Tag Archives: colonialism

Idris Elba is Hollywood’s Troublemaker

by Guest Contributor Shane Thomas, originally published at Media Diversity UK

There are few names as globally recognisable as Nelson Mandela. And likely even fewer whose name generally invokes strong feelings of warmth and goodwill.

Mandela was recently in the news as a result of his ill health, with elements of the online world and news networks partaking in an emetic game of “Nelson Mandela death watch”. Mercifully, at the time of writing, Madiba is still with us, and he has become a talking point again by proxy, due to the release of the trailer for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

The aforementioned is a movie biopic, traversing Nelson Mandela’s life. Early indications suggest that it is being positioned as strong contender for the 2014 Academy Awards. If the release date of January 3rd next year isn’t a sign to this effect, then the fact that the film’s production company is The Weinstein Company certainly is.[1]

On face value, this would seem to be a positive sign for diversity in Hollywood. After all, it’s a film where black characters are front and centre, without – as Jamilah King succinctly put it – needing a “white co-pilot”. And if you don’t think that this is an issue, more often than not, when films are made about communities of colour, the proviso is that a white character is a key cast member.[2] Continue reading

Quoted: Battameez on Interpreting the Kamasutra


Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai published Queering India: Same-sex love and eroticism in Indian society and culture wherein they read many “key ancient texts” against the grain to state that they’re texts that challenge the assumed heterosexism of our “ancient Indian society”; Kamasutra, they said, was one such text. Burton’s translations (along with a few other Orientalist scholars like Max Muller, Clarrise Bader, etc.) saw “Indian sexuality” as effeminate, and predictably justified its colonization, whereas Upadhayaya writing in the post-Independence era, washed away any queerness the text may possibly have suggested and re-framed it to fit the needs of the Hindu nationalist agenda. Vanita and Kidwai use all these texts to illustrate how pain and sexual pleasure can coincide and how there is plenty same-sex action going on, enough to say that Kamasutra is a queer and therefore, a liberatory text. On close inspection, the incidences where BDSM seems to be evoked, it is mostly practiced on bodies of Dasis—the slaves in the Vedic age—sometimes by the wives, usually by the husband/master. Again, most queer instances happen under the surveillance and force of the husband/master. The question here isn’t whether people then were “really” queer, nor am I concerned with the politics of BDSM and consent within this particular text (not sure if consent can even exist, if one cannot say “no”). This is where I want to inspect the politics of feminism itself, if slavery is seen as liberatory simply because there are events where the boundaries of “accepted sexuality” are pushed.

Studies like Queering India create a frame that suggests Indian culture is “inherently radical” because “see queerness has always existed here too!” frames that are produced and upheld within Subaltern historiography departments, the very academic disciplines that critique and challenge the colonialism within academia! They tend to equate queerness with progress, backed with Vedic texts like Kamasutra and Manusmriti—both of which mention queerness only within the contexts of slavery and caste/skin-color based sexual domination—and the conversation is limited to “We have always been queer, because our heritage (the texts) say so.” Don’t think I need to point out the dangers of such a limited conversation again.

However, I do want to ask why talking queerness is inherently political, revolutionary, and radical, given that many of these conversations happen at the cost of erasing slavery in ancient India (books like The Palace of Illusions, The Pregnant King come to mind here). Talking sex—especially about the Kamasutra—is progressive, but discussions of the political economy of the text don’t get the same pedestal. How can I claim and embrace queer liberation (as much as I may want to), when it silences someone else?

—Battameez in “Kamasutra and the Indian Feminists,” published at Bitch Media.

Required Reading: Junot Díaz and Paula M.L. Moya Discuss Decolonial Love


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.

Junot:

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?

Continue reading

MMW Roundtable: Jonah Goldberg’s Feminist Concerns

By the staff at Muslimah Media Watch, cross-posted with their permission

A few weeks ago, Jonah Goldberg wrote an op-ed claiming that feminism’s work in the West is “mostly done” and that’s it’s time to take feminism “overseas” to Muslim women.

We disagree.

Diana: Where do you begin in tearing apart Jonah Goldberg’s “Talking feminism overseas?” I can almost see Gayatri Spivak shaking her head as she waves her finger back and forth, saying as she has before, “white men saving brown women from brown men.”  So much for novelty in the discourse surrounding “third world women.” Can someone please throw something new at us?!

Azra: I’ll admit, after reading Jonah Goldberg’s article, I had to read it again (unfortunately), as I considered the chance that it was an excellent piece of farce. If only that were the case …

Sara: Oh, please, Jonah. Feminism is hardly a completed project in the United States. Who hasn’t ratified CEDAW yet? Measuring access to rights by national boundaries is problematic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the oasis of equality that Goldberg mentions is a myth, and really only applies to certain groups. The rights of women change according to socioeconomic factors and race.  Drawing empowerment or access to rights through national boundaries or groups pushes injustice into invisibility. Saying that the “work is done” is a flat-out insult to the work of modern American feminists.

Azra: Is feminism over in the United States? Continue reading

Why, as an African, I took a Rhodes scholarship

by Guest Contributor Nanjala Nyabola, originally published at Comment Is Free

Cecil Rhodes is a name that has and will perhaps continue to inflame passions around the world. It was therefore interesting to me that some of the recurring comments following an article written by Abdulrahman El-Sayed weren’t so much based on the content of his writing, but on his status as a Rhodes scholar aspiring to work in public health policy.

As a fellow Rhodes scholar and an African woman, I frequently get asked why, in the face of Rhodes’s bloody and destructive quest to subjugate an entire generation of my people, I would accept money from a trust set up in his name. Why would I study at a university whose history is so intertwined with the legacy of colonial oppression, in a country that has never truly made peace with the atrocities perpetuated in the name of the empire? Continue reading

Akwesasne under siege

by Special Correspondent Jessica Yee, originally published at Rabble

Ed. Note: Jessica wrote this in response to Canadian border patrol agents being armed in Akwesasne. This article gives a summary of the situation:

A respected security and anti-terrorism expert says Canada’s federal government should stand by its guns and ignore threats from Mohawk militants in Cornwall, Ont., who have vowed to storm the Canadian border post if Ottawa gives sidearms to border agents there.

John Thompson, president of the Mackenzie Institute, a Toronto-based think-tank, said Monday that Mohawk militants are “blowing smoke,” and would never attempt an armed, illegal occupation of the offices of the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Native leaders and activists at Akwesasne have been warning for months they would take action to prevent Canada from giving 9-mm pistols to its border agents, because they say the presence of armed government agents on their reserve is an affront to their aboriginal sovereignty.

“Things are escalating in Akwesasne. The Indians aren’t being peaceful anymore,” the news reporters are saying.

500 years of colonization and the continuous refusal to acknowledge our fundamental human rights do not produce peaceful results. I’ll tell you that right now.

But I’m not currently in Akwesasne — my home community which has been under siege by the Border Patrol Services for quite some time now. Yes, the existence of a transnational border that tears a community apart is a sign of putting us under siege. Only this time, since June 1, 2009 to be exact, they want to legitimize and regulate their firearms against us.

So if you want to get a first hand account of what’s going on there right now — I implore you to ask someone who belongs to and is in the community as we speak. But I do have some things to say about this situation which has been a long time coming.

The media have repeatedly asked me about which “side” do I think is right, do I agree with the border being closed, do I side with the “warriors” who refused to back down to the rule of the governments, or am I simply indifferent to it all since I live in Toronto now?

I actually know precisely where I stand – as a Kanionke:haka woman, a Mohawk woman, who belongs to the Haudenosaunee people, and as young person who is part of the next seven generations, I am on the side of my community who is on the side of the land – of Mother Earth. As women we are titleholders and caretakers of the land. And I know very well that the border should not be there.

Continue reading

Fashion and Patronizing, Colonial Rhetoric, Take #758080

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

So even though fashion designers have a tendency to appropriate and re-design fashion they witness during their world travels (or, cough, imperialist imaginations), the magazine writers and journalists just can’t seem to find the right words to characterize the collections. Instead of talking about geometric prints, the use of found objects as jewelry items, and color choices in a way that could be deemed appropriate and less offensive, they shade their words with sweeping generalizations and talk about “Africa” like a one trick pony.

In a recent New York Times fashion week photo spread entitled “African Influence on the Runway,” the first mistake made is the usual assumption that Africa is one big country. Morocco has a completely different fashion history from South Africa which has a different fashion history from the Congo, just, you know, as a tiny example. So in the title alone, they end up equating the diverse fashion traditions to one big imagined Africa. To make matters worse, the corresponding article is entitled “Out of Africa.” In reading the captions, I kept waiting for a punchline. The Times was just being ironic and funny, right?

Nope. They were for real.

Photo 1: a woman with crimped hair

“In the 2009 spring season, African style is a drumbeat through the clothes and accessories. Surprisingly it isn’t about the ethnic. Instead, it is the sculpted geometric shapes of Africa and its rich spicy colors that are the strongest forms of identity. Couture coiffeur Orlando Pita created these sculptural silhouettes for Christian Dior.”

African style is a “drumbeat?” Come on, y’all, really? Oh and just in case we forgot, “rich spicy” is not a way to describe food. It describes a continental identity in its “strongest forms.” Barf.

But wait, there’s more. . . so much more! Continue reading

Aspiring to whiteness

by Guest Contributor Tanglad, originally published at Tanglad

As we celebrated the eve of November 4th, I was struck by a comment from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He pointed out with pride the role of the Latino vote in Obama’s election. I wish I could say that about my fellow Filipinos.

And yes, I know, the Filipino vote is not monolithic. I am specifically talking about Filipinos like me, who have immigrated here in our adult lives. We’re working to make ends meet. Many of you are raising families, go to church every Sunday, support extended families back in the Philippines. The Philippines that would theoretically be a very red state if it could vote.

So yeah, there are lots of factors behind this particular Pinoy demographic’s support of McCain and Proposition 8, but I will dive into the one that presents the most challenges.

Filipinos can be quite forthcoming when talking about race. In news interviews in the Philippines and in Pinoy gatherings, many immigrant Pinoys have made it abundantly clear that their “discomfort” over Barack Obama is not due to the rumors that he’s an inexperienced, socialist, Muslim politician. Their discomfort is from Obama’s blackness. Continue reading