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Fahmida Riaz, the woman who decolonised feminism

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The great Urdu poet Fahmida Riaz left us on November 22nd, 2018:

‘Fahmida, who had read Fanon and Assia Djebar at the University of Sindh, knew that the veil was a crucial motif in several contexts of decolonisation. She loathed this male form of decolonisation. Fanon himself has spoken of the colonial project as “Algeria Unveiled” in A Dying Colonialism, describing Algeria as a veiled woman threatened to be unveiled by the coloniser, a metaphor for rape, as Rita Faulker later observed.

In such male iterations of the decolonial, Algeria was depicted as a woman who must refuse colonialism, in response, by taking on the veil. The woman was nothing but an object, a commodity in the nation making of men.

Fahmida’s first poems, therefore, were haunted with what Gayatri Spivak would call “a knowing, in her gendering, that nation and identity are commodities in the strictest sense: something made for exchange. And women are the medium of that exchange.”

Badan Dareeda became the first expression of a decolonialisation which was not male: which did not exclude the female subject. Fahmida, quite literally and all by herself, heralded a new movement in the Urdu language: she practically started what my generation would call decolonial feminism. More here.

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