An orientation into metropolitan arrogance, informed ignorance, and blind privilege [Welcome to the school of oriental and african studies]
In my first week at soas I was talked at by a Belgian man who trying to school me on the major postcolonial authors
[Firstly, you got the wrong MC]
This cat: Edward Said- do you know him?
He wrote a book called orientalism
Fanon- did you know that he was influenced by CLR James’ ideas?
[Secondly, are you kidding me?]
Then this cat starts to tell me about some master’s dissertation he wrote on the Rwandan genocide
When I asked him who he read he couldn’t cite a single African scholar of the topic
I asked this cat – did you read Mamdani’s book, when victims become killers? I believe its quite an important perspective on the creation of so-called tribal identities in Rwanda and how that contributed to the genocide…
Mamdani, Mahmoud Mamdani…
He’s a really important contemporary African scholar who has made significant contributions to rethinking the impact of colonialism on African identities, as well as on contemporary social and state formations
Belgian cat- interesting, I will have to read about him
In my first week at soas I walked out of a music performance
‘Music performance’ doesn’t quite cut it but I’m not sure that I have any of the relevant language to explain this incident. Ironic thing is that this incident took place on the same stage as a potent poetry recitation by a woman who spat fire about contemporary white appropriation of ‘Indian-ness’ in relation to both her own experience of being ‘othered’ for wearing the very same things that are now being appropriated by hip white women, and by referring to the historical repression and domination of Indian identities through the processes of British imperialism and colonialism
Back to the irony
Back to the ‘music performance’
The performer: a middle-aged, white man wearing flowy clothes, apparently an expert on Indian classical music
He also teaches if anyone wants lessons
The performance: an improvised vocal performance based on a particular tradition or raga
I watched for about five minutes while
This guy closed his eyes
One hand playing the tanpura
Other hand outstretched
Gesturing along with the improvised guttural vocals
I looked around… it appeared that I was the only one seriously unsettled by this display of blatant, and in my opinion, quite obscene example of appropriation
Then I left.
In my first week at soas I sat cringing, partly dying, in a class when a white german woman told us about how she didn’t know why but she felt really happy after helping refugees at home
And they were always so humble
I was done.
What the fuck am I dealing with here?
How can a place, supposedly so radical, so forward, so progressive, so supposedly steeped in postcolonial scholarship, breed such radical self-UNawareness?
Whiteness masquerading under the cover of diversity
Diversity makes white liberals feel really good about themselves but somehow not the rest of us
Diversity, I hate that word more and more everyday
Maybe my next piece will be ‘diversity discourse and the hidden agenda of cultural domination’
Welcome to soas