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Archive for the ‘social justice’ Category

From Mondoweiss via curate:

protesters against palestian occupation

photo from mondoweiss.net

Noah Mae (second from left) and her friends are not Jewish either, though they were born in Israel and have lived there all their lives:

immigrant children of migrant workers in Israel playing

photo from BBC News

Noah Mae speaks and dreams in Hebrew. She is one of the more than 1,000 children of migrant workers who are scheduled for deportation this year.

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In his The Repeating Island, Antonio Benitez Rojo wrote of how common social and cultural practices make visible the Caribbean islands’ shared histories of plantation slavery. Benitez Rojo writes that these similarities stem from their common experience of the plantation machine—a colonial apparatus set up to extract resources from the colonies to profit the metropole. But in addition to producing profits for the colonizers, the plantation machine also produces a way of life. And long after overt colonialism has given way to postcolonialism, the plantation machine continues to produce and reproduce “the type of society that results from their use and abuse” (8-9).

Last week’s Philippine elections are making me reflect on Benitez Rojo’s metaphor of the plantation machine. The new president, Noynoy Aquino, is part of a powerful political landlord family whose collective hands are still bloody from the Hacienda Luisita massacre. The Marcos family–yes, including Imelda–have been re-elected back into office. And so has former president and incoming congressional representative Gloria Arroyo, who has just appointed her lapdog as the new Supreme Court Chief Justice to preside over her impending graft cases.

The most surprising thing about the elections, in fact, is reflected in Inquirer headline the day after: “Fast count stuns nation”.

So what are the plantation machines working here?

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An observation from an acquaintance. Many Filipino businessmen, he said, find that they already had an “in” with their counterparts from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. That young businessmen from the Middle East felt an affinity   with Filipinos. Magaan ang loob.

The reason? These businesspeople from the Middle East grew up with Filipina nannies. Because of their carework, said this acquaintance, Filipina women are in such positions of  influence over the next generation of businesspeople from the Middle East. Pinoy entrepreneurs, he said, could use trade on this predisposed goodwill as capital.

The gender dynamics of Filipino labor migration shifted around the 1980s. More women were recruited for domestic work, a trend that continues today. An estimated 70 percent of the 3,000 Filipinos who leave the country each day due to labor migration are women.

I had already known Filipina mothers work as nannies and caregivers, even as they leave their own children behind.  That these women’s labor feed the remittances that keep the Philippine economy afloat. And that all these benefits to the country, to the private sector, have come at great personal cost to women who spent years away from their own children.

But it still makes me sad and angry to note that decades later, long after their children had grown up without their presence, these women’s labor and sacrifice continues to generate wealth. But not for them.

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From Arkibong Bayan (arkibongbayan.org)

Photo from Arkibong Bayan (arkibongbayan.org)

Edgar Allan Paule of the blog Viewer Discretion pretty much articulates my thoughts about the short film Ang sinabi ng mga magsasaka sa Hacienda Luisita [What the formers told me in Hacienda Luisita].

In the short film, Felicity Tan interviews farmers involved in the strike that led to the Hacienda Luisita massacre in November 2004.  The farmers argued against agrarian reform and voiced their support for the feudal system that had them as tenants. Under patronage, they said, conditions were better.

There are a number of good takedowns of the short film (such as this one). But the Spivak fangirl in me appreciates Edgar Allan Paule’s analysis of  how systematic forces like feudal capitalism co-opt the speech of those who are already exploited and rendered subaltern.

Hacienda Luisita strike. Photo from arkibongbayan.org

But. I am still struck by the suspicion with which these farmers regarded Satur Ocampo and the representatives of the Philippine left who came to support the strike. The farmers said they were fighting for better work, better pay. But the strike, as represented by their maka-kaliwa supporters, was turned into a call for land.

Iba na,” said one farmer.

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Dear Kasama:

I feel bad that I spent the better part of our reunion railing about white liberal feminists and other scholars who frustrate the hell out of me. And that when you asked what it was about their work that bothered me, and what was I was looking for from them, I could not muster a coherent response.

So after a few days of thinking about your questions, this is what I’ve come up with.

Some specific things that bother me include:

  • that many Asian and Southeast Asian Studies departments are organized along Area Studies lines, focusing on regional security and economic development.
  • that my university’s department is still predominantly composed of white males, something that seems true of most Asian studies departments, based on conference attendance.
  • that readings lists in introductory classes are largely organized around the works of white scholars. Works by “natives” like Reynaldo Ileto get relegated to optional or recommended reading, much in the same way many Intro to Women’s Studies classes tokenize Audre Lorde and bell hooks.

My issue is not that these scholars and activists are assholes.  It’s that Western schools of thought on history and development studies (or worse, “Oriental Studies”) have an extremely poor track record of interpellating their former colonies. And our narratives still end up shoring their legacies of liberalism, neoliberalism, and colonialism.

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The descriptions that follow may be triggering, but please read and watch. People have asked me, “What can I do?” and it will be in the context of this violence—including sexualized violence–that this call to action is situated.

***

Last November 23, fifty-seven people were massacred in the Southern Philippine province of Maguindanao. They were on their way to filing a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, who was running against a powerful political dynasty with close ties to the Arroyo government. Because Esmael had received death threats, his wife Genalyn, two sisters Eden and Bai Farinna, and two female human rights lawyers Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon and Connie Brizuela went in his place. Also in the convoy were other family members and at least 35 journalists.

They expected  that a convoy of civilians—women and journalists—would be granted safe passage. Instead, witnesses report that the convoy was gunned down by a private army of 100 men. On a national highway. In broad daylight.

The bodies were later found in shallow graves and scattered around bullet-ridden vehicles.The bodies of the women were also sexually mutilated. Reports state that the women’s pants had been pulled down and that they had been “shot in their private parts.”

Marga Ortigas of Al Jazeera has a good report that situates this massacre in a wider context of “lawlessness, the proliferation of illegal weapons, the impunity with which crimes are committed.”

***

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Last week, three young women from the Feminist Majority Foundation visited the large Intro to Women’s Studies class that I work as a TA. They did what I take to be a standard invitation:

FMF member: Okay! So who here is a feminist? Raise your hand!

(a smattering of hands go up)

FMF rep: Okay! So who here believes there should be equality between men and women?

(A lot more hands go up, but slowly.)

FMF rep: Okay  then!  That means you’re all feminists!

This is a group of young women and men, taking a Women’s Studies class. A large portion of the students were women of color. And they did not identify as feminist. If I was an FMF representative, I’d be curious to know why. Perhaps we could talk about their ideas about feminism. What was it about feminism, or perhaps just the term “feminist,” that they did not find relatable?

They FMF members smiled a lot, and seemed like nice enough young women. But they were also arrogant, and their blithe dismissal of any concerns the students had — oh yes you too are a feminist! — made me angry.

When I met with my students in discussion class, I asked them about why they didn’t raise their hands. Some said it was just because they were uncomfortable with the term.

A number were upset about FMF’s support for the invasion and continued occupation of Afghanistan. One student used the term “colonialist,” and another said it was attempt to “save brown women from brown men.” These were first- and second-year students, quoting Spivak. I almost cried.

Others took issue with the second question, the facile “equality between men and women.” One Chicana student recalled the racism leveled at her father, her brothers, and her boyfriend faced every single day. Another student brought up Devah Pager’s “The Mark of a Criminal Record,” a matched-pair experiment that showed how white men with criminal records still received higher job callback rates that Black applicants with similar work experience but no criminal record. What men were the FMF reps referring to?

In the end, we did get a good discussion out of the FMF visit. And I did learn a lot about and from my students. The FMF reps might have too, had they bothered to ask questions and listen.

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