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British Asian FictionTwenty-first Century Voices$

Sara Upstone

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780719078323

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719078323.001.0001

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Hari Kunzru

Hari Kunzru

Chapter:
(p.142) 7 Hari Kunzru
Source:
British Asian Fiction
Author(s):

Sara Upstone

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719078323.003.0008

Abstract and Keywords

In 2004, the BBC screened a documentary entitled The Power of Nightmares: the Rise of the Politics of Fear. Written and produced by Adam Curtis, the documentary controversially argues that Islamist terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda are self-realising myths, encouraged by the West (particularly U.S. neoconservatives) in order to construct identifiable enemies resonant with the popular imagination. Curtis does not deny the reality of terrorism; what he denies is a well-coordinated and hidden organisation as the source of this threat. Like Curtis, Hari Kunzru sees an explicit connection between terrorism and selfhood. This chapter examines Kunzru's works, Transmission (2004) and My Revolutions (2007), in which he suggests that individuals with justifiable motives find themselves co-opted into less-ethical schemes with a group mentality which strips them of their individual subjectivity, whether such groups are imaginary (in the case of Transmission) or real (as in My Revolutions). Group identity supersedes the complexity of individual selfhood. The chapter also looks at the politics of selfhood and consciousness, as well as identity versus self.

Keywords:   Hari Kunzru, terrorism, Adam Curtis, myths, selfhood, Transmission, My Revolutions, politics, consciousness, identity

Expressive individuation has become one of the cornerstones of modern culture. So much so that we barely notice it, and we find it hard to accept that it is such a recent idea in human history and would have been incomprehensible in earlier times … We still instinctively reach for the old vocabularies, the ones we owe to Enlightenment and Romanticism.1

In 2004, the BBC screened a documentary entitled The Power of Nightmares: the Rise of the Politics of Fear. Written and produced by Adam Curtis, the documentary controversially argues that Islamist terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda are self-realising myths, encouraged by the West (particularly US neoconservatives) in order to construct identifiable enemies resonant with the popular imagination. At the centre of Curtis's argument is the assertion that terrorists cannot be conceived as individuals; they must be imagined as part of a global organisation, ‘A powerful and sinister network, with sleeper cells in countries across the world’.2 Curtis does not deny the reality of terrorism; what he denies is a well coordinated and hidden organisation as the source of this threat. His working title for The Power of Nightmares was The Elements of the Self.3 His previous project for the BBC was The Century of the Self (2002), a documentary which began with Freud and traced the development of ideas of selfhood as they have been exploited by mass culture in the modern world. Terrorism, from Curtis's perspective, is, like capitalism, a manipulation of who we are; it is a manoeuvring of individual identities, both by those who perpetrate terrorism, and those who claim to protect us from it.

Reading Hari Kunzru's work, it is valuable to keep Curtis's documentary at the front of one's mind. Like Curtis, Kunzru sees an explicit connection between terrorism and selfhood. Curtis's documentary feeds into a wider discourse surrounding the terrorist and ideas of the self. Being an inward-looking individual (p.143) facilitates ethical behaviour; turning introspectively inwards is what conventionally is interpreted as facilitating closeness to God and, more recently in more secular contexts, an awareness of right and wrong.4 The terrorist, we often assume, lacks this individual consciousness; he or she must be, so popular discourses suggest, a member of a group, a cult mentality, which has overtaken the individual power of reflection and disabled moral functioning. The notion of mass destruction not being at odds with the individual's consciousness is a profoundly disturbing idea, which can itself only be made palatable by alternative explanations such as mental illness. In Kunzru's second novel, Transmission (2004), the central protagonist of Arjun himself becomes subject to this myth. A single individual who spreads an international computer virus, he is imagined instead as part of a terror network, a ‘technological fifth column’.5 His very personal act, a response to an individual grievance, is transformed into an event in which his own subjectivity is lost: ‘he had tried to act but instead had made himself a non-person’ (159). An alternative rendering of this scenario is equally central to Kunzru's third novel, My Revolutions (2007), focused on a middle-aged man who has covered up his terrorist past by taking on an assumed identity: the man who was ‘Chris’, a terrorist, becomes ‘Mike’, a devoted family man. His terrorist group are identified as ‘mindless’.6 Yet, at the same time, the terrorist must strip others of their humanity to rationalise their actions: for Chris/Mike and his revolutionary comrades, those they attack are ‘Pigs’, not people. ‘As individuals’ his targets have ‘no substance for me at all’ (197).

This chapter begins in such a way to explicitly encourage a particular reading of Kunzru's work. By humanising the terrorist through the figures of Chris/Mike and Arjun, Kunzru suggests that individuals with justifiable motives find themselves co-opted into less ethical schemes with a group mentality that strips them of their individual subjectivity, whether such groups are imaginary (in the case of Transmission) or real (as in My Revolutions). Group identity supersedes the complexity of individual selfhood. Moreover, if revolutionaries may dehumanise themselves and others, this is only in reaction to a system which has already dehumanised them. This, of course, has important parallels to the events of 9/11, even though both novels are set before 2001. Media discourse surrounding the attacks on the World Trade Center has focused on how vulnerable individuals were manipulated by international terrorist organisations. (p.144) More controversially, critics have also identified the potential justifications for the emotions behind these actions, if not the actions themselves, in terms of the neo-colonial role of the US in world politics and trade, a role which is emphasised in My Revolutions through reference to Vietnam and, in Transmission, by the inequality of globalisation. In interview, Kunzru has controversially said that ‘I can understand why young Muslims are putting posters of Osama Bin Laden in their bedrooms. He's a fucking rock star. He's the only person who appears to be standing up to a ruthless, homogenising identity’.7

Yet how this individual self is lost in the terrorist world is equally a device employed by Kunzru to explore the notions of selfhood central to all his fiction. When considering Kunzru's focus on the terrorist, we should think less about obvious connections to post-9/11 discourse or debates about the current age of anxiety, and more about what the terrorist symbolises for Kunzru in terms of identity. The fact that two of Kunzru's three novels have terrorist elements means most readings of his work have focused on this, with Kunzru's first novel, The Impressionist (2002), often seen as divorced from his later concerns. Only a handful of reviewers and only one critic, Alan Robinson, have noted this additional concern which in fact unites all three novels: ‘Kunzru's abiding preoccupation with the making, and dismantling, of personal identity’.8 The diversity of Kunzru's writings – he was Young Travel Writer of the Year in 1999 – reflect the career of a writer with global interests. The similarities, however, offer a detailed and developing vision of selfhood.

The politics of selfhood

Philosophers of selfhood such as Charles Taylor draw attention to the fact that ‘we naturally come to think that we have selves the way we have heads or arms, and inner depths the way we have hearts or livers, as a matter of hard, interpretation-free fact’, but that, in reality, such assumption is a modern phenomenon.9 While the notion of the unified self can be traced back as far as Plato, the idea that this self has an interior existence is far more recent. As Taylor illuminates, ‘the very idea that we have or are “a self”, that human agency is essentially defined as “the self”, is a linguistic reflection of our modern understanding and the radical reflexivity it involves. Being deeply imbedded in this understanding, we cannot but reach for this language; but it was not always so’.10 In essence, what Kunzru's fiction (p.145) attempts is a questioning of that very modern sensibility: not to return the reader to a pre-modern reality, but rather to proffer a post-modern (yet not always postmodernist) alternative.

Kunzru is generous with his own words, and it is not difficult to establish his interest in ideas of consciousness, identity and self. He acknowledges that he is ‘obsessed with shape-shifting’.11 More specifically, he has expressed concern that society has become trapped in models of identity no longer relevant to contemporary circumstance. He locates this in one particular moment of European philosophy: Romanticism. Kunzru is ‘very interested in our reliance on a Romantic conception of character’, believing ‘We’re being asked to deal with a very complicated networked world using a set of 18th century beliefs about ourselves’.12 Importantly, he states that it was this ‘romantic notion of personality or character’, rather than ‘the race thing about identity’, which motivated him to write.13 Identity, then, is different from selfhood. The former concept speaks to communal identification of the kind manipulated by terrorism, what Paul Gilroy refers to as the fact that ‘to share an identity is to be bonded on the most fundamental levels: national, “racial”, ethnic, regional, and local. Identity is always bounded and particular.’14 The latter, in contrast, speaks to the sense of individual, profoundly subjective, and personal qualities.

Kunzru's critique of Romanticism comes from what he sees as its belief in a fixed, permanent sense of self. While these notions existed before, Romantics reaffirmed the status of the individual as a unique subject, with an inner voice distinguishing him/her from others.15 Equally, the Romantics elevated inward looking as a means of developing moral and ethical imperatives to a new level of importance.16 Romantics for the first time established a self which ‘is no longer some impersonal “Form” or “nature” which comes to actuality, but a being capable of self-articulation’.17 Focus on self-expression established a new level of individuation where the nature of individuality determined the path of life. Within everyone is an originality which they are obliged to do justice to: ‘Each person is to be measured by a different yardstick, one which is properly his or her own.’18 For Taylor this is the first time that the individual self has such a crucial role: it is for the first time, more than social circumstance, who we are. Each human maintains a ‘radical individuation’ which makes originality the cornerstone of existence.19

All of Kunzru's protagonists refuse, in different ways, (p.146) Romantic self-articulation. They interrogate the idea that there is a unique subjectivity which means that each individual experiences their activities, pursuits, emotions and ideas differently to anyone else: that each person is an original, with what Taylor refers to as an ‘unrepeatable difference’.20 The notion of the individual first person voice as indicative of a supreme individuality is called into question. In The Impressionist, the central character of Pran undertakes several transformations, taking on new personae so completely that his former selves are no longer referenced or reflected upon. Born an Indian male, Pran becomes both a woman and an Englishman on the course of his journey. His lack of fixed self can be attributed not to the postcolonial condition, however, but to a kind of multiple personality disorder. Denied the communication essential to the formation of self during childhood, Pran goes on to experience hideous sexual abuse. These experiences resonate with the identified origins of multiple personality disorder, often associated with extreme childhood abuse. It is in the wake of this experience that Pran's self unravels:

‘Him’, in fact, is fast becoming an issue. How long has he been in the room? Long enough for things to unravel. Long enough for that important faculty to atrophy (call it the pearl faculty, the faculty which secretes selfhood around some initial grain), leaving its residue dispersed in a sea of sensation, just a spark, an impulse waiting to be reassembled from a primal soup of emotions and memories. Nothing so coherent as a personality. Some kind of Being still happening in there, but nothing you could take hold.21

While the classical division of mind and body which preoccupies European philosophers – Plato and, later, Descartes most famously – suggests we have a sense of self that is separate from our bodily form (often referred to as Cartesian dualism), Kunzru challenges this assumption with an alternative reality in which changing the body may fundamentally alter the self. There is no Cartesian mind here, no Romantic authentic self that is inherent and unique. There is only the physical: a ‘primal soup’.

Such modelling may seem little different from the postcolonial notions of a hybrid identity as outlined by Rushdie. Yet Kunzru's ideas extend beyond such frameworks because, more controversially, Kunzru's fiction at times seems to suggest, in fact, that there is no self beyond these bodily mutations. While one may strategically associate oneself with others from a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds, for Kunzru there is nothing underneath such identifications: there is no self on which identity is based. (p.147) Through his various transformations, Pran never expresses the idea that he has come closer to his ‘true self’ or, even, that his ‘true self’ is a hybrid combination of all the communal identities he has performed. It is not a matter of coming to terms with a heterogeneous identity, but more of accepting the futility of such endeavours, accepting that ‘identity’ is a false holy grail when the individual self has no fundamental basis. It is this that makes Kunzru more postmodern than postcolonial; it is not that essential identities are hybrid, but that the notion of an essential self on which such identity might rest itself is being called into question. It is a subtle, but significant, distinction.

In these terms, Pran offers an important revision of the postcolonial model of mimicry. While it is tempting to see Pran as the classic mimic, an early twentieth-century version of Naipaul's Ralph Singh, the notion of a mimic is of an individual who has a selfhood which is denied by their aspiration for white imperial culture and who makes a ‘false’ communal identification. Pran, however, has no denied self. There is no original behind his acts of mimicry. There is nothing to deny. From his birth, Pran is defined as an individual without a fixed selfhood: his astrological chart is ‘a shape-shifting chart. A chart full of lies’ (26). When Pran watches the impressionist (giving the book its title), he has a profound revelation about the nature of selfhood, seeing that ‘In between each impression, just at the moment when one person falls away and the next has yet to take possession, the impressionist is completely blank. There is nothing there at all.’ (419) Strip away the social construction, Kunzru tells us, and there is nothing authentic underlying it. There is only a nothingness on to which our performances can be, ironically, adhered, a nothingness which makes all expressions of identity – whatever communal allegiance they take for their inspiration – equally inauthentic.

Equally, in My Revolutions, the title refers not only to physical revolution in which Chris/Mike is involved, but also his own personal negotiations of selfhood, the going around in circles that is both his experience in the prison yard (70) and his circling around different subjectivities, ‘the circular, self-reflective movement of a mind remembering itself’.22 Yet the emphasis here is slightly different from The Impressionist. Is Chris/Mike more ‘himself’ when he is a terrorist, or a family man? Kunzru shies away from making either of these identifications more ‘true’. However, rather than this indicating the lack of self exemplified in Pran, here the possibility of embodying more (p.148) than one subjectivity is favoured. Chris/Mike initially identifies his two personalities as separate beings: ‘after living so long as Mike Frame, it's sometimes hard to find my way back to Chris Carver’ (219). However, at the end of My Revolutions, Chris/Mike does not choose between his two roles but identifies himself as both of these simultaneously. Choosing to return to Miranda and Sam – his ‘Mike’ life – when he calls Miranda he announces himself as ‘Chris’ (277). In this moment he is both people: both selves existing simultaneously.

Such complex selves mean that, in Kunzru's world, Descartes’ notion of the self-sufficient individual withers away.23 In Transmission we see how the body, attached to the mind but not of it, can form, in fittingly technical terms, an interface which means that the concept of inside and outside is broken down in favour of a fusion between the individual mind and the social world. That such fusion is centred on the technological confounds another hangover from Romantic thought: the idea that nature is central to human development. Instead cyberspace has become as real as real space: the physical world has lost its power and we have become alienated from the natural world.24 For Arjun, the world of the computer is just as real; as ‘a secret garden. A laboratory’ (28) his private area of the network, hidden from all other users, has its own physicality. Yet it is this physicality that alienates him: existing in a space in which he is the only inhabitant distances Arjun from human contact.

One might speculate here that this might be Kunzru's point: that technology has led us away from the self; that, in Romantic terms, ‘Nature is fundamentally good, and the estrangement which depraves us is one which separates us from it’.25 Yet there is no Romantic call here to abandon industrialisation and return to the ecological; rather Kunzru emphasises the redundancy of such frameworks as the urban life rejected by the Romantics has proven itself the most defining feature of contemporary existence. According to Erik Davis, there is not a lack of spirituality in the movement towards machines; rather it is within them that we now ‘catch our reflections, even our spirits’.26 Davis's study of the spiritual aspect of computing, Techgnosis (1999), reveals a world in which the pursuit of the sublime has not been eroded in the movement away from nature, only displaced.27 Kunzru picks this up in his beautiful short story ‘Deus Ex Machina’ (1998), where a guardian angel saves a woman's life via a computer, expressing that such machines are ‘the tools which replaced apparitions and holy relics’.28

(p.149) In all these texts, the debates about the self need to be read as comments on contemporary circumstances. Although Pran is a severe case, his mode of being bears similarity to how Kunzru sees contemporary identity more generally, part of a novel motivated by a desire to create a character ‘interrogating whether we are actually immutable or are we much more context driven than we care to believe?’29 Cases of multiple personality disorder have risen dramatically alongside increasing experimentation with identities in society and,30 while he is an extreme, Pran also acts for Kunzru as a model:

All of us have a sense of social range and we tend to maybe modulate our voices differently depending on who we are talking to. We might behave in slightly different ways in different social contexts. I wondered just how far that goes and how much drift is possible?31

Throughout The Impressionist, other characters display a similar lack of self: the Kwaaja-sara is almost invisible (92), Sir Wydham is a stand-in for England (156), the imperial presence consists not of individuals, but of projections which must stand for the Viceroy, himself standing for the King-Emperor (152). This metaphorical usage of an extreme case to exemplify a broader concern is equally evident in My Revolutions. Anna engages in ‘an authentically communal experience. It was as if she subsumed herself entirely into Thirteen … It was as if she had no inner life at all’ (171). The revolutionaries declare ‘It's not about the self. The self is reactionary crap. It's about mass mobilisation’ (88). So, again, while identity may exist, there is no individual subjectivity underlying its construction.

Whether or not the Romantic model worked in its own time is not of concern, although Pran's lack of self even in the nineteenth century suggests a certain scepticism. It is simply that it no longer has relevance in the contemporary world. As a result of this, there is an ambivalent inevitability woven into Kunzru's novels. If we take The Impressionist as an example, we can see how this functions. Conventional understanding of self asks us to interpret Pran's loss of self in negative terms, as the terrible loss in which mimicry results. Yet it may not be so much negative as simply the state of things as Pran's mimicry exists within a context in which ‘he is copying people who are hollow already’.32 Kunzru himself has pointed towards this reading:

Rather than being a sad story of a boy who loses his home and can not find a place in the world, which is often the way people give the outline of this story, but it is more of a kind of way of exposing (p.150) the homelessness that, I think, is the human condition. I think the idea of a natural connection to a place or a natural connection with a society is false.33

At points, Pran's lack of self does have negative consequences: the final irony in his relationship with Star, where he is rejected for being too English, points to the limits of performance in the wake of a world that continues to be preoccupied with authenticity. His performances in the wake of colonial power, abuse and exploitation, bear little relation to the actions of Kureishi's exhilarated metropolitan protagonists. Indeed, Kunzru actively interrogates this representation. Consider, for example, the following passage:

You may think you are singular. You may think you are incapable of change. But we are as mutable as the air! Release yourself, release your body and you can be a myriad! (82)

This may seem like the archetypal celebration of fluidity. And yet the speaker of these words is the Kwaaja-sara, a man who would prostitute Pran for political purposes.

Yet while Pran's extreme may be undesirable, his ability to ‘stitch a personality together’ (250) is attractive. When a new self takes over, the former is forgotten. This means that when Pran transforms into Jonathan Bridgeman he does not so much mimic Englishness as actually become this, as it ‘seeps a little deeper into his skin’ (307):

He is becoming what he pretends to be, realizing that the truth is so unlikely that, despite his occasional oddities and lapses, no one would ever divine it. He is starting to coincide with his shadow. (317)

It is no coincidence that it is at this point that Pran finally finds, in his tutor Dr Noble, a voice that expresses a positive alternative to ideas of inherent selfhood. His name giving away Kunzru's opinion of him, Dr Noble informs Pran that ‘we are not born, Mr Bridgeman. We are made.’ (332)

This same reality is expressed more poetically in Kunzru's short story ‘Sunya’ (1999):

I add a tenth. The sign of nothingness. The sign of the nothing that is something. The sign of that which has no qualities except existence. The sign of myself.

I could have told you my name, but what would be the purpose. I could have told you my age, my sex, my caste. I could have numbered and named my children, my city, the titles of the dynasty of kings to whom I once owed allegiance. All these things are illusion.

(p.151) The empty self offers escape from the prejudices surrounding the idea of normative identities. Performance allows Pran to escape Privett-Clampe; it means he can get an education; it allows him to obtain money to live; it facilitates a certain amount of influence. Gradually, it becomes a matter just not of economics, but of fun (245). We may not approve of the ethics of his actions, such as his treatment of the ‘real’ Jonathan Bridgeman, but we must situate them within the direness of the alternatives for Pran, and on this level can applaud his survival: the fact that at the end of the novel Pran is the only one left standing, marked out from the imperialists who surround him.

As My Revolutions tells us, a revolutionary may become a communist, giving up the wants of the individual for a collective identity. Or he or she may become a terrorist. The abandonment of self is inherently neither good nor bad, but rather an essential part of contemporary life. Kunzru may not believe in the Romantic idea of an innate, unified self. He may not believe that the self we construct has a basis in reality. But, nevertheless, this process of imagining who we are is important: it is what allows us to distinguish ourselves from others. And that is why we need, he suggests, new ways of considering selfhood in the contemporary world.

Reconfiguring selfhood: the politics of consciousness

After being educated first at the public school Bancroft’s, and then completing his English Literature degree at Oxford University, Kunzru took an MA in Philosophy and Literature at Warwick University. This is not unimportant in that Kunzru's thinking on the self is influenced by debates in philosophy beginning in the early 1990s that attempted to redefine human consciousness. In particular, Kunzru is influenced by the work of Daniel Dennett, who he interviewed while at Wired magazine.34 Dennett's Consciousness Explained (1991) has been profoundly influential in both science and philosophy, but has achieved a mainstream cross-over presence; his ideas are often the foundation for contemporary theories of consciousness and subjectivity (Susan Blackmore's Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (2005), for example, is largely a re-writing of Dennett's position for a more mainstream audience). Dennett's theories reject Cartesian dualism in favour of a materialist positioning in which the mind is simply the body: it is matter, rather than anything separate from this, and it is only through a combination of (p.152) complex processes, rather than through the action of a unique faculty, that understanding is achieved. Dennett exposes how even those theorists who claim to reject Cartesian dualism maintain it on some level: they continue to believe in a ‘special’ location of consciousness which can be identified, what Dennett terms ‘the Cartesian theater’. In the processes of the brain which make up consciousness, there is no role for the pre-existing differentiation – the unique kernel of self-awareness – favoured in Romantic notions of selfhood. Equally, there is no place for a single subjectivity: for one coherent self. This is because Dennett's alternative to the Cartesian theater is the ‘multiple drafts model’, where competing streams of consciousness exist in parallel to each other. While only one thought or action may eventually emerge, nevertheless the brain is full of multiple impulses.

With the idea of a Cartesian theater rejected, Dennett speculates on the possibility of one body with multiple selves, capturing the notions of selfhood offered in both The Impressionist and My Revolutions.35 Pran in particular is used by Kunzru to debate Dennett's ideas. He is a mind, and a body, but largely seems lacking in consciousness. According to Dennett, consciousness is not inherent, but something that exists only if belief in consciousness exists.36 This belief is transitory, and the self exists only in this moment of belief, transformed with each new moment of awareness. Without this belief, Pran has no self. He is one of Dennett's zombies: a body that appears to have consciousness, but in fact does not.

When Pran does show a sense of self it is on Dennett's terms: transitory and fleeting, existing only in that moment and not transferred to other situations, without narrative or continuity. As Pran moves on to a new role, the previous incarnation of his self is seemingly forgotten, no longer referred to. There is no reflection on previous incidences, as Pran experiences events ‘at one remove, the pain-messages arriving at his brain like holiday postcards’ (98). Pran is more likely to act, or to be acted upon, than to decide consciously upon an action or reflect upon one. At points in the novel, focus drifts away from him, almost as if he can no longer hold the attention even of the narrative. What is revelatory here is Dennett's claim that in fact we all are like this classic model of the zombie: people do not have any special access to the motivations behind their actions. Humans are simply rebuilding themselves and evolving, whereas zombies are not, creating the illusion of a unique human consciousness.37 It (p.153) is thus not that Pran's lack of awareness denies him a self, but that his lack of awareness reveals the lack of self inherent to all.38 There is nothing missing in Pran other than the illusion that there is something missing.

Kunzru's fiction is populated by such individuals. Consumed by mental illness, Chris/Mike's mother in My Revolutions is ‘only performing her newly learned happiness’ (61) on return from the mental hospital. Equally, although Guy Swift in Transmission may appear to exemplify the notion of inspired unique individuality, there is in fact nothing behind this veneer. He may appear a self, but is in fact little more than a zombie:

The music trickled into Guy's brain, slowly clearing his mental space, like an elderly janitor stacking up chairs. He had a sense of angelic contentment. Here he was, existent, airborne, bringing the message of himself from one point on the earth's surface to another. Switching his laptop on, he tried in a half-hearted way to compose a mail to Gabriella, but, confronted by the blank white screen, he could think of nothing to say. (13)

Even the seemingly deepest consciousness may be an illusion. So we are reminded:

In a world of illusion you have to ask questions. You have to doubt, systematically. Other people may act real. They may behave as if, like you, they are animated by internal processes. But you never know. Some of them are just machines. (104)

As people believe Pran, so Guy is equally convincing: a zombie is more common than we might think.

Essential to the idea of consciousness in Western thought is the concept of agency, or free will. As early as Augustine, the idea exists that through an act of will one can choose to embody a particular selfhood.39 This is not a matter of postmodern performativity, but rather an emphasis on the fact that all humans, as a result of the Fall, must take responsibility for their actions. It has extended into the present concern for choosing a ‘true self’ in an act of self-definition which comes about as a result of introspection.40 The critical reaction to The Impressionist is particularly interesting in these terms. When the novel was published, reviews commented negatively on Pran's lack of warmth.41 Perhaps the reason that reviewers respond with such coolness to Pran is that he never asserts his will, rather accepting the control of others that tells him this is of ‘no consequence’ (81). He does not choose what self to be in most circumstances, but allows his self to be shaped by others. In this way, he does not (p.154) exert the power of conscious decision that is held by many to be central to selfhood.42 Rather, he affirms the philosophical position that free will is an illusion: a product of a mind that likes to believe it has made a conscious decision to act. In Consciousness Explained, Dennett asks us to consider whether consciousness should make a difference to how we treat life forms. If desires aren’t conscious, does it matter if we crush them?43 Dennett suggests that such discussions have important consequences for ethical and moral behaviour. The reaction to Pran suggests worrying consequences about our attitude to consciousness. We would care more about Pran if he cared more about himself, it seems.

Being human

Dennett's argument about consciousness has its most profound implications in terms of notions of humans as unique. Throughout philosophy, centring on the human self distinguishes the human both from the external material world, and from other living things: ‘the mind is life’ and, conversely, the universe of matter is ‘not a medium of thought or meaning … is expressively dead’.44 Dennett suggests, however, that humans are only unique in their ability to consider themselves unique, rather than because of any fundamental difference. While basic computers may not be able to undertake the learning processes that distinguish humans from zombies, more advanced models that are being built can. Telling us that ‘conscious human minds are more-or-less serial virtual machines implemented – inefficiently – on the parallel hardware that evolution has provided for us’, Dennett argues that human consciousness is just the result of a rather badly designed computer system.45 Both humans and computers have evolved beyond their basic capabilities.46 In these terms, how is computer consciousness any different from that of a human? Both are equally unbelievable, so that if we believe a human brain can evolve into a conscious mind, so we must believe the same is possible for a computer.47 Kunzru's interest in these ideas means it is much more that his previous occupation as associate editor of the British edition of technology magazine Wired (1995–97) that determines his choice of focus for Transmission. The principles of computer networks and their implications are essential to his engagement with selfhood. What Kunzru asks his readers to debate is the precise nature of the relationship between human and machine in (p.155) respect of the increasing similarity between them. Are machines increasingly like humans because humans have designed them in their own image, perhaps subconsciously with the desire of proving these re-creations inferior, and therefore re-establishing the value of humanity? Or, more disturbingly, are machines becoming increasingly like humans because, at a fundamental level, humans are no more than machines?

This blurring is evident from the very first pages of Transmission. The virus speaks in the first person: ‘I saw this and thought of you.’ (3) The relationships it establishes are akin to those between humans: personal and emotional: ‘It's not as if you had asked for Leela to come and break your heart.’ (3) From this opening, Transmission continues developing such connections. Arjun's brain is like a computer: his dreams can be reconfigured, ‘outcomes built in as required’ (15). Leela appears in human form, but there is ‘machinery at work under her skin’ (4). The golf course in the Dubai desert is transplanted grass, where veins and arteries are fed by plastic tubing (176). Virugenix's workers are successful because they are ‘wired differently’ (59), where existential questions are rejected as ‘uncomputable’ (63). The comparisons work in both directions: one of the computing networks at Virugenix is referred to as ‘the Petri dish’ (54). Against the Romantic notion of a unique humanity, Arjun sees in computers the potential for an equally animated vitality. ‘By the age of thirteen’, we are told, ‘Arjun had long discounted the theory that there were actual living things inside computers. But something mystical persisted, a hint, the presence of a vital spark’ (106).

Here the influence of Donna Haraway – who Kunzru has both interviewed and written about – is profoundly evident.48 Kunzru's description captures Haraway's world of technoscience in which ‘fibers infiltrate deep and wide throughout the tissues of the planet, including the flesh of our personal bodies’, creating a cyborg culture in which man and machine are interwoven.49 At the centre of this is Kunzru's meditation on the nature of the computer virus. If, as Haraway suggests, disease is a kind of language then,50 with language essential to selfhood,51the virus is essential to the breakdown of boundaries between human and machine. It is a ‘virtual disease’ with the possibility to ‘migrate’ (Transmission 55): it is alive. As Haraway rejects the notion that humans reproduce (unless through cloning) for the idea that they generate themselves, so the multiple replications of the virus replicate the act of procreation.52 (p.156) Arjun's first encounter with a computer virus as a teenager is an awakening to this possibility, a ‘string of code that had hidden itself in an innocuous floppy disk and had used his computer to make copies of itself. Every restart had given birth to another generation. Life.’ (108)

The diseased computer network represents a threat to the uniqueness of humanity: a technology out of human control, and thus close to the boundaries of consciousness which allow humans to mark themselves out from both matter and other life forms. Equally, if the immune system is in itself essential to selfhood – the identification of something foreign means the body knows what it is – then the fact that a computer might be attacked by something foreign and recognises it as such again represents a blurring of human and machine.53 So the computer, with its emerging consciousness, asks us to question our individuality. As we are connected online via the Internet we become networked, our individual selves becoming fuzzy as we are continually subject to seemingly endless flows of information. The individual gives way to a collective consciousness. At the same time, online personae allow individuals to re-make themselves with new selves, calling into question the notion of essential selfhood.

This blurring can be a frightening prospect, as Erik Davis outlines:

With the continued ideological dominance of reductionist science and the sociocultural dominance of its technological spawn, the once glorious isle of humanism is melting into a silicon sea. We find ourselves trapped on a cyborg sandbank, caught between the old, smouldering campfire stories and the new networks of programming and control. As we lose our faith in free will or the coherence of personality, we glimpse androids in the bathroom mirror, their eyes black with nihilism – the meaningless void that Nietzsche pegged over a century ago as the Achilles’ heel of modern civilization.54

Kunzru, however, sees such blurring as essential to deconstructing outdated notions of selfhood:

Being a cyborg isn’t just about the freedom to construct yourself. It's about networks. Ever since Descartes announced, ‘I think, therefore I am,’ the Western world has had an unhealthy obsession with selfhood. From the individual consumer to the misunderstood loner, modern citizens are taught to think of themselves as beings who exist inside their heads and only secondarily come into contact with everything else … Unless, that is, you’re a collection of networks, constantly feeding information back and forth across the line to (p.157) the millions of networks that make up your ‘world.’ A cyborg perspective seems rather sensible, compared with the weirdness of the doubting Cartesian world.55

Leela's experience exemplifies these two possibilities. Her initial experience of the Leela virus affirms how cyberspace is read negatively to diminish humanity, as she feels her unique personality has been stolen.56 Yet, by the end of the novel, Leela's online personality has ultimately liberated her, opening up an alternate personality previously stifled. Being reproduced online complicates Leela's sense of her own fixed selfhood, to the extent that she ultimately rejects the media image that has dominated her sense of self since adolescence. Seeing herself endlessly replicated destroys the myth that Leela the actress is a unique, and therefore important, self. And it is this vision that frees her.

The fear of the virus represents not only a fear of the blurring of human and machine, but the possible contamination between them: it is evidence of a cyborg culture as the ultimate challenge to unique human consciousness. In Transmission, each of the central protagonists find their lives inextricably connected to the virus's activity and, by extension, to the machine. The central characters positively affirm the fact that ‘postmodern bodies do not exist outside, or beyond, information, but are rather one of the two virtual poles (along with information) between which embodiment occurs’.57 It is this that provides further evidence that Kunzru does not ultimately desire a return to the Romantic pre-cyberspace world. ‘Better paranoid through too much connection than dead through none at all’, in Haraway's words.58

Identity versus self

Kunzru is an intensely political writer: he is on the executive of London PEN, is patron of the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission, and, in 2003, he rejected the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for The Impressionist (which had already won the 2002 Betty Trask Award and the 2003 Somerset Maugham Award, and been nominated for the 2002 Whitbread First Novel Prize) because of its sponsorship by The Mail on Sunday, a newspaper notorious for its right-wing views and anti-immigration headlines.

In the wake of this activity, Kunzru's work should not be separated from its political component. Kunzru rejected a prize sponsored by The Mail on Sunday because ‘The Impressionist is a novel about the absurdity of a world in which race is the main (p.158) determinant of a person's identity’.59 These events remind us of the contemporary relevance of the novel's message: for Kunzru, this race-determined world exists every day in British tabloid newspapers, and the novel is ‘a coded way to unpick all the weird debates about race and identity that are floating around’.60 Named along with Ali one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists of 2003, Kunzru earned the highest ever advance for a first novel for The Impressionist on the promise of being a writer who would take ‘his place in the constellation of important young British novelists writing about a very new, multi-racial, multi-ethnic Britain’.61

At first glance, none of Kunzru's novels seem to fulfil this particular description. His work, however, is the most evolved form of the post-ethnic reality first explored by Kureishi. Kunrzu's post-ethnicity bears comparison with Haraway's post-gender theory: utilisation of postmodern identity theory in the service of deconstructing existing hierarchies, with powerful consequences for racial/gender identity, that may not always be obvious.62 Such an approach must be used with caution. In relation to the burden of representation, it risks trapping authors like Kunzru in an ethnic framework which discourages wider – and potentially more interesting – readings of their work. Kunzru himself has expressed such concerns, saying ‘you’re only allowed to talk about and relate to certain ethnic and race issues’.63 To in this chapter focus on the broader implications of Kunzru's work is to question such tendencies, supporting Kunzru's own sense of himself as part of a group of writers who will not tolerate such restriction.64 Nevertheless, it must be noted that, for those whose primary interest is ethnic identity, Kunzru's work does still have an important contribution to make. To examine the consequences of Kunzru's reflections on selfhood, subjectivity, and what it means to be human is to uncover conclusions with direct relevance to issues surrounding ethnic identity. Kunzru's meditations are not simply about engaging with popular postmodern deconstructions of selfhood; they are also about challenging some of the preconceptions about ethnic and racial identity which haunt ethnic minority communities in Britain.

In particular, Kunzru can be seen to use the idea of selfhood to reflect upon how the idea of ethnic identity – in essence a selfhood constructed in relation to communal notions of belonging – can be destabilised by undercutting its fundamental basis in the idea of a stable self. Kunzru's rejection even of (p.159) a hybrid authentic self is a reflection of a British Asian confidence that is no longer preoccupied with asking the question ‘Who am I?’ The reason the model of inherent selfhood is for Kunzru rejected is that it means a ‘fascist type of blood and soil connection’.65 In The Impressionist, Pran exists in a world in which he can adapt to any circumstance, comfortable in diverse environments. In My Revolutions, the identity of Chris/Mike is a celebration of competing influences on personal identity. The lives of Mike and Chris could not be more different, and yet Chris/Mike ultimately chooses to be both these people. This choice resonates with a confident British Asian sensibility that is comfortable fusing, sometimes strategically, often very different cultural influences.

Kunzru's mixed-race perspective – born in Essex in 1969 to an English mother and Indian father (his mother was a nurse, his father a doctor who came to Britain in the 1960s) – here informs his approach. The mixed-race character of Pran expresses concerns with trying to resolve identity confusion that represent the questions often raised for mixed-race individuals:

You are what you feel. Or if not, you should feel like what you are. But if you are something you don’t know yourself to be, what are the signs? What is the feeling of not being who you think you are? If his mother was his mother and his father was the strange Englishman in the picture, then logically he is half-and-half, a blackie-white. But he feels nothing in common with those people. They hate Indians. (52)

Yet although Pran may be confused and alienated his eventual positive utilisation of this experience announces the mixed-race individual's ability to positively reclaim the lack of a firmly delineated racial identity in which selfhood might be rooted for their own purposes. The novel reminds us, through Macfarlane's craniometry, of the usage of hybridity in colonial discourse: in his incarnation as Robert, Pran's ‘peculiar disguised form of hybridity’ for Macfarlane ‘might conceal all manner of antisocial tendencies’ (198). To reclaim the hybrid is thus to counter this discourse of biological purity in which the self lies innately in the body. Questioning the notion of the self strikes at the heart of racist discourses of biological purity. Pran's form of mimicry, as in Bhabha's description of this, destabilises the idea not only of a pure self, but of a racially pure self. These racist alternatives profoundly alter the context in which we read Pran's actions: although his continual willingness to change may make him less human, nevertheless his actions must be preferable to the (p.160) alternative of an authenticity rooted in racist prejudice. Privett-Clampe's idea that you can ‘listen to what the white is telling you’ as it is ‘calling to you through all the black’ (109) shows a connection between consciousness and biology that Pran rejects: race is not character.

Despite their differing contexts, Kunzru's novels are united in these terms. To be a cyborg is to be a hybrid, reflecting the idea that ‘human beings have been cyborgs from year zero’; the notion of cyborg is simply the most recent way of imagining the complex, heterogeneous nature of humanity.66 Haraway takes this up most commonly in terms of a feminist agenda, suggesting that the cyborg is threatening from a perspective of patriarchy. This is because cyborgs challenge conventional ordering and hierarchies, questioning traditional definitions of what it means to be human which have privileged masculine culture. Yet despite this interest Haraway frequently also draws upon discourses of racial politics in her work, often using the work of African American women to exemplify her arguments. The notion of the cyborg, it seems, is threatening not only to established gender hierarchies, but also to established racial ones. This is because challenging the distinctions between machine and animal, for Haraway, is a way of questioning the binaries which have dominated the Western view of self with all their racial and patriarchal prejudices.67 As Haraway argues:

From the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, the great historical constructions of gender, race, and class were embedded in the organically marked bodies of woman, the colonized or enslaved, and the worker. Those inhabiting these marked bodies have been symbolically other to the fictive rational self of universal, and so unmarked, species man, a coherent subject … You and I (whatever problematic address these pronouns have) might be an individual for some purposes but not for others. This is a normal ontological state for cyborgs and women, if not for Aristotelians and men.68

Haraway's connection here between the eighteenth-century and present-day cybernetics is a mirror of Kunzru's own chronology: the technological ‘other’ is simply the latest manifestation of the racial ‘other’, dehumanised and denied selfhood.

To question the rational, unified self, therefore, is a project with an inherent racial politics, to be aware that ‘judgements concerning what is or is not a human body sometimes have led to large injustices’.69 In The Impressionist the Amritsar Massacre is recounted to emphasise the lack of humanity given to the Indians by the British generals; not individuals but simply ‘the (p.161) dark-skinned races’ (183). In the novel's discussion of craniometry, Macfarlane comes to believe in polygenesis and the existence of ‘monkey people’ (233): non-white races are denied humanity, miscegenation producing people ‘perfectly comparable with our street-dogs and roof cats’ (231). This is more than simply saying, as do postcolonial theorists such as Robert Young, that colonialism and racism are founded on discourses of racial purity, though this is part of it.70 It is suggesting, beyond this, that the idea of a unified self is what is ultimately at stake in such discourses. What happens in Kunzru's later-set fiction is simply an extension of this. My Revolutions points to the racist dehumanising and exclusion of others that partly precipitates the drift towards communal identities in revolutionary practice, as Chris/Mike's group join forces with ethnic communities to oppose the rise of the National Front (152). In Transmission Arjun is perceived more as machine than human as he finds on losing his job that he is ‘no longer a real person’ (127), echoing the workers of earlier eras, but also the workers as they are perceived in My Revolutions, where ‘bourgeois individualism’ (111) is central to socio-economic inequality.

Indeed, one should not see Kunzru to be offering a technological alternative to Romantic discourse. Transmission makes clear that the technological revolution may be central to how we now consider what it means to be human, but it is nevertheless deeply problematic. Arjun's experience is a fictional rendering of the vast inequalities in global industries exposed by critiques of globalisation: the shrinking of the world is for him a ‘deflating beach ball’ (6) rather than an expansion of possibilities; his exhilaration on departing for the US is crushed in the novel only six pages later (33, 39). Global connection is parodied in the parallel stories of Arjun and advertising executive Guy Swift. The idealised postmodern notion of interconnectedness is firmly dismissed:

Did Guy Swift sense some occult connection with the boy on the bus [Arjun] 30,000 feet below? Did he perhaps feel a tug, a premonition, the kind of unexplained phenomenon that has as its correlative a shiver or a raising of the hairs on neck or arms? No. Nothing. He was playing Tetris on the armrest games console. He has just beaten his high score. (12)

Arjun's difficulty infiltrating the computing industry illustrates Ziauddin Sardar's argument that the new frontier being colonised by the West is cyberspace.71 The notion of the borderless (p.162) world is critiqued by a world in which that border has been transformed into a mental construct that will be equally policed while, at the same time, Guy's final failure at the hands of immigration police is a powerful satire of the Western celebration of free movement. That Guy ultimately is a victim of the very scheme he has supported announces ironically the painful inequalities his advertising rhetoric has obscured. His loss of identity sees him mistaken for an illegal immigrant, powerfully reminding the reader once again that the postmodern notion of fluid identities should not be idealised; as for Rushdie's immigrants, here a stable, recognised identity is something to be craved, where the alternative (as Guy experiences) is to be dehumanised and treated as an animal.

Such reading also places new emphasis on the millennial fears so often surrounding technology. Kunzru reflects an age of anxiety that has preoccupied thinkers in the post-9/11 world. In his only book set in the post-9/11 period, Transmission, Kunzru defines the virus as ‘future terror’ (109). At the centre of this is a resurrection of fears of the ‘other’, and its unseen presence in contemporary society, the same fin de siècle anxiety Aslam's fiction reflects. If terrorism is ultimately a fear of death and destruction, cyberterrorism emerges as this threat in new terms: challenging what it ultimately means to be human, waging a war of destruction that may be virtual, and yet equally destabilising. But the racial politics of such anxiety offers a troubling spin on things. What is more ‘other’ than the non-human: the technological presence which resurrects the fear of miscegenation in postmodern form? If we fear the computer, Kunzru asks, are we not displacing our anxieties about racial and ethnic purity around which so much post-9/11 paranoia revolves? For this reason, Arjun and his virus are perfect allies: two ‘others’ attacking the global capitalist system that would reject both of them through a fear of contamination. This is Arjun's ‘writing back’, but the virus is the synecdoche for his own status, and also – in more gendered terms – for Leela’s. It is a non-self that, like the racial ‘other’ before it, will challenge the province of humanity as it is defined in the limited and exclusive terms of white male privilege.

Conclusion

As Alden Mudge rightfully notes, Kunzru ‘has questions about the whole idea about what it means to be a person’: he is less (p.163) preoccupied with the communal identities that consume most discussions of ethnicity than with the more philosophical questions underlying this, the concepts of selfhood which determine the very basis of our assumptions about what it means to exist.72 The ‘free, self-determining subject’ developed from Romantic notions of self is absent in Kunzru's novels.73 Indeed, there is an undercurrent of Foucauldian ideas in all of his work that betrays Kunzru's interest in French poststructuralist theory, a mode of thought deeply influential in the technological and scientific discourses to which his texts refer. Kunzru's fictional endeavours in the early 1990s played on this interest, yet he quickly found that publication opportunities in relation to this sort of writing were limited: in interview with Rushdie the older author gives Kunzru the benefit of his experience by telling him that ‘you don’t get anywhere in England with French theory’.74 Despite this, Kunzru has continued, more subtly, to embrace theoretical concerns often largely rejected by British Asian authors; while Aslam, for example, may have a character state ‘We don’t have souls, we have cells’, it takes Kunzru to explore the complexities of such an assertion.75 This makes him the natural successor to Kureishi and Rushdie. Kunzru's rejection of consciousness in its conventional manifestation means not simply communal identity but also the individual self that underlies it is impossible: not just in essential, but even hybrid, form. This common thread across Kunzru's writing has important implications for how we consider race and ethnicity but also, perhaps more importantly, it offers an insightful contribution into considering who we are, whoever we are, in the contemporary world.

(p.164) Notes

(1) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 376, p. 393.

(2) Adam Curtis, The Power of Nightmares, BBC 2, 20 October 2004, 9 p.m. Transcript available online at www.daanspeak.com/TranscriptPowerOfNightmares1.html.

(3) Koehler, ‘Neo-Fantasies and Ancient Myths’.

(4) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 132, p. 184.

(5) Kunzru, Transmission, p. 154. Subsequent quotations cited parenthetically.

(6) Kunzru, My Revolutions, p. 201. Subsequent quotations cited parenthetically.

(7) Rachel Cooke, ‘I’m the Bloke who got the Big Advance’.

(8) Mattin, ‘My Revolutions’. See also Robinson, ‘Faking It: Simulation and Self-Fashioning in Hari Kunzru's Transmission’; Mudge, ‘Identity Crisis’; Sooke, ‘Signs of the Times’. For readings focused on terror see Beckett, ‘Don’t Call Me Comrade’. For those focused on race see Adams, ‘Many Unhappy Returns for a Teenage Terrorist’.

(9) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 112

(10) Ibid., p. 177

(11) Sooke, ‘Sign of the Times’.

(12) Mudge, ‘Identity Crisis’.

(13) ‘Interview with Hari Kunzru’, www.book-club.co.nz/features/harikunzru.htm.

(14) Gilroy, Between Camps, p. 98.

(15) Taylor, Sources of the Self, pp. 368–9

(16) Ibid., p. 362

(17) Ibid., p. 375

(18) Ibid., p. 375

(19) Ibid., p. 376

(20) Ibid., p. 182

(21) Kunzru, The Impressionist, p. 65. Subsequent quotations cited parenthetically.

(22) Mattin, ‘My Revolutions’.

(23) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 156.

(24) Davis, Techgnosis, p. 194.

(25) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 357.

(26) Davis, Techgnosis, p. 129

(27) Ibid., p. 306

(28) ‘Interview with Hari Kunzru’, www.book-club.co.nz/features/harikunzru.htm.

(29) Davis, Techgnosis, p. 222.

(30) ‘Interview with Hari Kunzru’, www.book-club.co.nz/features/harikunzru.htm.

(31) Mars-Jones, ‘East Meets West’.

(32) ‘Interview with Hari Kunzru’, www.book-club.co.nz/features/harikunzru.htm. For a review that casts Pran in such tragic terms see Mendelsohn, ‘Karma Chameleon’.

(33) Kunzru, ‘Futurism’.

(34) Dennett, Consciousness Explained, p. 419

(35) Ibid., p. 132, p. 309

(36) Ibid., p. 310, p. 375

(p.165) (37) For this relationship see Persson, ‘Self-Doubt’, p. 28.

(38) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 137

(39) Ibid., p. 450

(40) Meadows, ‘Son of a Sort of Goddess’; Mendelsohn, ‘Karma Chameleon’.

(41) Schechtman, ‘Self-Expression’, p. 47.

(42) Dennett, Consciousness Explained, p. 450.

(43) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 148.

(44) Dennett, Consciousness Explained, p. 218

(45) Ibid., p. 225

(46) Ibid., p. 433

(47) Kunzru, ‘You are Cyborg’.

(48) Haraway, ‘PRAGMATICS: Technoscience in Hypertext’, p. 130.

(49) Haraway, ‘Biopolitcs’, p. 203.

(50) See Dennett, Consciousness Explained, p. 417.

(51) Haraway, ‘Promises of Monsters’, p. 69.

(52) Haraway, ‘Biopolitics’, p. 203.

(53) Davis, Techgnosis, p. 131.

(54) Kunzru, ‘You are Cyborg’.

(55) Sardar, ‘alt.civilisations.faq’, p. 28, p. 37.

(56) Thurtle and Mitchell, ‘Introduction’, p. 14.

(57) Haraway, ‘Introduction: A Kinship of Feminist Figurations’, p. 4.

(58) Kunzru, ‘Society: Making Friends with the Mail’.

(59) ‘Hari Kunzru, Penguin Authors’.

(60) Mudge, ‘Identity Crisis’.

(61) Haraway, There are Always More Things Going On Than You Thought!’, p. 329.

(62) Aldama, ‘In Conversation’, p. 14

(63) Ibid.

(64) ‘Interview with Hari Kunzru’, www.book-club.co.nz/features/harikunzru.htm.

(65) Davis, Techgnosis, p. 10.

(66) Haraway, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, p. 174.

(67) Haraway, ‘Biopolitics’, p. 210, p. 216.

(68) Thurtle and Mitchell, ‘Introduction’, p. 11.

(69) See Young, Colonial Desire.

(70) Sardar, ‘alt.civilisations.faq’.

(71) Mudge, ‘Identity Crisis’.

(72) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 395.

(73) Kunzru, ‘Art, Writing: Salman Rushdie’.

(74) Aslam, Wasted Vigil, p. 202.

Further reading

Bibliography references:

Alan Robinson, ‘Faking It: Simulation and Self-Fashioning in Hari Kunzru's Transmission’, in Neil Murphy and Wai-Chew Sim (eds), British Asian Fiction: Framing the Contemporary (New York: Cambria, 2008), pp. 77–96.

Sardar, Ziauddin, ‘alt.civilisations.faq: Cyberspace as the Darker Side of the West’, in Ziauddin Sardar and Jerome R. Ravetz (eds), Cyberfutures: (p.166) Culture and Politics on the Information Superhighway (London: Pluto, 1996), pp. 14–41.

Notes:

(1) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 376, p. 393.

(1) Sardar, ‘The Excluded Minority’, p. 54.

(2) Adam Curtis, The Power of Nightmares, BBC 2, 20 October 2004, 9 p.m. Transcript available online at www.daanspeak.com/TranscriptPowerOfNightmares1.html.

(3) Koehler, ‘Neo-Fantasies and Ancient Myths’.

(4) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 132, p. 184.

(5) Kunzru, Transmission, p. 154. Subsequent quotations cited parenthetically.

(6) Kunzru, My Revolutions, p. 201. Subsequent quotations cited parenthetically.

(7) Rachel Cooke, ‘I’m the Bloke who got the Big Advance’.

(8) Mattin, ‘My Revolutions’. See also Robinson, ‘Faking It: Simulation and Self-Fashioning in Hari Kunzru's Transmission’; Mudge, ‘Identity Crisis’; Sooke, ‘Signs of the Times’. For readings focused on terror see Beckett, ‘Don’t Call Me Comrade’. For those focused on race see Adams, ‘Many Unhappy Returns for a Teenage Terrorist’.

(9) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 112

(10) Ibid., p. 177

(11) Sooke, ‘Sign of the Times’.

(12) Mudge, ‘Identity Crisis’.

(13) ‘Interview with Hari Kunzru’, www.book-club.co.nz/features/harikunzru.htm.

(14) Gilroy, Between Camps, p. 98.

(15) Taylor, Sources of the Self, pp. 368–9

(16) Ibid., p. 362

(17) Ibid., p. 375

(18) Ibid., p. 375

(19) Ibid., p. 376

(20) Ibid., p. 182

(21) Kunzru, The Impressionist, p. 65. Subsequent quotations cited parenthetically.

(22) Mattin, ‘My Revolutions’.

(23) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 156.

(24) Davis, Techgnosis, p. 194.

(25) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 357.

(26) Davis, Techgnosis, p. 129

(27) Ibid., p. 306

(28) ‘Interview with Hari Kunzru’, www.book-club.co.nz/features/harikunzru.htm.

(29) Davis, Techgnosis, p. 222.

(30) ‘Interview with Hari Kunzru’, www.book-club.co.nz/features/harikunzru.htm.

(31) Mars-Jones, ‘East Meets West’.

(32) ‘Interview with Hari Kunzru’, www.book-club.co.nz/features/harikunzru.htm. For a review that casts Pran in such tragic terms see Mendelsohn, ‘Karma Chameleon’.

(33) Kunzru, ‘Futurism’.

(34) Dennett, Consciousness Explained, p. 419

(35) Ibid., p. 132, p. 309

(36) Ibid., p. 310, p. 375

(p.165) (37) For this relationship see Persson, ‘Self-Doubt’, p. 28.

(38) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 137

(39) Ibid., p. 450

(40) Meadows, ‘Son of a Sort of Goddess’; Mendelsohn, ‘Karma Chameleon’.

(41) Schechtman, ‘Self-Expression’, p. 47.

(42) Dennett, Consciousness Explained, p. 450.

(43) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 148.

(44) Dennett, Consciousness Explained, p. 218

(45) Ibid., p. 225

(46) Ibid., p. 433

(47) Kunzru, ‘You are Cyborg’.

(48) Haraway, ‘PRAGMATICS: Technoscience in Hypertext’, p. 130.

(49) Haraway, ‘Biopolitcs’, p. 203.

(50) See Dennett, Consciousness Explained, p. 417.

(51) Haraway, ‘Promises of Monsters’, p. 69.

(52) Haraway, ‘Biopolitics’, p. 203.

(53) Davis, Techgnosis, p. 131.

(54) Kunzru, ‘You are Cyborg’.

(55) Sardar, ‘alt.civilisations.faq’, p. 28, p. 37.

(56) Thurtle and Mitchell, ‘Introduction’, p. 14.

(57) Haraway, ‘Introduction: A Kinship of Feminist Figurations’, p. 4.

(58) Kunzru, ‘Society: Making Friends with the Mail’.

(59) ‘Hari Kunzru, Penguin Authors’.

(60) Mudge, ‘Identity Crisis’.

(61) Haraway, There are Always More Things Going On Than You Thought!’, p. 329.

(62) Aldama, ‘In Conversation’, p. 14

(64) ‘Interview with Hari Kunzru’, www.book-club.co.nz/features/harikunzru.htm.

(65) Davis, Techgnosis, p. 10.

(66) Haraway, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, p. 174.

(67) Haraway, ‘Biopolitics’, p. 210, p. 216.

(68) Thurtle and Mitchell, ‘Introduction’, p. 11.

(69) See Young, Colonial Desire.

(70) Sardar, ‘alt.civilisations.faq’.

(71) Mudge, ‘Identity Crisis’.

(72) Taylor, Sources of the Self, p. 395.

(73) Kunzru, ‘Art, Writing: Salman Rushdie’.

(74) Aslam, Wasted Vigil, p. 202.