All posts by mara.ahmed

Not Every Radical Philosophy is Decolonial | Contending Modernities

Santiago Slabodsky: I invite my reader, therefore, to think of the revolutionary representation of radical continental philosophy as a colonially sanctioned dissent that universalizes a provincial difference while invisibilizing the underside of modernity. Coloniality not only monopolizes the only sanctioned path to universal redemption—in what Anibal Quijano calls evolutionism—but also selects its legitimate form of dissent. This is perhaps one of the most perdurable modern strategies of coloniality. In the now famous debate of Valladolid (1550–1551), conceived by critics as one of the most influential legitimizations of early modern racism, the imperial state appointed Euro-Christian theologian-philosophers to discuss “the nature” of Natives. In this discussion, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, retrieving Aristotle, offers one of the first modern formulations of biological racism and proposes to forcefully convert Natives into subservient Christians. Bartolomé de las Casas, enthroned as the radical and later liberationist alternative, develops one of the first formulations of cultural racism, insisting on Natives’ adaptability through conversion without physical force. If for the continental philosopher there is no possibility of thinking outside Europe, for the colonially appointed philosopher of religion there is no possibility of existence outside a totalizing Christian framework. More here.

The Injured Body: Greta Niu

Transcribing interviews for my new doc ‘The Injured Body’

Greta Aiyu Niu, came to Rochester as an academic, now Director of Grants at Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, lifelong teacher, reflects on micro-aggressions:

‘I just don’t want to lose sight of what makes up the micro-aggressions. So it is implicit biases around race or ethnicity or gender or gender expression or class or size or disability, those are the pieces that we’ve been fighting. And we’ve always been fighting against them. I don’t want people to think we’re done with that. Now all we have to deal with are these micro-aggressions. It’s a whole continuum of behaviors that are harmful, from a little poke to physical violence.’
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#microaggressions #racism #womenofcolor #film #documentary#theinjuredbody #neelumfilms #microaggressionsareracism #microaggressionsarereal

The Injured Body: Lu Highsmith

Transcribing interviews for my new doc ‘The Injured Body’

Lu LutonyaRachel Highsmith is a poet, writer, and community activist. She is the founder and director of Roc Bottom Slam Team.

On how she processed racist micro aggressions she experienced in college:

‘As an 18 year old, my initial reaction was anger. I was really ticked off that they would say these things or even think these things. This was the late 80s, so it’s not like it was back in the 50s or 60s. I was very upset. I don’t know if it caused me to try to prove myself. I was on a mission to excel academically, culturally, creatively. It probably took a good 20 years for me to change my mindset. By my mid-30s, I was like, I’m just who I am.’
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#microaggressions #racism #womenofcolor #film #documentary#microaggressionsareracism #theinjuredbody #neelumfilms

Bari Weiss Is Leaving the New York Times

No wonder she was whining, along with other people with massive followings/powerful platforms (J. K. Rowling, Fareed Zakaria, Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie, etc), about ‘free speech.’ Now she’s gone and self-expelled herself from the NYT. More of this sea change please.

Here is Greenwald on Bari Weiss: In her short tenure, Weiss has given the paper exactly what it apparently wanted when it hired her. She has churned out a series of trite, shallow, cheap attacks on already-marginalized left-wing targets that have made her a heroine in the insular neocon and right-wing intelligentsia precincts in which she, Bret Stephens, and so many other NYT op-ed writers reside. Exactly as she was doing a decade ago as a “pro-Israel” activist at Columbia and thereafter at various neocon media perches, her formula is as simple as it is predictable: She channels whatever prevailing right-wing grievance exists about colleges, Arabs or Israel critics (ideally, all of those) into a column that’s supposed to be “provocative” because it maligns minority activists or fringe positions that are rarely given platforms on the New York Times op-ed page. More here.

Natalie Diaz: ‘It is an important and dangerous time for language’

Sandeep Parmar: …she distrusts institutional power. “What is knowledge for an indigenous person? The things that I know are only considered knowledge if someone outside finds value in it. A large part of my work in the university is to teach my Native students that the things they know and are part of their practice of living – caretaking the land, caretaking their family, the ways we know weather – those things are research. And not just because a white academic studies us and declares there’s value in it.”

Equally, she is critical of “mastery” and the fixities of poetic craft. Her own use of traditional forms and allusions – Ashbery, Whitman and Sexton appear, as do Borges, Homer and Lorca – are means of expanding rather than circumscribing her practice. Poetry is a way to hold knowing to account and craft is “an exchange of different knowledge systems”. Sometimes to listen to Diaz speak about aesthetics is to overhear a longing more private than a mere laying out of the poet’s tools.

Community and correspondence pervade her work, as does a lyric self that shifts into the bodies of her “beloveds”: a brother, friend, mother or a lover. If love is a radical becoming, desire is a search for what’s possible.

“Most of us live in a state of impossibility,” Diaz says, by which I think she means not the inverse of hopefulness but an awareness of the limitations of an individual life. Impossibility as a state of desire, a will towards rebuilding. “In Mojave, our words for want and need are the same – because why would you want what you don’t need? For me, that’s true desire. Desire isn’t frivolous, it’s what life is.” More here.

The Injured Body: Ayni Ali

As I transcribe interviews for my new documentary, The Injured Body, I will be posting short excerpts from the conversations we filmed (cinematography by Rajesh Barnabas). 

Here is Ayni Ali: 24 at the time of filming, a student at RIT, and a volunteer for Refugees Helping Refugees.

Her answer to where her drive (the fire that seems to animate her actions and words) comes from: 

‘I think from being raised by a woman (laughs). I was raised by my grandmother. I’ve had strong women around me all this time. 

[…] Because I was raised by a woman, I know what a woman can do.’
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#theinjuredbody #muslimwomen #woc #womenofcolor #somalia #refugee#film #documentary #neelumfilms #microaggressions #racism

Belgian Princess Condemns Her Family’s Brutal Colonial History in Congo & Calls for Reparations

finally. from the time i was in school and there was no mention of the genocidal violence in the congo in any of our textbooks, to the normalization of racist children’s songs and images that permeated belgian culture, to 2016 when an audio tour of brussels talked about king leopold II as a benevolent king who liked to build and left the country with a proud legacy, this is not a second too soon. the damage didn’t end with colonization. so much more needs to be done.

Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S. have sparked a reckoning about racism and colonialism across the world, including in Belgium, where a growing movement is demanding the country address systemic racism and make amends for its violent colonial legacy. More here.

Letter to Sylvia Wynter

beautiful, lucid, unflinching writing by Ariella Azoulay. an exploration of what ‘judeo-christian’ means to someone with arab jewish ancestry.

‘This lesson of Frenchness, standardization, eradication has a name in French: laïcité. The term “secularism” doesn’t quite capture the stripping bare the worldliness, or being-in-the-world, of a person, which laïcité requires. Part of solving the “Jewish question” in Europe required the refashioning Jews as secular Europeans (who could still be “Jews” at home) before they could go in public. With the French conquest of Algeria, the Jews were singled out from the Arabs and were made into a “problem,” forced to get rid of what identified them as indigenous, so that a few decades later the colonial regime could reward them for their efforts with the gift of French citizenship. Thinking of this “Judeo-Christian” bargain in relation to the state process of laicité helped me. As my interlocutor, you helped me to identify the “Christian” component in the secular Jew.

Your uninterrogated use of the term—Judeo-Christian—assumes a readership that recognizes itself in it. If you could have anticipated a reaction like mine while you wrote, I am inclined to think that you would have asked more questions about it. It’s true, some of your Jewish readers, and maybe also some Christians, may find this category reassuring, a confirmation that the post-WWII bargain, the one which promised Jews whiteness and welcomed them into the Christian-secular world, and offered Christians a way out of their guilt, is respected. I’m Jewish, but I am not one of these readers, and I’m not alone.’ More here.

One Must Sing Before Tongues Are Tied: A Poet On Art And Survival In Kashmir Post Article 370

Urvashi Bahuguna: In her poem “Lightness of Being in a Heavily Militarised Zone”, whose title is inspired by Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, Kashmiri poet, filmmaker and academic Asiya Zahoor writes:

“before they lay barbed wire
across our tongues
let’s sing of almond blossoms”

More than a month after the abrupt abrogation of Article 370 and the plunging of Kashmir into a state of lockdown, without internet connectivity or functioning telephone lines, Zahoor’s writing is instructive and perceptive, tackling the history and landscape of a place that has known devastating strife for decades. There is an urgency in Zahoor’s poems that feels particularly pertinent at this moment in history – time and freedom are both running out.

Born and raised in Baramulla, in the west of Kashmir, where she currently teaches, Zahoor’s newly published book of poems, Serpents Under My Veil, opens with “Medusa In A Burkha”, a radical reimagining of the Greek myth that perceived a certain kind of woman as dangerous.

The burkha-wearing Medusa is a threat twice over – she is both a woman and part of a religious minority that is often at the receiving end of suspicion and bigotry. Dreams, reimaginings, and personifications recur in Zahoor’s poems. More here.

The Empire of All Maladies by Nick Estes

Nick Estes: The United States has a long history of sacrificing or killing off groups of people—through war or disease or both—in the name of its self-proclaimed destiny. This belief in the country’s violent superiority was already evident among the early Puritans, who attributed the mass die-off of Indigenous peoples to divine intervention. “God hath so pursued them” John Winthrop, the Puritan leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote of the Indigenous to the King of England in 1634.

[…] To blind themselves to the destruction they wrought, colonizers wove cultural fictions about the “vastness” of a continent devoid of human civilization—terra nullius—and thus open for white European settlement. (This was an early ideological ancestor of the Zionist phrase, “a land without a people for a people without a land,” that has come to justify the expulsion and colonization of Palestinians.) General Henry Knox, the revolutionary war hero and the United States’ first secretary of war, was less confused about how the land was emptied. He recalled “the utter extirpation of all the Indians in the most populous parts of the Union” by measures “more destructive to the Indian natives than the conduct of the conquerors of Mexico and Peru.” No small feat.

The imperial project wasn’t confined to what became the continental United States. It soon turned outward, as the settler state exported the horrors it had committed against the Indigenous to the rest of the planet. Most historians have failed to draw what are obvious connections between heightened rates of infection and conditions of war, invasion, and colonialism. We need only look at the cholera outbreak in Yemen to see the relationship of disease to U.S. foreign policy. No one is disputing the fact that the infection of millions and the deaths of thousands there at the hands of this preventable disease are the result of a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war, which has destroyed Yemen’s health care infrastructure. It shouldn’t surprise us to learn that one in four surgical amputations conducted at Red Cross centers in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen are the result of diabetes. These three countries have been the staging ground for U.S.-backed military interventions and invasions that have disrupted critical food and medical supply chains.

Economic sanctions, frequently hailed by politicians of all stripes as a “humane” alternative to war, are simply war by another means. U.S. sanctions currently hit hard in thirty-nine countries—one-third of humanity—causing currency inflation and devaluation and upsetting the distribution of medicine, food, power, water treatment, and other human needs. A 2019 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Studies found that U.S. sanctions on Venezuela accounted for an estimated forty thousand deaths and a loss of $6 billion in oil revenue between 2017 and 2018. As Iran began to experience increased rates of coronavirus infection, the country faced medical supply shortages because of sanctions. While countries like China and Cuba, themselves both sanctioned by the United States, provided international aid to other countries suffering from the pandemic, Trump actively prevented other countries from adequately responding to the crisis.

Indigenous scholars have long contested the “virgin-soil epidemics” thesis. Today, it is clear that the disease thesis simply doesn’t hold up. More here.

yesterday we had ramen at boru noodle bar, on broadway. their crispy brussels sprouts were good but my daughter said the ramen simply didn’t compare to nyc.

ben and jerry’s for ice cream at 33 bannister’s wharf – way too crowded so we made a quick exit. today we went for a walk at fort adams state park. tried going to the beach but no parking.