Without Apology

Lehazz and takalafu do not have English equivalents and that is when my tongue trips to accommodate myself and the one I’m addressing. 

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But this is no longer a question of adaab. I am writing an academic paper for an American audience so I footnote everything. Footnote kalar while I fight down the nausea that rises in my throat, footnote purdah while desperately writing and rewriting definitions so that I am sure my American audience, my academic audience, can understand, footnote izzat with a sense of apprehension because what if the men of my culture are chalked down simply as “strict patriarchs”? 

It is 3am and I am desperately claustrophobic, but I keep myself from taking off on a long walk. I am a woman. I cannot afford recklessness. 

Until I started translating my everyday life for an academic audience, I did not realize how much a language can hold - how much love, how much meaning, how much burden, how much misunderstood ethics … One of my professors described himself as critical on the first day of class except he made it clear that he was vicious in his words and he enjoyed being vicious for the sake of being vicious. Nine people in his class, three girls, and I’m the only person of color. Their response is laughter, some nervous, but most of them affirming him, joining him. I hold my gaze level, don’t crack a smile. Ethics. I feel disgust at his lack of humility and I think of adaab, of lehaaz. and how he expects it of us, but would not afford it to us. 

I grit my teeth and position my fingers on the keyboard again. I idly wonder if my fingers would tremble at this point of exhaustion were I holding a pen and I hear my mother’s voice in my mind: “Concentrate”. And I am thankful for the years of discipline taught in her proud voice. So far from home, my mother and my mother tongue envelope me in a warm embrace to provide me a sturdy home.   

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The reason I love Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands so much is that she writes without apology. Language provides a home and she refuses to step out of her home to bare herself to an imperialistic audience and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to do that. If I will have the chance, or the courage, or both. bell hooks once said that there is no real  place for black and brown women in this world, much less in academia so we must make spaces for ourselves. So I push and dodge and elbow people in the ribs and I fiercely wear my shalwar kamees and I attempt at standing, at taking up space without apology. Those are the key words: Without Apology. And I remain cautious and defensive and I practice being. Even if I must accommodate in my writing, I will (practice at) not accommodate(ing) in my physical presence. For now, this is where I’ll begin.  

Life is like a box of chocolates except lately I haven’t been craving any.

So where does that leave me?

"I do, I undo, I redo"

Louise Bourgeois (via davidkanigan)

(Source: readalittlepoetry.wordpress.com, via lifeinpoetry)

Tags: quotes

I just finished reading Mary Beard’s “The Public Voice of Women” and I love that she starts off with the first recorded example of a man telling a woman to shut up, and that of course, this tradition is the beginning of Western tradition. She is talking about the Odyssey. 

If you have some time to yourself, I would encourage you to read the article. It is interesting and a delightful read. But I suppose what struck me as I read through the article was that for much of my life, I have heard a lot of the same refrains that the ancient Greek used. Oratory was defined exclusively as a skill required and relegated for the male gender for the Greeks. In turn, my conservative Muslim family have told me numerous times that the female voice is also part of her awrah. 

What is striking of course is that apparently the female voice was not part of her awrah during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (perhaps it was starting to become so during the time of the Caliph Umer but I really am not an Islamic History scholar). Leila Ahmed describes in her book “Women and Gender in Islam” of how women made demands and were heard during the time of the Prophet. It was not always smooth sailing and the Bedouins are unmistakably patriarchal. 

Still. I did not realize that the Greeks essentially thought of women’s voices as their awrah too and I can’t help but wonder if this is where the idea seeped into Muslim jurisprudence. Afterall, don’t Muslims proudly own the fact that they were the ones preserving and translating Greek and Roman facts  while Europe was busy burning itself to the ground in the Middle Ages?

Political Prisoners are Like Plaster [x]

"When I was in England, I broke my hand in a bicycle accident. My hand was healed back to its normal condition through a plaster mold, but it took a long time. My hand was in terrible condition at that time; bones were broken into many pieces. But after [the cast], everything was fine. I got this idea from that.
Burmese society was shattered under the military government, so I believe that political prisoners are like plaster. They can heal our society, return it to a normal, strong condition. Former political prisoners will put Burma back on the right track, that’s what I feel. I wanted to create art for them. Our next generation will know what their history was via my art.” - Artist Htein Lin

Political Prisoners are Like Plaster [x]

"When I was in England, I broke my hand in a bicycle accident. My hand was healed back to its normal condition through a plaster mold, but it took a long time. My hand was in terrible condition at that time; bones were broken into many pieces. But after [the cast], everything was fine. I got this idea from that.

Burmese society was shattered under the military government, so I believe that political prisoners are like plaster. They can heal our society, return it to a normal, strong condition. Former political prisoners will put Burma back on the right track, that’s what I feel. I wanted to create art for them. Our next generation will know what their history was via my art.” - Artist Htein Lin

One Man Cult

Who do I write for? If for myself, does it really matter if my words are stifled in me or if I lay them out?

I get afraid to write more often than not.

It is just twenty five minutes after midnight and it’s raining outside. There is the sound of the fan and the mist of the rain and I can’t stop thinking about her, can’t stop thinking about her.

The rain is so tender. Well, at least we figured out one riddle. Even though I have a companion in my bed, I can’t fall asleep. Though it may have to do with the fact that my head isn’t on his shoulders and my head is too full to sleep.

Except I’m meeting a client in the morning first thing and I’m not ready for her but I don’t feel like working either. There is a skeleton of a website though. I have something to present.

Oh. He said a thing today. That the bed is ours. I’m (finally) sharing a real bed with him that he got from his Grandmother. And he told me if I wanted to stay up and work, I could. That it’s “your bed too”. It made me smile.

Every time I meet her, she tells me I make her laugh. I am in wonder of this every time, and I am so afraid of jinxing it that I can’t help but quietly guard this…. easy tender flame that’s within me.

I love lightning.

People that come in our lives always inevitably teach us a few things. He taught me that safety was possible and in that safety I learned to nurture love and tenderness towards myself. And in the midst of it all, I recognized a truth in myself. There was no shame, no guilt that God wouldn’t love me for what I was. I am. It is a simple truth. And I’m not afraid. I have never been afraid. And I thank God for this blessing.

She taught me tenderness. A different kind of tenderness, and I want to trace empires in her glowing black skin. But. I’ll leave the but hanging. It’s ok.

Frank Ocean is right though. This unrequited love/To me it’s nothing but
/A one-man cult.

I don’t need to drag her in this cult. She deserves better.

Racism Matters

Two semesters ago, I was sitting in Anthropology class and we were discussing Code of the Street by Elijah Anderson. The week before, we had discussed Death Without Weeping by Nancy Scheper-HughesCode is set in North Philadelphia while Death is set in Brazil. Many of the themes are similar. Poverty, racism, death and everything that’s caught up in it. Both books are heartbreaking and illuminating. 

As we were discussing Code, one of the things that students kept bringing up was how people described in Death were suffering so much particularly because of hunger. Scheper-Hughes has described how such pervasive hunger can affect every aspect of a person’s life including their inability to stand up for themselves and demand a better way of life. But in Code, students pointed out, residents were provided with food stamps, and so were better off than their counterparts in Brazil. Right?

When I pointed out that lack of institutional support hold people back in North Philadelphia (and pointed out specific examples from the book), one (white, male) student said (and I paraphrase): “I wonder if like… if…what if we provided them with great education but not give them that easy access to food stamps? Like, would they want to make their lives better? Like, I wonder if we changed a few parameters but kept the others constant, if that would make a difference?”

They. By that point of the discussion, I realized that I was the only one speaking on the “institutional access” diatribe while everyone in the class genuinely seemed to find that question thought provoking and I didn’t want to respond anymore. I didn’t want to respond anymore because even the professor seemed to genuinely not know the answer of why North Philadelphians weren’t doing so well and I didn’t want to come off as the angry brown girl. The angry brown girl who talks about race and class and ~controversial, political stuff~. There were only two other students of color in the class and they hadn’t said anything in the entire 50 minute discussion.

But his comment also struck me because it felt like he was talking about lab rats in a social science lab. It made me nauseous. If we changed factor A, but kept B and C constant, what would happen? I was physically sick and I wanted to be anywhere else on Earth but sitting in that room. 

Recently, I have been thinking about that moment a lot. About how no one commented on that charged (passively racist?) statement but it made me physically sick. 

Read More

There are many types of uprooting. The brutal expulsions like those now devastating hundreds of thousands in countries like Iraq and Syria are common in the cycles of politics and war. But it can be more subtly political, too, as was Dante’s banishment from Florence at the hands of the Black Guelphs, or economic, as it was for the immigrants dancing in the Argentine brothels. Each person who survives this uprooting and finds himself in exile experiences an existential earthquake of sorts: Everything turns upside down, all certitudes are shattered. The world around you ceases to be that solid, reliable presence in which you used to feel comfortable, and turns into a ruin — cold and foreign. “You shall leave everything you love most: this is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first,” wrote Dante in “Paradiso.”

From Ovid to Dante to Czeslaw Milosz, exile has been portrayed as a catastrophic event. If such an uprooting comes to the exile as a form of death, it is not just his own death, but that of the world that dies with him and in him.

To live is to sink roots. Life is possible only to the extent that you find a place hospitable enough to receive you and allow you to settle down. What follows is a sort of symbiosis: Just as you grow into the world, the world grows into you. Not only do you occupy a certain place, but that place, in turn, occupies you. Its culture shapes the way you see the world, its language informs the way you think, its customs structure you as a social being. Who you ultimately are is determined to an important degree by the vast web of entanglements of “home.”

Uprooting is a devastating blow because you have to separate yourself overnight from something that, for as long as you can remember, has been an important part of your identity. In a sense, you are your culture, customs, language, country, your family, your lovers. Yet exile, should you survive it, can be the greatest of philosophical gifts, a blessing in disguise. In fact, philosophers, too, should be uprooted. At least once in their lives. They should be exiled, displaced, deported — that should be part of their training. For when your old world goes down it also takes with it all your assumptions, commonplaces, prejudices and preconceived ideas. To live is to envelop yourself in an increasingly thicker veil of familiarity that blinds you to what’s under your nose. The more comfortable you feel in the world, the blunter the instruments with which you approach it. Because everything has become so evident, you’ve stopped seeing anything. Exile gives you a chance to break free. All that heavy luggage of old “truths,” which seemed so only because they were so familiar, is to be left behind. Exiles always travel light.

The redeeming thing about exile is that when your “old world” has vanished you are suddenly given the chance to experience another. At the very moment when you lose everything, you gain something else: new eyes. Indeed, what you eventually get is not just a “new world,” but something philosophically more consequential: the insight that the world does not simply exist, but it is something you can dismantle and piece together again, something you can play with, construct, reconstruct and deconstruct. As an exile you learn that the world is a story that can be told in many different ways. Certainly you can find that in books, but there is no deeper knowledge than the one that comes mixed with blood and tears, the knowledge that comes from uprooting.

Exiles travel light because they barely exist. And that’s another important lesson philosophers can learn from exile: Uprooting gives you the chance to create not only the world anew, but also your own self. Deprived of your old world, your old self is left existentially naked. It is not only worlds that can collapse and be rebuilt, but also selves. Selves can be re-made from scratch, reassembled and refurbished. For they, too, are stories to be told in different ways. Often with uprooting there also comes a change of languages, which makes the refashioning all the more fascinating. You can fashion yourself in very much the same way a writer fashions her characters.

Tags: diaspora

nevver:

“…when you’re looking at live footage of a city in your country where people are being ASSAULTED by the police - side with the people.

(Source: msnbc.com, via pbnpineapples)

I want to write more on this but I’m exhausted tonight so maybe tomorrow or later if I wake up

I want to write more on this but I’m exhausted tonight so maybe tomorrow or later if I wake up

Tags: own