When I started working on this piece, 22-year old Kasandra Perkins was shot to death nine times by her abusive partner, American football player Jovan Belcher. The very same day she was murdered, two other women, lost in and amongst nameless statistics, would have also been killed at the hands of their intimate partners in the US. A few weeks later, the horrific gang-rape of a 23-year old woman from Delhi who has since passed away, offered up a continued and ever painful reminder of the violent reality women are faced with daily. A reality in which, globally, women aged 15 – 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and Malaria (cited in UN UniTE, 2011).
As a woman of colour, reducing violence or particular violent acts to sensationalised or individualised narratives has never been a luxury I could afford. Violence the world over is a collective endemic that my Feminist praxis screams out to confront. And yet, like many others, I’ve been plagued with how best we critically engage with the question of violence in order to take a step towards reducing, resisting and ultimately preventing it.
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I know some people have requested to read my dissertation for my Msc in Race, Ethnicity and Postcolonial Studies (2012) from London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London. You can read the full essay here
Stereotypes continue to be central in the debates surrounding race and representation in British Media. The representation of British South Asian women remains dominated by narratives of veiling, forced marriage, honour killings and ethnic enclaves, failing to integrate into dominant (white) British culture. These social representations, reified and often reproduced in media, typically centre these women within – and as victims of – the private, (cultural) domestic sphere. Representations, however, ‘organise and regulate social practices, influence our conduct and consequently have real, practical effects’ (Hall, 1997, p3); they convey meaning through images, symbols, and language to construct what is seemingly a representable ‘reality’. As a consequence, reception of media is not passive and interaction does not simply stop at the moment of consumption. Instead, meaning making occurs not only through the images presented but also in a tertiary space of spectatorship: the conversations people engage in about their television watching, making them active participants of the process of ‘making sense of’ the text. Popular Soap Operas such as EastEnders are part of the everyday consumption of television for many Britons. The stories pursued and characters created in such soaps are thought to be key in creating connections, identifications, and cultural affinities, as well as dislocations and renegotiations between people, places and cultures in the production of meaning. Using focus groups to investigate how young British Asian women relate to the politics of representation through the narrative and character of Zainab Masood in EastEnders, this paper explores how they reflect and negotiate identity, difference and culture through the media as part of their everyday lives. What remains central to this study is an examination of the power and politicization of looking relations essential within media and minority representation. At the heart of the politics of representation, however, there lies a broader politics of belonging.
In her latest column, Hana Riaz reflects on the crucial role of diasporic and postcolonial literature.
It’s true and I won’t hide it: Roald Dahl was as far as I ever ventured with most white literature as a kid. Unlike my mother who was born and raised in a Pakistan still weighing heavy with the colonial imagination, rosy-cheeked white children and their adventures in the countryside did little to captivate me. Whilst these books built a world in which she could construct an ‘innocent’ Englishness (that she would only encounter in her late twenties), I was already in classrooms with children that had rosy-cheeks and mouths stuffed with racist slurs. In being unable to identify with these stories or the children that lived in them, I was silenced by my own absence and their totalising and pervasive presence; reading no longer offered a medium of escapism or the safe space of the imaginary.
Despite the fact that I was privileged enough to have a grandmother (a poet who knew six languages) teach me to read aged three or four, I was quick to give up reading fiction by the time I was eight. For the next ten years autobiographies and socio-political, historical accounts exploring Western hegemony, colonisation and resistance struggles dominated my bookshelves. It wasn’t until I began my undergraduate studies that I rediscovered what would become an undying and necessary love for creative writing and fiction. Here in this new world, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Edwidge Danticat amongst many others were building a crucial post-colonial political project. Junot Diaz’s latest collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her, however, brought both this project and journey more recently into full perspective for me.
Read the full article on Ceasefire Magazine here