Saturday, May 31, 2008

Interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Check out the first piece of content from Upping the Anti #6 to be released online (via Z-Net): it is an interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz called "The Opposite of Truth is Forgetting".


is a lifelong social justice activist and a leading historian of indigenous struggles in the Americas. She is professor emeritus of Ethnic Studies at California State University and works in a variety of political capacities. The daughter of a landless farmer and a half-Indian mother, Dunbar-Ortiz grew up in rural Oklahoma. In the 1960s, she worked in the anti-war movement, spent time in a clandestine group, and organized in support of anti-imperialist movements in Cuba, Nicaragua, South Africa, and elsewhere. Through her involvement in the feminist group Cell 16, she became a key figure in the women's liberation movement. In 1974, she became active in the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the International Indian Treaty Council. This engagement marked the beginning of a life-long commitment to advancing indigenous struggles. In 1981, Dunbar-Ortiz traveled to Nicaragua to investigate the Miskitu Indians' land-tenure issues. Over the next eight years, she made more than 100 trips to Central America to monitor the conflict between the Contras and Sandinistas.

Dunbar-Ortiz's first book, The Great Sioux Nation: An Oral History of the Sioux Nation and its Struggle for Sovereignty, was presented as the fundamental document at the first international conference on Indians of the Americas, held in 1977 at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. In the years since, she has continued to write works concerned with indigenous struggles for self-determination and the politics of place and land. In the last decade, she has written a trilogy of acclaimed memoirs - Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie, Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975, and Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War.

The interview was done here in Sudbury by a friend of mine when Dunbar-Ortiz was here to do several talks at the university. Just before the interview, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with her chatting about politics and whatever else came up, and that only reinforced my impression of her as an amazing, generous person from whom we have much to learn.

For example, on solidarity with indigenous struggle she said in the interview:

I think there has to be a determination to organize. That doesn't mean that settlers have to leave and go back to where they came from, but they have to give some respect and not just assume they're free to do anything they want. This means organizing in the white community - or at least dividing it, getting it generationally divided or in some way divided - so that it's not just Indian versus white. There has to be a difference among whites about how to deal with this so that it can become an internal dispute and so they can have a learning process.

No emancipatory learning will take place as long as action falls into the racial patterns of white supremacy. Something's got to break through. Settlers have to get busy organizing, and not just with anti-racist people. Stop preparing yourself for the perfect language. Go out and talk to ordinary people about the true history of the US and Canada, get into the public schools, and get written material out. It's really possible to captivate the high school students and the early college students because they want to do right and they haven't yet become hardened in their views.

And on "unforgetting":

The definition of lying is what white South African anti-apartheid writer Andre Brink plays with in his book An Act of Terror. What's the opposite of truth? We think immediately "the lie." But in Greek, the opposite of truth is forgetting. This is a very subtle thing. What is the action you take to tell the truth? It is un-forgetting. That is really meaningful to me. It's not that the origin myth is a lie; it's the process of forgetting that's the real problem.

Leftists sometimes say that it's impossible to organize around un-forgetting, and that really does depress me. How can I organize workers? How can I organize anyone without patriotism? I think that anti-racist perspectives are sometimes distorted because the real question is how the Irish became American and how the Jews became American. Yes, there is white supremacy, but it doesn't mean that people of color can't get Americanized. Then there will only be Native Americans throwing stones at this great edifice of "national unity." Alliances without un-forgetting at their core aren't going to go anywhere in the long run. So, it is a dilemma, but we have to find a way.

Check out the whole interview!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Review: The Red Indians

[Peter Kulchyski. The Red Indians: An Episodic, Informal Collection of Tales from the History of Aboriginal People's Struggles in Canada. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2007.]

This is a short, sweet review of a short, sweet book. It is billed on the back as "an introductory historical overview and an astute, nuanced analysis of Canadian aboriginal politics," and that is exactly right. Kulchyski, a Professor of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba, has put together an extremely readable book with a conversational style, a focus on narratives, and clear anti-colonial politics. The title, which the author admits "may upset or even offend some people," is a play on the multiple uses of the word "red." Kulchyski writes, "for me, the red indians are aboriginal leaders who were 'reds,' that is, on the left of the political spectrum. the red indians, leaders like fred loft or malcolm norris, were those who, in fighting for aboriginal rights, saw an affinity or similarity with the struggle against capitalism in canada" [6].

I have very little to say that is critical of the book, but I'll start with my pettiest objection first: I felt that the author's rationale for not using any capital letters came across a little bit like hipster political posturing, though I have no objections at all to the decision itself.

More generally, my main concern was that I wanted more, particularly more detail on the struggle against the infamous 'white paper' of the Trudeau government, and more on struggles since then. Also, I did not encounter a whole lot that was completely new to me, apart from a few elements of the discussion of earlier eras, and that's always disappointing. But these things are more about my wants/needs being different from the book's intended project than any actual problem with the book. And adding too much more -- more scope or more detail -- would have put at risk what is most valuable about this text.

See, this book is not just short, conversational, and focused on narratives in the strained sense that some academic books might merit those descriptions -- it actually is those things. Written words are never conversation, but it does well in coming across as if you were hearing a story from someone who knew these histories well. Even when it refers readers to sources that can provide more detail, it does so not with a potentially offputting academic convention like footnotes or endnotes, but in sentences written like friendly advice in the body of the text.

It is the sort of book that almost anyone could read and learn from. It covers material across several centuries, yet precisely because it openly aims to be anecdotal rather than comprehensive, it is successful in using those anecdotes to give not a totalizing explanation but rather an important qualitative impression that conveys something of the flavour of oppression and resistance in different eras beyond the details of the specific stories. I could see it being used in high school or even senior elementary school classrooms, as well as community discussion circles, while still being of interest to experienced activists. I could also see it being the first thing I point L to if, at some point when he is a bit (but not too much) older, he comes to me with questions about indigenous issues.

[For a list of all book reviews on this site, click here.]

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Review: Queerly Classed

[Susan Raffo, ed. Queerly Classed: Gay Men and Lesbians Write about Class. Boston: South End Press, 1997.]

Queerly Classed is a straightforward, readable book that I appreciated not only for its specific content but because it approaches the world with a broadly left analysis that foregrounds issues of interconnection, desire, and passing.

The book is a collection of essays that are mostly what you might call analytical autobiography. Most begin from the authors' own experiences to map out some of the ways that their lives have been shaped by social relations organized around sexuality and class (with greater or lesser attention to gender and race). Each begins from a very specific location and expands to some degree of generality, whether explicitly or by implication, but none makes any attempt to become an all-encompassing Theory of Everything. I use the modifier "analytical" because they seek political insight from the experiences they relate, but most are primarily presented as narratives of one sort or another and not the kind of assault of technical marxist or post-structuralist verbiage that some might fear based on that word. Because the essays represent a cluster of starting points, the book as a whole paints a picture that is very rich and that shows an important slice of how real people's lives are organized but that is consciously limited in its breadth. It is forthright about these limitations and absences in a way that avoids the all too common practice in progressive or radical writing (particularly its academic strand) of providing a pro forma apology with no evidence of actual insight into how that relates to what the piece can be expected to achieve. Instead, its grounded look at how real lives have been put together provides raw material for attentive readers to gain from the book as a whole a more complex and abstracted sense of how particular parts of our social world work than any individual contributor in the book attempts to outline, and this is only possible because of the consciously limited project.

The limitations are, nonetheless, important to note. All contributors are gay men or lesbians and none are bi or trans. The majority had working-class families of origin, though the two with owning-class backgrounds provide an intriguing counterpoint from a class position that we tend to hear about frequently but from rarely within the left. Contributors with various experiences of racialization are included, though the book left me with a much richer overall sense of the intersection of class and sexuality than it did of the many ways that racialization shapes and is shaped by both. Perhaps least explicitly noted in the text itself were limitations of nation and era: almost all contributors were writing from the United States and the book was published a little over a decade ago.

In some ways, the least remarkable aspect of this book's approach among those that I named at the beginning of this review is its attention to interconnection. It is hardly a new observation that we do not live our lives in the neat silos into which they are often chopped by analysis and even by discourse and practice of many social movements. There is lots of writing and organizing out there that ignores this fact, but there is also lots that assumes it. I think what I liked about how this book dealt with interconnection, though, was that it treated it as something to be explored and the ways to name it and act on it as areas for experimentation. I appreciate that, as someone who is constantly wrestling with how to minimize the inevitable loss of interconnection and complexity in the translation from world to page while maximizing accessibility, and as someone engaged in local anti-war/anti-occupation organizing that is committed to experiments in integrating this insight into activism.

The value of the book's attention to desire is a little less obvious, I think. Certainly it has its obvious aspects -- the left in North America is often infected by the (hypocritical) puritanism that is a defining feature of mainstream culture in North America, and frank, politicized talk of sexuality is a good thing for its own sake. But including considerations of desire is also important because it forces us to think differently about the ways that different scales of analysis -- most broadly, the individual and the social -- are interrelated. I don't read much that is at either cartoonish extreme of that spectrum, either old-fashioned orthodox determinist marxists or out-and-out delusional classical liberals, but even so there is a way in which a lot of otherwise really strong race-class-and-gender-y kind of stuff neglects the importance of how desire (understood broadly rather than just in terms of sexuality) informs the ways in which individuals go about doing the things that constitute the social, while the social in both its material and discursive aspects plays a huge role in shaping both desire within the individual and the social space for expression of that desire. Explicit focus on sexuality as interconnected with other things helps open up the space for consideration of desire in this broader sense.

The final useful element I identified was the attention to passing. Many of the essays in this book apply the idea of passing in a broad way that I find personally useful. In most instances in the book, the authors talk about how they have felt compelled to pass not only in terms of sexuality but also in terms of class, and how the dances of hiding and revealing these elements of self intersect. Though it is important not to do so in a way that trivializes the potentially life threatening physical and social danger forcing many queers to deny self and to pass in the past and in the present, I think it is a useful idea much more broadly as well. I say this because I know that in my own life, including in many spheres that have no obvious connection to class or sexuality, I use silence and avoidance to hide self. This functions as a sort of intermingled complicity in and alternative resistance to social pressures organized around some notion of "normal" or "acceptable." I suspect this is true in many areas, in many lives, and I think it deserves broader attention when it comes to understanding how people's lives get regulated in oppressive ways.

This actually brings me to the reason I read this book: a friend recommended it and loaned it to me because in contains an autobiographical essay by the late Alan Berube called "Intellectual Desire." Berube was a Franco-American, gay, working-class historian whose work focused on gay, working-class history. Of particular interest to me, he was a community-based historian-from-below with no formal academic training, yet he did wonderful work and made some extremely important contributions to the field. Towards the end of the essay, he writes:

[N]one of us can do our best work until we believe that the life of the mind really does belong to us, from the pleasures of theoretical analysis and brilliant insights to the way an idea can save lives. When we who are independent scholars, or the first generation to go to college, or avid readers and writers, do claim our intellectualities as our own, we become a force to be reckoned with. Among our most valuable resources are the abilities to see the familiar in new ways, to question privileged assumptions, and even to use our intellects to dismantle the powerful systems that cause the class injuries we know too well. [63]

Neither my family of origin nor my present life are working-class, I am not the first generation in my family to go to college, and every message I received growing up was that "the life of the mind really does belong to [me]." However, in devoting myself to intellectual work in the absence of any of the expected pieces of paper or institutional roles to legitimize it as "real", I constantly wrestle with external messages and internal unease about belonging, appropriateness, seriousness, worth. Just the other day, when I related to an acquaintance that I wasn't sure whether the high status, well-paying, part-time job I had from January to April was going to continue in September or not but that I was fine either way since its not like I am lacking for things to do, I was faced with a reaction that made it clear that she thought I was putting a brave face on an undesireable uncertainty rather than relating honest indifference. This is in part because the intellectual labour that I understand as my primary work (other than parenting) is regarded as not really legitimate because it is extrainstitutional, but it is also in part because I tend to remain silent about my work precisely because I'm not entirely immune to feeling that way about it myself. In other words, it is partly a result of me sometimes using hiding and silence in ways that are both complicit in and allow me to navigate social messages that devalue an important element of self. It has broader social importance because it is one very minor example -- others experience it much more powerfully than I do -- of how dominant cultural pressures around particular norms regulates access to potentially politically important intellectual activity even beyond the ways in which material barriers regulate such access.

Anyway. I've veered away from the book a little bit, so let me briefly veer back towards it: good book, read it.

[For a list of all book reviews on this site, click here.]

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Why isn't there war in Sudbury?"

One of the glories of being a parent is having to come up on the spur of the moment with answers to questions that you would never yourself have thought to ask. The title of this post is one such question asked of me the other night by L, who is a few months shy of five years old.

We had been reading Why War is Never a Good Idea, a book-length poem for children by renowned author Alice Walker. It is wonderfully written and gorgeously illustrated, and both the visual and textual aspects of it are done in such a way that they clearly name the horror of war while leaving plenty of space for adult readers to answer the questions of child readers in ways that avoid being overwhelming and respond to where the child is at.

L had lots of questions. Many had to do with interpreting the text and the images, and I did my best with those. He also asked where wars were happening right now, and I talked a little bit about Iraq and Afghanistan, including mentioning Canada's involvement even if that isn't an observation that is likely to mean a lot to him at this point. I'm sure he has little concept of those places except perhaps as names encountered when looking through the children's atlas we bought for him, which he sometimes likes to do at bedtime, and as general indicators of "not here." Another question, and one which I anticipated, was whether we were likely to experience war here in Sudbury. I reassured him that it was, thankfully, fairly unlikely.

Then he asked why we were unlikely to have war in Sudbury. Which is a pretty obvious question when you think about it from the position of a four year-old's stage of learning about the world. It's only when one's mind is clouded by the unthinkables and the of-courses of grown-up education and indoctrination that this becomes a surprising thing to ask. The asking and the answering of this question are a brilliant entry point for talking about lots of important stuff.

In response to L, I stuttered and stumbled and eventually said a few things, but now I want to try and get my thoughts on the matter down in a more ordered way, but hopefully including basic ideas that could be easily adapted to the needs of a four year-old questioner as well as more sophisticated justification for those ideas.

  1. We are lucky. This has to be the first answer, I think. It's not an answer with a lot of obvious politics to it, but it gets at the idea that, contrary to the ways this question might get spun by some on the right, the absence of open warfare in North America has nothing to do with virtue on our part.

  2. The people who benefit the most from war also benefit from having places that are unlikely to experience war, because it gives them a safe place to be. Or, in more adult terms, one of the features of capitalist social relations that make them so robust in the face of the suffering they cause to humanity is the ways in which they distribute that suffering. There is nothing historically inevitable about the details of how this works, and it has varied at different points in capitalist development, but certainly in the current era a key feature is the ways in which (mostly) white (mostly) settler middle classes and "respectable" working classes in the rich countries are (even in this era of neoliberalism) appeased with certain kinds and levels of benefits in return for near complete buy-in to current social arrangements. This provides a stable base for capital accumulation and for predation by capital on the majority of humanity, including most of the vast numbers of people outside of the so-called First World as well as indigenous and non-indigenous racialized peoples within the rich countries and segments of the white working class as well. One of the ways that this manifests in this era is a certain shallow version of peace within rich nations, presented in a way that makes it seem the essence of liberal democratic capitalism rather than a highly context dependent perk that not only obscures but also depends on war and so-called "economic" violence that kill huge numbers of mostly poor and working-class racialized people every day across the majority of the globe.

  3. In Sudbury today, we may not have the kind of open warfare that is in that book, but we have a lot of people who still get hurt today by things that got set in motion by events that looked a lot like it. The war in the past and the hurt in the present both happen for much the same reasons as most wars happen. In the more grown-up version of the argument that systematic violence actually does happen here in Sudbury, even if it is not organized like open warfare, I suppose it would be technically possible to go down what to me is a very legitimate path by pointing out how current social relations are inherently violent -- that is, they depend on harm and suffering -- in all sorts of ways even locally here in Sudbury, but I'm not sure I'll take that as far as one probably could. But it is a much smaller leap to point to the ongoing colonial harms experienced in everyday ways by indigenous people in Sudbury -- harms which have their origins in historical war and conquest in the service of greed and profit, and which are actively maintained by settler institutions and many everyday settler activities, also often in the service of greed and profit (and in the service of the psychological and social wages of white supremacy, too). So Sudbury as we experience it today is the product of war in the past and a very local, everyday, often not terribly visible but still terribly hurtful contemporary continuation of that violence.

Anyway, I'm sure there are a lot of other ways to answer that question, but these three points are my first stab at it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Review: A Just & True Love

[Maura A. Ryan and Brian F. Linnane, S.J., editors. A Just & True Love: Feminism at the Frontiers of Theological Ethics: Essays in Honor of Margaret A. Farley. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 2007.]

This book is the last in my initial random sampling of works of feminist theology, as part of my background preparation for writing a chapter of this (and coming from this non-Christian personal place with respect to the issue).

The book is dedicated to one Margaret A. Farley, who has done important work on theological ethics and taught in post-secondary institutions for decades. She is also a Roman Catholic nun. The contributors do not all themselves identify as feminist or even as working specifically in theological ethics at this stage of their careers, but all have been influenced by her work.

I approached this volume with a certain degree of excitement. After all, theological ethics is where theology is most directly related to acting in the world, and feminist theological ethics implies theological ethics that are politicized in a particular way. I figured there was a good chance of finding material in this book that was not just useful for the reasons directly motivating me to read it but also material of more personal political interest.

The picture of Margaret Farley that I got from the book was one that I liked a lot. Much of her work has been around developing a theological ethics that focuses on the autonomy but inherent relationality of human persons, which I think is are important ideas to foreground, and doing so from a specifically feminist perspective. She has been relentless in advancing some quite progressive positions in the context of Roman Catholicism, which have often been contrary to official doctrine. I think there is lots that she and I would disagree about, though. For instance, I think some of the principles that she has used as a basis for an ethics of sexuality and relationships are quite useful, and I respect her use of them to support same-gender relationships as deserving the same fundamental respect as other-gender relationships, but I think there are other ways in which she goes from the principles to more concrete applications that are excessively conservative and not open to as wide a range of human relating as I consider necessary. However, I really got the sense that this was someone with whom I could have a deep, meaningful, engaged conversation that would challenge me and push me to think in new ways, and that I would come away from that experience not just respecting her but genuinely liking her.

The ground covered by the essays in this anthology was perhaps even wider than in most multi-author collections, because the unifying factor was having been influenced by a particular thinker rather than some shared core analysis or common field. There were certainly a few that touched me -- that felt to me like they were speaking in what I think in left Christian circles would be understood as a "prophetic voice." For example, though they were about contexts of which I shall never be a part, I thought "Transnational Feminism and the Rhetoric of Religion" by Serena Jones and "Postcolonial Challenges and the Practice of Hospitality" by Letty M. Russell were both powerful because of their difficult, honest reflection and calls for justice. I also really liked Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz's piece "Justice and Love Shall Kiss" -- it occasionally felt a little meandering, but contains potential insights about the affective dimension of struggles for justice that anyone can learn from, regardless of faith. My identification with Anne E. Patrick's "'Framework for Love': Toward a Renewed Understanding of Christian Vocation" was more partial because its insights were not quite as transferable to non-Christian contexts. Still, there was some scope to extract meaning from where I sit, and I am intrigued by the notion of "vocation" as it is used in some Christian contexts. I also was glad to be introduced to Frederick Buechner's definition of "vocation" as "the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need."

Most of the essays in the collection were not as compelling for me, however, probably because of where I am coming from in reading it. A couple I had trouble identifying with at all because they placed such heavy emphasis on purely theological concerns. Several applied Farley's thought to contemporary issues within the Roman Catholic church. These were of some political interest to me -- it's an institution that has always fascinated me -- but in a fairly general way. There were also a couple of what I would take to be more traditional ethics papers, where analysis is applied to a particular conundrum at the personal level. These, again, are not quite as directly relevant to my own interest, although in one of these a particular kind of framework was built using works of Thomas Aquinas that could be extended to some important and radical insights.

I think the overall weaknesses of the collection for me were exemplified by the essay "Human Rights and Women's Rights: Initiatives and Interventions in the Name of Universality" by David Hollenbach, apparently a senior academic with a longstanding interest in theories of human rights. This is not a shallow treatment of questions of universality, specificity, and intervention, but it is one that is fundamentally compromised by its entrapment within liberalism. For about two seconds I was inspired to take the three or four hours it would take to write a detailed response showing how this essay is sensitive, thoughtful, and totally misses the point, with potentially destructive political outcomes, but I decided it would be a pretty silly use of my time. Nonetheless, this essay makes quite visible the ways in which many of the essays in this collection are not made less useful or less interesting to me because of their commitment to Christianity, but rather because of their commitment to liberalism as a framework. I had been hoping to find more rabble rousing, liberation theology-based pieces.

Though it is of little general significance, my own immediate concern is how to proceed after this initial wave of relatively random readings in the field. I now know enough that, if I thought it was useful, I could construct a reading list that would last me six months or more, but I don't need to develop that kind of expertise. So I am going to go back to the interview that will form the basis for the chapter that I am working on, read it thoroughly and begin to put together some ideas of what to use from it and how to organize it, and then reassess what further research I will need to do. In the meantime, I will read a couple of books that are unrelated.

[For a list of all book reviews on this site, click here.]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Queer Youth Feel Unsafe in Canadian Schools

According to this article, a national survey of queer youth between grades 8 and 12 from across Canada reports that in school environments, a quarter have been targeted with threats of physical violence, half have faced verbal harassment, and more than two-thirds feel unsafe in their schools.

Some relevant paragraphs from the article:

The first national study of LGBT students in Canada has produced shocking results in a country that prides itself on diversity.

The survey of students from grades 8 through 12 was undertaken by Egale, Canada's national LGBT rights organization.

It found that more than two-thirds of LGBT students feel unsafe in their schools.

A quarter of the LGBT students said they had been victims of physical threats because of their sexuality. More than half said they had been verbally harassed.

Almost half have had malicious rumors spread about them on the internet or through text messages.

The survey found that harassment of LGBT students occurred at a rate almost twice that of heterosexual students.

Harassment is also affecting learning the survey found. More than a third of the LGBT students said they had skipped classes because of safety concerns.

"We may have human rights for LGBTQ people in Canada, but you'd never know it based on these results," said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale.

The survey was launched in December of last year, although some Roman Catholic schools refused to participate.

The survey was distributed in schools across the country - in large cities, small town, rural areas, and in schools on reserves and armed forces bases.

Running across this article was particularly timely, given that two days ago I received an email about ongoing efforts to pass an equity policy with respect to sexual orientation at the school board in the city in which I used to live. I don't know the details of the policy, and given my general understanding of how such policies come to be I'm sure I would want it to go farther and do more. However, I do know that a good friend was, for awhile, on the committee that was working on it, and I know that a local religious right organization (whose disgusting politics I had a few occasions to observe when I was doing independent journalism in that city) has been fighting tooth and nail at every step of the way to undermine, delay, and derail what I'm sure is only a small, partial step towards queer-positive schools.

Anyway. A survey such as this is an extremely blunt instrument for learning about pervasive experiences of oppression, and it has serious limits in its ability to make the true shape and scope of that oppression legible to anyone not already committed to seeing through the la-la-it's-all-okay illusions of Canadian liberalism. However, because of the ways they can be used in public debate, such numbers are still pedagogically and politically useful even if they do fail to capture the magnitude of the situation. And the fact is, they paint an extremely disturbing (if unsurprising) picture even without taking into account the likely limitations of the methodology.


I have a few minutes before I have to leave for a meeting, so let me add three ways that I see that the methodology is likely to be limited. Note that I don't know this for 100% sure, since all I know about the study I know from the linked news report, but I have some experience with working with the results of this general kind of data collection instrument in other contexts, so I think what I'm saying likely holds.
  1. First is simple, straightforward undercounting of incidents. Given that you are measuring threat, lack of safety, danger, and shame, and finding there to be lots of those things, it is not a big leap to assume that, no matter how safe you try to make your methodology, some people will choose to be silent about these kinds of experiences.
  2. Second is a more complex but no less real phenomenon rooted in the ways in which all of us as human beings are socially produced. The unsafe nature of the school space (and society more generally) will not just mean some people stay silent with surveyors about incidents that have happened to them and that they understand as heterosexist violence or also means that some people will be damaged in ways that force them not to see, not to recognize, not to act on their own desires, causing a violence to their selves that they may be completely unable to recognize, and that will not be captured by a survey like this, but that is nonetheless profound. And it means that some people might develop internal narratives from experiences of desire and/or harassment that erase queerness and heterosexism, even if they can't help but notice that something is going on. (A related phenomenon is an analagous experience to what someone, I think Patricia Williams, has called the "spirit-murder of everyday racism" -- i.e. experiences of heterosexist erasure, denial, rejection that cannot be captured by questions looking for specific incidents that stand out from the background, but that rather are the (painful, traumatizing) background experience.)
  3. Finally, it does not (as far as I can tell) account for differential experiences of danger within the very broad category of "LGBT." Some kinds of expression of queerness are more visible and/or more likely to be targeted for harassment and violence than others, and different intersections of sexuality with other identities will produce different experiences. I'm sure there are lots of ways that this plays out, but one that immediately occurs to me is that certain ways of doing "bi" or "queer" identities that give easy access to straight privilege mean that people who have access to that privilege will be less likely to experience and therefore to report violence and harassment, and also may be less likely to perceive and report lack of safety (though this is not guaranteed). This brings the average reported values for those things down dilutes the estimate of the danger.

This is all related to the inherent dangers in trying to distill really, really complicated relations and the experiences they produce into a few numbers.

Anyway...I'm sure I could do a much more thorough job of this, but I have to run...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Serpent River Says 'No' To Uranium Exploration

A First Nation not too far from Sudbury -- closer to Sault Ste. Marie, actually -- is taking a stand against uranium exploration and extraction on or near their territory:

Serpent River says 'no' to uranium exploration
By Rosalind Raby, The Sudbury Star

There is a battle brewing between a North Shore First Nation and the Ontario government when it comes to exploring for minerals in the area.

The chief of Serpent River First Nation said his band members do not want to see any uranium exploration of any kind on or near their territory.

"It has come to the point where we must insist on decisive action from the Ontario government on a list of matters pertaining to development in our traditional territory including the exploration of minerals, especially uranium," said Serpent River Chief Isadore Day (Wiindawtegowinini). "I'm concerned that private sector proponents for development are moving faster than government responses to consultation requirements for First Nations.

"It poses real challenges between industry and First Nations when government moves slower in First Nation negotiations than it does when pushing through proponent approvals for expropriation of Crown Lands."

He went on to say, "What's worse is that consultation and accommodation requirements are not even in the form of mutually agreed policy between the Crown and the First Nations, and yet government is approving land expropriation in favor of development in traditional lands."

Uranium exploration and potential development is a serious matter that the community has recently established a strong formal position on.

"We have experienced a number of tragic incidents with respect to uranium mining impacts in our community's history," stressed Day, "And, we are determined not to allow any of that damage to be inflicted upon our people or our lands ever again."

As settlers, we have to oppose the state's infringement on the rights of indigenous nations to determine their own future and control their own land. Support Serpent River's decision to say "NO"!

(From an email from AP.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Review: Powers and Submissions

[Sarah Coakley. Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy, and Gender. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2002.]

This book -- in contrast to most of the others that I have been reading as part of my arbitrary and very partial exploration of feminist theology for professional purposes (even though I myself do not identify as Christian) -- is, as far as I can tell, theology for theologians. It is thoroughly academic. Like much academic work, it assumes facility with a particular set of technical vocabulary and familiarity with some otherwise esoteric background material. In this case, they are a facility and a familiarity that I largely lack. However, I am a firm believer in dealing with a new area of learning by jumping in and figuring it out as you go, and this certainly helped me to do that.

My reaction to reading this book was quite mixed. On the one hand, though I may not have understood everything and certainly am not invested in many of the debates in which it intervenes, I did appreciate its sophistication and its willingness to engage not just with theology but also with material from non-theological philosophy and theory at various points. It is also closer to what I expected all of my reading in this area to feel like than has been the case.

On the other hand, there were important elements of the place from which Coakley was writing and of the stance she takes up that made me uncomfortable -- unfairly so, at least to a certain extent. For one thing, paying careful attention to this text allows you to get a sense of the author as being embedded in academic institutions and in religious institutions, but not really of organic connection to social spaces constituted by feminism-as-movement. This is not necessarily a problem -- I've learned plenty from people who are not themselves part of social movements -- but it is in striking contrast with some of the other things I've read in this area so far. In combination with the observation that this is the most recent volume I have yet read, it adds weight to my impression that the evolution of the relationship between theology and feminism parallels the relationship between the academy and the New Left movements more generally, i.e. a tendency over time towards professionalization, institutionalization, and some combination of individual disconnection from movement-as-base and demobilization of important parts of those movements.

I also got the sense of being put in the position of antagonistic other in my reading of this book. There was something in its tone that projected a mild sense that non-Christians are not just people grounded in different traditions with whom there is a responsibility to find ways to collaborate for justice and liberation, but are in some ways opponents. Admittedly, this may just be an instance of my indifference to religion being troubled by resonance with past observations of faith-based, self-righteous, sometimes-oppressive, in-groupery that occurred in a much different context. That is to say, I recognize that it may be unfair of me to react like this. The fact is that I want people whose work I read to be totally up front about what they consider to be the strengths of their analysis, and if they think that Christianity has something to offer, I want to hear about it. But there was something about a couple of the book's engagements with non-Christian thinkers that left a bad taste in my mouth. The examination of (secular queer feminist theorist) Judith Butler in conjunction with Gregory of Nyssa, a writer from the early centuries of Christianity, is intriguing, and I'm glad Coakley does it -- this "unlikely pair of interlocutors" would be interesting to relate to one another at greater length, despite the many centuries that separate them. However, I'm not sure her reading of Butler and her use of that reading to make some rather broad points about late 20th century and early 21st century theorizing around gender are entirely fair (not that I'm claiming more than a very superficial sense of what Butler has to say myself). As well, Coakley's treatment of post-Christian feminist theologian Daphne Hampson in the first chapter of the volume, though entertaining, is positively vicious in its own academic way. And I got the sense that part of why Hampson and Butler were found lacking is because they seek answers that do not include Christ.

I also thought it was hypocritical of Coakley to level the well-worn charge against Butler and post-modern theory more generally that it has contributed to conditions that make it harder for immediate, material struggles for justice to get cultural purchase and make progress, in contrast with older socialist narratives and the like -- I'm not sure too many activists on the ground would find Coakley's own brand of rarified theology to be much more directly useful to their work than Butler's opaque texts.

And that got me thinking about the project of theology more generally. From the perspective of concrete social change, I'm not sure what the point of theology is, or at least theology-for-theologians. I suppose it plays a role along with other discursive and material factors, in organizing the practices of religious institutions and, through that, of believers themselves. It is therefore a terrain of struggle than can have an impact. But it also made me think of various people I've known through the years who identify as Christian, and who may or may not have any truck with radical or progressive politics themselves. With one or two exceptions, I'm not sure very many of them would have any interest in theology of this sort, or feel any particular connection between it and their everyday practices and experiences of their faith. I'd be interested in hearing what theologians who prioritize justice and liberation, including feminists, have to say about that disjuncture.

[For a list of all book reviews on this site, click here.]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Review: Becoming Divine

[Grace M. Jantzen. Becoming Divine: Towards a Feminist Philosophy of Religion. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1999.]

As I have made a point of repeating at the beginning of each review, I am currently reading a sampling of works in the field of feminist theology. This is not because I identify as Christian but for reasons related to my social movement history project.

Becoming Divine is a bit different from the other books I have read so far in that it is not feminist theology but feminist philosophy of religion -- I had not stopped to consider that theology and philosophy of religion were different, but of course they are. In the English-speaking countries, philosophy of religion has historically been almost entirely focused on Christianity, almost entirely occupied with demonstrating that various theological tenets of Christianity are or are not rationally justified, and by and large written by class-privileged white men. Jantzen aims to turn this on its ear, as her project is explicitly feminist, and it draws heavily upon philosophers in the continental European tradition -- Irigiray, Derrida, Levinas, Arendt, Foucault, Lacan, Kristeva, and others. Given the idiosyncratic trajectory of my political reading, my familiarity with these thinkers varies widely and is largely a result of what I have taken from various oblique encounters with them in the works of others. This book significantly contributed to that familiarity for a number of them. Beyond her appropriation of these continental theorists, at various points Jantzen also looks to feminist theologians, feminist philosophers of science, standpoint theorists, and medieval Christian female mystics, and of course draws exhaustively on the work of the traditional Anglo-American philosophers of religion whose field of activity she is trying unsettle and transform.

She begins by pointing out how traditional philosophy of religion assumes the existence of an unproblematic self, a la the autonomous, atomized individual of classical liberalism. She draws on the psycholanalytic work of Lacan and Irigaray (and Freud) to demonstrate how the self is produced. In some ways, it was this early section that I had the greatest difficulty accepting. I find it plausible that our selves are produced (at least in large part) by our entry into language, and that such an entry means joining a symbolic order that is organized in oppressive ways. I also appreciated Jantzen's insistence that this oppression is not absolute -- that the phallus is not a universal signifier, but one that has appropriated dominance, to use the language of the field. However, other supposed insights from psychoanalysis seemed a lot more dubious to me. Perhaps it just displays my own ignorance, but it seems to me that at least some of these "insights" are fanciful stories about things we simply cannot know, and whose main recommendation is a particular, academic kind of aesthetic appeal. But this hesitation did not undermine Jantzen's work for me.

She then moves on to appropriate Derrida's idea of deconstruction for use in her own way on traditional philosophy of religion. I particularly enjoyed her approach to the binaries "theism/atheism" and "religious/secular." She argues that simply rejecting the existence of Christianity's God or refusing to explicitly invoke Christianity in private or public life does very little to address the ways in which patriarchal religious imagery deeply structures our Western discursive and symbolic landscape. She argues that our inherited understanding of the divine plays a huge role in structuring our symbolic whether we as individuals happen to believe in the divine or not, and it is important for both secular and Christian feminists to be concerned about the ways in which this perpetuates gender and other oppressions. Her vision for a feminist philosophy of religion, therefore, is one which transforms our imaginary, our shared symbolic order, in liberatory ways.

An important part of this for Jantzen is dispensing with what has historically been the main task taken on by Anglo-American philosophers of religion, which is evaluating the truth status of various elements of Christianity using supposedly rational philosophy. She turns a critical eye to philosophy of religion more generally, and at least begins the task of showing how it denies that its institutional and disciplinary boundaries and mandates are in any sense socially constructed or infused with questions of power, though this is a task she says she wishes to continue in another book. She talks about how the obsession with defending or attacking various Christian truth-claims leaves intact the symbolic order that does so much to structure the space we have to think and talk about the world.

Instead, she argues that we should attend to desire when it comes to questions of divinity. This does not assume either a theist or an atheist position, but it deemphasizes that particular question. How we conceptualize the divine, whether we believe in it or not, expresses our vision of what is great and good and important and valuable. By challenging the masculinist assumptions that structure our vision of the divine and being deliberate about projecting more liberatory desires into the divine, it is possible to begin creating a new religious symbolic that is liberatory and that serves to support our own quest to, in her words, "become divine."

After a useful discussion of the complex possibilities for grounding this new imaginary in women's experience (including dealing with some key points relating to epistemologhy, standpoint theory, and the workings of power that I see as key as well to anti-oppression politics) Jantzen sketches out in more detail what she understands of our current religious symbolic and what she hopes a feminist version will include. In particular, the Western imaginary in general and Christianity in particular are heavily invested in imagery related to death -- it is the next world that matters, not this; spirit and flesh are separate and spirit is superior.

Whether in the traditional religious form of looking towards heaven and treating this life merely as a preparation for the better one, or in the secular form of space-flights and telescopes, or even in the intellectual form of preoccupation with the possible worlds of modal logic, all this attention to the worlds of the beyond distracts attention from the actual world in which we live, and our responsibilities to it and to one another. When this is coupled with the age-old linkage of the fmela with the material and the male with the rational spirit, the sexist nature of the desire to master and ultimately to escape from matter is evident. [130]

Instead, she encourages an imaginary based in natality. By glorifying birth and what follows it rather than death and what may or may not follow that, we begin from a place that focuses on living, on groundedness, on attentiveness to experience and interconnectedness. Natality

is not a matter of a romantic exaltation of women as mothers; still less is it a reduction of 'woman' to the function of mothering. Rather, it is the shift of Gestalt that recognizes that the weaving of the web of life to which each person enters in virtue of our natality means that we are connected with all other persons, female and male. Our sexuate selves, born of women, are the basis both of our similarity to and our difference from other sexuate selves, the foundation both empathy and of respect for alterity. This connectedness with all others, while allowing for great diversity, can therefore be recognized as the material basis of ethical responsiveness, a responsiveness which must be grounded in the imaginary and worked out in symbolic and social structures. [150]

An important part of her understanding of an imaginary of natality is that instead of focusing our attention of salvation, its limits, and its possibilities, as in our current imaginary, it instead draws our attention to the importance of "flourishing." Instead of an atomized individual that will or will not be saved based on individual beliefs and/or behaviours, we would see ourselves as individuals-within-networks who value our own flourishing and those of others, and precisely because we see ourselves as contextual beings, our own flourishing requires that we be attentive to the flourishing of others.

From what I have said above, it might seem as though the model of flourishing would lead one to emphasize only the public and the political at the expesnse of the private and inner life. Closer attention to the metaphor, however, shows that that would not be the case. A plant which flourishes does so from its own inner life, 'rooted and grounded' in its source. If that inner life is gone, the plant withers and dries up, no matter how good its external circumstances may be. What is different from the model of salvation, however, is that the inner and the outer are not separable: there is no flourishing 'soul' of the plant while its 'body' withers in intolerable material conditions. A philosophy of religion built on the model of flourishing is one whose spirituality is holistic, rather than the privatized, subjectivized spirituality so characteristic of contemporary Christianity. It is therefore one in which natality is deliberately evoked in the task of becoming divine. [170]

After a further consideration of language and how it relates to philosophy of religion, Jantzen gets into the important issue of criteria for evaluating possible philosophies of religion. We are often told we must choose between universal, supposedly objective evaluation of "truth", a la traditional philosophy of religion, and complete relativism, in which there is no way to evaluate or critique anybody's claims to anything. Jantzen advances the idea that we must base a philosophy of religion on contextual bases, and see our criteria not as ontological but as ethical and political and consciously partial, embodied, and situated. She recognizes that philosophy of religion as it currently exists is based on values, emobidment, and situatedness in community, its practitioners just refuse to admit it. She says that we just need to be open about that, and to move forward based on criteria of trustworthiness, accountability, and a recognition of the partial nature of our truths. In this discussion, she touches on a lot of issues relating to politics of knowledge that are of great importance beyond just philosophy of religion.

In the second-last chapter she appropriates ideas from Emmanuel Levinas and puts them to feminist uses. In particular, she uses his notion that we must begin to understand the world not from ontology but from ethics as a tool "for a feminist religious symbolic which is neither reductionist nor fixated on an onto-theological realism centred in the 'god called God [253, references in original]." She closes the book by examining more closely the "becoming" part of "becoming divine." She reinforces the idea that "the divine cannot simply be the 'god called God', the static divinity whose attributes traditional philosophers of religion discuss in endless debates on the 'coherence of theism.' Divinity in the face of natals is a horizon of becoming, a process of divinity ever new, just as natality is the possibility of new beginnings. And it can never be immune from response to suffering in the face of the natals and of the earth. [254, references in original]"

She concludes that such a philosophy of religion must be pantheistic -- that is, it must see the divine in everything. She argues that this allows for us to overcome the immanent/transcendent binary by assuming a transcendence that emerges from the immanent. "To have the capacity for transcendence does not entail having the capacity, now or in the future, to become disembodied, but rather to be embodied in loving, thoughtful, and creative ways. [271]"

She concludes,

[T]he western masculinist symbolic has been constituted and guaranteed by the postulation of a locus of being and truth outside the world, from which the world and all that is in it is derivative. The world functions, on this economy, as the sign of an absence, an absence which is overcome by reason's access to a disembodied and mastering truth. Now if we take instead a pantheist symbolic in which that which is divine precisely is the world and its ceaselessly shifting bodies and signifiers, then it is this which must be celebrated as of ultimate value. It is within the world, not in some realm beyond it -- whether in Platonic forms, a heaven that we might reach after bodily death, or other galaxies that we might fly to in a spaceship -- that the horizon of our becoming must occur. Instead of a gesture of necrophilia, a pantheist symbolic supports a symbolic of natality, a flourishing of the earth and those who dwell upon it...From the discussion of this chapter it is possible to see how this is all of a piece with the wider aim of becoming divine, and responding to the divine in the face of the Other.

But still, why call it pantheism? Would it not be more honest just to admit that what we have here is an abandonment of theism, a thinly disguised secularism? After all, this is hardly a postulation of an omni-everything Lord God, its only difference from classical theism being that this God is embodied in the material universe. I have argued elsewhere that the tenets of classical theism would indeed be compatible with the doctrine of God embodied in the universe; but my suggestion here goes much further. The idea of divine embodiement can be seen, I have argued above, not merely as an adjustment to classical theism, but as a disruption of the dualistic and hierarchical western symbolic, which western secularism largely leaves in place.

The insistence upon pantheism therefore returns to the importance of the symbolic and the urgency for a feminist recognition of the divine as a feminist recognition as a horizon of becoming, exploring the embodied, earthed, female divine as 'the perfection of our subjectivity.' Hence, as Irigaray reminds us, there is strategic value in rethinking religion rather than in acquiescing in an already masculinized secularism, not 'awaiting the god passively, but bringing the god to life through us' -- through us and between us, embodied, transcendent, the projection and reclamation of ultimate value, the enablement of subject-positions as women, natals becoming divine. [pp. 274-5, emphasis as in original, references in original]

Despite, or perhaps because of my own ambivalence towards religion, this book very much impressed me, though it left me with a lot of political and theoretical questions. I take to heart its point that all of us have a reason to be concerned with transforming the current symbolic order, with its saturation in death and masculinist domination in ways tightly tied to traditional Christianity, whatever our position with respect to specific truth-claims made by this or that form of Christianity. At points, anyway, I felt some resonance with things I said about my own relationship to religion in this post. For instance, my reluctance to take a side in the Christian vs. atheist binary was connected to an undertheorized sense that however much I might not identify with the former, embracing the latter would still be in some sense defining myself in its terms. I also found the glimpses of an imaginary based on natality to be very inviting, and I can see how working towards such a symbolic order can be part of more obviously material and less discursive efforts to transform the world. And, self-educated lefty book nerd that I am, I appreciated the chance to get acquainted with a few more corners of the works of big names from Europe.

Some of the more obvious and simplistic critiques often levelled at the traditions from which Jantzen draws in this work include the idea that the emphasis on omnipotent discourse renders resistance impossible, and that it denies the relevance of the material by sucking everything into discourse. She explicitly rejects both of these, though her claims to do so are more compelling in the case of the former, I think. She argues quite forcefully that though the symbolic order is organized in very fundamental ways in the service of domination, it is still possible to create spaces of ambiguity from which never-simple resistance can begin and can ultimately create transformation. This made me think of John Holloway's writing about being within-and-against capitalism. The erasure of the relevance of the material world is also something in which she refuses to be complicit, but how exactly she sees the relationship between the discursive and the material, and how that should inform our actions in both spheres, is not at all clear to me.

One minor point that caused me a bit of anguish was her dismissal of interest in other worlds as inherently tied up in masculinist flight from the body and denial of and desire to dominate the current world. I certainly know what she means -- there is certainly lots of science fiction that is easily understood as using technology instead of God to provide a sort of external-to-humanity salvation that supports a social order that is treated as benign or even idyllic when an attentive reading reveals that it assumes domination of various sorts. But that is far from everything that can be found in fiction that looks to other worlds. Such fiction can also stimulate the imagination about what a better this-world might look like, and sharpen our desire to make it so. It can be one way in which our imaginary saturated with death and domination can be undermined a little bit, for a moment, in ways that advance our capacity to imagine different ways of thinking.

I also am not sure how to understand the text's relationship to oppressions other than gender oppression. On the one hand, there are places where she considers the multiple and interlocking nature of oppressions in considerable detail, and plenty of others where she at least mentions it. But there are still plenty of times where the language she uses seems to fall into a privileging of gender. If, as sometimes seems to be the case, gender is used as an example and metaphor of complex, multifaceted, interlocking dominations in discourse (which are, in ways not really explained, tightly bound to material oppressions), then it makes a certain sense, but that doesn't seem to be explicitly stated and I'm not sure what to make of it. Why on earth use language that at times seems to be gender-only or gender-first, when you give so much evidence of knowing it's a lot more complicated than that at other places in the text?

And finally, I always have questions about how useful intense theory like this really is. I mean, I read it and I found serious challenges and useful new ideas and cause for hope, but this is not a book that very many people are going to read. And if that is the case, what impact can it be expected to have? And perhaps more importantly, how should I or anyone else who reads this book but is not themselves a theologian or philosopher of religion relate this to what we do? How should we relate it to what is most urgent about the ways in which Christianity is currently done in the world? Or to the ways in which the secular version of the same overarching symbolic contributes to domination?

I just don't know. But perhaps, as I do various kinds of writing in the coming years, the good hard kick to the symbolic that this book delivered will perhaps inspire me to do things a little differently, to play with language and ideas in ways that contribute at the microscopic level to birthing a symbolic of natality from the interstices of our current symbolic of death and domination.

[For a list of all book reviews on this site, click here.]

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Politics of Hip Hop: Sudbury Launch for Upping the Anti #6

Check out the sixth issue of the radical political journal Upping the Anti. Here in Sudbury we are having a launch event called "The Politics of Hip Hop" on May 14. Our event will involve several speakers, discussion, and music videos, and is sparked by the new issue's interview with Mutula Olugbala (aka M-1) from the revolutionary hip hop duo Dead Prez.

First I'll give you a bit more info on the current issue, then I'll paste in some details on the launch event here in Sudbury.

As is always the case, this issue has some really great content. Along with the interview of M-1, I'm particularly excited about the interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (which a friend here in Sudbury did) and the anti-poverty roundtable from Halifax. And I'm also pleased that a book review by yours truly of Canada's Economic Apartheid is in there, as well as one by another Sudbury friend of Color of Violence: the INCITE! Anthology. As also seems to have become the routine, I have some political problems with the editorial in this issue, but don't let that dissuade you!

Here is the full table of contents:



Mutulu Olugbala: It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop
Roxanna Dunbar-Ortiz: The Opposite of Truth is Forgetting
George Katsiaficas: Remembering May 1968


Joshua Kahn Russell & Brian Kelly: Giving Form to a Stampede: The First Two Years of the New SDS

Eric Newstadt: Accounting for the Student Movement

Caelie Frampton: Response to Newstadt

Jeff Monagham & Kevin Walby: The Green Scare is Everywhere


Kriss Sol: Organizing Against the G8 with Hanne Jobst, Sabu and Go, Miranda and Jaggi Singh.

Alex Khasnabish: Anti-Poverty Organizing in Halifax with Jill Ratcliffe, Capp Larsen, Angela Weal, Susan Lefort, Cole Webber, and James Babbitt.

Book Reviews

David Calnitsky: Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Alexis Shotwell: Color of Violence: the INCITE! Anthology.

Chris Keefer: The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex. INCITE! (ed.).

Scott Neigh Grace-Edward Galabuzi, Canada’s Economic Apartheid.

For the launch event, we decided to use one of the stronger pieces in the issue as a jumping off point to try and create a space in which discussions could happen that would not otherwise happen here in Sudbury. Here are the details:

The Politics of Hip Hop: a launch event for Upping the Anti #6

Join a discussion of hip hop sparked by "Its Bigger Than Hip Hop," an interview with Mutula Olugbala (M-1) from the revolutionary hip hop duo Dead Prez in Upping the Anti 6. This event will include speakers, discussion, and music videos.

With presentations by:

Shana Calixte: "Your Revolution Will not Happen Between these Thighs": Forwarding a Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy. Shana, queer mom/black feminist/academic, is a lecturer in the Women’s Studies department at Laurentian University.

Robin Desmeules: Who May Play? Investigating Hip Hop and Identity. Robin is a student and musician from the Sudbury area with a passionate interest in the ways that music and politics intersect.

Kaili Beck: Music and the Movement: Using Music as Pedagogy for Social Change. Kaili is a professor of Sociology and Labour Studies at Laurentian University and a consumate music fan.

Alex-Rev: Visions of Hip Hop: Striking a Balance. Alex-Rev is an Original Guerrilla with Common Cause and Sudbury Against War and Occupation, a fan of RBG hip hop, and a helping hand with indigenous rebellion.

Wednesday, May 14, 7:00pm, Laurentian University, Class Room Building, Room C-304

The Class Room Building is located between the Library and the Arts Building at Laurentian University. This is a wheel-chair accessible location. For travel and childcare subsidization, general information, or if you need a ride from downtown to the event and back, be in touch with me.

Upping the Anti is a radical journal of theory and action which provides a space to discuss unresolved questions and dynamics within the anti-capitalist, anti-oppression, and anti-imperialist politics of today’s radical left in Canada. For
more information, go to

Check out the event if you are local, and check out the issue no matter where you are!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Quote: Ground Yourself

Think in existence, in the world as a member of it, not in the vacuum of abstraction as a solitary monad, as an absolute monarch, as an indifferent superworldly God; then you can be sure that your ideas are unities of being and thought.

-- Ludwig Feuerbach