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December 5, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Textbook | International Political Economy of Everyday Life

Many textbooks imply that their traditions of thought are equally useable by everyone everywhere. Yet looking more closely at who is speaking within the theory and on whose behalf tells us that this cannot be the case. These supposedly neutral concepts emerge from historical and cultural origins that are far more contested and hierarchical. For instance, John Hobson has recently argued that Marxist theories of world politics tend to celebrate and ultimately defend Western civilisation, while David Blaney and Naeem Inayatullah have shown how liberal scholarship has deliberately downplayed the violence of colonial capitalism in its defence of economic progress. Despite such colonial lineages, liberal concepts like ‘the market’ and ‘trade’ are unlikely to have their neutrality questioned. They tend to be seen in benign terms, as conversational facilitators, much in the manner of other forms of basic vocabulary. However, scholars in a tradition of thought known as post-colonialism have long argued that the constitution of such concepts in historical circumstances of Empire is very definitely consequential. To take just one example, between the concept of ‘work’ and the concept of ‘property’ scholars like Robbie Shilliam have sought to highlight how practices of slavery raise all kinds of difficult ethical and political questions about how we come to know markets. From this viewpoint, seemingly benign concepts can mask violent political histories within the global economy. More here.

November 30, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Denzel Washington And Viola Davis On Adapting ‘Fences’ And Honoring August Wilson

finally watched “fences” last night and loved the film. viola davis and denzel washington are both absolutely stunning but what really got me were the words. august wilson has famously said: “blues is the bedrock of everything i do” and so i like how jake coyle reviewed the film:

The blues music of “Fences” sings with a ferocious beauty in Denzel Washington’s long-in-coming adaptation of August Wilson’s masterpiece of African-American survival and sorrow. Transfers from stage to screen often serve up only a pale reflection of the electric, live-wire theater experience. But Washington, in his good sense, has neither strained to make August’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play particularly cinematic nor to “open it up” much from the confines of the staged settings. What we have, instead, is a meat-and-potatoes drama, delivered with full-bodied, powerhouse performances and an attuned ear to the bebop rhythms of Wilson’s dense, musical dialogue.

denzel washington has signed a deal with HBO to translate the remaining 9 plays into film. what a treat that will be. listen here.

November 26, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Is Lena Dunham’s ‘hipster racism’ just old-fashioned prejudice?

Arwa Mahdawi: If hipster racism is basically just racism, why bother with the “hipster” bit? Why qualify it? As Dubrofsky explains, the phrase is “important because it forces us to look at the many different ways racism functions. It also pushes us to look beyond the question of intent.”

She says: “Hipster racism helps us understand that even though someone might not have intended to be racist, they were. Hipster racism also makes apparent that racism is not a result of a lack of formal education. Racism is not only the domain of the supposedly ignorant.”

Hipster racism may be a 21st-century term, but progressives inadvertently perpetuating racism while supposedly challenging it has been happening for centuries. In his book, Kendi chronicles the history of “assimilationist ideas – these are ideas that consider themselves to be well-meaning – they reject a biological hierarchy but believe in a cultural or behavioral hierarchy.” Abolitionists, for example, thought slavery was wrong but also believed it had turned black people into brutes and therefore advocated the civilizing of black people.

In the 20th century, the 1965 Moynihan report famously pathologized black families, arguing that the problems many African Americans were facing were down to the instability of their family structures. This idea persists, that broken black families are to blame for racial inequality in America. You can see it, for example, in a 2015 New York Times op-ed about the Baltimore riots in which David Brooks wrote: “The real barriers to mobility are matters of social psychology, the quality of relationships in a home and a neighborhood.”

With white supremacists marching on the streets, one might be tempted to dismiss hipster racism as not as serious as racism-racism. Hipster racists are not Richard Spencer. But increasingly light is been shed on a type of unwitting racism that, at best, trivializes people’s experience. And that is no laughing matter. More here.

November 25, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Gesturing Refugees May 2017

Gesturing Refugees (2017 work in progress): The performance intends to archive latent stories of refugeehood using the bodies of refugee artists and the audience as the main archive, while playing with other archive material, testimonies and imagination. The archives will include present, past and even future stories of refugeehood to try and interrogate collective responsibility and find bridges between the past and present of the West. The re-enactment, transformation and deformation of the alternative and personal memories of refugees by refugee artists will allow the re-appropriation of the narrative of refugeehood and develop a collective gestural identity that might challenge that of passive victimhood to which refugees are often subjected. The performance already faced many obstacles related to visa denial to artists and the impossibility of their physical encounter, which added up another formal layer to the performance.

Gesturing Refugees May 2017 from Farah Saleh on Vimeo.

November 25, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Forget Pinkwashing, its Brownwashing Time: Self-Orientalizing on the US Campus

GIL HOCHBERG: Why does an organization like SSI [Students Supporting Israel] feel the need to “celebrate Semitism” and parade Ethiopians, Yemenites, and Druze in order to make historical claims of belonging and ownership? And why the sudden need to create the pretense of a coalition with the indigenous people in North America? The answers are to be found in the logic of political tactic and not in the realm of a real existential identity transformation. In other words, Orientalism–which here functions also as self-Orientalism–is meant to do political work, masking settler colonialism with the language and images of nativism. But what is the political work of self-Orientalizing? What is gained by associating Zionism with the struggles of Native peoples and people of color? Correctly identifying past and present trends of the liberal and the radical left (the focus of indigenous rights, multiculturalism, and siding with the colonized and the oppressed) SSI disdainfully adopts these characteristics in order to unarm leftist critique. Indeed, if Israelis are indigenous people returning to their colonized lands, their political struggle must be considered valid and progressive. More here.

November 23, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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remembering my father in law

sitting down with family in charlotte, nc, looking at old family pictures. these are photographs of my father in law, muiz uddin ahmed, who left us way too soon, along with letters he wrote to his father maulana salahuddin ahmed. they’re dated 1954-7.

my father in law muiz uddin ahmed