Cracks in the Wall of Capitalism: The Zapatistas and the Struggle to Decolonize Science

Zapatista women taking notes at ConCiencias. Photo credit: David Meek
Zapatista women taking notes at ConCiencias. Photo credit: David Meek

By , Toward Freedom

Below images of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, and a many-headed hydra consuming humanity, sit two groups. To the right, facing a stage, are approximately 200 delegates of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), seated as a homogenous block. Wearing black ski masks, they furiously take notes. To the left, 300 scientists and observers from throughout the world are seated.

With a tiny pink ribbon pinned to her mask, Julía, a Zapatista delegate from Oventic, Chiapas, takes the microphone: “The rivers are drying up. We know that the people before had a way of planting their crops, but now it doesn’t rain like it’s expected to. Now, there are epidemics that weren’t common before, like cancer and diabetes…”

Julía is unequivocal about the linkages between science and capitalism in perpetuating this crisis. “Medicines just create dependence on the pharmaceutical industry,” she tells us. But Julía is also clear that science can function as a tool of resistance, if reimagined from the grassroots: “Brother and sister scientists, we ask you, according to your studies: why does all this happen? And who is responsible? We have come to hear you and bring this knowledge to the peoples, to our peoples.”

Over four days, from December 27th-30th 2017, the second iteration of ConCiencias, a conference creating dialogue between the Zapatista’s and leading left-wing scientists from throughout the world, took place at CIDECI—Universidad de la Tierra, located on the outskirts of San Cristobal de Las Casas—a city in Chiapas which has long been associated with the Zapatista’s struggle. Although it might seem tangential, the struggle to decolonize knowledge is part and parcel of the Zapatista’s broader project of resisting indigenous genocide, neoliberal capitalism, and political repression.

Click here to read the full article from Toward Freedom

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Women’s Liberation Delegation to Chiapas

“Revolutionary struggles cannot achieve collective liberation for all people without addressing patriarchy, nor can women’s freedom be disentangled from racial, economic, & social justice.” -Victoria Law

By Corine Fairbanks, American Indian Movement Southeastern Ohio

The Zapatista women will host the First International Gathering of Politics, Art, Sport, and Culture for Women in Struggle in Chiapas, Mexico from March 7-11, 2018. A delegation of women from all walks of life, racial, social-economic, and cultural backgrounds strongly feel that we could learn much from our Zapatista sisters. Their indigenous perspectives and willingness to decolonize and reshape the political landscape into something that works for all people speaks to us as we look at the challenges we face in the US and Canada.

Here is an updated notice that the women of the Zapatista Movement put out.

The desire to go to this gathering and to form this delegation came after much discussion regarding women’s liberation and women voices after the January 20th, 2018 Cincinnati Women’s March. The national theme and platform for Women’s Marches across the United States was “Hear Our Vote”. Many of us were disappointed with this because we felt that it marginalized women that could not vote, or chose not to participate in voting. In response, Black Lives Matter Cincinnati (not affiliated with National BLM) organized an open forum discussion about how to effectively fight for women’s liberation. The dialogue about women’s liberation, was to be approached from several different angles, ideas, and points of view, and addressing the problems of believing that voting is the greatest and most important power as oppressed and exploited people.

There were many subjects touched on, and not everyone in the audience was comfortable with it, yet the forum was a huge success with almost 300 people in attendance, many of whom were standing. Featured panelists included were from Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, American Indian Movement of Southeastern Ohio, Concerned Citizens for Justice, Cincinnati Revolutionary Students, and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) Metro Cincinnati. Video footage of this panel can be found at Black Lives Matter Cincinnati Facebook group page; The final thoughts concluded that there needs to be more discussion on Women’s liberation, community empowerment, and teaching our young and old people to learn how to organize around these issues.

Then in the first part of January, a few of us within the radical justice community in Cincinnati, saw a call out for the Women’s gathering by the Zapatista Women. Knowing what we know about the Zapatista Army, women play an equal role in leading armed resistance and use the “Revolutionary Law of Women”. This document gives an overview of the combination of social and political struggles that the Zapatista women identified as needing to change. Some of these factors included; Poverty, Rape, Domestic Violence, Access to Health care, Medicine and Treatment, Alcoholism, issues of sovereignty over bodies and land, and to be treated fairly and with equal political voice at home, in the community, and in the Zapatista Army.

The women I spoke with about going to this gathering in Chiapas, agreed that our work in our own communities largely encompasses the same issues with that of the Zapatista women. An Anishinaabe Elder that lives in a rural area of Canada commented that these are the same issues she deals with in working with Residential Boarding School survivors. A Dineh young woman living in Los Angeles, working as a Social Worker for Los Angeles County, said the same thing. As the delegation started quickly forming, it became obvious that in order to continue discussion on women’s liberation, we had to also go to this gathering to get some more “tools” and bring them back to share with our communities to analyze and have critical discussion.

This delegation is led by Native women. We are fundraising for 12 women to attend this gathering in March, Some Native, some not. Some of the Elders and Native women identify with “Indigenous feminism”, some do not. Some of the non-Native women identify as feminists. Yet all of us are working in our communities to better it; to keep our air clean, our waters protected, our lands from being raped by fuel extractions, and collaborating with various grassroots radical and revolutionary organizations on rural and urban landscapes with all of this and with social justice issues too. As activists and organizers, we are women, and we too are fighting to destroy patriarchal systems and structures- even within our own movements and within our Nations/Tribal structures. We believe that what we can learn from the experiences of the Zapatista women can be applied to our everyday struggles and within the current movements in our communities. In addition, we will be having fundraisers with a table set up to encourage attendees to write messages that they want us to take and share with the Zapatista people. We are not just limiting it to fundraising events to gather these messages, but also, we have made this request and offer on social media.

“We women attending the gathering would like to bring our Zapatista Relatives offerings from our homes. If you have any words of solidarity you would like us to share with our Zapatista sisters, please let us know. Upon our return, we hope to have community meetings and discussions to share what we have learned & our Zapatista Relatives responses to your messages as a way to provide a connection to them through us. “

If you are reading this before March 7th, and would like us to include your message, please send me an email at corine68@yahoo.com to be included in our presentation in Chiapas.

This conference is fast approaching and we are making a call out for help. We have fundraisers planned throughout the month of February to meet our goal of $8,000 for travel expenses. Please invest in our communities. Invest in us. Our Delegation is small but our women are from various areas of the US and Canada: represented:

American Indian Movement
Big Mountain Dineh Nation
Black Lives Matter Cincinnati
Biindigen Healing & Arts
Feminactivist
Idle No More Canada
Idle No More Detroit
Women of All Red Nations (WARN)
Water Protectors North/South Dakota

Any dollar amount that you can spare to help us reach this goal would be appreciated. Any effort to spread this message far and wide is greatly appreciated. Here is a link to our go fund me request.

Perhaps this endeavor of getting 12 women to Chiapas for this gathering is a bit ambitious. Perhaps the main purpose is to also role model to other communities that it takes a spark from an idea, and collectively working together, we can make it happen. Either way, we were not going to be intimidated by costs or pessimism to achieve this goal. Our Native Elders have taken this to ceremony and prayer and we feel that the women that are meant to go on this trip, will go. We believe that the 2 most important components to this mission is to first show solidarity because our Struggles are similar. Secondly, to bring back what we learn from our Zapatista Sisters, and share with our families and communities.

As diverse as this delegation is, we all agree that when women are free, communities are empowered, and everyone is free.

WOPILA TANKA /MIIGWECH/ AHEHEE’ / ANUSHIIK / GRACIAS/ THANK YOU

Yours in Solidarity

Corine Fairbanks, Oglala Lakota
American Indian Movement Southeastern Ohio

Decolonization And Indigenization Will Not Create The Change We Need

An unsettling piece from Indigenous Motherhood:

“Decolonization and indigenization are words used to benefit the colonizer and settler culture in order for them to look good in the eyes of those who are trying to create positive change in communities.

But truthfully, colonial systems can never be decolonized or indigenized. And indigenous systems do not need to be decolonized or indigenized.”

indigenous motherhood

We cannot decolonize or indigenize canada or colonial systems.

And it is a lie to believe that we can decolonize and indigenize ourselves as indigenous peoples and our ways of living.

Yet, this belief is so instilled within society and indigenous nations that we have made it our mission to decolonize and indigenize everything possible. It’s like that Oprah Winfrey meme. You know the one. But instead of telling people that they get a car she is saying “you get decolonized!” “you get decolonized!” And “you get decolonized!”

And the people go wild.

Yes, decolonization and indigenization were words coined by indigenous peoples as a form of resistance and reclamation. However, the colonizer has heavily co-opted these terms and made it their own. And the more that I think about these terms, the more I realize that these terms should not even exist in our vernaculars, for they are false…

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Settler colonialism and white settler responsibility in the Karuk, Konomihu, Shasta, and New River Shasta Homelands: a white unsettling manifesto

By Laura S. Hurwitz, from the Digital Commons @ Humboldt State University

Contributing to recent research into settler colonialism, this paper takes an on the ground look at how this system manifests today. This research turns its lens on the white settler, unmasks settler myths of innocence and contributes to an understanding of how whiteness and white supremacism shape settler colonialism in what is now called the United Sates. This is a placed based study, focusing on the Klamath and Salmon Rivers. Consequences and complexities of the “back to the land” movement are looked at, and the question of “back-to-whose-land?” is asked? A convivial research approach, which is a back and forth interplay of analysis and action, has been utilized for this project. Also examined are efforts by settlers to engage with unsettling, both as individuals and through a collective settler effort at organizing, under the name “Unsettling Klamath River.” Unsettling can be described as the work of white settlers within the broader movement to decolonize, that is led by Indigenous People. Some false narratives have begun to shift and yet, this population of white settlers remains largely in a state of paralysis due to; a fragile settler identity, a reliance on a false entitlement and a debilitating fear of what will happen if truth-telling occurs. Building upon lessons learned, this paper concludes by offering ways that white settlers can begin to chip away at oppressive structures and move forward out of a state of complicity into a sense of responsibility, that is long overdue.

Click here to read more…

Decolonizing the Garden

Varieties of Mexican maize. Oaxaca, Mexico

Varieties of Mexican maize. Oaxaca, Mexico

Via Nomad Seed Project

Wild plants have made up most of the focus of this blog. But what about “domesticated” plants, such as the annuals we grow in our gardens?

How can we treat them that they behave more like wild plants – vigorous, resilient, low-maintenance, and more fecund and feral – yet which continue to supply our needs for flavor, nutrition, and ease of access?

The answers, I believe, are found inside the genome of the seed where genetic diversity is found. I will explore the concept behind landrace gardening, which provides for many real-world examples of genetic diversity in action.

The Seeds of Genetic Diversity

The seed has found itself at the forefront of politics lately. With corporate threats to food security and seed integrity like Monsanto and ADM looming large, the voices of the seed-savers have become powerful leaders helping to create a future of food security. A down-to-earth, humble pursuit at root, seed-saving is the cornerstone of food sovereignty but largely a lost art these days. The seed-savers have thus been positioned as more than just the saviors of seed but as the saviors of land-based culture in general.

While the actions of the seed-savers are commendable, this is not a post about seed-saving, though seed-saving is a part of it. My focus here is rather on genetic diversity: one big issue, which can be broken down in many ways.

I aim to show not only how we lost genetic diversity, but how we can regain it. I call it “decolonizing the garden,” because on the right hand it resists the corporate-based objectifying commodity-driven economy, and on the left hand it unspins some of the unquestioned premises and methods guiding the way we’re used to gardening.

Click here to read more…

Are White People Indigenous?

By Pegi Eyers, Stone Circle Press

The colonial history of the places we call home, and current political realities shape how we use the language of “nativization” and “re-indigenization” to describe our process of re-bonding with the land.  This blog addresses the current (and unresolved) controversy on the use of these terms, and describes the boundaries that are in place to ensure that as Settler-Allies we continue to support the First Nations of Turtle Island in their ongoing cultural and spiritual recoveries.

To talk about the ambiguities we encounter in our re-indigenization process as white folks, let’s start off by asking – who is indigenous?  And how do we define indigeneity?   

Click here to read more…

(Originally published 10/7/2016)

Settler Colonialism and the Struggle for Abolition

This episode of Rustbelt Abolition Radio grapples with the relation between incarceration and settler colonialism. Kelly Lytle Hernández, abolitionist writer and professor of History and African American studies at the University of California-Los Angeles, discusses her latest book, City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles.

Hernández reveals the underlying logic of elimination and conquest that is foundational to our settler colonial society by interrogating the construction of the settler-carceral state over two centuries. In this historical analysis, Hernández draws from what she calls “The Rebel Archive,” a constellation of historical materials that emerged from struggles against conquest and elimination.

As resistance against conquest continues, how can abolitionists take seriously the reality of envisioning another world on occupied land?

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For transcript, click here.

 

Decolonization and National Liberation: From Turtle Island to Ireland

“[D]ecolonization, in its fullest expression, is a future beyond capitalism and beyond the liberal nation-state. Decolonization is a future-oriented project that requires imagining, building, and fighting for forms of nationhood and self-determination not premised on the relations of exploitation, dispossession, elimination, and extraction that define liberal nationalisms and capitalist, imperial, and colonial formations. Decolonization requires forms of nationhood and self-determination based on relationality of a different kind…”

IMG_3497.jpeg A mural of Native freedom fighter and political prisoner, Leonard Peltier, appears alongside several murals of imprisoned revolutionaries from Palestine, Ireland, Turtle Island, and other liberation struggles. The murals feature prominently in the blocks-long Falls Road murals that line this major thoroughfare in West Belfast. During my three days in Belfast, almost every male advocate for Irish liberation I met–regardless of his generation in the struggle–had spent considerable time in prison for his political activity. State repression of Irish self-determination, and the targeted criminalization of Republicans and anti-imperialists more broadly, is an everyday reality in Northern Ireland. There is thus a profound public consciousness about the issue of political prisoners and widespread support for campaigns to free political prisoners like Peltier elsewhere. Credit: Seamus McHenry

This talk was delivered at the Royal Geographical Society’s International Conference in London, England, August 28, 2017

by Melanie Yazzie

Good evening. I want to…

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Decolonization is a global project: From Palestine to the Americas

Editorial by Linda Tabar & Chandni Desa, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, & Society, Vol. 6, No. 1

This special issue brings Palestine into conversation with Settler Colonial Studies, Critical Indigenous Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, other critical scholarship and political practices. In doing so, we write in opposition to the way in which Palestine is often taken up and framed in the mainstream media and academic scholarship. In 1948, the Zionist settler colonization of Palestine culminated in the mass eviction of the overwhelming majority of the indigenous Palestinian people (over 800,000 people) who were expelled from their homes and forcefully dispossessed from their lands. They were unable to return and became refugees as Zionist militias attacked and destroyed villages, towns and cities across Palestine. Palestinians have termed this the al-Nakba (catastrophe) which signifies the theft and loss of their land and the establishment of the Israeli settler colonial state. During the 1967 war, what was left of historic Palestine (Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza) became occupied by Israel. Palestine remains colonized as the Israeli state continues to militarily occupy and confiscate Palestinian land to build colonies for Jewish settlers, while exercising routine violence through massacres, bombings, mass incarceration, targeted assassinations, restricted movement, home demolitions, sexual violence, and implementing racist apartheid policies that fragments the Palestinian population into Bantustans.

In writing about the ongoing settler colonization of Palestine, we start by recognizing our locations on the traditional territories of the Huron Wendat, Haudenosaunee, the Seneca and most recently the Mississaugas of the Credit River, and the waters that sustain life on these stolen lands. In contending with this positionality, we recognize that our locations are required by the Canadian settler state to maintain its settler project and as such it actively solicits our identification and participation in the ongoing colonization and erasure of Indigenous people. In this issue we also draw attention to some of the histories of forced movement and displacement that underlie our presence on these lands, and the ways our location in this settler state can be disrupted and transformed through alliances and relations of solidarity. Specifically, these traditional territories have been a central site in which Palestinians and their allies have advanced global solidarity with the indigenous Palestinian struggle, while simultaneously expressing solidarity and building ties with Indigenous peoples from Six Nations, Tyendinaga, and across Turtle Island (Krebs and Olwan, 2012, Juma’ 2007). Mike Krebs and Dana Olwan (2012) and others document this distinct local history of connecting the struggles against the settler colonial states of Canada and Israel, which we and some of the contributors in this special issue have been part of building for over a decade. This history is significant because Palestinians and their allies on these territories were building these relationships at a time when both of these Indigenous struggles were hardly recognized, well before the time of reconciliation (in Canada), and the popularization of the global solidarity movement with Palestine. This history of connection has produced its own conversations, political analysis, critiques, tensions, and praxis, which this issue is both informed by and seeks to consolidate and take forward.

These ongoing political relationships center and are rooted in a responsibility to decolonial struggles on these lands, what Steven Salaita in his contribution in this special issue calls an “ethical imperative” which he reissues to the Palestine solidarity movement. Political intimacies (Lowe, 2015) between the Palestinian liberation struggle, Indigenous movements and other struggles are not new. Salaita reminds us that “dialogue between Natives and Palestinians goes back at least half a century” and suggests “the first substantive interchange occurred during the heyday of the American Indian Movement [AIM], when Native activists, like their Black Panther peers, looked to global liberation struggles for inspiration and solidarity, proffering both to anti-colonial movements in return” (2017, para 25). What is significant here is the way that such past and present relationships have disrupted and work against settler categories and imaginaries that have configured the native as always ‘disappeared’ or ‘defeated’, which has at times precluded solidarity across these geographies. This is not to deny that solidarity is difficult and that at times there have been tensions when forging ties between struggles (which have been written about by Amadahy, 2013; Bhandar & Ziadah, 2016; Kelley, 2016; Krebs & Olwan, 2012; Tabar, 2016), but we want to stress that by coming together through ethical responsibilities these movements also rupture the ideological structures, racial hierarchies and discourses of settler colonial states. Moreover, these settler colonial ideologies rationalize and sustain settler projects of land theft, ongoing genocide, and anti-black racism (rooted in the history of transatlantic slavery), and coercive labour regimes in a global geography, in which similar racial categories enable capitalist accumulation, exploitation, dispossession and white supremacy across different territories. Thus we and our contributors in this special issue emphasize and expand upon how creating ways of seeing across colonial ideologies and the racialized, sexualized logics that sanction dominance and state terror, is part of a necessary internationalist decolonial project to transform systems of power.

Click here to read more…

What Does it Mean to be a Weapon of War?: Settler Colonialism and Black Labor

From Decolonized Tech, an Anti/De/Postcolonial Informed Tech, Gaming, and Comic Blog:

“If liberation is at its base about freeing oneself from an oppressive system, then our knowledge of our relationship to white settler colonialism needs to be taking into account. I think for many people, liberation is primarily articulated in relationship to your community specifically. For Black people on Turtle Island liberation means something more than simply freeing ourselves from the grasps of our slaveowners. Because we are important parts of the genocidal war machine, our liberation also impacts indigenous peoples and their struggle against the same system. For example, the struggles we have with Black liberals who want a place within the settler system has added meaning in that their need for inclusion not only fucks us but also means continuing to contribute to the settler project. Solidarity between Black and Indigenous peoples in this context is not a matter of convenience or “we are all suffering”, but a matter of our oppression upholding theirs and vice versa. Its not a matter of non-Black people demands for our labor, but coming to terms with the true weight that our labor holds over this whole system beyond just our relationship to whiteness, and how refusing to do labor is an even more revolutionary act that we often give it credit for.”

Digital Talking Drum

What does it mean to be a tool? This is a question that comes up in Afrofuturist conversations on the regular via discussions of AI, robots, their humanity, and exploitation. The question is rooted in the knowledge that under chattel slavery, stolen Africans were legally and socially rendered as objects, a process I call chattelment. Orlando Patterson alternatively called this objectification ‘social death’. As it would be taken up in afro-pessimist theory, social death creates an ontological divide between humans and non-humans, the non-humans of course being Black folks. Our history under chattel slavery amounted to us being used like cattle, lawnmowers, or shovels to till the land and produce profits and resources for our slaveowners. As a scholar interested in the intersections between Turtle Island Indigeneity and Blackness I wanted to think about this idea of “Blackness-as-technology” in the context of US settler colonialism and it brought…

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