“My son was as strong as four men but he died in search of bread.” Text from Amitava Kumar.
“In the camp of the Left, certainty was no longer an option. Qaddafi’s threats against the weaker forces in the East were hard to ignore. Arrests, assassinations and artillery fire in the West were equally appalling. There was no easy lever to use against Qaddafi’s power. Many who would otherwise stand surely against humanitarian intervention were now not so sure. Much the same kind of predicament stopped liberals and leftists when George H. W. Bush promised to destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime (those of us who stood on vigils for the dead of Hallabja in 1987 will remember the debates). These are not manufactured discussions. They are real. No countervailing armed force of the Left was available to defend the rebels. No Vietnamese army, such as entered Cambodia in 1978-79 to crush the degenerate Khmer Rouge and save Cambodia from the maniacal policies of Pol Pot. No Cuban troops, such as came to the aid of the MPLA (who can forget the 1987-88 Cuito-Cuanavale siege and the eventual victory of the MPLA and the Cubans against the South Africans, a mortal blow for the apartheid regime). These are episodes of military intervention when the balance of forces favored the Left. Was the Resolution 1973 ‘no fly’ zone intervention such a feat?
“The events of late February are positioned as a false dilemma. Only two options are presented (massacre or intervention), when others presented themselves: the rebels had begun to take control of the dynamic, and would prevail, and the African Union had begun to assert itself as a peace-maker, and would perhaps have convinced Qaddafi to accept a ceasefire. In one case, the rebels might have won the military campaign on their own, albeit on a much longer timeframe … In another, a peace agreement might have allowed Qaddafi to decamp with dignity and for a regime change to take place with many of the same faces from the NTC in the new government (alongside a few regime stalwarts, including Saif al-Islam). Those who posed this false dilemma had no faith in either the rebels or in the African Union. Their horizon of human action remains frozen in a colonial mindset: the natives are barbarians and the Europeans are the saviors.”
- Prashad, Vijay. Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. Oakland: AK, 2012. 174-75.
“Decolonization … continues to be an act of confrontation with a hegemonic system of thought; it is hence a process of considerable historical and cultural liberation. As such, decolonization becomes the contestation of all dominant forms and structures, whether they be linguistic, discursive, or ideological. Moreover, decolonization comes to be understood as an act of exorcism for both the colonized and the colonizer. For both parties it must be a process of liberation: from dependency, in the case of the colonized, and from imperialist, racist perceptions, representations, and institutions which, unfortunately, remain with us to this very day, in the case of the colonizer … Decolonization can only be complete when it is understood as a complex process that involves both the colonizer and the colonized.”
- Samia Nehrez, as quoted in Black Looks: Race and Representation.
“One trend we have noticed, with growing apprehension, is the ease with
which the language of decolonization has been superficially adopted into education and other social sciences, supplanting prior ways of talking about social justice, critical methodologies, or approaches which decenter settler perspectives. Decolonization, which we assert is a distinct project from other civil and human rights-based social justice projects, is far too often subsumed into the directives of these projects, with no regard for how decolonization wants something different than those forms of justice … [T]his kind of inclusion is a form of enclosure, dangerous in how it domesticates decolonization … When metaphor invades decolonization, it kills the very possibility of decolonization; it recenters whiteness, it resettles theory, it extends innocence to the settler, it entertains a settler future. Decolonize (a verb) and decolonization (a noun) cannot easily be grafted onto pre-existing discourses/frameworks, even if they are critical, even if they are anti-racist, even if they are justice frameworks. The easy absorption, adoption, and transposing of decolonization is yet another form of settler appropriation. When we write about decolonization, we are not offering it as a metaphor; it is not an approximation of other experiences of oppression. Decolonization is not a swappable term for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools. Decolonization doesn’t have a synonym.”
- Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor.”
"She knew that everything moved and everything balanced, always, in her language, her alien crippled tongue, the English that was ever unbalanced, ever in pieces, she groped with her words and her thought to make whole what she could not say. She was obsessed with language, by words. She used the words she had lavishly, oblivious to their given meanings. She did not give them what was theirs, but she took from them what was hers. Ever she moved her tongue, searching for a way to mean in words what she meant in thought. For her thought was the Grandmother’s, was the people’s, even though her language was a stranger’s tongue."
“The point I’m leading to is that people do not perceive themselves as having rights as a result of their being citizens of a state. They perceive themselves as having rights because they are embedded in communities. And insofar as those communities are hierarchical and patriarchal, then the rights that they perceive will be organized around those hierarchical and patriarchal structures of domination. When we speak of human rights, we assume that we all know what we mean by that term. But we’ve universalized human rights by glossing over the diversity in the ways in which rights are understood. Our construct of rights was premised on the construct of the autonomous, detached, contract-making, individualized and masculinized person that emerged out of liberal bourgeois thought.
“What I’m struggling to develop is a construct of rights, personal rights, human rights, that is not embedded in a specific construct of personhood. I don’t have the answer to that now. The problem of the construct of human rights is very linked to this concept of the individualized citizen. If we have a construct of citizen that is wedded to a particular concept of self, it allows us to dismiss the rights of persons who don’t share that sense of self.”
- “Gender and Civil Society: An Interview with Suad Joseph,” Middle East Report, No. 183, July-August 1993.
“Who, when first hearing of the news, didn’t assume the killings were an act of racial hatred? Who didn’t start to piece together the turbans, the brown skin, the epidemic of post-9/11 violence that is under-reported, or at least never has all its incidents connected? Because the logic of Oak Creek can be traced to an endpoint (even if the logic is wrong) and because that endpoint only implicates a small percentage of Americans, the story of the massacre at Oak Creek will be, by definition, exclusionary. It will be ‘tragic’ and ‘unthinkable’ and ‘horrific,’ but it will not force millions of Americans to ask potentially unanswerable questions. It will not animate an angry public. Chick-fil-A will outlast Oak Creek as a source of indignation.
“But for those who cannot limit themselves out of the victims of Oak Creek, logic follows a brutal path. Many of the Sikh leaders interviewed over the past two days have intimated that they had been dreading this day for years. For them and many Brown people in the United States, the years since 9/11 have been filled with violent incidents that are all too explainable. I do not mean to say that we should compare and conflate Aurora and Oak Creek. Quite the opposite. We should remember that Aurora was the latest in an American epidemic of mass, easily produced violence, while Oak Creek was the product, although certainly not the end-product, of what happens when a society turns a colorblind eye towards years of violence against Brown people in the name of 9/11 and the War on Terror.”
- Jay Caspian Kang, “Violence and Making Sense,” The Awl.
‘The presence in the West of masses of immigrants and refugees from Muslim cultures has added new anxieties about hosting the Muslim “other” from the postcolonial territories. The new cosmopolitan centers of the contemporary world, far from being a paradise of hybridity, are marked by what Abdulrazak Gurnah calls “the twin traditions of asylum and xenophobia.” The discourse of asylum co-exists with xenophobic narratives to construct the foreigner as forever alien and tragic. Refugees and immigrants from postcolonial territories and Muslim cultures in the U.S., Canada, and Europe are under constant pressure to identify — or disidentify — with their cultural and religious traditions, which are considered to be a threatening source of contamination and barbarism. Etienne Balibar has said that the “sharpest edge of racist discourse and mentalities tends to press on the populations of ‘Arab-Islamic’ origin who have permanently settled in Europe and North America; this is because a condensation or super-imposition of the colonial and anti-Semitic schemes has occurred in this case, so that imagery of racial superiority and imagery of cultural and religious rivalry reinforce each other.”’
- Minoo Moallem, “Whose Fundamentalism?”, Meridians, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2002.
“[S]ecurity and securitization, where anything and everything is transformed into an issue of security, depend upon, even as they produce, race and gender hierarchies. [Yasmin] Jiwani … suggests that the state appoints itself as chivalrous protector, a masculinist logic that structures its relation to Muslim women in general, and to Afghan women in particular. In the same vein, writing of the ‘symbolic implications immigration has on national vanity,’ Lauren Berlant convincingly argues that in the American national imaginary, immigrants, by choosing America, reﬂect for Americans their own worthiness of being chosen. The immigrant (inescapably racialized as Other), Berlant shows in her exploration of Time magazine, is ‘someone who desires America,’ but immigrant desire is represented as gendered. The immigrant woman is imagined as desiring freedom from patriarchal constraints, the freedom to choose her own lover, a right that she does not enjoy in her own ultra-patriarchal Third World culture. If white men can imagine themselves as desirable through the oppressed woman of colour, the nation’s obsession with her is inevitable. The attraction is of course a fatal one for the woman of colour. The object of a relentless benevolence, she must reinforce her lover’s ego or risk expulsion. On such a terrain, men of colour constitute the security threat par excellence, sexual competitors and themselves objects of desire – the desire, that is, for a shared humanity that must nevertheless be continually disavowed if the racial hierarchy is to stand. Security discourses are thus about becoming – a de-forming and re-reforming of the white masculine face through the absorption of the other, a process meant to expand the force of mastery. It is a process that is fraught with desire and ambivalence, an ambivalence that only violence against the Other can resolve.”
- Sherene Razack, “Afterword: Race, Desire, and Contemporary Security Discourses,” University of Toronto Quarterly, Spring 2009, Vol. 78 Issue 2.
“Over the years [National Geographic] has shifted away from images expressing colonial domination … while the contemporary relations of economic imperialism are avoided by a general silence on poverty and conflict. Instead the magazine propounds an uneasy humanism, a universal humanity, beneath the colourful flourishes of exotic costumes and customs. But these colourful flourishes carry the message that the non-west, while beautiful, is timeless, without a history or a future. Or as the Australian Murri writer Jackie Huggins notes, Aboriginal women are ‘more sensual but less cerebral, more interesting perhaps but less intellectual’, ‘more exotic but less articulate’, ‘more cultured but less stimulating, more oppressed but less political’. The west and non-west are still radically different, but some westerners now lament the loss of traditional worlds, and indeed culture itself. … The third world offers a ‘vessel of “otherness”’, containing the spice that can enliven our dull mainstream white culture, a spiritual wholeness that whites lack. To Jennifer Lawn, such claims are similar to those made by men in the men’s movement in that ‘members of a hegemonic group ostensibly abject themselves to an idealized other, while diverting the terms of the debate from material conditions of oppression to their own psychic malaise’. Such abjection to the other masks the relations of power between self and other, almost reversing these ‘realities’ for a notion that ‘we’ are somehow deprived in relation to the other, though in spiritual rather than economic terms.”
- Chilla Bulbeck, Re-Orienting Western Feminisms.
“The research findings suggest that women become the primary target of the microcredit program because of their sociocultural vulnerability, that is, the requirements of their regular attendance by borrowers in weekly meetings at the loan center and the rigid repayment schedule of loans. The program extends credit to women, but in the household women often pass on their loans to men, men take control over women’s loans, or loans are used to meet the emergency consumption need of the household. In this system, women borrowers often lose control over their loans but bear the consequences of the debt burden in their households and loan centers.
“The research indicates a strong link between the programmatic success of the bank and the current practices of credit extension to women. Debt cycling among borrowers is a consequence, that is, the need to pay off previous loans with new ones. Bank workers are expected to increase the disbursement of loans among their clients and press for high recovery rates to earn the profit necessary for institutional economic viability. The bank workers and borrowing peer loan group members in centers press on clients for timely repayment rather than working to raise collective consciousness and borrower empowerment as envisaged in the bank’s public transcript. Institutional debt burdens on individual households increases tension and anxiety among household members, which in turn produces new forms of social and institutional dominance over many women borrowers of the project.”
- Aminur Rahman, Women and Microcredit in Rural Bangladesh: An Anthropological Study of the Rhetoric and Realities of Grameen Bank Lending.
“And what of the wolf whistle, Till’s ‘gesture of adolescent bravado?’ We are rightly aghast that a whistle could be cause for murder but we must also accept that Emmett Till and J. W. Milliam shared something in common. They both understood that the whistle was no small tweet of hubba-hubba or melodious approval for a well-turned ankle. … It was a deliberate insult just short of physical assault, a last reminder to Carolyn Bryant that this black boy, Till, had in mind to possess her.”
- Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape
“While Brownmiller deplores the sadistic punishment inflicted on Emmett Till, the Black youth emerges, nonetheless, as a guilty sexist — almost as guilty as his white racist murderers. After all, she argues, both Till and his murderers were exclusively concerned about their rights of possession over women. Brownmiller … [is] assuredly more subtle than earlier ideologues of racism. But [her] conclusions tragically beg comparison with the ideas of such scholarly apologists of racism as Winfield Collins … Collins resorts to pseudo-biological arguments, while Brownmiller … invoke[s] environmental explanations, but in the final analysis they all assert that Black men are motivated in especially powerful ways to commit sexual violence against women.”
- Angela Davis, Women, Race, and Class
“Rape runs as a curious subtheme in all of Fanon’s writings. As a doctor of psychiatry and a student of colonialism, Fanon was in an excellent position to make a substantial, original contribution to the world’s understanding of rape as a means of oppressing native women in Algeria and the Antilles, but Fanon’s concern to which he returns again and again (it is something of an obsession) is with the native man and the white woman.”
- Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape
“In exactly one chapter, ‘The Negro and Psychopathology,’ Fanon analyzes specifically white women’s neuroses relating to race, rape, and sexuality. That Fanon dared to undertake such an analysis appears to be the crux of the dilemma; for Brownmiller, one chapter is too much. Fanon’s discussion translates into obsession: Fanon as morbid freak and rape-obsessed, Fanon as sanctioning rape as revolutionary … But was not the colonial project itself envisioned by European colonizers as conquests over, penetration into, other bodies and lands, in masculine and feminine terms?”
- T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Frantz Fanon: Conflicts and Feminisms
“I agonized about when in the process of the forced ending of life would I represent the victims. Mountains of unnaturally bent bodies, blood, wounds, and other horrors did not suite the solemnness I felt was appropriate. I wanted the victims seen at the last moment before death, when they were still full of life, hoping for escape. I searched for the heroic moments, for moments of humanity, consciousness, and dignity. After all, Kafr Qasemites have a proud history of resistance during the 1948 war under the leadership of Abdal Karim Qasem of Iraq. It is precisely this last decision that gives the drawing meaning to viewers who care more when they meet a live, feeling person rather than a body.”
- Samia Halaby, on her Memorial on the 50th Anniversary of the Kafr Qasem Massacre.
‘Sweet Lorraine. That’s the way I always felt about her, and so I won’t apologize for calling her that now. She understood it: in that far too brief a time when we walked and talked and laughed and drank together, sometimes in the streets and bars and restaurants of the Village, sometimes at her house, gracelessly fleeing the houses of others; and sometimes seeming, for anyone who didn’t know us, to be having a knock-down-drag-out battle. We spent a lot of time arguing about history and tremendously related subjects in her Bleecker Street and, later, Waverly Place flats. And often, just when I was certain that she was about to throw me out as being altogether too rowdy a type, she would stand up, her hands on her hips (for these down-home sessions she always wore slacks), and pick up my empty glass as though she intended to throw it at me. Then she would walk into the kitchen, saying, with a haughty toss of her head, “Really, Jimmy. You ain’t right, child!” With which stern put-down she would hand me another drink and launch into a brilliant analysis of just why I wasn’t “right.” I would often stagger down her stairs as the sun came up, usually in the middle of a paragraph and always in the middle of a laugh. That marvelous laugh. That marvelous face. I loved her, she was my sister and my comrade. Her going did not so much make me lonely as make me realize how lonely we were. We had that respect for each other which perhaps is only felt by people on the same side of the barricades, listening to the accumulating thunder of the hooves of horses and the heads of tanks. …’
James Baldwin, “Sweet Lorraine”.