Com 371 discussion 13
Purpose: Colonization has repeatedly dispossessed folks of land, language, and culture. For the dispossessed, the struggle is in building amicable and connective spaces. In this discussion forum we address the work of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and consider making connections among people using new “tools.” As important to culture and human communication, tools understood here are stories, songs, dance, language, craft, art, etc… This forum examines what these tools look like in terms of connection–with culture and with creative possibilities of communication between cultures that are different yet experience similar oppression/injustice.
Read: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, and Edna Manitowabi, “Theorizing Resurgence from Within Nishnaabeg Thought.” PP 279-293.
Reflect: Audre Lorde once said, The Masters tools will never dismantle the master’s house. (Lorde, 2007) This statement was a made to white, Western feminists in the U.S. around the time of the Civil Rights Movement. As folks were connecting across cultures in the struggle for equality, white feminists argued that both currently and historically the masters house also hindered their own selves as fully human (owning property, attending college, voting, holding public office, etc). With this statement, Lorde urged white women to be mindful and to question the dominant culture and their own racism, homophobia, and complacency with racialized and gendered violence (coloniality in the U.S. and also global colonialism).
Recall Frantz Fanon’s criticism of the African intellectual who perpetuates the colonizer’s representation and violent treatment and exploitation of African people in general–at the expense of himself and his culture. Fanon argued this is often seen as a viable choice because the colonizer will elevate the “intellectual” a bit above the common people, but ultimately will never truly accept him. To the colonizer, the African intellectual will always only be “really smart for an Algerian man.” Much like we heard she’s “pretty smart for a woman” in pre-civil rights U.S. In suggesting that “the master’s tools can never dismantle the master’s house,” Lorde urged people to craft new tools in creative spaces in order to dismantle oppressive and unjust social, political and economic structures of the “house.” Remember, Fanon, as well as Thiong’o, Almeida, and Mingolo, suggest that the French or English colonial “tools” (i.e. the colonization of language, systems of education, memories) cannot carry the culture of colonized people because they were built with the intention to exploit them from the beginning. Each of these thinkers agree that any true revolution or way out form under colonial power and dispossession must come from the people at the ground levelthe level of everyday folk and their elders.
With the work of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson we consider making connections among people using new “tools” that can be said to be decolonial–that is, are not the tools of the colonizer. Tools are stories, songs, poems, dance, language, craft, art, etc… and these are important to culture and human communication. However, Betasamosake is not looking at these tools to continue the work of uncovering the structures of colonial violence and dismantling the masters house. While this is also important to do, she is concerned in this essay instead with building our own house. (Betasamosake, 2015, p. 270) And, so, Betasamosake begins with the question of what knowledges the creation stories of the elders are teaching and how the traditions of culture are communicated dynamically through these stories in everyday life. In the content of the story, in the telling, re-telling and orality she maps out Indigenous theoretical frameworks. Betasamosake is Nishnaabeg, of Indigenous Canada.
Write: In approximately 250 words examine what Betasamosake says about “the Story” as a vehicle for communication and culture as decolonial. In your response be sure to address the transformative power of stories, emergent quality of the storytelling in oral modes, individual/collective experience, and the ways Indigenous theoretical frameworks differ from Western ones. What are the insights she offers into these foundational differences? Address the meaning of “Nishna” as well as what does Betasamosake says about meaning and responsibility.