Archive for the ‘Cultural studies’ Category

The retirement of southern Irish taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny several months ago led to Leo Varadkar taking his place.  Varadkar is young, gay and his father is an Indian immigrant to Ireland.  Varadkar’s victory in the leadership contest in the Fine Gael party and assumption of the role of prime minister has been widely hailed as some kind of victory for gay rights and anti-racism.  Varadkar, however, is a committed anti-working class politician, with no track record of campaigning for either gay or migrant rights.  Varadkar  is no friend of the oppressed and exploited – quite the contrary.  The article is taken from the Irish Socialist Democracy website here, where it appeared on June 30.  It is a timely reminder that people need to be judged by their politics rather than being lauded because they are gay and/or female and/or brown.

The election of Leo Varadkar as Fine Gael leader – and his assumption of the role of Taoiseach – has been hailed as a watershed event in Ireland.  This perspective – which is particularity prevalent in international media coverage – carries the assumption that identity is the overriding factor in contemporary politics.  Within this framework the election of a relatively young gay man of ethnic migrant descent – standing in stark contrast to the profile of leaders that went before – is indeed a seminal event.  The other assumption attached to this identity-centred perspective is that a person from such a background will have a more liberal approach to politics.  However, a consideration of the record of Leo Varadkar quickly debunks such assumptions.      

Right-wing

Despite his relative youth, Varadkar is a long standing member of Fine Gael (he claims to have joined as a 17 year old) – the most conservative party in the state – and has consistently occupied the most right-wing positions on a range of issues, including those related to sexuality and race.  In 2010 he opposed the Civil Partnership Bill and also raised concerns over the prospect of gay couples  (more…)

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Ghassan Kanafani

by As’ad AbuKhalil

In the early 1970s, three Palestinian intellectuals – Ghassan Kanafani, Majed Abu Sharar and Kamal Nasser – collaborated to form the Palestine Liberation Organization’s information office.

Within a decade, Israeli terrorists managed to kill all three – Kanafani in 1972, Nasser in 1973 and Abu Sharar in 1981.

The Zionist movement has never bothered to distinguish in its killing campaigns between civilians and military targets: in fact, on many occasions the Israeli government (or even the Zionist movement before the establishment of the occupation state) targeted civilians on purpose to create terror among the population. Presumably, Israel wanted to kill Kanafani and silence his voice. Yet the plan did not work as intended.

Forty-five years this month since his assassination, Kanafani’s presence is (more…)

by Daniel Lopez

In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, who had for years passed as black, was exposed as having Caucasian parents. She was accused of blackface and epitomising white privilege. Unsurprisingly, she was ruined.

In a recent autobiography, she defined herself as “transracial”. The feminist journal Hypatia then ran an article by Rebecca Tuvel, which defended her. Also unsurprisingly, Tuvel was attacked viciously. More than 500 signatories demanded that her article be rescinded and condemned. Yet, something different happened. As a New York Times op-ed by Roger Brubaker noted, many voices spoke out in defence of Tuvel’s article; it was not retracted after all.

The point isn’t to defend Dolezal or the idea of transracialism. Rather, this debate is a sign of changing times. While the millennial left’s preoccupation with identity has not disappeared, the moralistic fire has grown dimmer.

Moralising culture

This moralising culture was built on what Brubaker called “epistemological insiderism”. That is the view that only the bearer of an identity is entitled to speak about that identity. To question this was considered tantamount to silencing oppressed voices and erasing history. So, too, micro-aggressions and misuse of language were identified with actual violence.

In a self-righteous race to the (more…)

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The following article first appeared in issue #6 of revolution magazine, May-June 1998.  Although nearly 20 years old, the article – which is actually based on talks given between 1995-97 – unfortunately remains highly relevant.

by Philip Ferguson

Over the last few years the term ‘political correctness’ has started to enter the vocabulary here.  Originating with a layer of liberals and leftists in the United States, politically correct practices and outlooks have gained a hold among elements of the professional classes in New Zealand.  The Anna Penn case in 1993, in which a trainee nurse was expelled from the nursing course at Christchurch Polytech for allegedly being “culturally unsafe”, and several cases in other nursing schools and social work courses, have garnered widespread media coverage.

In many ways, political correctness is stronger in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world.  It has become an important industry, with lucrative financial rewards, for a host of touchy-feely middle class liberals.  We have a range of counsellors now operating in most spheres of human problems, along with various consultancy agencies and individuals doing very nicely for themselves advising establishment institutions on how to be “culturally sensitive” to the people upon whose oppression these institutions depend.

In a real sense, political correctness in New Zealand has become the new (more…)

Tame Iti and mate Jenny Shipley, the Tory prime minister of NZ at the time and a keen advocate of ‘respect for diversity’.

The article below first appeared in issue #14 of revolution magazine, dated Xmas 2000/March 2001.  The introduction to the article stated that it argued “Trendy liberal race relations nostrums are more about social control than emancipation”.  Footnotes have been added for this re-publication. 

by Philip Ferguson

From cultural safety in nursing training to the banning of vegetables from primary school play groups – use of vegetables to make, for example, potato stamps is now regarded as ‘culturally insensitive’ because ‘traditional’ Maori society didn’t use spuds for such frivolous activities – Maori culture appears to be increasingly important and respected.

Virtually everyone from the far left through to much of the National Party (with the exception of the minor-league redneck element typified by the now-retired John Banks)[1] appears to be in favour of cultural diversity and the ‘empowerment of Maori.

Yet, as has been noted in this magazine before, the cultural revival coincides with a worsening of the actual material conditions of the majority of Maori (see, in particular, revolution #7) and the collapse of old forms of collective class organisation.  It is in this situation that some Maori have retreated into idealised versions of the past.  This retreat coincides with an interest on the part of the ruling class in finding new forms through which to mediate conflicting interests and establish social control in the midst of the decay of society itself.

Changing ruling class ideology

The ruling class ideology today is clearly not the one which existed in the decades before 1984 and was reflected in commitment to the welfare state, monoculturalism and the kind of old-fashioned patriotism and nationalism epitomised by powerful right-wing groups like the Returned Servicemen’s Association (RSA).

Today’s ruling class, for instance, actively promotes multiculturalism, liberal pluralism and has no problem with homosexuality and other things that were taboo in the past.  A lot of formal legal inequality has been abolished as it was an obstacle to the needs of a new round of capital accumulation and the new style of managing an increasingly fragmented society.

For someone seen as right-wing economically, such as recent National Party prime minister Jenny Shipley, ‘respect for difference’ is a key principle, as she made clear when (more…)

downloadby The Spark

Before electronic computers, and multifunctioning calculators, there were human computers. Black and white women mathematicians were tasked with turning numbers into meaningful data for NASA. Their calculations made possible many ground-breaking missions. These calculations, done by hand, with pencil and paper, often took more than a week to complete, filling six to eight notebooks with data and formulas.

Hidden Figures follows three black women “computers”: Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) – and their work at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia in the ‘60s.

All three of these women were brilliant mathematicians living and working in segregated and sexist Virginia. The film gives a sense of the indignities and humiliations these women endured. At one point Katherine Johnson is sent to a new department to calculate the trajectories for Alan Shepard’s space flight. The men – all white – were not (more…)

The picture below appeared on Mike Alewitz’s facebook page.  Mike is a longtime left activist and artist in the States.  It’s a great variation on – and far more inspiring than – the old Pastor Niemoller quote about they came for this group of people and then that group of people etc and no-one resisted. Mike made the following comment:

“One of the glorious aspects of the recent demonstrations is the lack of pre-printed signs and banners handed out by Democratic Party hacks and union bureaucrats.

“Instead we have seen an explosion of creative sign making – hand lettered messages that are funny, emotional, insightful and clever. These works are giving genuine expression to the aspirations of tens of thousands of workers, artists and activists.

“Here is a favorite of mine – artist and photographer unknown.

“This kind of organic art has always been around, but Donald Trump has definitely been an outstanding inspiration!

“(As both a professional sign painter and professor emeritus of street art, I heartily endorse this development).”

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