Becoming Unbecoming

Martha Blow

Edited by Abigail Eardley

Art by Livi Prendergast https://liviprendergast.wordpress.com/

On the 5th October 2017, The Times published a story presenting decades of allegations of sexual harassment against film mogul Harvey Weinstein. What followed was the uncovering of an endemic culture of sexual harassment within Hollywood, followed by the seismic #MeToo hashtag. The Weinstein Scandal forced the conversation about sexual violence into global discourse and brought to light its ubiquity. While Becoming Unbecoming was published in 2015, prior to the Weinstein Scandal, it nonetheless addresses the rape culture that normalised Weinstein’s—amongst others—actions. That the graphic novel is set in the 1970s does not diminish its relevance to contemporary society, as evidenced by Weinstein’s exposure, and for that reason it is crucially important to academic curricula.

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Postcolonial Climate Change: John Akomfrah and a discourse of difference

Clara de Massol

Edited by Muireann Crowley

Art by Sarah Summers https://www.instagram.com/ssssummers/

This article considers the ways in which postcolonial studies are integral to understanding climate change. Our planet is warming at an alarming rate; islands and coasts all around the planet are slowly drowning; and species are disappearing in the thousands each year as a result. In less than 100 years, climates and ecosystems will be completely altered; this will have profound implications on humanity in terms of our survival as well as our collective identity. In the last few years, the discussion around ecology and identity has crystallised around the concept of the Anthropocene, the name given to the geological epoch superseding the Holocene, in which human activity on earth becomes the main geological force. Confronting anthropogenic climate change involves destabilising the dominant cultural narratives regulating societies to understand and formulate the intersection of ecology and postcolonialism.

The Anthropocene was introduced by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000 and urges us to rethink our relationship to our planet and to the life forms inhabiting it. The Anthropocene debate, along with concepts of globalisation and cosmopolitanism create the illusion that ‘we are all in this together’ (Braidotti, 2017), that with the advent of climate and ecological disasters, a kind of planetary citizenship and solidarity has formed. But this apparent interdependence and planetary empathy is in fact a neoliberal system of differentiation and hierarchy. Butler explains that in this climate, ‘some lives are grievable, and others are not; the differential allocation of grievability that decides what kind of subject is and must be grieved, which kind of subject is not, operates to produce and maintain certain exclusionary conceptions of who is normatively human’ (2004, xiv).

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Black is Beautiful: A Philosophy of Black Aesthetics

Temitope Ajileye

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Art by Fatima Seck

“I don’t know where to begin […] because nothing has been written here. Once the first book comes, then we’ll know where to begin”. Barbara Smith

There is some irony in how I came across Black is Beautiful, a masterpiece created by African American scholar Paul C. Taylor. I was looking for Russell’s History of Western Philosophy and, while waiting for the bookshop staff to locate it (their attempts would eventually prove unsuccessful despite their certainty that ‘Russell has to be in the shop’), my eyes wandered and settled on Taylor’s book. How lucky I was!

        The opening quote, taken from Barbara Smith’s Toward a Black Feminist Criticism, immediately presents us with the urgency that the book tackles and tries to solve. There is much art by, about, and with black people, but not enough thought to connect them together, help us think more productively about black expressive culture, which would allow us to contextualise and understand our reactions to black art. There is a strong feeling that much can be said about this art and an even stronger desire for these intentions to be finally clearly stated.

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Continuing The Unfinished Conversation: Stuart Hall through the lens of John Akomfrah

The archive has been the space of intervention from the beginning. One of the few spaces, reservoirs of memory, for diasporic subjects is the archive.

John Akomfrah (2014)

Benjamin E.I. Lubbock

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo and Rianna Walcott

Art by Maïa Walcott https://maiawalcott98.wixsite.com/mysite

Memory and the moving image are John Akomfrah’s materials. In The Unfinished Conversation, a three-screen video installation, his subject matter is the formation of identity, which, for individuals struggling to define themselves in their social contexts, is a matter of urgency. It is not easy to explain how identities are created, and there are few who have considered the matter in greater depth than Stuart Hall, around whom the film revolves. Born in Jamaica before immigrating to Oxford, Hall became editor-in-chief of the New Left Review and a founding figure of the New Left movement. He was an activist, regularly televised for his analyses of media reports, and co-authored seminal texts such as The Popular Arts (1964), which advanced the claim that film, media and pop culture should be taken seriously as objects of study. But what he was arguably most renowned for were his theories of identity: “Identity is formed at the intersection between the political and the personal” (Hall, 2013).

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Moonlight

Fatima Seck

Edited by Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo

Art by Fatima Seck

In a year and a half of studying anthropology I’ve gathered one thing: apparently, LGBTQ folk do not exist.

With the exception of an optional reading about transgender sex workers in Brazil, and a discussion of the Vezo sarin’ampela, (described as men who live as and become women), I have not yet had the opportunity to learn about queer identities in my degree programme. Anthropology is a discipline characterised by breadth: quite literally anything can be studied anthropologically, and I appreciate that consequently, our studies must have certain limits and constraints. However I simply cannot accept that in the study of humanity — one guided by the question of what it means to be a person — LGBT+ identities do not have their rightful place. With the rise of incisive, beautiful and creative media by folks of marginalised backgrounds there is no shortage of content from which we can study queer folk, and I hope we can make these productions significant parts of our curriculum.

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Launch Night Excerpts

Art by Priyanka Meenakshi https://www.priyankameenakshi.com/

We celebrated Project Myopia with a beautiful launch event towards the end of semester 2. It was a night of music and poetry, as well as an opportunity for some of our contributors to elaborate on their essays and ideas. Our performers touched on a wide range of serious issues: from the exclusion of racial minorities’ contribution to the canon of literature, to the oppressive nature of zero-hour contracts that prevent tutors from being able to fully engage in helping all students get ahead, let alone those from a minority background who need assistance most. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who performed and shared their experiences, and we also have to thank everyone who attended and helped us drink the wine we provided! Project Myopia aims to bring marginalized people together and amplify their voices, and our launch felt like a perfect culmination of our semester’s work: people came together and shared their experiences of an academic world we need to change.

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Toyin Odutola

Fatima Seck

Edited by Rianna Walcott

Art by Fatima Seck

Contemporary anthropology is seldom malicious. Today’s anthropologists go to great lengths to remove themselves from the insidious origins of the discipline — no longer is anthropology a way to mock and ogle a ‘savage’ other. Indeed, anthropology has evolved to allow an extremely empathetic — maybe even beautiful — relationship between ethnographer and ethnographic subject to be the centre of its praxis.

To assume however that this empathy reaches the student is perhaps the most myopic practice of today’s anthropology. Ethnographic research inevitably travels across an academic landscape of anthropologists, notebooks, academic journals, lecturers and students. In this process, studied cultures become commodified, and even further, there is a tendency to uncritically assume the absence of the anthropologist’s voice. People who are empathetic subjects to the ethnographer become canonised objects to the student — teaching anthropology thus becomes a process of objectification.

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Kerry James Marshall: A New Old Master

Emma Nance 

Art: ‘Asleep’, by Horace Pippin

Editing by Rianna Walcott

We are unable to embed the work of Kerry James Marshall here for copyright reasons. To view the works of art discussed in this review, please click the links provided.

Update 6/11/17: The Seattle Art Museum is scheduled to exhibit Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas. At Artsy you can find more information about Kerry Marshall, including a biography, over 60 of his works, exclusive articles, and up-to-date Marshall exhibition listings.

A riot of domestic hues. We take in the boxy blue couch, the yellow table with the half-eaten meal, the worn, braided rug, the music swirling above the heads of the lovers. We can vaguely make out the tune if we strain and cock our heads, but the song is not meant for us. We are intruding on their private space, and yet she is accustomed to this interruption, so she lets her eyes slide to the left and relaxes into her partner’s body. Faceless and steady, he imperceptibly sways her hips to the rhythm. She exudes subdued serenity. Finally. Alone together. We quietly slip out and leave them to their slow dance. 

https://www.artsy.net/artwork/kerry-james-marshall-slow-dance

Slow Dance, 1992-1993, Kerry James Marshall: Mastry 

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Guapa

Ralph Haddad
Editing by Toby Sharpe

Cover art by Emanuele Ragnisco

When I first read Guapa, I was taken aback by how relevant the book was to my own life. The narrative follows a queer Arab protagonist, as he navigates a day in his life in an unnamed Arab country. The opening scene sees the main character, Rasa, the morning after his grandmother – with whom he lives – catches him in bed with another man. This opening scene sets the tone for the entire narrative – themes of anxiety, self-doubt, tension, hopelessness, and shame come to dominate the story. It was the first book I read where I thought to myself: “Yes. This is it. This guy understands it.” The author, Saleem Haddad, is a self-identified queer man of various heritages – among them Lebanese, Iraqi, and Palestinian. The book itself follows the fairly conservative form of the conventional English novel; it does not claim to reinvent the wheel. It is not the most experimental work with a queer element that was published in 2016, but it is exceptional and refreshing in its content. Guapa was published originally in English under a publisher based in New York. The novel quickly received wide acclaim from contemporary Arab authors, such as Randa Jarrar, and ended up on many end-of-year lists on media platforms such as BuzzFeed and the Guardian. Haddad himself ended up on Out magazine’s one hundred most influential people of 2016.

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Confronting Uncomfortable Pasts: Towards An Intersectional Approach to Women and Film

Katie Mackinnon
Editing by Daisy Silver

Screenshot from film: Elle-Maija Tailfeathers’

In my third year studying at McGill University, I took a course on French feminist filmmakers that changed the way I thought about the role of women in art. Once a week, in a darkened room of an old house on Peel Street, we would sit together and watch the films of Agnès Varda, Claire Denis, and Catherine Breillat in awe. These were films I had never heard of before, like Agnès Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962), or Claire Denis’ Beau Travail (1999), and it was during these moments of stunned silence, when all my senses were attuned to the projected screen, that I developed a deeper understanding of the history of female writers and directors. We talk a lot about “gaze” in film and media studies, and it was through studying these films that I was first naïvely introduced to the fight to achieve the female gaze in cinema. Cléo de 5 à 7 is a masterpiece for many reasons, but what struck me most was watching a female protagonist engage with her own reflection, and to have the film acknowledge her own gaze as a important means of autonomy and communication.

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