Category: global issues

May 12, 2011 / / books

By Guest Contributor Mimi Thi Nguyen, cross-posted from Threadbared

Last Thursday, Reuters released photographs from the United States’ extra-territorial raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan, which show “three dead men lying in pools of blood, but no weapons.” (Reuters purchased these photographs from a Pakistani security official, who entered the compound about an hour after the US assault.) Reuters described the three deceased men as “dressed in traditional Pakistani garb and one in a t-shirt, with blood streaming from their ears, noses and mouths.”

On Twitter, Pakistan-based journalist Shaheryar Mirza (@mirza9) pointedly asks, “Why are Muslims always in ‘garb’ and never in ‘clothes’?” In a related inquiry, South/South (@southsouth) has been critical of The Daily Show’s graphics following Osama bin Laden’s extra-judicial killing, featuring photographs of bin Laden’s head imposed upon a mosque, and another of bin Laden caption, “Bye Bye Beardie.”

Our theoretical and historical provocation (for this blog, at least) is thus to engage the question of clothing the “terrifying Muslim.” For example, we could easily observe that terms such as “garb” emphasize a civilizational distancing or confusion (one involving both temporal and spatial dimensions). Where naming these clothes as “garb” seems to act as “merely” an empirical description, the assessment of subjects and their clothing practices may coincide with, or become complicit with, colonial schema. (Shaheryar Mirza (@mirza9) and South/South (@southsouth) had an amazing, satirical exchange about putting on their “garb” that underlined so well the usage of the term as loaded with civilizational thinking. Highlights include Mirza’s “American business-casual garb for me today!” and South/South’s “Clothes might make the man, but garb makes the Muslim man.”) Related to this set of concerns, I’ve written here about the epidermalization of clothing and sartorial classification as a weapon of war.

This time, I thought I would turn to my brilliant colleague Junaid Rana. Rana is an associate professor in Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, whose scholarship addresses the confluence of racism with concepts of “illegality,” especially through transnational movements of labor and war. He is also the author of the new (and sure to be important) book Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora, out on Duke University Press in the next few weeks. You can find out more about the book (and become a fan) here!

Read the Post Clothing the ‘Terrifying Muslim:’ Q&A with Junaid Rana

April 26, 2011 / / global issues

by Latoya Peterson

global citizenship

Earlier in the month, I had spotted a Fast Company article discussing the changing nature of diplomacy in the Obama White House. Alex Ross, the Senior Advisor for Innovation for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, granted a sprawling interview to Fast Company which addressed embracing transparency and collaboration in a mistrustful global environment.

Some interesting bits:

Upon entering office, Obama vowed an end to cowboy diplomacy. Ross says the U.S. is exercising influence “on a more multilateral basis, and doing so under the frame of global citizenship, less than quote ‘America’s Values’.”

“The language matters,” continues Ross. “We live in such an interconnected world.”

While, to some, talk of interconnectedness may seem like political pandering and boilerplate, to a large swath of the country, it’s an aggressively contentious worldview. Former UN ambassador John Bolton recently called Obama the “most radical president who has ever been elected,” in a speech pointedly titled “the Case against Global Citizenship.”

For instance, while Bolton and other conservatives slammed Obama for prioritizing Egyptian democracy over an America-friendly despot, the State Department was been busy supporting overtly subversive technologies.

Read the Post Open Thread: On “Radical Global Citizenship”

by Latoya Peterson

MIA, Diplo, Cash

Around April Fool’s Day, I got this tip from friend of the blog Christina:

So, (queer) (Latina) DJ VenusxGG got in a Twitter fight last week with well-known but kinda slimey bass producer/DJ Diplo. Venus accused Diplo of being imperialist in his appropriation of musical forms (something he’s been accused of lots of times) and it ended up as a pretty entertaining/interesting public discourse for the bass community.

THEN today, XLR8R (another big bass magazine) decided to tap this for their April Fools joke…except they got Angela Davis involved. Kinda sloppy.

According to Fader’s Naomi Zeichner, who documented the tweet stream, the twitter fight began after Diplo came into one of their parties and began recording part of a set on his cellphone. @Ghe20Goth1k’s issue is extremely clear:

I told @diplo to stop and he was embarrassed by now we won’t get ant [sic] credit and he keeps making $$$ I can’t pay rent lol

Now, apparently DJ Diplo has developed a reputation for cultural appropriation – a term we’ve discussed often here, without much resolution. Since culture, by nature, is fluid, it is difficult to pinpoint when an homage or inspiration ends and appropriation begins. Diplo is best known for taking the sounds of other cultures and presenting them as hip consumables for a western audience. He rose to prominence alongside collaborator M.I.A. – and interestingly enough, even that story was steeped in appropriation of the work of a woman of color to advance his own ends. Despite being friends, Diplo (née Thomas Wesley Pentz) revealed to Drew Tewksbury:

“With M.I.A., we made a pop song totally by accident,” Pentz says. “We didn’t aim to have a big record. But she’s so cool, and that resonated with people.” He loaned a baile funk beat for her song “Bucky Done Gun” and got much of the credit for producing the whole album, which he says isn’t exactly the truth. “Back then, I told people that I produced [Arular], to get them to know who I was, but that was a total lie,” Pentz says.

Just another Diplo hustle. Read the Post Venus Iceberg X and the Ghe20 Goth1k Crew Call Out DJ Diplo for Musical and Cultural Imperialsm

January 31, 2011 / / global issues
September 28, 2010 / / global issues

By Arturo R. García

Based on the pilot episode, Outsourced has the potential to be something rare: a show that’s pissing off people on both sides of an issue, but in reality is too bland for its’ own good.

As things stand, it mostly pussyfoots around its’ premise: Todd walks into work one morning to find out the novelty product call center he’s supposed to lead has been shifted to India – no city is named on the show’s website, by the way – and staffed by locals.

Now, there’s comments on the show’s page expressing offense that a) the network would air a show about Americans losing jobs to “those people;” and b) that South Asian actors would willingly take part in a show that reduced them to Funny Minority backdrop roles for yet another clueless American character. Somewhere in the middle of both stances, there’s room for a comedy that can address both sides of the issue. But so far, this doesn’t look like it’s gonna be it.

Read the Post Wrong Man For The Job: The Racialicious Review of Outsourced 1.1

June 9, 2010 / / On Beauty

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Nancy L sent in an article from the New York Times with an opening that made even this jaded activist do a double take:

RESTINGA SÊCA, Brazil — Before setting out in a pink S.U.V. to comb the schoolyards and shopping malls of southern Brazil, Alisson Chornak studies books, maps and Web sites to understand how the towns were colonized and how European their residents might look today.

The goal, he and other model scouts say, is to find the right genetic cocktail of German and Italian ancestry, perhaps with some Russian or other Slavic blood thrown in. Such a mix, they say, helps produce the tall, thin girls with straight hair, fair skin and light eyes that Brazil exports to the runways of New York, Milan and Paris with stunning success.

So this is how we’re going now? What is this, the hybrid vigor myth on speed? Read the Post Fashionably Colonized: Hybrid Vigor, Brazilian Models, and Global Ideas of Beauty

February 17, 2010 / / art

By Guest Contributor David Brothers, originally published at 4thletter!

The easiest thing to point to when someone says “What’s cultural appropriation?” (in the unlikely event that somebody actually wants to know the answer to that question) is the theft of rock and roll. ego trip’s Big Book of Racism!, in addition to being an incredible read, has a great series of lists about rock and roll and race. Long story short, of course, cultural appropriation is the act of taking something that “belongs” to one culture–be it music, arts, literature, drama, whatever–and taking it for your own.

It isn’t a focused movement, exactly. There are no malicious men sitting around a table, plotting on how they can steal bachata and make it there own. It tends to be a byproduct of what happens when racism and institutional racism work hand in hand. Taking rock and roll for an (extremely simplified) example– white America in the mid-1900s had no interest in letting black America onto their jukeboxes and into their clubs. However, white musicians performing what was often the exact same music was met with, if not acceptance, something more positive than racially-motivated revulsion. Over time, rock and roll became a “white” genre, something associated with your average run of the mill white people rather than blacks.

Blackface is another example of cultural appropriation, though much more actively racist and malicious. White actors portrayed black characters for the entertainment and edification of a white audience, donning burnt cork and shoe polish and emulating (or just making up) the ways that black people acted.

A more recent example of cultural appropriation are the dozens of kung fu movies starring white guys. Once Hong Kong action cinema proved to be popular in the ’70s, one way of making it even more popular for American audiences was to toss a white guy into the main role. A good example of this is Danny Rand, from Marvel’s Iron Fist. Danny is a rich white guy who ended up in a thinly obfuscated Shangri-La and ended up becoming its greatest warrior, even triumphing over the natives of the city.

In the fall of ‘08, I took a work trip to Tokyo, Japan. I didn’t get as much time to dig in and explore as I wanted, but I did end up spending a lot of time in Shibuya and Harajuku. I saw a lot of people dressed like I dressed, or like people dressed back home. I spent some time in a streetwear shop where the two clerks didn’t know much English beyond “Biggie” and “Nas,” but they knew rap lyrics and fashion.

I graduated high school in Madrid, Spain, clear on the other side of the globe. While there, again, I fell in with Spanish kids (among other ethnicities) who loved rap. We listened to Frank T and 7 Notas, 7 Colores. We went out breakdancing on weekends and bought markers to tag things up. It was easy to find people who were into rap. Consider Santa Inoue’s Tokyo Tribes, which looks at juvenile delinquents through the lens of rap culture. Or Shinichiro Watanabe’s Samurai Champloo, which was a sublime fusion of chambara cinema, hip-hop aesthetics, and on occasion, black intracultural politics. Both are undeniably Japanese, but at the same time, instantly relatable.

Tokyo and Madrid: two cities several thousand miles away from where rap culture was born, and completely different racially and culturally, but whose children have embraced it wholly. Are they pantomiming and appropriating the culture or are they simply appreciating? Where is the line drawn? Read the Post Black Future Month ’10: Paris/Tokyo