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Posts Tagged ‘Neferti Tadiar’

N. Tadiar's Things Fall AwayI’m reading Neferti Tadiar’s Things Fall Away, and this passage leaps out:

…one of my man objectives in this book has been to carefully attend to the varied, creative potential of subjective practices that socially oriented and social movement literatures attempt to figuratively capture and yet tend to diminish in the fabulation of proper historical subjects. Often viewed a atavistic and mystified habits and therefore as forms of weaknesses and self-oppression that need to be overcome, these devalued, supplemental experiential practices nevertheless importantly create and transform the very material, social structures in which feminists, urban activists, and revolutionary forces actively seek to intervene…. Such diminished experiences have helped to bring about broad social changed in ways that these groups could not foresee. (p 8., emphasis mine)

Tadiar labels these diminished experiences as things that “fall away” from capitalism, activities that are productive but not in the ways that are prescribed and recognized by neoliberal capitalism. Like performance. Art. Indigenous women’s labor collectives and seedbanks. Movement, and being outside.

But I’m struck too at how she includes activists, feminists, revolutionary forces among those who diminish such “fall away” experiences, especially when they’re not easy to reconcile with what is seen as the “proper” historical subject. Because it is easy for someone like me to speak for masa in solidarity, to find that a peasant community’s struggle for for a health clinic and the struggle for land reform are equally important. They might not be, for the peasants who are still without healthcare.

I’m reminded of an argument with a friend, who patiently listened to me rant about Catholicism and false consciousness, opium, etc. She then reminded me that Liberation Theology could not have been foreseen by non-Catholics, or even by former Catholics like me. It’s a theology of faith, love, freedom, and revolution that could only have been nurtured in this specific community, a community that I had arrogantly dismissed.

I’m still struggling through Things Fall Away, and with questions of how to conduct ethical dialogues and coalitional research. Especially since I will soon be embarking on ethnographic research, and its easy to fall into the trap of thinking of oneself as an ally who could speak for people in a marginalized community. The researcher who does that will never even be aware of the experiences that she will miss, of the great possibilities that could just fall away as a result.

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