Obama’s new book

Obama’s new book has been making the rounds. It’s everywhere on social media, much like Michelle Obama’s book a couple of years ago. Both book covers glow with the same photoshop finish, two attractive people a bit shy about the power of their own magnetism. Smart, effortlessly debonair, moneyed. Diametrically opposed to Trump’s vulgarity, civilized in their discourse (“to protest a man in the final hour of his presidency seemed graceless and unnecessary,” he’s written about protests against Bush), and confident in the gushing response from their stans. Obama, the drone president. The man who dropped 26,000 bombs his last year in the White House. Literary rock stars like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith fangirl over his remarkable writing and unimaginably difficult presidential decisions. The decency of his character is assured, in spite of his war crimes. He’s got the Netflix deals after all and the power to gift us Biden. He makes us feel nostalgic for the good old days, when America was truly great. Everyone knows he killed almost 4000 people in 542 drone strikes, deported more than 2.5 million others, and force-fed Muslim men categorized as non-human in Guantanamo. Yet here we are. He didn’t just do the broadly brutal, presidential butchery we expect from American presidents, to keep us safe, he made it more personal. He handled kill lists, droned a 16-year-old American kid in Yemen along with his 17-year-old cousin, started spanking new wars, and called the president of Yemen to halt the release of a journalist reporting on drone casualties in that country. But the boring repetition of these atrocities can easily be set aside. Pictures of dead children or their wailing mothers don’t really register if they’re not wearing the right clothes or speaking the right languages. We can say sensibly that collateral damage is a price we are willing to pay, as long as someone else is actually paying that price. Would we be equally understanding about the droning of our own children for the greater good of the world? Why is that a crazy question? Maybe that’s just how it is these days. Everything whitewashed, packaged like an Apple product, branded like a captivatingly effete IG influencer, and placed adroitly like sponcon. It’s hard to tell the news from the ads or Hollywood films from military propaganda. Everything ground together into a bland paste of vacuity. Makes one hungry for guerrilla filmmaking and some raw, unvarnished truth.

lecture at UR on multiple feminisms

earlier this week i taught a UR class on gender, sexuality and women’s studies about islam and feminism. thank u tanya for inviting me. these are the three women whose work i used to make a case for multiple feminisms.

i talked about saba mahmood’s ‘politics of piety’ and the need to self-parochialize by acknowledging the specificities and limits of one’s own position in the world. she reminds us that western knowledge is not self-sufficient or neutral, that it is divisive, exclusionary and complicit in harm.

i relied on francoise verges for an understanding of decolonial feminism and the problematic relationship between bourgeois women in the global north and women in the global south as well as WOC in the global north – the ones who take care of their children, clean their homes, and do their nails. she questions the meaning of ‘autonomy’ under oppressive systems of militarization, surveillance, obscene inequalities, precariousness and disposability. to her, decolonial feminism is about constant questioning and curiosity, and about decolonizing oneself (examining one’s own prejudices).

finally, houria boutelja confronts savior feminism and the privilege of solidarity. she refuses to answer the question: ‘is islam compatible with feminism?’ and tells us that the submissive muslim woman is a myth – she’s never met one. i cannot thank these women scholars and activists enough for their sharp analysis and powerful work. so many of us stand on their shoulders.

The Pandemic Is Entering A Dangerous New Chapter. Here Are The Week’s Big Takeaways

‘The latest prediction from the modeling group at the University of Washington predicts that more than 2,000 people will die each day from COVID-19 by mid January, and that the total U.S death toll will reach about 440,000 by March. The modelers say that changes in behavior could still prevent that from happening.‘
More here.

I am part of The Changermakers exhibit at RMSC

Hey everyone, I’m thrilled to be featured in this new exhibit at RMSC. It’s called ‘The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World?’ and it highlights stories of women visionaries and trailblazers from Rochester.

It’s opening at the Rochester Museum and Science Center on November 20. You can visit the exhibit in person (no worries, there will be safety protocols in place). It’s a historic representation of woman power.

Learn more about The Changemakers: RMSC.org/changemakers #BeChangemakers

Non pas une, mais des identités juives – Kiffe ta race

excellent discussion about anti-semitism, racism, and the role of the state and media in france.

‘Sur la scène politico-médiatique française, le constat d’une recrudescence des faits antisémites est souvent associé aux personnes musulmanes. Mais l’antisémitisme n’est pas imputable à une partie de la population, et il est à aborder avec nuances. Ce type de discours tend à jeter une ombre sur la longue histoire de l’antisémitisme, qui a entre autre forgé sa rhétorique dans l’Action Française, et s’est illustré par la responsabilité de l’État dans la déportation de 76 000 personnes juives lors de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. En écho aux débats autour de la proximité entre les luttes antiraciste et contre l’antisémitisme, Grace Ly et Rokhaya Diallo reçoivent Cloé Korman. Pour cette écrivaine, essayiste et professeure, les actes de violence commis à l’encontre des personnes juives sont à rapprocher de “l’océan” du racisme discriminatoire et des violences policières à l’encontre des autres minorités.’

More here.

Monster. A Fugue in Fire and Ice

I listened to this lecture yesterday instead of focusing on the US elections. It’s a lecture by Anne McClintock, the A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton. Her presentation is called ‘Monster. A Fugue in Fire and Ice.’ “McClintock engaged three of the great crises of our time — climate catastrophe (especially melting ice and rising oceans), global militarization, and mass displacement. Through creative nonfiction and her own photographs, McClintock explored the question of how we can make scientific data and the planetary upheavals of the Anthropocene more publicly visible and tangible to facilitate more creative strategies for change.”

Although I voted and would prefer some disruption to the Trump regime, a return to neoliberal ‘normalcy’ and bipartisan support for militarism and empire do not reassure me. I feel nauseous when I think about 4 years under Biden-Harris and what that will mean for healthcare, housing and food security in the middle of a pandemic – 40% of low-income Americans have lost their jobs and 8 million additional people have slipped into poverty. What will a Biden presidency mean for Palestine, for Kashmir, for the Dalits and Muslims of India, for the people of the Middle East and Central and South America? And what will it mean for our planet? I am much more invested in these larger concerns than in the results of sham presidential elections. This is not a democracy. [not interested in apologias for Biden, Harris or American democracy]

Ngayuku ngura (my country)

Peter Mungkuri (born in 1946). Ngayuku ngura (my country), ink and acrylic on linen, 2018″This is my painting about the country where I was born. I grew up in a traditional way, none of us had any clothes and we’d never seen houses. Back then we lived in the bush, slept in the warm sand and lived on the bush tucker. My painting is where it all started. This country is my home. I know this land all over, this is strong country. These things, everything, is my memory – my knowledge. I like painting my country, I like to paint the memories of my country.”

robert fisk (1946 – 2020)

i will never forget his searing, disturbing description of what he saw at the sabra and shatila refugee camps, right after the massacre in 1982. he was one of the first journalists on the scene. an incredibly important witness.

“He reported extensively on the first Gulf War basing himself for a time in Baghdad where he was fiercely critical of other foreign correspondents whom he accused of covering the conflict from their hotel rooms. He also covered the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and frequently condemned US involvement in the region.”

voting one’s conscience

i’m a firm believer in people voting their conscience (or not voting, if that is their considered decision) – otherwise what’s the point? i don’t attack people for doing so, just because i happen to disagree w their choices. pls do ur thing. just no need to get all self-righteous about it. allow others the same agency u want for urself, and the same presumption of intelligence. thank u.

Angela Davis on the Struggle for Socialist Internationalism and a Real Democracy

Astra Taylor: It can be very utopian to think about including nonhuman life in our democratic politics. I personally feel like our lives depend on it. With the destruction of the environment, illnesses are increasing in number and virulence. People say we need to prioritize humans as though solidarity is a zero-sum game, but I feel that we have to reject that and expand the circle of concern. I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

Angela Davis: I completely agree with you. The prioritizing of humans also leads to restrictive definitions of who counts as human, and the brutalization of animals is related to the brutalization of human animals. This will be a very important arena of struggle during the coming period.

If we are to engage in ongoing struggles for freedom and democracy, we have to recognize that the issues will become ever more expansive, because initially, the question of democracy only addressed a small subset of white, affluent men. I’m not suggesting that the trajectory of history is automatic. But we have witnessed an ever-expansive notion of the nature of democracy. And I do not see how we can exclude our nonhuman companions with whom we share this planet. More here.

Amidst GOP Outrage, Advocates Say There’s Nothing Controversial About Restoring the Vote to Parolees

Darien Lamen: When asked what he thinks is at the root of the controversy, Victor Pate says, “I believe that they don’t want people who have seen the worst of our system to be a part of changing the system. Because we know from being directly impacted what type of policies–especially as you talk about prisons and jails and criminal justice–should be passed to make it more transformative, more restorative, and more equitable,” Pate says.”They don’t want to hear from us because we could change this miserable system. It’s as simple as that. More here.