Engaging with blogs

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This isn't really a good example of pedagogy but it made me think a lot about engaging with resistance in the classroom

I recently saw an old Hindi movie called 'Ijaazat' made in 1987. It was about a man who falls in love with a free-spirited woman but has been engaged since childhood to another woman arranged by his grandfather. Afraid to speak to his grandfather about it, he mentions it to his 'friend' Sudha- who's characterized as the traditional, patient, sacrificing, 'Indian' woman. To cut a long story short, he ends up deserting the girl he loves (Maya) for Sudha. The rest of the movie shows his genuine and sincere attempts to do the 'right' and 'true' thing with Sudha though Maya's shadow is always between them. The movie is very poetic throughout highlighting the tensions for every character between what should be done, how they should behave and their empathetic feelings for the ones whom they love including the 'other' woman.

Anyway, the point of this post is that this blog http://memsaabstory.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/ijaazat-1987/ criticized the movie in very love and hate terms. A crucial point is that she doesn't know the language which has great implications in how much the movie is understood given the centrality of poetry to the movie. Further, the context of societal pressures regarding arranged marriage, womanhood are very different. I made a comment about why I liked the movie as it was bold in challenging certain norms. I also made a critique regarding the eurocentrism of her post and called for humility while judging the movie in black and white terms.

In response, two Indians and the author wrote that I was not humble enough to acknowledge differences in opinion- and the discussion moved on to liking and disliking a movie as opposed to understanding the cultural contexts in which the movie was made, for what purpose, how was it resisting certain discourses while reproducing others. Her argument was that she has watched 100s of Hindi movies, loves some and hates some and those are her opinions and that it was insulting of me to term her eurocentric when it is just not possible for her to use an 'Indian' lens.

These comments left me wondering whether I was discouraging people from dominant cultures in understanding and engaging with a Third world culture, even if that meant tokenizing the 'arranged marriage system' as something wierd. Was the male character merely spineless or was it a commentary about oppressive discourse? Why was the martyr character portrayed as a traditional, sacrificing woman wearing a saree, a teacher of Indian classical music? Why was the free-spirited woman wearing western attire, poetic, dreamy, adventurous and lively and also selfish, naive and emotionally unstable? In the classroom, how do you go beyond the discussion of liking and disliking cultural products? When is it okay to leave it at "I agree to disagree"? What does it mean to be eurocentric? To quote the author- "Like that's a bad thing? or even avoidable when you're a westerner? :-)" How do you critique a positionality? My intention wasn't to be insulting, but since I was commenting in a blog I needed to be more careful about how I presented what I said. Is a blog a private space or a public one? Do you engage differently in a forum and a blog?

2 Comments

Blogs are mostly "public" spaces but it seems the author(s) or administrators of the blog have veto or blocking power. This then indicates, like you discovered, they don't want an open forum or debate to exist about a topic unless it is agreeable to their own perspective. I wanted to congratulate how brave and forward you were to challenge these strangers and try to engage in a debate with them. While they were unreceptive and blocked you from further comments, they still "heard" your side of things.

You ask some important questions in this blog about how voices can be taken differently in blogs or forums. And I don't think you needed to censor yourself too much because you just pointed out your own opinion of the movie and her response to it. Its interesting that she became so defensive of her comments, but I think that its your right in a blog to voice what concerns you in someone else's reading of a work-- as long as it is not personally offensive. Do you regularly comment on blogs?

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