Jun 29, 2011

going silent for a day

Rather than go barefoot for a day (see previous post) I just got a facebook fundraising appeal from a friend asking me to sponsor him to go silent for a day (well, as he put it, to shut up) to raise money for Videa, a Canadian organization doing development work in Africa.

Certainly better than the TOMS barefoot day, but it makes me queasy that one of their tag lines is "What does it feel like to be silenced"? Doubt that my friend will know after his quiet day. And it doesn't seem like his being silent is making much space for those who are silenced - none of whose stories appear on the site.

Jun 19, 2011

speaking of shoes

talk about walking in another persons shoes. TOMS literally suggests that you do so. one for one. you buy a pair, they give a pair a way.

the TOMS shoe for a shoe thing feels more like charity than solidarity to me, as much as they attempt to get folks to feel a sense of connection with others.

can we think about why folks don't have shoes? and maybe, um, support their local shoe making instead of flooding them with these weird shoes they wouldn't normally wear?

this article makes many of those arguments. My favorite line:
“TOMS Shoes is a good marketing tool, but it’s not good aid.” She has a long list of reasons, including: “It’s quintessential Whites in Shining Armor. It’s doing things ‘for’ people, not ‘with’ people.”

the weirdest TOMS phenomena is the barefoot solidarity thing. maybe you haven't been exposed to it, but once a year they urge folks to go barefoot for a day in solidarity with folks who can't afford shoes. commercialization of solidarity just maybe? but hell, they had 1,000 events in 25 countries. wow.


am I being a curmudgeon? comments?

Jun 13, 2011

in *whose* shoes?

"Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you'll be a mile from them, and you'll have their shoes." - Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts (via my friend Christy)

the current version of the last paragraph of chapter four of the dissertation, on why international accompaniment is a form of solidarity, and not 'non-partisan':

Walking side by side is such a clear embodiment of solidarity that it seems odd to have to argue for it. Perhaps the issue is different understandings of what solidarity means. Rather than engage in that broader theoretical debate here I have focused on the ‘doings’ of accompaniment and how these are and are not understood as solidarity by accompaniers. Yet I will end with a play on this image of walking together that the term acompa├▒amiento conjures in Spanish. Solidarity does not mean walking in lockstep. It certainly does not mean walking ‘in their shoes’ (a phrase often used to describe empathy) – for then there would be no room in the shoes of the accompanied for their own feet. It does not mean the accompanier walking on top of the shoes of the accompanied, nor having the feet of the person accompanied ride on top of the feet of the accompanier - but rather simply walking alongside each other. Solidarity means walking together towards a broad vision of a different world that is possible, and accompaniment is a powerful way of doing that. To deny this and attempt to distance accompaniment from its social movement origins is to weaken a powerful solidarity strategy.

Jun 9, 2011

support the brave and inspiring folks in the peace community of San Jose with a quick signature

This is the community that I've posted about several times before. They could really use your support right now.

Jun 3, 2011

empathy and counter-topographies for solidarity

I keep coming back, again and again, to the question of empathy. Here is a paragraph from this article of mine. If you don't have academic access email me for the full pdf.

"Pratt and Yeoh (2003) argue for the power of “imagination” and “partial identification” in drawing counter-topographies. In a separate article, however, Pratt (2005) problematizes empathy and warns of the simplification of thinking, “oh that woman is really just like me” in a way that evades the specificity of their lives and their vulnerability to violence. I do believe there can be empathy that is not appropriative, but will we ever be able to imagine what it is like to be tortured? To have our child dismembered in front of us? Would we want to imagine it? Would those who suffered such a fate want us to imagine it? We do not need to move into another person's skin to draw lines of connection. We do not need to try to move them into our family, our homes (to imagine what it would be like if that were happening here). As Pratt argues, to try to move homo sacer back into citizen through seeing sameness does nothing to change the ongoing process of abandonment. It is enough to be moved by the stories. Rather than move homo sacer, it is we who move as we draw these lines of connection. We are transformed by witnessing, by mourning."

Oddly in that article I don't really define what counter-topographies are, other than to call them lines of connection. It's actually one of my favorite geographical terms. It was first used by the inimitable Cindi Katz (see photo) in “On the Grounds of Globalization: A Topography for Feminist Political Engagement,” Signs 26, no. 4 (2001): 1213-1234. She defines it more clearly in “Vagabond Capitalism and the Necessity of Social Reproduction,” Antipode 33, no. 4 (2001): 709-728. It's well worth reading the whole thing. As she puts it in the abstract, "The paper develops the notion of “topography” as a means of examining the intersecting effects and material consequences of globalized capitalist production. “Topography” offers a political logic that both recognizes the materiality of cultural and social difference and can help mobilize transnational and internationalist solidarities to counter the imperatives of globalization."