An Ode to the Internet and Other Things

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In class last week, Professor Zenzele asked us to consider who walked with us. The request came from a section of M. Jacqui Alexander's Pedagogies of Crossing entitled "Knowing Who Walks with You: The Making of Sacred Subjectivity" (2005:300).

I floundered in class to come up with a 'respectable' answer,in part because I don't consider myself to be super spiritual, at least not at this point in my life.

However, I did come up with a few more, uh, practical, answers about the work that seems to regularly inspire me, and to which I often turn for guidance. I thought of this in class, but I felt somewhat ashamed to say it:

The internet is one of my biggest sources of inspiration.

As much as I loathe the internet, and hate how being on a computer for extended periods of time makes me *feel*, I know that I have encountered an amazing amount of material, articles, discussions, and arguments that have consistently sparked my thoughts. From Tumblr to online academic journals, the ease with which I can access information online is pretty awesome.

On thing about the internet that I find especially valuable is the unique online community I have access to. My alma mater, Grinnell College, has an online platform called Plans, a text-only program that might be somewhere between Facebook and a blog. Everyone has their own account or profile with a nearly unlimited amount of space to list information about themselves and, more importantly, have conversations with other Plans users. This past week was an especially active one, in which there was a heated discussion about sexual assault and redistributive justice. People considered what accountability could have and should have looked like on campus, and what it could and should look like in our online community and everyday life. (Andrea Smith's Conquest was actually quite helpful here.) In the context of this conversation, I and others posted links to articles, zines, and blogs that also took up this topic in alternative ways.

But this is not to say that the internet is my *sole* source of inspiration. While I cannot think of a single author who consistently guides my work (and perhaps this is another result of growing up as part of the Internet generation), I am regularly in awe of the work put out by South End Press. I can honestly say that nearly every book of theirs that I have read has pretty dramatically shifted how I think about the world (including, of course, Andrea Smith's Conquest). I have listed some of my personal favorites below:

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This was the first South End book I encountered as an undergraduate. Especially coming from Sociology, the idea that criminal-legal issues could be articulated from a radical standpoint was pretty mind blowing.

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If you are interested in nonprofits and social change, this is the book for you! Like so many South End Press books, I had personally suspected a lot of what this book is about, but never before had the language to articulate it.

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Peter Gelderloos's How Nonviolence Protects the State smashed (pun intended!) many of my deeply held beliefs about what change can and should look like.

Age, Activism, and Memory

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There have been quite a few stories about the 20th anniversary of the LA riots this past week, but this story on Cololines, "Children of the LA Riots", caught my eye:

http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/04/two_decades_later_young_voices_on_the_la_riots.html/

I found the idea of centering kids' perspectives in a historical event incredibly intriguing. Age is something that we haven't talked a lot about in class. How does age affect our perception of our place in the world, and how are we read as having a specific place in the world because of our age? Children-- and in other ways, the elderly-- are often sidelined as historical actors. These videos forces us to take seriously young people in prominent historical moments. Though these folks were quite young at the time, they still have significant memories of the riots. And notably, none of these memories are individual ones. They are mostly memories of their relations to other people who were there-- moms, fathers, friends, cousins, siblings, neighbors. Therefore, even as children, they shaped the roles, experiences, and memories of many others who were there.

The second thing these videos bring up is the complexity of remembering as adults things that happened to us as children. What kind of frameworks are these folks using to recall their experiences and feelings, and how might that differ if we talked to them 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago? And does that even matter? If we consider memory and history as socially constructed, then perhaps is doesn't matter as long as we make those assumptions clear and use those assumptions to shape our analysis of those memories and histories. As Anzaldua, Blackwell, and other have shown, being both critical of and creative with memory and the creation of history is crucial for envisioning a new world.

And though it might be uncommon to take seriously adult's recollections of historical events that occurred when they were children, it seems even less common to take seriously children's visions for the future.

Pedagogies of Crossing Handout

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Pedagogies of crossing -handout.pdf

Hi everyone,

Attached is the handout for tomorrow's class discussion on Jacqui Alexander's Pedagogies of Crossing. I did not include much of a summary as I feel that the chapters cover a wide range of topics and I do not trust myself to write a summary that will do justice to text itself.

I have tried to keep the questions broad and we can include other themes from the text that you would like to discuss.

See you all tomorrow!

andrea smith - discussion questions?

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hi everyone!

I enjoyed reading Conquest, though very difficult at times to grapple with the violence she depicts in the text. What did people think of her incorporation of these stories/testimonies of violence?

As an American Studies student, I am really interested in empire and colonization which contrast from these related processes that occur in the Asia-Pacific and shape Asian American and Peminist feminisms. I thought her last chapter was really insight(incite)ful, as she writes, "consolidating U.S. empire abroad is predicated on consolidating U.S. empire within U.S. borders," and links this with violence that happens "out there" and at "home" (177-78). As Smith convincingly, in my opinion, delegitimizes the U.S. and writes, "our overall strategy should not be premised on the notion that the u.s. should or will always continue to exist" (50-51), how does her position complicate our use of the category "U.S. Third World women of color?" How might American Indian feminism and their ongoing histories with colonialism fit within the various categories we have been using (e.g. Third World women of color, women of color)?

I'm also interested in Smith's discussion of "nation" vs. "nation-state" and Native spiritual conceptions of sovereignty, and how these might inform women of color feminism's engagements with (cultural) nationalism and organizing within and beyond the boundaries of the U.S. empire/nation/state. Similarly, I think comparing and contrasting the role of spirituality, in which for American Indians spirituality is tied to the land, across women of color's different experiences with colonialism and decolonization might be interesting (e.g. Peminism, Gloria Anzaldua, Joy James).

I think this is a great book that truly is written for a wide audience of activists and scholars. It not only offers critique, but tangible political praxis and vision and is engaged with grassroots women of color organizing.

see you all tomorrow!
mingwei

PETA and "the greening of hate"

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In anticipation of our discussion of Conquest on Thursday, I thought I would post the link to some of the "feministing" blog's discussions of PETA and how they are horrible and racist and sexist in the name of saving baby animals. You can go here and check out any of the articles. Or you can just go here to see a commercial that jokes about domestic violence in order to encourage us to go vegan. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go put cheese on something.

dancing as memory?

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So I've been thinking a lot about memory lately. The subject has come up a lot in our readings and many of us have considered the idea of retrofitted memory as a way of doing archival research in ways that make known the multiplicity of experiences and rememberances. I'm not in love with the idea of retrofitted memory because it treats memory as something that happened in the past. What I am more in love with is a more embodied way of thinking about memory as something that happens in the present. I like to think of memory not simply as a relationship to things that happened in the past but rather more of a way of relating that happens between people in the present. Although memory happens within a single body, it's useless unless it can be communicated across many bodies. So... I think the question of embodiment is crucial to really understanding the ways that memories are carried both in the body and between different bodies.

One of the really important ways (some--certainly not all) young women (and men) of color are engaging with memory happens through dance. A more committed scholar might go back through the history of some of the more popular place-based dance moves and trace the ways those moves have migrated across the country and through time. For example, when I was in high school everybody was all about the song "let me see you squirrel". People were squirreling. Right now, as Zenzele mentioned, it's about the "cat daddy". People are cat daddying. A few years ago, people were all about "teach me how to dougie". All three of these dances have similarities with each other. They all represent an engagement with both the individual body and the way that body interacts with freedom, oppression, shame, joy, sexuality, survival... the list could go on.

As an example, I've found a somewhat recent video of variations of the Cat Daddy and the Douggie. The dances require a ton of skill and work... and memory. As in, you have to work hard to watch how other people are dancing, to memorize the moves they are doing, and to teach your body how to remember those moves. I don't know what I'm getting at here--not entirely, but I do think that dancing as memory and dancing as memory-knowledge is an undervalued currency within communities of color. Moreover, dancing as memory and dancing as memory-knowledge are both instructive, and deconstructive. If you watch the following video, you will notice that there are several instances of men and women transgressing norms of the binary between "masculine" and "feminine" embodiment. You'll see here that both women (and girls) and men (and boys) are moving in ways that they aren't always allowed to move. Lots of people are laughing as they do this. Some people cover their faces. The movements are rich with technical skill and emotion--and most importantly to what I'm trying to say, the dancing captures a moment in time and moves it forward. Knowledge-making in the form of (sometimes) transgressive bodily movements is happening at the intersection of pleasure, celebration, and occasional-but-perfectly-acceptable discomfort. Why can't learning at the university be more like this? Whose interests are protected by relegating this type of knowledge to the realm of entertainment? And how might we make use of embodied memory in our stiff, and silently policed classrooms?

Check it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMpkW7pXpCE&feature=related

I was really struck when reading de Jesus's chapter on Nancy Drew and how much her criticisms of the series reflect a lot of what is currently being said about the TV show Girls.

The show has received substantial positive and negative attention. On the positive side, Girls is supposed to offer a nuanced portrayal of coming of age in the contemporary US. It follows four young women, recent college grads, attempting to find their way in New York City. The main criticism that has been lodged at it has been that is focuses too narrowly on a privileged, white experience.

See critical blog posts about it:
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/04/19/dear-lena-dunham-i-exist/
http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/04/lesly_arfin_lead_writer_of_hbos_girls_referred_to_defecating_as_taking_obama_to_the_white_house.html
http://thehairpin.com/2012/04/where-my-girls-at

Here are some ways that I think this show seems comparable to Nancy Drew:

*Both attempt to show a "different" side of femininity-- while Drew is decidedly independent, the characters on Girls are supposed to be explicitly flawed. And yet, as the Hairpin blog points out, it is precisely this self-awareness that makes the race relations so problematic.

*Both use people of color as only "support" characters, and those that are included are portrayed in stereotypical ways. The only POC characters in the first episode of Girls are a black homeless man who harasses the main character and an Asian woman who basically steals the main character's job. And as we see in the casting call on ColorLines, body type is invoked for multiple WOC characters: a "pleasantly plump Latina" and an "overweight Jamaican nanny".

*Both are based on the plight of privileged white folks, upholding that lifestyle as normative and desirable (even in its flaws).

One primary difference, of course, is that Girls is not (to my knowledge) being explicitly used as an assmiliationist tool. And yet, Girls fits into a longer trajectory of popular media that valorizes white upper-middle-class life, even while presenting a nuanced picture of it. Consider movies like American Beauty or The Kids Are All Right, or books by Jonathan Franzen. Such work, and the accolades they often receive, obviously still leaves a lot to be desired, especially when such accolades could be going to media that presents equally nuanced pictures of other (less white, less privileged) aspects of daily life in the U.S. As the de Jesus chapter pointed out, such re-centering of whiteness and privilege can in fact be quite violent to consumers who don't fit that mold, creating "impossible role model[s]" (46) and leading to "a denigration or negation of self and whole communities of color" (55).

One thing that arose in the blogs and in our discussion in class, but not in the Nancy Drew article, was the question of pleasure. See this quote from the Hairpin: "Cause here's the thing about Girls: as much as I wanted to dislike the show, I couldn't help but love it. And that made it worse.....Because the show (at least the first three episodes) is actually good. It gets So. Many. Things. Right. It's on point again and again, hitting at the high and low notes about being in your twenties, about being on your own and still so far from grown......Girls is good for girls. But which girls? If this show succeeds, what other shows will get made because of it? Probably a half dozen just like it. Who wins, then? And who loses?"

The categories of Asian American/ Asian

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In the innumerable forms that I have had to fill out for various reasons since I moved to the US, I have found it disturbing to indicate my ethnicity/race/place of origin. The category that applies to me is 'Asian' or 'Asian and Pacific Islander'. The discomfort is partly due to the fact that although in India people are divided along million lines, race is not one of them. Also I find that 'Asian' is a category which makes no sense except geographically. And, knowing that it is impossible to have separate 'boxes' for each country on a form does not make me feel any better.
I felt some of the same discomfort while reading Lisa Lowe because she used the category of Asian American extensively. And although I am not an Asian American , I feel that there is not 'Asian American' consciousness that makes it a useful categorization. Lowe mentions that Asian American is not a "natural or static category"; rather it is a strategic category. But I still find it difficult to conceptualize how such a category can be used strategically in the absence of a collective consciousness or common socio-economic political aims/demands from the people who fall under it.

Peminism

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And here is a post about the readings.

A few things struck me about this week's readings. First, the connections to other WOC feminisms (and particularly Anzaldua) were quite prevelant-- from Melinda de Jesus searching through Bridge for writings by Filipinas to the writers' tendency to incorporate poetry and autoethnograpy into their texts to the shared experience of feeling pressured to privilege racial discrimination over sexism.

Particularly because of the creative nature of these pieces, I was very struck by Catherine Ceniza Choy's statement that "after I had entered graduate school, I lost every creative bone in my body." (93) That is a feeling that definitely resonates with me; I feel like graduate school has disciplined me to be so critical and so formulaic in my writing that it is really difficult to write anything that expresses emotion or reflects my own inner world. And I'm becoming increasingly convinced that compelling writing needs to connect the reader to the writer's affective experience. Have any of you had a similar experience, and/or do you have have any suggestions for how to break out of this tendency?

Finally, I was really struck by the way that the dual colonizations of the Philippines have placed Filipina/os in an almost impossible situation. Their oppressions are so layered and intermingled; for example, Leny Mendoza Strobel recalls feeling alienated from her culture when she could not participate in the (Catholic) feistas. Is there potential for the kind of hybridity seen in Filipina/o culture to become political productive, perhaps by providing multiple fronts for coalition with other groups (Catholics, Asians, Latino/as, Third World people, etc.)?

Trayvon Martin and/vs. Prison Abolition

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Hello all,

Anne (Wolf) and I were talking about the ways in which the Trayvon Martin case does or does not challenge our views on Prison Abolition the other day, so I thought I would link to this blog post which discusses the issue. She doesn't really take a firm stance on the issue, but it's food for thought.

Recent Comments

  • Madison: super interesting post! great points about memory, gender, and (de)construction. read more
  • Nithya: Wolf, I have been pondering over the questions you posed read more
  • mingwei: nithya, i definitely agree with your discomfort of the category read more
  • ewwillia: And now, thanks to Anne, I have spent 20 minutes read more
  • wolfx332: In the post you linked to, the writer is telling read more
  • wolfx332: Hey Nithya, Sometimes I teach classes with students from other read more
  • markforester@rocketmail.com: I see why history is so important. The sound, the read more
  • ewwillia: Hey, I've come late to this comment, but I too read more
  • Nithya: I was at Northrop too and was amazed at the read more
  • Nithya: I agree with both you. What bothered me the most read more

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