Every few years I teach a class called “Hippies.” The main theme of the course is to follow the white, suburban middle-class in its homage to Asia - from the 1967 Summer of Love debut of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Mediation to the 1990s version via Deepak Chopra and the Dalai Lama.We study the genuine sense of malaise among suburban youth (the condition that Paul Goodman called “Growing Up Absurd”), but we also tend to the way in which “Asia” functions as an alibi for a politics to transcend the condition of the suburb.

A bumper sticker that says “Free Tibet” seems to offer an entry into a transcendental politics, far removed from the social melancholy of suburban life. Does Tibet or Hinduism offer a coherent program to reconstruct the oppression of suburban capitalism? My own sense is that it facilitates an escape from the rigors of our world.

There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with the pursuit of spirituality under the sign of Hinduism; indeed there is perhaps much to be gained from it. However, as Hindutva-style cruelty devastates the landscape of Indian life, it is imperative for those who claim Hinduism to offer ruthless criticism of global Hindutva.…Do not allow liberal multiculturalism to give global Hindutva cover from secular forces.

— Vijay Prashad, Suburban Whites and Pogroms in India

To tell the story of America’s tangled history with South Asia is the first and most basic step in teaching South Asia critically…Elihu Yale, who lived and worked in India for nearly three decades with the British East India Company, donated to the Collegiate School of Connecticut three bales of goods - Madras cotton, silk, and other textiles from India —laying the financial foundation for their first building. The first seated chair of Sanskrit emerged at Yale. In 1800 when Alexander Dow negotiated yet another treaty with the Sindhi Mirs to establish ports and harbors on the Arabian Sea, he specifically noted that Americans were to be kept out of Sindh. The 1856 Guano Islands Act passed by Congress claimed for the United States any “unclaimed” island with sufficient supplies of bird waste (to be used as fertilizer by American farmers) by any American entrepreneur and mandated that this annexation should be defended by the U.S. Navy…That act of Congress is also part of the legal framework that created Guantanamo Bay and that enables drone assassinations in “remote frontier regions of Pakistan, where there is “no rule of law”. The opium trade network that sustained the East India company’s coffers in the mid-19th century by supplying Bengal-raised opium to China was remitted through American cotton, and that money seeped right into the Southern slave economy.

– Manan Ahmed

We lose our history so easily, what is not predigested for us by the New York Times, or the Amsterdam News, or Time magazine. Maybe because we do not listen to our poets or to our fools, maybe because we do not listen to our mamas in ourselves. When I hear the deepest truths I speak coming out of my mouth sounding like my mother’s, even remembering how I fought against her, I have to reassess both our relationship as well as the sources of my knowing. Which is not to say that I have to romanticize my mother in order to appreciate what she gave me – Woman, Black. We do not have to romanticize our past in order to be aware of how it seeds our present. We do not have to suffer the waste of an amnesia that robs us of the lessons of the past rather than permit us to read them with pride as well as deep understanding.

– Audre Lorde, Learning from the 60’s

Whiteness can be understood as a wall in the sense that it keeps its place: even the attempts to modify whiteness can end up supporting it. Whiteness is like a shape that “bounces back” as soon as the pressure to modify it is eased. The experience of anti-racist work often feels like this: banging your head against a brick wall. If the wall keeps it place, it is you that gets sore. You come up against the same thing, over and over again.

It is necessary to question the presence of people in color in the academy as an unquestioned good. Does tenuring more native or ethnic studies scholars necessarily contribute to a decolonized academy, or does it serve to further retrench a colonial academic system by multiculturalizing it? Does our position in the academy help our communities or does it enable us to engage in what Cathy Cohen describes as a process of secondary marginalization, creating an elite class that can oppress and police the rest of the members of our communities? Have we fallen into the trap Elizabeth Povinelli describes of simply adding social difference to the multicultural academy without social consequence? Does our presence help challenge the political and economic status quo, or does our presence serve as an alibi for the status quo? In asking these questions, I do not suggest that there is politically pure space from which to work outside the academic-industrial complex, and yet still constitute a subversion that matters. However, it is an imperative to ensure our opposition within the academy is more contestatory and less complicit.

– Andrea Smith, ‘Native Studies and Critical Pedagogy : Beyond the Academic-Industrial Complex’  (via mehreenkasana)

(Source: lingrix, via mangoestho)

In effect post-modernism is extremely divisive because it promotes fragmentation between people and gives relative importance to identities without any theoretical framework to understand the historical reasons for identity formation and to link the various identities. So we can have a gathering of NGOs like WSF where everyone celebrates their identity - women, prostitutes, gays, lesbians, tribals, dalits etc etc., but there is no theory bringing them under an overall understanding, a common strategy. Each group resist its own oppressors, as it perceives them. With such an argument, logically, there can be no organization, at best it can be spontaneous organisation at the local level and temporary coalitions.To advocate organisation according to their understanding means to reproduce power - hierarchy, oppression. Essentially they leave the individual to resist for himself or herself, and are against consistent organized resistance and armed resistance.

Why these sisters struck me as the most dangerous of artists was because in the work of, say, Morrison, or Octavia Butler, we are shown the awful radiant truth of how profoundly constituted we are of our oppressions. Or, said differently: how indissolubly our identities are bound to the regimes that imprison us. These sisters not only describe the grim labyrinth of power that we are in as neocolonial subjects, but they also point out that we play both Theseus and the Minotaur in this nightmare drama. Most importantly these sisters offered strategies of hope, spinning the threads that will make escape from this labyrinth possible. It wasn’t an easy thread to seize — this movement towards liberation required the kind of internal bearing witness of our own role in the social hell of our world that most people would rather not engage in. It was a tough praxis but a potentially earthshaking one, too. Because rather than strike at this issue or that issue, this internal bearing of witness raised the possibility of denying our oppressive regimes the true source of their powers — which is, of course, our consent, our participation. This kind of praxis doesn’t attack the head of the beast, which will only grow back; it strikes directly at the beast’s heart, which we nurture and keep safe in our own.

We lose our history so easily, what is not predigested for us by the New York Times, or the Amsterdam News, or Time magazine. Maybe because we do not listen to our poets or to our fools, maybe because we do not listen to our mamas in ourselves. When I hear the deepest truths I speak coming out of my mouth sounding like my mother’s, even remembering how I fought against her, I have to reassess both our relationship as well as the sources of my knowing. Which is not to say that I have to romanticize my mother in order to appreciate what she gave me – Woman, Black. We do not have to romanticize our past in order to be aware of how it seeds our present. We do not have to suffer the waste of an amnesia that robs us of the lessons of the past rather than permit us to read them with pride as well as deep understanding.

browngurlrage:

[Amman Desai / “Tinku” (2013) / Linocut print] Activist and tech entrepreneur Ali ‘Tinku’ Ishtiaq was born in Bangladesh, and moved to Berkeley in 1982. He was an early founding member of Trikone (the world’s first South Asian LGBTQ organization), a co-founder of the Bangladesh Support Network, a co-chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and a co-founder of Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism. A long-time Berkeleyan, he recently returned to his adopted hometown after several years away. This print honors Ishtiaq’s role in the founding of Trikone, as well as the role of South Asians organizing against the occupation of Palestine and Kashmir.
From Our Name is Rebel: Images of Berkeley’s Radical South Asian Legacy

browngurlrage:

[Amman Desai / “Tinku” (2013) / Linocut print] Activist and tech entrepreneur Ali ‘Tinku’ Ishtiaq was born in Bangladesh, and moved to Berkeley in 1982. He was an early founding member of Trikone (the world’s first South Asian LGBTQ organization), a co-founder of the Bangladesh Support Network, a co-chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and a co-founder of Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism. A long-time Berkeleyan, he recently returned to his adopted hometown after several years away. This print honors Ishtiaq’s role in the founding of Trikone, as well as the role of South Asians organizing against the occupation of Palestine and Kashmir.

From Our Name is Rebel: Images of Berkeley’s Radical South Asian Legacy

day thirty.

your aunt gave birth

to still cities
hiroshima a cyst in her stomach
mogadishu a lump in her breast
everyone in your family 
told her to
stop
loving
so hard
you won’t find a man who wants 
to kiss an atlas
dont map out stars on your back
like that
where you gonna find
a man who wants to join 
your constellations with his tongue
push out falestine from under your
tongue xayati
let damascus drip from your neck
and wash out the havana of
your ribs
your dreams are too large
too big
stifiling
they make everyone around you
hold their breath
what man wants a woman
covered in continents
teeth small colonies
stomach an island
what man wants to
watch the world
from his bedroom
face a small riot
hands a civil war
arms freckled
with an immigrants story home
behind your ears
a refugee camp
a body littered entirely
with ugly things

but god,
doesn’t she wear the world well.

— warsan shire



(Source: motherground, via browngurlrage)

First Writing Since - Suheir Hammad

1. there have been no words.
i have not written one word.
no poetry in the ashes south of canal street.
no prose in the refrigerated trucks driving debris and dna.
not one word.

today is a week, and seven is of heavens, gods, science.
evident out my kitchen window is an abstract reality.
sky where once was steel.
smoke where once was flesh.

fire in the city air and i feared for my sister’s life in a way never
before. and then, and now, i fear for the rest of us.

first, please god, let it be a mistake, the pilot’s heart failed, the
plane’s engine died.
then please god, let it be a nightmare, wake me now.
please god, after the second plane, please, don’t let it be anyone
who looks like my brothers.

i do not know how bad a life has to break in order to kill.
i have never been so hungry that i willed hunger
i have never been so angry as to want to control a gun over a pen.
not really.
even as a woman, as a palestinian, as a broken human being.
never this broken.

more than ever, i believe there is no difference.
the most privileged nation, most americans do not know the difference
between indians, afghanis, syrians, muslims, sikhs, hindus.
more than ever, there is no difference.

2. thank you korea for kimchi and bibim bob, and corn tea and the
genteel smiles of the wait staff at wonjo the smiles never revealing
the heat of the food or how tired they must be working long midtown
shifts. thank you korea, for the belly craving that brought me into
the city late the night before and diverted my daily train ride into
the world trade center.

there are plenty of thank yous in ny right now. thank you for my
lazy procrastinating late ass. thank you to the germs that had me
call in sick. thank you, my attitude, you had me fired the week
before. thank you for the train that never came, the rude nyer who
stole my cab going downtown. thank you for the sense my mama gave me
to run. thank you for my legs, my eyes, my life.

3. the dead are called lost and their families hold up shaky
printouts in front of us through screens smoked up.

we are looking for iris, mother of three. please call with any
information. we are searching for priti, last seen on the 103rd
floor. she was talking to her husband on the phone and the line
went. please help us find george, also known as a! ! del. his family is
waiting for him with his favorite meal. i am looking for my son, who
was delivering coffee. i am looking for my sister girl, she started
her job on monday.

i am looking for peace. i am looking for mercy. i am looking for
evidence of compassion. any evidence of life. i am looking for
life.

4. ricardo on the radio said in his accent thick as yuca, “i will
feel so much better when the first bombs drop over there. and my
friends feel the same way.”

on my block, a woman was crying in a car parked and stranded in hurt.
i offered comfort, extended a hand she did not see before she said,
"we"re gonna burn them so bad, i swear, so bad." my hand went to my
head and my head went to the numbers within it of the dead iraqi
children, the dead in nicaragua. the dead in rwanda who had to vie
with fake sport wrestling for america’s attention.

yet when people sent emails saying, this was bound to happen, lets
! ! not forget u.s. transgressions, for half a second i felt resentful.
hold up with that, cause i live here, these are my friends and fam,
and it could have been me in those buildings, and we”re not bad
people, do not support america’s bullying. can i just have a half
second to feel bad?

if i can find through this exhaust people who were left behind to
mourn and to resist mass murder, i might be alright.

thank you to the woman who saw me brinking my cool and blinking back
tears. she opened her arms before she asked “do you want a hug?” a
big white woman, and her embrace was the kind only people with the
warmth of flesh can offer. i wasn’t about to say no to any comfort.
"my brother’s in the navy," i said. "and we"re arabs". "wow, you
got double trouble.” word.

5. one more person ask me if i knew the hijackers.
one more motherfucker ask me what navy my brother is in.
one more person assume no arabs or muslims were killed.one more person
assume they know me, or that i represent a people.
or that a people represent an evil. or that evil is as simple as a
flag and words on a page.

we did not vilify all white men when mcveigh bombed oklahoma.
america did not give out his family’s addresses or where he went to
church. or blame the bible or pat robertson.

and when the networks air footage of palestinians dancing in the
street, there is no apology that hungry children are bribed with
sweets that turn their teeth brown. that correspondents edit images.
that archives are there to facilitate lazy and inaccurate
journalism.

and when we talk about holy books and hooded men and death, why do we
never mention the kkk?

if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is
feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.

6. today it is ten days. last night bush waged war on a man once
openly funded by the
cia. i do not know who is responsible. read too many books, know
too many people to believe what i am told. i don’t give a fuck about
bin laden. his vision of the world does not include me or those i
love. and petittions have been going around for years trying to get
the u.s. sponsored taliban out of power. shit is complicated, and i
don’t know what to think.

but i know for sure who will pay.

in the world, it will be women, mostly colored and poor. women will
have to bury children, and support themselves through grief. “either
you are with us, or with the terrorists” - meaning keep your people
under control and your resistance censored. meaning we got the loot
and the nukes.

in america, it will be those amongst us who refuse blanket attacks on
the shivering. those of us who work toward social justice, in
support of civil liberties, in opposition to hateful foreign
policies.

i have never felt less american and more new yorker, particularly
brooklyn, than these past days. the stars and stripes on all these
cars and apartment windows represent the dead as citizens first, not
family members, not lovers.

i feel like my skin is real thin, and that my eyes are only going to
get darker. the future holds little light.

my baby brother is a man now, and on alert, and praying five times a
day that the orders he will take in a few days time are righteous and
will not weigh his soul down from the afterlife he deserves.

both my brothers - my heart stops when i try to pray - not a beat to
disturb my fear. one a rock god, the other a sergeant, and both
palestinian, practicing muslim, gentle men. both born in brooklyn
and their faces are of the archetypal arab man, all eyelashes and
nose and beautiful color and stubborn hair.

what will their lives be like now?

over there is over here.

7. all day, across the river, the smell of burning rubber and limbs
floats through. the sirens have stopped now. the advertisers are
back on the air. the rescue workers are traumatized. the skyline is
brought back to human size. no longer taunting the gods with its
height.

i have not cried at all while writing this. i cried when i saw those
buildings collapse on themselves like a broken heart. i have never
owned pain that needs to spread like that. and i cry daily that my
brothers return to our mother safe and whole.

there is no poetry in this. there are causes and effects. there are
symbols and ideologies. mad conspiracy here, and information we will
never know. there is death here, and there are promises of more.

there is life here. anyone reading this is breathing, maybe hurting,
but breathing for sure. and if there is any light to come, it will
shine from the eyes of those who look for peace and justice after the
rubble and rhetoric are cleared and the phoenix has risen.

affirm life.
affirm life.
we got to carry each other now.
you are either with life, or against it.
affirm life.

Writing is an act of intuition, a whispered voice, a tightening of the gut. It is an irrevocable promise to not forget what the body holds as memory.

– Cherrie Moraga from An Irrevocable Promise: Staging the Story Xicana 

(Source: mzkora, via kalisherni)

meerasethi:

These are two drafts of a new poster as part of my political poster series. I am working on creating a poster in support of non gmo cotton production in India. The approach I have taken with these is to use mid-century graphic design from the golden age of travel and mimic vintage Indian travel posters commissioned by the Indian government between the 1940s and 80s. These vintage posters would illustrate a place in India followed by the words “See India” or “Visit India” and a place name such as “Kashmir” or “Banaras”.

My intention with this approach has been to give the viewer something unexpected by not illustrating a beautiful lush “exotic” landscape, but instead drawing attention to the epidemic of farmer suicides in India where every 30 minutes one farmer commits suicide. The little blue seeds in the foreground of the bottom poster gesture to genetically modified cotton seeds (Bt cotton) sold by agri-chemical giant Monsanto which controls 95% of the cotton seed planted in India under the brand “Mahyco”. To learn more read this article by Indian environmental activist and eco-feminist Vandana Shiva where she says: “Monsanto’s seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of superprofits in the form of royalties, and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures has created a context for debt, suicides and agrarian distress which is driving the farmers’ suicide epidemic in India. This systemic control has been intensified with Bt cotton. That is why most suicides are in the cotton belt.”

The final poster is still in production. I have taken a completely different direction with that using the aesthetic of old botanical illustrations to make a connection between farmer suicides and GMO cotton production. It will be launched this week.

(via coalitionofsouthasianpeoples)