Arts & Culture

24/01/17 Arts & Culture

Rhythm in Tasmania’s Western Arthurs

Rhythm in Tasmania’s Western Arthurs

By Ruchira Talukdar

Photo Credit: David McLean

I recently walked the rugged and remote Western Arthur Range in Tasmania’s South West Wilderness National Park with a group of friends and came back with a head full of ruminations. This article is inspired by my experiences on the hike.

 

There is so much romanticism attached to Tasmania’s rugged and remote south-west wilderness. Some of it should chafe an environmental activist such as me with a quintessentially “Southern” core. Its isolation from human civilisation is its virtue. Unlike the Himalayas, that challenge and dazzle the human spirit and are yet comfortingly peopled, these weathered and very old glacial landscapes at the southern tip of the Australian continent have been protected for good from human activity through green fights and government laws.

 

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22/09/16 Arts & Culture , Australia , Diaspora & Travel , Society & Politics # , , , , ,

The furore over cultural appropriation

The furore over cultural appropriation

By Arjun Rajkhowa

 

American writer Lionel Shriver recently delivered a keynote speech at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival where she discussed cultural appropriation, authorial autonomy, social expectations around works of art and a host of other subjects that have arguably been at the forefront of much critical debate in recent times.

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14/08/16 Arts & Culture , Diaspora & Travel , Society & Politics # , , , ,

Mahasweta Devi passes away at 90: A tribute

Mahasweta Devi passes away at 90: A tribute

By Meeta Chatterjee Padmanabhan

 

Mahaswheta Devi, Bengali writer and activist passed away on the 28th of July in Kolkata. As G.N. Devy said, “her writing addressed one single word: injustice.

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22/07/16 Arts & Culture , Australia , Society & Politics # , , , ,

On Anger, Empathy and Turning the Other Cheek: Notes on Responding to Racism

By Sukhmani Khorana

Schooled in the Indian system, I received a good dose of Gandhian philosophy, and official historical accounts of his entwinement in the anti-colonial struggle in the subcontinent. As a ten-year old, I remember being particular struck when I read about his strategy of passive resistance, namely, when someone slaps you, turn your other cheek towards them in a bid to curb their aggression. I know this idea comes from Christian doctrine, but it just happened to come to us via Gandhi first.

I was reminded of this while trying to unpack Waleed Aly’s recent #SendForigivenessViral editorial on Channel Ten’s The Project in response to media celebrity Sonia Kruger’s clearly Islamophobic comments. While I concede the value of ‘having a bigger heart’ in inter-personal conflicts for the sake of one’s own well-being, I am not sure that self-help dogma should be uncritically applied to growing systemic problems like racism. At the same time, I don’t want to entirely dismiss the role of symbolic measures of solidarity such as the Halal Snack Pack offered to Pauline Hanson by Labor Senator of Iranian descent, Sam Dastyari in the wake the One Nation Party founder’s return to senate. Perhaps we need to learn to distinguish between ignorance, insult, and benign attempts to foster community, and respond accordingly.

An example of the above came to light when Pakistani-born NSW Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi posted an image of an inflammatory comment on her public Facebook page that she couldn’t possibly ‘forgive’. While she usually curates these sexist and racist slurs in a satirical album called ‘Love Letters to Mehreen’, there are some that don’t even deserve a joke. If you have ever had an egg thrown at you on the basis of how you dress or look, you probably know what I mean. If you really do manage to call for more eggs under the circumstances, you are either superhuman or have an enormously diminished sense of smell.

Mehreen_Meme

Credit: Dr Mehreen Faruqi’s public Facebook page

What I am suggesting is that violence and passivity are not the only two possible responses to bigotry. Also, anger need not be conflated with aggression when it comes to tackling structural problems produced by decades, if not centuries of oppression. As cultural studies scholar Sara Ahmed argues in her essay on ‘Feminist Killjoys’, ‘Political struggles can takes place over the causes of unhappiness’. Isn’t it far more conducive to channelise one’s natural anger over the discrimination of certain groups to legitimate and non-violent protest, than to forgive individual perpetrators of racism and never address the system that produces them?

In a similar vein, not all manifestations of empathy are vacuous. As researchers, activists, politicians, social workers or politically-minded artists, people often begin with an experience of personal hardship or witness someone else’s, and move from empathy to reason and action in a journey that becomes their career or vocation. My research on the reception of refugee documentaries in Australia constantly comes up with the ‘finding’ that even left-wing identifying individuals prefer asylum seeker narratives that invoke emotions with stories that have a silver lining. Again, what could be productive, going forward, is to understand under what conditions these affective responses turn into catalysts for collective responsibility and action.

And finally, what do we make of symbolic gestures of solidarity with marginalised groups that often seem to coalesce around items of food or food culture? Let’s not put every institutionally-funded Harmony Day on a political pedestal. Still, it is a relief to see grassroots initiatives, both online and offline, that aim to educate, celebrate or merely offer an alternative to the demonisation of Halal-certified food. Besides the now well-known ‘Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society’ on Facebook, there are various food businesses around Australia that train and employ former refugees and offer less patronising possibilities in the discourse of ‘welcoming diversity’. Still, lets not mistake these gestures for a full-blown revolution, or use them as a substitute for socio-political change in the longer term.

So, are there any circumstances under which those of us at the receiving end of racism (implicit or explicit) should offer the other cheek? It would be far better, depending on the nature of the bigotry, to protest with a placard, or educate over a kebab. Having said that, those with privilege have more options.

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22/07/16 Arts & Culture # , , , , , , , , , ,

Does Alex Bhathal represent us?

Does Alex Bhathal represent us?

By Ruchira Talukdar

 

It’s been two weeks since a close and confusing federal election vote. My electorate of Batman in north-east Melbourne is still decked in large green corflutes with the smiling face of Alex Bhathal, a second generation Sikh Immigrant and a long-running Greens candidate for this seat.

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16/06/16 Arts & Culture , Australia , Diaspora & Travel , Society & Politics # , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Five Ingredient Fix:  A no-fail recipe for making documentaries about India

Five Ingredient Fix:  A no-fail recipe for making documentaries about India

By Nisha Thapliyal

 

How many different ways are there to tell the story of Indian arranged marriages to an Australian audience? The answer depends on whether you plan to entertain or inform.

 

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28/04/16 Arts & Culture , Australia , Diaspora & Travel , Society & Politics # , ,

Yoga Diary

Yoga Diary

By Suneeta Peres da Costa

 

L., my neighbour, lopes to yoga, her legs much longer than mine; even her husband who is tall says she is a fast walker. She can outpace me pushing a three-wheel pram. When we would walk for exercise last year, I would have liked to ask her to slow down but politeness or embarrassment got in the way.

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27/03/16 Arts & Culture , Australia , Diaspora & Travel , Society & Politics # , , , , , , ,

The malestream, translation, and women’s publishing in India: An interview with Urvashi Butalia and Shruti Nargundkar

The malestream, translation, and women’s publishing in India: An interview with Urvashi Butalia and Shruti Nargundkar

By Jasmeet Kaur Sahi

 

In July last year, noted Indian feminist publisher, writer and activist Urvashi Butalia was in Melbourne for the launch of A Rag Doll After My Heart, a poetic novella translated from the original Marathi into English by Melbourne-based writer and educator Shruti Nargundkar. The launch was held at the Australia India Institute in Melbourne.

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19/03/16 Arts & Culture , Australia , Diaspora & Travel , Society & Politics # , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vital literary genealogies

Vital literary genealogies

By Anupama Pilbrow

 

 

When I was ten years old, my godsister’s Indian mother and non-Indian father gave me a children’s novel called Neela: Victory Song by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I devoured it. It was about a girl my age living through India’s Partition. Neela was the first book by an Indian author that I ever read to myself.

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29/02/16 Arts & Culture , Australia , Diaspora & Travel , Society & Politics # , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In solidarity with the dissenting student community in India: A statement from Australia

In solidarity with the dissenting student community in India: A statement from Australia

As academics, students, writers, artists and activists from Australia, we condemn the use of oppressive power by the Indian state, its police, and Hindu fundamentalist groups to shut down voices of dissent emerging from within public universities in India.

We join the international community in extending our support to the students, faculty and staff at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and many other public universities, who have been courageously protesting the overreach of state power and brutal stifling of dissent, carried out in the guise of majoritarian Hindu nationalism (Hindutva).

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