Sunday, December 21, 2008


blur A thousand ways of knowing

And give and take of everyday

Still we could not name

The differences within.


A thousand ways of talking

And careful treading of everyday

Still we go on picking

One-another’s sensitivities.


A thousand ways of perceiving

And affectionate hugs of everyday

Still we act vengeful

Hurting one-another deep within.

We are sisters in name.

Sphere: Related Content
SistersSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mental Disorder


Until one experiences
The fear of losing
One doesn’t know how to possess.
"Is that what you are experiencing?"
The nonsensical bursts of detachment
Followed by enhanced sense of longing
Waiting for the reasoning self to fall silent.
And hearing calls of chaos
The permanence of faith
Now seems placed precarious.
Unexpected periods of intense fear
Compounded by a sense of belonging
Questions reason persistently.
"Are you feeling fuddled-duddled?"
Not being able to find a universal remedy
A potion to quieten doubts
Anger is taking on commotion.
Hold these moods close and warm
To see what avails
You must wear random sentiments.
Be tender to your frame of mind
It’s a part of pandemonium
A sign of life.
And you know
To stir up a new way of being
If nothing avails.

Sphere: Related Content
Mental DisorderSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, November 20, 2008

ICT: in/outside

‘Travelling’ through the Internet shops in the nooks and corners of the big and small cities, it is not surprising to find loads of bare flesh in all shapes and sizes either in acrobatic positions with blank looks or with I-will-please-you-to-death gaze and my-this-or-that-body-part-is-available positions on the computer screen when Internet page opens. It is also not surprising to find its remnants on a neat and clean home computer in the form of a 'security pop-up window' which warns that a cookie is trying to steal information from the computer or a Trojan Horse from site so-and-so was sent to quarantine or deleted or a shortcut on the desktop, which planted itself discreetly when something was being downloaded from one of the all-out-flesh websites. And it is also not surprising that the flesh is mostly (in my experience of Internet shops and two homes) of women and children, and sometimes of animals. Nothing to be surprised about knowing that cheap thrills really thrill so many of my country cousins, particularly when it is delivered conveniently to them, without them being seen soliciting in person or visiting an area where there’s possibility of being recognized. What is surprising is the I-know-but-what-can-I-do or plain I-know-about-it responses of the wives who themselves are not into sexual voyeurism and do possess and profess moral standards, which if applied, would make Internet sexual escapades of their husbands an evidence of infidelity and immorality. The helplessness or self-imposed apathy in the responses is indeed surprising when coming from independent women who are quick to take a position on so many other issues and judge others applying their opinion. This is annoying and what is all the more annoying is half the world around which says who are you to be annoyed or justifies pornographic escapades saying 'all men are into pornography'. That being the case no issue of rights can ever be taken up or discussed or debated. But having been a witness to so much muck in the ‘home’ of a dear one recently and having felt so much pain and anger about being there, I will desist from pursuing the issue for now. For now, I will discuss it from a ‘safer’ angle as a third person and deal with the disconcerting experience by reminding myself that I will never ever visit that ‘home’ till that husband-man is alive-and-around or remains a husband in that ‘home’.

The images of flesh – women, children and animals – on Internet go a long way towards reinforcing gender relations since they are guided by the ideas of demand and supply. The images are not produced randomly. There is an analysis of who the potential viewers or clients are and what they would like to see or buy. In this analysis, the predominant form of gender relations based on the norms of feminine subservience and male sexual perversion, finds a prime place. This representation of socially practiced but not talked about sexual gender relations further strengthen the reality. Such representation using information communication technologies like Internet also diversifies the ways in which existing social gender relations widen their net of oppression of women and children (looking at the images of bestiality, one can also say oppression of animals). The diversification goes on to consolidate the existing gender relations in much more complicated manner and in dangerous proportions.

I often wonder why women and men cannot take the same interest in using the information communication technologies for their work – spending the same hours to learn to use Internet for building their knowledge or reaching out to peer groups elsewhere – and each time I conclude that it has to do with the human tendency to derive voyeuristic pleasures and sexual perversion. Why the policymakers and decision-makers fail to see how oppression of women and violence against women and children acquire much complex and dangerous dimensions through information communication technologies? It would be wrong to assume that cyber sex or any other information communication technologies based pornography is a form of ‘safer perversion’ and that it keeps the people who indulge in it from physically damaging real persons. People who are pervert and/or have violent temperament are not likely to restrict themselves to just the images and talks. These are likely to be tools for increasing their skills to manifest and exercise their perversion and violence or just another tool for greater pleasure. The ease of access also gives a sense of impunity to the users of pornography because despite being a direct participant in creating a demand for images which often come out of exploitation of women and children, they are not held accountable for causing direct or indirect harm to women and children. Believing that trafficking in images has nothing to do with trafficking in persons is nothing but an Ostrich reaction. Even a superficial scan of the purposes for which women and children are trafficked, held in bondage or illegally imprisoned will reveal the linkages. Hypothetically, it can be said that these images actually go on to create a greater demand for trafficking in women and children for sex. Instances involving circulation of images of a friend in a state or position which may shame or slander the friend, which were captured when relations were cordial among school students and others indicate the ways in which how simple acts in a one situation can be altered into a tool to oppress in another situation with the help of information communication technologies.

Moving to another aspect of information communication technologies, ie, the role of information communication technologies in development, it is interesting to note that the mushrooming of information technologies businesses is also largely male led and owned. Even the public sector’s efforts towards e-governance and linking the public sector to development are marked by male leadership and male access. The fact that women in most countries are on the fringes of governance and are worst hit by poverty has not led countries to invest much more intensively and effectively in their education and increasing their access so that they become a part of e-governance initiatives. Public sector’s rhetoric of economic empowerment of women has not translated into increased learning opportunities and improved Internet market access to women. If the issues which hinder women from accessing information communication technologies are not addressed how are they to try to benefit from it? If the obstructions to access get addressed and if the public and private sectors work towards increasing women’s participation in information technology policy formulation, regulation and reform, it will not only address the issues of gender equality in benefits from information communication technologies but also be more effective in addressing the issues of pornography and domestic abuse. If women are to feel emotionally and socially capable of rising above the ability to identify the problem and bear it silently, there must be an increase in the role of women in decision making and redress mechanisms. The social messages of women’s empowerment will not undo the internalized oppression unless there is increased participation and representation of women to ensure that gender issues are taken into account in information communication planning, administration and regulation.But how is this to happen? In order to ensure gender equality in information communication technologies, there must be clear understanding of gender relations and intersectional issues in a society based on which purposeful strategies are developed, implemented, tracked and evaluated. This is particularly important to ensure that information communication technologies do not become technologies for the advancement of select few or another tool of oppressing women or rich and middle class’ children’s medium for fun and time-pass or another factor contributing to rural-urban divide.
Just saying promotion of universal access to information communication technologies will not bring equality in access, definitely not for poverty ridden communities, remote or ignored regions of the countries like India and socially marginalized or disempowered groups of people including women and children. Gender blind policies, in the name of opening up of the economy or technological advancement and individual freedom, and without the requisite checks, hold tremendous potential to worsen gender inequality in patriarchal societies like India.

Sphere: Related Content
ICT: in/outsideSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The crescent smiled
Spilling thousands of stars in the sky
The day embraced the night

Sphere: Related Content
Evening/MorningSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Blazing rays stared at the dry landscape
A woman was ploughing land
Rays withdrew embarrassed

Sphere: Related Content
AfternoonSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, August 15, 2008


Wheezing through the streets in the afternoon
Wind slumped down
Dust had nowhere to go

Sphere: Related Content
DustSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Representation and Transnational Feminism

No need to hear your voice when I can talk about you better than you can speak about yourself. No need to hear your voice. Only tell me about your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you in a new way. Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become mine, my own. Re-writing you I write myself anew. I am still author, authority. I am still coloniser, the speaking subject and you are now at the centre of my talk[i]. - bell hooks

Before writing about representation[ii], I would like to point to the debates on viability of ‘women’ and ‘gender’ as a useful category of analysis and practice in feminist representation, and set out the contesting space in which the issue of representation is being debated. This is to establish that the transnational feminism is a space of multiple feminisms and multiple resistances – mutually constitutive, collaborating and conflicting. In this essay, I would attempt to present complexities of the transnational space as one of the possible reasons for the oppositional identity consciousness among theorists. I will use the complex backdrop as the context for my exploration of transnational feminists’ engagement with the question of representation. I will argue that transnational feminist theorists not only generate theoretical insights to challenge the Western feminist hegemony, rather, also critique one-another to challenge (potentially) essentialistic identity implications of transnational feminism.

The viability debates have been significant in the wake of postmodernist[iii] feminist arguments that by assuming a monolithic identity of ‘women’, the binary man/woman has become a policing device that is regulatory and exclusionary and a signifier of essentialism, hierarchy, and compulsory heterosexuality[iv]. Postmodernists criticize all essentialist conceptions of self and subjectivity, making it a challenge to negotiate political implications of representation without resorting to essentialist notions of women[v]. The differences in theorizing ‘women’, specially coming from Anglo-American feminists, have led some theorists to wonder if feminism is possible at all after postmodernism[vi].

Despite the apparent impossibility of representation of women coming through the postmodernist and poststructuralist theorizing, a transborder space of feminists ‘texts and contexts’[vii] dealing with representation of women has emerged over the period. But this is not an easy space to articulate. To understand this space better, I would make a distinction between the two aspects of transnational feminism – transnational theorizing and transnational activism. By transnational theorists, I imply the diasporic theorists from the South[viii] spatially located in ‘home’, diasporas, nomadic borderlands and those theorists from North who challenge Euro-American feminist biases and intellectually engage with across-border feminist theorists. I use the terms transnational activists and/or movements to include those from the First World as well as the Third World who use discursive frames and organizational and political practices that are stimulated and promoted by their engagement with activist and/or movements beyond their country’s boundries.
The dynamics of feminist theorizing and activism interplay in the transnational space and are difficult to untangle. Who is represented in this space or who could represent whom is problematized on several counts: spatial notions of home and abroad, institutional and intellectual locations, blurring of the line between theorist and activist and fluid positions of the theorists to name a few. To illustrate the difficulty, I would take the example of transnational feminist activism whose impact on international policymaking and development of legislative frameworks through platforms such as the various UN conferences belie postmodern and poststructural pessimism about ‘women’s’ representational capacity, and two postmodern/poststructural transnational theorists, Spivak’s and Mohanty’s[ix] complex subjectivity in articulating their views on women’s representation.

Spivak and Mohanty are recognized as transnational subjects by virtue of their complex Indian and immigrant identities, and institutional locations within ‘multicultural’ societies. But that does not prevent them from posing a counter hegemonic stance to essentialist articulations of theorists from the North as well as the South. Spivak sees the transnational feminist activism, as led by white and ‘Euro-clone’ women within postcoloniality and the diaspora and as a growth of an inescapable generalized value form which flattens the specificities of women’s histories to the UN’s Platform of Action[x]. Mohanty argues that the discourses of global feminism have mystified ‘difference’ and naturalized and totalized categories such as ‘Third World women’ and ‘First World women’ through production and reproduction of differences in the supposedly cross-cultural analytic categories such as ‘women’ and compartmentalize representations through the discourses of internationalism and global collapsing of the dynamic nature of the ‘Third World’ women’s lives into frozen ‘indicators’’[xi]. Spivak and Mohanty want to advocate an anti-hegemonic stance, which appreciates differences among women. Their opposition to Euro-American hegemony in representation constitutes them as resisting subjects and positions them as activist theorists in the transnational space.

Making transnational space and representation further complex are some transnational feminists who critique postmodernists for denying material construction of the category of ‘women’ and simultaneously express their difference with the postmodernist theorists like Mohanty, Ong, hooks, Trinh. According to them postmodernists overemphasize the problems associated with essentialism and universalism in representation. According to the critics, by presenting postmodernist analysis as the only challenge to essentialism, postmodernists assume that the Third World women have been rendered passive and immobile by the Western representations[xii]. The critics would like these theorists to recognize the effectiveness of the local feminist resistances to the Western feminist hegemony and moral and practical concerns of collective action[xiii].

Considering Udayagiri and Suleri’s take on Postmodernism, I assume that they would find Brewer definition of representation problematic as well as difficult to completely reject. Brewer defines representation as a process of semiosis or meaning-making to construct the assumed truth about any category with varying degrees of disclosure or distortion. According to her, It is not essential for the category like ‘woman’ to exist in a material sense in order to be represented but ‘whether or not the category “Woman” exists, the structural constraints under which women live, what women are able or allowed to be in society, are at stake in its representations’[xiv]. Udayagiri and Suleri may find rejection of the category of women metaphorizing the material lives of women of the Third World. But they would find it hard to refute the implications of representation suggested by Brewer. I suggest that paradoxical positionings such as this one reflect ‘critical intimacy’[xv] with representation and it is ‘critical intimacy’ that has to a great extent contributed to theoretical contestations over representation.

The multiplicity of transnational identities surface not only due to opposition to representation which is historically grounded in colonial legacies and Western hegemonic ideologies but also from the fact that transnational theorists have to address diverse audiences. Spivak, for example, sees her interaction with a range of audiences as negotiations of her identity which varies from ‘nation to nation, sphere to sphere, levels of work shading from the academic to grass roots’ depending on the language used and her positioning in the gendered and classed diasporas[xvi]. As result of these negotiations, questions such as who will be positioned where, speak in what tongue and speak as who and for whom become integral to the transnational theorizing.

Transnational feminists theorists have attempted to analyze the semiotic representation of women and how these representations are implicated in power inequalities and the subordination of the 'subaltern'[xvii] or the ‘other’. The construction of the ‘self-other’ binary in the Western[xviii] feminist discourse configures knowledges by legitimising certain questions about the ‘other’ while denying the same questions to the others about the ‘self’. The binary authenticates the pursuit of knowledge about the ‘other’ and their construction as a homogeneous powerless group, victimized by particular socio-economic systems and self-representation of Western women as modern, having control over their bodies and sexuality and decisions[xix].

The ‘self-other’ distinction relates to two notions: First, of epistemic privilege which implies the claim to knowledge embodied in the locations, standpoints and positions vis-a-vis caste, class, race, culture, ethnicity, sexuality, language, history, geography, etc. Second, of epistemic violence, which refers to the violent appropriation and colonisation of knowledge and privileging of imperialistic account as the normative one in the Western textual production[xx].
Mohanty sees power plays in the connections between feminist scholarships, feminist political practices and organizing[xxi] and looking at the concepts of epistemic privilege and epistemic violence from the view she has taken, both concepts are political and discursive and intersected by the relations of power. Both notions could also arise in situations where the Western scholar holds the view that you don’t have to be one to know one and that intention and rigour coupled with a privileged status can help produce an authentic and insightful representation of the ‘other’, and that would be the scholar’s true interpretation of the ‘other’[xxii]. This view may lead us to believe Schenk-Sandbergen that the privileged status of a Western scholar places the scholar in a more advantageous position to make sense of gender relations in the South and produce a more faithful and authentic representations of the ‘other’[xxiii]. There is a danger here of what Mohanty describes as a colonial move of the Western feminist writing in which the Western feminists become the true subjects and the Third World women ‘never rise above the debilitating generality of their “object” status’[xxiv]. Such claims to epistemic privilege also ignore the fact that the global hegemony of the Western feminist scholarship does not have limited circulation to the immediate feminist or disciplinary audience. It’s political implication is global through mechanisms and gatekeeping practices of theorizing, teaching, publishing and dissemination, which also restrict the opportunities of representation of the ‘other’ by the ‘other’[xxv].

Here, it is also useful to recall the distinction made by Spivak between ‘representation’ or ‘speaking for’ or proxy and ‘re-presentation’ or ‘placing a work of art or portrait’. Wright and Schenk-Sandbergen’s views can be understood as the desire to ‘represent’ or ‘speak for’ the subaltern. Their claim to epistemic privilege is based on assumption that the subaltern is not capable of representing themselves. Taken to an extreme end in the absence of an understanding of the ‘configurations of power’ and ‘positional superiority’[xxvi], it may lead to ‘re-presentation’ or substitution of the subject. In this case, ‘representation’ and ‘re-presentation’ are complicit and may lead to epistemic violence through persistent constitution of the ‘other’ as the ‘self’s’ shadow[xxvii]. hooks sees such attempts as appropriation of ‘otherness’ and a denial of experiential identity. Her response to this concern is to find new strategies of resistance, and simultaneously critique essentialism and emphasize the significane of the ‘authority of experience’[xxviii]. Spivak suggests learning to ‘speak to’ rather than ‘listen to’ or ‘speak for’[xxix] and persistent critique to prevent construction of the ‘other’ as an object of knowledge by those who have access to public places[xxx].

In an effort to move away from the self-other binary of the hegemonic Western feminism, Rich used the idea of ‘politics of location’[xxxi]. She forwards a politics of location as a radical materialist political stance that grounds feminist theory in accountability for the situatedness of knowledge production[xxxii]. However, Rich’s ‘politics of location’ has been critiqued for remaining trapped in the in the global-local and Western-nonWestern binaries, encouraging cultural relativism and metaphorizing ‘differences’ through textual analysis, and for conflating ‘Western’ and ‘white’. This conflations reinscribes centrality of white woman’s position within Western feminism[xxxiii]. The linearity of Rich’s politics of location is challenged in Wallace’s analysis of the contemporary diasporic or marginal subject as characterized by multiplicity of positions and allegiances[xxxiv] and also by Agarwal’s description of her position in transnational feminism as multiple, involving simultaneous multiple allegiances[xxxv]. Multiplicity of positionality not only disrupts the linearity but also complicates the politics of location in representation by bringing in the conflicts and struggles which are characterized by power and history[xxxvi]. It also offers transnational feminists opportunities to reflexively analyze fluidity in their own subject positions.

Transnational feminists point to the movement of people or complex disporas, and mobility of information and capital and use limitations of Rich’s formulation of the politics of location to bring up the complexities of transnational reception of the theory[xxxvii]. The transnational reception of theory is linked to the travel in theories and how theories are received by different cultures[xxxviii]. The concept of travel and reception of theories brings out questions related to the routes theories of representation take to travel and how they get translated in different contexts. It raises questions related to the mechanisms and technologies of control that monitor and check the travel and reception. Friedman suggests that there is a need to continuously map the representation politics to locate the points of origin and end of theories. Consistent mapping would disclose that in a globalizing world, there are no points of origin or end[xxxix]. The mapping will also exposes the long held Western anthropological image frames of silent objectified nativity. Such mapping will detail out how the image of the authentic native is turned into a museum piece that puts a demand on the nonWestern subjects to perform nativity to serve Western imagery of ‘authentic’ natives[xl].

Though attnetion to differences through varied discourses have led to acknoledgement of multiple axes of identity but there has also been a trend of selective attention to only dominant froms of differences. Grewal and Kaplan critique emerging orthodoxies in the representation, especially in the USA, where race, class and gender are fast becoming ‘holy trinity’. In such theorizing what gets left out are other complex categoris of identity and social relations which impact subject formation. It ignores the dynamism of a category which multiplies if constituted in transnational cultures[xli]. In such representations, the notion of ‘self-other’, and ‘centre-periphery’, ‘insider-outsider’ models of location is replaced by the notions of hybridity and multi-hyphenated ‘mestiza’[xlii] identities. Theorists like Ang, Brah, Grewal and others place themselves in multiple contexts, wander across nations and problematize notions of ‘home’ by bringing in their transnational experiences, issues of language and displacement, commitment, exclusion, and personal and political transformation positionalities to the transnational feminist representational politics[xliii]. They see their situation as one that gives them insider knowledge as well as a privileged position to develop insights into the ‘inside’ from ‘outside’[xliv]. In the context of hybridity, Spivak’s reflection on the issue of true marginals and contaminated diaspora not only resist the reproduction of self-other distinctions but also contests political positions that assert authencity or epistemic privilege by virtue of being an ‘insider’ at ‘home’[xlv]. There are still others who see the choice between oppositions of ‘home and away’, notions of hybridity and romanticization of the subaltern resistance as dangers to feminist agendas and as persistence of the colonial discourse the cost of which could result in yet again theorization of the ‘Third World’ into silence[xlvi]. hooks expresses similar sentiments while saying that those who have the access to coloniser places and practices should support the struggles of those who are marginal, absent and silent to access these places of privilege rather than speak for them[xlvii].

In this essay, I have tried to summarise the complex relationships of transnational theorists to one another and the various reasons which may be prompting them to interrogate old and emerging axes of identity. My attempt has been to bring forth the concerns which transnational feminists share about representational implications in view of current global feminist networking. Transnational space allows connections between local resistance, immigration, diasporic existence, international feminist politics, and multinational economic processes and creates an interest among transnational theorists to constantly evaluate what may be gained and what may get lost in the process. Exploration of representation gives an opportunity to question the ‘construction of the (implicitly consensual) priority of issues around which apparently all women are expected to organize’[xlviii]. It gives the theorists opportunities to explore diverse feminist theorizing about the ‘difference’, and the values guiding identification and labelling of the ‘difference’. Analysis of representation from a transnational perspective problematizes a ‘purely locational politics of ‘global-local’ and brings into question the inadequate or inaccurate naming and binary divisions of the world[xlix]. Transnational feminist engagement with representation is significant for an ethically accountable analysis of identities and subjectivities.

[i] hooks, 1990, p343[ii] I am using the term ‘representation’ to refer to socio-political representation of the ‘women’ in feminist theories and praxis.[iii] I will use 'postmodernist and poststructuralist' feminisms as a shorthand for feminist theorizing, which has tended to be reflexive upon some of feminist theories’ implicit assumptions and critiques the tendency to adopt a universalizing approach. For this essay, I would define 'postmodernist or poststructuralist' feminist theories as approaches seeking political and ethical engagement on the issue of identity, questioning totalizing discourses, ‘struggling for accountability’ (Rich, 2003, p 29) and a re-evaluating one’s own location.[iv] Butler, 1993 and 1999[v] Flax, 1990, p24-43 & 209-221; Zoonen, p3-4[vi] Zalewski, 2000, pIX-XI & 29-74[vii] Agarwal, 1994, p252[viii] I am using the terms ‘North’ and ‘South’ to denote the differences maintained in the theories and, ‘First World’ and ‘Third world’ in terms of differences maintained in praxis.[ix] Though I see Spivak’s and Mohanty’s works sharing postmodernist/poststructuralist concerns, I acknowledge my understanding as a stipulation because I am not aware if they have identified themselves so[x] Spivak, 2000, p40-42[xi] Mohanty in Kaplan, 1994, p137 & Mohanty, 1991, p6[xii] Suleri, 1994, p244-252 and Udayagiri, 1994, p165-176[xiii] Parpart & Marchand, 1995, p19-20[xiv] Brewer, 1999, p1-2[xv] Spivak, 2000, p16[xvi] Spivak, 1990[xvii] Spivak, 1988, p68-111[xviii] I am using the terms ‘Western feminism’ or ‘Western feminist theories’ for the genre of writing, which discursively constructs the category of ‘Third World women’ as monolithic passive victims.[xix] Mohanty, 1988, p56-57[xx] Spivak, 1988, p76[xxi] Mohanty, 1988, p53[xxii] Wright, 1997, p84-86[xxiii] Schenk-Sandbergen in Wright, 1997, p84[xxiv] Mohanty, 1988, p71[xxv] Mohanty, 1988, p55 and Carr, 1994, p155[xxvi] Said, 1985, p5-7[xxvii] Spivak, 1988, p70-75[xxviii] hooks, 1994, p423-426[xxix] Spivak, 1988, p91[xxx] Spivak, 1990, p59-66[xxxi] Rich, 1986[xxxii] Rich, 1984, p29[xxxiii] Kaplan, 1994, p139-142[xxxiv] Wallace in Kaplan, 1994, p143[xxxv] Agarwal, 1994, p252-255[xxxvi] Mohanty in Ang, 1995, p193 and Mani, in Kaplan, 1994, p149[xxxvii] Mohanty in Kaplan, 1994, p142 and Grewal and Kaplan, 1994, p2-3[xxxviii] Said, 1983, p226-47[xxxix] Friedman, 1998[xl] Chow, 1994, p325-344 and Trinh Minh-ha in Bulbeck, 1998, p207[xli] Grewal and Kaplan, 1994, p19[xlii] Anzaldúa, 1999[xliii] Ang, 1995, p190-204; Brah, 1996, p613-633 and Grewal & Kaplan, 1994, p137-150[xliv] Trinh, 1995, p217-218[xlv] Spivak in Loomba, 1994, p306 and Mohanram, 1996, p283-84[xlvi] Loomba, 1991, p307-320[xlvii] hooks, 1990[xlviii] Mohanty, 1988, p53[xlix] Grewal and Kaplan, 1994, p13
BibliographyAgarwal, Beena (1994), p 252-255, Positioning the Western feminist agenda: A comment, Indian Journal of Feminist Studies, Vol 1 No 2, July-Dec 1994
Ang, Ien (1995), p 190-204, I’m a feminist but … “Other” women and postcolonial feminism in Lewis, Reina and Mills, Sara, eds, Feminist postcolonial theory: a reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Vol c2003
Anzaldúa, Gloria (1999), Borderlands=La Frontera: The New Mestiza, San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books
Brah, Avtar (1996), p 613-633, Diaspora, border and transnational identities in Lewis, Reina and Mills, Sara, eds, Feminist postcolonial theory: a reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Vol c2003
Brewer, Mary F (1999), p 1-2, Introduction: Women and Representation in Race, Sex, and Gender in Contemporary Women's Theatre: The Construction of "Woman", Brighton: Sussex Academic Press
Butler, Judith P (1993), Bodies that matter : on the discursive limits of "sex", New York: Routledge
---------------------- (1999), Theorizing the binary, the unitary and beyond in Gender Trouble : Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York, London: Routledge
Carr, Robert (1994), p 155, Grewal, Inderpal and Kaplan, Caren, eds, Scattered hegemonies : postmodernity and transnational feminist practices, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Chow, Red (1994), p 324-344, Where have all the natives gone? in Lewis, Reina and Mills, Sara, eds, Feminist postcolonial theory: a reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Vol c2003
Flax, Jane (1990), p24-43 & 209-221, Thinking fragments : psychoanalysis, feminism, and postmodernism in the contemporary West, Berkeley, Oxford: University of California Press
Friedman, Susan Stanford (1998), Mappings: Feminism and the Cultural Geographies of Encounter, Princeton: Princeton University Press
Grewal, Inderpal and Kaplan, Caren (1994), p 2-19, Introduction: Transnational Feminist Practices and Questions of postmodernity in Scattered hegemonies : postmodernity and transnational feminist practices, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
---------------------------------------------------- (1994), p 137-150, The politics of location as transnational feminist critical practice in Scattered hegemonies : postmodernity and transnational feminist practices, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
hooks, bell (1994), p 423-426, Postmodern Blackness in Williams, R. J. Patrick and Chrisman, Laura, eds, Colonial discourse and post-colonial theory: a reader, New York: Columbia University Press
---------------- (1990), p 343, Talking back in Ferguson, Russell, Gever, Martha, Minh-ha, Trinh and Cornel, West, eds, Out there: marginalisation and contemporary cultures, New York : New Museum of Contemporary Art; Cambridge, Mass : MIT Press
Kaplan, Caren (1994), p139-142, The politics of location as transnational feminist critical practice in Grewal, Inderpal and Kaplan, Caren, eds, in Scattered hegemonies : postmodernity and transnational feminist practices, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Loomba, Ania (1991) p 307-320, Overworlding the third world in Williams, R. J. Patrick and Chrisman, Laura, eds, Colonial discourse and post-colonial theory: a reader, New York: Columbia University Press, Vol c1994
Mani, Lata in Kaplan, Caren (1994), P 149, The politics of location as transnational feminist critical practice in Grewal, Inderpal and Kaplan, Caren, eds, in Scattered hegemonies : postmodernity and transnational feminist practices, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Mohanram, Radhika (1996), p 283-284, Indian Feminism in an International Frame, Indian Journal of Gender Studies, Vol 3, No 2, July-Dec 1996
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade (1988) , p 53-71, Under Western eyes: Feminist scholarship and colonial discourses, Feminist Review, Vol 30, Autumn 1988
---------------------------------------- (1991), P 6, Introduction: Cartographies of Struggle: Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism in Mohanty, Chandra Talpade and Russo, Ann, eds, Third World women and the politics of feminism, Bloomington: Indiana University Press
---------------------------------------- in Ang, Ien (1995), p 193, I’m a feminist but … “Other” women and postcolonial feminism, Location in Lewis, Reina and Mills, Sara, eds, Feminist postcolonial theory: a reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Vol c2003
---------------------------------------- in Kaplan, Caren (1994), p 137 and p 142, The politics of location as transnational feminist critical practice in Grewal, Inderpal and Kaplan, Caren, eds, Scattered hegemonies: postmodernity and transnational feminist practices, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Parpart, Jane L and Marchand, Marianne H (1995), p 19-20, Exploding the Canon: an introduction/conclusion in Feminism/Postmodernism/Development, London and New York: Routledge
Rich, Adrienne (1984), p 29, Notes Towards a politics of Location in Lewis, Reina and Mills, Sara, eds, Feminist postcolonial theory: a reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Vol c2003
-------------------- (1986), Blood, bread and poetry : selected prose, 1979-1985, London: Virago, 1987, c1986
Said, Edward W (1985), p 5-7, Introduction in Orientalism, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1995, c1985
Said, Edward W (1983), p 226-47, Traveling Theory, The World, The Text, and the Critic. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
Schenk-Sandbergen, 1995 in Wright, Caroline (1997), p 84, Representing the ‘other’: Some thoughts, Indian Journal of Gender Studies, Vol 4, No 1, Jan-June, 1997
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (1988), p 68-111, Can the subaltern speak? in Nelson, c and Grossberg, L, eds, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Basingstoke: Macmillan Education
---------------------------------------- (1990), p 59-66, Questions of Multiculturalism in Sarah Harsym, ed, The post-colonial critic : interviews, strategies, and dialogues, London: Routledge
---------------------------------------- (1990), Rhetoric and Cultural Explanation: A Discussion with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak by Phillip Sipiora and Janet Atwill, JAC online, Vol 10.2,
---------------------------------------- in Loomba, Ania (1991) p 306, Overworlding the third world in Williams, R. J. Patrick and Chrisman, Laura, eds, Colonial discourse and post-colonial theory: a reader, New York: Columbia University Press, Vol c1994
---------------------------------------- (2000), p 16,
No Deconstruction Before Marriate? Reading Philosophy with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: An Interview by Jason Boog, Meteorite, Issue 3, Summer 2000, Ann Arbor: Philosophy Department of the University of Michigan. Available at
---------------------------------------- (2000), p 40-41, Other things are never equal: a speech in with Deirdre McCloskey and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and S Charusheela, eds, Postmodernism and postcolonialism: a conversation with Deirdre McCloskey and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in Rethinking Marxism, Vol 12, No 4 (Winter 2000)
Suleri, Sara (1994), Women Skin Deep: Feminism and Postcolonial condition in Williams, R. J. Patrick and Chrisman, Laura, eds, Colonial discourse and post-colonial theory: a reader, New York : Columbia University Press
Trinh Minh-ha in Bulbeck, Chilla (1998), p 207, Re-orienting Western Feminisms: Women's Diversity in a Postcolonial World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
-------------------- (1995), p 217-18, No master territories in Ashcroft, Bill, Griffiths, Gareth and Tiffin, Helen, eds, The post-colonial studies reader, London: Routledge.
Udayagiri, Mridula (1994), p 165-176, Challenging Modernization: Gender and development, postmodern feminism and activism in Marchand, Marianne H and Parpart, Jane L, eds, Feminism/postmodernism/development, London ; New York : Routledge
Wallace, Michelle in Caren (1994), p 143, The politics of location as transnational feminist critical practice in Grewal, Inderpal and Kaplan, Caren, eds, Scattered hegemonies: postmodernity and transnational feminist practices, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Wright, Caroline (1997), p 84-86, Representing the ‘other’: Some thoughts, Indian Journal of Gender Studies, Vol 4, No 1, Jan-June, 1997
Zalewski, Marysia (2000) , p IX-XI & 29-74, Feminism after postmodernism: theorising through practice, London: Routledge
Zoonen, Liesbert Van (1994), p 3-4, Feminist Media Studies, London: Sage

Sphere: Related Content
Representation and Transnational FeminismSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Discipline in Violence

A few weeks back, in a meeting with a political advisor of a bilateral development organization, I discovered a new phrase ‘discipline in violence’. He used the phrase while talking about the unruliness and fundamentalism within the state security apparatus. The phrase hit me – I wasn’t sure how there can be discipline in violence; in my mind an image of a methodical violent person emerged. I also thought about well organized acts of violence, something along planned ethnic cleansing or systemic violence against women on grounds of morality. The images scared me – the coldness of acts was unnerving. But these didn’t convince me about the implied meaning of the phrase. I sought explanation. His analysis saw violence as being a matter of heart or irrational, a psycho-physical act which doesn’t allow reason to prevail. In his view, if a particular form of violence stemmed from brain, it could be disciplined as it would change in the face of logical arguments. It would be open to learn and therefore it would be possible to discipline it. But most violence springs from feelings and desires of the heart to revenge, to hurt and therefore cannot be disciplined. Though the heart-brain argument seemed rather easy bipolarisation, I could see where he was leading. Yet, it was hard for me to associate violence with discipline. At the same time, while he was explaining the phrase I was struck by another thought of extreme discipline as a form of violence. I was thinking of dictatorial political regimes and disciplining of certain sections of a society, like women and dalits, as lowly beings in so many aspects of life that most come to believe that they are actually inferior and incapable.

Noticing my expression, he asked if the phrase ‘discipline in the use of force’ says anything to me. He himself was not convinced that this phrase is the same as ‘discipline in violence’. But he was willing to use it for my convenience. I shared his view that the phrase ‘discipline in the use of force’ is not quite the same as ‘discipline in violence’ despite my lack of the clarity about the latter phrase. ‘Discipline in the use of force’ gave a sense that there may not be feelings of rage or a desire to inflict pain but force could be applied to achieve certain goals. Or one may gain a sense of invisible rage and brutality while applying force in measured proportions in institutionally or socially acceptable manner and so the need to control the use of force. In such a situation, the motivation to be enraged or brutal may not directly belong to the person who is applying force.

The word ‘violence’ seems to contain psychic motivations for destruction or harm and an ability to derive an ever increasing gratification from destruction and harm. It is also about a physically thrilling sensation derived from subordinating those who are weaker. Personally, I sense violence within me when I see meekness, subservience or tolerance for abuse. It is not a feeling to begin destroying or harming the meek/servile/passively tolerant person but it is an extreme form of anger arising from frustration, which if not controlled, may push me to begin hitting meek/servile/passively tolerant person. Here, I can see that I am trying to discipline the feelings of invisible rage or violence that I have within myself. Here, the phrase ‘discipline in violence’ seems to make some sense. But I am wondering if a phrase like ‘disciplining the desire for violence’ is more appropriate to communicate such rage than ‘discipline in violence’. The phrase ‘disciplining the desire for violence’ gives a sense of an effort to control or resist a desire for violence.

If I were to apply the phrase ‘discipline in violence’ to a context of violence against women (because the husband thinks the wife should not have spoken when she did or not done something without his advice), violence against children (because a pedophile thinks the child ‘looked seductive’ and therefore invited abuse, or the child could not do a task that an adult is supposed to do despite being given the opportunity to do it), mass rapes (because the rapists feel they will be putting the woman or her community into her/their place), mass killings (because the killer feels those likely to be killed do not have a right to live or that their killing will serve the purpose of threatening another person/institution), etc, the phrase gives a sense of far more intense and complex violence. In fact, it suggests a ‘thinking form of violence’ that can help organize the feelings of rage or discipline it to be more deadly and more painful. Here, the phrase seems to suggest cold-bloodedness. It suggests not just a capacity to be violence but also a capacity to plan and organize violence to cause optimal destruction or inflict optimal harm. The term ‘discipline in violence’ seems to carry so much force that an inability to plan and organize violence may come across as a lower form of capacity or lesser violent. Perhaps this explains that why in a military or militia set up the war/offence strategists are placed higher than those in the frontline.

The political advisor, attempted to clarify the phrase further. The way he conceived it, the phrase has a few elementary attributes: an irrational mental construct because the constructor or the owner of that irrationality cannot be talked out of it and a physical organization of that irrationality in the form of acting out violence. From his clarification it seemed that the violence is a matter of great attachment to possessor of violence and its subjectivity is beyond introspection. This explanation does hold some truth. The question that arises then is how this unexplainable infective quality of violence that manifests itself in external, physical or mental harm and destruction can be influenced? What can be done to control the disposition for violent expression and pleasure seeking by inflicting pain? If violence is such a matter of heart or so irrational that nothing can prevail against it then discipline in violence can only increase the impact of violence. In such a situation, ineffectiveness of logic pointing inconsistencies in thoughts and analysis that lead to violence is more of a conclusion than an assumption that can be challenged or a barrier that can be attempted to be overcome.

Going back to the phrase ‘disciplining the desire for violence’, a desire for violence appears a stage of infancy and therefore controllable. ‘Discipline in violence’ appears to bring forth a situation in which the desire for violence has matured and is a stage of acting out the desire for violence. Bringing discipline to a performance of the desire for violence suggests more sophistication in that performance. For example, masterminds of a terror bomb blast, carry a sense of extreme violence but do not indulge in direct violence, they nonetheless derive satisfaction by watching others act out on their plan. In this regard, they serve as the possessors of violence, they are the agents of violence as they have an infective ability to induce others and they also have a capacity to derive pleasure/satisfaction or thrilling sensations from an indirect act of violence. This ability to control and plan violence and use others as instruments which enable them to experience vicariously the gratification of a desire they would not like to act out themselves, makes them high impact perpetrators of violence.

Sphere: Related Content
Discipline in ViolenceSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You, Me and Our World

Between you, me and the world
Looms a sense of unsteadiness

Your power made credible by the world
Mine affected by the exercise of it

Our common knowledge of the world
Unaware of its exclusionary practices

I understand
I am on a slippery ground
Yet nailed to a reality you created

You own what’s offered by the world
I am one of them, you say

You can practice detachment being one from the world
I remain tied to meanings and consequences

Our journey together in this world
Viable in the absence of a scale to measure differences

It’s a matter of perspective
Yes, it is
As afforded temporally and spatially

Sphere: Related Content
You, Me and Our WorldSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, July 18, 2008

Water on fire

The old molten rocks stopped the sea
A crab laughed
Water was set on fire

Sphere: Related Content
Water on fireSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ashamed Mountains

Dusty naked mountains were tamed
Tall pride run over by moving wheels
Their cry echoed

Sphere: Related Content
Ashamed MountainsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


A heap of rocks, pebble and soil
Gathered near a large pit
Wondering over destiny

Sphere: Related Content
DestinySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Morning Sun

The morning sun peeped through the window
Sprinkling colour in the room
The rays smiled

Sphere: Related Content
Morning SunSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Young Tree

Shortness of breath encircled the young tree
Submerged in dust
Wind blew away its leaves

Sphere: Related Content
Young TreeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Feather-like clouds floating on their fuzzy edges
Suddenly cried out
A jet shred them apart

Sphere: Related Content
CloudsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, July 11, 2008

Birthday wishes

I’m told wishes are the only thing that cannot be bought or sold
But their value is far greater than gifts and gold.

Cold and lifeless, gifts and gold do not see or hear
And in the time of emotional churning they cannot even cheer.

Gifts have neither desire to listen nor a heart to understand
Gold cannot comfort or reach out a caring hand.

To cut the long story short, there will be good wishes galore
Neither gifts nor gold, only promises and promises and more!

Sphere: Related Content
Birthday wishesSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Work Fever

So today you realized you have fever

You also realize travelling on work sucks
Ah! It’s the beginning of a horrible day
Sadly it wouldn’t just go away
But I hope it’s just that
And that you are not down flat
Not that I want you to
But watch out for swollen throat
And that rugged temper of yours too
It may just decide to go awry
Specially because you can’t be sorry
No time for ego-indulgence
I hope that those tabs help maintain balance
Remember not to take them on an empty tummy
For it will make your brain hummy
Also watch out for weather
It can only get rougher
And with loo blowing mad
The story of heat stroke can be sad
And your tongue may feel thick
Take iced tea to give you a kick
Not to forget, you must sleep
Don’t pace up and down or leap
Innumerable working days are ahead
So for a while befriend the bed
Lightheadedness is just a sign
Take note before fever makes you moan
And don’t act like a madcap
Just go, relax and take a nap

Sphere: Related Content
Work FeverSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, July 7, 2008


‘There’s no life without creativity’, said a colleague many years back. She used to get annoyed at the lack of imagination. With her around, nothing was permanent, plans changed every day, consistent patterns were not the thing to look for … except, perhaps, consistency in her eccentricities. I might be planning a day off – actually, a weekend – to do nothing and to leave the mind blank and just at time there would be a call, ‘nisha ma, I have an idea … let’s do this by … ’. And I would sigh and say to her in my mind, ‘Why you didn't think of it before and why can’t you wait till the first work day next week’. Did I have a weekend or a holiday? No, not really, perhaps, four or five days in a year. My imagination had to follow her’s and make a contact with her creative spirit. My sub-ideas would follow and we would have animated discussions about the style of delivering the idea, planning the steps and on good occasions would also begin the implementation and bingo, the creative spirit would begin stirring again! Programme cycle management was an elusive venture. Occasional insights and non-stop manipulation of the phrases, ‘compliance with regulatory systems’ and ‘obligation to donors and participants’, would help me keep some things going. But more than often the planned action would give way to the persistent desire to innovate, to explore new ways doing and seeing things happen, to make creativity visible and more visible.

It wasn’t easy to manage creativity. The flashes of occasional insights used to be the last stage of a long process involving distinctive creative stages. The first stage used to be pre-empting the creative outbursts. The second, creative options for problem solving. The third, preparation for something altogether different – another more creative idea taking over the last creative idea. The fourth, options to deal with something altogether different. Did I realize that my own creativity was spent coping with my colleague’s creativity? Yes, that is one of the reasons I eventually left the organization. It was a free environment but in the hierarchy of creative order, my imagination could not roam free. It had to be a lot like the fire-fighters who follow fire.

But that brings me to the question whether all of us are creative or only a few are granted this delightful ability to innovate and imagine. I believe all of us are but some of us get caught in something like habitual fixedness. The day to day life does require a lot of order, unthinking responses and uncritical compliance. And this begins right from the formative years. There is a great danger of becoming so used to routinised way of thinking about practically everything. Because we are taught to look at the things in a particular way and have particular beliefs and so we see only the obvious way of coming up with questions, analyses and things to be created. We run into a situation where comfortable ways of thinking block innovation, deviation and imagination.

But it is not just the habitual fixedness, self-censorship and the pressure to be politically correct also suppresses thinking and an ability to see and create new ideas and things. It has the potential to make us a prisoner of what is deemed as ‘acceptable’. Actually even most creative people also have some or the other habitual fixedness or produce ideas and things along politically or socially acceptable norms. Creativity too is a matter of practice. I feel, it has to be acquired – constant mulling and pushing the mind to the limits is critical in order to step out of the box. Though some people go through this process and just when they are all set to come out and about, the fear of rejection hits and creative ideas and innovation are left in a permanent mental incubator.

Being alert and aware is not enough to be creative. The burden of realities may loom so large that every thought and every action may turn into a conscious exercise that may not allow ‘uncultivated creativity’ and beauty to surface at all. An alert mind, after all, is a calculating mind as well. It controls expressions, innovation and works of beauty from forming unpredictable associations. Without persistence to let go of the control by the mind, a random creative thought cannot be converted into a creative act or a creative creation.

Sphere: Related Content
CreativitySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, July 4, 2008

And To All Other Friends

Dear ones, the connection you make are such delight

Connecting, like birds on a flight,
On a playful sunny morning light.

Connections are what we desire
Loving life and rejoicing even in satire.

With razor sharp notes to share
We can set our tongues on fire.

Yet we can make our way through the ideological strife
If we recognize each is holding some truth of life.

Connections, however, we have known
Carry noon of the sun and the dawn of the moon.

Connections can tell and connections set
Warmth and heat in the relationship net.

Though each connection moves on a journey of its own,
Connections conjure, cross, overlap and get strewn.

Connections, my dear ones, let us know
We are not alone in our laughter and woe.

Connections humour, connections test
Sometimes they can give our sketchy brains a little rest.

Sphere: Related Content
And To All Other FriendsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

And To My Happy Friend


Here’s the important thing
Yesterday and day before yesterday
You had a dream come true
A dream you dreamt or dreamt not
But it came true by and by
To fill your days with pleasure.

It may feel vast and wondrous
Not unreasonable though
Considering the humane poverty of the past.

How does it matter that reality of the dream is frugal
There were great exterior and spendthrift leftovers
But luxuries never came near those on fringes
And any way unwieldy pockets made you cringe
So now feel great, enjoy the frugal dream come true
Ring the bell, sign the papers
To you heart’s content.

And in case it is dream you did not dream
Go ahead woman dream it, stay afloat
But only as long as you know
You will have time to check
Those solicitous arrangements
Make sure there are no seaweeds
All set to sail with you.

Let those from the past
Call their mournful cries

As you indulge in the dream
Their grimaces large, small and crooked

Will not reflect on you.

Go and fly, I say
Climb those hills with speed
You will sail far, away and above
Days to travel have actually arrived
Bon Voyage, dear one.

See the power tall and true
Witness the coliseum
Your ability will show
Climb the K2 of echelon
And when you feel a bit blue
And feel you have no clue
Revel in the bouquets
That will surely come your way.

Sphere: Related Content
And To My Happy FriendSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

To My Not-so-Happy Friend

All the things
I heard today
Make me feel
Your loss is nothing.
Ten bucks, sweetheart
Is worth losing
If you get connected
To the loved ones.
It would be hard to remain unaffected
Were you to hear
The flip-flap of my brain.
It's a wonderful feeling
To have reassuring talks
To have friends like you.
It’s soothing
To know that
The heat will not melt you
And that you will not be fence sitting.
It’s happiness
To find some folks desperate
To have us on board.
Think, Woman
So much pleasure
And the loss of ten bucks
It’s not comparable, it’s nothing.
Consider what I am saying
Your gesture made my days different
You helped me retain faith
With the things you said and did.
Taking on mine and me
The pleasures, the pains
Woman, you made me laugh.
In the times of low and dark
Your humorous crack
Blew away the gloom.
I am not feeling down
I am up and about
That’s why
Your ten bucks are nothing.
I have been ecstatic
I see promise in everything
And so my dear one
Losing ten bucks is nothing.
It may sound queer
It is possible
Those ten bucks brought
The daily dose of cheer.
Perhaps they are smiling
Somewhere in the air.

Sphere: Related Content
To My Not-so-Happy FriendSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Some Thoughtlessness

To help find a moment to be on my own
And to have space of my own
To get me what seems to be my dream
To let me be
A gentle reminder is on its way
To the one –
A part of the dreaded chaos.
The brain

Ordinary get the discreet
But not this one
Let us see
If the slow wind whistles
And manages to manoeuvre
Its way through the thicket
That sits on my shoulders

Sphere: Related Content
Some ThoughtlessnessSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Religion and Expression

Yesterday a distant colleague (we work in the same organization but there’s no cross-linkage – I wonder if it is because of the mammoth size of the organization or us …) said that I am insulting locals because I am upfront in my rejection of a belief that the god created all creatures in the world to be devoured by the human beings and understanding of the god as a power privileging one creature (human beings) over all others. According to my colleague we are guests in the country so we should not try to challenge local beliefs.

I am not sure what to call this … a cultural relativist approach to survive in another country, or a patronizing approach, or treating the Afghans as incapable to thinking, understanding and tolerance. Another distant colleague joined the conversation and tried to argue from a point of view that my rejection of the belief should not be treated as an affront to the locals and that it is a matter of personal beliefs and such an interpretation of my view is a denial of my basic right to hold and express an opinion. The colleague was told the view coming from a non-Muslim is an affront to Muslims including her, an expatriate Muslim. This was a new angle to the discussion about who has a right to expression and who has socio-cultural and religious rights within an Islamic state.This was an interesting conversation which threatened to divide the so called homogeneous group of expatriates – all my previous conversations found the discussions referring to the ‘expatriates’ and ‘nationals’ in a binary opposition as though each of the supposedly homogeneous groups were not at all divided or riven. In a way it did divide unlike before … for the next few days I avoided the distant colleague who suggested that I must conform (and devour all creatures as is the majority local practice, I suppose); the other distant colleague begin to regard the first distant colleague as a fake whenever that one critiqued fundamentalism; and the first distant colleague called two of us insensitive to Muslims at our backs.

I am still not able to regard the first colleague as a fake because some aspects of her life known to me demonstrate that she has trespassed fundamentalist ways … in fact, the way she lives her life demonstrates that it is shaped more by her personal inclinations than by any dogma. But I am not able to understand her apparent effort to simplify the world into Muslims and non-Muslims and deny liberal opinions in a Muslim context. She is also not a conservative or so I think based on what I have seen of her. Yet, I am unable to find a rationale for her illiberal and intolerant attitude towards very basic requirement, ie, freedom of expression, for a dialogue. Is it the fear of the locals … or an assumption that her identity as a Muslim puts her in a relatively secure position compared to other expatriates; that if she is seen as not conforming it may jeopardize that position …?

There have been tremendous progress in Afghanistan in the last few years that I have seen; there have been different developments in thought as well as in the way people live. A great mass of new knowledge has come into an ordinary urban middle class or affluent Afghan’s possession, particularly men’s possession – new knowledge about technology, world economy, development, international law, state systems; knowledge about the history and politics of the state and neighbouring countries and in particular about their thinking in matters of religion and the methods religious expression; and a revival of the interest about other religions, about the differences and similar ways in which religions and religious practices have developed.

There some Afghans I know who have not kept the information and knowledge newly accessible and available to them in a compartmentalized order – there has been an obvious influence of the new information and knowledge on their understanding of their religion and also a very obvious interpretation of the new information and knowledge through the lenses of the religion. With some among this group I have noticed that they almost in awe of the new information and knowledge mainly because they were deprived of these for so long that any bit of something new is far from irrelevance or being a fad. Some others see destructive zeal in the pace at which the new information and knowledge is flowing in and they would like to keep them separate from the understanding and practice of their religion because they feel otherwise they would be compromising their intellectual and spiritual integrity.

I haven’t had opportunities to have such discussion in rural areas. Discussions in the rural areas have been mostly related to the social (some bit of tradition and culture minus religion) and economic development issues. But I have found openness among even the rural people to accept my non-compliance with certain practices including meat-based food and headcover when I have made the effort to explain my non-compliance as matters of my belief and difference in culture. I have felt respected when I have said that I am not an Afghan and I do not want to imitate one. Some have treated my efforts as my intellectual ingenuity, some as daring, and some as sheer foolishness. I do not possess any sort of spiritual depth so cannot argue from a spiritual or theological perspective. I feel that the effort to explain my views and beliefs is indispensable to develop a relationship between different identities. The views and identity that I come with cannot be left as antagonistic to the local or their perspectives as unrelated from mine. There is a degree of incongruence in our views and beliefs but as human beings we must be able to think together on some issues and be comfortable in each other’s company.

I don’t think that there is anything new about the situation; I think this has been a perpetual state of affairs on our planet earth! Things have blended in a new combination in the past (some backfired) and things will blend anew. Some may backfire but I don’t regard not taking the risk as an alternative. It would be a pity to let our fears shut the doors to such opportunities of being able to co-exist comfortably in our separate identities.

Sphere: Related Content
Religion and ExpressionSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend