Tag Archives: diaspora

Decolonization and the hybridized Diaspora

dandelionFrom Anarchist News:

In the bay area there has been a growing anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, persons of color tendency gaining steam. The presence of this tendency has expressed itself in many ways ranging from a table at the local anarchist book fair, to the whirl wind of destruction released on the buildings and sites of colonial domination in the city of Oakland during the anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, to more clandestine attacks on institutions of gentrification. Much of the political rhetoric surrounding this formation revolves around decolonization. In an attempt to push the discourse into uncharted territory (where novel ideas and actions are born) I will offer more nuanced theoretical tendencies to compliment the already existing push for decolonization: notions of hybrid identities in contrast to racial binaries such as People of Color vs. white people, the notion of the diasporas as it relates the struggle for decolonization. Here the reader will find not a straightforward proposal for the trajectory of any fictitious “movement” but questions and thoughts that will discomfort and dislodge the common sense consensus that constructs hegemony within this milieu as well as outside of it.

Decolonization and the hybridized Diaspora

There have been major developments since the colonial era that require us to reorient (no pun intended) decolonizing strategies for the post modern Empire. One such development is the severity and scope of the environmental crises, this marks the end of the crises of modernity between nature and society, nature has become completely subsumed by society. The hazards of the environmental crises (exposure to toxic chemicals, pollution, drought, famine) are still distributed hierarchically along the same lines established during the colonial era, yet the complete synthesization of the environment into society also globalizes the struggle for decolonization in an unprecedented way. The scope of the environmental crises leaves no new frontier, no outside to the systems of domination; indigenous communities are finding it physically impossible to go about their lives untouched by the tentacles of the empire. Along with this development the flows of capital are ever more fluid making national borders less relevant and thus the migration of peoples to seek better lives to escape the ravages of capitalism are increasing dramatically from the global south to the global north. From 1990-2010 there has been an 85% increase for those migrants born in the global South but currently reside in the global North. These two developments present those concerned with decolonization a few interesting questions: What is the role of the Diaspora and their hybridized identities in the struggle for decolonization? In exploring this question we must briefly understand the mechanisms that held the colonialism of the past together. Frantz Fannon—who is no stranger to the discourse on decolonization—succinctly sums up the colonial order when he says:

The colonial world is a world cut in two. The dividing line, the frontiers are shown by barracks and police stations. In the colonies it is the policeman and the soldier who are the official, instituted go-betweens, the spokesmen of the settler and his rule of oppression. … It is obvious here that the agents of government speak the language of pure force.

This “world cut in two” is an order that is maintained by “pure force” on the one hand, the prison industrial complex, war, the FBI, police and border patrols, who dedicate themselves to the violent maintenance between the citizen and the alien, the criminal and the public, the colonized and the colonizer. Yet on the other hand at the dawn of the post modern era we have the biopolitcal construction of identity itself. By this I’m referring to Foucault’s observation that during the Classical Age the two separated poles between the scientific understandings of species and populations regeneration becoming the object of political attention, and the project of not only controlling the production of the species but also to manipulate them for the production of “docile bodies.” These two poles, as Foucault observes merged into one totalizing force known as biopower. It is here that I’m interested in, not the violent force that maintains the imperial order, but the ways in which this order is produced and reproduced bio politically through identity itself. The role of the production of identities is analyzed by Negri and Hardt when they say:

Reality always presents proliferating multiplicities. ..it is not that reality presents this facile binary structure but that colonialism, as an abstract machine that produces identities and alterties, imposes binary divisions on the colonial world. Colonialism homogenizes real social difference.

The authors point out that the colonists attempt to naturalize and essentialize the racial binary imposed on reality by polarizing two opposing identities, ex. White vs. people of color, men vs. women, heterosexual vs. homo sexual, old vs. young, etc. and subsuming both identities through representation, participation, or annihilation. This polarization also constructs the grounds and terms in which the war for liberation is fought, and more importantly who is allowed to fight. By erasing “real social difference” the potential weapons and warriors who could swarm our enemies are reduced to a one on one linear battlefield where we are out gunned and out flanked most of the time. At the juncture where hegemony must produce states of exception for bodies that do not fit the racial binary like Mullatos (one black and one white parent) and Mestizos (used in Spanish colonies to indicate one Eurpoean born parent and either African or Native, or all three), the fragile fictitious logic of the colonial order is exposed.

Homi Bhabha points out the unique position of hybridized identities in the Diaspora in The Location of Culture when commenting on the existential state of migrants, he states: “we find ourselves in the moment of transit where space and time cross to produce complex figures of difference and identity, past and present, inside and outside, inclusion and exclusion.” For Bhabha the state of transit that Diasporas’ find themselves in are the sites where the “shuttling between seemingly opposed states” presents the opportunity to disrupt and deny binary patterning. Although the assertion that the binaries of the colonial order are ungrounded does not burn police stations to the ground, or open prison doors, Fannon is actually correct in posing that only violence will bring about decolonization, yet a reversal of the colonial logic must take place in order to permanently disrupt the binaries in race, class and gender relations; so as to stop the biopolitical reproduction of these hierarchal categories.

Much like the struggle of the proletariat toward the abolition of capital, which requires the abolition of the conditions that produce the proletariat itself; for those who are seeking decolonization we must articulate the abolition of the conditions that produce racial binaries and race as a category itself. The failure to do so, as we have seen in other Nationalist struggles for decolonization or liberation which maintain strict racial binaries, results in the reproduction of white hegemonic institutionality with which former colonizers use as a representation of the universality of the colonial order, and extend their reach of power by now being able to broker with the representatives of the “liberated” nation, ex. ANC (African National Congress) in South Africa, INC(Indian National Congress) in India, NRA (National Revolutionary Army) in China, etc. This dynamic of organizing under the banner of the “nation” or “people” exists as living evidence of the inability of struggles for decolonization to shed the colonial construct of the “nation” and continue to adhere to the colonizers notions of fixed borders and the sovereignty of the state.

We must reach beyond the fictitious “nation” and “race” in the political objectives of decolonization. This new era presents itself with unique opportunities to deterritorialize (Deluze and Guattari) the struggle for decolonization, in other words, the struggle for liberation no longer needs a fixed geography or fixed identities, just as capitalist relations are everywhere, so too is the Diaspora. Imagine the total internationalization of local issues and the localization of international issues ex. Police repression and murders, right wing and fascist political movements, widespread austerity, environmental destruction, etc. The moment for Anarchist politics particularly for the Diaspora is of the utmost relevance in its deceleration of a borderless anti-nationalist abolition of the sovereign state as well as capital, and the end to all hierarchical relations.

For the Diaspora these anarchist political objectives mean a total decolonization of political, economic, socio-cultural, and psychological arenas. Yet if we risk reproducing racial binaries by using race as an organizing tool or as Spivak calls it a “strategic essentialism” the question then becomes how, if, or when do we organize under the banner of people of color? When is it strategically useful? When is it not? How do we express the paradox of using race toward the abolition of race? Do we do that at all? These are just a few questions that ought to be addressed as the struggle for decolonization continues in the Bay Area as well as in other places, in doing so hopefully new territories and sites of struggle can form and new lines and methods of attack can become realized.

On Being An Immigrant Kid On Stolen Land: Some Dilemmas and Contradictions

illegal pilgrimBy El Machetero

“Precisely at the point that you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society.” –James Baldwin.

 “The primary difference between the western and indigenous ways of life is that we relate to and experience a living universe, whereas western people reduce all things, living or not, to objects.” –Vine Deloria

The very concept and idea that I have anything even remotely resembling any sort of right to be on these territories is a relatively new one for me.  As the oldest son of political refugees from Chile (a nation with its own definitive set of entrenched colonizer-derived contradictions) whose ancestry can loosely and lazily be described as Basque/indigenous (Mapuche/Selk’nam)/semetic (both Arab and Ashkenazi Jew)/with probably at least a little bit of African splashed in there who comes from a highly politicized background and whose family came here during what can best be described as a highly politically charged era, I grew up perhaps exceptionally conscious and aware of the fact that we had migrated and sought refuge in a parasitical culture and society built on another collection of stolen lands.

During the earlier parts of my life, my own status as an outsider from someplace far away from here served in many different regards to form my identity and view of self, as for a very long time, I felt an overpowering sense of divestment, alienation and disconnection from much of anything having to do with this place.

At the same time, because my family was not able to return to Chile (without running the great risk of ending up dead, incarcerated, and/or tortured, or some combination of all three) for the first 17 years of my life, I have only ever gone back as a visitor just passing through for a while, and as such, I was therefore not able as a child to ever develop the types of associations, attachments and connections essential on many levels to be able to wholeheartedly claim a place as “home”.

I continue to this day to struggle with the contradiction that the one place I feel I can claim at least some level of tangible ancestral connection to was almost every bit as much a distant and remote abstraction to me as well.

In retrospect, I realize now that my Chilean identity was almost entirely formed in the shadow of our whole experience of exile from Pinochet’s military dictatorship, the traumatized wartorn weariness of my family, and the solidarity movement my family and many others just like ours helped to build. Since my parents even during their most frantically pained moments at the very least knew that they didn’t want to raise a rootless and confused child, from the time of my birth, I was taught to be well-versed in our music, our poetry, our food, our social and political history, as well as many aspects of what is commonly referred to as our “folklore” .

I knew about the mountains and the oceans and the dry desert regions of the north and the lush forest regions of the south, and the “great nothing” regions of the ends of the Earth, but since it was not yet a physical/metaphysical world I had yet had the opportunity to interact with in the ways I typically felt I needed to for a connection to feel real to me as a kid, it remained a great abstraction.  As such, while it was “easy” (relatively speaking) to connect with different realities of systematized violence and oppression, for a very long time it remained very difficult for me to feel connected to any land anywhere.

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Where are the Settlers of Colour?

By Shaista Patel, from Upping the Anti:

Dear UTA,

Thank you for your critical and thought-provoking journal. I would like to address Kate Milley’s article, “Where is John Wayne when you need him? Anti-native organizing and the Caledonia Crisis” (UTA 9). I learned a lot about mobilizations of white settlers against Six Nations from her article. However, what remained with me was her very important claim that “ordinary” white settlers are actively engaged in ongoing colonialism and that “the moral distance is uncomfortably narrow between those who are easily cast in the category of white supremacists and those who comprise the majority of white Canadians.” In other words, there is no race to innocence, and the are no good white settlers for Milley.

Milley’s article has made me once again question the binary of white settlers versus the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Where do I, a settler of colour, and other settlers of colour like myself, fit into this equation of white settlers versus Aboriginal peoples? Are we innocent just because we are people of colour and do not have a relationship of conquest to this land? Is our relationship to First Peoples colonial? I recently conducted a workshop for people of colour on how we see ourselves in relation to this land. While the enthusiasm of the people present at the workshop was wonderful, one of the questions that generated the most debate and discussion was whether or not people of colour are indeed settlers, or if whiteness is a precondition for being considered a settler. Some of the questions that came up included whether we were being too “academic” in using this vocabulary. How would we tell poor, racialized women of colour, for instance, that they were settlers here? My purpose in mentioning these questions is not to somehow claim that I am better than those who do not see themselves as complicit in routinized violence against Aboriginal peoples. Rather, I write these questions because these are important discussions that settlers of colour need to engage in.

The narrow moral distance that Milley discusses in her article has made me ask myself what that distance is between people of colour here and white settlers. I have often heard people of colour with left politics claim that “our relation to this land is different.” How is this difference lived differently by bodies of colour? On one hand, people like me fight for justice in the name of being Canadians. We often stand in various anti-racist rallies to claim our rights as Canadians, and some of us – especially those born here – feel offended when we are asked where we are “really” from. On the other hand, we also claim innocence. We say that we are coming from other post-colonies, and that we too are victims of direct or indirect European colonization. Even when we recognize that we are settlers, there is no sense of urgency for most of us to organize with the Indigenous peoples and nations here.

I think that we not only need to question where we are coming from but more importantly, also consider the place we have come to. What does citizenship mean for racialized people in a white settler-colony? What does it mean when we demand these citizenship rights, which are rights based in white supremacy, dispossession, and genocide of Aboriginal peoples? For instance, when Muslims today (and I include myself here) write and organize against legislation like the AntiTerrorism Act or against acts of racial profiling, do we look at what the Indian Act is still doing to continue genocide against Indigenous peoples here? Do we look at how Indigenous activists have a long history of being labelled as terrorists? Do we ask ourselves why Aboriginality and urbanity are still framed as mutually exclusive? If we think that we people of colour have a right to be here, then where do we think people of native nations belong?

There are a few clarifications I would like to make here: I am not saying that we share the same power as white settlers, or that race, class, gender, and citizenship do not define where and how bodies are organized in Canada. Milley stresses the significance of white settlers mobilizing for Indigenous sovereignty in a white settler colony; I recognize that in such mobilizations the risks for people of colour are far greater than they are for white people. But we still need to discuss what our organizing against racism and colonialism looks like and carefully map out strategies for doing this work. So, what I am saying is that people like me who have the privilege of mobility, and have the resources, and whose status here is not as tenuous as that of refugees, should definitely engage in serious political action. Whether we first came to this land as freed slaves, refugees, or under the racist policies of the Immigration Act, we are all here now, and we benefit from the settlement process. We need to re-imagine and re-work our anti-racist efforts in ways that do not continue the erasure of Aboriginals. We need to stop paying mere lip-service to Indigenous sovereignty and recognize that the forces that dehumanize us as racialized people are the same forces that continue the genocide of First Peoples. We need to stop being defensive when we are told by Aboriginals or other people in or outside our activist groups that perhaps we need to be more critical of how we are working for Indigenous sovereignty in our organizing.

Having said this, I do want to say that bodies of colour are marginalized in most activist settings, with white people claiming the centre for themselves. Women of colour have time and again written about how white women and especially white men appropriate various anti-racist/colonial struggles to talk on behalf of people of colour. So, white people need to listen to the First Peoples as well as to us non-Aboriginal people of colour. White settlers need to stop and listen every time an Indigenous person or a person of colour tells them that they are being racist or self-congratulatory. If these important negotiations and discussions do not happen in the organizing of all settlers here, then there can be no real fight against the racial and colonial violence that this country was built on.

I am, once again, sincerely grateful to Kate Milley for her brilliant and thought-provoking work.

In complicity and solidarity,

Shaista Patel, Toronto

Unsettling America note: Also see the article “Privilege vs. Complicity: People of Colour and Settler Colonialism”