Category Archives: eurocentric

Telling the truth and community accountability on Columbus Day/Thanksgiving

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Does anyone ever wonder when “Columbus Day” will no longer be a nationally “celebrated” holiday? I mean really and truly – when do y’all think that will happen?

In my opinion, it’s not as if the information does not exist out there which explicitly states that no, Columbus was never even near the continental mass of what’s now known as “America”. The “great” navigator that he was didn’t even know where he was going and never washed up here – ever.

What he did do with the full backing of the voyage was ensue genocide, apartheid, and colonization – all whose affects are deeply entrenched in existing assimilative federal policies, hierarchical societal structures, and the realities of Indigenous communities here and around the world.

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Understanding autochtoon privilege

By Guest Contributor Flavia Tamara Dzodan, cross-posted from Red Light Politics

Here in The Netherlands, racial matters and subsequent discussions are framed very differently from those in North America. I suspect that due to the fact that The Netherlands has lacked an equivalent to the Civil Rights Movement, race issues are still stalled in a colonial phase where oppressive language and the relevant discourse have never been properly deconstructed and challenged (and hardly analyzed at all outside academic circles).

To give a bit of background, the Dutch state has a classification system for those of us who live here. This classification is not necessarily framed on ethnicity but on place of birth (both for the classified subject and her parents). The Dutch state uses a word appropriated from biology, “allochtoon” to refer to us. This term originally denotes any organism which is non native to a given ecosystem. They have, in turn, created a scale of “foreignness” in which a Native Dutch (known as “autochtoon” in Dutch state parlance) is at the top of the food chain, followed by “Western foreigners” (i.e. Americans and other Caucasian Europeans) and then at the bottom of the foreignness pyramid, “non-Western foreigners” (i.e. everyone who comes from a country classified as non Western or underdeveloped).

This foreignness is determined not only by the place where one was born but also by the place where one’s parents come from. So, someone could be born in The Netherlands, but still be classified as a non Western foreigner because one of her parents hails from such place. Because I am South American, I am one such “Non Western Foreigner”. My status as an ethnic foreigner is also made evident by the way I look (I am consistently addressed in Arabic or Turkish because of my completion).

The laws of the country are such that I am obliged to disclose my “Non Western foreigner” status in a multitude of ways: if I am to apply for a job, I am obliged to tell; if I am to take a language course, I am obliged to tell; my healthcare provider demands to know this and I am obliged to tell (supposedly for statistical purposes); education plans and programs are put in place specifically for people like me (and my children if I had any).

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On Supporting, and Not Supporting, Molly Norris

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By Thea Lim

I heard about Molly Norris for the first time last week, on Fatemeh’s blog. Fatemeh wrote that she had signed a petition in support of Molly Norris, and gave this reason:

I was unhappy to read that “Draw Muhammad Day” creator Molly Norris had voluntarily gone into hiding. While I thought the concept of “Draw Muhammad Day” was ridiculous and viewed it in the same light as the South Park episode that supposedly depicted the prophet, I recognize that Norris’ intent wasn’t to be offensive or malicious. In Islam, intentions count for something just like actions, and no one should be punished for simple naïveté. It’s atrocious that Norris has received threats and feels unsafe enough to go incognito.

I have to say that after doing a little bit of reading about Norris, “Draw Muhammad Day” and the outpouring of support for Norris, I am finding it difficult to be as generous as Fatemeh.

When Fatemeh writes that she supports Norris, what I understand is that Fatemeh supports Norris’ right to live a life free of violence and threats.  That, I find entirely reasonable – I too support Norris’ right to safety, as I support anyone’s right to safety.  But what I am struggling to understand is exactly what all the other people who say they support Norris, are actually in support of.

Aaron Goldstein at The American Spectator writes:

Freedom of expression in America took another step closer to a slow death last week when the Seattle Weekly announced it would no longer be publishing the work of cartoonist Molly Norris because she had gone into hiding…I cannot help but wonder that if Norris had been more assertive in her own defense then others would have been more eager to stand beside her…So given the current political climate regarding Islam in America who among us could be the next Molly Norris?

James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal writes:

Where is President Obama? Last month, speaking to a mostly Muslim audience at the White House, the president strongly defended the right of another imam held up as a moderate to build a mosque adjacent to Ground Zero. The next day, and again at a press conference last week, Obama said he was merely standing up for the First Amendment. As far as we recall, it’s the only time Barack Obama has ever stood up for anybody’s First Amendment rights.

Now Molly Norris, an American citizen, is forced into hiding because she exercised her right to free speech. Will President Obama say a word on her behalf? Does he believe in the First Amendment for anyone other than Muslims?

Abigail R. Esman at Forbes writes:

Let me repeat: The U.S. government is suggesting that Ms. Norris change her name, strip away her past, possibly even change her appearance, because she has been targeted by Muslim extremists who are not amused by her work or her ideas. Rather than protect her, rather than defend her, rather than stand up for her Constitutional and democratic rights, declaring their intention to route al-Awlaki out and bring him (and others who are threatening her life) to justice, the American government, as it were, is itself in essence allying with him by taking away her freedom and her life.

Now listen. I will say this again: I emphatically support Molly Norris’ right to safety. I think it is terrible that she has to go into hiding, and I can only imagine the fear and distress that she is feeling right now.

But. I 100% do not support Norris’ right to mean-spirited mockery. I do not support anyone’s right to belittle, poke fun at, show insensitivity or thoughtlessness towards anyone else’s system of belief – but especially at Islam, seeing how it seems to have become some sort of Liberal American pastime to see who can make the most Islamophobic joke.  And this is while the rights of Muslims to pursue their system of belief is under attack, all across the Western world.

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Surprise Takedown Of The Week: Al D’Amato

By Arturo R. García

Even by Fox News standards, the amount of FAIL on this segment from Money Rocks is staggering. But oh, does it on on a funny note.

In discussing why the U.S. Postal Service should be privatized – a foolish idea, but just roll with it here – GOP “strategist” Jack Burkman lets fly with this beauty:

“Most of these guys working in the Post Office should be driving cabs, and I think we should stop importing labor from Nigeria and Ethiopia. That’s about their skill level. They’re only in there because of massive union protection.”

Now, the host, Eric Bolling, lets him off the hook. And columnist S.E. Copp, not to be outdone, brags, “I can deposit a check by taking a photograph of the check with my phone and e-mailing it to my bank!” (Where does she bank, Narnia?). But attorney Tamara Holder – who seconds earlier defends privatizing national security(?!) is the first to call Burkman out on his remarks. And when Burkman tries to defend his assertion that postal workers are “unskilled labor,” former Sen. Al D’Amato (R-NY) lets loose around the 5:19 mark. Language is NSFW, but well worth it.

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Human Zoos, Conservation Refugees, and the Houston Zoo’s The African Forest

By Guest Contributor Shannon Joyce Prince

Note: The Houston Zoo uses the term “pygmy” and specifies no particular so called p*gmy ethnic groups.  According to the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee, “This term [‘pygmy’]is used by some communities and organisations, but is considered pejorative by others.”  When I first began writing about the Houston Zoo it was my research-based understanding that as there is no one word that names all the African ethnic groups racialized as “p*gmies” the term wasn’t offensive when speaking of the groups collectively while the names of the different ethnic groups should be used when speaking of them in particular.  In my writings on the Houston Zoo I continue to navigate this issue. Since some communities consider “p*gmy” to be pejorative, I use an asterisk when employing the word when not quoting another source.  When speaking of a particular ethnic group, I use the group’s name, clarifying that the group is labeled as “p*gmy.”  When speaking of the ethnic groups collectively I refer to them as labeled as rather than as being “p*gmy” as I have never been able to find a comprehensive list of all the ethnic groups.

The Houston Zoo has proudly announced a new project, The African Forest, which is set to open December 2010 if we don’t halt it.  According to the Zoo’s website, The African Forest is not just about exhibiting “magnificent wildlife and beautiful habitats.  It’s about people, and the wonderful, rich cultures that we all can share.”  Actually, The African Forest is about exhibiting and teaching inaccurate Western conceptions of African indigenous cultures in a place designed to exhibit and teach about animals.  The African Forest is also about displacement in the name of conservation.

Fairs, exhibitions, and zoos that showcase, market, or teach about Africans and other non-white peoples as though they were animals are called “human zoos.” Only non-whites are exhibited as or alongside animals. Human zoos allowed and still allow targeted non-whites to be redefined as animals in Western, European, or First World spaces in order to justify white past, current, or planned mistreatment of non-white peoples in the non-white peoples’ homelands.

According to the Zoo’s website, The African Forest includes an “African Marketplace Plaza” selling gifts from “from all over the world” and offering dining with a “view of giraffes;” a “Pygmy Village and Campground” showcasing “African art, history, and folklore” where visitors can stay overnight; “Pygmy Huts” where visitors will be educated about “pygmies” and “African culture,” hear stories, and be able to stay overnight; a “Storytelling Fire Pit;” an “Outpost” where visitors, while getting refreshments, will view posters “promoting ecotourism, conservation messages, and African wildlife refuges;” a “Communications Hut and Conservation Kiosk” where “visitors will use a replicated shortwave radio and listen in on simulated conversations taking place throughout Africa;” a “Rustic Outdoor Shower” representing the fact that the fictional “Pygmy Village” “recently got running water” where children can “cool off;” a section of the “Pygmy Village” where children can handle “African musical instruments and artifacts;” and “Tree House Specimen Cabinets” that showcase “objects, artifacts, and artwork.”[i] (This information is difficult to find on the Zoo’s website, so use the web addresses at this endnote if you want to look it up.)

The African Forest is problematic for several reasons.  For example, Africa is not a monolith.  Africa is a continent of fifty-three nations and even more cultures.  So while one may speak of a Ugandan forest, Yoruba marketplace, or Xhosa culture, Africa is such a diverse continent that the idea of, for example, an “African marketplace” is meaningless.

The Zoo’s website specifies that “The African Forest” is really the “central African forest,” but beyond the fact that Africa is not a monolith, central Africa is also not a monolith.  Central Africa contains Burundi, the Central African RepublicChad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda.  Therefore, it’s problematic that in a website video the Zoo refers to “the culture of central Africa” as though there were only one.  (Furthermore, the Zoo doesn’t bother to name the village it’s creating a Baka, Mbuti, Twa, etc. village.  But as the Zoo is educating its visitors that all Africans are the same and all central Africans are the same, perhaps all so called p*gmy groups are the same, too.)

The ironic part of representing all Africa in the context of the central African forest is that certain aspects of both Africa in general and central Africa in particular are conspicuously absent from this “everything but the kitchen sink” approach.  For example, why are the large cities, skyscrapers, boutiques, and movie theaters of Africa missing while The African Forest shows off the village that just got running water?  I am emphatically against the idea that there is anything less modern about a “Pygmy hut” than a glass and steel tower, but the Zoo is only showing aspects of Africa that fit Western stereotypes of “primitivism.”[ii]

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Feminist Intersection: On hipsters/hippies and Native culture

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee, originally published at Bitch Magazine

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Lately I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with the hipsters and hippies, as well as the hippie/hipster “culture” at large, and have become increasingly annoyed at their depiction/co-option of my ethnicity as a First Nations person.

Kelsey pointed me to this post on Sociological Images last week which rounds up some of the latest and greatest of this ever continuing trend.

I know my parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles have had to deal with this in their time and it’s certainly not a new thing –but it’s 2010 and not only does it still continue strongly to this day – it’s taken some interesting turns down the erasure of true origins road. This isn’t a hate letter, or reverse racism (as if there were such a thing!). It’s also not an attempt to discourage you from finding out more about Native people – and in fact I strongly ENCOURAGE you to do some actual research and knowledge seeking so you might get our culture right and think twice about things like permission and respect before you act on your appropriation.

So to the hipsters/hippies who appropriate Native culture but aren’t First Nations/Aboriginal/Indigenous, I’m asking you nicely now, to PLEASE stop annoying (the fuck out of) me with the following:

The clothing. Whether it’s headbands, feathers, bone necklaces, mukluks, or moccasins – at least put some damn thought into WHAT you are wearing and WHERE it’s from. I know our people sell these things en masse in gift shops and trading posts, and it seems like it’s an open invitation to buy it and flaunt it, but you could at least check the label to see A. If it’s made by actual Indigenous people/communities B. What does this really mean if YOU wear it?

Organic living and environmentalism as “new” concepts. One of my friends jokes that all Native people should get green energy for free because that’s how we’ve been living for centuries and also taught the colonizers how to live (which may or may not have screwed us in the end). I really do love the resurgence of the green movement and how things are becoming more environmentally friendly – but I don’t need certain members of the movement pretending like they started this or ignoring extreme realities we’re facing like environmental racism and justice. I also think we need actual Native people being in charge of and leading the responses to environmental degradation that are happening in our own territories. It’s not to say we don’t need allyship and support – but it’s also rather irritating when I read an event posting for a cause of some sort for a First Nation where there’s like two Native people in the whole place (who either barely say anything or are supposed to go along with the way the hippies organize without complaint because they’re “doing something for us”).

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Sailor WTF?: Kirsten Dunst’s ‘Akihabara Majokko Princess’

WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS NSFW IMAGES

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

At least she can sorta carry a tune.

Dunst1After two viewings, that’s about all I can glean from Kirsten Dunst’s cover of “Turning Japanese,” which premiered late last year as part of an exhibition by Takashi Murakami at London’s Tate Museum. According to Anime News Network, the video is a collaboration between Murakami and director McG, which makes this – to give everyone the benefit of the doubt – somewhat puzzling as an interpretation of anything close to fandom.

Dunst, to her credit, has a history with the medium: she voiced the title character in the English-language adaptation of Kiki’s Delivery Service, and has expressed an affection for Sailor Moon – which explains the costume – in past interviews. But instead of presenting her as a Majokko (“Magical girl” or “Witch Girl”), MCG here threw her under the same bus Scarlett Johansson rode in on for Lost In Translation.

Start with the musical selection: to be sure, “Turning Japanese” isn’t about actually being Japanese (nor is it about masturbation. Well, apparently.). And inter-cutting shots of her with hentai imagery – like, say, the upskirt shot on the billboard seconds after the one on Dunst – takes Dunst’s character out of the sympathetic realm and into Male Gaze territory. And as someone who had to sit through Terminator: Salvation, I don’t think McG thought it through that thoroughly.

Finally, there’s the “interactions” with the locals. The vast majority of them are wordless Others, watching the camera with blank looks. The guys in the jumpsuits, it seems, are members of a local dance troupe, and they at least get to be active. But otherwise the actual Japanese people here are either spectators, or look like they’re wondering who this girl is who’s ripping off Gwen Stefani’s act.

Steampunking: Are Steampunk Westerns Non-Eurocentric? No

By Guest Contributor Jha, originally published at Rebellious Jezebel Blogging

My friend Ay-Leen the Peacemaker is putting together a project called Beyond Victoriana, which will focus on examples of steampunk beyond the typical Eurocentric sampling at the moment, which is predominantly centered around England. Ay-Leen is also taking examples of North American steampunk, and people are citing Wild West/Weird West examples, such as Wild Wild West (TV show and movie).

I myself suggested some Japanese examples which could be counted as steampunk, although I have several reservations about them myself. Mainly because when I think non-Eurocentric, I keep this in mind:

“… By Europeans, we refer not only to Europe per se, but also to the “neo-Europeans” of the Americas, Australia, and elsewhere. … The residual traces of centuries of axiomatic European domination inform the general culture, the everyday language, and the media, engendering a fictitious sense of the innate superiority of European-derived cultures and peoples.” (Ella Shohat / Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism, pg 1)

Somewhere on the next page:

“… [Eurocentric discourse] … renders history as a sequence of empires: Pax Romana, Pax Hispanica, Pax Britannica, Pax Americana.”

Which brings me to the question: are Wild West/Weird West examples really non-Eurocentric examples?

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