Of Culture and Context


In July, our community recognized the politics of gender, by recognizing my work alongside the deeply thoughtful art of my dear friend, D’lo. In a moment where culture bears an unfair share of the burden for repression and violence (absolving others from accountability) — we had the unique opportunity to present our notion of culture as fluid — something constantly conforming to new contexts, able to embrace new norms and emerging identities. Our conversation on this inside revealed a new generation of Tamil youth who are, consciously, positioned to both interrogate and defend the culture that defines them.

In her work, Tamil activist, author, translator and scholar Meena Kandasamy continually navigates the minefields of culture, creating new political pathways along the way. My review of her work appears in the inaugural issue of  Antyajaa: Indian Journal of Women and Social Change, and is available here.

@ViceNews: Amid Terrorism Fears, Signs Appear of a Rift Between Young Muslim and Black Women

This piece examines the tensions between young women activists caught between intersecting identities and polarized politics. Women who are all, “at risk of surveillance and police brutality — whether they cover their heads with a hijab or a hoodie”

The full piece can be found on Vice News: https://news.vice.com/article/amid-us-terrorism-fears-signs-appear-of-a-rift-between-young-muslim-and-black-women

Bodies of Revolution

This December, a number of front line fighters from abroad, and women scholar-activists here in the United States, came together to locate the political through-lines between our struggles against the violence of police, states, and empire. A central theme was the impact of militarization, in its many forms, on marginalized women around the world, including on Tamil women in Sri Lanka. For video clips and NY Times coverage of the day’s conversation, please see the link on V-Day’s Bodies of Revolution page. Edited transcripts were also published at Guernica Magazine.

The Forever Victims? The Dangers of Victimizing Tamil Women

In a global moment where the conversation around sexual violence is both incessant and remarkably over-simplified, this report,The Forever Victims Tamil Women in Post-War Sri Lanka, is a snapshot study by myself and Dr. Kate Cronin-Furman that attempts to disrupt prevailing narratives on the position, and politics, of Tamil women. As Sri Lanka comes up for discussion this month in the United Nations Human Rights Council, we hope this report highlights some of the complexities of daily life for Tamil women.

The Forever Victim

Through a cross-section of direct interviews on the island and additional secondary research from March-July 2015, we find that:

“Women in the north still face the risk of rape and harassment by the security forces present throughout the region, but their lives are even more negatively impacted by the climate of fear and by a worrying uptick in violence against women within the Tamil community. 

The ever-present threat of violence by the military has led women to lead tightly circumscribed lives, limiting their daily activities in order to minimize their risk of sexual assault. Their reduced participation in public life keeps them in the home, where they are increasingly vulnerable to violence at the hands of the men in their lives, many of whom are also struggling with the after-effects of wartime trauma. And the measures taken by the community, by the state, and by international actors to address their needs have only made the situation worse. Hasty marriage for protection, well-being schemes that entail isolation and exposure to state agents, and dis-empowering livelihoods programs have further undermined their economic and political position.”
We are grateful to have the report, and analyses on it’s importance to the conversation on Sri Lanka at a critical moment, covered by Rafia Zakaria, Meena Kandasamy, and in recent media appearances on Al Jazeera.


@ViceNews : ‘I Don’t Know Why We Come': Inside the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women

Midtown New York for the past two weeks has been a colorful place, as thousands of concerned women from all over the world have been attending the annual session of the United Nations Committee on the Status of Women. The older attendees came with hopes of recreating the “fire” — as one activist put it — that pulsed through them in Beijing 20 years ago, when the Beijing Platform for Action on women’s issues was created. The younger ones came with hopes of joining an inter-generational revolution.

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