Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

 Love and Anger in Postcolonial Being

| 7 Comments

Let’s start this simply and build towards complexity, shall we?

Take gender

It is absolutely possible to be feminist and to still love (some) men

It is absolutely possible that your feminism makes you more hyperaware of oppression of women, in the macro world and in the micro sense. It’s almost inevitable that it will make you (at least occasionally) angry at all men and particularly men you love. It is likely to become an interesting and complex issue when dealing with men who have less power than you (a woman) because of things like race, class, socioeconomic status, authority in a context like a classroom, etc. Call it intersectionality or poststructuralism or just plain keeping your eyes open to complexity.

No matter, what, most women will still end up loving some men. Some of those are oppressors of other women (malignant or benign). So,e of them are even oppressors of that particular woman, because often, a woman’s love is the thing that allows a man to oppress her. Not coz of her love, but coz the relationship is often patriarchal (father, husband, brother). 

I believe you can be angry at patriarchy and behavior of some men, but still love some men despite it, and still recognize that some men are LESS sexist than others and to appreciate that. I even wrote about it once! (Can’t find the post!)

All-male panels are bad, but not because the men on them are bad (well sometimes, but not always). They are bad because they imply the organizer could not think of enough women who were good enough to be on those panels. Once you become aware of this, it is hard to not seee it any more. However, we know that some fields really are dominated by men, and to find women would be hard. My rule is to look at the audience and see if the makeup of the aidience is similar to the makeup of the panel. If not, to check if anyone in the audience seems qualified enough to be on the panel, if that is the case, then there is a problem.

 It is important to differentiate between narrowness in a field and narrowness in the field of vision. Sometimes the problem is that fields are dominated by men (e.g. Some engineering). Other times it is our fault for only recognizing the men in that field.

Now moving onto postcoloniality, ok?

First of all, postcolonialism has been accused of being the work and perspective of the postcolonial scholar who is him or herself already auite Westernized. Think about it. To be heard, one needs to write in a dominant world language. Also, to even feel the pain of postcoloniality, being in frequent contact with colonialism or remnants of colonialism hells. The more Westernized you are, the more likely you are to find yourself in that situation where you recgonize your postcolonial identity. Because the Westernized are elites in their home context, it’s a big sjoft, you onow? So it’s visible…once you start noticing it.

As with gender, anger at colonialism and neocolonialism can happen while we:

  1. Admire the culture and technology of the colonizer
  2. Continue to live in the world of the colonizer and speak their language
  3. Love some colonizers very much
  4. Recognize that individuals are not responsible for the past or the policies
  5. Recognize and appreciate that some of those of colonizer descendancy are indeed aware of things like white privilege and try their best to be sensitive, to be advocates, to be allies (see Jamieson Miller’s post). Though we don’t as postcolonials necessary need to feel we need allies more powerful than ourselves
  6. Recognize the power that comes to the postcolonial person of allying themselves to the dominant people in a context

So while I write about postcolonialism with other postcolonials, I write about ed tech with largely white people. While I recognize that the field of ed tech is largely Western and white and male, I try to find those who are not (i.e. Not Wesrern, not white, not male, or any combo of the above like me).

Turns out that in our niche of digital pedagogues (whom I comsider ot be people at the radical edgess of ed tech) there aren’t many people like me with my “status”: not only non-Western/non-white, but also not even living in a Wesrern country. By “status” I mean my social media presence. Because there are so few, it means the leading voices are largely white and male. But most of these are “allies” and people I love.

Let’s talk about me

Fact. Every degree I hold is from a Western educational institution, high school through bachelors thru masters and PhD.

Fact. This makes my credentials more credible inside Egypt

Fact. To be considered a sucessful scholar in my field, international recognition is important

Fact. I look out for non-white non-male “allies” and collaborators and occasionally succeed in getting them, but their interests won’t necessarily coincide with my current research interests.

Fact. I work at the American University in Cairo . People kinda like Americans. Egyptians kinda like blondes. It’s normal.

Let’s talk about you

It has been pointed out to me on several occasions that I invite white, Western males to campus or to online stuff. Despite all my postcolonial writing. So listen up

  1. The field is narrow. I can’t help it that George Siemens and Stephen Downes created the first MOOC, but I can recognize powerful contributions of people like Audrey Watters, Bonnie Stewart, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Cathy Davidson to the field. I appreciate work of others like Adeline Koh and Anamarie Peres to the field. And look who i invited to be guest contributors to Digital Writing Month (intentional diversity).
  2. I can’t help that Hybrid Pedagogy’s readership, authorship and editors are mostly white. But it is maybe the only journal of its kind and they/we try hard to include other voices, and elevate them. Yes I am the only non-white postcolonial being on the editor team, but look at the lineup for Digital Pedagogy Lab facilitators this year.
  3. I don’t want to contiuously be an “only lonely” In the field (privilege and curse) – sometimes the best ways to do it is to invite non-dominant others into conversation with allies who have power and magic can happen if we care for inclusion and social justice

If I had to list all the people behind my visibility and success in the ed tech field, they are mostly white men. Jesse Stommel, Dave Cormier, Jim Groom, Pete Rorabaugh, Howard Rheingold. They noticed me, talked to me, talked about me, and let me in, and people  listened. There were women, too, in smaller ways, like Bonnie Stewart, Mia Zamore, Mimi Ito, Audrey Watters.

Ya can’t ask em to apologize for being white, or ask me to apologize for basking in that attention.

So… Ahead of Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo…if you ask me why so many white facilitators, I will say that these are among the kindest most generous white people i know, and they are sensitive to social justice in so many ways. Bringing the, here is a way to help expand the conversation on digital pedagogy beyond the Western world. And I am co-facilitating so it’s not an all-white team. The audience is mixed because many come from American universities  and are themslves American or European (Don’t get me started on how much easier it was for them to get into Cairo than it was for Pakistanis and Syrians). But many are new to this conversation and hopefully it will expand after the coming week.

And now… I can’t wait to meet my friends Bonnie, Jessse, Sean and also Amy. Here is hoping that over the next year, the digped convo becomes more and more diverse.

7 Comments

  1. Dear Maha,

    http://tachesdesens.blogspot.fr/2016/03/dear-maha.html

    Good luck for Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo.

    Bravo for all your work.

    Simon

  2. Love AND anger, Maha. This piece is still working in me so my response now can only be partial, incomplete. I feel your pent up frustration being given space and release. Healthy for you, healthy for all of us. Because even if we can *see* the very things about which you speak, the layers of meaning, significance and processing will vary based on our individual intersections of identity and the space we occupy right now.
    Precisely your position as organizing host of DigiPed Lab Cairo has significance. On the one hand there is the power of invitation and of making specific requests of your invitees. On the other there is that aspect of hospitality – of welcoming guests, attending to their well being, the caring role. I think there is and must always be some degree of tension between these twin aspects of a role like yours and in many ways it strikes me as a simplified stand in for the tensions we as the bridgebuilders who live at these intersections of identity are constantly navigating in every form of dominant culture.
    Taking the role of host becomes a political act and we have options to use our role to create what we feel the situation requires and will yield favorable outcomes on multiple levels, not just one. It’s not about the volume of clicks or outside recognition, it’s a multitude of factors of whom did we engage, whose voices were dominant, how was space created for new or otherwise marginalized voices, what kinds of tensions were experienced and by whom… And on and on. This is the work in which you are also engaging and deeply.
    The love that you bring to the relationships which makes a collaborative effort like this even possible is so important to recognize. Love is terribly important here. Without it, I’m not sure that the immediacy and potency of your honesty right here and now would be fathomable in the same fashion. Giving voice to our anger, precisely among those whom we love and cherish is risky, necessary and inevitably fraught. Doing it anyway, and giving it space and acknowledgement opens the door for much deeper conversations we need to be having about our humanity in the midst of our digital lives. Thank you for ushering in this event with the real topic at hand: who we are and how we (get to) do what we do and in which contexts.

  3. Maha – seriously, is anybody challenging you about this? I’d have thought that anybody who knows you would know how passionate you are about including marginalised voices. The folk you’ve invited rock. YOU rock. Enjoy DigPed Lab Cairo all of you xx

  4. My first response to the people who trouble me with their often unacknowledged position of privilege is to declare them overly involved in the closed environment of their self. Second up is a lack of appreciation for others. Both are a position of declaring defeat by the shortcomings I place on others.
    Still… people who cause me hurt MUST have SOME defects because I’m not THAT dis-likable. Nor are they THAT bad. Its obvious where we learn the bad things–its all around us. But how do we unlearn? And why do we make such a big deal when asked to discard habits that hurt others?

  5. Hi Maha, you asked for comment and I’ve been thinking a bit about all of this, partly because I’m also thinking about a separate question that was raised for me at a similar time, but in a different context, about how we measure and value diversity in organisational settings.

    I feel the problem arises in a practical sense because we are asked to think of identity as both fluid and fixed. It makes sense to me to think about my own identity as a practice that operates within constraints, so on that basis it also makes sense to me that this identity practice both shifts of its own accord, and shifts as I move between different constraining situations (that themselves change over time).

    None of this is at all contentious. But it does mean that when for operational purposes we try to fix someone else’s identity and to settle in a fair way with our shared context, something vibrates anxiously in the universe in which identity is fluid. Sometimes this is expressed as discontent, friction, objection. Sometimes just a whispering sense of worry. Sometimes a defence against all of these, wherever they come from.

    The only way forward is to keep returning to our reflexivity as thinkers. Who are we, where do we stand at the moment? Who is around us, where do they stand? The balance of power in all of these relational ways of thinking will constantly unsettle, reassemble itself, unsettle again.

    Thank you for writing this thought provoking set of statements. Privilege is what it is.

    Take care
    Kate

  6. After reading (and talking to you about ) this blog post, Maha, I was reminded of it on my way into the office this morning, when I heard an NPR radio interview with the American poet, Nicki Giovanni, who read her poem, “Nikki-Rosa” which ends with these lines:

    “and I really hope no white person ever has cause

    to write about me

    because they never understand

    Black love is Black wealth and they’ll

    probably talk about my hard childhood

    and never understand that

    all the while I was quite happy”

    I’m not finding the podcast at NRP to link you (all) to, unfortunately, because in the interview Giovanni speaks directly to the Maha (your) idea of acceptance (as alternative to what Giovanni terms “revenge.”)

  7. Alan, found an older recording of Nikki-Rosa here: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/weekly-poem-nikki-rosa/

    I’m curious about the ideas of acceptance and revenge.

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