Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
In response to the fourth coup in the Fiji Islands in as many as seventeen years, the international community demanded the restoration of democracy and order in the country. While Sitiveni Rabuka, Fiji’s first coup leader, expressed regret over introducing the concept of military takeover in the country, Dr Brij Lal—an architect of Fiji’s 1997 Constitution—said that Fiji has a ‘coup culture’ in that there is little respect for law and order, and coups will continue because the people responsible for them are never really brought to justice. Coupster and leader of the current illegal regime, Commodore Bainimarama has exploited the problems in Fiji to grab and retain power, while doing little to alleviate the suffering of the poor and working classes. He is yet another opportunist with little understanding or answers to the deep-seated problems plaguing the island nation.
‘Fiji, the way the world should be’ is an advertising slogan from the late Pope John Paul which has met its demise after four and half coups. The idea that this place is a Paradise has penetrated the Euro-American imagination. This is supplemented in a large part by the tourist industry in Fiji, making slogans and myths that paint a romantic picture of Fiji, hiding the grim difficulties that the multi-ethnic nation is trying to resolve. The National Geographic website states that “the Fiji Islands comprise 333 islands in the South Pacific, with beaches, coral gardens, and rain forests.” It forgot to mention that Fiji also includes people that have survived European colonization and are now struggling with European concepts like multi-ethnic democracy, sovereignty, parliament, and law amidst fresh colonization from tourists.
This statement from Peceli Kinivuwaii of the depoused SDL Party is disheartening:
“Because the majority of the people of Fiji – in particular the indigenous community – don’t know the meaning and the value of democracy. That is why people are left alone in the wilderness, particularly naive and totally oblivious to what is happening.”
Disheartening not because of lack of democracy in Fiji, but because the population lacks access to education and the means to participate in government. This cannot simply be remedied by holding elections in Fiji tomorrow, but by building the necessary infrastructure, something that no one wants to talk about.
This book review should appear in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Peasant Studies. I cannot publish the whole bit here even though it is my work, since I signed over licensing rights but it should be available through your college databases.
I don’t know whether I will have time for more book reviews in the future or if it is an endeavor that I am any good at, but it was worth experimenting and I am not too displeased with the results. (The Publisher ain’t complaining; why should I)?
Review: Vinayak Chaturvedi, Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India, University of California Press, 2007.
by Prerna Lal
The untold narrative of peasant classes marginalized from the promise of the postcolonial nation-state is a popular subject of research and criticism among subaltern scholars seeking to pose ruptures and discontinuities in the hegemonic history of Indian nationalism.
In Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India, Chaturvedi embarks on this project after a chance discovery while pouring through archives on the agrarian economy of Gujarat: he discovers notes by the district magistrate about the historically-celebrated Patidars forcibly extracting labor from the Dhalara peasants in Kheda. Upon further investigation, Chaturvedi discovers that the Dharalas were considered a ‘criminal class’ by both the colonialists and Indian nationalists through the passage of the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 and given their treatment, it came as no surprise that the Dharalas opposed Patidar-led nationalist politics along with colonialism.
Enamored by the prospects of an untold history of peasant pasts, the central thesis of this scholarship revolves around the actions, practices and discourses of the Dharala peasants before the emergence of an Indian nation-state. Chaturvedi claims that the Dharalas were political in their own right and their opposition to Patidar nationalism allied with Gandhi did not denote that these peasants lacked an understanding of politics or an inability to imagine political community. On the contrary, through rigorous fieldwork and archival study, Chaturvedi lays out a fragmentary and episodic history of the Dharala peasants that establishes their broad political discourses, complex understandings of political community, and subsequent resistance to both colonialism and nationalism.
This was supposed to be posted in the “Olympic season” but better late than never.
I think any study that starts with the central assumption that there is some great tangible genetic difference between a “black” or “white” person is bound to leave out other possible socio-cultural, geographical or evolutionary biology explanations. I have friends and family who tend to believe that “blacks are faster and stronger” due to the high concentration of successful black track and field athletes (and all ‘Asians’ are smart and good at math and so on) and the mainstream media does not help to question such beliefs and binary modes of thinking. This is dangerous since it serves to cement a ‘difference’ between ‘racial’ groups that does not exist.
Race is socially-constructed, hence there has to be an alternate explanation for why a certain ‘racial’ group seemingly performs better. All things being equal, there is more genetic variation between two people of different heights than between someone with dark skin as opposed to someone with fair skin. Inputs and other studies welcome — I think this merits further research on my part post-exams. Enjoy the read (full article here):
In the last three decades, athletics, like all sports, has become more and more globalised. Athletes from many small countries are participating in international competitions, and technologies are more freely accessible, although at steep costs. In this levelling of the playing field, the rise of black power has stunned the world once used to seeing only whites on the podium. What is behind this polarization? Is it in the genes or is it the desire to win?
It has come under huge scrutiny by scientists and sociologists in the past decade. Over 200 scientific studies have been carried out and many more are going on. The association of skin colour with a genetic structure suited for athletics has not been established. This is more so because among the black athletes, there are two very distinct categories — those from East Africa, who dominate long distance running, and those of West African ancestry who dominate sprints.Most athletes from the Caribbean and North America belong to the latter category as their ancestors were taken to the New World as slaves between the 15th and 19th centuries. The average West African weighs 30kg more than average East Africans, who are small with thin legs and arms.
There is this great Pakistani song titled “Yeh Hum Nahin” meaning “This is Not Us” as in “We are not Terrorists”–a truly great message. Here is a subtitled version:
Anyway, I was reminded of that song as I discovered a surprisingly good editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this past weekend. It pretty much asks Americans to discard the stereotypical images of Muslims, especially American Muslims, as robotically praying people.
In television land, it always seems to be prayer time for Muslims. Every mention of Islam evokes rows of men bowing toward Mecca, rising and falling in robotic unison.
So pervasive is this image that many Americans think Islam alone defines the attitudes and actions of all Muslims, even those in the United States. By extension, many fear that all Muslims are a threat to U.S. democracy. We see this manifested in the hostile reactions to the persistent — and false — rumor that Barack Obama is a Muslim.
These attitudes cripple our debates over immigration, law enforcement, education and foreign policy. They also hide the fact that U.S. Muslims are a constituency up for grabs in the November election. Electoral swing states such as Michigan, Ohio and Virginia all have significant Muslim populations. And on some hot-button cultural issues, Muslim Americans could potentially be a strong ally to the Christian right.
If that seems improbable, think again. As a professor of sociology who studies U.S. Muslim assimilation patterns, I have analyzed numerous nationwide polls of American Muslims on a variety of topics, ranging from their satisfaction with American society to their opinions on U.S. foreign policy to their attitudes on abortion and the environment. U.S. Muslims are a diverse, well-informed group; in fact, they are the most ethnically diverse Muslim population in the world. They come from more than 80 countries on four continents. Most are not Arab. Not all are immigrants. None are Barack Obama.
One-fifth are U.S.-born black Muslims (mainly converts), and a few are U.S.-born Anglo and Hispanic converts. The vast majority of Muslim immigrants have lived here 10 or more years, and they resemble the general U.S. population in their socioeconomic status. Most are employed, a quarter have a bachelor’s degree or higher and a quarter earn $75,000 a year or more.
U.S. Muslims are also like most Americans in another important way: They are not uniformly religious. Nearly half — 46.7 percent — attend a mosque seldom, never or only a few times a year. About one-fourth go weekly, and one-third go more than once a week, proportions similar to those of U.S. Christians and Jews. Like these other groups, U.S. Muslims range from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal and from devout practicing believers to secular, non-practicing, in-name-only Muslims. More Christians say they pray daily — 70 percent to 61 percent — than do U.S. Muslims.
Like most Americans, U.S. Muslims are generally not activists. Just as regular church and synagogue attendance correlates with higher political activity for U.S. Christians and Jews, so does regular mosque attendance for U.S. Muslims. Even among the devout, however, there’s a sharp distinction between being a good Muslim and being an Islamic fundamentalist.
The elements that tell us how U.S. Muslims will behave politically are the same ones that predict the political attitudes and involvement of other Americans. People with more education, higher incomes, more group consciousness and more feelings of marginalization are the most likely to be politically active because they feel they have more at stake.
Many U.S. Muslims are immigrants and not yet eligible to vote. Only 63 percent are registered voters, compared to the U.S. average of 76 percent. But they are slightly more likely than most citizens to have contacted a politician and, like other racial and ethnic minorities, are a bit more likely to be Democrats.