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Rethinking Global Citizenship | From Here
Transcript of Rethinking Global Citizenship | From Here
ONE. The Ethics of Global Citizenship: A Student's Perspective - Naoko Hoshi
TWO. Who are the Champions? - Kurosh Amoui
THREE. A Global Community of Immigrants - Tahira Saaed
FOUR. This is CRAP. Cosmopolitans React Against Poverty | Passport Application - Stef Brasnett
FIVE. In Memoriam - Lindsay Balfour
SIX. "Canada is a Conversation. I'm Sorry, I wasn't Listening": Negotiating Habit, Locality, and Global Citizenship - Emily Kring
SEVEN. How Can I Post These Photos to Facebook? - Carrie Karsgaard
EIGHT. Let Us - David Jefferess 1 Photo by David Jefferess
| From Here White as the Norm African Homecoming Chapter THREE
A Global Community of Immigrants
A proposition of how Global Citizenship could be understood and practiced in Canada
- Tahira Saeed Chapter TWO
Who are the Champions?
- Kurosh Amoui Chapter FOUR
This is C.R.A.P: Cosmopolitans Reacting Against Poverty - Passport Application
- Stef Brasnett Chapter FIVE
- Lindsay Balfour Chapter SIX
“Canada is a Conversation. I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening” (Hoy 10)
Negotiating Habit, Locality, and Global Citizenship
- Emily Kring Kwame Appiah’s “Global Citizenship” and “Kindness to Strangers” both articulate the foundations from which one might understand cosmopolitan identity and practice. Helen Hoy, in How Should I Read These: Native Women Writers in Canada, asserts that often in Canadian scholarship “the [white, colonial] writer is seen as both displacing the Native author and subject and presuming – and, in the process, producing – knowledge of realities at some remove from his or her own” (8). That is, Hoy notes that through their efforts to engage with Indigenous cultures and literatures, non-Indigenous scholars often appropriate the sentiment of their research despite their cultural remove from the spheres they study. Pairing Kwame Appiah’s articulation of cosmopolitanism as “curiosity” (Appiah 168) and Hoy’s analysis of cultural appropriation, I will creatively explore how, as a white Canadian subject, there is not necessarily a locality from which to ethically extend myself globally. How can I profess myself Canadian when travelling abroad without appropriating a tie to place which I do not necessarily have? I must, instead, utilize Appiah’s “curiosity” (168) as an instrument of cosmopolitan self-interrogation. Pairing photos and creative response, I will query how an awareness of my own whiteness, which illustrates the habit of citizenship and identity which Canadian-ness is premised upon, problematizes the easy formula of “universality plus difference” which currently regulates conceptions of global citizenship. In response to photos I have taken throughout the past six years, I pose a series of questions related to identity, whiteness as habit, and the capability of recognition to rupture or reinforce a habit. CAPTION - “the [white, colonial] writer is seen as both displacing the Native author and subject and presuming – and, in the process, producing – knowledge of realities at some remove from his or her own” (8).
It started as a joke – really, it still is – we sat on the ground around a glass table which was dressed in our papers, sipping wine and in-between sighs relating our positions to our research (or lack thereof), to Pandosy and Dilworth and the 97 and that bus stop by the downtown gardens where you (or one, rather, we never do that) can buy a joint in place of a trip down the highway. Whoever said it first just breathed a throaty chuckle into every uncomfortable stare at a textbook page, into every glance at those UBCO street signs with Okanagan writing stamped under ‘Revolution Rd’ - or Research Road, rather. Sitting across me, she put her fingers on her forehead, resting in-between our laughter’s choral echo. Her pointer, middle, and index finger held up on her forehead – a big, pale, ring-clad W. White-girl shame, we called it. When you (or one, rather, do you ever do this?) read an Indigenous analysis and you spend the first read nodding heartily saying “Yeah! YEAH!” and the second going “dear god am I one of the whiteys s/he is destroying with such visceral clauses? I have no right to write about this, no right to write about it!’ That’s White-girl shame. Or guy, really. CAPTION - “Canada is a conversation. I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening” (Hoy 10).
Eden Robinson’s got the best narrative illustration I’ve ever seen (or read, rather, have you read it?) in “Terminal Avenue.” It’s post-colonial sci-fi – dystopian Vancouver, post Indigenous uprisings wherein Indigenous peoples have to carry identity cards with them to leave reserves and enter the vast Canadian metropolises which survived the revolution (interesting, didn’t we hear this before? I think after Red River. Yeah, Riel – they brought in the identity card system then. Inspired Hitler’s interwar and WW2 regime policy towards the Jewish in European Ghettoes) and there’s this S&M club on Terminal Avenue – an Aboriginal man performs for white audiences and shakes his long, long hair. The man’s boss, a white woman, lets him clamp her nipples and torture her while she begs for less/more – really, it’s hard to tell through her helmet. He tortures her til he’s the one crying and she cradles him gently. He asks her if the incident was “one of those white guilt things” (Robinson 544). So, White guilt – white-girl shame. The thing that gets me about “Terminal Avenue” is that his torture is the S to her M – she craves, desires, loves her white guilt – or he thinks it’s white guilt, but really it’s just another way for her to get her fix – to, really, boss him the fuck around and she gets the pain but she knows it’s ‘cause she asked for it. But us, me? The ring-clad “W” on my freckled forehead – do I want this? Did I ask for this – and what should I ask for? To move beyond this guilt? CAPTION - “Whiteness could be described as an ongoing and unfinished history, which orientates bodies in specific directions, affecting how they ‘take up’ space, and what they ‘can do’….A phenomenology of whiteness helps us to notice institutional habits; it brings what is behind to the surface” (Ahmed 149).
How does that joke go? O Canada, our home on natives’ land? And my kitchen, even, now that’s a joke – not like white-girl shame, really, it’s more the kind of ‘Yikes, am I such a voyeur to capture all of these scenes and then stare at them every day while I chop an onion?’ kind of joke. In my kitchen to label every cupboard I’ve tacked a hysterical mishmash of family, vacation, and just-because photos from the past six years. Oft devoid of subjects save for my partner or family, the papers project my travels through my own lens back at me – yet I remain absent from their frames. When abroad my locality – my nationality – is concrete I have an answer to the ad nauseum: “Are you American?” When I respond: “No, Canadian,” and when I receive the nod of acceptance, I wonder: why am I so conceivably Canadian? Beyond my language, my accent – what is it that positions me so? When I am in Canada, unease twists my stomach, and I question why I am able to profess myself Canadian whilst travelling, yet, when I am in the nation, I cannot. My connection to its terrain, its history, is premised upon the history of my whiteness – of cultural genocide. I bite my nails, I crack my knuckles – I’m a bundle of bad habits – when the unease spreads to my skin and settles in. CAPTION - “Cosmopolitanism is about intelligence and curiosity as well as engagement. It requires knowing that policies that I might have supported because they protect jobs in my state or region are part of the answer” (Appiah 168).
It was January and I was coming home; I’d been in Britain visiting my partner and his family for Christmas. An extended relation asked me on Christmas eve about my studies and I’d replied with my plans and with my research – I’d poured my opinions and position into her wine glass. She took a sip and asked what near all humanities majors dread: “Ah…So what can you do with that?” I retreat into silence and she cringes at the aftertaste. I take the question on the plane with me: what can or will I do with this? This position and this habit? We land, and I drag my feet through the terminal. A customs officer grunts: “Citizenship?” My perfunctory reply: “Canadian.” When I reply, I recognize the habit(s) which sustains my Canadian identity while I’m abroad: it is both my whiteness and my mechanical reply to “Where’re you from?” These two actions – the simultaneous recognition of the habit and its performance – collide and I ask: if these habits are how I’m able to globally traverse, how can I rupture them? Perhaps that is what I can do with these studies. How do I negate this figment called nation: a palimpsest of cultural contact at the base of which (my) whiteness rests? When I hand my passport, my cosmopolitan diary, across the counter the guard stares at my identity and makes small-talk: “Oh White Rock, eh? Beautiful place, bet you miss it yeah?” I think again of white-girl shame, of the desire not to appropriate such terrain as my own locality. When there is no locality from which to extend myself, how can this (globalism this cosmopolitan this benevolence this humanitarian interaction) even exist – how can I cultivate it beyond habit – let alone practice it? If Cosmopolitan is about engagement, about curiosity – then when I notice my habit have I truly troubled how my position – the simultaneously source of my shame in Canada and ability to travel abroad – enables me to move, unquestioned, through and across borders? Or have I, instead, recognized the habit and continued its performance? Have I thought whilst chewing on my thumbnail: “This is gross, I should stop”? The guard stamped my booklet, and I re-entered. Works Cited
Ahmed, Sara. “A Phenomenology of Whiteness,” Feminist Theory 8.2 (2007): 149-168. Web. 22 January 2012.
Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “Kindness to Strangers.” Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers: New York: Norton, 2006. 155-74. Print.
Hoy, Helen. How Should I Read These?: Native Women Writers in Canada. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2001. Print.
Robinson, Eden. “Terminal Avenue.” An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English. Ed. Daniel David Moses and Terry Goldie. Don Mills: OUP, 2005. 541-5. Print. KEY to Montage Images
From left to right, top line: My father and myself, Trevi Fountain (Rome, Italy), Sidewalk-Chalk Art Event (London, Ontario), Silverstar Mountain Resort (Vernon, B.C), World Trade Center Memorial (New York, New York), Graffiti collage (Vancouver, B.C). Second line: Grand Canal (Venice, Italy), Vehicular Reclamation Project (Toronto, Ontario), My father’s self-portrait; image refracted in the lake below his fishing boat (Nelson, B.C), West Cordova Street (Vancouver, B.C), Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace (London, U.K), London Eye (London, U.K). Third line: Bruges trees (Bruges, Belgium), Glasgow night lights (Glasgow, Scotland), P&O Ferry (Hull, U.K), Water plants at Parkway Gardens (London, Ontario), Wall Street (New York, N.Y), My mother’s garden (London, ON). Fourth line: Inside the Pantheon (Rome, Italy), Monarch butterfly migrations (Point Pelee, ON), My uncle (left) and father (right), (Nelson, B.C), Highway 97-Connector (Peachland, B.C), Coquihala Highway (Around Hope, B.C), Toronto. Fifth line: Komoka park (London, ON), Camping sunset (Sand Hill, ON), Times Square (New York City, N.Y), Tower Bridge (London, U.K), Galleria Mall (London, ON), Komoka Park (London, ON). Sixth line: My brother (left) and father (right) (Esquimalt, B.C), WW2 Memorial (Gramercy Park, New York City, N.Y), Anglican Cathedral Gardens (Liverpool, U.K), WTC Path Station (New York City, N.Y), Origami flowers (Kelowna, B.C), View from the Belfry Tower (Bruges, Belgium). Chapter EIGHT
- David Jefferess Chapter SEVEN
How can I Post These Photos
- Carrie Karsgaard Introduction Chapter ONE
The Ethics of Global Citizenship:
A Student's Perspective
- Naoko Hoshi Notions of Global Citizenship are ubiquitously encouraged and promoted throughout our campus. Whether it is “going homeless” for five days to raise awareness about poverty and homelessness, or helping to “spread the net” in the Rick Mercer-endorsed campaign of disease prevention in Africa, our campus is saturated with the theme of helping “others.” Aiding “others” is almost always understood as positive, and even noble. Yet what becomes apparent when thinking about Global Citizenship and the university is the immense pressure for students to unquestioningly engage as global citizens in order to further their careers. Who are we really becoming “global citizens” for? As the Ethics of International Engagement and Service Learning (EIESL) project points out, “Motivations [for international service learning] range from a positive desire to promote equity and to work with and for communities, as well as, and sometimes primarily to fulfill a graduation requirement, enhance a resume, and/or secure research funds” (“About”). As a student who has recently applied for graduate studies, I felt (and continue to feel) lots of pressure to engage in lots of on-campus and community work for the purpose of looking like a desirable candidate. The EIESL webpage argues students’ conflicting motivations as the major ethical concern for students engaging internationally. Yet why students are encouraged to engage as global citizens in the first place, and how this engagement is structured, remains largely unquestioned. UBC, like many other large universities, boasts of many opportunities for international engagement—the major being Go Global, in which students are able to research at partner universities, go on an exchange, or engage in “international service learning” (ISL) (“Go Global”). International service learning is the component of the program which most explicitly invokes discourses of development and aid. International service learning opportunities only take place in Africa and Latin America, whereas international exchange and research opportunities are available at UBC's 150 partner universities around the world (“Go Global”). By positioning Africa and Latin America as the only locations for international service learning, the program perpetuates the notion that these areas of the world are in need of “development” and our “service,” while the global north and Canada are already “developed.” As Rasna Warah points out, “the word development itself is fraught with self-negation. As the Mexican economist Gustavo Esteva […] observes, the word serves as a constant reminder to people in the so-called developing world of what they are not - i.e. developed. So almost all the people living in African, Asia and Latin American - regions that are not yet deemed to be “developed” - are assumed to be living in “an undesirable, undignified condition” that they can only escape by becoming “enslaved to other's experiences and dreams”” (8). To even take part in the Go Global program, and particularly International Service Learning, requires a large degree of privilege on the part of the student—current ISL programs range from $2000 to $4000, and take between 12 - 16 weeks (“Go Global”). Students who can afford to be the ultimate global citizen are not only economically privileged, but presumably do not have obligations which would keep them at home, such as work or childcare. These unmarked stipulations, David Jefferess argues, work to produce the position of a global citizen with a disregard and ignorance of material power relations:
“While global citizenship purports simply to identify an ethical philosophy and a politics of identity, the discourse produces the global citizen as a specifically positioned subject that is constituted by the ability to act, and specifically to “make a better world” for, rather than with, Others. Further, this discourse […] normalizes the conditions of privilege that allow some to be in the position to help or “make a difference” (28). While some of the university's initiatives, such as EIESL, attempt to critically question students' motivations for international engagement, Go Global continues to sell ISL as a benefit to the student, as opposed to the beneficiary. The number one reason of the “Top five reasons to be International Service learning” is getting hands-on experience in your field; ISL student Emily Alderson is quoted to illustrate this point: “One year later, my ISL experience has already helped me further my studies. I was accepted to a very competitive summer program run by Johns Hopkins University on conflict prevention, mediation and reconciliation. They told me my application stood out because of my education and my experience in Rwanda. Now that I’ve decided to continue on to graduate school, I hope my Rwanda experience will help those applications stand out too!” (“Go Global”). I began this short musing with concern over why and how students are motivated to become global citizens. Engaging internationally can be of great value to a student, as exemplified by Alderson—it can help one launch their career, and even secure future economic prosperity. And in securing positions of material power, graduates from UBC Okanagan and its various global initiatives will eventually be in the position to have a say in how the world is to be run; UBC has just announced its ranking as 25th among the world's top 100 universities. Of the top 100 universities around the world, only three are located outside of the world's most economically privileged countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia and Germany. These rankings reflect how 'global citizenship' does not necessarily mean that global citizens come from anywhere, but from the world's top universities located primarily in the global North (“Top Universities”). This is not to say that we should abandon the notion of global citizenship altogether. Many of us, living in Canada, are materially bound to various places in the world, particularly through our consumption habits. A quick survey of my apartment reveals bananas from Jamaica, clothing made in India, electronic gadgets from China, and coffee from Africa. Simply boycotting these goods for local goods can ultimately reaffirm a strong discourse of nationalism, as pointed out by theorist Bruce Robbins:
“”[Disgust] with dependence on the work of other people in the home risks passing over into disgust with dependence on the work of other people in general—a disgust with being part of a highly elaborated division of labor. Yet learning to be part of that division is a precondition for almost any progressive politics, nationally and internationally” (92). The relationship we have with others worldwide is not the problem—it is how these relationships are structured unequally, usually to the benefit of “us.”
These are not easy ethical dilemmas to work through. But I believe marking the identity of the ubiquitous global citizen as a position of privilege is an important starting point. As a graduating student, I am being sent off into the world as a ‘global citizen.’ When I told a friend that I would be getting my Master’s in Gender and Women’s Studies, she congratulated me by remarking that I would perhaps be able to go to “Africa, to help women there.” The position of a university graduate is generally one of privilege, and as students we need to be cognizant of the workings of power within our newly acquired identities. Works Cited
“About.” The Ethics of International Engagement & Service-learning Project. University of British Columbia, 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2012.
Go Global. University of British Columbia. Web. 20 Mar 2012.
Jefferess, David. “Global Citizenship and the Cultural Politics of Benevolence.” Cultural Literacy: Theories and Practices 2.1 (2008): 27-36.
Robbins, Bruce. “The Sweatshop Sublime.” PMLA 117.1 (2002): 84-97.
“Top Universities by Reputation 2012.” Times Higher Education University Rankings 2011-2012, 2012. Web. 19 Mar 2012.
Warah, Rasna. “The Development Myth.” Missionaries, Mercenaries, and Misfits: An Anthology. Ed. Rasna Warah. Milton Keynes: Authorhouse, 2008. According to the most recent census data provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Canada is home to a diversity of cultures and ethnicities in increasing numbers. The 2010 figures indicate that there were 280,681 immigrants who landed in Canada. Immigrants originate from various parts of the world and often need information about their new home. The Canadian federal and provincial governments have allocated funds for settlement and adaptation programs throughout the nation to help the immigrants integrate into their new surroundings. CIC defines social integration as an adjustment “into the networks and spaces of civil society, from informal networks of friends and neighbours to membership in more formal organizations” (Canadian Multiculturalism Report 2008 – 2010).
Settling into a new society can become nerve-racking for new immigrant families especially if they are unable to socially interact with the community. The South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS) is funded by the Ministry of Jobs, Innovation & Tourism to deliver the Settlement and Adaptation Program (SAP) in the South Okanagan region. SOICS, among several other BC Multicultural societies, shares the responsibility of integrating diverse immigrants into its community. The agency serves over 1050 immigrants annually and strives to develop activities that are aimed at connecting them with possibilities to learn the culture and norms of their new home. Approximately two years ago, the volunteers and the English Language Services for Adults (ELSA) instructors at SOICS designed a 15-20 minute routine at its annual multicultural event, known as the ‘connectivity’ exercise. The exercise was partially inspired by the ‘six degree of separation’ idea and illustrates that although immigrants in Canada originate from different parts of the globe and have different life experiences, they could attain common ground to connect and develop acquaintances in their new surrounding. Six degrees of separation asserts that a person is a step away from people they know and two steps distant from people known by the people they know. The concept of ‘six degree of separation’ was derived by Stanley Milgram’s ‘small world’ experiment. In 1967, Milgram performed experiments to determine how long it would take to get a letter from one stranger to another. After the results of this test were analyzed, it was determined that the average path length, or the number of connections required to get from one point to another, was approximately 5.5, which rounds up to six. Originally thought to be an urban myth, it now appears that anyone on the planet can be connected in just a few steps of association. SOICS ‘connectivity’ exercise utilized this concept to educate and build connections among the immigrants in the region. The exercise strives to encourage sensitivity among immigrants to value difference in themselves as well as others.
The ‘connectivity’ exercise has the potential to encourage a commitment among immigrants, whereby they are introduced to recognizing and developing connections within the local community, which, when understood and practiced effectively, could eventually lead to understanding the significance of global connections and their own global responsibilities. To practically demonstrate the connectivity routine, ELSA students are requested to position themselves in a circle. The exercise begins by a single student who volunteers to come forward and share three statements about herself/himself. The statements are open to any topic of choice ranging from basic information about personal academic background, current occupation, experience of arrival in Canada, their take on a national news, etc. The student who volunteers to begin is asked to hold a portion of a ball of string while sharing three statements. The ball of string is passed to the next individual who shares an association with one of the three-shared statements. The second person starts by expanding on the initial associations and shares her/his other two statements. The string is passed on to the next person who finds an association with any of her/his three statements. This continues until the entire string is distributed among the students. By the end of the routine, the participants discover that they have formed a spider web-like design. In the beginning of the exercise that I recently witnessed, students were slightly reluctant to comprehend that with each passing of the string, they will be able to find at least a single association, if not more, with their fellow participants’ shared statements. Their level of confidence increased gradually and participants were able to engage with other participants irrespective of their race, gender, age, and class. Moreover, the students realized how individual contributions are connecting them to each other. By the end of the exercise, as the pictures indicate, each person is sharing something with at least two other participants. The exercise broke the barriers among the participants and paved the way to effective interaction with various kinds of differences.
SOICS staff believes that designing such activities engages immigrants from all walks of life and directly addresses resistant attitudes towards cultural differences. The interactions and participants’ reactions pave the way to consider solidarity as a viable notion for addressing the issues of integration and multicultural education for immigrants in Canada. The resulting experiences from such activities also provide further opportunities to build successful cosmopolitan groups within a community. Or in other words, this unique way of uniting differences at a local level could set out to generate and nurture positive attitude towards differences. Connection, Relation and Global Citizenship
This exercise creates a learning environment whereby global citizenship could be understood by immigrants as a means to share their histories, beliefs, and capabilities without compromising their identity. It is a vehicle for promoting the adoption of cosmopolitanism by valuing and generating attributes such as inclusion, tolerance, and respect for the other. Milgram’s study “demonstrated the feasibility of the “small world” technique, and took a step toward demonstrating, defining and measuring inter-connectedness in a large society” (Travers, 441). The idea that new immigrants in Canada are generally no more than six degrees or connections removed from other immigrants is a powerful concept that could resonate with many people who may find themselves struggling in a new environment.
Finding an association with one or more of the participants, via their statements and the corresponding interweaving associations, crystallizes a sense of relationship for immigrants. The exercise promotes positive attributes within the participants on several fronts. First, it indicates that people are capable of making connections with others irrespective of religion, age, gender or their ethnic background. Second, this sense of connection and interaction with other immigrants provides confidence to learn and tackle new things in an unfamiliar territory. Lastly, this inclusive approach paves a way to community building, whereby people are encouraged to embrace a more cosmopolitan perspective towards each other. Conclusion
The Conference Board of Canada estimates that Canada needs 375,000 new immigrants annually in order to stabilize the workforce and ensure economic growth. At the moment the CIC’s range of welcoming immigrants each year is set at 240,000 to 265,000. As these immigrants continue to arrive from all over the globe, it remains vital to establish a common thread among them that could prove beneficial for a greater acceptance of racial diversity and inclusion in Canada. Relocation involves uprooting oneself and essentially starting all over again in a new surrounding, which in itself can become a struggle. By granting residency to applicants, originating from all over the globe, CIC is, in theory, accepting these immigrants along with their values, beliefs, norms, and traditions. Effective communication across cultural boundaries in ‘multicultural’ Canada necessitates appropriate exposure to difference and cultural diversity. It is, therefore, important to design participatory processes, on local and national levels, to engage immigrants in activities and opportunities that could benefit them to integrate in their new home. Photographs by Tahira Saeed, with permission of those depicted.
Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Current State of Multiculturalism in Canada and Research Themes on Canadian Multiculturalism 2008-2010. Web.
Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Facts and Figures. Web.
Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. News Release. Web.
Canada. The Conference Board of Canada. Research Topics: Immigration.
Travers, Jeffrey and Stanley Milgram. “An Experimental Study of the Small World Problem.” Sociometry, 32 (1969):425-443. Web. A public obituary for the 22 men, women and children killed by a U.S. military strike
on January 24, 2009 in Laghman Province, Afghanistan
They cannot be mourned because they are always
already lost or, rather, never ‘were’
Judith Butler, from Precarious Life
A noun. 1. A register of deaths
2. A record or announcement of a death, esp. in a newspaper, usu. comprising a brief biographical sketch of the deceased.
A adjective. 1. Preserving or intended to preserve the memory of a person or thing
2. Remembered; worthy to be remembered, memorable
B noun. 3. A thing, as a monument, a custom, etc., by which the memory of a person, thing, or event is preserved
Register. Remember. Preserve. These words, accredited by the Oxford English Dictionary to define “obituary” and “memorial”, speak to the ways in which loss operates as a matter of social record. Yet if the nature of an obituary is to provide a record of a life, one must ask: which lives can be recorded here? What counts as a life worthy of remembering? It would seem that within dominant discourses of what constitutes a human life, only some deaths are considered losses and some are not even recorded at all. While the 3,000 lives that were lost in the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001 continue to be memorialized, as do the deaths of coalition soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the civilian deaths in these countries continue to go unrecognized and underreported. According to Judith Butler, “[t]here are no obituaries for the war casualties that the United States inflicts, and there cannot be. If there were to be an obituary, there would have to have been a life” (34). How then do we account for the thousands of civilian deaths that come to be remembered as merely “collateral damage”? In his dossier, The Afghan Victim’s Memorial Project, Marc Herold lists the civilian death toll at between 3,100 and 3,600 in just the first 18 months of the War on Terror, a number he attributes to a “low bombing intensity, high civilian casualty campaign” on the part of U.S. forces (Herold). In Herolds assessment, these losses are not accidental. In the early hours of January 24, 2009…
…the mountain village of Garoch, in Laghman Province fell under attack by U.S. led ground forces in search of an alleged Taliban commander. In response to the shooting that broke out, air support was requested. This support came in the form of a low-flying strafing campaign.
A. verb trans. 1. Punish; damage; attack fiercely
2. Attack from low-flying aircraft with bombs, machine gun fire, etc., bombard, harass with gunfire.
Reports vary as to the number of civilians killed but various village elders as well as the head of the provincial council, Emadudin Abdul Rahimzai, provided the names of 22 dead, “all civilians,” according to Rahimzai (Herold). This number includes 11 men, a grandfather, 2 women, 7 children and one infant. Contradicting these eyewitness reports, an official US military press release suggests that coalition forces killed 15 armed militants (Hashmion) and in yet another report, an advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai claimed that 16 civilians died in the attack (“Afghans Protest”). While the numbers seem to contradict each other, the most reliable account of the attack has to come from those living in the area – those who knew the dead, lived and worked with them and who, as the bombing ceased and daylight broke, pulled their lifeless bodies out of the rubble. (Herold).
“…worthy to be remembered,
memorable...” (OED) While each loss experience by coalition troops in the War on Terror is carefully recorded and remembered, losses such as those that occurred in Garoch are not recognized in the same way. While military casualties and those who died on 9/11 are remembered as national heroes and patriots, civilian casualties are often constructed as militants or combatants or, in some cases, erased from public record entirely. As Judith Butler suggests, the ways in which these losses are framed has much to do with discourses of patriotism and national identity. She writes: “a national melancholia, understood as a disavowed mourning, follows upon the erasure from public representations of the names, images and narrative of those the US has killed” (Butler xix). For those that are worthy of remembrance, their deaths are marked as heroic and are appropriated by the state in what Butler calls “an act of nation-building” (34). One example of this is the New York Times published Portraits 9/11/01, or “Portraits of Grief”, which contains hundreds of biographical sketches of those who lost their lives on 9/11.
“...A thing, as a monument, a custom, etc., by which the memory
of a person, thing, or event is preserved...” (OED).
In his book 9/11: The Culture of Commemoration, David Simpson argues that Portraits functions - much like war memorials - as a way of defining the American fight for freedom: “There is some likelihood, in this climate of patriotic memorializing, that the dead of September 11 will have their names added to the roster of those who have not died in vain, those who lived freedom and who died for it, not, to be sure, by choice but implicitly, because they loved and enjoyed it as much as they did” (Simpson 47). As Simpson infers, the more full the life that was lived, the more patriotic and grievable is the death. What do these rituals of memorialization tell us about who is included in our remembrance? What mechanism of remembrance is available to those whose lives are not narrated in fullness and complexity and whose loves and joys are not included as matters of public record? On this note, Didier Fassin points out how lives are counted unequally in war. He writes: “the sacred life of the Western armies of intervention, in which each life is counted and honored, versus the expendable life of not only the enemy troops but also their civilian populations, whose losses are only roughly numbered and whose corpses end up in mass graves” (Fassin 519). The conflicting reports, unnamed victims and the representation of victims as “militants” in news reports documenting the deaths in Garoch stand out in stark contrast to the elaborate mourning and memorialization of victims of the Trade Center attacks who, although strangers, become familiarized through the constant reminder that they are “just like us” and the invocation of them as full subjects with liveable lives and, by extension, grievable deaths The differential humanization of loss between Afghan civilian causalities and American deaths on 9/11 also reveals the limits of public obituary. While an obituary may be designed to provide context and affirm life out of loss, it also serves to reinforce dominant constructions of what it means to be human. With that in mind, how might one work around the conventions of the public obituary and the assumptions about how lives are memorialized in order to recognize when the grievability of a particular life or lives has been foreclosed? An obituary, as it is recognized under dominant Western discourses primarily documents a life that has been interrupted by death. This life is often represented as having been full and extraordinary. Indeed, the 9/11 Portraits contains “snapshots of lives interrupted as they were being actively lived” (in Simpson 22). Not only do these lives count as lives worthy of grief but they are also lives that were being lived in proper accordance with dominant social and cultural norms. According to the OED, the obituary is meant to provide biographical details about the deceased in such a way that he or she might become familiar to the reader.
Obituaries often include information on pastimes, work experience and close relations. The deceased is almost always represented in positive terms and as someone’s parent, sibling, child or close friend. Yet as Butler points out, these points of familiarization are rarely afforded to unfamiliar others who have perished in the War on Terror. She asks: “Do Palestinian and Afghan victims “have names and faces, personal histories, family, favorite hobbies, slogans by which they live?” (Butler 32). Implicit in Butler’s critique is another set of questions that speak to the relationship between mourning and familiarity. If obituaries are constructed to make a stranger more familiar or more “like us”, what would it mean to mourn in the absence of these details? Is biography a condition of our memorialization? If so, then it stands to reasons that it is not the obituary itself that forecloses the recognition of a liveable life but, rather, the ways in which familiarity has become the basis upon which our ethical relations and expressions of grief are established. It is clear what obituaries are: humanizing portraits of the deceased that highlight activities, positive characteristics, work and relations. What obituaries do is more complex: They act as a record of life in order to make past lives not only more familiar but retroactively understood as lived to their full potential. How obituaries function is to memorialize certain kinds of life; that is, to celebrate a particular way of living that is normalized under racialized Western discourses of what constitutes human existence. Through the memorialization of someone after death, we effectually define what life is and this definition varies. As Butler notes, “[l]ives are supported and maintained differently, and there are radically different ways in which human physical vulnerability is distributed across the globe” (32). The obituary functions as a curious text therefore, celebrating a full life while simultaneously confirming that life as inherently precarious. It would seem, then, that vulnerability is a condition of memorialization insofar as only lives that count as lives can be mourned when they are lost. As a textual practice that affirms life, the obituary does not document the loss of lives that are not considered valid under dominant social discourses. Indeed, Butler points out how attempts to memorialize certain losses, losses that are not grieveable under Western norms of what constitutes a human life, are rejected on the grounds that they may be offensive. She asks: “What might be ‘offensive’ about the public avowal of sorrow and loss, such that memorials would function as offensive speech?...Is it that these deaths are not considered to be real deaths?” (35). Thus, obituaries do much more than record or remember a life. They also affirm that a worthy life was lost and allocate which deaths can be mourned and which memories can be preserved. “...a brief biographical sketch
of the deceased...” (OED)
Can we then, in recognition of the limits of obituary, craft a memorial that remembers a loss, indeed affirms there was a loss, but does so in a way that does not reinforce the hierarchical allocation of what constitutes a grievable death? Is there a way to use the conventional obituary form in such a way as to highlight whose deaths are unnoticed and unrecorded and whose lives are not permitted to be included in public record? Butler claims to be “in favour of the public obituary but mindful of who has access to it, and which deaths can be fairly mourned there” (37). In the case of this project, I have elected to use the format of traditional, text-based obituary; however, while the obituary format may be familiar, the subjects are not. These obituaries focus on the element of loss in the absence of biographical data in order to highlight, first and foremost, that there has indeed been a loss, and secondly, to illustrate that we do not need these details to avow these lives as memorable. Butler asks if the dead in places like Afghanistan will ever become human to us: “Will we feel compelled to learn how to say these names and remember them?” (37). Where possible, the obituaries in this project seek to make these names visible, yet how might we also mourn those whose names are not given? Perhaps the can be grieved precisely because they are unnamed and in recognition of the frameworks that work to deny them humanization. Works Cited
“Afghans Protest Against U.S. On Civilian Deaths Report.” Radio Free Europe. 25 January 2009. Web. 29 February 2012.
Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso, 2004.
Fassin, Didier. “Humanitarianism as a Politics of Life.” Public Culture 19.3 (2007): 499-520.
Herold, Marc. The Afghan Victim Memorial Project. Whittemore School of Business and Economics. U of New Hampshire. 2003. Web. 26 February 2012.
Hashmion, Abdul Moeed. “US, local officials differ over Laghman casualties.” Pajhwok Afghan News. 24 Januray 2009. Web. 29 February 2012.
Iraq Body Count. 2012. Web. 27 February 2012. ,www.iraqbodycount.org/>.
Markland, Dave. “More dead civilians, more protests.” StopWar.ca. N.p., 26 January 2009. Web. 29 February 2012.
“memorial.” Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.
“obituary.” Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.
Simpson, David. 9/11: The Culture of Commemoration. Chicago: UofChicagoP, 2006. Print. This collection of critical engagements with the idea(l) of global citizenship developed out of an assignment for a seminar course focusing on cultural representations of cosmopolitan ethics (ENGL 525A/ENGL 437A/CULT 437A), offered at UBC's Okanagan campus in the winter of 2012. Participants in the seminar were asked to critically examine the idea of global citizenship as it circulates within UBC, theorize what global citizenship should constitute, and/or critically self-reflect on themselves as "global citizens". They were encouraged to experiment with form and be mindful of a broad audience in their responses, rather than necessarily writing essays with an academic audience in mind. This collection includes eight of those contributions. These contributions engage, either implicitly or explicitly, with research on global education, cosmopolitan ethics, transnational interconnections, and global identity. The wide variety of forms of expression - including a puppet show, a self-reflexive essay, a mock passport application form, among others - seek to inform, persuade, and, significantly, evoke and inspire. These few engagements by no means provide a comprehensive critical analysis of global citizenship, and are each situated in particular ways, but read together they provide a critical conversation on the limits and possibilities of global citizenship. We invite your critical and creative responses.
(For the difficult to read slides, pass your cursor over the left margin to bring up a zoom tool)