May 23, 2013

Skills for Solidarity

Skills for Solidarity is an online education program to help people who want to learn more about being a good ally that is being run right now by Lead Now.

It is designed for non-native folks who want to participate as powerful allies in the amazingly inspiring Idle No More movement in Canada.

The program has 5 lessons:

Lesson 1 - Brief historical overview (colonization, treaties, the Indian Act, residential schools, etc.)
Lesson 2 - How does this history shape and define the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada today?
Lesson 3 - What does it mean to be an ally to Indigenous-led movements in Canada?
Lesson 4 - Webinar on Indigenous solidarity
Lesson 5 - Where do we go from here?

as they put it:

"We recognize that each of these themes are massive on their own and that we will not be able to cover everything in 20-30 minutes per week. The goal of the program is to provide an introduction to the themes, but it’s up to all of us to continually explore and learn about them.

Will this program turn us all into perfect allies?  
No, but it’ll give us tools that we can use throughout our lives as we engage in ally relationships.

Throughout the program, you may feel surprised and challenged by what you are learning. You may experience discomfort at some of the concepts being presented, or the questions being asked of you.

Doing ally work includes a lot of personal self-reflection, and becoming aware of the ways in which we are all part of structural systems of power. It can be uncomfortable.

As good allies, it’s important for us to feel this discomfort because it’s necessary for change.

However, solidarity work isn’t about feeling guilty. It’s a process of continually asking critical questions and being open to making mistakes. It’s about listening, acting, reflecting, and continually learning.

This program is an introduction to the ongoing process of living into ally relationships.

By the end of this program, we will not walk away knowing everything about our nations’ histories. We will not be able to check a box or hold up a certificate that shows we are allies.

However, we will have a stronger understanding of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, a better understanding of our own role in that relationship, and a toolkit to help us continue exploring our ever-evolving role as allies. ......

And now a few questions to get you started:
1) Do you know whose traditional territory you grew up on?
2) Do you know whose traditional territory you live on now?
3) Do you know the status of that territory (contested, under treaty negotiations, governed by a pre-confederacy treaty, governed by a post-confederacy treaty)?

It’s okay if you don’t know yet - try searching online and see what you come up with. You might find contradictory information. You might not be able to find any information at all about where you live. The fact that it’s hard to find this information speaks to the complexities of approaching these topics and that’s part of what this program will be exploring."

It's intended for Canadians, but could be useful even if you're not. If you'd like to join sign up here.

May 12, 2013

peace isn't sexy?

The blog has been quiet because I've been recovering from doing two academic conferences back to back.  Bad idea.  I went from the International Studies (ISA) conference straight to the Association of American Geographer's meeting (the AAG is considering a name change by the way).  As always, in every slot there were several sessions I wanted to go to and I had trouble choosing! Really sorry to have missed so many great papers I wanted to see - but it's a sign that there's a lot of exciting work happening in geography.

I spent a long time in the sessions on Violence and Space organized by Simon Springer and Philippe LeBillon.  Too long probably. I think there were 8 sessions and I sat through 6.  Listening to so much work on violence (often with gruesome pictures and descriptions) left me feeling flattened.  I wish we had coordinated better with the four sessions that I helped to organize on Geographies of Peace.  Maybe if we had gone back and forth it would have been easier to hear.  But I was struck by how different the vibe was in the two series.  The violence sessions were in a large central room and were generally packed.  The peace sessions were in the furthest away of the conference hotels, and in a tiny room.  I guess the study of peace is still marginal in geography - unlike the ISA, which has a whole large track of peace and conflict studies sessions.

The paper that made the most impact on me in the AAG was one by Guntram Herb.  He used to teach a course called geography of war, that got a large number of mostly male students for many years.  When he changed the course name to geography of peace, he got a much smaller number of mostly female students.  Now he teaches it as geography of war and peace and gets both more students and better gender balance.  An example I will likely follow!

The final geography of peace session was one that I organized, where LA based activists from the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity spoke.  I was worried about making it a comfortable space for them in an academic setting, particularly for survivors telling harrowing stories of losing family members in the violence in Mexico.  I was unsure about the wisdom of having geographers follow that up with comments. I am pleased to report that it went really well, thanks in large part to Josh Inwood and Byron Miller, who took on the difficult task and got the tone of their thoughtful commentary just right. 

May 9, 2013

on using your privilege against the system that gives it to you

Chomsky, from the Chomsky Foucault debate:
Now as to how I tolerate MIT, that raises another question. There are people who argue, and I have never understood the logic of this, that a radical ought to dissociate himself from oppressive institutions. The logic of that argument is that Karl Marx shouldn’t have studied in the British Museum which, if anything, was the symbol of the most vicious imperialism in the world, the place where all the treasures of Empire were gathered, the rape of the colonies was all poured in there. But I think Karl Marx was quite right in studying in the British Museum. He was right in using the resources and in fact the liberal values of the civilization that he was trying to overcome, against it. And I think the same applies in this case.

- many thanks to Wes Attewel for this one!