oncejadedtwicesnarked: Spivak is looking disgruntled and pissed. (Default)
2012-03-18 08:27 pm

On contexts and conflicts


[TRIGGER WARNING]


Thing # 1: 


Most progressive movements get their sense of "edge" and "radicality" by critiquing their predecessors. The feminists talk of the New Left, accusing them of sexism and silencing, the queer movements talk of feminists saying feminists have too much of a moral tone, they are too queasy when it comes to matters of sex and the body -- as if each movement can fully disengage with the legacy they have. Feminists have methodological tools from the New Left (especially the socialist feminisms of the 80's), queer movements owe their beginnings in feminist interrogation of the body within public and private spaces. I am not saying the problems within and between these movements don't exist, or even saying "infighting" is "distracting us". But the truth remains, we're too caught up in carving out the newest radical niche for our movements by critiquing (and never engaging) with the histor(ies) of other movements. It's a series of non-conversations that have consequences, that we are not quite ready to talk about. 


Thing # 2 :


Bombay High Court Justice H Bhatia goes on record to say, "[...] children, after becoming adults need their parents' permission to stay in their personal property", where the subtext of his statement means, in a patriarchal and kinship-network societal structure as ours, women shouldn't assume their parents house will support/put up with them after their marriage. Corroborate that with the new stats on increasing rates of domestic violence (just when the domestic violence bill is being debated on in the legislation), he believes women have no stake in the natal families -- material, emotional and otherwise. 


Thing # 3 :


Earlier this month, a woman in Kolkata was gang raped at gun point, the Chief Minister of the State (West Bengal) Mamta Banerjee has made various statements, ranging from calling the gang raped as "staged", (as is customary) made some comments on the "way the woman was dressed" and then even went on to say, the woman's husband (or ex, or deceased husband, it's quite unclear whom was she addressing) was a member of the CPI(M) [Communist party of India, {Marxist}] and thus such "promiscuous" behaviour is to be expected. The CPI(M), being the opposition party at this point, made some statements saying she is being insensitive to women, among other things. 


Thing # 4 :


Two days ago, a woman working in a pub in Gurgaon, Delhi was gang raped and the questions du jour range from, "Are there no "respectable" jobs left for women in this country that they have to do this job?", "Pub going girls deserve this" and "maybe she was a prostitute and the men refused to pay her the amount she was charging, that's why she's crying rape". One of the 'solutions' the Delhi Police Force is steering towards is pressuring pub owners to install CCTV's in pubs, to 'monitor' such "grey areas". 


Thing # 5


All of these instances happened in late February, early March -- I'm not even trailing back to see what other such simultaneous events have gone on. Here are three issues the New Left, feminists and queers have a stake in. The CPI(M) could ally with feminists in Kolkata as the first hearing of the gang-rape is going to be soon, work together against the control and moral policing of the State, as it manifests in Banerjee's statements. Feminists could engage with the queer movement for both the Bombay High Court statements as well as the Gurgaon rape case, as both deal in extremely overt ways of marking what is "private", what part of "private" can one be a part of, and which parts of the "private" can be unmonitored. 


I'm not calling for a naive "why can't we just be happy together", but why is there such little dialogue between the three progressive movements -- especially where there is so much naming and shaming, so clearly *some* networks of communication are in place. 


We could be talking about safer work spaces, safer roads, safe access to work and roads, instead of tackling the State just from the framework of our movement(s). 


Meanwhile, there is increased violence, moral, sexual policing and monitoring by the State -- I fail to see how these two are not connected. 

---- 

ETA: A friend pointed me towards Sanhati, spoke to a couple of people on the organisation. Seems like this lack of communication between the progressive movements concerns them too, 
oncejadedtwicesnarked: An exploding dog comic. The text reads "look it's ok you are dead inside, we don't expect too much from you". (Dead Inside)
2012-02-22 11:03 pm

Of Tongues and Things.

I’ve written about my classroom, here and elsewhere often times. It’s a diverse space that comes with its own boundaries and problems — as does virtually everything — however, sometimes some things just tease out the power dynamics much better than other moments. When you imagine the following dialogue, please bear in mind, this is happening across English, Hindi, Marathi, Hindustani, French and Tulu. I don’t necessarily believe that the nation-state can or *should* be a point of reference for people’s characters — but I do know one thing, Mohanty was right when she said, “A place on the map is a place in history”. There are moments, when we carry our nations, some half-tongues within us, and in even rarer moments — they come out to visit. So I’ve used [nationality] and for Indian students, the [region] where we come from to mark the geopolitics we embody. All the Canadians in this particular class are white.

[Prof]: “What do we think of the Hindu Right gaining increasing momentum in Mumbai and Gujurat?”

[UPite]: “Oh even in UP! But I don’t think it’ll come to much. I am not so scared of the Hindu Right — they talk a big game but do almost nothing.”

[Mumbaiite]: “What?! Have you forgotten the Gujurat 2002 carnage? The Kargil war and the wave of intense hate-Pakistan-nationalism that followed soon after? How can you say the Hindu Right doesn’t *do* anything?!!? I LITERALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS!”.

[Asamese]: Before S* can reply, can I just say I agree with her? I agree the Hindu Right is ideologically wrong, but from where I come from — it’s the State (and the Nation increasingly collapsed into each other) that poses a threat for us. Let’s keep that in mind, the Hindu Right may not be a lot of things, but it’s never imposed a military rule on us”.

[Me/Another Mumbaiite]: “UM. What. Right, so who instated the AFSPA? We’re forgetting that even the ‘Glorious Nehruvian Socialism FOR ALL ERA!!!111 was deeply gendered and casteist, it celebrated the forming of the military state. I mean, just look at how democracy was defined then (shit, it’s still the same today!), to attack Mumbai, or the Center is ‘anti-democratic’ and to attack Manipur, Kashmir, Arunachal is to make sure democracy is preserved”.

[UPiite]: “I think we’re sort of forgetting that UP has seen a range of Left governments, however, we still have had waves of Naxalbari. I’m starting to feel like we glorify Left governments and just assume that they are a viable solution for our increasingly-capitalist-totalitarian State”.

[Prof]: “A couple of things. Yes, about glorification about Left governments — how come we forget Bose’s fascist tendencies? His connection to Burma and Hitler? Yes, the Left could propose a real threat in this country, but going back to the Nehru point — I think it’ll be good if we just for this moment forget that Nehruvian Era was supposed to be socialist. Look at what happened to the Hindu Code Bill debates, the deeply casteist remarks it spurred, that only a Dalit could propose the “sacred” Hindu marriage is a contract and so on. Remember, talking about caste (outside of census and sociological debates) was to be casteist itself. We’re talking about generations bred up to think that to mention their caste, is as if, to admit that there’s something ‘wrong’ or ‘missing’.

[Canadian]: “This is so interesting. Because back home, the Christian Right have real as well as theoretical power. Here the Right seems to be a symbolic signifier more than anything”.

[Bangalorian]: “Repeating P* on the Gujurat carnage of 2002, the current (forced) indoctrination of religious minorities to Hinduism, the riots of the early 90’s. I think people let’s settle on one basic thing, far Right or far Left are both seriously problematic. What we should be talking about is, what happens to Mumbai and Gujurat, two seats of burgeoning cultural capital if Hindu Right forces are now overtly part and parcel of the market”.

[Salvadorian]: “To just step out of India for a moment, I don’t think I can ever think the Right can ever be ‘harmless’ as S* seems to be suggesting. Like, harmless, sure, but to whom? I’m pretty sure, this wouldn’t be a part of the discussion if S* wasn’t an upper-caste Hindu woman who grew up in an urban city like Delhi. This isn’t to play oppression olympics — but geopolitics and socialisation play a big part in what you see, and the privilege that allows you to unsee, so to speak”.

[Another Canadian]: “Till I came to India, I had no idea how bad the caste question really was. No amount of books can teach you such sort of lived discrimination”.

[Bengali]: “It’s true, we’ve grown up thinking that we upper caste liberals are so progressive that we don’t mention caste at all. Truth is, caste is unfolding always. Even when we say we don’t “talk about caste”, we do say, “I hope so and so doesn’t marry inter-caste”. I won’t even broach what inter-religious unions can do in a upper caste Bengali bourgeoisie”.

[Another Canadian]: “This is something that is only half-thought out, so… I take a couple of classes over at the politics department, we never talk of caste. It seems, that this class goes out of its way to make sure it’s a part of our conversation almost every day. I wonder, why don’t other departments don’t want to address it”.

[Me/Another Mumbaiite]: “Same reason, let’s say the feminist academia doesn’t talk about its Eur-Am bias, India doesn’t talk about its ‘big brother-y’ role in SAARC, some people in this class don’t see a particular type of politics as dangerous — their life chances don’t depend on it. I HAVE to talk of race, my geopolitical location every time I step into feminist academia, this is a promise I’ve made to myself. Because too much goes unsaid, it’s too traumatic to ever fully acknowledge that you were a part of a process that just re-affirmed the current world order and you didn’t say anything”.

[Delhiite]: “Right, but then do you talk about caste? Or that’s just the responsibility of those damned lower and backward castes huh?”

[Me/Mumbaiite]: “I don’t see what I can do talking about caste. Like sure, I could tell you about the slurs I grew up with, that are a part of my linguistic training in Gujarati (my supposed mother tongue) that speak of the Kolis, the Warkaris and the Adivasis in specific racialised, derogatory words. I’m sure they’re important to see how caste, race, sexuality, stereotypes unfold in our everyday. But, I firmly believe I can’t be the one to merely speak about caste, I have to do at the same time. I usually don’t think theory and practice have such clear distinctions — but things like, giving the Valmiki caste woman who my landlady employs to clean the house the same cup I use to drink coffee in. Or to understand that to a large section of the society, notions of space, health and access are very different — and such an analysis has to leave the pages. It has to happen before I can say, I’m okay with theorising about caste”.

[Prof]: “Okay, let me try something here. Tell me, how many of you have ever faced any sort of racial and caste discrimination? Number and name the instances. [After a long pause] See, I’m quite certain that most of you have firsthand experiences of both forms of prejudice, but you cannot label such experiences so clinically. I think caste has to be done too, but not necessarily done and then spoken about — I do get why you said do and speak, in this instance, but let me put this a bit further. How come talking about caste is relatively easy for say, the Canadians? And why is talking about race something we have to bring ourselves to say? At the same time, if you ask our friends from the rural area, who are sitting besides us because of certain reservations, affirmative action so to speak, why can they talk to caste to me in only Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, whatever. They speak and I translate — what does it mean that I have to be that bridge between their conversations and yours? Why do they think, me, an upper caste woman (who is strongly influenced by Ambedkar and Periyar) is safer, than other people who may be around them in the caste hierarchy?”

“I am not particularly interested to see what the class thinks of the Hindu Right, but to see how can we talk to each other, if our tongues, broken and full (but this can be contested heavily too), have to mediate our embodied regions, races, castes? Why and how does race become a global phenomenon, but caste something particular to India? Why do we need constant translation in class, even though we’ve almost never ever fully agreed with each other? There’s something to think about this — how our languages in this classroom mediate everything we’ve said and want to say, where we come from and what kind of history we carry with our bodies”.

—-


Still parsing what she said. But, can I just say, during such times, I really do love my class?



oncejadedtwicesnarked: An exploding dog comic. The text reads "look it's ok you are dead inside, we don't expect too much from you". (Dead Inside)
2011-12-22 01:02 am

On Archiving the Past


This week I'm flitting between three cities, attending conferences in two, making my way back in the third one -- moving in my old room again, while half of my boxes and things are stuck in another house eight hours away from where I grew up. Thinking about memories, what each place, room holds and means to me has become quite the routine for this time of the year. Memories of my family intertwine with national history -- partly because of my grandmum's participation in the freedom struggle and in part my great-grandfather's connections with Nehruvians -- so much so that writing anything about the nation would be futile without mentioning my family and the place I occupy and negotiate in both spaces. My sister and I usually clean grandmum's cupboard, pack up her photographs, clean her saris while her ghazals play on the tape -- it's something we do without discussion or planning, it's an annual chore of sorts. This year, mum invited two of our aunts along, all of us began with the cleaning and boxing. Somehow, they started talking about her little quirks, her way of cooking this sabzi or the other, quickly praising her poise ("Right to her last days, she has never been inconvenient to anyone") that dissolved to silence as my sister asked my aunts what was she like when they were growing up, if she was as radical as the stories assure us. These are not memories you want to remember her by, auntie huffed, think how great a grandmother she was to the two of you, the Swadeshi¹ thing is very old, what's the point of thinking of all that now? I find this extremely disorienting -- to specifically remember her as a defanged version of her older self, as a wife and grandmother but not as a woman in her own right who wanted to be more than just a housewife.


----


A friend asked this question a few days ago and I am still grappling with what it implies, what it can unfold. She asked me to write one day about South Asian feminisms² and its legacy of violence, to the extent that to speak of South Asian feminisms is to speak of violence -- and what does it mean for us today, what responsibility do we have to various women's movements across South Asia. The conference I went to yesterday, before starting on her paper on Urdu poetry, the speaker stood up and apologised to all the Bangladeshi feminists present -- she said the Pakistani government would never state this, but as a feminist she feels responsible for her compliance and silence in the Bangladeshi war of 1971 -- a conference that addresses South Asian feminism was a good platform, she said, to make new memories out of national histories. While those were terse and moving moments -- sadly, they will not exist out of spaces made by academia and institutional discussions of feminism. Grandmum and her friend -- who I only know as Fatimabibi -- tried to keep in touch after her family migrated to Bangladesh after the Partition as many Muslim households in Bengal and Orissa did, but both were young mothers with families that didn't want to accommodate their ideologies, eventually they stopped writing to each other, my grandmum wouldn't ever speak of her -- I only found their letters while doing a project on family this semester. And even then, I felt like I was intruding on words and memories that I wasn't meant to be a part of -- grandmum mentioned burning a few letters on Fatimabibi's request in her journals; all she said was, "Those were important but not happy words". I don't know what was that in reference to -- I could speculate, but I won't. These are not my memories to play with. It's one thing to claim responsibility as a political move, as an extension of your beliefs, quite another to destroy history, to remain *that* firm on your belief of what comes under responsibility³.


Read more... )

oncejadedtwicesnarked: Spivak is looking disgruntled and pissed. (Default)
2011-12-11 03:46 am

Ghosts, Apprehending and Duty

Earlier today I was talking to [personal profile] jhameia and the following conversation just blew on it's own. Enjoy. 

Jha: Aw DAMMIT. The way my post is going, now I kinda want to talk about something else.
Me: What?
Jha: That's only tangentially related. About the construction of identity. How it's not a linear process, but a multidimensional process. That is very often unconscious.
Me: [nods]
Jha: The only time I've ever seen it critiqued obviously has been through Jameson's thing about simulacra, about how identity can be bought. We buy the clothing we wear that communicates something about us. And thus so much of our identity is mediated that way, through an economic process. In North American society anyway.

Me: Speaking of Jameson, let's not forget how he makes and fixes political allegories of Third World Writers.
Jha: Which kind of confused me when I first encountered it because in Malaysia, cultural identity is also mediated through community rituals.
Me: Yes, here also.
Jha: I have only read that one essay of his which I am still grappling with.
Me: He's good.
Jha: But SWM.
Me: But don't put race or culture. Things fall apart before Achebe can say
 WHUT. 
Jha: Maybe that's why he can think of identity in terms of economic processes.
Me: Ha. Definitely.
Jha: Because he's so SWM, we know those SWM, it's all about claaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssss.
Me: Absolutely, that's just it. JESUS ><''
Jha: That's the thing about steampunk though, it's an interesting thing to me because I
 STILL see those identities produced through economic processes. BUT. And especially with people who are looking to communicate a more culturally specific identity, there's ALSO an attempt to assert identity in ways that don't rely on economic modes. 
Me: Yes. 
Jha: Like, if I want to do Chinese steampunk, I already know the forms and function. It's a matter of putting it out there. But sometimes it also means I have to pay to communicate Chinese specificity. 
Me: 
But sometimes it also means I have to pay to communicate Chinese specificity.  I've been thinking about this for a while now. What gets lost/ what new meanings are made when we attempt to translate our cultures and contexts, the toll it takes on us, the space it puts on us. And our cultural memory -- or whatever remains of it anyway. 
Jha: That's where it ties in to the post I am writing right now. It's exactly about how to communicate our culture and how to recover it. How to reclaim the legacy. 
Me: Who can reclaim it, when? In which subject position?
Jha: I got a quote from Derrida's Specters of Marx
Me: Oh?
Jha: You've read that one? It's the one where he talks about ghosts, ghosts from the pasts, which are present, which need to be addressed, the ghosts are a result of a violence that has happened in the past. 
Me: Yes, I remember. 
Jha: Ignoring them only produces more ghosts, because ignoring them is a kind of violence? That one? 
Me: Making the present bear witness to the ghosts of the past?
 Implicating and complicating them? That one?
Jha: And there's this passage about inheritance. Yes, apprehending ghosts. That one. 
Me: Got it, go on. 
Jha: What POC
 do in steampunk is, APPREHEND the ghosts of our past, our cultural memories to address them. Not necessarily to exorcise them, mind, but to acknowledge their presence. 
Me: Yes. Sometimes talking about presence is to apprehend it. Apprehension comes before understanding, Butler says that, in Frames of War. 
Jha: Because ghosts are a part of us, part of our culture and it's our duty to translate them. And we translate them differently, according to whose ghosts, and according to our relationship to the ghost. 
Me: Duty? I don't know. But it's a voluntary conflict we take on. Because that's the only way we can apprehend our lived realities, make them translatebale so to speak -- to the larger political realities we navigate. 
Jha: I
 think, for some of us. it has to be a duty, because to ignore the spectre is to do violence, not only to the specter but to the present, so if we want to not do violence, then we do have to take up the task.
Me: Maybe. 
Jha: But that's part of why colonialism tramples on, right, because Whiteness refuses to apprehend and translate. 
Me: Yes, but I can't see it as a duty. 
Jha: If white people want to do right by POC and the violent shared history, then yes, I'd say it's their duty to take it up. Hmmmm maybe duty is the wrong word for it? 
Me: Because of where and how I live -- I am not in the (direct) presence of Whiteness as you are, for instance, I do have a legacy of (on going) colonialism, definitely. So when you say "duty", the times when I don't want to reckon with colonialism, it implies that *I* am falling short in some way -- which I have to do sometimes, just to deal with the "colonial legacy". 
Jha: Yeah and there's nothing wrong with that. We will always fall short and that's the other thing about ghosts.
 If things could be neatly settled with them, it wouldn't be that important to apprehend them. 
Me: Which is why I said "voluntary conflict" -- it's hard to navigate, but it's a journey we have to undertake knowing full well what the ghosts could bring in their wake. 
Jha: Some of us have no choice, though, but to undergo that conflict and the things the ghosts bring with them. 
Me: Oh definitely, but we have to decide to apprehend it, and the attempts to parse what goes on, once ghosts come back alive. Voluntary, because even when we say "no choice", there is agency, I'd think. It's not a choice, sometimes mediated by coercive contexts. But the apprehension *has* to be voluntary -- for history to bear witness to the present. 
Jha: Hmmm. But taking up duty is often a choice, no?
Me:
 Ha, not where I come from. National duty, familial duty, filial duty.
Jha: Right. I'm thinking in the sense of, if you don't take up this duty horrible things happen. 
Me: Expected choices -- that's a sad pun for you.
Jha: Yes. 
Me: Duty as a word and meaning means something specific to many POC, which is why I wouldn't use it though I see where you're getting at. 
Jha: Mmmm. Yes, I can see now. 
Me: I know, what you're getting at is the "POC who has chosen to apprehend chooses to put it out there for other POC", because many have similar questions/issues and they may build a system of solidarity/resistance, etc. 
Jha: Yes, but I am ALSO
 thinking through the duty of white people to apprehend because of their privilege. 
Me: Again, different white people have different duties, no?
 Duty becomes in many instances, a favour or an act of benevolence. I am extremely skeptical of duty and all that it implies, as you can see. 
Jha: That's the other thing to square with...how do white people enact a duty towards victims of their inheritance without turning it into an act of benevolence? (You know, besides shutting up and sitting down)
Me: By understanding there is no benevolence to be doled out. We are not subjects of their duty
Jha: Yes. They are. 
Me: We are active participants of their choice. We decide if their choice is something we want to apprehend -- which is different every time it takes place across various contexts and people. 
Jha: *nods
Me: We are agents of choice, of articulation and at some point we can be active together to talk of our duty to each other. But today we need to have full control whether we want to apprehend their choice to talk of a shared violent legacy. I can see how easily this can become a supremacist dialogue (from any end) -- which is why
 I said it depends on context, every single time it changes. 
Jha: Yes. 
Me: Love this dialogue, thank you for making me think in this direction 
 
Jha: Well, now I am farther away from where I originally wanted to be and don't know how to go back to write what I meant to say!   
Me: Ha. 
Jha: THE THEORIST'S LIFE IS SO HARD.
Me: But, I LOVE such deviations! 
Jha: Me too! But it makes writing harder. 
Me: HOW ELSE WILL OUR LIVES HAVE ANNNGGGST!!
Jha: Especially since I am trying to do this publick intellekchual thing and make sure it's easy enough for someone off the street to understand it.  
Me: Ha, yes