Oct 23, 2011

the term 'decolonization' as I use it in this blog is a metaphor

"In historico-geographical terms, colonization involves the conquest, inhabitation, possession and control of a territory by an external power. It is predicated on the deliberate, physical, cultural and symbolic appropriation of space. ..... Metaphors of colonization rescript this territorial incursion as an invasion and insidious habitation of the social and psychic space of oppressed groups, while decolonization becomes a metaphor for the process of recognizing and dislodging dominant ideas, assumptions and ideologies as externally imposed - literally of making a cultural and psychic place of one's own" - Katz and Smith, page 70-71

N. Smith and C. Katz, “Grounding metaphor: Towards a spatialized politics,” in Place and the Politics of Identity, ed. Michael Keith and Steve Pile, 1993, 66-83.

I would argue that those of us who are on the more privileged end of various systems of oppression also have an 'insidious habitation' of our 'social and psychic space' and that if we are truly going to work in meaningful solidarity across divides of power then decolonization is just as important on this end, inside the belly of the beast.

Oct 16, 2011

liberatory occupation?

There have been great articles on colonial patterns cropping up in the occupy movement and how to avoid them. Dissertation is looming so I'll just point to two:
  • a good short analysis of this screwy stereotyped Indian image being used to argue against using the term 'occupy' is here. Talk about needing to decolonize our minds!

  • a good overall analysis of the issues by Harsha is here.

Oct 10, 2011

If it were my home

Mamie and Richard, two accompaniers serving with the Presbyterian Church in Colombia, recently blogged about a fascinating tool called If it were my home which has me thinking again about how often these sorts of comparisons get made by solidarity activists.

As Richard puts it in his post, reposted here,

"So maybe it is our recent trip to the US, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the differences between living in Colombia and the United States. Of course there are lots of differences, and lots of them completely unquantifiable, but what can you quantify about living in another culture?

I came across a really interesting tool a while back which is a great help in thinking about this. It is called If It Were My Home and it uses demographic, health and economic data to compare lifestyles in different countries.

First – size. Finally, a wonderful size comparison of Colombia’s land size to the lower 48. Again, Colombia is not a small country! It is twice the size of Texas.

Second – the stats. What is fun about these is that after being here for a couple of years, I can actually check these out a bit more…

1) Have 2.7x higher risk of dying in infancy. It may be debatable, but I think I’m safe in escaping infancy unscathed.

2) Use 93% less electricity. Great! We can check this one. I looked back at our electrical use in the US and here. We averaged 470 kwh/month in the US; we average 291 khw/month here. That’s 38% lower. For reference, electricity here costs about 33% more, so that may account for some of it. But the facts shows that we end up using a lot less electricity here in Colombia, which is a good step for environmental sustainability!

3) Use 90% less oil. My guess is this one is pretty accurate. Without a car, using buses, taxis, and motorcycles as our primary transport, yeah, we probably use 90% less oil.

4) Make 80% less money. Hmm, we do make less money here in Colombia. I hesitate to put a % on it, but 80% is not out of the ballpark…

5) Spend 93% less on health care. Probably accurate… (e.g. I saw a blog post about the average hospital delivery in the US is $40,000. Ours here – about $2,500)

6) See a 30% more of a class divide. My impressions of this would be that the divide here is higher, but I think you are much more aware of class divides in cultures that are not your own.

7) Would be 29% more unemployed. Well, we did come here with a job, and have managed to keep it so far…

8) Have 28.42% more babies. Ahh! We can be concrete on this one! We have had exactly 100% more babies here in Colombia.

9) Will die 3.93 years sooner here in Colombia. We are hoping not to test this one out…"