Refugees and the Coloniality of Power

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This is the last post. Kinda sad in a way, because writing up blogs are probably the best type of assignments.. Ok I should begin…

Land and belonging are deeply intertwined. We see the same groups of people belonging in one land, and other groups belonging in theirs. This sense of belonging certainly has its pros and cons, it can be good, but it can be bad.

Tascon refers to refugees as ‘boat people’, like they have been widely known as really. Believe it or not, boat people arriving in Australia receive the most inhumane treatment of any developed nation. Isn’t that sad? But why is this so? Tascon explains that these practices are from the powers of coloniality, race and whiteness. They are the same discourses that allowed colonisation around the globe, treatment of Australia’s indigenous peoples and the creation of the White Australia policy in 1901.

We can see that colonialism has shaped the globe radically, and produced practices that continue now. Aboriginal people of Australia have experienced this consistently but now, the onshore refugees have become the most recent victims of the coloniality of power.

But why?

The modern/colonial world has fixed borders – placing some people within and some outside, distinguishing colonial difference. Refugees however are those groups that cross borders forcefully and challenge the ‘colonial order’. Race and whiteness are the invisible granting of colonial power, constructing these borders. Race and whiteness are 2 sides of the same coin: one invisibility granting privilege, the other marking exclusion/discrimination.

Race continues to be a form of domination, but in a changed, kind of invisible form over time. What’s interesting though is that race + whiteness + coloniality are interwoven just like Foucault’s power + knowledge. Because they each provide the means for the other to act on the world and they cannot be separated from each other.

We can see that this power has taught an ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘strangers’ and ‘friends’ to cause those ‘others’ to be spat out. And that’s why refugees and indigenous people are caught in this net.

Other examples of white power can be seen today, where thousands die in African, Asian or Latin American countries because of deprivation. You see no charity going their way, do you? Even Aboriginal people die 20 years earlier than their non-aboriginal counterparts, and Australia doesn’t even respond. What has this world come to? Seriously.

All in all, what’s sad is that, we are practitioners of the current power regime made hegemonic by colonial power. Colonial powers are haunting the journey of refugees, just like they haunted Indigenous peoples. And the Colonial powers are working terribly behind the scenes and we don’t even know it.

References:

Tascon, S. M. 2004 ‘Refugees and the Coloniality of Power: Border-crossers of Postcolonial Whiteness’, in Moreton-Robinson, Aileen (Editor). Whitening Race: Essays in Social and Cultural Criticism. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press,  239-253.

Sex Reassignment and Allegories of Transsexuality

zU46uKiHgoEtXl4tYm859jl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVvK0kTmF0xjctABnaLJIm9What counts as a person? What counts as a coherent gender? Whose world is legitimated as real? What happens when someone begins to become something for which there is no place within what is accepted as ‘truth’? Justice is not only about how people are treated in society, but it’s also about what decisions a person makes.

The video below tells a fascinating story about a child who was born a boy, raised a girl, and then returned to being a boy again.

Had there been a mistake in sex reassignment?

We could see that Brenda refused to be a girl because she still felt a sense of male gender that was linked to the original set of genitals, one that no amount of socialization could reverse.

The point is, can we imagine a world where individuals had mixed genitals and just be accepted, without having to transform them into a ‘norm’ version of gender? There are many people out there that live and breathe in this binary relation, showing that it is not necessary.

He is (David), in his view, a man born a man, castrated by the medical establishment, feminized by the psychiatric world, and then enabled to return to who he is. But in order for him to return to who he was, he needs a subjection to hormones/surgery. By this, he allegorizes transsexuality in order to achieve a sense of naturalness. For him, it is now more like this “malleability is, as it were, violently imposed. And naturalness is artificially induced”.

“I began to see how different I felt and was, from what I was supposed to be” David knows there is a norm, and that he has fallen short from the norm. The norm here was femininity, and how he failed to live up to it. What he feels isn’t produced by the norm; the norm is not part of who he is, or what he feels. This account of Brenda shows evidence she makes about for or against a true gender.

“Doctor said “it’s gonna be tough, you’re gonna be picked on, you’re gonna be very alone, you’re not gonna find anybody (unless you have vaginal surgery and live as a female).” And I thought to myself, you know I wasn’t very old at the time, but it dawned on me that these people gotta be pretty shallow if that’s the only thing they think I’ve got going for me; that the only reason why people get married and have children and have a productive life is because of what they have between their legs ,. . If that’s all they think of me, that they justify my worth by what I have between my legs, then I gotta be a complete loser”

He convinces that he will be loved, for another reason, they will not understand. A reason beyond the norms of sexology itself. He positions himself within the norm, but doesn’t comply with its requirements.

David is the anonymous and critical condition of the human as it speaks itself at the limits of what we “think” we know. He recognizes what’s unrecognizable.

Sadly, David had committed suicide at the age of 38. Why he did this is unknown.  But the norms governing what is to be worthy did not support his life in any way. Life for him was always a risk, courageous and fragile accomplishment. The physical and mental torments he suffered haunted him for all his life. The big question is, could we ever have done justice to David, even when he was alive?

References:

Butler, J. 2004, ‘Doing Justice to Someone: Sex Reassignment and Allegories of Transsexuality’, in Undoing Gender, Routledge, New York, pp. 57-74.

Access Issues of Assisted Reproductive Technologies

invitro_fertilization_blogI seriously had no idea this was the case. Women are denied access to Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), just because they are either single heterosexual women, poor, disabled, lesbian or even those who are just older. This may be because of the absence of fertility (for lesbians and single women) or social concerns: that it’s not natural? How about for mothers who are older? Is it because maybe children of older mothers will be orphaned at an early age?

Procreative liberty = individual right to either have or avoid having children.  But for some women procreative liberty cannot be realized because they may not ‘quality’ or have the means to access all available treatments for infertility.

“Denial of procreation is similar to the denial of personal respect and dignity”

For many years IVF was only made available to those with an accepted family relationship, that is, a family composed of heterosexual parents. Over eight years later, yet, none of Australia’s states have enhanced legislation and thus ART services still refer to this 1996 guideline. Even women could only go ahead with ART services when she got written consent from her male partner. Um hello, what about all that social change that has occurred since then?

IVF professionals were told to use their common sense about facilitation of appropriate reproduction, and most of them admitted that they’d refuse to treat women who were not married, or living in a heterosexual relationship out of concern for the child’s needs to have an appropriate family that includes both a male and female parent. This just really confirms that many ART professionals think they need to exercise power over the reproductive autonomy of their clients, denying some women freedom of procreative choice by reinforcing ideas about the family unit and sexuality.

Ok so some people may agree with that above, and it is important for children to have both male and female parents for a healthy psychosocial development. However studies of homosexual family units found no impact on cognitive + emotional development or gender identity when compared to children of heterosexual couples or single mothers.

With 40-50% failure rate of modern marriages in many countries who have the highest number of ART services, a significant amount of families have minimal or no contact with a father figure and there’s also no guarantee that the couple will remain married throughout the child’s life. So the argument here is that, there is inappropriate discrimination to exclude lesbian, single heterosexual or postmenopausal women from access to these services just for concern of the potential offspring.

Also, because neither a lesbian couple can provide sperm, they could be considered infertile in the same way a heterosexual male partner is unable to provide sperm naturally. But not everyone agrees with this. For example, a lesbian was denied access to donor sperm insemination by a clinic as treated as “less than the equal of a heterosexual women”. This refusal wasn’t because of her lesbianism, but because of her not complying with the definition of ‘infertility’ stated by the clinic.

The argument against postmenopausal childbearing is also because it goes against nature. But the argument here is, all medicine goes against nature anyway. But the view that human nature involves exercising human capacities indicates that pregnancy resulting from ART technology is natural because it’s a result of current human capacity (sperm + egg). So where’s the problem??

References:

Peterson, M, ‘ Assisted reproductive technologies and equity of access issues’, J Med Ethics. 2005 May; 31(5): 280–285.

The Ambiguities of Sport and Community Engagement

We all know that many people enjoy playing, watching or following sport. Sport is like the ‘social glue’ that binds families, communities, regions and the nation. Sport has a unique ability to transcend race, gender and creed. Despite this, violence, corruption and sexism are still part of the game.

But how does this affect the settlement of migrants or refugees?

The Multicultural Youth Sports Partnership (MYSP) program promotes the engagement and wellbeing of migrants and refugees in Australia of which its aim is to create opportunities for youth from new culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to participate within local communities. As opposed to this multi-ethnic sport club, mono-ethnic sports inhibit the connection of members to the wider society. However, close relations with members of one’s ethnic group and a common language can be important for social support. Mono-ethnic sports provide a sense of ownership, access to leadership and a sense of belonging. Thus mono-ethnic sports should not be viewed as working against settlement as they can also have advantages for refugee communities.

Despite that many people with refugee backgrounds support the idea of multi-ethnic sports, discrimination and negative social encounters may lead them to join mono-ethnic clubs.

 “Last year we had many issues with many clubs. Again in my experience it was not a surprise, but for some of our players it was a big shock.… Once the game starts they [opposing players or spectators] will fall back to their name calling, racial abuse… it was an issue and still an issue and sometimes, although you really want to move on, sometimes it holds you back”

Spaaij’s argument is that if we really want participation in mainstream sport clubs to increase, encouraging cultural diversity should increase as well.

Ok so we’ve talked about men, but what about women?

Women do participant in sports yet in sports that are less valued in society compared to what men participate in. The gendered nature of sport may be explained by barriers that may prevent women in participating such as a lack of culturally appropriate facilities, high costs or family responsibilities. Yet, it may not be the women herself; rather it could be her social environment or family that perceive sport participation as inappropriate for women. This can relate to my research essay on gender/cultural difference in the workplace where the majority of men are in the corporate world and not women, because of family responsibilities that may hold them back or for just the fact that they are women.

Sport can also be a distraction for young people doing homework, or people that want to make it in sport society are viewed as people who don’t perform academically. However this is not the case and many programs have aimed to balance homework with sport play, in an attempt to educate parents.

From all this, we can see that sports can have social benefits but at the same time, sports has no cure for social problems.

References:

Spaaij, R. 2012, ‘The ambiguities of sport and community engagement’, Ethos, 21:2, pp. 8-11.

Violence, Masculinity, and Collective Identity in Football Hooliganism

Football hooliganism emerged as a working-class subculture in the 60’s, yet has attracted a wider variety of male adolescents who adopt a similar ‘aggressive masculine style’. Hooligans construct their collective identities to distinguish between the self and the other. These ‘others’ include rival hooligan groups, non-hooligan supporters and the authorities – police. A key aim for all hooligan groups is to successfully challenge their rivals through intimidation and violence as a way to enhance their status as a good firm in the hierarchy of hooligan opportunities.

My research essay will be on how gender, sexual and cultural differences are regulated in the workplace. That being said, the way in which masculine identities are formed in relation to hooliganism will bring more insight to the way masculine identities are maintained across societies.

We all see the nature of violence at football matches, but there are six features that seem universal to the construction of ‘hooligan’ identities. The first being the pleasurable excitement associated with violent confrontation.

“The kick of fighting your rivals is overwhelming. You cannot really understand it unless you’re in it. It gives you a sense of power, a sense of control. It’s an absolute high. It’s something I don’t often find in normal life. That’s why a lot of guys are drawn to it in the first place and why some of them stay involved even when they are in their 40’s”

The second being the ability to perform toughness through the construction of hard masculine identity. Hooligan’s hard hyper heterosexist masculine identity is constructed as a substance of its own. The masculinity of others (opposing hooligans) is contested through ritual denigration of their physical heterosexual competence (real men vs little boys, heterosexual dominant vs gay subordinate). These hooligan groups attain a sense of one’s own masculinity by questioning the masculinity of opponents.

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Football hooligans are also linked to race categories where FC Barcelona hooligans construct their own superiority by perceiving ‘blacks’ as the inferior. However, not in all occasions is this the case. Black hooligans are sometimes viewed as the superior fighters and having great mutual solidarity because of the associations of black masculinity and violent criminality. Hard masculine identities are not only socially constructed and context dependent, but they relate to the body itself. The body facilitates social action, whereby physical body confrontation is used to appear superior to, for example, younger boys, or generally to display their willingness to be game. These bodily capacities relate to the ‘good fighter’ but also to other social roles such as the ‘organizer’ of the group or ‘chant leaders’.

The third being managing individual and collective reputation whereby football hooliganism enables supporters to gain status and prestige among peers. The formations of collective reputations demonstrate an appearance of hyper masculinity.

The fourth being territorial identifications where hooligans identify themselves in specific public spaces, including pubs, railway stations and the invasion of foreign territory. Interestingly, despite the change over time with police taking control of ground, hooligans do still plan confrontations and look for rivals in a more proactive way.

The fifth being the achievement of a sense of solidarity and belonging. “Hooliganism is much more than just violence” – it’s when group members look after one another, stick together and their collective experiences strengthen the sense of togetherness. Lastly, the formation of football hooliganism represents sovereignty and autonomy. These six features are all central to expressions of football-related violence.

References:

Spaaij, R. 2008. Men Like Us, Boys Like Them: Violence, Masculinity, and Collective Identity in Football Hooliganism. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 32, 369-393.

Kung Fu Fighting & Negotiating Masculinity

Bruce Lee, the Chinese-American martial artist has sparked a worldwide Kung-Fu action culture. Yue states that he has become the source of ‘doing action’ and has reinvented his body to negotiate ’hegemonic masculinity’, a term coined by Raewyn Connell to refer to the dominant social position of men and the subordinate social position of women – how and why men maintain dominant social roles over women and other gender identities.

Kung fu action is an affective genre that focuses on the body as a source of desire. The action hero, like Lee’s powerful masculinity exemplifies a society’s aspirations, values and beliefs.

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Yue explains the association of the body with the nation through an example of Lee using skill, strength and power of his racialised body to fight the colonial oppression of the Japanese in the West at that time. This can be seen as ‘postcolonial masculinity’ where producing a new representation of the male body as strong and liberated is challenged towards the colonial stereotype of the oppressed male body.

An action hero like Lee can help maintain a group’s imagined community. These exchanges continue onto Kung-Fu comedy like Jackie Chan, for instance. Also, Kung-Fu action film audiences of ethnic black minorities and working class communities, for example, hip-hop artists like DMX and Kung-Fu stars like Jet Li. These express new ethics of ‘doing action’ – shows how minority groups can collaborate with each other to show their own practices of freedom.

‘Lee Bruce Lee’ was a regular drag king at King Victoria, weekly Friday night cabaret and trans-lesbian show in Melbourne. Drag king = female dressing up in a male costume and performs in that costume. Judith Halberstem refers to this as ‘female masculinity’ – it is the gender deviant, a hybrid identity – not women nor man, it is a union of femaleness and masculinity. Lee Bruce lee’s mimicry of Kung-Fu relocates the patriarchy of Lee’s Chinese masculinity by deviating to Asian female masculinity.

Overall, Bruce Lee has become a platform for fashioning new selves and actioning new practices of freedom. It shows how Kung Fu film functions as a site for symbolic re-masculinisation. Through self-cultivation and subversion, these practices are the ways by which the self learns to know itself in relation to others.

References:

Yue, A, 2008, ‘Kung fu fighting: doing Action and Negotiating Masculinity’, in N. Anderson & Katrina Schlunke (eds) Cultural theory in Everyday Practice, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 144-153.

Gender on the Large Scale

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“It is impossible to understand gendered personal relations without taking into account economies and institutions” – Raewyn Connell

Connell argues that corporations, also known as the ‘company’ are often viewed as the dominant form of present-day gendered society and has been this way for a very long time. In early modern Europe, companies of merchants were entirely composed of men.

Salaries

In an account by Sociologist Miriam Glucksmann “Women on the line” (1982), the 7 month observational study showed that women were only employed in low-paid jobs. Even today, jobs considered as traditional women’s work like nursing or teaching, are some of the lowest-payed jobs. The argument here is that men could get twice as much pay for performing easier jobs. The only qualification you needed to get a better job was ‘simply being a man’.

According to the most recent statistics in the U.S, women earn just 77% of what men earn for the same amount of work.

paygapWomen also face a ‘glass ceiling’ for promotions, where the lack of women is evident in surveys for leadership positions at major companies. Only 1% of the biggest corporation in the U.S had women in the top job. In the whole of the U.S, can you imagine? well that’s a big country with a big population, and you only get that percentage.

Also, despite making up half the global population, only 15% of women are elected in parliamentary seats in the entire world. Women are missing from levels of government, all of them, local, regional and national. Some countries have tried to increase female participation however have been criticized for getting women involved only for the fact that they are ‘women’, not for their qualifications. Sad, isn’t it?

References:

Connell, R.W. (2009). ‘Gender on the Large Scale’. Gender. Polity, Cambridge, pp. 115-120.