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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 2       BACK TO VOLUMES

"That Little Boy": An English Translation of the Bengali Story "Shei Chheleta"
Debali Mookerjea

 

Revolutionary Vision: Black Women's Views on Interracial Sexuality
Shane Verge

Black women writers during the Black Nationalist Movement faced numerous challenges in terms of their dual status as blacks and as women. Additionally, they were confronted by a multitude of contradictions with regard to interracial sexuality. As the bodies in which the nation was invested, black women found their sexuality continually regulated; most notably, they were restricted from sexual contact with white men. This regulation was also based on the history of sexual abuse and oppression of black women by white men. The sexual relations of black men with white women, however, were more tolerated. Many black men saw their relationships with white women as important liberatory acts and sought to become wielders of patriarchal power in their efforts to be freed from oppression. Such an inversion would have left women, especially black women, in the same position of oppression they historically occupied. Thus, many black women during this period used discussions of interracial sexuality to discuss the goals of Black Nationalism and to destabilize traditional notions regarding dichotomies.

 

Diasporadas: The Fine Art of Activism
B.C. Harrison

A Diasporada is a woman who transgresses national and political boundaries and is empowered by inserting Black and female voices into an transnational public sphere. This essay explores the work of Black women activists including Edmonia Lewis, Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, Augusta Savage, and ELizabeth Catlett. These women were visual artists who defied conventional forms of activism, and changed Black representation in the fine arts and in the social politics of racial uplift. I suggest that we recuperate Black women's activisms by inquiring into the ways in which Afro-U.S. women's thoughts in marble and oil set the stage, led, and inspired other forms of Black leadership. How, for example, did their work, both out front and "behind the scenes" add fuel to Black activism? In order to pursue these concerns, I illuminate the connections between Black women artists, their struggles to gain resources and support, their travels, and their social activism; and in th processs I hope to recuperate some of the expressive symbolism of Black women's art and its impact on transnational Black struggles.

 

Be Careful What You Ask For: The Goddesses Might Be Listening
Grace Poore

This article examines some challenges to independent video production from the perspective of an activist who creates and uses video documents to advocate an end to violence against women. Journal notes kept by the author during production of the documentary, VOICES HEARD SISTERS UNSEEN (hereafter referred to as VOICES) are interspersed throughout the article to shed light on the political thought process behind creative decision in VOICES, as well as the ironies of raising funds for a social-issue documentary with a multi-issue as opposed to a special-issue focus, that was made with an activist audience in mind, and has cinematic style that prefers fragmented rather than linear narrative through the use of performance art and intimate personal interviews about surviving domestic violence.

 

Returning the American Gaze: Pandita Ramabai's The Peoples of the United States, 1889
Meera Kosambi

Pandita Ramabai, the internationally iconized Indian reformer and a Brahmin convert to Christianity, spent three years in the USA in the 1880s, having stayed as long in England. During her American sojourn, Ramabai travelled from coast to coast delivering lectures in the cause of Indian women, and forged links with feminist and other progressive movements. Her travelogue, The Peoples of the United States, published in 1889 as the first Marathi account of the USA, spans history and polity, religion and economy, social and domestic conditions, and the status of women; and valorizes American democracy, public spiritedness, and success in overthrowing British colonialism. In returning the American gaze, Ramabai adopts multiple speaking positions-- the highly educated Brahmin and Indian feminist reformer turning occasionally into a Christian critic and a New England liberal empathetic to the Blacks and American Indians. The book’s scope, vision and plural vantage points are illustrated in this article by selected, meticulously translated extracts, preserving the nineteenth century flavour of the original.

 

Bodies, Choices, Globalizing Neo-colonial Enchantments: African Matriarchs and Mammy Water
Ifi Amadiume

This essay is about the struggle for women's bodies and ultimately the gendering of knowledges and cultures. By introducing the term matriarchitarianism it moves feminist discourse beyond a concern about women's subordination and women as objects of abuse to a real analysis of African women as powerful matriarchs who have been at the center of cultural invention and innovation right from the genesis of human cultural history. However, in the context of colonialism, post-colonialism and now globalization, new questions are raised about the tensions between women's individual choices and women's collective interest under what might today seem like a totalitarian culture under the matriarchal umbrella. In this tension images and cultures of older traditional matriarchs and their rituals of culturing girls are being subverted by new desires and elusive enchantments of capitalism, symbolized by the enchanting Goddess, Mammy Water, a major icon in the radical work of Flora. There is a new feminist thinking in body culture and power in which elite women and girls increasingly act individually. The shift in discourse from women's histories and women systems to that of individual desire and sexuality raises concerns about women's ritual and law and our concerns about girls in the context of post-colonialism, globalizing capitalism, mounting violence on women and the staggering statistics of the onslaught of HIV/AIDS extermination? The essay concludes that this shift in discourse to a world of patriarchy and capital presents a negative representation in which postcolonial African women, posited purely as individuals, are isolated in their desires and afflictions, consuming imports from Europe and India, and in turn dreaming of Whiteness.

 

Chirta Divakruni's The Mistress of Spices: Deploying Magical Realism
Gita Rajan

I argue that Divakaruni employs a variation of the magical realism technique to re-imagine an equitable, multicultural, multiracial “America.” I use social justice as a tool for building a sustainable community by applying the theories of Zygmunt Bauman and Arjun Appadurai. I enjoyed writing this essay, primarily because it is one of the first analyses of Divakaruni’s book outside the postcolonial paradigm. And equally important, because I used Bauman’s theories, who though very prominent in Europe, remains little known in the United States, I was energized by this heady combination of newness.

 

ON FIRE: Sexuality and Its Incitements
Geeta Patel

This paper analyzes some of the ways in which the film “Fire” directed by Deepa Mehta has been circulated and incited responses by Indian communities that take on the question of the film’s portrayals of sexuality. The paper discusses some responses to the film when it was viewed in the US in relation to the racialized political economy of the US. It also narrates responses to the film in South Asia through the particular issues that animated local politics at the time, including voting and opening up the Indian economy to foreign investment. In doing so the paper reads the films circulation through discussions of value and capital, couched in terms of racialization, abjection, tradition, modernity, religious property, culture, voting and finance. The paper closes by juxtaposing “Fire” against other instances of queer sexualities that imbricated Indians in the diaspora. These instances were taken on by right-wing net-based organizing. Some of the larger questions addressed include; How do commodities that travel produce the public sphere? What is the relationship between diasporic communities, diasporic products, virtual communities and national sentiment? How does one understand cultural production as articulating a nexus of value and capital in relation to sexuality, nationality, religion and gender? When alternative sexualities are shut down across nation-sates, how does one articulate a strong politics to address this?]—NOT ACTUALLY PRINTED THIS EDITION

 

Fashion Crimes: Mexican-American Women, Zoot Suits, and Chicana Style Politics
Katherine Ramirez

Few scholars have examined the participation of pachucas (i.e. female Mexican-American zoot-suiters) in the zoot subculture of the early 1940s. “Fashion Crimes: Mexican-American Women, Zoot Suits, and Chicana Style Politics” seeks to reinsert them into narratives of the Mexican-American zoot subculture of the World War II period. Furthermore, it offers a narrative of Chicana style and Chicana style politics.

Drawing from and linking cultural studies, history and literary studies, I examine representations of the pachuca and the feminine version of the zoot suit in World War II-era texts, including short fiction, scholarly essays, newspaper articles, and photographs. I conclude that via style, pachucas, like their male counterparts, offered a critique of wartime jingoism and the formation of American national identity. Additionally, I illustrate that they pointed to the constructedness of gender and class categories; relativized middle-class definitions of feminine beauty and racist definitions of Americanness; and forged a distinct generational and ethnic identity.

 

POETRY

Ironing, Ironing
Nellie Wong