A UTOPIAN CURRICULUM

PART FOUR: VOGUING

By Ibtisam Ahmed

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Iara Silva

As I continue to write this Utopian Curriculum series, it feels important to address questions raised from previous essays. In online conversations and email exchanges around parts two (Black Panther) and three (Sultana’s Dream), a particular point raised was whether something can be truly utopian if it is only positive and ideal for a specific demographic. It is apt, then, to dedicate part four to the art form of voguing.

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A Utopian Curriculum

PART THREE: SULTANA’S DREAM (1905)

By Ibtisam Ahmed

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Iara Silva

Welcome to the new year and welcome back to the Project Myopia Utopian Curriculum series. So far, I set up a broad overview of the discipline and the series in the first post, and then looked at the anti-colonial Afrofuturism of Black Panther in the second. In part three, I will be exploring Sultana’s Dream and how it uses satire and humour to highlight how oppressed communities can create a specific vision of liberation and utopia.

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A Utopian Curriculum

PART TWO: BLACK PANTHER (2018)

Ibtisam Ahmed

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Iara Silva

Welcome back to the Utopian Curriculum series with Project Myopia! In this post, I will look at the first case study on the curriculum, the 2018 Marvel film Black Panther. Directed by Ryan Coogler, it has received a renewed level of attention and love since the tragic passing of actor Chadwick Boseman.

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Unlearning British Biphobic Bias with “The Bi-ble”

Gemma Avens

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Illustration by @worthdrawingwell

Unsurprisingly, most of the authors in The Bi-ble wrote of feeling silenced and isolated around their bisexuality, convinced that their struggles were unique to them. In fact, similar feelings are what led me to find the anthology and tear through it at breakneck speed. The Bi-ble discusses the authors’ experiences of bisexuality in Britain: of marginalisation, exploring their sexuality, and reclaiming their identity — finding power and joy in the process. The collection is an extremely valuable academic resource and one of very few books about bisexuality in Britain — bisexuality, here, being romantic or sexual attraction to multiple genders.

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Queer Phenomenology: ‘While Standing in Line for Death’ by CA Conrad

Clara Hancock

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Illustration by Яachel Lee

‘We are time machines of water and flesh patterned for destruction, if we do not release the trauma.’ (CAConrad, 2017) 

CAConrad is a gender non-conforming poet and activist. I first came across their work in the 2018 Beatrice Gibson film I HOPE I’M LOUD WHEN I’M DEAD, which emphasises the necessity of poetry during the current American political crisis. Since discovering Conrad and their ‘(soma)tic’ bodily rituals, my own writing practice has been significantly altered, as I developed a deeper awareness of poetic embodiment. While Standing in Line for Death (Conrad, 2017) consists of 18 (soma)tic rituals, alongside poems that result from them. (Soma)tic poetics is a union of ‘soma’, a spiritual term derived from Sanskrit, meaning ‘to press and be newly born’ and ‘somatic’, the Greek term for the body. Conrad’s (soma)tic poetry investigates the space between body and spirit, and exposes the ways in which corporeality is integral to creativity, grief, expression and survival. ​The writing that emerges from these rituals repeatedly reminds us of the ways in which emotion is both bodily, cognitive, and a meeting point between the world and ourselves (Herd, 2017).

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A digital illustration of an old dirty computer screen with a pac man style game on the screen.

Janelle Monáe’s ‘Dirty Computer – an emotion picture’

Cameron Perumal 

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Artwork by Maia Abayomi

‘Dirty Computer – an emotion picture’ is a narrative film accompanying Janelle Monáe’s 2018 album of the same name serving as a backdrop to (and catalyst for) its plot. It depicts the story of Jane 57821 – a femme-presenting, queer android – in a seemingly dystopian future. ‘Seemingly’ because the film almost scarily imitates an all too familiar contemporary political landscape and its relationship with the Other (including, as mentioned by Monáe in interviews, queerness, being minoritised, and the experience of being a Black woman). Jane 57821 is a queer android – inferred from her relationships with Zen and Ché (portrayed by Tessa Thompson and Jayson Aaron, respectively). Jane is also part of an underground resistance and is captured by the oppressive government, deemed a ‘dirty computer’ that needs to be cleaned, and has her memories deleted one by one – but not before the audience gets to relive each one. 

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Harmonia Rosales’ Black Female Universe

Words and Illustration by Tanatsei Gambura @tanagambura

Edited by Veronica Vivi

The Black imagination is a dangerous, radical phenomenon. More still is the Black, female imagination. It is an envoy into the speculative realm of pure freedom. In an existence that is marked by the suppression of the Black female form in all its shapes, the Black imagination functions as a powerful and liberating force. That being said, a pleasurable Afrocentric paradigm of the world is too abstract and incomprehensible to many. However, for Afro-Cuban artist Harmonia Rosales, not only is it conceivable, but, more importantly, it is a divine universe that can be translated into compelling visual representations for others to bear witness to. 

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The Gypsy Goddess

Vaishali Bhargava

Edited by Muireann Crowley

Artwork by Kelechi Hafstad: Kelechi Anna Photography

Remember, dear reader, I write from a land where people wrap up newborn babies in clumsy rags and deck the dead in incredible finery.” (Kandasamy 24)

Literature encompasses several paths of inspiration for me and I tread one of them in the Indian author, Meena Kandasamy’s debut novel The Gypsy Goddess (2014). This is a whimsical fictional narrative based on the bloody massacre of 1968 in the Kilvenmani village, located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. Without striving hard for authenticity she inspires me to write dramatically in the right parts while holding reader’s attention. Her pen isn’t afraid of unveiling that which decorum usually hides and carries “the tales of their cunts and their cuntress and their cuntentants . . .” (Kandasamy 67) for she is on a fearless mission.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Jasmine Thakral

Edited by Karl Egerton

Illustration ‘Double Consciousness’ by Natasha Ruwona, https://www.behance.net/natasharuw40cf

The Hate U Give deals with the way in which police brutality and systematic criminalisation of black bodies damage African American communities, depicting the struggle often felt by people of colour between who they are and how they are perceived by the world. The events of the novel are particularly resonant in light of recent cases of police brutality which have resulted in the death of victims such as Trayvon Martin, which sparked the activist movement, Black Lives Matter. The Hate U Give follows Starr Carter as she negotiates the fallout from the horrific police brutality suffered by her friend Khalil. The novel explores Starr’s journey to finding her voice so that she can explicitly challenge police brutality against African Americans.

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The Inner Courtyard by Lakshmi Holdström

Avani Udgaonkar

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Illustration by Olivia Prenderghast: https://liviprendergast.wordpress.com/

TW: sexual violence mention

The study of Indian literature in Western universities has always been disappointing. Even in the best of courses, Indian literature is still limited to the Salman Rushdie – Jhumpa Lahiri – Vikram Seth (if you’re lucky) trifecta that is as irresponsible as it is exhausting. While the works of second-generation and diasporic writers are important, to use their limited voices as representative of an entire subcontinent with hundreds of languages and cultures, hardly constitutes an education. The depiction of Indian women, in particular, from Slumdog Millionaire (2009) to The Satanic Verses (1988), are hardly more than one-dimensional stock caricatures of stereotypically oppressed “third world” women. Individuality, independence, rebellion, and cultural nuances, all vanish against this overwhelming backdrop of Bollywood tropes and toxic masculinity.

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