The last time I went to the theatre, it was filled with educated and privileged people from all around the Princeton, NJ area. A group of us, dissertation fellows, from the Hispanic Theological Initiative had been invited to see the play The Convert in its world premiere at McCarter Theatre where Emily Mann directed it. I know from comments I overheard from another group of church friends during intermission and afterward, that in their view much of the audience was filled with, in the words of my church friend, “white guilt.” But I also know that for some of us in the room, including myself as a Latin American Christian and student of Christian Social Ethics, the play made a different sort of sense.
Media accounts of suicide tend to explain it as an effect of bullying. This is both helpful and limiting. It is helpful in moving us away from a view of suicide as ipso facto evidence of a psychological problem (sickness) or in the even older view, as a moral failing (sin). Psychological problems may in fact be present in some or many of the cases. In reference to the colonized it would seem to go with the territory, as Frantz Fanon, Kelly Oliver and others have argued. The better explanation where bullying is involved, however, is that the sense of desperation caused by the harassment itself, irrespective of the victim’s mental health (read: “resilience”), was so great that suicide seemed (or may have really been) the only way out. This account lifts the burden of stigma, and exonerates the youth of any moral culpability, which is right both in terms of compassionate practice—how is blaming a suicidal youth going to help?—and in terms of the larger analysis. From a queer, postcolonial and feminist perspective, it really isn’t their fault.
Growing Up Different(ly): Space, Community and the Dissensual Bildungsroman in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, by Pramod K. Nayar
What strikes one first about Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay (2008-2010), are the echoes from William Golding’s marvelously frightening The Lord of the Flies, Stephen King’s The Running Man and the TV Reality show, Survivor. It also recalls that iconic eighteenth century text about European/Western individualism, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, which really is the ancestor of Survivor as well. Collins’ trilogy is set some time in the future when the United States has been destroyed and rehabilitated in the form of twelve outlying districts controlled by the Capitol, together called Panem, under the control of President Snow.
There was a strange interchange reported by the American Civil Liberties Union a couple months ago. This past December, the Boston Police Department filed an administrative subpoena for identifying information connected with the Twitter account @p0isAn0N. What catalyzed police attention of @p0isAn0N’s account was simply and only “the compiling of publicly available information from the internet, something anyone could have done, which is not illegal and does not constitute a threat.” Twitter, following its stated policies, informed the user, who sought to challenge the constitutionality of the subpoena in court. The following interchange occurred during the second hearing while the court was considering whether or not it would allow the challenge. The topic at hand was anonymity, the importance of first amendment protected anonymous speech for democracy, and the practicalities of performing anonymous speech in the 21st century.
Review of Dina Iordanova, David Martin-Jones, and Belén Vidal, eds. Cinema at the Periphery. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2010), 280 pp.
Is a quiet revolution taking place at the intersection of film studies and postcolonial theory? Are we seeing a renewal of diasporic cinema and the production of innovative films in transnational contexts? Is the Hollywood hegemony slipping and the Eurocentric model redundant? After thirty years of ‘liberated’ international markets and unfettered ‘progress’ of globalization it is timely to take stock of the dialogues and debates being advanced in film studies and in the cinematic forum. A new collection of essays entitled Cinema at the Periphery seeks to explore some of these questions.
The notion of a plural identity is in contrast to the subtle (or perhaps not so subtle!) ways in which hetero-patriarchal colonial history sublimated indigenous ways of knowing and identity production. I wish to move into not only advocating but privileging the plurality of identities as a way to queer the post/colonial space and place that today’s earth’s bodies inhabit.
Review of Tejumola Olaniyan and James H. Sweet, ed. The African Diaspora And The Disciplines. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), 376 pp.
The field of African Diaspora Studies is growing and becoming increasingly more sophisticated. Although there is a perceived lack in the field’s “existing body of conceptual and definitional knowledge” (Sweet, 2010, p. 1) this welcome, theory-thick anthology, The African Diaspora And The Disciplines, provides a refreshing corrective. The book features several of the papers presented at a two-day, March 2006 conference held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA) that was organized to investigate what the volume’s editors consider to be an axiomatic issue in African Diaspora Studies, namely, how diaspora is conceived, especially in a transdisciplinary (literature, religious studies, genetic biology, history, archaeological chemistry, et al.) and transnational (Jamaica, Europe, and South Africa, et al.) way.