Jul 29, 2008

using personal stories

I am interested in how solidarity activists use personal stories, and how we can be more careful and strategic about how we use them. One of the books that I've found most helpful in thinking about this has been Human Rights and Narrated Lives: the Ethics of Recognition. It looks at several cases of stories being used to build solidarity across difference and push for social justice: Tiananmen, South Africa, WWII Korean sex slaves, the Australian stolen generation and, astoundingly, prisoners in the US. All have different lessons for any social movement using stories, and I found it all a really compelling read - but then, I'm a geek. You could get a lot of it by just reading the first 50 pages (the overall picture) and the 12 page conclusion. Well worth it.

Jul 21, 2008

Making our spaces more liberatory

One of the ways that we can better walk our talk in our movements and improve our internal power dynamics is by working to make sure our own spaces are safe for all (and eventually, ideally, actually liberatory for all – such that the process of working together for justice in itself builds justice among us). I was reminded recently by discussions over my kitchen table that one step in this direction is having clear sexual/racial harassment/assault policies and procedures – even for when we gather temporarily, such as at the vigil to close the School of the Americas, a delegation trip, or at the World Social Forum. This was clearly not the case at the World Social Forum a few years ago, and I wrote about it, and how we might do things differently, in an article entitled A Liberatory Space? Rumors of Rapes at the 5th World Social Forum, Porto Alegre, 2005 (that link is to the pdf). Happily this one is also in an open source journal, the Journal of International Women’s Studies, and that article is in a special issue entitled Women's Bodies, Gender Analysis, and Feminist Politics at the Forum Social Mundial. This image, off indymedia, is of the women's march through the youth camp after the rape rumors.

Jul 9, 2008

colonial patterns in our activism and how we might rework them

I published, bilingually, an article in the open source journal acme that outlines much of my thinking about ways that we might decolonize solidarity. Abstracts and links to the pdf's are below. (art by Rini)


Imperialism affects “here” as well as “there”. White middle class women have historically gotten out of the home and gained more of a Self by being good helpers, classically as teachers and missionaries. In this role they consolidated empire’s power, often unintentionally. Today the good helper role is being widely used, not only by white women, to work against empire. Yet this master’s tool is toxic. It may appear to take tiles off the house, but it reinforces the systems of domination that prop up empire. Those of us who struggle against empire must also struggle against the imperialism within ourselves. This analysis of ways to decolonize solidarity work is grounded in the movement to close the School of the Americas [a U.S. army training camp] and a collaborative theorizing process with white middle class women prisoners of conscience. This work engages in alter-geopolitics, working to build another world.

download the full PDF here

Koopman S (2008) Imperialism within: Can the master’s tools bring down empire? Acme: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 7(2):283–307

Imperialismo Adentro:

¿Pueden las Herramientas del Amo Derribar el Imperio?

El imperialismo afecta tanto el ‘aquí’ como el ‘allá’. Mujeres de clase media y blancas han históricamente salido de su hogar y logrado ser más un ‘Sujeto' siendo buenas ayudantes, típicamente como maestras y misionarias.

En este papel han consolidado el poder del imperio, a veces sin intención. Hoy en día el papel de buen ayudante se usa ampliamente, no solamente por mujeres blancas, para trabajar en contra del imperio. Pero estas herramientas del amo son tóxicas. Puede parecer que estamos quitando tejas de la casa del amo, pero en realidad reforzamos así los sistemas de dominación que son los pilares del imperio.

Nosotros que combatimos el imperio debemos también luchar contra el imperialismo dentro de nosotros mismos. Este análisis de maneras en que se podría descolonizar el trabajo de solidaridad tiene raíces en el movimiento para cerrar la Escuela de las Américas (un campo de entrenamiento del ejército Estadounidense) y en un proceso de teorización en colaboración con prisioneras de consciencia blancas y de clase media. Este trabajo hace ‘alter-geopolítica’, trabajando para construir otro mundo.

se puede bajar el PDF aca.