—gangs use spray paint; rich people put up ‘neighborhood watch’ signs
—when occupations live separate, do not see each other, have no social relations beyond knowing each other as labels, we have transitioned from a class society to a caste society
—gangs use spray paint; rich people put up ‘neighborhood watch’ signs
—when occupations live separate, do not see each other, have no social relations beyond knowing each other as labels, we have transitioned from a class society to a caste society
—Can we move past romanticizing democracy where democracy equals justice? When has democratic procedures of mutual respect, trust, tolerance guaranteed that the landless would have political rights, that the racialized would not be shot in the streets, that non-conforming bodies would live in dignity, that women would not be colonized, that the colonized would achieve liberation? Instead, democratic ornamentations, these civic rituals, these virtuous posturing culminating in a code of civility often worked to provide authority to the propertied, so that they can continue with their exercise of exclusions and expulsions.
Democratization which may complement the search for justice will certainly have to be outside the deep historical grooves of democracy’s injustices.
—At the level of policy, there’s empowerment. At the level of micro politics, there’s manipulation.
—If science/intersectionality conversations merely focus on hiring people of color, we are still discussing ‘diversity and inclusion’ to increase the hues in science departments, a drive to get more skilled workers for capitalist science-making while also shielding the institution from addressing white supremacy. A science/intersectionality conversation of greater integrity would go past diversity to engaging with the body of feminist thought that challenges the very foundations of the scientific enterprise. How do we know what we know? What are our practices in research and teaching, and why those practices? What is the role of ethics in science production? What are the historical relations between capitalist science institutions and oppressed communities, and how to give an account of current scientific pursuits in that context? These are, of course, a few of the many tiny steps collectives might consider.
—I am less afraid of crisis than security because security makes sure everything stays the same.
—The logic of white supremacist society: when white frat men rape women, administrators point to the inefficacy of punitive measures and advocate for incentivizing not-raping. On the other hand, criminalizing, incarcerating, and deporting (even murdering) black and brown bodies are touted as effective measures to deal with ‘crime’, a buzzword which often means uncommitted offenses.
In a recent conversation with an american liberal, I learned my positions a little better:
MacIntyre makes this interesting observation that “modern academic philosophy turns out by and large to provide means for a more accurate and informed definition of disagreement rather than for progress toward its resolution.” It raises the question: well, what happens in the absence of resolution in academic spaces? What are people left to when philosophical investigations—which are really matters of daily life—end with no particular ethical proposal? What fills up the vacuum in public sphere when no real resolutions are proposed? Perhaps, something like Trump happens.
“…I think what is needed is a break with representational modes of signification for non-representational, dialogic modes. And I think that this has to do with the reconstruction of value and not its deconstruction and final disappearance. It has to do with a break in our modes of existing from a self-enclosed monologically representing, productionist body to a body which instead is not self-enclosed, but open, open and—at the same time—hard (in the sense perhaps that a footballer is hard in the tackle, hard into the tackle) and vulnerable; not involved in the monological ‘representation’ but dialogical ‘presentation’, and whose aesthetic sensibility is not primarily productionist but receptionist.”
“In the industrial order value detaches from the good life and re-attaches to goods. It detaches from forms of life and re-attaches to substances. Value thus inheres no longer in forms of life but in empty substance in goods, in exchange-value.”
“…once things come under the sign of capital value in any meaningful sense is destroyed… the domination of the abstract sign of capital, the productionism of capital, reduces all sorts of heterogeneity to the value-form.”
“In the manufacturing order these needs are replaced by interests: either individual interests or the collective interests of class versus class.”
“Presentation is a bit like the notion of presence in art theory… in which the aesthetic experience stands out from the flux of signifiers, of impressions, but in which it stands out not because it is the expression of the interiority of a creative self-enclosed subject… Presentation, like play is dialogical, it opens up and involves the playing off of one another between playmates.”
But difference can be a pre-condition for these reciprocities and presentations.
To hold water may not mean pushing against, containing, holding back, but it can also mean to hold as it flows:
Just as homeless people are cleared out to create more desirable streets, minoritized and ethnicized people are being cleared out of homes to create more desirable gentrified neighborhoods.
In “A Series of Unfortunate Events” when the orphans, walking in the site of their burnt down house, are in despair, the lawyer tells them that they have little to worry about because they have “financial security.” With this phrase, they are interpellated into the financial space of capital with a promise of security in the face of homelessness. Of course, the promised security turns out to be a long chain of trials and tribulations under the roof of Count Olaf. Olaf is only interested in the orphans’ enormous fortune, but he cannot access it until Violet (the oldest) comes of age. Olaf takes out his frustration on the children and makes them suffer at every step. In other words, their very inheritance (now turned into finance capital) that is to guarantee security becomes the underlying driver of the children’s unending plight.
Isn’t this also the shared predicament today as our commons—land, water, genomes etc.—are being looted, privatized and we are being pushed out from collective ownership and multilayered uses of the commons, while policymakers guarantee us security (from corruption etc.) through interpellating us into the financial space of capital? In India, Modi is framing demonetization and digital wallets (a.k.a. credits a.k.a. debts) as progress and security to landless farmers, exploited workers, struggling pensioners and the rest, opening up people for the surgical machinations of banking and speculation.
Of course, once one enters the financial space of capital, life begins to feel extremely Kafkaesque, that is, we begin to experience life as a series of convoluted processes which are designed by people we don’t know and through rules we can’t fathom. Perhaps there’s an innate helplessness coded into this state of affairs where we only get better at feeling life as tragedy without taking the tragic as motivation (no wonder marxist friends are amazing at giving me nightmares). Or perhaps, this is precisely where we can find hope if only we look at it like a poet, like how Novalis said: “we are near waking when we dream we are dreaming.” But there are all sorts of waking up.
Earlier the ‘woke’ organizers of women’s march in Portland, for example, were making sure they are not “too political.” They were so awake that even NAACP abandoned their march. For a different example, organizers of #DisruptJ20 are aiming to “take to the streets and protest, blockade, disrupt, intervene, sit in, walk out, rise up, and make more noise and good trouble than the establishment can bear. The parade must be stopped.“ The line between throwing tantrums and organizing protest could not have been sharper, a line we must draw at each step in this atmosphere of mass ‘activation’.
Every news one disagrees with can now be termed “fake news” with a glance of pseudo-critical skepticism. And here in 2017 we have an ersatz re-appropriation of the famous Kantian formulation: “Sapere aude!” (loosely, “Dare to think for yourself!”) Through the mutating mechanisms of neo-fascisms and neo-nationalisms, Chomsky’s finding on media (that media manufactures consent) meets its counterpart—fascism manufactures dissent. Faced with such dissent, people are pointing to social media bubbles, news filters, etc. etc. Once again the focus is on processes and technological platforms, not the preconditions that make ‘fake reading’ possible: the widespread lack of critical literacy across national space. The difficult task, now, is neither to consent nor to dissent, but to get organized and strike at the preconditions that makes fascist dissent as well as neoliberal consent possible. This task is made all the more difficult because it might not even seem that urgent compared to the deluge of daily emergencies we are experiencing in this changing political climate.
In the movie The Pearl Button, Guzman provides a poignant portrayal of how the indigenous communities that lived in/with the water were eliminated by settlers in modern Chile. There we learn how settlers rewarded “hunters” for brining back testicles and breasts of the natives they killed. Extermination proceeded by aiming for the organs of social reproduction.
Likewise, it’s profoundly disturbing when neo-malthusians complain about increasing population in the face of so much land mass going under water in Bangladesh. They are completely in denial of the fact that this arcane strategy of population control as a solution to social and climate problems has already been tried (family planning programs etc). In 1970s Bangladesh had a birth rate of 6.9 births per woman, and now that’s 2.2 per woman. None of that has stopped the rising inequalities across ethnicities, genders, and classes, and environmental degradation as a result of climate change. When will we move past this irresponsible argument that Bangladesh’s population is the problem, a colonial trope which criminalizes social reproduction among the oppressed and situates brown bodies as the ignorant perpetrators of self-destruction?
“Can you tell it to me in an interesting way?” This is the demand placed on teachers today. Therefore, in a marketplace of consumers, the truth-teller finds herself in what Hans Blumenberg called the “hopeless disadvantage” of truth seekers. What is this disadvantage? The disadvantage is that truth “exists in one form alone” which maybe mundane, boring, simply complex or complexly simple… while falsehood “permits an infinite of combinations and permutations,” which are, due to their contradictory diversity, interesting, attention grabbing and convincing through sheer proliferation in its multiplicity. To add to this disadvantage, one has to labor through all of the permutations of falsehoods to get to some very simple truths. And then there’s more. Once one has reached those truths, it is not quite evident what one must do with them, what good use one could put those truths to and how. The silence many truth-seekers envelop themselves with is a shield to protect themselves from these problems of truth’s “nakedness”.
From What We Want Is Free: “…Immanuel Kant at the end of the eighteenth century would propose that conditions for “perpetual peace” would depend upon the “cosmopolitan right” of all peoples, and that cosmopolitan right would depend upon “universal hospitality.” For Kant, “Hospitality [meant] the right of a stranger not to be treated with hostility when he arrives on someone else’s territory.” Kant established this claim on the assumption that “all men are entitled to present themselves in the society of others by virtue of their right to communal possession of the earth’s surface… [and that] no on original has any greater right than anyone else to occupy any particular portion of the earth.” Later, at the turn of the twentieth century, Peter Kropotkin sought to find examples in nature of communal right and cooperation, of these relationships giving rise to competitive advantage to the species and subgroups using them. “Mutual aid” then becomes the modus operandi of social groups seeking to thrive and prosper through the exchange of total services, and mutual aid is reinforced through the rituals of obligatory reciprocal exchange.”
Two important guidelines for cooperative technologies: 1) “shift focus from designing systems to providing platforms” and 2) “engage the community in designing rules to match their culture, objectives, and tools.”
Ways domination and exploitation are perpetrated:
“1. The exercise or threat of direct, physical violence—the “military” dimension of domination.
2. Structural violence—the introduction or maintenance of rules and distributional structures within a social cooperation that lead to a systematically unequal allocation of power: the “economic” dimension of domination.
3. Discrimination—organized exclusivity of one group against the “others”: the “social” dimension of domination.
4. Control of the public—decisive influence on how people speak and think in a given cooperation, which interpretations and norms prevail: the “institutional” dimension of domination.
5. Dependency—the elimination of alternatives for the other part of the cooperation, making this cooperation the only possible choice: the “existential” dimension of domination.”
“…we may certify democratic capitalism as a model of cynical freedom. Within it, the individual suffers fewer restrictions if he/she succeeds in reaching a privileged position; through the commodified disposability of labor and nature, he/she has at least a real chance to achieve such an economically privileged position at the expense of others; and he/she can consider himself/herself politically free as long as he/she doesn’t mind that with all his/her codified rights he/she actually cannot change anything.”
“…in free cooperation anything can be negotiated; anybody can negotiate; and anybody can negotiate because everybody can afford to call his or her stakes into question.”
“You know as well as we do that the law prevails in human interaction only where there is an equilibrium of powers, whereas the more powerful push through whatever they have the power to and the weak submit. — Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War”
“A politics of recognition differs from the liberal idea of tolerance, according to which everybody may pursue happiness after his own fashion as long as he stays inside certain limits which themselves are in no way subject to tolerance. Recognition needs conflict and arguing. Difference can be accepted and recognized as a productive practice if we have come to know the other and have at least understood some of the outlines of what it is.”
“Enabling means that the cooperation uses collective capital for projects that not everybody is convinced of, whose details are not debated by all at length, or that are not even understandable to the majority of the members for the time being.
“Well-functioning forms of enabling ensure what is called Freundlichkeit (friendliness) by Brecht: We get something that we are not 100% entitled to but which our cooperation is able and willing to give us.”
“A politics that wants to develop collective leadership has to actually hold back dominant leadership in order to open spaces where collective leadership can gain a foothold. It has to accept that this may involve setbacks in “efficiency”. It has to be ready to experiment, to take time and to pay something for it, too. It has to investigate which circumstances in the cooperation hinder the leadership of others. And it has to get it straight in its mind that a transformation of structures and of the distribution of leadership will lead to a transformation of the orientation and criteria of cooperation, too. If the cooperation does not change through collective leadership, regarding its rules and aims, then this collective leadership is very likely to be only a pretense.”
“Political correctness… does not prescribe new norms for the content; it only opens up a field of critique of the norms that prevailed so far.”
“A politics of individuation means that you don’t burn out people. It means that you’re conscious that political getting organized always happens between people: it transforms the logic of how we—across all frictions and divisions—treat each other.”
“Under the normative concept of ‘objectivity’, the modern age relinquishes every exclusive claim to ownership of the truth: once it has been wrested from the object, truth becomes in principle the common property of the human race, accessible in equal measure to all. For the professional researcher of the modern age, to know and to ‘publish’ is practically the same thing, and barbarous nakedness remains the characteristic stylistic feature of such ‘publications’.”
“…what counts is the formal quality of the unveiled truth as such, not whatever degree of ‘importance’ attaches to the material content of this truth, since “as a disposition of our knowledge… one truth is as important as any other.” Knowledge is not justified by what it allows us to know, but is essentially the self-confirmation of the human intellect; hence reason’s insistence on the unconditional surrender of the naked truth. Religion, too, is normed through this ‘type’ of truth.”
“According to the age-old legend handed down by the Egyptians to the Greeks, the inventor of the sciences was a god hostile to the tranquility of mankind… in probabilistic terms, those who seek the truth find themselves at a hopeless disadvantage, since falsehood permits an infinity of combinations and permutations, whereas truth exists in one form alone. “How many errors, a thousand times more dangerous than the truth is useful, must be surmounted in order to reach the truth?” And finally, the weightiest objection of them all: “If by luck we finally find it, who among us will know how to make good use of the truth?” Rousseau’s pragmatic refunctioning of the ‘truth in the well’ metaphor is, in short, to leave the truth undisturbed. The depth of the well protects us from the problematic of its nakedness.”
“Kierkegaard’s lengthy journal entry from 1 August 1835 shows the metaphor of the ‘naked truth’ in its most radical aspect: the indifference of objective truth to this one life, its unresponsiveness to the question of life’s ‘purpose’ that is gnawing away at him. What matters is “to find a truth that is a truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. And what use here would it be to me if I were to discover a so-called objective truth… or were able to construct a world which, again, I myself did not inhabit but merely held up for others to see? …to explain many separate facts, if it had no deeper meaning for myself and my life?… What use would it be to me if truth were to stand there before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I acknowledged it or not, and inducing an anxious shudder rather than trusting devotion?… That is what I lack, and this is why I am like a man who has collected furniture and rented rooms but still hasn’t found the beloved with whom to share his life’s ups and downs.”
“Militancy no longer means guns at high noon, if it ever did. It means actively working for change, sometimes in the absence of any surety that change is coming. It means doing the unromantic and tedious work necessary to forge meaningful coalitions, and it means recognizing which coalitions are possible and which coalitions are not. It means knowing that coalition, like unity, means the coming together of whole, self-actualized human beings, focused and believing, not fragmented automatons marching to a prescribed step. It means fighting despair.
“And in the university, that is certainly no easy task, for each one of you by virtue of your being here will be deluged by opportunities to misname yourselves, to forget who you are, to forget where your real interests lie. Make no mistake, you will be courted; and nothing neutralizes creativity quicker than tokenism, that false sense of security fed by a myth of individual solutions.”
from Sister Outsider.
now that the democracy™ is done
clapping at the spectacle of politics-without-politics,
let us stagger through the dreadful lot of everyday—that has been
years in making and celebrated in multiple speeches of deafeningly loud nothing
So many little messages
Floating in the motions of cities—
Letters without addressees…
I love this idea of Goethe: “delicate empiricism (zarte Empirie)—the effort to understand a thing’s meaning through prolonged empathetic looking and seeing grounded in direct experience.” Highlighting the tension between seeing and reading what one sees, Goethe said, “How difficult it is… to refrain from replacing the thing with its sign, to keep the object alive before us instead of killing it with the word.” The seer who transitions into the reader has to exercise caution against “impatience, precipitancy, self-satisfaction, rigidity, narrow thoughts, presumption, indolence, indiscretion, instability, and whatever else the entire retinue might be called.” Seeing and reading in this way, Goethe held, would reveal the ur-phenomenon: “the essential core of a thing that makes it what it is and what it becomes.” Interestingly, the ur-phenomenon is a construct between essentialism and constructivism as he pointed out that the ur-phenomenon is more than just deep-down structures, the ur-phenomenon “marks out the things in the foreground and brings all other phenomena into relation with it.” How would this apply to animals, for instance?
“We attend to the phenomenon of animal life and picture each aspect of the animal exactly and vividly. We then must draw upon our capacity to recreate, as it were, the particular animal in our mind. The imagination begins to weave among the parts, and a picture of underlying patterns emerges. This is a demanding task because it involves, as Goethe says, “dissolving the particular without destroying the impression itself.” It calls for the faculty Goethe called “exact imagination,” which only develops through practice. We must try and try again to gain the necessary inner flexibility to form a living picture of the animal. This way of knowing has a fluid quality, and its results cannot be fixed in any narrowly circumscribed definition.
“At the same time, we must cultivate an inner tension that keeps us open for the new and does not let us become overly enamored with the knowledge already gained.”
Delicate empiricism is “difficult because we must gradually change our way of thinking. Instead of adapting the organism to our preferred thinking, we must attempt to adapt ourselves to the organism. If we can follow it, the organism becomes a teacher and along the way begins to reveal itself. In this sense, one can say that the language of the animal slowly becomes decipherable. As Henri Bortoft writes, “when the point is reached where the animal discloses itself, the animal becomes its own language. In this moment, the animal is language.””
“…in cities where livelihood, mobility, and opportunity seem to be produced and enacted through the very agglomeration of different bodies marked and situated in diverse ways, how can permutations in the intersection of their given physical existence, their stories, networks, and inclinations, produce specific value and capacity? If the city is a huge intersection of bodies in need, and with desires in part propelled by the sheer number of them, how can larger numbers of bodies sustain themselves by imposing themselves in critical junctures, whether these junctures are discrete spaces, life events, or sites of consumption or production?”
“Another way to look at this dynamic is to consider the ambiguity that ensues in the relationship between how cities are ruled and the responses to this rule on the part of the majority of urban residents. For many urban residents, life is reduced to a state of emergency. What this means is that there is a rupture in the organization of the present. Normal approaches are insufficient… Emergency leaves no time for accounting, no time to trace out the precise etiology of the crisis, for the sequence of causation is suspended in the urgency of a moment where recklessness may be as important as caution. The past brings the community to the brink, and at this precipice, what can there be to remember?”
“At the same time, emergency describes a process of things in the making, of the emergence of new thinking and practice still unstable, still tentative in terms of the use of which such thinking and practice will be put.”
“…development as a specific modality of temporality is not simply about meeting the needs of citizens. It is also about capturing residents to a life aesthetic defined by the state so that they can be citizens. It is about making ethical beings; about holding people in relations that makes them governable.”
“I am concerned with how affective bonds are revitalize and how a desire for social interchange and cooperation might contain the seeds of social economies that extend themselves through scale, time, and reach. But this is not directly about civil society organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), microcredit associations or people’s associations. Rather, I am interested in more diffuse but no less concrete ways in which diverse urban actors are assembled and act. What are some of the ways in which urban residents are building a particular emotional field in the city, trying to restore a very physical sense of connection to one another? This is a micro politics of alignment, interdependency, and exuberance. This is not the work of detailed ethnographic examinations of new social movements, new living arrangements, or new forms of urban productivity. It is a practice of being attuned to faint signals, flashes of important creativity in otherwise desperate maneuvers, small eruptions in the social fabric that provide new texture, small but important platforms from which to access new views.”
“…an event may trigger an entire neighborhood into apparently unfamiliar courses of action, but with a synchronicity that makes it appear as if some deep-seated logic of social mobilization is being unleashed.”
Isn’t this deep-seated logic another name for ideology?
“…the informal, the invisible, the spectral, and movement. These notions are not used as conceptual structures that steer and account for urban behavior but rather are heuristic entry points into describing varied capacities of diverse urban residents to operate in concert without discernible infrastructures, policy frameworks, and institutional practice in which to do so.”
“…I believe that we will never really appreciate what an accumulated history of urban Africa has to offer our knowledge about cities in general unless we find a way to get beyond the enormous problems and challenges.”
“If the limited resources deployed for urban development in Africa are to be effective, it is important to make common cause with the daily efforts of African urban residents. This is a common cause about using the city as a generator of imagination and well-being, of making links with and operating in concert with the larger world. The only way to make such common cause is to amplify the sensibility, creativity, and rationality of everyday practices and behaviors that either are invisible or appear strange.”
“…my intention is not establish a geographical specificity or a particularly “African” modality of urbanization. The impact of pre-colonial forms of urbanization, colonial logic and administration, and postcolonial development on African cities makes them heterogenous in character. Yet in the face of global economic restructuring, the particular economic arrangements, cultural inclinations, and forms of external engagement that largely made African cities different from each other are being unraveled.”
From Social Justice and Communities of Difference: A Snapshot from Liverpool, and Cultural Strategies of Economic Development and the Hegemony of Vision in The Urbanization of Injustice.
“…John Rawls has actually changed tack somewhat from A Theory of Justice… In his recent Political Liberalism, Rawls now redefines a ‘well ordered society’ to the extent that a relatively homogeneous society which is united in its basic moral beliefs is no longer recognized as viable. Instead, Rawls views a democratic society as ‘a plurality of reasonable yet incompatible comprehensive doctrines’.
The follow up comparisons between Young and Rawls is a great source for reviewing the two frameworks.
“…human beings do not perceive things whole; we are not gods but wounded creatures, cracked lenses, capable only of fractured perceptions. Partial beings, in all the senses of the phrase. Meaning is a shaky edifice we build out of scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved; perhaps it is because our sense of what is the case is constructed from such inadequate materials that we defend it so fiercely, even to the death.” — Salman Rushdie
On post-marxist critique:
“Post-Marxist critique de-emphasizes the notion of ‘structures’ and substitutes a cultural Otherness for an economically inflected ‘social class’. Overarching status differences affecting women, problems of resisting historical hierarchies of colonial and postcolonial power, and the social construction of group identities have emerged as paradigmatic fields of both theory and empirical inquiry.”
On symbolic politics:
“It may be that symbolic cultural practices do not just ‘represent’ material interests; mediated by material resources, they may produce, perpetuate, or diminish inequalities… Not only is it important to study processes of deriving representations, but it is also important to study the inequitable results of struggles over aesthetic strategies such as historic preservation, over visual images of urban public spaces, and over the development of cultural consumption such as tourism.”
On visual power:
“…we can think of power in cities as the power to impose a vision on space. Those who impose the vision ‘frame’ space much as museums frame art historical canons by favoring some representations over others. We cannot take it for granted that powerful people and institutions have an absolute power to frame space—but most times, the building of cities favors their interests over others. Interesting questions arise when the built environment of urban spaces either fails to favor the framing proposed by dominant groups, or when political or cultural strategies slowly alter an existing landscape of power.”
On materialist theory:
“What theorists have not done is to figure out how to use materialism without negating the fluidity, the fusions, the indeterminacies, and the general democratization of critique itself.”
On urban cultural strategies:
“When a region has few cards to play, cultural strategies respond to the quality-of-life argument that people and investors flow to areas with the best amenities. But cultural strategies do not reverse the hierarchies of place that lead to competition for distinctive segments of capital and labor—competition that is often perceived in terms of image. Indeed, cultural strategies suggest the utter absence of new industrial strategies for growth, i.e. the lack of local strategies that have any chance of success in attracting traditional productive activity.”
On visual strategies:
“Despite their reliance on governmental controls, visual strategies nonetheless tend to move the framing of public culture away from government and toward private spheres. The neighborhood groups involved in visual strategies are often ‘nonpolitical’: they do not represent the ‘material’ interests of tenants or homeowners or workers or people of color. Yet visual strategies, especially historic preservation, have impressed non hegemonic no less than powerful groups with their ability to do something concrete, like raising property values. The combined material and symbolic effects of visual strategies have, then, democratized to some degree the desire to use culture for material or social ends.”
For what this delicate little plant needs more than anything, besides stimulation, is freedom
জ্ঞান যেথায় সীমিত, বুদ্ধি সেথায় আড়ষ্ট, মুক্তি সেখানে অসম্ভব
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