Is History Is Writing Is Research Is …

June 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies posits provocative questions: “Is History Important for Indigenous Peoples?” and “Is Writing Important for Indigenous Peoples?” These questions speak to the totalizing feedback loop of colonialism, as but one expression of imperialism, that become reproduced in the current formations of institutional/economic/political/social systems. Writing/Theory/History have been (and continue to be) predicated on a sense of Otherness connecting to “what is worthy of being history” in the industrial state.

There is a tension between what research is and how indigeneity is implicated in it. As well as a friction: carving out space for alternative knowledges and histories don’t replace the concurrent existence of imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Smith writes something like how there are always collisions with dominant views while also attempting to transform them. All of these things reside in tandem – the hard fact of land rights yet the complete denial of land rights (subsequently the denial of being a settler) – and it is infuriating. “We” talked through this in relation to value systems (beyond the particular/beyond the universally dominant/what is valued and what isn’t/what is legitimated/what becomes legitimated research becomes monetized).

We”, being settlers in the room, and along with the admission of AAB having yet to formally engage with colonialism discourse head on during sessions, discussed the ways in which the questions directed at researchers (Whose research is it? Who owns it? Whose interests does it serve? Is her spirit clear? What other baggage are they carrying?) are taken up in our collective and individual work. How do we read and interpret a text, like Smith’s, that speaks to a particular subject position where we’re not appropriating the thesis as our own but still internalizing its message in order to decolonize? Speaking for AAB, we talked about how consensus and the mastery of a selected text has never really been of interest, and that the group itself has been structured around encouraging alternative readings of texts – or at least ways of reading and interpretation that are given less traction in the academy.

Naturally there is lots more to say! Best to come join us next week for a reading of Rey Chow’s “Postmodern Automatons” and Silvia Federici’s “Women, Land Struggles, and the Reconstruction of the Commons.” The readings can be found on our schedule. Some of us will be driving northwards, discussing the texts and swatting black flies in tandem!


June 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last week we discussed bell hooks’s “Eating the Other” in conjunction with the poem by Douglas Kearney entitled “Radio.” The texts opened up a great deal of personal experiences and allowed us to view them in a critical light. We were able to examine relations between individuals, often ourselves, framed in the relation between race and desire. bell hooks examined the way dark continents and similarly dark bodies shifted from being undesirable to desirable by the “the west.” Intimate interactions with dark bodies become “spice” and flavour to an otherwise tasteless white palate. “Radio” showed us how representations and desire of black bodies/voices shifted as a result of the radio.

Next week, we’ll be discussing the introduction and first chapter of Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies.  As always, the readings will be found on the blog.

Date: Wednesday 18 June 2014

Time: 7:30

“We had our feminist reading group last night.” “Oh yeah, the hen house.”

June 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last night was festive, intimate and included much necessary debate, to use one of Ahmed’s keywords (“this debate?”), about what counts as feminist theory. After three sessions and producing three journals, we are thinking about the ways we’re positioning ourselves as a group/collective on a political and social level, and also about the ways we become positioned, or more so categorized as a group/collective/individuals.

We’re tightening up. Theoretical kegel exercises, if you will.

A brief recap: We talked about issues around feminist theory becoming it’s own capital “T” theory. Historically theory has used very phallocentric language and feminist work, in opposition to this, involved including women into the discourse. Ahmed is conscious of language’s role in delineating theory as more or less read in the academy, and she brings this to focus when not treating “theory” as a fixed object of study but preferring the verb “theorizing” “as it makes clear that there is a process involved” (99). Theory is in motion, always moving. Movement, then, is another keyword in producing feminist theory whereby some women (“Western bourgeois feminist nomadic intellectuals”) have the mobility and freedom to travel, reaping the benefits of the modern day pilgrimage, while other women (“who do not have passports”) do not. Acknowledging this differentiation in power is one point the other is to consider how “feminist theory is about producing different ways of dwelling and moving in the world in the very act of explaining its own existence, as form of contestation, in local spaces.”

We looked at theory as pattern making, involving a series of questions, as well as the double register and cyclical effect of dispute: contesting capitalist patriarchy and white imperialism, contesting the work of feminists, contesting the personal, contesting … (etc.). We talked about how exhausting this can become, self-sacrificial in ways yet vital to social transformation and social responsibility.

We were also critical of how the academy and institution were framed as recognizing feminist theory as such. Important critiques concerning the feminist theorist as a translator to the “undercommons” (segue to reading groups of plenty this summer) were brought forward.

Next week:

Time: 7:30-9:30 pm

Date: June 11th 2014

We’ll be reading bell hooks’ chapter from Black Looks titled “Eating the Other” and Douglas Kearney’s poem “Radio”, in continuation of addressing the differences within feminisms as well as interrogating the manipulative post-colonial consumption of “otherness.”

See current schedule for links to the articles.


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