jew on this

critical, progressive ideas from pondering jews

Category: feminism

indefinite detention

by tobybee

About thirty minutes drive north from my house, in Broadmeadows, sits MITA, the Melbourne Immigrant Transit Accommodation facility. You hear that name and it’s possible to imagine that the people who are detained inside are merely on their way through, temporarily being held there until they are released in some way. Tragically though, at the moment that’s not the case.

Approximately 50 refugees – people, most of whom are Tamil, who have been through the disastrously long and unwieldy processes that our government hurls at them and have proven their refugee status – being imprisoned there have been given a negative assessment by ASIO. They are “ASIO rejected refugees”. This means, quite simply, that ASIO has said that there is a problem with them – that they are a danger in some way – but they have not explained how, or in what way. As others have pointed out, this can mean that there has been a determination not that a refugee has done anything wrong before, but that they have the potential to do something wrong in the future. Moreover, ASIO assessments are kept secret: the refugees are not told of the allegations against them, nor are their lawyers. nobody. there is no possibility of appeal. The effect of this is to create a situation of indefinite detention: they are refugees, but are not allowed out of prison. Think about that. (it seems to me just one more reason why systems of detention are never ok, why we need to be working so hard to take that right to imprison away from governments)hungerstriker2

And so some of these men – 27 at the moment – sitting in Broadmeadows, have begun a hunger strike. Today is day 6. They are spending their time sitting outside, and have painted banners (one of which you can see here) to try to communicate with the Australian population, and with the Government who holds the key to their futures. On Day one they released this statement to explain what they are doing:


We are 30 people here at Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (25 Tamils, 2 Burmese and 2 Iranian) and 56 people all over the Australian detention. We have been here for four years and more. We cannot tolerate it any longer. We need to be released to save our

At 2 a.m. today (Monday, April 8, 2013) we began a hunger strike together. All 30 of us plan to keep doing this until there is solution, one way or the other.

We will gather together in the grounds of the detention centre and stay there until we get a solution. If the Australian Government does not release us, we ask that they kill us mercifully.

We have painted banners as part of our protest. There is one that shows many people hanging. That is what we want to happen to us if we are not released. for life here.

People in here are jumping off rooves, they are going on hunger strikes, they are taking tablets, they are trying to hang themselves……It is a cruel and inhumane environment for everyone.

We plead with you, the Australian people, to help us. We are on the edge of life and don’t know how much longer we can stand it.

We ask Prime Minister Gillard, Immigration Minister O’Connor, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus Opposition leader Abbott and ASIO director David Irvine to stop this torture of all of us……. of
men, women and children, who have done nothing to warrant this cruel treatment that is destroying our minds.

We ask the authorities : You say we are a threat to this nation. So if we are such people why have they now put women and children and families in here with us? We are willing to be released into
the community under strict orders if they think we are threats, which we aren’t. But whatever they want we will do.

But we can’t keep living like this. We are not in detention. We are in a cemetery.

We don’t want to die. We left Sri Lanka, Burmese and Iran because we fear to die. We came to Australia to live, not die. But death would be better than the life we have.


This is happening 30 minutes down the road from my house. That fact hits me over the head; my friends have kept remarking on it in the last couple of days (despite the fact that we try to care about, mourn, and grieve lives that are damaged all around the world, that we fight against injustice in all sorts of places). There is something particularly awful about this happening at the edge of an industrial park, just down the road.

Some people have set up a 24 hour solidarity vigil at MITA, people are going inside to visit the refugees, and others are visiting the vigil briefly. I went yesterday for a couple of hours. It was one of the more distressing moments of a life. We went around the side, and stood with a warehouse, long driveway and fences between us and the men. We waved to each other, clapped so we could all hear each other, and those of us on the outside shouted words of support. And it seemed quite simple: this situation should not exist. And quite horrifying: but it does.

So what can you do? what should you do?
Firstly, you should care. You should care that this is being done by your government, that this is happening just down the road.

Secondly, you should take action. There’s so many levels to what needs to be done. The Minister – Brendan O’Connor – is the man who can make the decision to free them. What power he holds. You can contact him and tell him to release these refugees. Send him an email, call his office, visit his electorate office (which happens to be in Caroline Springs, also not far down the road).

Keep up to date with what is happening by looking at this blog, visiting this facebook event or visiting the RISE facebook page.

You can go join the vigil. It doesn’t matter how long you go for, anytime offers something. I’ve been told that the vigil brings some comfort and support to those on hunger strike. There is no doubt that being able to see each other, and interact in that small way, brings some comfort. By visiting you can also support those who are camping there, and maintaining the vigil.

And, it seems to me, everyone should see what is being done, what is happening. Everyone should understand the processes put in place to determine the lives of people. Everyone should understand the structures of control and discrimination operated by the government. This should not be happening. Neither ASIO nor the government should have this power over life and death. The people must be freed.


the four…

by jewonthisguest

as said at a second night seder in melbourne by z.
hebrew via the interwebs.

בָּרוּךְ הַמָּקוֹם, בָּרוּךְ הוּא. בָּרוּךְ שֶׁנָּתַן תּוֹרָה לְעַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּרוּךְ הוּא. כְּנֶגֶד אַרְבָּעָה בָנִים דִּבְּרָה תּוֹרָה . אֶחָד חָכָם, וְאֶחָד רָשָׁע, וְאֶחָד תָּם, וְאֶחָד שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל

חָכָם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מַה הָעֵדוֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם? וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמָר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן

רָשָׁע מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת לָכֶם? לָכֶם – וְלֹא לוֹ. וּלְפִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל כָּפַר בְּעִקָּר. וְאַף אַתָּה הַקְהֵה אֶת שִנָּיו וֶאֱמֹר לוֹ: בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יי לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם. לִי – וְלֹא לוֹ. אִילּוּ הָיָה שָׁם, לֹא הָיָה נִגְאָל

תָּם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מַה זֹּאת? וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו: בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ יי מִמִּצְרָיִם, מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים

וְשֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל – אַתְּ פְּתַח לוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר, בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יי לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם

Blessed is the blessing. Blessed that we can sit as friends, as family and as fucked-up individuals lashed together by empty ritual, tradition and blood and fill this with meaning. That we can build and destroy together.

The Torah speaks of Four Sons – not really, it doesn’t exist in that form – but the Rabbis, as men, thought that there were four sons worthy of inclusion and many invisible daughters who weren’t worth mentioning at all. They also didn’t mention animals, non-Jews and people who didn’t resemble themselves. Fuck that!

The Symbol of Wisdom – this symbol is the all-knowing, all powerful patriachal dictator that we internalise as we are socialised in our houses, our families and communities. he confuses the narrative with historical factoids and presents a slick retelling of the story as a totally reasonable history. and we internalise and adopt these stories as our own. to this, we must say, fuck us!

The Symbol of Wicked – this symbol is the land developer who talks about property prices and never about Indigenous people and their land, and the minor functionaries of capitalism who grease the wheels while complaining ironically about being functionaries of capitalism, and the csg volunteers who perpetuate and construct the siege mentality that zionism so loves in melbourne. to this, we must say, fuck us!

The Symbol of the Simple – this symbol is of the status quo, of those parts of us that think that rape culture isn’t a problem because it’s everywhere and that episode 9 of Girls was fine because it didn’t confront, call-out and reject the rape scene at the end between Adam and that random character. to this, we must say, fuck us!

The Symbol of the Blank – this symbol is of the uninformed, of those parts of us who think the Jewish News is a source of information, that Australian history begins in 1788, that Prisoner X and Zionism is totally fine, and that refugees who risk their lives on boats are queue jumping scum. to this, we must say, fuck us!

queering the doykeit

by tobybee

the internet has indeed (in my experience) been rad for building transnational communities of jewish diasporists. despite physical distance, we can connect over the lines, sharing ideas and building fledgling friendships. one such connection i’ve made has been to jenna brager, whose zine, doykeit, i discovered thanks to vlada. and so i’m loving the jewish ladies across the globe.

jenna’s just put out a new call out for submissions for a second edition of doykeit (doykeit, she writes in the first, “in a contemporary context implies a radical investment in the local communities that sustain us and an understanding that in a globalized society, solidarity politics must cross borders real and imagined), so, friends, get to it and submit something!:

Doykeit #2—“Diaspora”

The concept of ‘doykeit,’ Yiddish for ‘hereness,’ is taken from the pre-World War II Polish-Jewish group The Bund, which believed that Jews have both a right to live and a political commitment to work for change ‘here and now.’

Doykeit seeks to speak to the cross-sections of Jewish and queer/feminist identification and how these might inform an anti-Zionist or Palestinian solidarity politic.

For this issue of Doykeit, we ask for writing and art that considers one or more of the following topics: diaspora, home and “homeland,” galut, displacement, dispersal, remembrance, intergenerational relationships, borders, nationalism, and violence.

“The word ‘diaspora’ means dispersion. It originated in the Septuagint, one of the original Greek translations of the Bible: Deuteronomy 28:25: ‘thou shalt be a diaspora in all kingdoms of the earth.’…”

Some questions to consider:

–site(s) of diaspora and site(s) of “home”

–diaspora in a globalized society

–What does it mean to be a diaspora Jew (politically, spiritually etc.)?

–How is diaspora complicated/ take on different meaning in different Jewish communities (ethnic, geographic, denominational, etc.)?

–How do we build solidarity between/ within diasporic/ exilic communities?

Due May 1st

for a sweet year

by tobybee

please don’t spill over, dear tomatoes, i prayed. alas, to no avail…

gut yontif, dear readers. i’m finishing up cooking an eggplant and tomato bake for erev rosh hashana dinner tonight. and so, i wish you a nourishing, fulfilling, self-reflective year to come. a year filled with love, laughter, and friendships. with the strength to cope with adversity, and the strength to ask for help. and the strength and care to offer help. the determination to offer forgiveness, to others and to yourself. the desire to right the wrongs that you perpetrate, knowingly and unknowingly. the willingness to see what structures of oppression you fall victim to, and which ones you are complicit in. and to do what you can to not be complicit. the assurance that you will dance as you further the revolution.

my cooking playlist:
the wailing wall
the shondes
leonard cohen

gentrification, the flavour of the month

by tobybee

when i was in new york in 2006 and 2009, doing research for my phd thesis, i lived for a few months on ludlow st, in the lower east side. on one of the corners – the corner of ludlow and rivington, to be precise – there was (and still is) spitzer’s. when i was there in 2006 it was spitzer’s dress store: a delightfully run-down coat and dress store, outside of which would sit old mr spitzer and various other men. i don’t know that i ever really saw anyone go in there.

when i returned in 2009 it had become spitzer’s corner – a self-described ‘american gastropub serving the highest quality pub fare’.

this afternoon i was walking past and ran into a friend who was going in for a beer, so i joined her, entering the space for the first time. so they might not have dresses and coats anymore, but they do have $5 bowls of pickles, $10 artisan grilled cheese sandwiches, and $16 burgers… hmmm…

for pesach in 2008 jfrej (the organisation that was co-hosting the book launch i was headed to tonight at bluestockings) produced the ‘ten plagues of the lower east side’:

In the tradition of Passover, and the ten plagues God is said to have brought down on the Egyptians forcing Pharaoh to liberate the Jews, we offer these ten plagues that have been visited upon the Lower East Side causing the mass displacement of longtime residents. Now is the time for the City of New York to fulfill its commitments to this community.

We spill 10 drops of wine for:

1. DISPLACEMENT – Federal and municipal urban renewal programs in the 1960s razed many tenements and the promised replacement housing often was never built.
2. USURPATION – The City took many properties through eminent domain to build highways and other “public goods,” without consideration for the low-income people living in the buildings.
3. RACISM – Many co-ops and other housing developments offered leases only to white families through the 1970s and beyond.
4. ABUSE OF POWER – Politicians, business interests and other power brokers blocked community demands for affordable housing construction to replace lost homes.
5. BROKEN PROMISES – City officials promised to replace housing that was destroyed and to build more housing to address the perpetual shortages and the crisis of homelessness, yet seldom was the construction of mixed-income housing a political priority over the past four decades.
6. DUPLICITY – Many politicians have spoken platitudes in favor of low & moderate-income housing, but cut deals with developers behind closed doors.
7. GREED – The construction of luxury condos and market rate apartment buildings has accelerated, further limiting the potential space for mixed-income housing in Manhattan.
8. APATHY – Seduced by the high times of the housing bubble, few politicians have done anything to close loopholes that allow landlords to deregulate more easily and push out longtime residents.
9. GENTRIFICATION – Condo conversions and housing deregulation continue the pattern of displacement in the Lower East Side and throughout NYC.
10. INTOLERANCE – Some long-term residents have opposed construction of mixed-income housing because of its assumed negative impact on their housing values and quality of life.

At this year’s Seder, we gather to bear witness to the history of displacement and struggle in this vital New York City neighborhood. We come together to acknowledge that mixed-income housing cannot become a reality without support from Jewish residents, organizations and politicians.

(the potential for) diasporism countering gentrification

by tobybee

In her most recent book, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, Sarah Schulman traces a history of post-AIDS gentrification in New York City. She explores the ways that the city and its streets and inhabitants, its cultures and its politics, have been gentrified in various ways over the last few decades. It’s a nicely provocative read, as Schulman always offers us.

At one point she writes of the gentrification of art, and argues, in part, that there has been “a pivotal moment of change, when art must become something that does not make people uncomfortable, so that they will spend money. […] The long-term effect of such a condition is that gatekeepers (producers/agents/publishers/editors/programmers/critics, etc.) become narrower and narrower in terms of what they are willing to present, living in a state of projected fear of ever presenting anything that could make someone uncomfortable. There is a dialogic relationship with the culture—when consumers learn that uncomfortable = bad instead of expansive, they develop an equation of passivity with the art-going experience. In the end, the definition of what is ‘good’ becomes what does not challenge, and the entire endeavour of art-making is undermined.” (90-1)

Since reading this passage I’ve returned again and again to what it offers us, to consider the ways in which the field of art and inquiry in which I work—academia—is gentrified in this way.

For instance:

I recently had an article accepted in an academic journal of Jewish Studies. It was passed by the review process, but then the editor wrote to me asking that I remove the postcolonial theory from the piece because it didn’t work for her. Which is fine (lots of things don’t work for lots of people), except that someone else who has read this work commented that bringing together this stream of postcolonial theory with diasporic Jewish writing and thinking was precisely the contribution my work could make. But these new ways of thinking—these new meldings of disciplinary thinkings—can’t occur in public if those in control of those public spaces won’t publish them.

Another one. I was rejected for a job in Jewish Studies (in a department located within a school of historical studies) a year or so ago in part because, I was told, my work is insufficiently historical. This is despite the fact that I have a PhD in history, and my work, while clearly interdisciplinary, is also clearly located within history, and within Jewish Studies.

And a third. Another article I had published earlier this year was published by the sixth journal I sent it to. And it required so many changes that, by the end, it’s only partially recognisable as something I would have written. (I tell this story also to make public that sometimes it takes submitting to 6 journals, or more, times to get something published. Someone I know had an article accepted on the tenth go. If you’re trying to get an article accepted, keep submitting. The process is frustrating, and awful, and depressing, and upsetting, but someone will hopefully pick up the piece. The gain is the potential promise of a job, of having one’s work read. But then, at what cost?).

And a final example. At dinner the other night another academic—a philosopher—told the group that he had a book coming out soon. When he sent the first draft to the publisher he was told that it was great, but it wouldn’t sell, so he would need to change it. So he did.

These are the workings of the gatekeepers of academia, who ensure that what is written is what they want to be written, which inevitably—it must—limit the scope of knowledge, of ways of thinking, and of ways of writing.

But it’s more than that, I think. From the perspective of Jewish Studies, this is fundamentally important, particularly for those of us who work in diasporic jewish studies, and whose writing cultures and politics reflect that diasporism. Certainly, there are jobs out there for some of those people; and certainly, the job crisis in the humanities in academia is much broader than just in Jewish Studies (just today La Trobe University has announced that they are cutting large numbers of staff and programs, including their Gender, Sexuality and Diversity Program.) Progressive modes of thinking, teaching and researching are most certainly under attack.

Surely though, interdisciplinarity is the very definition of diasporic writing. It is the melding together of different types, of different ways, of thinking. It is the productive, in-between, liminal space in which creativity occurs. It is representative of a certain openness. It brings together different cultures, politics and modes. It is, I think, important.

But, as long as editors, hiring committees, publishers, and the like, continue to approach what is acceptable for public presentation as being that which they already know, those methodological approaches with which they are already comfortable, then we will see what Schulman writes of: the gentrification, and the homogenisation, of ways of thinking.

may your memory be a blessing, adrienne

by tobybee

on Sunday, Adrienne Cooper passed away. I never met her, but her music and her image constantly popped up in my life online – she was prolific, and from the other side of the world, she seemed a larger than life figure, offering so much to the ongoing Jewish world. How sad that she is gone, what a tremendous loss.

Jeffrey Shandler writes of her here:

She is perhaps best known as a concert and recording artist, one of the great interpreters of Yiddish song of her generation, both on her own and in collaboration with leading lights of Yiddish music and theater, including Josh Dolgin, Sara Felder, Beyle Schaechter Gottesman, Marilyn Lerner, David Krakauer, Frank London, Zalmen Mlotek, Jenny Romaine, Joyce Rosenzweig, Henry Sapoznik, Eve Sicular, Lorin Sklamberg, Alicia Svigals, Josh Waletzky, Michael Winograd, among many others. Based in New York, she performed at Carnegie Hall, the Public Theater, and LaMama, among other venues. Cooper also appeared in concert in Canada, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. Deeply informed by traditional Jewish practices of making music, Adrienne pushed the envelope of what Yiddish song might be through a prolific output of recitals, recordings, and music theater pieces.

Beyond her extraordinary artistic accomplishments, Cooper was a mentor, resource, and role model to so many who have lived, or at least sojourned, in Yiddishland. I first met her, as did many hundreds of other students, when she worked at the YIVO Institute in the 1970s and ’80s, running the Yiddish summer program (then held at Columbia University) and the Max Weinreich Center for Advanced Jewish Studies. She played a pivotal role in guiding us on our way to engaging Yiddish culture as part of our futures, whether as scholars, writers, performers, filmmakers, or activists.

Cooper also taught us to sing. At the time, I didn’t think it was all that remarkable that someone who was such a gifted musician was also so able a teacher and advisor. Perhaps it was because Cooper could move from administrator to intellectual to artist so naturally. She taught students around the world that music provided an essential point of entry into Yiddish culture and that the insights of scholars nurture and enrich a musician’s performance. Her many Yiddish musical projects integrated a joyous talent for making music with a deep knowledge of the cultures that engendered these songs and stories. Her passionate performances were rooted in an approach to Jewish culture in which heart and mind are closely coupled.

Cooper seemed to have inherited a gift for making music; both her mother and her mother’s parents were talented singers. But she did not simply continue a dynasty of Jewish musicians. She charted her own course as an artist, as has her daughter, Sarah Gordon, who is a smart and ardent musician very much in her own right. Mindful of the great Jewish cultural past, Cooper was committed not to its preservation in a narrow sense, but to its animation through intelligent, creative, and sometimes subversive, engagement.

Similarly, as Cooper worked tirelessly within a number of institutional settings, including Arbeter-Ring, KlezKamp, YIVO, among others, she invested her creative talents in testing their notions of the possible. In her own way, she followed the precedent of the great Yiddish kultur-tuers of yore like Y. L. Peretz, S. Ansky, and Max Weinreich by integrating art, scholarship, institution building, and political action in all phases of her professional life. In concerts such as “Ghetto Tango,” a suite of songs from the Lodz Ghetto or “Lost In the Stars: Jewish Song after World War II in Hebrew, English, and Yiddish,” she delivered emotionally compelling music and at the same time offered original, incisive surveys of cultural creativity at threshold moments in Jewish life.

Cooper used other performances to champion the Jewish commitment to redressing economic inequality (In Love and Struggle: Songs of Jewish Labor) or celebrated LGBT rights (Queer Wedding). Her feminism informed all her undertakings: her activism, her writing and translating, and her singing. Fittingly, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice recently honored Cooper with its Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Award for her contributions as a performer to movements for social change.

One of the last times I saw Cooper sing was at an Arbeter-Ring outdoor summer concert, at which she exhorted the audience to make this a besere un shenere velt, or a better, more beautiful world. The words were delivered with the same emotional force as her singing. In a world without Cooper, without her voice, her wit, her imagination, her intellect, her fervor, her convictions, it will be that much harder to do so.

there is an amazing collection of Yiddish songs here, performed by Adrienne Cooper and others (via Avi).

And to read a profoundly important and moving piece that Adrienne and her daughter, Sarah Mina Gordon (who is a teacher and musician in her own right, performing with Yiddish Princess, amongst others), penned earlier this year, originally published in Lilith, about Yiddish songs and family violence, you should head here.

I send wishes for a long life to Adrienne’s family and friends. as someone elsewhere said, the Chanukah lights are a little dimmer now.

gendered sexualised relations in Israel

by tobybee

I can’t remember exactly what the conversation was that prompted this comment, but it was on a rooftop in Tel Aviv in mid-2007, with a group of women (all of us were single), and I guess we were talking about the difficulties and joys of meeting prospective lovers and partners. I also don’t remember the comment I made that proceeded this question, but one of the women there – a friend of a friend – asked me if I wanted to hook-up with someone while I was there so that I had a reason to stay. I was affronted and annoyed by the question; as I said to her, if I wanted to stay, I’d do so for me, not because there was some guy asking me to. Not because, I guess, a heterosexual demand had been made on me; as though I only gained a politics when brought into heteronormativity; as though I wasn’t capable of being an active agent in deciding where I live: a man was required to summon me into place. I was the feminised diaspora jew, both materially and discursively.

Every so often I’m reminded of that moment.

A few weeks ago I heard Amos Oz speak at the Wheeler Center in Melbourne. He was, of course, the liberal optimistic and oblivious Zionist that he always is. There was a lot in there to dissect (and maybe (hopefully!) one day soon I’ll write a longer post), but I want to focus in particular on a comment that he made at the end. In talking about why there needs to be two separate states, one Palestinian and one Israeli, and why one state would never work, he said something about how we would never ask a man and a woman who didn’t like each other to jump into a honeymoon bed together. He repeated this metaphor a couple of times – that of the impossibilities of Palestinians and Israelis being in the “honeymoon bed” together. Again, we see this summoning into heterosexuality. There is an establishment of heteronormative relations as the only possible way for us to understand the relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and the understanding (indeed, there’s a certain obviousness to Oz’s comment) that sexual relations between the two groups would be (and is) abject. There is a performative naturalising of the dominance of heterosexual sex, wherein such sex works to reproduce the healthy nation, on both individual and social levels. One state can’t work because this would involve Israelis and Palestinians having sex. It’s (almost) as simple as that.

I think these two moments are demonstrative of the intertwining of nationalism and heteronormativity, and the preeminence that is given to the heterosexual and patriarchal order of things. Israeli nationalism, a nationalism which disavows the diaspora and disavows the reproduction of Jewishness through anything other than heterosexual reproduction, is buttressed by the repeated iterations of a racialised heteronorm.

studying the ethnics

by tobybee

There was recently a conference at UC Riverside entitled “Critical Ethnic Studies and the Future of Genocide:
Settler Colonialism/Heteropatriarchy/White Supremacy”
. It looks simultaneously all kinds of amazing and all kinds of overwhelming/exhausting. As in, great title, and great title for some of the papers and plenaries, but when there are 21 parallel sessions, well, it’s just a bit much… (give me 5 parallel sessions at a conference and I balk).

Anyways, some lovely folk sort-of liveblogged the conference, and it’s pretty great to go back and have a read of what some people were thinking: of the critiques of a conference that sets itself up as a counter-space, a space of dissent and inquiry. So, one person writes:

Having just returned from the so-called Critical Ethnic Studies (Association) conference and being completely mentally and physically exhausted, all I want to say at this point (to a certain somebody) is:

Don’t speak to me of the future of genocide(s), the failures and trappings of revolution/desire/imagination, and the need to fuck off the academic-industrial-complex, as you speak from a podium as the Chair of an Official Academic Department sponsoring this Major Conference; wearing a barong and invoking Lapu Lapu (because somehow you are exempt from your own critiques and somehow your performance isn’t an appropriation of the symbols of Spanish/American genocides or doesn’t reproduce a “false” ancestral connection to the indigenous Filipino); willfully ignoring the material, affective, and intellectual labor of women of color feminists and queer of color theorists (some of whom are sitting behind you cleaning up your shit as you speak); creating strawmen to cut down (those strawmen being a monolithic Filipino American Studies and a non-critical, pre- or post-political Ethnic Studies that has no real basis in reality) when there are other much bigger and more powerful fish to fry (did we forget about Anthropology/Sociology/Political Science/Area Studies/History and….); while deploying the hateful, masculinist and violent rhetoric of warfare, death and “fucking” that relies on the same logic and discourse of this genocidal, militarist surveillance state that you can’t see any way out of or offer any possibilities for surviving.

Even if what you’re saying is true— and certainly some of it is, to a point— I don’t want to buy what you’re selling. And don’t pretend that this conference is about creating an Association, for you said yourself you don’t believe in collectivities (because that’s too old school and nostalgic, right?)— this conference was about selling yourself and your department as an intellectual vanguard to guide the rest of us wayward sheep (or rather should I say lemmings because we all need to jump off this genocidal cliff with you to be critical and important). Who’s complicit in genocide, the perpetuation of the neoliberal university, and structures of domination and subordination, now? Oh right, you and that (onto-epistemological) horse you rode in on. So, to borrow from your language, get the hell out.

One more thing- DR, you may call ‘86 a failed revolution, and you’re right, but when I look at this photo, I see hope, possibilities, and the will and practice of survival in the face of death. Photos like these give me sustenance and strength to continue surviving in this academy, of living on despite the daily assault coming not only from those big bad whiteys but from academics of color like yourself who should damn well know better by now. I channel these ancestors, and not your hate, to continue my praxis of solidarity, accountability, and ethical exchange with the folks that matter, the ones you can’t see as anything but already dead or already failed in some way. I’mma let you finish, but you can take your “critical” ethnic studies and I’ll just continue doing mine.


And someone adds to that “On a lighter but related note, if you`re going to have a conference that is heavy on the genocide and the heavy emotions, there definitely needs to be more wine”. So true.

So from these writers I found the term ‘Academic Industrial Complex’ (which I so love. And if you want a discussions from elsewhere on the disaster situation that is applying for jobs within that Complex, have a read of zunguzungu here. I’m going through the same rejection process and (in so many ways) it sucks.), had the ableism of such a mammoth and exhausting conference raised, thought about the ways that ‘critical ethnic studies’ can exclude the very people being ‘discussed’, and many other things as well. It’s worth taking the time to read all the posts on the tumblr – they’re really great.

Because of course I am well aware of the limitations of academia, and of the limitations on what I could possibly hope to achieve by spending the rest of my life reading and writing and teaching. but all lives are limited, I guess. so it’s important for us to constantly challenge academia, and challenge ourselves to consider what we want out of being a part of it. is it just a race to acquire that great job that means that i never have to apply for another job again in my life? in what ways do i become compromised by acquiring that job? in what ways does my work – the very ideas of diasporism and exile that i think about, and with – become just mere bits for thinking with if i got a job that put me at the center? can i, or ‘we’, honestly think of the liminal when we perpetuate a system that so obviously excludes. for now, in part, i wear my (partial) exclusion from the system as a sign that i’m doing something right (i also carry it as a heavy weight of rejection) – but what happens if i stop being excluded, if I become part of the people doing the excluding? can we be both queer feminist diasporists and academics? i think there’s ways (there’s got to be!), but it’s a constant challenge to find them.

update: i don’t mean to suggest that i don’t already carry a whole lot of contradictions, and uncertainties, and impossibilities when i think about diaspora. my grandparents might have been exiles (which they were), but i certainly haven’t ever faced anything like the exile they (and many others have) felt. i might in some ways be on the margins, but i also carry a lot of privilege. i’ve already got one foot in the door of academia, as well as many other sites of white, middle-class privilege. so i don’t want anyone to think that i think i’m not aware of the ways in which i’m already in the center, away from the margins of life. but in other ways, yes, i’m definitely on the margins. and wondering what happens if i move further into the center…

purim readings

by anzya

If you’d like to accompany the fancy dressing up and eating of baked goods with some reading this Purim, here are some places to start:

There’s a great article up on jewschool today which talks about using the story of Purim to raise awareness about domestic violence in the Jewish community. It also has some good links to resources and articles on this, as well as resources which give a feminist perspective of Purim.

One excellent article I read a few years back traces a feminist history of the delicious hamentaschen. It’s called From Prehistoric Cave Art to Your Cookie Pan: Tracing the Hamentacsh Herstory and is available from Lilith.

Finally, something I was reminded of this morning (though I realise besides the silly spirit of it, it really hasn’t much to do with Purim..)