I’m thinking of wallpapering my house.
Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism. New York: Monthly Review.
Searchable page-scan PDF edition here. (Zip file password: archive)
“Discourse was never intended to be a road map or a blueprint for revolution. It is poetry and therefore revolt. It is an act of insurrection, drawn from Césaire’s own miraculous weapons, molded and shaped by his work with Tropiques and its challenge to the Vichy regime; by his imbibing of European culture and his sense of alienation from both France and his native land. It is a rising, a blow to the master who appears as owner and ruler, teacher and comrade. It is revolutionary graffiti painted in bold strokes across the great texts of Western Civilization; it is a hand grenade tossed with deadly accuracy, clearing the field so that we might write a new history with what’s left standing. Discourse is hardly a dead document about a dead order. If anything, it is a call for us to plumb the depths of the imagination for a different way forward. Just as Césaire drew on Lautréamont’s Chants de Maldoror to illuminate the cannibalistic nature of capitalism and the power of poetic knowledge, Discourse offers new insights into the consequences of colonialism and a model for dreaming a way out of our postcolonial predicament. While we still need to overthrow all vestiges of the old colonial order, destroying the old is just half the battle.”
- From the introduction by Robin D.G. Kelley.
Sandoval, Chela. Methodology of the Oppressed. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, 2000.
PDF edition here. (Zip file password: archive)
‘The other world knowledges that transformed twentieth-century Western thought were generated not only in the west’s imperial confrontations with difference, but during the season of anti- and de-coloniality that followed. This season of de-coloniality is a transitive zone in which conversion from older modes of colonial domination was made necessary. It was during this season that the modes of resistance that are effective against contemporary neocolonizing global forces were first lived out, identified, and defined. U.S. peoples of color have long acted, spoken, intellectualized, lived out what Cherríe Moraga calls a “theory in the flesh,” a theory that allows survival and more, that allows practitioners to live with faith, hope, and moral vision in spite of all else. Methodology of the Oppressed reclaims that theory from the halls of the academy where it has been intercepted and domesticated. A central argument of this book is that the primary impulses and strains of critical theory and interdisciplinary thought that emerged in the twentieth century are the result of transformative effects of oppressed speech upon dominant forms of perception — that the new modes of critical theory and philosophy, the new modes of reading and analysis that have emerged during the U.S. post-World War II period, are fundamentally linked to the voices of subordinated peoples. One purpose of this book is to lift dominant forms of repression, to allow us to remember.’
(Introduction, p. 7-8)
Tageldin, Shaden M. Disarming Words: Empire and the Seductions of Translation in Egypt. Berkeley: University of California, 2011.
PDF edition HERE. (Zip file password: archive)
‘If attraction, assimilation, even love are dominant refrains in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Egypt’s literary and cultural response to a colonizing Europe, why is this so? How do the emergence and the persistence of this ideology of “love” challenge the domination/resistance binary of empire and postcolonial studies? And given the centrality of translation in modern Egypt’s cultural encounter with the West, how might translation be connected to this ideology of “love”? These are central questions that I engage in this book. Disarming Words explores why the colonized tend to “love” their colonizers as often as they hate them and how seduction haunts both empire and decolonization.’
Riley, Robin L., Chandra Talpade Mohanty, and Minnie Bruce Pratt. Feminism and War: Confronting U.S. Imperialism. London: Zed, 2008.
PDF edition here. (Zip file password: archive)
“Feminism and War: Confronting U.S. Imperialism builds on the presentations, papers, and dialogue at [the October 2006 ‘Feminism and War’ conference held in Syracuse, NY] to reveal and analyze the complicated ways in which those in pursuit and justification of US wars continue to use gender, sexuality, race, class, nationalism, imperialism — and even invoke women’s liberation — to legitimize and continue those wars. Given the centrality of US imperial wars in the world today, it is impossible to understand ‘feminism and war’ on a global scale without understanding the specificities of the racist, heterosexist, and masculinized practices and ideologies mobilized by a USA in pursuit of economic and political hegemony. Feminists critiquing and organizing against war in most places in the world will thus need to contend with the effects of US imperial wars in their own backyards, whatever part of the globe they happen to be living in. The current wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and the threat of war against Iran, are a continuation of the many US wars of the last fifty years. … This is the context in which the essays in this volume examine and challenge US imperial wars crafted as rescue missions in the name of democracy and ‘civilization.’ These wars, with their disproportionate and annihilating effect on the lives of women, with the ensuing traffic in gendered bodies, with the manipulation of racialized discourses of male supremacy and female helplessness as justification, raise profoundly feminist issues, and require a complex, anti-imperialist feminist engagement.”
Contributors: Angela Y. Davis, Zillah Eisenstein, Jasbir Puar, Patricia McFadden, Mĩcere Gĩthae Mũgo, Huibin Amelia Chew, Setsu Shigematsu, Anuradha Kristina Bhagwati, Eli PaintedCrow, Elizabeth Philipose, Alyson M. Cole, Nadine Sinno, Jennifer L. Fluri, Shahnaz Khan, Isis Nusair, Jennifer Hyndman, Berenice Malka Fisher, Leilani Dowell, Judy Rohrer, Nellie Hester Bailey, Berta Joubert-Ceci, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, Leslie Cagan, Cynthia Enloe.
Al-Ali, Nadje. Secularism, Gender, and the State in the Middle East: The Egyptian Women’s Movement. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2000.
PDF edition here. (Zip file password: archive)
“Nadje Al-Ali offers a historical ethnography of secular women’s activism in Egypt that begins by interweaving the history of the women’s movement with the ways in which that history is understood by activists, and ends by unravelling the ideological tensions that have arisen from the parallel processes of modernization and decolonization. … Al-Ali argues that one of the most important tasks for Egyptian women, one in which they are already engaged, is to subvert hegemonic discourses related to gender, the state, Islamism, culture, and identity. … Interlaced with her critique of essentialism and her calls for a rapprochement between theory and activism, Professor Al-Ali presents a nuanced and readable account of the recent history of the women’s movement in Egypt by examining in detail the ideas and formative experiences of the individual members of more than twenty contemporary groups, networks, and organizations.”
(David Blanks, Feminist Review No. 69.)
“As Palestinian poet and journalist Mahmoud Darwish puts it in the preface to Poésie: La terre nous est étroite: ‘The translator is not a ferryman for the meaning of the words but the author of their web of new relations. And he is not the painter of the light part of the meaning, but the watcher of the shadow, and what it suggests.’”
- As quoted in Translation in Practice (downloadable here)
“Scholarly publishers have made the trade-off between offering a very low price to a very large market or a very high price to a very small market. But here is the rub: books and their scholars are the losers in this trade-off — especially cutting edge research from the best institutions in the world. The publishing industry we have today cannot — or will not — deliver our books to this enormous global market of people who desperately want to read them. Instead, they print a handful of copies — less than 100, often — and sell them to libraries for hundreds of dollars each. When they do offer digital versions, they are so wrapped up in restrictions and encumbrances and licencing terms as to make using them supremely frustrating.
“To make matters worse, our university libraries can no longer afford to buy these books and journals; and our few bookstores are no longer willing to carry them. So the result is that most of our best scholarship is being shot into some publisher’s black hole where it will never escape. That is, until library.nu and its successors make it available. What these sites represent most clearly is a viable route towards education and learning for vast numbers of people around the world.”
Mamdani, Mahmood. Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror. New York: Pantheon, 2008.
(The HSRC Press PDF edition is available for free download here.)
A geographically, historically, and contextually accounted for reevaluation of both the Darfur conflict and the trajectory of the international social and political movements to stop it. I do not have a background which would allow me to either affirm or contradict some of Mamdani’s conclusions, which ordinarily should temper an inclination to promote a work, but in this case that lack serves instead to underscore the point — that is, the point of not knowing.
It is exceedingly difficult to read this book without hearing in it echoes of the calls to intervene in currently headlining conflicts, which also may be the point. To borrow Didier Fassin’s title, here is “a moral history of the present,” and it is one that those who engage with popular activism aimed at promoting “superpower” military interventions would do well to consider.
‘If we are to draw lessons from the Save Darfur Coalition’s remarkable success, we must begin with an understanding of how the organisation packaged Darfur and the means it used to deliver this package to the intended audiences. If you visit the Save Darfur Coalition website, you will find a record of atrocities—rapes, burnings, killings—some with graphic illustrations, maps, and satellite imagery, almost none of it telling you when it happened. There is no discussion of history or politics: no context, no analysis of causes of political violence or possible consequences of a military intervention. What you see and what you get is a full-blown pornography of violence, an assault of images without context. This is the “CNN effect,” the war as the camera sees it. This is the spin. This pornography is meant to drive a wedge between your political and moral senses, to numb the former and appeal to the latter—to the need to bear witness.’
Mathers, Kathryn. Travel, Humanitarianism, and Becoming American in Africa. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
“When I began my research I was interested primarily in evaluating the power of travel or other encounters with Africa and Africans to change or shift the classic set of images and ideas about the continent and its diverse populations so prevalent in America. For most of the Americans I got to know, Africa was largely understood as an undifferentiated construct encompassing the entire continent even though their particular experience was limited to travel to southern Africa and especially South Africa. After their return, I was struck by the travelers’ tendency to frame their travel as journeys to Africa—with many of the same images as travel to Kenya or Ghana or Senegal still in place. While South Africa and the apartheid struggle holds a particular, even special, place in the history of Americans’ relationship with Africa, the engagement that I observed of Americans with South Africans was understood largely as an encounter with a generic Africa and with generalized Africans. This imagined Africa and its role in the lives of Americans is the one that I, largely, write about in this book.”
See also: Kathryn Mathers on Africa is a Country.
Jarmakani, Amira. Imagining Arab Womanhood: The Cultural Mythology of Veils, Harems, and Belly Dancers in the U.S. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
“For over a century, images of harems, veils, and belly dancers have operated as cultural mythologies through which mainstream U.S. audiences grapple with sometimes disorienting social processes, such as consumerism, expansionism, and globalization. As with myths from all cultural and historical traditions, these visual mythologies have a purpose; they serve as texts through which to make sense of unarticulated or inexplicable forces. By learning more about the way these cultural mythologies have operated in several U.S. cultural and historical contexts, one can understand something about the set of national and cultural interests that have animated a mainstream U.S. fascination with veils, harems, and belly dancers for so long. Beyond mere figments of erotic fantasy, they have served as nostalgic emblems for the “lost” past effaced by the progress narrative and as signifiers that function to rationalize militarism and imperialism.”