My first and most formative brain-crush, as well as my mentor and model for how to be an ethical scholar and generous colleague, has released an amazing new multimedia digital project with which we both urge you to spend some time. Called Precision Targets, in this piece Caren Kaplan examines the militarization of everyday life via spatializing information technologies:
My study of GPS in this era of seemingly endless war has led me to ask how “duel-use” technologies blur the distinction between military and civilian spheres. What are our expectations and assumptions about information technologies? How can we say “no” to war when we say “yes” to militarization every day? Precision Targets is designed to raise these questions and others as you move through the multimedia piece to engage the animated possibilities of GPS in everyday life.
This is not as far afield as you might think for a blog about the politics of dress and beauty. Both Minh-Ha and I have learned so much from Kaplan’s work over the years (me, since 1994 as an undergraduate women’s studies major) about how to “do” postcolonial studies of space and time, gender and empire. Minh-Ha’s writing on technologies of style and selfhood can trace at least part of its intellectual genealogy to Kaplan’s earlier publications on civilian consumption of military information technologies; my work on migrant medias and bodies (both corporeal and imaginary) and the politics and conditions of possibility for their movements across borders, owes so much to Kaplan’s generous mentoring over the years.
Minh-Ha and I agree that in this particular moment, during which war is normalized within everyday life under liberal democracy, and increasingly incorporated into the domains of politics and law (as we see with the last few decades’ “wars” on drugs and immigration, recently manifest as Arizona’s passage of SB 1070) as well as economics, art and culture (as we see in the periodic creep of “military chic,” the location of much of the garment manufacturing industries in postcolonial nations and semi-colonial territories, and the coextensive visual imaging of veiled women as criminal and as couture) that a critique of the militarization of everyday life is absolutely vital.
Thanks to a tweet from FashionHistoria (Heather Vaughan of WornThrough), we learned that fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune Suzy Menkes will be talking with Gladys Perint Palmer, executive director of the School of Fashion at Academy of Art University in San Francisco next Thursday (May 6) to explore the question, “If Fashion is for Everyone – is it Fashion?”
It’s clear from the description of the talk that Menkes is going to be hitting all the keynotes of “democratization”: the accessibility of fashion, the future of newspapers and magazines, blogging, luxury, sustainability, and young designers wanting to set up their own brands. (By the way, our take on each of these issues can be found in numerous posts – search the category, “Democratization of Fashion” for a start.)
I don’t know much about Menkes’ work – but what I do know is that she’s generally supportive of bloggers. (I don’t know why WordPress isn’t accepting Vimeo videos but until I can fix this glitch, here’s the link to the video of Menkes and others talking about fashion blogs.) Anyway, I’m really hoping the title of her talk is nothing more than provocative copy. The recent era of fashion’s democratization has already shifted from the halcyon moments post-9/11 when everyone, and I mean everyone (from Anna Wintour to Rudy Giuliani), was proclaiming fashion as a right to which every free person was entitled in a liberal society. The recent backlash against fashion bloggers, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, indicates that the pendulum may be swinging back towards exclusivity – which has profound implications for how we understand, among other things, economic democracy. Is Menkes’ talk going to issue the death knell of democratization? I don’t know but I’m (sort of) looking forward to finding out.
A blog post from the O’odham Newswire, an indigenous youth collective, has been making the rounds on the Internet so you may have already read it. Still, I wanted to re-post it anyway since it speaks directly to a couple of Mimi’s previous posts on hipster appropriations of Native fashion and the institutionalization of racial-sartorial profiling in Arizona.
Reading this post on the indigenous perspective about Arizona’s legislation of state terror reminded me of a couple of points that have been discussed recently on Threadbared. In The Feather in Your “Native” Cap, Mimi referenced Thea Lim’s Racialicious post in which she offers some helpful rebuttal arguments against the appropriation of Native fashions in particular. To the response that it’s time to “get over” racism and colonialism, Lim counters:
The “get over it” defense is not hard to take down as soon as you realise that by “it” the commenter is referring to colonisation and genocide, the legacy of which continues to beset Native communities in the form of poverty, environmental racism, and health disparities (to recap some of the things Jessica mentioned in the original post).
The whole “but that happened 100 years ago!” defense is similarly dense: a brief look at who is poor and who is marginalised in the richest countries in the world should quiet that one down…though it often doesn’t.
The O’odham Solidarity post about the impact of SB1070 on non-immigrant groups – here, specifically indigenous peoples – reiterates and expands Lim’s point in important ways. For me, this post is a compelling reminder that anti-immigrant laws and logics produce effects that go beyond immigrant communities – and we should remember that Mexicans and Chicanos are not the only immigrant groups in Arizona or the Southwest; Central Americans as well as Southeast Asian Americans have substantial communities in these regions as well. Secondly, the post reminds us that state terror targeting indigenous peoples is both deeply historical and on-going. Here’s an excerpt but it’s really worthwhile to read the entire post.
The current push for immigration reform by politicians and by reformist activists includes the push to secure ‘their’ borders which would be the forced removal and relocations of all indigenous tribes that live in the border region (Yaqui, Lipan Apache, Mohawk to name a few). This dismissal not just shows the colonial attitude that both reformist activists and politicians have, but also the settler privilege that they evoke when constructing border policies.
Fun fact on the topic of immigrants and the Southwest: did you know that today is the 35th anniversary of the fall of SaiGon or what Vietnamese immigrants who live all over the U.S. but have large numbers in the Southwest including Mesa, Arizona call “Black April”? It was also 35 years ago today that Mimi and I may have crossed paths for the first time in a San Diego refugee camp called Camp Pendleton!