The Dutch East India Company or VOC, as described by Graham Harman in his book Immaterialism, becomes an interesting object to discuss the difference between forms and objects. The VOC is an organization which has its operations spread from the Netherlands to Indonesian islands in Asia. VOC is an entity in its own accord, yet however this entity does not have a form, neither does it have any clear boundary. One cannot pinpoint at a particular thing and say that this is VOC. Yet, at the same time, everybody can have a cognizance of something called as VOC, no matter how difficult it is it to pinpoint the ‘physical’ object called VOC. VOC can have real effects on lives of several people, places, species, terrains, oceans, atmospheres and so on. VOC can grow, multiply, divide, shrink, or not. Things can have an effect on VOC’s life. According to OOO it should be possible to think that in each instance VOC is only connected to its components, people, places, economy, politics, among other things only partially, perhaps even to very specific aspects of all things it touches. Yet, in another sense, VOC is not directly touching anything, as it does not have physical presence as a whole, but only in components.

Several corollaries emerge from here, when VOC touches something, it touches something only through its components. Anything that the components touch must also touch each other partially. The components of VOC also touch each other partially. One can even say, that, perhaps it is enough to touch only a few parts of anything. For example, when someone kicks a thing, one is kicking the thing only at a specific point or a patch of a thing, and that is enough to move the thing. But, since VOC in-itself does not have a physical presence as a whole, at what point does this non-physical entity actually touch its first component? At what point does mediation or relation ceases to be physical?

Even cities can be thought in this manner. Cities are layered with several different kinds of boundaries. Especially within Indian cities, you have the Metropolitan region boundary, Municipal boundaries, within all this you have an under lying layer of village boundaries, ward level boundaries, police precinct boundaries, environmental protection boundaries, heritage precinct boundaries, SEZ boundaries, property boundaries, sometimes conflicting property boundaries, zones of regulations and so on, as examples of physically drawn boundaries -represented boundaries (Lefebvre). Then there are notional boundaries that of class, caste, age, sexuality, gender, friendships, and so on. All of these boundaries keep on shifting, expanding, collapsing and so on. But no matter how many changes are done to these boundaries, it is still possible to locate and identify the city -but never in its fullness. All these boundaries and even the city relates us in specific ways and not in other ways, as we do to very specific things in the city.

One can see the difficulty here of equating the object with form. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s