The Week on Sunday (weekly)

  • The ruling elites of societies use prisons both to punish those they label as law-breakers and at the same time to terrorize those “free” members of society they hold sway over. In these hellholes boredom and “nothingness” grips one, as you watch your life drift away. To reverse that, early on during my decades in prison, I helped establish seminars where, prior to preparing and subsequently bringing their work to the floor, prisoners would choose the subjects to be presented. And we demanded excellence, even though many of the participants had very little formal education. That research and study served to defeat our captors’ objectives.

    tags: Black_Jacobins Haiti 1804 CLRJames Slave_Revolution

  • But the homogenising and depoliticising effects of the “global novel” can also be exaggerated, to the point where every writer of non-western origin seems to be vending a consumable – rather than a challenging – cultural otherness. The Benetton-ish cosmopolitanism ascribed to them, or such hip self-identifications as “Afropolitan”, risks obscuring that the traumas of the postcolonial world – military coups, civil wars, despotic regimes, fundamentalisms and economic calamities – still mould the themes and preoccupations of writers from Africa and Asia, and oblige them to explore social as well as intimate relationships.

  • For the past few months, I have been thinking about disposability, about its reach and grasp and ever-expanding power. And while I continue to learn from Judith Butler about whose lives are grievable, about who is deemed worth grieving, thinking about disposability leads me to ask about killability.

    To be disposable is to be ungrievable. Not to merit grief or thought. We have other words for this: acceptable losses, collateral damage. Yet, disposability is not passive, not simply a category into which we place the ungrievable. Instead, it is a hungry logic and practice. It becomes ever-more voracious as it eats.

    tags: Kenya Kangemi Westgate Disposable People Poor

  • Colin Dayan, the Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, has written on the literature and literary histories of the United States, Haiti, and Jamaica; on law, ritual, and anthropology; on prisons, torture, and the nature of the person. Her first book was an introduction to and translation of René Depestre’s long poem Un arc-en-ciel pour l’occident chretien – a Rainbow for the Christian West (1977). She followed it with an innovative and counter-intuitive examination of Edgar Allen Poe, Fables of Mind: An inquiry into Poe’s Fiction (1987) and what is perhaps her best known work, Haiti, History, and the Gods (1998), a path-breaking study of Haiti’s ritual memories, literary histories, and subterranean archives. Recently, Dayan has published The Story of Cruel and Unusual (2007), an account of the Eighth Amendment and the rationalizations for “acceptable” torture, and The Law is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons (2011), on legal discourse and the life and death of the person.

    tags: Haiti Jamaica History Prisons

  • The intent of the Imagine Africa project, as set out in this first issue, is fourfold: “1) To celebrate the vitality and diverse voices from the dynamic continent of Africa; 2) To support and improve conditions for artists living and working in Africa; 3) To encourage creative and sustained dialogue between African artists and writers and the rest of the world; 4) To share the opportunities of engaging with language and art as a possible approach in dealing with socio-economic issues of poverty, repression, and violence.” To these ends, the first volume of Imagine Africa includes poetry, short fiction, essays, political analyses, and visual art from contributors hailing from Algeria, Cape Verde, England, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, Mali, Martinique, the Netherlands, Senegal, South Africa, the United States, and Zimbabwe; the languages represented (translated into English, in several cases with a dual translation) include Afrikaans, French, Kikuyu, and Portuguese.

    tags: Africa

  • H: When you look at this sequence of events, the narrative as you see it, what isyour emotional reaction?ES: “Anger. I feel tremendous anger. I think it was so mindless, so utterly, utterlygratuitous to say to us in so many ways, ‘We’re not responsible for you, just goaway, leave us alone, we can do what we want.'”I think this is the folly of Zionism. Putting up these enormous walls of denialthat are part of the very fabric of Israeli life to this day. I suppose that asan Israeli, you have never waited in line at a checkpoint or at the Erezcrossing. It’s pretty bad. Pretty humiliating. Even for someone as privileged asI am. There is no excuse for that. The inhuman behavior toward the other isunforgivable. So my reaction is anger. Lots of anger.”

    tags: Edward_Said Palestine Israeli_Occupation

  • the Ping app: group check-ins during an emergency

    There was a consistent problem in every disaster that happens, not just in Kenya, but everywhere. Small groups, families and companies need to quickly check in with each other. They need to “ping” one another to make sure they’re okay. It has to be something incredibly simple, that requires little thinking to use. People have been doing some stuff in this space in the past, the best like “I’m Ok” are focused on smartphone users, but we have a need to make it work for even the simplest phones. Our goal is to have this available for anyone globally to use.

    tags: ushahidi Tech_Tools Ping Mapping Emergency Kenya

  • The second US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, under US President Barack Obama, was carried out in 2011 – coordinated with Kenya’s 2011 US-French-backed extraterritorial adventure into Somali territory. The UK Independent’s December 2011 article, “UN-backed invasion of Somalia spirals into chaos,” reported that:

    Kenya’s invasion of Somalia, hailed by the West and the UN Security Council, was meant to deliver a knockout blow to the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab. Instead it has pulled Somalia’s regional rival Ethiopia back into the country, stirred up the warlords and rekindled popular support for fundamentalists whose willingness to let Somalis starve rather than receive foreign aid had left them widely hated.

    tags: AFRICOM Somalia Kenya USA al-Shabab Westgate

  • A renewed form of Saidian impatience and intemperance is badly needed today, especially given the current state of the left, particularly the intellectual left, and particularly in the United States. It sometimes seems as though the main work being done is the pointing out of contradictions and hypocrisies, as though this was a form of political work in and of itself. Much (though by no means all) of the discourse around the Arab Spring among the US left has taken such a form. It is hypocritical, we are told, that the US claims to be supporting democratic movements in the region, while taking an active role in the brutal suppression of popular democratic movements in Bahrain and Yemen. It is hypocritical for the UN Security Council to authorize air strikes in order to protect civilian populations in Libya, when it would not (and will not) take the same steps to protect civilians in Gaza. It is hypocritical for President Obama to claim to support Palestinian statehood and then oppose the bid for Palestinian statehood at the U

    tags: Edward_Said Palestine

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