For me, the family fukú is rape. The rape culture of the European colonization of the New World—which becomes the rape culture of the Trujillato (Trujillo just took that very old record and remixed it)—is the rape culture that stops the family from achieving decolonial intimacy, from achieving decolonial love. – Junot Díaz
This two part article from the Boston Review was more bracing than a morning cup of coffee. Paula M.L. Moya guides us through an amazing conversation with Junot Díaz, digging deep into cultural theory to come up with a treasure trove of insight around the academy, Junot’s body of work, and missing pieces from our cultural conversations about race. While you should go read the whole thing, I particularly loved a few paragraphs.
Yunior’s a victim in a larger, second sense: I always wrote Yunior as being a survivor of sexual abuse. He has been raped, too. The hint of this sexual abuse is something that’s present in Drown and it is one of the great silences in Oscar Wao. This is what Yunior can’t admit, his very own página en blanco. So, when he has that line in the novel: “I’d finally try to say the words that could have saved us. / __________ __________ __________,” what he couldn’t say to Lola was that “I too have been molested.” He could bear witness to everyone else’s deep pains but, in the end, he couldn’t bear witness to his own sexual abuse. He couldn’t tell the story that would have tied him in a human way to Lola, that indeed could have saved him.
One has to understand that all the comments, all the things that Yunior does in Oscar Wao, move him inexorably away from the thing that he most needs: real intimacy which must have vulnerability, forgiveness, acceptance as its prerequisites. So that even though Yunior is sexist, even though he’s misogynist, even though he’s racist, even though he mischaracterizes Oscar’s life, even though he’s narcissistic—at the end he’s left with no true love, doesn’t find himself, doesn’t find that decolonial love that he needs to be an authentic self. In fact, he ends up—like the work that he assembles and stores in the refrigerator—incomplete. [...]
Thinking about Yunior as having been raped made (in my mind at least) his fucked-up utterances in the novel have a different resonance. And while he wasn’t yet ready to bear witness to his own rape, it gave him a certain point of view around sexual violence that I don’t think would have been possible otherwise. It helped me produce a novel with a feminist alignment. A novel whose central question is: is it possible to overcome the horrible legacy of slavery and find decolonial love? Is it possible to love one’s broken-by-the-coloniality-of-power self in another broken-by-the-coloniality-of-power person?
By Guest Contributor Jaymee Goh, cross-posted from Silver Goggles
I’m pleased to be part of the launch of the Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card, designed by Aliette de Bodard, Joyce Chng, Kate Elliott, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, @requireshate, Charles Tan, @automathic and @mizHalle. Launch orchestrated with the help of Zen Cho and Ekaterina Sedia in addition to above authors.
I’ve talked about cultural appropriation here a lot–and neocolonialism as well–and that neocolonialism can manifest in the form of cultural imperialism. I could talk at length about this, but if you were wondering what are some general sentiments that cultural imperialists spout, here is a handy dandy Bingo Card for you to play with the next time you’re watching a discussion about the Third World had by (usually white) First Worlders unfold before your eyes, whether online or off. Strike any statement that comes close and see how long it takes for you to get Bingo!
I should probably add that all the statements in this card, we didn’t have to make up. Most of us have seen these sentiments in comments sections…or just said outright to our faces. It’s pretty incredible, yea? Not, not really. Sigh.
ETA: Reader Modern Wizard took the time to transcribe the card: Continue reading
By Guest Contributor Costa Avgoustinos, cross-posted from Pop Culture and The Third World
T'Challa, The Black Panther. Courtesy: Marvel Comics.
Since we’re all on an Avengers high, now is the perfect time for a close look at the fascinating sometimes-Avenger: The Black Panther, Marvel’s first black (/African) superhero. Specifically, let’s look at the 2010 BET animated TV series, Black Panther, because the politics in it are, frankly, stunning.
What politics? Well, here’s the premise: The Black Panther is the leader of the fictional African nation, Wakanda. Wakanda is the exclusive home to a precious mineral called vibranium, an impenetrable metal with exceptional properties, and so The Black Panther’s job is to protect Wakanda’s borders from bastards that want to invade and exploit its riches. This includes French colonialists, ruthless mercenaries and, in the TV series, the modern U.S. government.
By Andrea Plaid
Vijay Prashad. Courtesy: Mitra Images
This week’s Loved-Up is courtesy of former Racialicious owner/editor, Carmen Van Kerckhove-Sognonvi.
By Guest Contributor Hodson, cross-posted from Beyond Victoriana
Note: This article is also available to read in Spanish on El Investigador’s website / Este artículo está disponible para leer en español. Thanks go out to El Investigador’s Editor-in-Chief Araceli Rodríguez, and magazine writers Hodson and Miguel for their time and effort in getting this piece together for Beyond Victoriana.
There are many reasons why the Victorian era is considered the Golden Age of the British Empire. Not only the economic and social stability came at a time where social inequalities were as big as scientific advances, but the huge explosion of advances in production, communications, and transportation allowed the existence of a global colonial government facilitated by the ability to improve the response time of all regional governments.
At a time when the great modern empires grew and spread across five continents populated by man, Victorianism quickly became the spirit of the time. The idea of progress and mastery of time through greater efficiency in transport and production was a constant among all the nations of the world, and those who had the power to launch big technology and conquest ventures had secured a bright future in the international area.
The Victorian era was undoubtedly the light bulb that shines light upon this century. It was the time when big government combined a vision of the future and the present into an immediate moment that inspired prosperity and development.
For those living in First World countries, it is easy to imagine a glorious past that never ceased to be, and it is done through an alternate technologically advanced reality. Whether it’s a world of steam or of world war, to imagine that moment of past glory is not a particularly difficult endeavor.
It makes perfect sense that a campaign to create widespread awareness of conflict in northern Uganda would want to simply this picture down to a narrative of good versus evil, and a call towards action. While I resent the emotionally manipulative video Invisible Children have produced, I admire the craft of it. They begin with a vision of a changing global world, where social media empowers individuals as never before. They craft a narrative around a passionate, driven advocate – Jason Russell – and show us the reasons for his advocacy – his friendship with a Ugandan victim of Kony. The video has a profound “story of self” that makes it possible for individuals to connect with and relate to. And Invisible Children constructs a narrative where we can help, and where we’re shirking our responsibility as fellow human beings if we don’t help.
The problem, of course, is that this narrative is too simple. The theory of change it advocates is unlikely to work, and it’s unclear if the goal of eliminating Kony should still be a top priority in stabilizing and rebuilding northern Uganda. By offering support to Museveni, the campaign may end up strengthening a leader with a terrible track record.
A more complex narrative of northern Uganda would look at the odd, codependent relationship between Museveni and Kony, Uganda’s systematic failure to protect the Acholi people of northern Uganda. It would look at the numerous community efforts, often led by women, to mediate conflicts and increase stability. It would focus on the efforts to rebuild the economy of northern Uganda, and would recognize the economic consequences of portraying northern Uganda as a war zone. It would feature projects like Women of Kireka, working to build economic independence for women displaced from their homes in Northern Uganda.
Such a narrative would be lots harder to share, much harder to get to “go viral”.
I’m starting to wonder if this is a fundamental limit to attention-based advocacy. If we need simple narratives so people can amplify and spread them, are we forced to engage only with the simplest of problems? Or to propose only the simplest of solutions?
As someone who believes that the ability to create and share media is an important form of power, the Invisible Children story presents a difficult paradox. If we want people to pay attention to the issues we care about, do we need to oversimplify them? And if we do, do our simplistic framings do more unintentional harm than intentional good?
—From “Unpacking Kony 2012” by Ethan Zuckerman
(Image Credit: Colorlines)
“How you tell the story of Ugandans is much more important,” says journalist Rosebell Kagumire. “If you’re showing me as voiceless, as hopeless, you have no space telling my story, you shouldn’t be telling my story.”
The image and words shown at left are part of a video by Kagumire, which you can get to by visiting Andrea’s post here. And, as ever, thanks to everybody who’s been following our Tumblr page for more quick hits during the week.
By Guest Contributor China Miéville, cross-posted from rejectamentalist manifesto
Stand down: literature has defeated the Thought Police. Belgium’s supreme court has defeated the mischief-making of the whining PC brigade. Tintin is not banned. Huzzah!
The badness of the bad faith involved in the commentariat’s discussion of this issue, the relentlessness of their categoric elisions, the unpleasantness of their crowing over the victory, should come as no surprise. This was never, at root, about banning.
Yes, Bienvenue Mbutu Mondondo was applying to the court to have Tintin in the Congo declared unacceptable under the Belgian race-relations law. However, he had made clear for years that he would be satisfied if, as in Britain, the book was published with a visible warning, a reminder of the context in which it was written (maybe even of the toxic ideology enshrined within). What Mondondo wanted was an official recognition that this text was a spitting in his face. That it came down to what was always clearly a nuclear option was due to the steadfast refusal of the publishers to countenance this–and thereby take responsibility for what they publish. The Belgian establishment went to cultural war, and it did so not for free speech, but for their right not to apologise for racist slander.