Category Archives: Discourse Studies

In These Waiting Rooms of History – The DREAM of U

Dream Act Now

i wait for you in this caged room
we’ve never met and yet
[you feel familiar
i feel like i’ve known you before]

shadows mill past me
moving slowly, drudging and digging
futures ploughed within these timeless walls
you see me waiting and yet
[i can’t get to you,
i feel stationary much like before]

what is this feeling
fluid and fragmented
but immobile by design
so close and yet so far
[you slip away again
i feel betrayed, more than before]

i tell myself that i believe in you
i tell others to understand you
[i truly do believe in you,
in the DREAMs of you]

-DreamActivist

October 24, 2007. That is the date of the stamp on our Dreams Deferred.

Categorically denied even before debate, subjected to another indefinite wait, deferred dreams have a crippling effect on morales and ambitions.

20 million — that is the estimated number of us all over the world. Picked and tucked into the battle for our lives–Sorry, you don’t get guns and armor. Thrown into the deep end of the ocean so swim or you will drown–Sorry, no swimming lessons available. Underprivileged and underclass–sorry, no financial aid available. Illegal in our homes, legal away from our land–sorry no relief available.

Like the farmer that waits for the drought to end, like the mother that eagerly waits the birth of her child, like the student that cannot wait to turn 18 and gain ‘freedom,’ like the many American people who can see no further than ‘change’ with a new Administration, we too have been in for a long haul, a long stay in these waiting rooms of history

To DREAMers across America — I know this wait is the hardest time. I know life in limbo is harsh like life in a prison, only you have committed no crime. But remember, we have the power to make this wait productive, to take this time as a test–a character-building exercise– and to end this wait. Take each defeat as a learning lesson, as a challenge to do better and get better till you beat every test.

Do not despair. Do not be afraid. Do not give up. Stay true to your DREAMs.

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Filed under Discourse Studies, Immigration, Poetry, Racism

Wall Street Collapse? Another Crisis of Capitalism

I wish I had the ability to be shocked when I hear about a ‘deep crisis’ that can cause staggering losses (a cyclical crisis of capitalism), a $700 billion bailout for private sector cronies and John McCain canceling a 2-3 hour debate appearance as a publicity stunt to resolve this crisis (as if, his presence would make a difference. Admittedly, he has a weak economic understanding). But I digress.

It’s not like a major financial crisis was unexpected in the near future. Political economists have been making predictions about the fall of the U.S. dollar for quite some time; this Wall Street financial collapse is just a start. Oil prices are dropping, Asian markets are coming down even immigration is down (ALIPAC must be happy; they are happily blaming immigrants for the meltdown too). Actually forget the contemporary political economists and politicians trying to pinpoint the source of this crisis; revisit the blog favorite Karl Marx, who held that the internal contradictions within capitalism as a system would create cycles of boom and slump, that over time would become more untenable as social forces opposing it built up, eventually leading to an overthrow of the system. What are these internal contradictions?

1. The tendency of the rate of profit to fall

2. The concentration of capital

3. Rise in unemployment

4. Overproduction or Underconsumption (crisis of realization)

5. Collapse of credit

6. Bigger firms buying out smaller and weaker firms (in this case, the government bailing out)

7. Crisis ‘solved’ till the next inevitable cycle

Do these predictions of more than 150 years ago sound familiar?
Continue reading

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Filed under Discourse Studies, Political Theory, Politics

The flawed logic of either/or – Creating spaces for intervention

black/white, straight/gay, women/men, left/right, us/them, American/Un-American, nativist/humanist, legal/illegal, liberal/conservative anti-corporate/anti-labor, capitalism/communist, butch/femme, inside/outside, developed/undeveloped, top/bottom, public/private…

Our world is tainted in simplistic, dualistic undertones since we are young and we grow up conditioned to think in this manner. It starts from the household where pink is for girls and blue is for boys going all the way to the President where you are either with him or against him and there is no middle ground, no space to negotiate and intervene.

This blog is a reflection of my personal and political philosophy. I am not concerned with whether anyone subscribes to it or not; for me, it is about building a space without the pervasive duality and dichotomy of everyday discourses. And if that space is only occupied by the presence of few, that is fine with me as well. The point is to make ruptures and disruptions in these hegemonic continuous, cyclical modes of thinking.

The intellectual work that tested my limits was Saba Mahmood’s Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject.

Saba Mahmood rejects secular liberal feminist theory and practices that cast religion (in this case, Islam), as opposed to the interests of women. Through her particular field study of the grassroots women’s piety movements in the mosques of Cairo between 1995 and 1997, Mahmood aims to provide a stark contrast to the often secular liberal depictions of women’s movements. In doing so, she questions the age-old ethnocentric notions of secular liberal feminism that requires feminism and women’s movements to be framed as opposed to structures of patriarchy and power i.e. religion and going a step further, the nation-state project. Mahmood does away with these notions of ethical norms, agency and freedom, thereby posing conceptual problems for secular feminists who would otherwise continue to push for the liberation of women from Islam and actual structures of power in order to achieve their warped-up notions of liberal emancipation of women.

I wrestled for days with this book. Essentially Mahmood was saying that feminism and being political need not denote the emancipation of women from patriarchal structures like religion and the nation-state. Women do not have to completely reject structures of power to actually carve a space and voice for themselves, and thereby work towards transforming it as the women in the piety movement carved spaces for themselves within a traditionally male sphere. I finally realized that juxtaposing Mahmood’s text with secular liberal feminism need not mean that I had to choose or submit to one. I did not and neither do you. Sometimes the questions are more enlightening than the answers to them.

So when I read comments like “how can you be anti-corporate and still pro-exploitation of cheap labor from the Third World?” it is immediately marked as spam. Maybe I should take the time to respond, to expose conditioned minds to different ways of thinking about issues, to bury the either/or in an intellectual manner. Then again, the title of the blog should be clue enough — I do not do either/or and will not submit to that discourse.

You do not need to choose between being pro-amnesty and pro-American. You need not choose between an “illegal alien” and a U.S. citizen. And you definitely do not have to be pro-migrant or anti-migrant. Focus on the becoming, not the being.

When I speak about bridges, I am referring to a metaphor for fluidity, change, channeling, multiple levels of positioning that culminate into a meeting point. I am not speak of ONE compromise or middle point–I am comfortable with no resolutions. Call it folly or postmodern emancipation. I am comfortable in-limbo; after all, that is my conditioning, no?

I realize I am flawed — There are certain categories I hold dear that I did not choose for myself. At times my patience is tested and I do slip up with the anti-_______. And I will not offer love or compassion to those who hate me because of some category, label, classification, documentation, physical feature, or preference. No, I am not a Gandhi or MLK and do not wish to go down that path. It is a tit for tat when it comes to me. But I will agree to disagree heartedly.

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Filed under Discourse Studies, Poetry

Documenting my thought processes – Guidelines for research

After finishing a review for a journal, I am still in an academic mode. I thought I would share my thought processes here. These are mere guidelines I use when researching, writing or trying to understand all sorts of phenomenon.  I suppose it is an insight into how my brain works

  • Don’t make claims without warrants.
  • NEVER fall for dualities and binary modes of thinking i.e. black/white, either/or. As a longer example, juxtaposing the gathering of women in a patriarchal space to secular liberal feminism does not mean we stop questioning oppression no matter how narrow the space. We don’t need to submit to either non-liberal contestable agency or First World secular feminism.
  • Get rid of certainty of knowledge and any broad generalized claims to truth – questions are better than statements. DECONSTRUCT AWAY!
  • What? Who? – I.E. What is criminalized? Who is the incarcerating regime? Keep your units of analysis clear.
  • LET THE SUBALTERN SPEAK – It is not the place of a secular, liberal and privileged scholar (albeit outsider) to tackle and analyze unfamiliar structures and discourses. Lets not assign agency to people who do not see themselves as agents, situating them in movements that they don’t consciously identify with.
  • Don’t obsess over categories, labels, boxes
  • Sympathize with the becoming, not the being
  • Never ignore the specific social and historical configuration within which the research is situated.
  • Keep this at the back of your mind – Ideas and assumptions do not exist outside the material conditions of life. Go to the root of the matter if you need to.
  • Don’t ignore the importance of minor acts and inconspicuous transformations — they may be the start of something more. Footnote them if possible.
  • Value narratives and experiences. Don’t shy away from feeling and emotions. They are oftentimes more powerful than empirical evidence.
  • Aim for discontinuities and ruptures in meta-narratives
  • Make notes of contradictions
  • Keep in mind: agency/structure without the binaries. It is a reproductive and cyclical process.
  • Do not disregard the importance of space – Colonial globality? Autonomous space? Hate-free zone? Sanctuary-sphere? Nuclear-free zone? — What space do we inhabit?
  • Never approach an issue in a uni-dimensional manner. It is not just nationalism, not just sexism, not just racism or classism  i.e. the gendered impacts of a globalization that has disparate impact on the rich/poor/ethnic minorities of developed, developing and underdeveloping countries. Try and see the broader linkages between ISMs, systemic patterns if possible while always being careful of meta-narratives.
  • Be a tragic-comic — Humor helps.
  • Question/Critique everything, including the self.

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Filed under Discourse Studies

I refuse to succumb to self-deprecating, self-loathing mentality

Seriously, what have we done that is so shameful or grounds to feel guilty about? NOTHING.

Don’t tell me I am not human. Don’t tell me I am not as good as you. And certainly don’t tell me that my opinions are not as good as that of a straight, white male, American citizen.

I am a bit too educated to succumb to any categories, labels or tags anyone wants to give me. That’s the problem with this country; we have a labeling mentality. When people do not fit into our neatly constructed boxes of white/black, male/female, gay/straight, legal/illegal, we don’t know how to deal with it. The self-constructed anomaly becomes an Other, an object of our curiosity and obsession that we ‘treat’ as an alien foreign invasion, medicate, legislate, condition or control.

Just quit, I am too tired.

Oh, I got the internship. I have a couple days to decide whether I want to give my services to a good organization or whether I want to sit at home and DREAM more. Alright, time to pull up my socks and impress for the PhD programs.

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And so, national security is diametrically opposed to human security

Lets see. Critical Security Studies has been a prime interest since I was 16 years old and running the Terror Talk/Threat Construction Kritik at policy debate tournaments. I won rounds solely on the basis of this — I remember my debate coach once remarked that I never ever used “the threat of Islamic terrorists” or any such discourse to win any rounds no matter what. It may have cost me on several occasions but that is all in the past. I graduated and let the Threat Con file sit and gather dust for 3 years until I finally used it as a final paper for my Undergrad. This is possible Doctorate level work that I am not keen on pursuing at this point for obvious reasons. It reminds me that I am too smart and intellectual for law school. I also tend to think it is a DUH. Can you believe someone won the Nobel prize for writing that poverty and terrorism were related? Goodness, that’s just common sense and I have been writing that since I was 15! Where is my Nobel prize yo?! Actually you keep the Nobel Prize, just hand me a Green card, will you?! 🙂

Anyway, excerpts are in order. Whole paper is here

The discursive speech acts embodied in various National Security Strategy documents establish that the act of securing the American people has given way to the politicization of national security. Politicization refers to the employment of national security discourse for political ends and not specifically for meeting the actual security needs of civil society. Starting with President Truman’s NSC-68 document in 1950 and continuing up to Bush II in the present day, the discourse of national security strategy has been systematically cemented on the national policy agenda, employed for purposes other than the security of the American people. Upon a thorough examination of these documents, a central theme that emerges and dictates United States foreign policy is the pervasive construction of an enemy, an external “Other” as a threat to national security. I argue that this security discourse functions as a tool for identity construction and reification of the American state apparatus with far-reaching consequences: an increasing politicization of security, legitimization of a permanent war economy, the oppression and marginalization of minority groups, omission of key security issues from the security agenda, and paradoxically, a more insecure, unstable America and global order. Therefore, the goal of this paper is to deconstruct the totalizing and unitary narrative of the National Security Strategy documents under Truman, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II, and unearth counter-narratives that challenge dominant security discourses based on ideological threat construction. I conclude that the main objectives set out in NSC-68 continue to govern US foreign policy even in the post-Cold War era, that American foreign policy today mirrors American foreign policy post-World War II: a search for identity and power, which ironically leads to more insecurity for Americans and for the entire world.”

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Filed under Discourse Studies, Nationalism, Politics