“I don’t believe in men. I’ve never met a man in my life.”

Today, Guernica Magazine published a great, insightful and inciting interview with South Asian trans performance duo DarkMatter. For instance, this is how they expand upon the above statement that Alok never met a man:

Janani Balasubramanian: I think what Alok was saying with the idea of how we’ve never met a man in our lives, is that manhood is not just an ideal of gender; it also becomes a set of ideals around race, class, respectability, purchasing power, whatever. I’ve never met a single person in their lives who’s rich, has no feelings, goes to the gym every hour, drinks protein shakes all day. This person doesn’t exist.

Alok Vaid-Menon: They’re a fairy tale. What’s difficult is that gender has become only the domain of trans people and women. But we all have gender, and we all have a stake in ending gender.

In a conversation led by Guernica’s Kevin St. James, they discuss gender, performance, colonialism, capitalism, disappointing your parents and the importance of cracking jokes. It really is a must-read, whether you agree with their stances or not.

This idea of “ruining,” or really, “changing” Cuba, felt condescending and arrogant, erasing the Cuban people from their own narrative. Since the founding of the United States, when Thomas Jefferson’s “candidly confessed[ed]” his desire to colonize the island nation to the moment when Americans “celebrated” Cuba’s independence from Spain—and then proceeded to exploit the country’s natural wealth for half a century—we’ve treated Cubans as minor players in their own story.

Shona Sanzgiri on the question “Will America ruin Cuba?” and her photography for The Paris Review.

García Márquez Has “Gone to Texas”

Not sure what to make of this: 

Gabriel García Márquez, who died in April at 87, was a strong critic of American imperialism who was banned from entry to the United States for decades, even after “One Hundred Years of Solitude” vaulted him to international celebrity and, in 1982, the Nobel Prize in Literature.

But now García Márquez, who was born in Colombia and lived much of his adult life in Mexico City, has “gone to Texas,” as they say.

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin will announce on Monday that it has acquired García Márquez’s archive, which contains manuscripts, notebooks, photo albums, correspondence and personal artifacts, including two Smith Corona typewriters and five Apple computers.

Isn’t this problematic?

Sure, places like the Harry Ransom Center certainly are capable of cataloging and preserving the estate for future study, discovery, and reference. The Center also holds collections of numerous other (non-US) literary greats. Based on that, the center director thinks it is fitting that García Márquez joins this great location, and that it will be “almost as if [Joyce] will meet [Márquez].” I’m sure the sale is legal and the writer’s family made the decision in their best interest.

But still, some aspects of this rub me the wrong way. In our technological age, is it really necessary for scholarship and research across writer’s works to have their estates in the same place? I don’t think so. 

Addtionally, as the NYT article states, Márquez was critical of US-American imperialism and (neo)colonialism. He also destroyed most of his private notes so they could not be rummaged in posthumously. It is ironic and/or highly problematic that his letters are now moving from Colombia or his later residence of choice Mexico City to the US in a way that is similar to the way countless e.g. Egyptian or southern African artefacts have moved from their places of origin to Great Britain in the name of preservation and scholarship. 

I am sure people at the Harry Ransom Center and the University of Texas at Austin do great work, and I’m certainly in favor of intercultural literary scholarship. But “García Márquez has gone to Texas” just doesn’t sound right through a postcolonial lense.




This map should be included in every history book.

Oh wow! I’ve been wanting this for ages!

This needs to be in every history book along with a map showing where those nations have been pushed to now.

A map of the major (indigenous) linguistic groups in North America.

Columbus Day

To still believe that Christopher Columbus was a great man who “discovered” the “new world” and to downplay the horrors of colonialism that started after his arrival is like believing the world is flat. Horrors that can’t be undone. Certainly European people can’t (and shouldn’t) be removed from the Americas today, hundreds of years later. But why honor Columbus, specifically? With this in mind, I think Seattle set a great example yesterday by replacing Columbus Day with a Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Colonialists got enough recognition anyway, let’s celebrate those who actually were there first.

Hari Kondabolu also has a great suggestion: Eff Columbus the demon, celebrate Joe DiMaggio. I can get behind that. 

Yellowstone To Kill 900 Bison During Winter Cull

I admit that it’ss easy to say as someone in non-rural Germany, but still: I’d love to see more Bison in the wild – and not just in specified areas like a national park. A population of 4,000 bisons isn’t that large, there used to bve millions. Not like that area is cramped for space.

They were there first. Same goes for bears (and beavers, moutain lions, lynx) in Europe. We almost eradicated these animals, and now complain about complications when they dare try to come back.

On a different scale: Decimating a population so that colonial economic plans can thrive and then graciously letting a smaller group survive in an underfunded specified area where tourists can ogle at them is basically the main pattern of behavior of Europeans in North America. 

Yellowstone To Kill 900 Bison During Winter Cull

Look, without our stories, without the true nature and reality of who we are as People of Color, nothing about fanboy or fangirl culture would make sense. What I mean by that is: if it wasn’t for race, X-Men doesn’t make sense. If it wasn’t for the history of breeding human beings in the New World through chattel slavery, Dune doesn’t make sense. If it wasn’t for the history of colonialism and imperialism, Star Wars doesn’t make sense. If it wasn’t for the extermination of so many Indigenous First Nations, most of what we call science fiction’s contact stories doesn’t make sense. Without us as the secret sauce, none of this works, and it is about time that we understood that we are the Force that holds the Star Wars universe together. We’re the Prime Directive that makes Star Trek possible, yeah. In the Green Lantern Corps, we are the oath. We are all of these things—erased, and yet without us—we are essential.

Junot Díaz, “The Junot Díaz Episode“ (18 November 2013) on Fan Bros, a podcast “for geek culture via people of colors” (via kynodontas)

Let em know dad.

(via kenobi-wan-obi)

I think the next time someone gets confused as to possibly why people were hoping Katniss would be portrayed as nonwhite, this quote above is why.

(via thelouringlady)

Excellent points.

In a way, narratives of the struggle of people of color whitewashed into science fiction so they are easily digestible for suburban white people (e.g. me) is the ultimate appropriation (at least in the realm of pop culture/fiction.) All of the struggle, none of the history.

These narratives are compelling and often well told in sci-fi, so I don’t find it surprising or that problematic that more privilege people find themselves in them – that’s what a great* story does. But seen through this lens it is really problematic, as commenters above also point out, when the more privileged parts of the "fandom” then accept only the whitewashed version, and exclude the reading of people of color.

*great as in well-made, compelling, not as in happy, good for the people in the story/history. I’m also sure that I’m not the first person to make these comments.

When Vanilla Was Brown And How We Came To See It As White : Code Switch : NPR

Kat Chow on NPR’s code switch blog wrote a great article on the history of vanilla. As with so many things originating on the American continent, the history is inextricably connected to colonialism, slavery, and appropriation by whiteness. For instance, the Totonac Indians of Mexico had the knowledge how to efficiently cultivate vanilla beans, a knowledge that was, for obvious reasons, not shared with European colonialists. The method of cultivating the plant was rediscovered by a young slave in 1841:

Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old French-owned black slave from the Bourbon Islands, figured out what other botanists had tried to do for centuries. Albius discovered that the vanilla plant could be pollinated by hand using a blade of grass or a swipe of a thumb. It was effective and labor-intensive, but once folks figured out how to pollinate the plants, vanilla as a flavor became more accessible.

It’s a fascinating story, I can highly recommend it. 

When Vanilla Was Brown And How We Came To See It As White : Code Switch : NPR