Things to Look at...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Activism Blog 3

Athia Choudhury
Professor Tweed
WST 4415
3 April 2011

I'm writing this now with dirt still under my fingernails. My face is swollen red like a pregnant berry and I know parts of my body that haven't been used in ages are going to ache like hell tomorrow. But it feels good--the kind of aching that reminds you that you're human and finite--the sort of thing you forget when you're only ever stretching your intellectual muscles. Today we went to the Fellsmere Community Garden to help the Farm Workers Association with some labor output. I turned soil, learned how to layer with leaves and fertilizer, planted, pulled weeds, attempted to build nestling-like things for tomato plants, and whatever else they needed me to do. It was an overall success. Though, I feel like we failed at being on time (there were extenuating circumstances that we couldn't help/prepare for). My parents have always taught me that punctuality is a sign of respect--respect for other people and respect for yourself. I hope that we didn't offend our community partner by being late. They seemed very understanding and happy that we made it.

On another note, I finished the SL Showcase application (which has been approved) and failed at leading the symposium. It...was a tragedy and I'd like to bracket that off to the furthest recesses of my brain so I don't spiral into a deep depression. But I suppose it's important to reflect on our failures as well as our success...Damn.

First, I'll talk about projects that actually happened. The conditions at the garden are nothing at all like what a farmworker goes through. We worked at our own pace, had proper equipment, access to clean water and bathrooms and snacks. Plus, there wasn't a threat of a crew leader, pesticides, violence, sexual assault (etc) and the space had a positive energy the entire time. However, this is an example of how a community uses the skills it acquires through the disenfranchised and displaced body to actively engage the outside community with their discourse. Farming is tough shit and should garner so much respect, but many people can't realize this until they feel the heat of the sun on their neck and blisters forming on their hands.

Every time I think of the Symposium, I turn sour--at myself, at my classmates. We failed to organize, to compromise, to support one another. How do women do this on a global/intraregional scale if we can't even model it in a classroom setting? How do transnational organizations overcome communication barriers and identity politics to further anti-oppression campaigns when I can't figure out how to do it between 13 people? My initial fears of us not being able to overcome our self-fragmentations resulted in failed projects that weren't directly sponsored by our community partners. I know that I have failed, personally, to overcome these things.

Were we not motivated enough? Did we allow our differences to manifest and swell in unhealed wounds until, ultimately, our bodies were rendered incapacitated?It feels as though the lack of communication between ourselves fell into the trap of "a conversation of "us" with "us" and "them" is a conversation in which "them" is silenced. "Them" always stands on the other of the the hill, naked and speechless, barely present in its absence" (67). We divided amongst ourselves and worked at any given time as oppressor/oppressed bodies. What all of these women's organizations that we've read about so far have in common is that people needed to mobilize--for survival, for a future. They have a personal stake in the matter. But we forget that we do have a personal stake. We are a part of those people over there, because this story is constantly unfolding and we are just a part of the narrative.


What I felt was most rewarding was getting to know some of the farmworkers. They made it very clear that each community faced different issues and that they weren't acting as Native Informants. Rather, they were acting as concerned human beings who see injustice and fight against it because they feel personally invested.

I think I've learned the most this semester from the failure of the symposium. I have to check myself and the ways in which I interact with the people I work with and the community. Critical self-reflection is always the first step, right?

Be well, always.

Word Count: 720
Work Cited

Trinh, T. Minh-Ha. Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989. Print.

P.S. I'm really sorry if this seems jumbled, but I had a deadline to reach and I just got home from manual labor all day. I think this goes back to what Audre Lorde has always said about writing--that it's a privilege because only certain people can afford to do it. You know, how there'd be plenty more Brontes in the world if people didn't have to worry about the invisible costs of writing, didn't have to worry about the work which makes writing possible.
P.P.S. Sorry for the long first 'P.S.'

Activism Blog 2

Athia Choudhury
Professor Tweed
WST 4415
27 March 2011

Saturday. It was pitch black when my alarm went off and as though my limbs carried a direction of it's own, I started getting ready. So often, I had that feeling of mechanical motion. What I didn't realize was that what started off as mere movement would gather momentum and I would soon be toppled over by rambunctious toddlers with big smiles and flailing arms. For the W2W conference, I was assigned to childcare and I couldn't have been happier. We played games and blew bubbles and bingo-ed all afternoon with 18 wonderful kids (who were a handful, to be honest). There were a few older kids there that appeared "too cool" to play our games, but they eventually came around. Talking to the older kids was particularly compelling for me, because my little sister is their same age. I asked them about school and what kind of classes they liked and music and friends and everything in between. What I found interesting was that all three of them answered Math and Science were their favorite subjects. I think the maths and sciences are important, but I've also been a firsthand witness to how kids from minority/immigrant families are pushed towards that direction in order to establish a masculine credibility. I wanted to know what they really loved, but at the same time, I needed to check myself to be sure I wasn't projecting my own experiences onto them. Whatever their reasons, I only wish them happiness and success in their academic and personal lives.

Even though I was playing with kids all day, I felt the greater pull of what the conference was attempting to do--which is create a safe-space and community for the farmworker women. Despite there being language barriers, we seemed to understand each other on an entirely different level. I appreciated the trust that we were able to develop with the mothers and children who seemed at first hesitant about our presence. We more or less modeled what Swider would call "a creative hybrid of both [labor unions and feminist organizations/women's movement] forms, one I suggest is best seen as a new type entirely: a woman's alternative economic organization" (117). The conference, as a whole, combined political/economical/social strategies to fight displacement and oppression with interpersonal relationships and coalition/community building. What I felt was most important to realize is that "women have multiple identities and historically contingent positions that organizers need to take into account" (129). I feel that Jenn (our community partner) did a wonderful job of that.

I feel small-- and that is in the best of ways. I have been humbled by my own privilege, because that privilege was used in ways that enabled women to build bridges and relieve others of their burdens for even a little while. Something about this smallness has allowed me to inhabit spaces differently, and through that bodily risk, I've been shaped into someone new.

Be well, always.

Word Count: 500 (EXACT)

Work Cited
Swider, Sarah. "Working Women of the World Unite? Labor Organizing and Transnational
Gender Solidarity among Domestic Workers in Hong Kong." Global Feminism: Transnational
Women's Activism, Organizing, and Human Rights
. By Myra Marx. Ferree and Aili Mari. Tripp.
New York: New York UP, 2006. Print.

Activism Blog 1

Athia Choudhury
Professor Tweed
WST 4415
18 March 2011


The week was long. Drawn out. Like the types of breathes you take trying to stay alive. I was holding in the heat like a fish stick, really, with all the planning. Planning. That's all I ever seemed to do these days. Earlier in the week (Tuesday), I had made a few phone calls to different venues to see where we could host the symposium; I was hopeful of Blanchard Park or Fort Christmas Park. Something of the idea of being outdoors during the symposium seemed right to me. Like we could get back in touch with the land and people if we were bodily present. I also started gathering research for a pamphlet I want to make and confirmed with Heather that I'd take care of the SL Showcase application. I suppose my success is that I was able to make phone calls at all. Phones calls use to petrify me as a child. Dialing numbers, speaking clearly--calmly-- into the phone so my voice could transmit over miles and lifetimes was something that always freaked me out; being there but never really being there. The problem is, I don't feel very united in my organizing. Whether this can be said on a global/local scale, I wouldn't know. People have broken off pieces of projects to work on in small/individual groups and we rarely make contact if only for moments at a time. I suppose that's what happens when you juggle the immediacy of your life with the significance of your projects. Priorities, I remind myself.

I have been bad with building a community up until this point and it's the kind of guilt that rots you from the inside out. Building communities are just as important as creating coalition spaces, but by fragmenting the work we need to do (for the sake of getting it done) and not really staying in communication with one another, has led to a disconnect. I don't even know what most people are doing and it's mostly my own fault. In the larger global discourse, I understand how small autonomous groups are effective (especially after this week's reading), but within in the context of this class, I think it's debilitating. We aren't working within or around difference, but rather, are working in the afterglow of our own sameness. I feel that we haven't developed a proper network, which by definition is "characterized by the flow of information and services among members" (Mendez 130). Though we are ultimately united by a common goal, we're struggling to find commonality amongst ourselves.

From this week, I've only felt pseud-productive, like I'm grasping to do things but missing the heart where it counts, missing the creativity. But I'm also realizing how radical change is slow and painful. Maybe we're still using the same techniques that have always been used. In that respect, we're not being as effective as we can. We're relying on the same tired college activism--tabling, movie nights, awareness campaigns. But I know we have to work within the system because globally, "interpretation of transformative resistance toward a more nuance approach to opposition that is critical, but also calls attention to the points of impact and influence of these women's lives" is more effective (Mendez 123). I would just like to see more creativity (on my part, especially).

Be well, always.

Word Count: 557
Work Cited
Mendez, Jennifer B. "Creating Alternatives from a Gender Perspective: Transnational Organizing for Maquila Workers' Rights in Central American." Women's Activism and Globalization: Linking Local Struggles and Transnational Politics. By Nancy A. Naples and Manisha Desai. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

P.S. I know what a Work Cited is suppose to look like, but I've literally been sitting her for 24 minutes trying to format it properly. It. Is. NOT. Working. Alas, I must give up on it before I got batshit crazy in this place.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Activism Blog 4

Athia Choudhury
Professor Tweed
WST 4415
8 April 2011

I've just gotten back from work--clothes stained, smelling like pizza and beer. Every college boy's fantasy, right?

This week has been a wrap-up of all of the projects that we've done this semester. Translation: I'm finally beginning to catch my breath and truly reflect on all the things that happened--the good, the bad, and the gut-wrenchingly painful. We've also been negotiating how to do our SL Showcase presentation. It's kind of a blood bath, but not nearly as dramatic. Basically, no one has died yet. All I know is that I'm going to put together a powerpoint presentation in case one of the presenters would like to use it.

I'm finding myself fixed in certain ways and swallowing down hypocrisy is bitter. I can't hold my words down. I glorify community/coalition building and honest dialogue, but I'm unable to communicate what I find problematic to my classmates. I've participated in isolating and alienating people willing to build a community with me based solely on my discomfort and irritation. You just don't get it. You don't understand what you're doing. But I've been wrong. Though it's not my responsible to educate others (it's a personal/individual responsibility one must take on motivated by a willingness to recognize/utilize one's privileges in ways that will benefit the displaced/oppressed/marginalized bodies), I am in a way privileged by the academic resources I've been exposed to.

Ann Russo wrote in 1983 that "issues in representation, accountability, responsibility, and equal sharing of power and control continue to be major problems in feminist organizing"(301). I figure she might be some kind of demigoddess. We're still there. Still struggling with the same damn issues and it's been modeled perfectly in this classroom space that can't even being to expand into a global/transnational dimension. Maybe this is part of the process. Maybe this is us fluxing into the types of people we want to be at any given moment. Because I know we're all trying. I wish that we were more willing to decenter ourselves to reorientate. It's still very true that the burden of educating people of privilege falls on the disadvantaged, but if we shift the focus on oppression to the oppressor/systemic operations of the oppressor body, then we are forced "to look power directly in the face, and when we do that there is less room for denial, guilt, and paternalism in trying to change it, since it shifts focus..." (299).

You learn more from failures than successes, people say. And I'm sure it's true but that doesn't make me any happier about it. I'm trying to be more aware of how I engage with people. I'm going to try and direct love and care (in the Heideggerian sense) towards people I'm struggle to create pro-woman/pro-feminist spaces with.

Be well, always.

Word Count: 517

P.S. It's really fucking hard.

Work Cited
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, Ann Russo, and Lourdes Torres. ""We Cannot Live Without Our Lives": White Women, Antiracism, and Feminism." Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1991. Print.


I'm going to re-post all of my other activism blogs on this blog. When I get a chance. But they're here. Promise.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Inside the Meat Machine...

The article I found is called Inside the Meat Machine: Food, Filth, and (in)Fertility in Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats. The article examines the juxtaposition of human bodies with animal flesh and what that means in terms of gender, sexuality, race and class. Monica Chui posits that Ozeki's novel demonstrates how food pollution travels; is ingested through bodies--circulating transnationally, and operating in ways that perpetuate marginalized bodies of the displaced characters within the novel (which are mostly women/minorities). She begins to pose more questions about the correlations between meat and prostitution, race and gastronomy, women and food, fattening cattle and fertility—until she comes to her main thesis which is concerned with “what human bodies and animal bodies incorporate” (113). For much of the article she concentrates on how— for many South Asian women facing the prospects of marriage—purging meat is a significant symbolic/literal sign of distress and resistance. She links this to the actions of our purging-protagonist who struggles to situate herself in her marriage and social life by defining her in terms of rebellion. In this sense, Chui argues, it is an act that reaffirms her individuated personal and sexual self-hood and confirms an aversion to men—men being linked explicitly to meat. She argues that for Ozeki, meat is linked to sex, sexism and an industrial complex that enables maleness to dominate in the capitalist environment. It also symbolizes the occident creeping into the cultural practices of the orient in order to devour global trade options.

Be well, always.


Word Count: 252

Work Cited

Chiu, Monica. "Inside the Meat Maching: Food, Filth, (in)fertility in Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats." Filthy Fictions: Asian American Literature by Women. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 2004. Print.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

SL Proposal

1. Contact Information:

  • Working to Raise Awareness and Involvement for the Migrant Workers of
  • The Farmworkers Association of Florida
  • Athia Choudhury
  • 10 February 2011

2. Community Partner/Global Theme Profile:

· 1264 Apopka Boulevard,

Apopka, Florida, 32703

Telephone 407-886-5151

Heather Graves will liaison between the different sectors of our class organization as well as with the Apopka branch of The Farmworkers Association of Florida.

Our research for this project will bring us to the heart of intersectionality. We will look at how the operating system of the dominant hegemonic culture works in ways that marginalize and isolate individuals (and groups of people from specific ethnicities and backgrounds) in the migrant farmworker community. It will force us to grapple with how systematic oppression propagates environmental racism, classism, and sexism. We will critically examine and apply theories found within the framework of global and transnational “feminist” agendas which range from critical race theory, environmental ethics, postcolonial theory, the politics of access and the problematic nature of ownership and entitlement of bodies and land. We will see how “dimensions of power and inequalities of access and resources must be recognized and addressed” (Desai & Naples 4) specifically with the migrant farmworkers of Apopka. Due to the (un)natural frost that has befallen us, many farmworkers have found themselves without work—further displaced in a system that values their bodies as commodification for the working machine of (slave)agriculture. Farmworkers Association of Florida represents workers from Haitian, Latin, and African-American groups which have been historically denied access to certain rights and privileges by the agricultural industry. The conditions in which they live are unacceptable and must be addressed with loving hands.

Farmworkers Association of Florida’s states on their website: “The goal is to build a strong multi-racial economically viable organization of farmworkers in Florida empowering farmworkers to respond to and gain control over the social, political, economic, and workplace issues that affect their lives.” These are the terms on which we begin our project.

3. The Project Proposal:

· Our project will center around three (relatively ambitious) needs in our community that stretches its limbs from local to global. (1) We will work in conscience-raising efforts on and off campus to inform the public and our peers about the atrocious/oppressive agricultural system that provides us with most of our produce at the expense of other’s exploitation. (2) We will fundraise for supplies and monetary donations for our project partner. (3) We will work with women within the farmworker community to promote agency, empowerment and support.

· We will break down our efforts into four categories as follows:

1. Conscious-raising: Here we will concentrate on table events both on campus and off campus. We will do so at various farmers markets throughout the area (this can simultaneously be used as a means for fundraising). Depending on which issues we feel need to be addressed immediately and within that specific space (and which issues we feel should be addressed at the symposium), we’ll need to make up fliers, pamphlets, posters, etc. We can have groups of people working on researching specific details and facts. We will also distribute advertisements for the symposium so that we can get a mix of students and non-students. This will be a good “teaching” exercise for many of us because it calls for us to engage with people in our community about these very important local/global issues. It is also important for us to work directly with the migrant farmworkers in order to attempt to understand their actual displacement thru their temporalities so that we are not acting as the benevolent ruler.

2. Symposium: We will vote on two (possibly three) areas of concentration. The following are viable options:

· The displacement of environmental racism

· Legal rights for immigrant women as it pertains to violence against them

· Pesticides and immigrant women’s agency over their bodies

· Isolation and (in)visibility of immigrant women

· Lack of accessibility to education, healthcare, etc.

· Child labor laws effecting immigrants

o We must first contact the venue in order to set a date and time. From there, we can begin organizing the details of the actual event. We will also need to do extensive research on the topic to perhaps present individual/group papers, pamphlets, fliers, creative works, etc. The event will consist of workshops, panel discussions, and various activities that are linked to the issues we wish to address. This will be discussed in further detail once we break into smaller concentrated groups that are interested in aforementioned issues.

3. Women to Women Conference: We will help them in any way that they need us to. As far as we know right now, they need donations of the following items:
shampoo/conditioner full size
hard lotion
shower gel
bar soap
tooth paste and brush
sun block
hair brush/comb
hair clips
nail files
hand sanitizer

We will also help them work the conference the day of so that there will be presence of UCF students on site.

4. Fund-raising: For the most part, fund-raising will go hand in hand with conscious-raising. We can collect monetary donations on and off campus while simultaneously making global issues visible. However, we can also encourage a donation drive on campus and perhaps at local businesses. We can even take donation letters to grocery stores to see if they will donate non-perishable items & toiletries.

· This project is important for the collective body—the “you” plurals where we move away from “what is perceived…through his language and despite it, is either the Same and the Same, or the Same versus the Other” (Minh-ha 53). We attempt to shed the weight of this dichotomous thinking and grow into a phenomenology of experience where we share in sacred and profound moments with migrant farmworkers; working on an anti-oppression campaign which addresses the issues of race, gender, environment and class. When we focus on issues grounded in combating systematic oppression, we begin to world travel. By combining care and compassion with creativity, we “perform disidentification” where “these identities-in-difference emerge from a failed interpellation within the dominant public sphere” (Munoz 7). In doing so, we are creating a space that does not submit to (white)male-centric, heteronormativity.

· The infrastructure of our class organization is made up of several interchangeable groups. Individuals will decide on which one of our subgroups (described above) they would like to work most closely with, though they are not limited to one. Since we wish to accomplish a lot, everyone is expected to participate/dedicate themselves to the project(s). This will be further articulated and formulated once everyone is able to review other’s SL proposal. Those who neglect their duties will face five days chained to the stock. Well, maybe not (they will face the reprimand/disappointment from the class. Public shaming is such an effective tool to coerce bodies to fall in line…kidding). As peers we do not have legitimate authority over our classmates nor should we exercise a power over autonomous beings when we wish to create a space founded on respect. The only person who is actually in a position to “discipline” a student would be the professor.

· Tentative Schedule: created by Kendall.

· W2W Conference Plan of Action:

o i. February 11 - Heather will contact community partner for
conference date and times participants are needed

o ii. February 15 - A signup sheet for will be made for those
willing and able to participate

o iii. February 17 – Car-pooling arrangement will be made for
participants who need transportation

o iv. February 18 - Heather will inform community partner of projected

o v. Conference Day - Participants will volunteer at conference

· Symposium

o i. The Symposium would take place in Apopka as to allow women
to attend so transportation would not be an issue. (*This is negotiable)

o ii. Fliers and information packets could be handed out before, during
and after the symposium to raise awareness for not only the women but
also the community at large.

I will be working most closely with organizing the symposium with Gumbs. This entails a lot—finding/organizing a venue, setting the structure of the event, finding guest speakers, working on literature, figuring out transportation, etc. I am also interested in working on the literature that we need to distribute as well as volunteering my time at the W2W conference.

Works Cited

"The Farmworker Association of Florida." The Farmworkers' Website. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. .

Jose, Munoz Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: The University of Minneapolis Press 1999. Print.

Naples, Nancy A., and Manisha Desai. Women's Activism and Globalization: Linking Local Struggles and Transnational Politics. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

Trinh, T. Minh-Ha. Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989. Print.

Word Count: 1,361

P.S. REALLY sorry about the word count...