touch of a look, each word from another person either passes by without notice or assumes a clarity and density rarely felt in everyday living, transforms space-time, renders it thinner or thicker. The full space-time of mourning is not particularly linear: the series of events through which a mourner releases a lost person’s life and death rarely follow upon each other in an ordered incremental way, wending their path easily along a line. Mourning demands returns, back to fragments of a glance, the softness of a scent that opens out into a long embodied memory heavy with details. The best picture one can draw of mourning is an askew spiral, which tightens and loosens. One way of conceiving the relationship between the movement of the clock noticed as a series of instants moving forward and these other space-time traversals is offered to us through Einstein and is that of the supplement, precisely because the two sorts of things need each other to be seen and noticed; it is their intimacy with one another that gives each their valence. We could see this literally as more than one clock, each of which, seen from the vantage point of the other, sees the other moving as though distorted: expanded or contracted, dilated or shrunk, moving slower or faster. To separate them into one sort of space-time traversal and another, one space-time and its other, makes no sense. It is precisely because one has both and one knows both or feels both that each has the qualities that make it what it is.

Referential calculative times — the rhetorical devices used as pointing devices to establish both presence and difference from — have emerged as the kinds of infinite times that stand in for the time of the nation, of capital and of labor, of ethnos, of bios, of psyche. These times obey the conditions for supplementarity. How is the dance of supplements choreographed? Set to one side in this dance, as proper to another description, even as one tells the story of one’s day gone by in the instance past the moment one is describing, are coagulations, stretching, thinning, the lengthening of the feeling of time in work with the sun shining, the thickening and heaviness around the porous and sticky gravitational pulls of lament.22 Laid aside are all the adjectives that give not just the textures, tempos, solidities, relativities of space-times but the conditions under which these shape themselves through an observer.23

At the heart of Jacques Derrida’s discussions of supplementarity is desire, not just any desire, but pleasure in the menace of death. But one stroke must be added to this system, to this strange economy of the supplement. . . . A terrifying menace, the supplement is also the first and surest protection; against that very menace. This is why it cannot be given up. And sexual auto-affection, that is auto-affection in general, neither begins nor ends with what one thinks can be circumscribed by the name of masturbation. . . . It is from a certain determined representation of “cohabitation with women” that Rousseau had to have recourse throughout his life to that type of dangerous supplement that is called masturbation and that cannot be separated from his activity as a writer. . . . The supplement has not only the power of procuring an absent presence through its image, procuring it for us through the proxy [procuration] of the sign, it holds it at a distance and masters it. For this presence is at the same time desired and feared.24

The national, psychological, ethnographic, and historical temporalities associated with reproductive capital are engaged in the logic of the supplement, each a supplement in turn, each promising something as it escapes, each a protection, each almost inconceivable to reason. What is the scandal they procure? The presence that is thus delivered to us in the present is a chimera. Auto-affection is pure speculation. The sign, the image, the representation, [of temporality] which come to supplement the absent presence are the illusions that sidetrack us. To culpability, to the anguish of death and castration, is added or rather is assimilated the experience of frustration. Donner le change [“sidetracking” or “giving money”]: in whatever sense it is understood, this expression describes the recourse to the supplement admirably. . . . Something promises itself as it escapes, gives itself as it moves away, and strictly speaking it cannot even be called presence. Such is the constraint of the supplement, such, exceeding all the language of metaphysics, is this structure “almost inconceivable to reason.” Almost inconceivable: simple irrationality, the opposite of reason, is less irritating and waylaying for classical logic [and classical physics]. The supplement  is maddening because it is neither presence nor absence and because it consequently breaches both our pleasure and our virginity. (154, brackets in the original).

Complexity, entanglement, and interference.25 I think that the illusions Derrida speaks of, which inhabit confusion, arise in the places where metaphors of physics are picked up by the social sciences and are turned to even in literary, cultural studies. Space-time becomes spatialized time or temporalized space. The poetic turns of a desire for presence are incorporated as objects that move in aNewtonian-Galilean space in the time of the now. The supplement gets spatialized, becomes an object moving in time, and thus becomes Newtonian. Supplementarity permits the reproduction of capital as the times of probability, the nexus of which is desire — what is the work of the supplement, where is desire?26 The desire of and for reproduction is the impetus that directs us to the supplements of calculative temporalities. The temporalities of Purahanda Kaluwara evoke supplementarities, engage with them, and in doing so offer the temporalities of interference, entanglements, gravitation, and complexities as supplements. How does Purahanda Kaluwara do this?27

When film theorists like Laura Mulvey, Mary Ann Doane, or Gilles Deleuze speak about film, in the most quotidian of their discussions on filmic times, they tend to separate out different kinds of temporalities invoked or produced while the film is running.28 One is the temporality of the apparatus, which runs the frames that follow inexorably upon one another at a particular speed — at about twenty-four frames a second. Other temporalities include those that delineate the movement of the story as it is shown on the screen, the temporality of diegesis or of narrative. Times get articulated as speeds, and frames and story are transformed almost without notice into the equivalent of moving objects, each moving at its own particular speed.29 If one visualizes speed in a Newtonian fashion, these filmic temporalities are constituted as those engendered by objects isolated from one another, running alongside one another at contiguous or different speeds; all these objects move in relation to a time conceived of as abstract, abstracted, neutral.

Time does not actually do anything. It has no texture; space, though filled with ether, is equally neutral and abstracted and untextured. The spaces of a frame, the space of a darkened cinema hall, each with its own necessary and unchanging form, become two of the fixed places of habitation. The story lives in frames of a fixed size that move relentlessly along. The watcher, the filmgoer, the cinephiliac of classic Western cinema inhabit the space of the theater turned into the simple darkness that facilitates their complete absorption in the film. Objects that move in Newtonian space and Newtonian time do not possess any necessary relation to one another; neither space and time nor moving objects are supplements of one another. So the various times of cinema and spaces of cinema are not necessarily produced as supplementary.30 One other form of description that takes its cue from physics turns to discussions of the second law of thermodynamics: this law mobilizes time in a linear fashion moving unavoidably onward unidirectionally. Here time is allocated its proper allegorical metaphor, the arrow. The arrow of time becomes the mnemonic device that gifts life to the movement of frames and the march of history.

In a post digital universe, when film has been transferred onto DVD or video, the movement of the movie can be halted, backed up, reversed, and reconstituted. Here, at the very least, the relationship between space and time — the space-times of the frames’ progression, their articulations with diegesis and narrative, plot and story must supplement one another. Many of the expectations that seem to make their first appearance with digital cinema are not automatically constrained by or contained within this particular cinematic format. As Lev Manovich, Victor Burgin, and Mulvey have pointed out, these expectations were presaged both in very early cinema as well as in cinema whose inclinations tended toward death.31

Let us return to the opening of Purahanda Kaluwara and the progressions that establish the profusion of stories that inhabit its visuality. Purahanda Kaluwara begins with a one-minute take, one of the longest shots in the film. The frame is broken into three parts. The top third is filled with sky colored in by the luminosity that signals the end of the night and the beginning of a day. The bottom two-thirds is colored in by fields, and the two are separated by a heavy band of dark trees that block light. From the right side of the frame, two-thirds of the way down, a thick, gray pencil line of bright water echoing the rising light of morning runs into the frame’s space.

Purahanda Kaluwara immediately enlists its visual attachments to early representations of realism in film and photography. In an emulation of “actualities” (and their contiguities with neorealism and cinema verité) that record the movements of “real” events or a “real” event, the camera is still throughout the take, and everything that happens takes place through the stillness.32 But unlike early actualities no events as they are commonly understood occur over the course of the shot. The shot is unpeopled. This shot also resonates with a genre of nineteenthcentury naturalist nature photography. Three movements transform into a film what feels like a series of repeated frames that produce the illusion of an unmoving vista. The first transformation is through credits written in fairly small letters that roll along in the lower left-hand corner at a reasonably regular pace in syn copation with the speed of the film. Precisely the differences between the speed at which the credits appear, not always in alignment with one another, and never in alignment with water and light in the film, provoke a viewer to recognize them as a form of visual music and not just as words; attending to them pulls a viewer’s eye to notice that the water is not at rest: it is washing slowly back and forth into and away from the right-hand edge of the picture. This wash pulls the eye outward so that the picture feels as though the space it was occupying is wider than that enclosed by the four lines of the frame; the picture no longer sits in the frame.33 The second transformation is through light that begins to lighten the picture slowly from the right-hand side fifty seconds into the shot. The third is the music of the chants whose sound continues past the first shot, through the dissolve into the next ten-second shot.

The times of each element are in a supplementary closeness to one another. A viewer watching the movie unfold, listening to the sounds as they roll, cannot separate out the various cinematic, diegetic, and sound elements into their component parts. Movements seem simple. Because nothing special happens during this sequence, nothing happens that might feel to viewers of classic Western cinema as though they were participating in an event or events that forwarded a story line or that produced that sort of conventional narrative; that is, a narrative does not carry the pacings engendered through this portion of the film. The very simplicity of the opening sequence is seductive; it has the capacity to marshal a desire for a Newtonian physics. One can easily feel as though space and time were backdrops against which the film was making its visual case through the separation of every object in the film that revealed itself in motion: frames, sound, credits, water, and light. But the speeds of each, the ways in which time seems to linger on as the water flows or the light slowly and gently seeps into the frames, and time seems to run faster in the credits and seems foreshortened or stretched with the rhythm of the chants, are the effect of the syncopations between each and the sequence of the frames. Syncopations as interference patterns or as entanglements are produced through supplementarity. Times are produced not as a neutral zone, not as inevitable arrow, but in the familiarities between each “thing” established, in this case, as space-time. The semiotics of stillness, photography, and death plays against those of movements, film, and life. Supplementarity is also carried in the intimacies produced between the modernity established in the roll call of names, the turn to nature and the emerging day cut by resonances that hark toward nineteenth-century conventions of photography and film, the turn to a day that begins with a series of chants that call out to a long lineage of Buddhist openings to a particular day.

Purahanda Kaluwara signals its attention to these sorts of temporalities with its title. Purahanda is a Sinhala word that means full (pura) moon (handa); Kaluwara means darkness, from kalu, dark. The grammar of the phrase settles the connection between the two words through a series of possible prepositions — of, from, through, and so on — that wed the words to each other. This lexicon of prepositions permits a transition between the metonymized night — full moon — and a quality, darkness as transitive or translation: the darkness of the full moon, full moon through darkness, from darkness to full moon, the darkness of that opening day carried by the line of trees in the film’s first shot; each transition produces a differential. The associations that establish the differentials, which are made through the compounds that constitute each word and then marry the words to one another across the breach between them, reiterate the breaks between the frames of the film. What the grammar embedded in the title offers a film critic is another way to understand how the frames might link up in time — not merely as a sequential iteration but conjoined by a range of possible prepositions that produce temporalities through the poetics of belonging.

Vithanage wanted to translate his film’s title in a Benjaminian fashion; full moon darkness turns into death on a full moon day. The title is indexical — what this indexical turn is premised on is its doubleness, the Peircian index of film critics and the index that comes from sphuta (manifest, known, understood), a term familiar to Buddhist grammarians. The title as index is a trace that points to something and so fills out the question asked in relation to the index, “What is this?”34 The full moon that the title points to is not just an analogue for night, lit bright. It also registers a day on the lunar calendar, the day of Poya — the days of the full moon, when the country shuts down every month for a Buddhist holiday — when no harm should be done to any other living being or to the world. Poya is the day when the semiotics of darkness in the film will inhabit the day of the moon. As a calendrical day, Poya is a sequence of time whose rhythms from the break of day into the night of the moon are determined for religico-Buddhist practitioners by purification pujas (offerings that often include flowers), administration of the precepts, dharma sermons, and the pirith chanting of protective suttas, of suttas as chants that pass merit on between people and time on between shots; these sermons and chants form a soundtrack that continues over from the first shot to a second shorter, still-camera shot that reveals a white stupa glowing behind a water tank. The title of this film and its translation establish without show of cause the temporalities embodied in the film: in these opening sequences of the film, time coagulates around the death harkened by the chants.  This coagulation of time around death demands another ceremonial iteration, the recitation of chants that pass merit on between people central to both Poya and death ceremonies; these speak futurities in certain kinds of spatiotemporal loops of supplementarity.

Vithanage’s film does not resort to the simply ethno-temporal, that is, it does not champion adherence to “traditional” or “indigenous” temporalities that compete with the time of capitalism in simple opposition. Rather, the ethno-temporal is deliberately debased by and produced in an interference pattern through other calendars — the Gregorian calendar; the clock whose chronopolitics every economy uses to transact money, goods, and labor across its borders (figured in the movie through the end of the work shift in the factory in which Sunanda works and the compensation given at the death of Bandara); and the bodied calendar of drought and rain. Death shapes the ethno-temporal itself; for Vithanage the ethnotemporal, apportioning a year into days of work and days of mandated celebration and rest, is a hegemony that instantiates violence — the violence embodied in religious nationalisms and the reproductive temporalities that enable them.

The Gregorian calendar accompanied by the twenty-four-hour clock: both settle their mandate across South Asia, dividing it into time zones.35 Both were adopted as the outcome of internecine battles between two different arms of the crown state (the railways and telegraph) in the period of consolidation that followed the violence of 1857, the war of independence in India. The battle over time had started immediately before 1857 when the railways were being set down (funded partly because they offered Indian cotton as a replacement for American cotton), and their relationship to different zones of time was being considered with a great deal of trepidation by the East India Company. Before 1857, several different times were in common use: the time zones of each presidency, the time held on the train (the central time of Jabbalpur) where conductors traveled with clocks and tables set to calculate the constant differences established as the train traversed zones, and the time held by the telegraph company (the South Indian time of the Madras observatory). Post-1857, in the 1860s, the American Civil War had helped ensure the funding for the railways, but the question of time had still not been decided. The telegraph finally won, but the contours of the battle were shaped by the discussions of shock, not the shock often associated with the railways but the shock that accompanied the deaths and the losses associated with war and with the breaking of an assumption of untrammeled colonial hegemony. Technologies helped suture over the trauma of death in 1857, and also the traumas that attend colonial modernity in general. The twenty-four-hour clock and a common time zone for South Asia were the arbitrages that worked out of the probabilities brought into being through colonialism: these chronometrics were the reproductivities associated with the move between corporate and mercantile capitalism and shock/death. In a dance with this time, which was mandated as the neutral secular time of modernity, were the other times — religious ethno-temporalities, subjective temporalities — all of them together staging supplementarity.

What are the temporalities embodied in Purahanda Kaluwara? The film does not resort to supplementarity in the expected ways, championing religious, “ethnic,” or subjective temporality. Vithanage follows his mandate as a conventional realist and organizes the film’s events along a linear time line, but its pacing deliberately undercuts its linearity. The shots form themselves along the line of time, which stretches from the opening sequence of water in the sun rising on the day of Poya, and carries through the dissolve to a shot of a white stupa rising behind the water, pirith chanting. The camera cuts to a road slicing the diagonal of the wooded frame; with the camera at rest a car travels across the frame from upper left-hand corner to lower right-hand corner, the road moving toward the front of the still screen, electric power lines running along with it, and a dog crossing the road in the background. The camera then jump cuts up to a bird, possibly a vulture, the herald of death, whose circling is followed by a camera moving for the first time in the film. This sequence of shots closes with the description with which I opened this essay, of Wannihami traveling to get water.

Blind Wannihami is introduced through the iconography of the bhikku, the true monk/sage who travels on foot, staff in hand, having left the goods of everyday life behind him, feeling his way moment by moment, going from house to house, living on offerings put into a bowl that is one of his few accoutrements.36 The opening shots do not replace each other; rather, each one slices across the next, thickening, coagulating, or thinning the temporalities on offer: the times of ritual, religion, modernity, nature, and subjectivity. The next sequence of shots sutured by jump cuts turns again to water. As Wannihami, seated in the right center of the frame is collecting water, slowly and deliberately, we jump to a tractor backing up to the same water hole that fills the center of the screen, and a young man, Wannihami’s future son-in-law, holding a plastic container sliced down to serve as a collecting device, gathering up water. The film leaps again to Wannihami, who tells him that the rains, gone for so long, will return in four days, and asks him to help repair the thatched roof before the rains begin. Here we have stories that narrate bodied temporalities: the technologies of modernity that offer villagers resources to enable them to collect water more rapidly than Wannihami and so to ameliorate their circumstances over a future of drought, but at the same time denude them of the capacity to gather weather information on their skin, which would give them access to a foretelling, a kind of seeing that would allow them to know the future of the seasons. Wannihami’s blind sight becomes one in which he can see into a certain kind of future, the future necessary for the survival of the rural world in which he lives. This future is not the future given to the same world by the iconology of development. Despite his ability to feel weather through his skin as though he were a rural shaman, in Purahanda Kaluwara Wannihami is not some purist figure with a simple, ethnic, clear attachment to a precapitalist rural. Even as he feels the knowledge of the weather, he is also, as we are told later on in the film, someone who is in the midst of building a house funded by the salary his son, Bandara, sends home. The future of his life comfort, too, is enmeshed in the finances of war.

Water and Death

I would like to return to the opening paragraphs of this essay and explore the ways in which the economies of water and death interfere with one another and produce complexities. Both are strange gravitational attractors that shape space and time through practice. Water makes its first appearances in the opening of Purahanda Kaluwara. It livens the foreground against which the stupa is shown. It is portrayed as a figure in nature that mediates between rural modernity and something else. It appears as rain falling on Wannihami after his son’s coffin has been delivered to the house. It is poured into a cup and spills over during the death ceremonies, and it closes the film as rain trickling down Wannihami’s face while he is at the lake or tank listening to the sound of young boys splashing. Water is an offering.

Death and the full moon day come together. During the death ceremonies, a public puja is performed that is akin to the pujas offered during Poya. Both are emboldened by pirith chants (with which Vithanage opens the film). Pirith is a version of the word paritta, or safety and protection. The chants are recited to hold off what is likely to befall (vipatti) people. Vipatti is a compound word formed from the verb pat (to fall); vi translates pat into its negative: disease, danger, the planets as mal, and spirits who carry malodorous intent. Vipatti calls forth the depredations of modernity, war, drought, famine, poverty, factory labor, death. Pirith is also chanted to bring good — sampatti or siddhi. So pirith is about a present, past, and a projection into a future. These ceremonies are intrinsic to Sri Lankan Buddhists’ sociality and domesticity; in their religious incarnations, most events of this sort include an elaborate or a simple version of pirith, depending on the financial status of the sponsor (which is the issue at stake here).

For the offering of water during the death ceremonies, all the relatives of the dead person gather together on a mat, accompanied by a local monk. They pour water from a pot into a cup sitting on a plate until the water overflows. The film gives us the ceremony in a series of pictures in several shots taken by an immobile camera. The first is a four-second, almost still life: a pure white pitcher emerging from the right pouring water down the middle of the frame into a bowl sitting solidly at the bottom. Hands enclose the top of the pitcher and reach out toward it from the left. Everything is still except the water. The water washing into the bowl carries the time in this sequence; it is both punctum and index pointing to death and a future after it. This shot cuts to another three-second still life: a series of three grass fans angled to the right, of which the middle one is the only one in focus. Orange robes color the background and blend into the foreground.

The film cuts again to a close-up of three priests whose faces echo the fans; the middle priest, the oldest one, is clearly the one in charge. Their voices have begun the pirith verse that carries over to the final shot in the composition: bodies encircle the pitcher pouring water. Wannihami’s grandchild is toward the middle right, his eyes flickering to the movement of the water, slight expressions flitting across his face. Eleven seconds into the shot the camera begins to move in toward Wannihami and the child; the pitcher and water drop out of the frame, only their memory remains. Wannihami is absolutely still; the camera continues to move in as the child’s face continues to flicker with touches of feeling.

As the water is being poured, the monks chant a version of the following suttas from the Tirokuddha Sutta of the Khuddakapatha:

 Unname udakam vattam yatha ninnam pavattati

evameva ito dinnam petanam upakappati.

Yatha varivaha pura paripurenti sagaram

evameva ito dinnam petanam upakappati.

 [Just as the water fallen on high ground flows to a lower level,

Even so what is given from here accrues to the departed.

Just as the full flowing rivers fill the ocean,

Even so what is given from here accrues to the departed.]

The water that is poured transfers merit from the living to the one who has died. Both the act of pouring and the transfer of merit is an offering — a dakkina — that will allow the person who is dead to avail of this merit and use it to get some relief from the new world into which he or she might have been born or through which he or she wanders restlessly. More almsgiving, dane, ceremonies follow. Three months after the person has died the family holds an almsgiving ceremony. Here, too, merit is transferred from the living to the dead. This merit is to ameliorate any difficulties that the dead person might be experiencing in his or her new life or new state. The dead, in the form of spirits, or petas, are incapable of accumulating merit for themselves, so it is up to the living to give them of their present what the dead need to live out a different future. The dead are said to live or sustain themselves (upajivi) on another giving (paradatta) or on what has been given by another. The necessary paradox in Purahanda Kaluwara is that the only group that gives in the way appropriate to this form of giving is the other soldiers who fought with Bandara and who bring Wannihami the money they have collected to help the family pay for their colleague’s death ceremony. In other words, the state has grafted itself onto the ceremony in the form of death benefits, capitalism’s form of “merit.”

Improper Compensation and the Corpse

Dane is about compensation, given directly by those alive to those who are dead. Merit is handed over in the giving, from one present to another future. What happens when, as in Purahanda Kaluwara, the dane is given through the compensation that the dead person leaves the person who is alive? Dane is supposed to be about a selfless handing over of the merit one has accumulated in one’s life. The point in this act of giving is that it is about oneself as alive; it entails the selves of the living. When the dane can be given only if the dead provide their own compensation, through their death, for the living, so that those alive can perform the ceremonies that give their merit to those who have died, something unnatural makes its appearance. In this sort of giving, the paradatta for the upajivi is given to the upajivi, the life of the dead, by the upajivi to themselves, as they pass, through their death, the capital that enables the paradatta, giving by another, to be given back to them. This form of giving is the circularity at the heart of reproductive capitalism in a war economy. A deduction (surplus) is taken from a soldier’s salary; out of this an insurance policy or death-benefits policy is bought on his behalf; it is this policy that is returned either to him or to his family should he be maimed or should he die. Each policy is very specific, so much for the loss of an arm, an eye, a leg, so much for an entire body. It is on these policies that soldiers, if they are disabled, live, and these policies often help them acquire a bride.37 The insurance company, the state, and the soldier all gamble with life and money, but only the soldier loses the gamble. Something essential is abrogated in taking this money for dane; the act of giving has to be selfless and it has to be complete, it has to be outside the circuits of reproductive capital. The gamble with money and death or with money and life is a contradiction in the demand or desire to give. Vithanage explores this contradiction through various forms of attachment: the priest’s attachment to the war state instantiated in his offer to Wannihami that a bus stop commemorating the dead hero Bandara be erected on the road we saw at the beginning of the film (the bus takes soldiers and workers into town and back, though Buddhism lives on non-violence), and Bandara’s siblings’ attachment to the compensation shaped through their failed attempts to get Wannihami to sign the government forms that will release the compensation to the family. Passing merit on, which does not necessarily service proprietary heterosexuality, has been drafted by an insurance industry that finances the compensatory mechanisms of a war state. Merit turns away from queered possibilities, queered futurities, to service the reproductivities that maintain capital and proprietary heterosexualities.38

The promise that will ensure the compensation’s arrival is that Bandara’s coffin, sealed shut, will not be opened. The corpse’s presence assumed through the coffin is the assurance of death. Opening the coffin will forfeit the family the money that they will get from the “presence” of Bandara’s corpse — paradoxically, this is the coffin, not its contents. To ensure that the death is believed and accepted by the state, the corpse, with the coffin that promises its presence, must be buried.

Following the state’s conditions for its own belief to be upheld is essential for the arrival of the compensation, essential if the money gambled on the death of Bandara is to be given to the proper people. For the state at war, the coffin is the index of the dead body, an index that is supposed to be the truth, but is not quite, for it signifies the presence of the body without being the body. The film plays with the tension of revelation. The scenes of Wannihami digging, with which I opened this essay, recycle themselves, so that the temporality of the digging embodies the temporality of grief: memories repeated and time extended. This time holds tension in its hands and seems to stand frozen as the coffin is opened. For five seconds an unmoving camera films the coffin slowly opening. The coffin fills the screen, and two hands reaching down from the top of the frame pull the middle open and slowly lay the coffin bare to the air as though it were a body being sliced apart down its length, as though a coroner were opening up a corpse whose bodily secrets she needed to read. The film cuts to a white-sheeted open coffin, its boards flattened out, three pieces of wood inside. The camera lingers, without moving, on the image. The indexical truth of the corpse is the sealed secret. The indexicality of the coffin is the assurance that paradatta, giving by another, will be upajivi, sustenance for the dead living beyond their death. But both the corpse and the coffin are improper signifiers of death. They are signifiers that obey the logic of the temporal loop of supplementarity, the logic of reproduction in a war economy, a logic where the father lives beyond his son and must grapple with the truth of his death.

What are the exchanges that must be tracked so that this logic, which requires that the coffin stay closed, keeps a particular symbolic economy in place? The rituals of death for Buddhists in Sri Lanka, which obey another symbolic, require the dead body to be burned, so that there is nothing left of the body to recognize. This is the precise irony staged when the coffin is opened and inside are rocks and sticks, neither sufficient to permit the body its proper resting place in death. There is nothing left of the body which will turn it from spirit to embodied ghost returning insistently for compensation. When the coffin that tells the presence of the dead body is opened, there is no dead body, and with this opening the family abrogates the compensation to which it was entitled, compensation that was the surplus extracted from Bandara during his life as a soldier, that is taken from him and his family when the signifier that stood in for his corpse was opened up to reveal its secret. The dane offered to Bandara will now be given as it should (as pure merit) because his body was not permitted to occupy the place the state wanted for it.

In Purahanda Kaluwara the practice of incorporation is produced through an improper death. Incorporation requires a corpse, such that death, told through the secret of the coffin/crypt, circling through desires for revelation and a refusal of revelation, is the foreclosure necessary to a war economy.39 This poetics of the secret is a reproductive economy, the economy of neoliberal religious nationalism. These economies are the conditions for melancholic desire in which the secret must not be opened so that the body remains in the coffin that becomes its crypt. Presence is a gamble, the gamble instantiated through insurance: will there or won’t there be a body in the crypt, whose presence is as the crypt and whose death is an index that determines which party will win out in the game of financial chance. This is the economy of relief at the heart of capitalism. The temporality of capital: for it you need incorporation, the supplement, the encrypted corpse — not introjection, the corpse revealed, the process of proper mourning.

What allegiances are instantiated through the temporalities of capital? What futures are told through them? Time is bound in the bodies of war hero, free trade zone worker, and wife; these bodies both coagulate and allegorize time. All these figures are installed as reproductive futurities, their normalization ensured through wartime. The times of war are subjective, ritual, ethnographic, capitalist,attachments to each replacing the other produce the conditions for supplementarity. 40 Each is an incorporation, each a crypt. Incorporation is both the corporate form and the corporeal form; each crypt has been opened up over the course of this essay, as the flesh of each incorporation is peeled off the corpse to reveal the sticks and rocks inside.

What queered reading of time does Prasanna Vithanage offer us through the figure of blind Wannihami? When Wannihami leads the way to opening his son’s coffin, he forestalls supplementarity. The film builds to this point and paves the way for its audience to await the denouement with desiring trepidation. And the denouement is precisely what it ought to be if we were to see the logic of the supplement, the past, present, and future entailed in it and the temporalities that make it mobile. There is nothing in the crypt except stones and wood, too little wood to give the body that ought to have been in the crypt its appropriate leaving.

That sight reminds us, the viewers of Purahanda Kaluwara, that we, too, were participating in the logic of capitalist reproduction, and we see this logic even as it is being reinstituted through the not-enough-wood that is the aftereffect read back to a war economy. The film closes with a vision of Wannihami, water trickling slowly down his face, attending to the sound of children playing. Many viewers have read this scene as an indication of Wannihami’s refusal to believe in his son’s death. But perhaps it offers another kind of refusal instead, one that might have been the reason why the film, in opening a crypt and not finding a body, found itself queerly at odds with a war economy that would ordinarily demand homage only to the exterior of a coffin. Perhaps blind Wannihami can see another future for his son’s death, a salvific future that turns away from incorporation and the politics of the temporalities of reproduction, and looks askance at the affective attachments that circulate ethno-, capitalist, and nationalist times into history or to subjective temporalities, or the memories that might accompany my lament given over to psychology or psychophilosophy, or labor time given to political economy.41


Geeta Patel is Associate Professor, Studies in Women and Gender and Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia.  Her current project, Financing Selves, on risk, insurance and pensions in South Asia, opens with the early East India Company archives and closes with labor movements in contemporary Sri Lanka.


1. Waruna Alahakoon, “Sri Lankan Court Orders Release of Banned Film,” World Socialist Web Site, 25 September 2001, www.wsws.org/articles/2001/sep2001/pura-s25 .shtml (accessed January 21, 2006).

2. In April 2000, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) forces had forty thousand Sri Lankan troops backed into and trapped in the Elephant Pass Peninsula without food, water, or supplies. The LTTE assault was halted for a few days, which allowed the Sri Lankan army to recoup and push them back. There is a great deal of information about the ongoing armed conflict at the heart of the movie, but one recent collection that provides a glimpse into some of the economic ramifications is Economy, Culture and Civil War in Sri Lanka, ed. Deborah Winslow and Michael D. Woost (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004).

3. Waruna Alahakoon, “Sri Lankan Court Orders Release of Banned Film.” See also other articles by Alahakoon on the same Web site that describe this process: “I Appeal to All Thinking People to Stand up for Pura Handa Kaluwara: A Dialogue with Sri Lankan Film Director Prasanna Vithanage,” www.wsws.org/articles/2000/ sep2000/pura-s27.shtml; “Further Court Delay to Sri Lankan Legal Challenge of Film Ban,” www.wsws.org/articles/2001/mar2001/srif-m20.shtml (both accessed January 21, 2006). The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka permitted the film to be shown because, according to them, the minister who had banned the film overreached his jurisdiction. As Alahakoon makes clear in the article he published on September 25, 2001, “The court ruling does not protect freedom of artistic expression in any serious sense. On the contrary, the court declared that Vithanage’s rights were infringed by the minister’s incorrect application of regulations and provisions.” Since the ruling did not offer Vithanage redress on the basis of his claim before the court that his freedom had been infringed upon, it was a problematic ruling.

4. See interviews with Vithanage on www.wsws.org. See also two articles by Sunila Abeysekere on the visual history and economy of filmmaking in Sri Lanka in which this film is cited: “Imaging the War in the Sinhala Cinema of the 1990s,” Cinesith 1 (2001): 4 – 13 (includes a chronology of the case against Vithanage); and “Garment Girls and Army Boys,” Cinesith 4 (2005): 23 – 29. Wimal Dissanayake and Ashley Ratnavibhushana offer a comprehensive analysis of Sri Lankan cinema in Profiling Sri Lankan Cinema (Boralesgamuwa: Asian Film Centre, 2000).

5. See Michele Ruth Gamburd, The Kitchen Spoon’s Handle (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000); I also conducted interviews with women at the Migrant Worker’s Union in June and July 2003. As Vithanage points out, some women who worked in the free trade zones also had to work as sex workers. Abeysekere, in “Imaging the War,” also talks about local money sent home by men and foreign exchange accumulated by women.

6. Nivedita Menon’s recent work on denaturalizing heterosexuality in India, Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics before the Law (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004), tangles with the act-identity distinction. Though she addresses heteronormativity as a field, she still wants to produce queer bodies, which is not unusual for most contemporary discussions of sexuality in South Asia. One of the few interrogations of desire for bodies, and productions of desire as nonbodied, can be seen in Anjali Arondekar’s forthcoming For the Record: On Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India (Durham, NC: Duke University Press). I am speaking here about desire, the production of desire, and the production of presence as knowledge circulated in relation to desire: a desire for bodies and the political work they seem to enable.

7. For the most recent take on the arrangements between heterosexuality and heteronormativity, see Karma Lochrie, Heterosyncracies: Female Sexuality When Normal Wasn’t (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005). Shyam Selvadurai’s novels Funny Boy and Cinnamon Gardens, both set in Sri Lanka, refuse the simple folding of heteronormativity into heterosexuality. See also readings of “single women” by Paola Bacchetta: “Extra-Ordinary Alliances: Women Unite against Religious-Political Conflict in India,” in Feminism and Anti-Racism: International Struggles, ed. Kathleen Blee and France Winddance Twine (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 220 – 49; and “Re-Scaling Trans/national ‘Queerdom’: 1980s Lesbian and ‘Lesbian’ Identitary Positionalities in Delhi,” in “Queer Patriarchies, Queer Racisms, International,” special issue, Antipode 34 (2002): 947 – 73.

8. See, e.g., Carolyn Dinshaw, Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999); Carla Freccero, Queer/ Early/Modern (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005).

9. What I call “proprietary heterosexuality” is heterosexuality that accumulates and is bolstered by rights over property, personhood, and social/political and financial capital. Proprietary heterosexuality is not the same as compulsory heterosexuality or heteronormativity. One can have access to proprietary heterosexuality and think of it as the best way to live, even if the political economy in which one lives does not accede entirely to the scientized conventions of the norm, the mean, the average, and the normal.

10. Marriage in Sri Lanka and in most parts of South Asia is not necessarily folded into an economy of romance (heterosexual or otherwise) or into marital fidelity. Marriage does not ensure a purist rendition of heterosexuality; married women and men may have affective, intimate, and sexual relationships with members of their own gender or with a transgender person even when they are married to someone of the opposite gender. Despite this, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or Christian women who have relationships outside marriage are more likely to face social opprobrium and ostracization than men. The prevalent economies in alliance with one another are variously gendered: the war economy is primarily male; the globalized free trade zone economies and migrant worker economies are primarily female. In this film Vithanage points out the co-implications of these configurations, which in their turn transform the possible sources for the finances that enable a marriage. Men might bring capital accrued in war to finance their own marriage; they might turn this capital over to relatives. Women working in free trade zones and as migrant workers might use their accruing capital likewise. In sum, there is no necessary primacy of capital reproduction that originates from men’s labor and in turn provides the financial support for the kind of heterosexual reproduction constituted as marital.

11. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “The Staging of Time in Heremakhonon,” Cultural Studies 17, no. 1 (2003): 94.

12. For a fuller discussion of the temporalities of compensatory life finance such as insurance, pensions, loans, and credit, see Geeta Patel, “Imagining Risk,” forthcoming in Anthropological Theory. All these forms of finance constitute forms of person that are emboldened through fantasies of care.

13. See Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended (New York: Picador, 1997); and Achille Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” Public Culture 15, no. 1 (2003): 11 – 40.

14. See Tom Boellstorff, “When Marriage Falls: Queer Coincidences in Straight Time,” this issue.

15. “Einstein’s space-time is in many ways just another field, to be set alongside the electromagnetic and nuclear force-fields” (Paul Davies, About Time: Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution [New York: Touchstone, 1995], 17). Space and time cannot be disentangled from one another; they are intimately woven together so that space will shrink as time expands. To bring time and space together one has to conceive them in a fourth dimension that can no longer be easily graphed or drawn two-dimensionally. Thinking through the space-time of relativity, one can no longer abstract space and time from each other and slice space-time, as time, into equal increments. What I am trying to do here, as I coagulate and thin space-times, is to think about objects moving in relation to one another, each of which embody in themselves different space-times whose differences are established through their associations with each other. See Davies for more on the physics of space-time and the effects of gravitational attraction. For a prolonged discussion on the foreclosure of matter in Cartesian thought, see Jean-François Lyotard, “Matter and Time,” in The Inhuman (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), 65-89. French and European philosophers and psychologists such as Bergson, Freud, Lacan, Derrida, Lyotard, and Deleuze have a long history of engagement with early and contemporary physics. For a discussion on circularity that attempts to refigure the reading of the “eternal return,” see Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004). Grosz’s exegetical explorations take these readings on in a remarkable fashion, but she does not quite get to the physics that might have enabled her to see the return as a spiral that configures temporal space.

16. James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 79) was a Scottish mathematical physicist known for his work on electricity and magnetism and the kinetic theory of gases.

 17. Great Britain, Treasury Papers, vol. 76, no. 36. Autograph in Newton’s hand, in William A. Shaw, Select Tracts and Documents Illustrative of English Monetary History, 1626 – 1730 (1896; rpt. New York: Kelley, 1967), 135 – 36; and Treasury Papers, vol. 208, no. 43, 166 – 71. For additional information on Newton’s stint at the mint, see the thirteen articles listed under Sir Isaac Newton’s mint reports, www.pierre-marteau.com/editions/1701 – 25 – mint-reports.html (accessed January 29, 2006).

 18. Alternatives to this picture include those of Riemannian space. See Bruno Latour, “A Relativistic Account of Einstein’s Relativity,” Social Studies of Science 18, no. 1 (1988): 3 – 44.

 19. The literature on relativity is vast. For a few citations appropriate to this discussion, see N. Katherine Hayles, The Cosmic Web: Scientific Field Models and Literary Strategies (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), 41 – 43; Albert Einstein, Relativity: The Special and the General Theory (New York: Crown, 1993), 9 – 11, 23 – 24; and Arkady Plotnitsky, Complementarity: Anti-Epistemology of Bohr and Derrida (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994).

20. Spivak, “Staging of Time,” 94.

21. For the time being, I will speak about how I understand space-time in relation to mourning, melancholia, and other modes that owe their lineage to Freud without referring to Freud’s own rare discussions on time.

22. Recent proposals to amend theories of quantum gravity include those in which particles that have energies above or beyond Planck’s energy break down existing theories of quantum and space-time manifests as “foamy” rather than smooth, as in Graham P. Collins, “Revising Relativity: Physicists Try to Outdo Einstein,” Scientific American, November 2002, 27 – 28. One recent rendition of temporality that narrates time, memory, grief, and death powerfully through contemporary discussions of space-time is Kath Weston’s Gender in Real Time: Power and Transience in a Visual Age (New York: Routledge, 2002).

23. There is an extensive literature that takes on this portion of physics, which emerged out of engagements with Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg’s work on complementarity. See Plotnitsky, Complementarity.

24. Jacques Derrida, “The Chain of Supplements,” in Of Grammatology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 155, brackets in the original. In situating masturbation, presence, and desire in the supplement, Derrida brings sexuality to the production of presence.

25. All three are terms from physics that bring different events, waves, and so on together, so that they no longer stand apart in a Newtonian universe.

26. For an articulation of the relationship between temporality (as history) and desire, see Geeta Patel, “Ghostly Appearance: Time Tales Tallied Up,” Social Text, no. 64 (2000): 47 – 66. Meanwhile, what is my desire in writing this essay? My desire is mobilized as a prior citizen of the superpower in South Asia, as a one-time citizen of India, the South Asian geopolitical equivalent of the United States, writing about a movie made in Sri Lanka, a country that has been spoken of in the past as the country Indians want to emulate in its drive to incorporate corporate capitalism. Sri Lanka’s contemporary financial future is driven by Indian attempts to “penetrate” new avenues for capital consolidation and expansion. The relationship of knowledge, difference, and praxis established between Sri Lanka and India is always in conversation with capital. Indians travel to Sri Lanka assuming themselves to be the prior Platonic ideos (form) of which Sri Lanka is always an incompletely considered, fully known imitation. I come to Sinhala through Indian languages such as Sanskrit and that gives me purchase, but also reveals its problematics in my own desire to see, both as longing to be and longing to become. I take Spivak’s recent call to literary politics to heart — my essay must be an accounting of this particular ethico-temporal reproductive relationship to capital. I speak in this essay not as a knower but as someone who is as much in the project of learning as many of the future readers of this essay and as someone whose knowledge of Sri Lanka is enabled by a constant attention that betrays my shortfall and debts. It is in this vein that I speak, as someone who moves between the spoken registers of the film and the subtitles that make meaning in another language.

27. Space does not permit me to explore the ramifications of the relationship between conceptualizations of time established by Einstein and Bohr and Heisenberg and later explorations that emerge out of quantum mechanics, such as black holes. Suffice it to say that Buddhist notions of time and those established by twentieth-century physics are not so far apart. Some of the questions Einstein raised had already been raised by engineers on the East India Company roster in the 1850s when they were considering the ramifications of the new railway they were planning. Time was fought over again in the 1870s when the railway and the telegraph were struggling to establish their mandate over time in the Subcontinent. See my “Time Travels: Fighting over Time” (paper presented at University of Colombo, Department of Sociology, November 2, 2002).

28. Time has been central to discussions about film from the advent of writings on chronophotography and from the earliest writing about film. I am simplifying subtle and complex arguments to make one particular point. Several sorts of discussions on film, such as Doane’s on the index (which deliberately trades on Charles Sanders Peirce) and on the punctum (which takes on Roland Barthes), Mulvey’s on the event (as carrying weight), and on delay (in the cinema of Abbas Kiarostami), demand pictures of temporality that cannot take recourse in Newton or in Maxwell’s second law of thermodynamics. These analyses have to engage space-times, their distortions, time travel backward, and supplementarity (even if the analyst might not fully comprehend the physics with which she engages). See Mary Ann Doane, The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); and Laura Mulvey, Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (London: Reaktion Books, 2006). What I am contending with in this particular discussion is the rhetoric of two moves in commonplace understandings of and in some theoretical elaborations on cinema. One is the consistent return to Newton and Maxwell; the other is the turn away from supplementarity.

29. “For the most part, visible time in the cinema is equal to ‘real time,’ and any manipulation or troping of time takes place in the invisible realms of off-screen space or the interstices between shots. (Fast motion, slow motion, and the freeze frame, and other distortions of time become, precisely, special effects, relegated to the marginal status of the heavily coded — and rare — moments)” (Doane, Emergence of Cinematic Time, 189). In my analysis of Purahanda Kaluwara, I am taking on this notion of time’s “locale.” Time does not only reside in the apparatus, in the story; it also lives in the various pictorial and moving elements in the film, each frame holding one facet of many different mobilities, all of which make up the illusion of real time. The temporalities of each are produced through their contiguities with the others. Precisely because cinema is a visual form with a play established between elements, a play that does not merely reside in the mise-en-scène, I am attending to supplementarity both in relation to the inside-outside, apparatus and diegesis, and in relation to what sits in each frame.

30. Not every discussion on film takes place through the exegeses of Newtonian mechanics; some, such as Deleuze, turn to Einstein. But most discussions tend to hold on to Newton when they talk about the movement of the frames. The shift to Einstein occurs with discussions of the possessive spectatorship that stills filmic movement, or the sort of pensive spectatorship that emerges from the kind of autocracy that viewing films in a DVD or video format permits viewers, allowing them to stop, back up, rewind, review, watch a film in slow motion, frame by frame.

31. Mulvey, Death 24x a Second; Lev Manovich, “What Is Digital Cinema?” in The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media, ed. Peter Lunenfeld (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000); Victor Burgin, The Remembered Film (London: Reaktion Books, 2004).

32. Championing neorealism as the representational form through which the powerless could be represented visually and in the written word, playing with government newsreels and other modulations that establish the interweaving of ideology with realist praxis, have been seminal to debates on aesthetics in South Asia on and off since at least the mid-nineteenth century. For the Sri Lankan renditions, see Neloufer de Mel, Women and the Nation’s Narrative: Gender and Nationalism in Twentieth-Century Sri Lanka (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001).

33. The relationship between movement and stillness in Vithanage’s film, where single elements appear to move across or in a still frame, and carry time through their movement, produces those movements as both indexes and as a punctum. The movements send a viewer to somewhere beyond the frame; they point to another place where the meaning of that movement lies.

34. Doane, Cinematic Time, 91 – 95. Mulvey explores some of the same ramifications of indexicality.

35. Sri Lanka changed its time a few times — each change, a response to political exigencies, was a slight difference from the zones established in South Asia in the 1870s. See my unpublished “Time Travels.”

36. The bhikku is a figure that appears in many religious and literary texts from Buddhist countries. He has counterparts in most other religious lineages: the wandering dervish in love from Sufism and the yogic practitioner from Hinduism are two instances.

37. This information draws on my interviews with Sri Lankan soldiers in October 2002.

38. I am simplifying a bit here to make a point. The soldiers occupy an anomalous position in the film. They carry the burden that the family cannot carry without access to Bandara’s insurance policy.

39. In “Time Binds, or, Erotohistoriography,” Social Text, nos. 84 – 85 (2005): 57 – 68, Elizabeth Freeman offers a lovely rereading of both Freud and Maria Torok’s descriptions of incorporation. See Sigmund Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia,” in General Psychological Theory (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 164 – 84.

40. See Mbembe, “Necropolitics”; and Foucault, Society Must Be Defended. In both these discussions war is not an abnormal state of the state, but the necessary origin through which contemporary forms of nation-statehood came into being. “War” includes literal war, as well as the conditions through which the “state of the camp” becomes quotidian. The rhetoric of justification deployed by nations, that they are in a state of war that is anomalous, actually normalizes war.

41. See Henri-Louis Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (New York: Zone Books, 1988). For discussions of the psychological studies of subjective temporality that increased dramatically in number in Europe in the 1930s, see Robert Levine, A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of a Social Psychologist, or How Every Culture Keeps Time Just a Little Bit Differently (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 26 – 51.

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