pakiswagger: The International Museum of Women has launched a new online exhibition: Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices

Some happenings from Sussex University campus today: exciting, personally, and potentially a seed for further action around the country.  Lots of interesting questions: how best to organise? What’s the role of solidarity actors? How do you make democratic decisions in the heat of the moment? What do you do with ‘bystanders’? What are the roles […]

How unruly is our blog?

It was on my list of things to do this weekend to write my first ever unruly politics blog post.  There were many things on the list: books to read, assignments to fulfil and yet somehow I have ended up achieving none and now its Sunday night at nearly midnight apparently I have in all my wisdom decided to write the blog.    

I have to admit, I have never written a blog before (call me old fashioned) and as I pondered about what to write I began to question how much a blog really fits into unruly politics – while I understand that the media has always been a huge part of political engagement – unruly or not, and that in this day and age, digital media in particular is seen as being the hub of dissent.  But, we are not angry students driven by oppression seeking a space, any space, where we are free to express our views, our doubts, our passions, our fears, our joys and our wishes for change.  We may be angry students, but we are also privileged students – in the sense that we study in an environment (certainly every Thursday afternoon) where we are free to express such sentiments. 

Our blog is indeed a nice space for brainstorming, sharing resources and thoughts etc. but I hesitate to call it unruly.  Our contribution to it contributes towards our grades – and I feel no more unruly handing in my two copies of essay to Angela on a deadline day than I do posting this blog.  Usually I feel sleep deprived, anxious and worried about all the things I haven’t done and could have done better – how I feel now in fact as we fast approach midnight.

I am not saying that the blog is not a good idea, and I am indeed excited at akshay’s and Patta’s ventures outside the normal marking schemes of essays and presentations – I am one of their biggest fans (hint, hint – give me good grades!).  But I think we need to consider how unruly this blog really is – posting for the sake of it in the hope of saying something critical, witty and ‘bloggy’ never started any revolution.  Perhaps the truly unruly thing to do, would not be to write at all – or to find other ways of sharing my fascinating insights with the rest of the class – post it notes on chairs in class perhaps?  Writing all over myself in permanent marker and flashing at passers by?

Now of course, I am being facetious – and yes, it is nearly midnight.  I sat down to write this wondering what I could possibly say that felt unruly, or commented on unruliness – in a space and a form I am not only unfamiliar with but feel is part of a ruly system – no matter how much we pretend it isn’t.  This is a free space yes, a space for sharing unruly thoughts yes, but at the end of the day, each one of us is compelled to write, whether we feel like it or not, whether we have something to say or not – which sounds suspiciously like a rule to me….

 Posted by BADGER

On nonviolence and complex politics

The debate around the use of violence in activism and unruly actions tends to be very intense, so I would like to share a video and a paper with arguments that I find very appealing – and after that, problematize matters a bit more.

Here’s a TEDx talk from Srdja Popovic, co-founder of Canvas – Centre for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies: How to topple a dictator.

One of his main arguments is based on a study by Stephan and Chenoweth called Why Civil Resistance Works, in which they present an extensive analysis of resistance campaigns since 1900 and conclude that “major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns”.

This already gives us a lot to think about, and as I am fully committed to nonviolence I must say I see it as quite good news.

However, a few days ago I found out that Popovic’s Canvas was the organization responsible for – are you ready? – supporting the US in fostering a revolution against Chavez in Venezuela, as WikiLeaks let the world know.

And this gives us a whole lot more to think about.

Looking forward to some unruly debates about it all!

Posted by Pedro Telles

Remember, remember the 23rd of March

Today is Pakistan Day. My dad (a man of the military) would take us to the parade in Islamabad almost every year so that we could see how well the Dharti key Jawan (Sons of the Soil) were faring in preparation for that always imminent attack from the Dushman (Pakistan’s arch nemesis, India). Rows and columns of Jawans in silly uniforms would march in sync from one end to the other with a determination so linear, that it could only be disrupted by the obligatory salute (also in sync) to the Head Dharti ka Jawan (Prime Minister or General, depending on the political season). Horse shit on the parade route was pretty much the only unruly thing that ever happened in this whole performance.

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Today is also the death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, an unruly Marxist revolutionary who was killed by the colonial government in 1931. I only heard of him as a teenager through Bollywood and that only because he is celebrated as an anti-colonial hero in Indian nationalist ideology. After a few years of struggle and lobbying by a handful of leftist activists in Lahore, Shadaman Chowk was named after Bhagat Singh, as it turns out that the Soil he was the Son of is now in Pakistan.

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I’ve been reading Zizek on Ideology all morning so I’m going to attempt and look at the portrayal of Bhagat Singh with that lens.

(1)The erasure of unruliness from Modern nationalist ideologies is old news. So the fact that I had never heard of this radical lefty dude -who died in the name of my supposed claim to the Soil against the colonizers -as I was wading through the Pakistani system of symbolic violence (a.k.a formal education) is not surprising. God forbid Pakistan would ever let a kafir (heretic, a.k.a non-Muslim) be its Son.

 (2)What I find strange though is how Bhagat-ji has been portrayed in Indian nationalist ideology. In this discourse, he is portrayed as a young, brooding man reclaiming his masculinity (and that of the whole “nation”, quite frankly) by rebelling against the colonial master. His Marxist and anarchist ideology, which fundamentally challenges the Indian nationalist ideology of capitalist development, is mostly left out of this narrative. This is reflective of power of dominant ideologies. In that, they are able to pick and choose the characteristics of a certain moment to suit their  overall message. But it’s not like people don’t know that he was a Marxist. It’s not like this fact can be hidden from public knowledge. Not in the age of Wikipedia and Wikileaks. So then how do people embody this contradiction between celebrating a Marxist revolutionary and being Indian capitalonationalists?

According to Zizek, ‘an ideology really succeeds when even the facts which at first sight contradict it start to function as arguments in its favour’. What he means is that the power of ideology lies not in its ability to obscure and obliterate facts like the second-rate ideology work the Pakistani Ideological State Apparatus is up to. Rather, the power of ideology lies in its ability to embrace the very facts which could potentially subvert it. So, one possible way this could be happening in this case is: “Everyone, from the Marxists to the Hindu nationalists to the vegans, were under one banner for the creation of an independent India where a local capitalist elite could flourish without the whip of the colonial master”. So basically what I’m trying to say is, or rather what Zizek is trying to say is that ideologies create their own logics which are able to absorb all potential contradictions. It is this logic and not the ideology itself, which is hidden from the subject.

 (3) The third ideology I have reflected upon on this day is patriarchal masculinity. How we imagine/experience politics, whether it is in the formal parade of instruments of State violence on Pakistan Day or through the remembrance of a revolutionary at a chowk, is gendered. Throughout history, the process of recording both formal and informal political action has been deeply patriarchal such that half its history (herstories) has been systemically erased. What impact does that have on the way we imagine unruliness to begin with? I’m not sure, but I’d like to find out…

Posted by HA