The Master’s Tools – Audre Lorde

Mayowa Omogbenigun

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Art by Zoë Guthrie http://zoeguthrie.com/

For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never allow us to bring about genuine change’. – Audre Lorde (‘The Master’s Tools’ 19)

My four years at university have led me to a simple conclusion: universities are bastions of white supremacy. From my first-year at university, it was clear that I would not belong in the proverbial ‘Master’s House’ (Lorde, ‘The Master’s Tools’ 19). It was micro-aggressions by students and academics alike. It was ignorant comments about the ‘Third World’ and the backward people living in it. It was learning everything from a Eurocentric and Western point of view and as postcolonial scholar Dipesh Chakrabarty explains, Europe was the silent referent in everything I was taught (42). The imbalance of power was clear by the content of what I was taught and by the language used to teach. Throughout my first two years at university, I struggled to find language to express how I felt and was deprived of any courses that discussed people of colour. In my second-year, I remember an ill-conceived course simply called ‘Asia and Africa 2a: Societies, Cultures, and Empires, c.1600-1880’ and ‘Asia and Africa 2b: Nationalisms, Liberation Movements and the Legacies of Colonialism, c. 1880-Present Day’. As you can imagine, the course lacked nuance and was far too vague to offer any real insight into either ‘Asia’ or ‘Africa’.

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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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Mules and Men

Fatima Seck

Edited by Jahna Hampshire

Art by Fatima Seck

After close to two years of studying anthropology, Zora Neale Hurston has yet to appear on any of my reading lists. This is a great shame, not only because it exemplifies the erasure of black women in academia that is all too common in higher education, but because her work specifically has so much to offer to new anthropology students.

While reading Mules and Men, Hurston’s ethnographic text on black communities around the American South, I was first struck by her confident centring of self. In great contrast to the majority of other ethnographic texts I have read, Hurston actively recognises her own place in the context of her fieldwork, making no attempt to hide herself in her ethnography. Rather, Hurston makes personal experience an equally valid and visible dimension of her ethnographic exploration, an approach whose significance I explored in a previous Myopia article (projectmyopia.com/toyin-odutola). In Mules and Men, Hurston unapologetically presents her jovial disputes with her research participants, casual banter with old friends and new acquaintances, and even being mocked and criticised by the people whose presence she was in. These honest and colloquial dialogues are not means to the ethnographic material, but the qualitative data itself… arguably, creating a richer picture that authentically describes the extent to which the presence and identity of the anthropologist affects the relationship between ethnographer and ethnographic subject; and the knowledge that is chronicled as a result.

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Second Class Citizen

Elizabeth Lawal

Edited by Muireann Crowley

Art by Zoë Guthrie http://zoeguthrie.com/

Second Class Citizen (1976) by Buchi Emecheta is set in Lagos, Nigeria during World War II, and is about a woman called Adah and her marriage to Francis. Although life initially seems rosy for Adah, things turn sour when it becomes clear that Francis is physically and emotionally abusive.

When I was in high school I came across this book by chance; it was in a box full of books the teachers said we could take for free. The main reason I picked the book was because I noticed that the writer was Nigerian and of Igbo descent. Later on, I gave a presentation on it because there were no books by a black woman on our English Literature syllabus. After the presentation I asked if the book could be added and although the teacher was encouraging, my classmates were not. I think it was quite different to what they were used to – most of my classmates were white British. I vividly remember an Irish girl shouting from her desk, “I don’t want to learn about Africa.” I was a confrontational child, so I asked, “Why?’’ And she hit me with: “I just don’t.” I remember being so disappointed, and saying, “Well, I don’t want to learn about James I or Shakespeare and the Industrial Revolution, but you don’t hear me complaining.” This was met with silence.

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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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Caucasia

Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

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

Danzy Senna’s first novel, Caucasia (1998), is a coming-of-age story about a girl named Birdie with a black academic father and a white mother who is the estranged descendant of a prominent Bostonian family. The story follows the highly problematic construction of the young girl’s identity after being separated from her sister and black father and growing up with her white mother on the road around New England assuming different racial identities, which she is able to do due to her ambiguous ethnicity and her ability to “pass” for white.  It is a story deeply indebted to the history of the American Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, and its philosophical preoccupations, providing poignant commentary on the trope of “lighting out,” a term taken from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, meaning going west, shedding history, and switching identities. While, during my undergraduate education, I studied a number of texts that addressed these genres and themes, Caucasia highlights the racialisation of the traditional American Bildungsroman and the American identity that it constructs in a way that none of the other texts I studied did.

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Interview with Professor Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o

Interview by Tanuj Raut

Edited by Rianna Walcott

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

I think that Greek mythology should be taught comparatively with African, Norse, Scandinavian, Icelandic and Asian mythologies. They are all very exciting and it is not necessary to put them in a hierarchical relationship to each other. Let them network.

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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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