Black Girlhood in ‘Bone Black’ by bell hooks, and ‘Zami’ by Audre Lorde

Francesca Sobande

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Art by Olivia Twist: http://www.yesoliviatwist.com/

For some, the work of bell hooks needs no introduction. It may have represented their entry into Black feminist media and cultural critique, or the starting point of their understanding of the intersections of sexism and racism. I will always remember when I first came across the writings of hooks. I found such excitement in reading a distinctly Black feminist voice that is rarely found in university curricula. As I read hooks’ engaging analysis of media and consumer culture, I thought to myself “I never knew that academic writing could be like this!”.

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More Than Just Blood

Angie Spoto

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Iara Silva https: https://www.instagram.com/iiaraz_/

I hadn’t felt my baby move yet and wasn’t sure I wanted to. I confessed this to a friend in a café, who, bringing his hands together in front of his chest and clawing his fingers, said, ‘Yeah, it might feel, you know, like Alien.’ And his hands exploded outward, raining imaginary blood across our lattes.

My friend touched on a fear of mine: that having a baby would be like hosting an alien creature in my body. A fear no doubt inspired by my consumption of science fiction. Immediately, the prospect of pregnancy makes me think of the 1979 movie Alien, which undeniably plays out humanity’s pregnancy fears in the form of chest-ripping, murderous alien children. There’s also the ‘mystical pregnancy trope’: women in science fiction media are regularly forcibly or accidentally impregnated by aliens (Sarkeesian). This trope appears in Stargate SG-1, the X-Files, and Torchwood among other television shows and films.

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There but for the

Allie Kerper

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Illustration by Edith Pritchett https://www.instagram.com/edithpritchett_art/

Ali Smith’s novel There but for the tells the story of a man who, in the middle of a dinner party, locks himself in the spare room. The story unfolds over the course of the following year or so through the perspectives of four different characters whose lives the man, Miles, has touched in small ways. The characters whose voices comprise the story are Anna, an unemployed Scottish woman; Mark, a middle-aged gay man; May, an elderly woman with dementia; and Brooke, a 10-year-old Black girl. In each of their narrative turns, these characters reflect on experiences in their lives and how others perceive and react to them, giving the reader a rich and textured composite image of what human life can be in and around Greenwich, London in 2009-10. Smith’s novel marries realism and surrealism, satire and earnestness, and weaves it all together with wit and wordplay to create a compelling story of what it feels like to live in the political moment of the Recession.

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NOTHING OF WOMAN IN ME

Diane Lowman

Edited by Abigail Eardley

Art by Iara Silva: www.instagram.com/iiaraz_

Often, the contemporary eye looks at Shakespeare’s plots and characters with a certain skepticism. No matter how timeless and universal the themes – the joy, the anguish, the love – we cannot help but wonder: how could a mother not recognise her own twins? Do those simple disguises really trick everyone? And perhaps most persistently for me, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, what’s up with all these women? Under the auspices of the patriarchal system in early modern England, female Shakespearean characters are often submissive, with few admirable exceptions: the Princess in Love’s Labours Lost and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing come to mind.  Ultimately however, Kate in Taming of the Shrew and others like her, leave modern women shaking their heads.

Any author of fiction – and Shakespeare is no exception – asks an audience to momentarily suspend disbelief. In novels, films, and plays, ghosts walk, witches prophesize, and statues come alive. But still, that final question persists: what is up with all these women? In Nothing of Woman in Me, which debuted in February 2018 at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford Upon Avon, and will be reprised in July at the RSC Dell, director and playwright Juliano Zaffino attempts to answer this question. Zaffino earned his MA in Shakespeare and Theatre from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford Upon Avon, and will pursue his PhD there next year. As a gay man, he has first-hand experience of belonging to a marginalised group in society. By exploring the psyches of some of Shakespeare’s most complex and thought-provoking female characters, Zaffino hoped to give expression to all silenced populations by “capturing the voice of women throughout history and in our modern day, and unifying these voices through the vehicles of Shakespeare’s voiceless women.”[1] He “brought his experience to the table: my life as a gay man, the women who had raised me and whom I had grown up with, the reading and watching and listening I had done.” The dawning of the #MeToo era has offered a relevant and powerful backdrop for his work, having finally provided the opportunity for many muted female voices to whisper, speak, and shout above decades of oppressive abuse. No longer willing to suffer in silence as if that were the norm, women from professional, political, academic, and personal backgrounds are setting each other free by telling their truths. Women in Shakespeare’s time could not do that: but Zaffino imagines what it might have been like if they could have.

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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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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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Carpentaria

Curricular Dissonance:
Teaching English Literature as a Postcolonialist, or, the Power of Voice

Dr. Justine Seran

Edited by Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo

Art by Iara Silva https://www.instagram.com/iiaraz_/

I taught pre-honours literature at the University of Edinburgh for three years, and it never ceased to frustrate me, as a researcher specialised in contemporary literature, postcolonial criticism, and women’s studies, to expose future generations to the very curriculum centred on dead white men that I strove to escape by focusing my research on exploring (and celebrating) the work of living women of colour. Critiquing an antiquated curriculum and suggesting a wider breadth of reading to students during tutorials is one thing, but embedding diversity on the level of course design and organisation is another.

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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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Quicksand

Sarah Thomson

Edited by Rianna Walcott

Art by Jazmine Sheckleford www.facebook.com/jasmineillustrations13

Despite taking courses titled ‘International Modernism’, ‘World Gothic’ and ‘Comparative Feminist Drama’, it wasn’t until enrolling in a ‘Black American Fiction’ seminar in the final semester of my degree that I was first assigned a text written by a woman of colour, Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929). Although I initially I felt guilt that I’d apparently chosen classes with so little diversity, I soon realised that Passing would have made a fitting addition to a range of courses I’d studied previously. A concise but complex novel, Passing packs articulate discussions of class, gender, sexuality and race into just over 100 pages. It’s an injustice to the quality of Larsen’s prose to see it pigeonholed into the category of ‘black’ fiction, rather than used to enhance a course on something else entirely. The fact that it took enrolling in a seminar built around race before it was addressed in one of my classrooms speaks to the prevailing issue of the erasure of minority voices in academe.

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Orientalist Fantasies: Reclaiming the Middle East in Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran

Anahit Behrooz

Edited by Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo

Art by Christina Thomas https://www.behance.net/gallery/47755703/Portfolio-Strong-women

Over the years, I have read numerous novels, short stories, and poems in which I have seen myself reflected in characters, events, and language, but it wasn’t until a class on Orientalism (1978), Edward Said’s seminal text, during my masters that I saw my experiences echoed in a work of cultural criticism. In Orientalism, Said posits that the West’s complicated relationship with the Middle East is rooted and exacerbated by its reductive framing of the “Orient” as a backward, barbaric, and exotic space. Said argues that these attitudes are irrevocably linked to the West’s history of imperialism in these geographies, meaning that these perceptions are the product of a power play over the governments and peoples of these diverse countries, an attempt to criticise and diminish their cultures and identities in order to justify the conquest of their land.

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