meeting madeline

with the lovely madeline del toro churney at druthers coffee today. yes, it was a sunny day but a lot of what u see in this picture is madeline, full of knowledge, humor and light. one of my life’s greatest accomplishments is the connection/friendships with extraordinary people, esp women of color. thrilled to continue that tradition here on long island. madeline teaches anthropology at stony brook and i am excited to say, will be one of the panelists for a post-screening community discussion related to a new short film i will be working on next year. more soon.

part of nature

i try to take breaks in between editing (which requires sitting at a computer for long periods of time, staring intently at a screen).

it’s super windy today, so much so that temperatures feel 10 degrees lower than they are. the husband was too cozy reading his book, so i put on my hat and jacket, grabbed my ski gloves and went to west meadow wetlands reserve (next to our house) for a 45 min walk.

i half walked, was half carried by the wind. it was invigorating to feel its force on my body and skin. the trees around me were twisting in the same gusty gale, the grass flattened by it, combed with little bits of sunlight, a few obstinate leaves held on to their branches like yellow tongues licking the sky, everything imbued with a deceptively warm rusty glow.

the clouds waited patiently, capturing and refracting each shade and emotion. the sun finally set in a climactic scene, birds windsurfed overhead, deer walked by me as if it was the most natural thing in the world. what a beautiful home, our planet. it’s the lifeblood that activates our minds and bodies. grateful to be alive, to be present.

highlights from my playlist: tu aja (remix by DJ usman bhatti), yamaha (dacosta), more than this (roxy music), 1979 (the smashing pumpkins), island in the sun (weezer), and float on (modest mouse)

My questions for Shirly Bahar

The obligatory selfie after a satisfying dinner. It was a full house at Hofstra on Nov 9th for a discussion about Shirly Bahar’s book, ‘Documentary Cinema in Israel-Palestine: Performance, the Body, the Home,’ and my film, ‘The Injured Body.’ Here are my questions for Shirly:

1) You say that although oppression and racialization have impacted Palestinians and Mizrahim differently, the documentaries you discuss in the book share a political commitment and performative affinities. They defy the removal of the pain of Israel’s marginalized people from public visibility.

You discuss how documentary performances of pain by Palestinians and Mizrahim, when seen together, invite us to contest the segregation of pain and consider reconnection. Could you elaborate on that?

2) There is one sentence in your book which hit me hard. It is the commonly held notion that ‘the trauma of witnessing destruction directly harms the usage of language.’

Meaning that those who are occupied (on whose minds and bodies violence is constantly enacted) are never seen as credible witnesses of their own pain, of their own lived experiences, based on dominant codes of credibility. It’s like the gaslighting I was talking about in the context of microaggressions. You take issue with this notion. Could you tell us more?

3) Since we are talking about language and violence, I also wanted to bring up the constant threat of violence. You talk about Palestinian children experiencing ‘withheld violence.’

Your words reminded me of Fanon of course, and the muscular contraction of the colonized body. What does this imply in the P/I context?

4) I would like to end with something you say in the book, that ‘it takes perpetual learning and training to try and relate to the pain of others in a politically informed and committed manner.’

You also say: ‘More often than not, those who care for the pain of others are found in relative vulnerability themselves—political, physical, mental—thus chancing their becoming further undone.’

I think of the #BLM movement and its principled support for justice in Palestine. Could you expand on this important point.

To become undone is the greatest gift

From Shirly Bahar’s Documentary Cinema in Israel-Palestine: Performance, the Body, the Home:

More often than not, those who care for the pain of others are found in relative vulnerability themselves—political, physical, mental—thus chancing their becoming further undone. But as Tourmaline inspires us to believe, “if we are to ever make it to the next revolution, it will be through becoming undone, an undoing that touches ourselves and touches each other and all the brokenness we are … to become undone is the greatest gift to ourselves.”

The Injured Body: Palestine, Mizrahi Jews, and the Imperial Politics of Color

The brilliant Shirly Bahar and I will be talking about documentary film, colonialism, racism, and the body at Hofstra University on Nov 9, 4:30-5:45pm. It’s a free event but you need to register. More info below.

Join us for a conversation between Shirly Bahar and Mara Ahmed about their recent scholarly and creative work related to oppression and the body. Bahar’s recent book, “Documentary Cinema in Israel-Palestine: Performance, the Body, the Home,” and Ahmed’s upcoming film, “The Injured Body,” both explore how colonialism, marginalization, and daily mental and emotional stresses from racism and othering impact the body. The conversation will spotlight documentary language that makes embodied oppression visible in comparative and global perspectives (in the context of settler colonialism and imperialism), touching on the pain of Palestinians, Mizrahi Jews and people of color, especially women, in the United States. The idea is to shift conventional paradigms of war, conflict and segregated geographies by focusing on (and politicizing) lived experiences of pain and understanding their interrelatedness. The evening will also feature film excerpts.

This ‘Issues in Judaism’ lecture is presented by Hofstra Cultural Center and the Dept of Religion and Jewish Studies, in collab with the depts of History, Global Studies & Geography, Comparative Literature, Languages, & Linguistics, and the Women’s Studies and European Studies Programs.

Thank you to the wonderful Santiago Slabodsky for putting this event together.
Venue: Leo Guthart Cultural CenterTheater, Joan and Donald Axinn Library, First Floor, South Campus

To register go to: hofstra.edu/culture. Or call 516.463.5669. Or go to this link.

from the metamorphosis by franz kafka

it’s incredible that this book (written in 1912) continues to be a propos, fascinating, a literary feat today, in 2022, exactly 110 years later. it provokes disbelief and uproarious laughter, remains steadfast as a masterpiece, and ends with heartbreaking pathos.

there are as many interpretations of ‘the metamorphosis’ as there are readers (and that means a lot). some believe that gregor samsa “like other of kafka’s doomed protagonists, errs by failing to act, instead allowing himself to be acted upon.” others draw comparisons to willy loman from ‘death of a salesman’ and write about the degradation of modern capitalist work. there are those who see a freudian twist to the story and focus on gregor’s overbearing father. still others think the metamorphosis relates to gregor’s sister, grete, and her evolution over the course of the novella.

my take is sobering. to me the metamorphosis is about othering. the idea of otherness has been addressed elsewhere but mostly in terms of gregor’s own alienation, loss of identity, and lack of agency.

i see othering that can make someone seem ugly, disgusting, and less than human. without being threatening, difference can be turned into something dangerous and attacked with impunity. and this change can happen overnight, so that the other can now be crushed underfoot, starved to death, and left to die.

in the same way, children can be arrested, villages bombed, people tortured with the benediction of the law, and those committing the violence whine about being the victims. it’s always the monster who forces their hand.

#themetamorphosis#franzkafka#othering#difference#violence#selfvictimization#theotherisamonster