Wow, what an intense semester, reflected by the fact that it has taken me a little less than a month to be able to process and articulate it!
I enjoyed my classes, learned lots, and struggled with a couple of unruly students. Not that I’m trying to rule, but they were so disrespectful, and I am to a fault, respectful, that is, so I have to learn more skills in that area where there is this breakdown. Being an abolishionist, I don’t like to turn students into the administration, but as an adjunct, I also don’t get paid all that much to put up with people’s rude behavior, not that pay = putting up with it either. It is also about getting support, and that works some times too after I have exhausted my conflict resolution and accountability skills. I’m just saying. It is also so difficult to focus on all the other students who are into it, who want to learn, when one or two students wants to argue every point from an abstract fascist position, like torture is useful, because I was there.
Yeah, well that isn’t the society I want to live in and that isn’t how this class is gonna go.
We didn’t get to important things because of the disruptions, important conversations, and I learned alot from it – more small group work, perhaps a debate or two between the students (thanks Lisa!) so it is not all on me. Ideology and internalization of propaganda is such an insidious thing and it really really blew up when we tried to talk about it.
So, the classes I took were great, I learned lots toward integrating my project. Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Nikhil Singh taught Race, Prisons, War where we read really great books, among which are – Time in the Shadows Confinement in CounterInsurgencies by Laleh Khalili where she demonstrates how liberalism can be fascistic and the limits of human rights discourse; David Olusosoga & Casper W. Erichsen’s The Kaiser’s Holocaust Germany’s Forgotten Genocide about the roots of German concentration camps in SW Africa–>Namibia (and one cannot get the book in the U.S.!); Andrew Friedman’s Covert Capital Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia which really breaks down how U.S. empire works, and its connections with domestic issues, communities and politics (and where Oliver North is from); Stephanie Smallwood’s Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora which is a thourough-going documentation of the slave trade from Africa’s Gold Coast and, through which we had great conversations how the social death school got it wrong by concentrating only on the brutal oppression and erasing all the resistance and agency by enslaved people in the fight against it; Takashi Fujitani’s Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II through which I learned a great deal about race and racism and the specificities of them; and Susanna Hecht’s The Scramble for the Amazon and the “Lost Paradise” of Euclides de Cunha. This last book is so significant for me because Hecht is one of the founders of political ecology, and in this book, she details the importance of quilombos, the non-linear and complicated construction of race in Brazil, the agency of the Amazon and nature – that is not calm and peaceful nor predictable, with good attention to gender and how humans work or not with the rest of nature, of which we are a part. I especially appreciated the final assignment where we needed to write an extended 3-book literary review, so I picked Hecht’s, Wade Davis’ One River Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest, and Judith Carney’s and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff’s In the Shadow of Slavery Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World. This assignment gave me the great opportunity to balance out the documentation of horrible, brutal slavery, colonization of African and other Indigenous peoples in the Americas and in the Caribbean with the resilience, and details of how they did resist, live and celebrate to this day.
This could easily be my longest on-going post, but suffice it to summarize with three examples – from Hecht, the more egalitarian racial relationships in the quilombo called Canudos and how nature worked together to defend it; from Davis, “One Jesuit priest was rendered mute and catatonic by the Paez (Nasa) habit of laughing uncontrollably at his every attempt to convert them.” (141); and from Carney & Rosomoff, that mothers would place rice in their children’s hair so they would have sustenance when they arrived after the Middle Passage.
I learned alot about writing too, especially from Ruthie’s “Race, Prisons, War” article, and Nikhil’s “Racial Formation in an Age of Permanent War”.
For my Post Colonial Ecologies class with Ashley Dawson, I also learned a great deal, and thought alot about resource extraction in Africa, Nigeria, particularly, resistance in India and the connections between humans and the rest of nature in creating earth democracies (Vandana Shiva). My paper was not as successful, but I IDed lots of gaps that I need to work on.
And my third class was Participatory Democracy and Social Movements with Celina Su, where I also learned many lessons – I learned that political science is not that useful for me any more, in understanding the relationships between civil society and the state. I got to play Throw-back Tuesdays in looking at Chile and Argentina, particularly in re-reading the films “Missing” and “The Official Story”. Both these were profoundly important in helping me form a radical consciousness against fascism, and developing a guide to action to move against it. My resulting paper on Colombian civil society was good, I really worked hard on it in looking at el Paro Agrario Campesino, palenques/consejos comunitarios, reguardos, la Guardia Indígena, that work will continue to bear fruit, as I continue to look at Colombia, in the context of the still-constrained breathing room that the elections seem to be providing as the peace talks continue.
I’m happy where I am, getting ready and closer to Colombia and my work together there with communities.
So, this summer is a bike riding, gardening, studying for my first exam one. So, I am happy to be living and maneuvering this life, though some things like income could surely shift!
¡Que Viva La Vida!