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[Occupy-strategy] Fwd: From "Ecological Civilization and China, " Monthly Review, November 2014

Comments (0) | Friday, October 31, 2014

Hi, for your information. Dennis
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dennis Goldstein <dennisgoldstein2003@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 8:01 PM
Subject: From "Ecological Civilization and China," Monthly Review, November 2014
To: SCNCC <scncc-discuss@googlegroups.com>, Action Greens <actiongreens@yahoogroups.com>, Occupy Grassroots <occupy-grassroots@lists.interoccupy.net>, gcc-local-organizers-request@lists.riseup.net


Hi my friends and colleagues:

"What Contributions Can Ecological Marxism Make?

"Recognizing the Anti Ecological Essence of Capital

"To ecological Marxists such as Foster and his colleagues, capitalism is inherently anti ecological, since 'capitalist economies are geared first and foremost to the growth of profits, and hence to economic growth at virtually any cost--including the exploitation and misery of the vast majority of the world's population. This rush to grow generally means rapid absorption of energy and materials and the dumping of  more and more wastes into the environment--hence to widening environmental degradation. Therefore, as Griffin ponts out, "Ecological Marxism has clearly demonstrated that it is impossible for capitalism pursuing unlimited growth to be in line with an ecological worldview.

"Since China has no clear idea about the negative consequence of capital, 'capital logic has almost become the guide for China's system construction.' 'In order to create ecological civilization, we must limit capital logic.' Using ecological Marxism as a resource, China can fight against a variety of interest groups who resist environmental protection, rather that unconditionally welcoming 'foreign investment.' 

"Combined with its practice in capitalist countries, ecological Marxism can help show the destructive or even disastrous consequences of capital, rather than merely focusing on its positive side. In this respect, the Soochow International Conference on the Critique of Capital in the Era of Globalization, held from January 10-13, 2009 in Soochow, China can be regarded as a good start. This was also a good example of cooperation between ecological Marxism and constructive postmodernism, as representatives from both movements paticipated in this conference. Foster and Perelman, two leading figures in ecological Marxism, delivered keynote speeches, as did John Cobb and Cliff Cobb, two leading thinkers in constructive postmodernism. Some leading Chinese Marxist scholars participated, and Chinese journals such as Philosophical Researches, Studies on Marxism, and Social Sciences Abroad reported on this conference.

"Marx was best known as a critic of capital and free markets,  and so a Marxist critique of capital is a valuable resource for China. According to Pan Yue, we must use Marxist theoretical weapons to 'fight against any forms of production and lifestyle that deviate from ecological civilization. Compared to capitalism, socialism is more likely to provide system motivation and system security for ecological civilization."

Wang, He, and Fan, "The Ecological Civilization Debate in China," Monthly Review, November 2014, pp. 47-48.


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Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - SIERRA LEONE - EBOLA & THE RUF WAR

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Thanks Prof for directing me to that write-up. It is an interesting read that also points out certain issues and obvious truth that may be difficult to enforce and I quote from the essay:"others define and enforce the rules". This is still the trend. So, where have we grown and able to manage our crises? Ibori was tried and found guilty in UK while Nigerian government insisted he never stole from them...?!!! It is alarming how we interpret the law and duties of governance and governed.
Baseline, however, is that even when one feels above the law within one's country, the enforcement of the law on a crime against humanity is inescapable. We do have a lot to learn in Africa about taking responsibility for our actions: whatever they may be. Thanks Prof.

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Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - RE: Tireless campaigner against FGM dies in London

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Professor Segun Ogungbemi wrote:
"History of popular Europe is replete with such practices but today they are not there and if you find some residuals of them they have lost their original values." 

Europe is not Africa. We, in Africa, cannot wait and hope that the transformative processes that occurred in Europe would eventually come to us and transform our societies in a similar manner. For one thing, the confluence of events and people that brought about positive change in Europe may never occur in Africa. If it becomes necessary for us to reach out and benefit from the global knowledge commons, I see no reason why we should wait to reinvent the wheel.

Europe went through a lot of experimentation to arrive at the level of human development that now exists in the continent. In the process, there was a lot of destruction--many people were killed and a lot of property destroyed before the Europeans established what are now peaceful and rules-based political economies. We can learn from them and effectively escape the many years of experimentation and suffering. How do you think China (PRC) has been able to achieve such phenomenal economic growth in such a short period of time? By taking advantage of the knowledge that has already been created by other countries--primarily Europe and the United States. 

While it is important for Africans to devise solutions to their own problems, it is not practical and cost-effective for us to try to "reinvent the wheel." It is true that locally-developed knowledge is more appropriate to Africa's problems than imported technologies. However, with appropriate planning and the right type of consultation, it is possible to source from the global "knowledge commons" technologies that complement indigenous systems and enhance the ability of Africans to solve their problems and advance economically, socially and politically. 

That said, it is important that we in Africa, like people in other parts of the world, continuously examine our traditional practices and rid ourselves of those which are harmful to our well-being, retain those that enhance our welfare, and reach out to the global knowledge commons to avail ourselves of others that might serve our needs and enhance our ability to progress. 

It would be foolish (and perhaps, cruel) to tell the people of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone not to reach out to the international community for help in dealing with Ebola, but to rely on traditional practices, for fear that reaching out might contaminate the cultures of the people. 

On Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 3:47 PM, Moses Ebe Ochonu <meochonu@gmail.com> wrote:
Ken, 

I started hearing about "FGM" being a practice designed to control female sexuality since I was a kid, way before I had any access to Euro-American modernist scripts. This is common knowledge in many parts of Nigeria, which I'm familiar with. It was never about rites of passage only. And Ayo's example proves the point that this was more than about rites of passage. The father of the woman in the story saw through the rites of passage facade and expressed this understanding to his daughter.



but i am saying the beliefs of people have to be taken into consideration. when i state that, you seem to hear me saying that they override other considerations. i didn't say that.



Yes, and this is one of the places we disagree. For me, a consideration of beliefs is important but not important enough to allow this heinous practice to be inflicted on children, scarring many of them for life or even exposing them to fatal risks. You seem to venerate a consideration of culture, of beliefs, and traditions, rendering this consideration a factor at par with or superior to the imperative of protecting these young girls from this dehumanizing practice. I vehemently disagree with your position, but at least we understand each other here.




you want me to document my claim that these practices concern rites of passage, and not other considerations. well, ayo's response concerning the warri state that point, and i think it is very widespread. anyway, that would take me more time than i'm willing to give to this debate. i read it enough, here and there, to remember it. if, however, you want to claim it is now being used to repress women's sexuality, i'd agree that it has become increasingly so that people use that reasoning. i doubt very much that was true in the past; in fact, i'd bet it was never really the case until the modern period. now that logic is used universally in islamic circles, and has become a dominant rationale for the procedure. but times change.


I don't know what you mean by "in the past." I grew up exposed to this rationale for "FGM." Since I'm not that old, perhaps your "in the past" does not include when I was growing up. Care to cite any sources that locate a different justificatory etymology in some distant African past?


 but you seem to think there is no risk involved of u.s. thinking or practices as being dominant or hegemonic, and i do.


I knowledge the risk--there is risk in everything we do or don't even do. However, my position is that Africans are not children. They are smart enough to recognize that Western actors in Africa have their own agenda that could be harmful and can sift through the advocacy and interventions appropriately. More crucially, my point is that 1) it should be up to Africans to discern useful Western interventions and assistance from agenda-laden and potential counterproductive or harmful ones; and 2) that it is not the job of Western liberals and progressives to protect Africans from the risks and dangers of neo-imperialist and hegemonic practices and interventions. This attitude infantilizes Africans. I admit that in many cases African leaders have not done a great of job of insulating their people from the harmful effects and aspects of Western interventions and "assistance," but that is squarely an African problem, a blame borne by Africans, and thus it does not warrant the paranoid anti-colonial but condescending attitude of lecturing Africans on the dangers that Western anti-FGM NGOs and other Western activisms pose to them. 

As a final comment here, let me say that your last post clearly delineates for me our irreconcilable differences on this issue. You said you have no issue with "symbolic cutting" of the labia or what you call "making a mark on the labia" for ritual/symbolic purpose. I do have a huge issue with ANY form of cutting or marking of the labia, clitoris, or any other part of the female anatomy for symbolic or whatever purpose. Here, too, we can agree to disagree. 

Your posit is becoming a lot clearer and with that clarity comes a better understanding of the differences in how we see the issue. Hey, we even agree on one thing: that Euro-American modernist epistemology and ways of seeing and doing color how Westerners view and name African practices, hence their naming of African female circumcision FGM.


On Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 2:22 PM, kenneth harrow <harrow@msu.edu> wrote:
hi moses
the case of amnesty is more complicated than what you wrote. but i didn't express myself about it to state it was different from others. i think there is, again,  gamut of ngos that work with little or no african input into their thinking and are very american or euro-centered in their workings. amnesty had been organized with london as the base from which all researchers and campaigners for the international part of the organization worked. they would go to africa on research missions for a determined period of time, and return to london, write up their reports, and initiate the campaigns. the lawyer and administration were in london. they probably still are, but the campaigners and researchers now have been relocated to various sites located on the continents for which they work. that shift was monumental, and many people left the organization over it.
i have my own criticisms of amnesty, one of which had been this centering of the international org in london; i am glad for the change, but it is, again, not a simple issue. in general i favor african over foreign agencies whenever possible; it doesn't help senegalese children to see Italo- on the ambulances that run through the city, reinforcing the notion that senegal can't produce its own emergency medical services. i don't oppose aid, but i can see the negative ramifications.

you want me to acknowledge the agency of africans like yourself and john in opposing fgm. i never questioned that; african people are divided on the issue, and i've been saying that my position is that i'd prefer outsiders to support african institutions and people in determining the issue.  when you express your outrage over it, it might be for many different reasons. i believe when my students do so, it is inseparable from the way they see africa, and it's clear in the discourse they use, basically in seeing african, africa, african ways in general, as barbarous and inferior. that discourse has a history. maybe we all are somewhat enmeshed in it; but i would want my students to be aware of the historical, colonial, imperial history that gave that discourse its epistemology. i didn't say you were driven by that discourse, although maybe it is true that many africans still live by a notion of modernity that is fundamentally grounded in dominant western epistemes with the usual history. we are all caught up in discourses, and inhabit them at times uneasily. i put "fgm" in scare-quotes because i believe it is tendentious and still largely centered in european-grounded sensibilities. that said, i must share in those sensibilities because i am also largely repelled by excision and infibulation.
when it comes to symbolic cutting, i am not repelled by it. sorry, i don't see any reasons to get excited about it. clean knives? sure. when the people of casamance were circumcising boys with the the same razor, sharing the blood of one boy to another, the state came down against it because of aids. there was resistance on the ground because what bound the boys was being taken away. given the threat of aids, however, i think the traditional resistance couldn't be sustained. i note that senegal has a lower rate of aids than the u.s.

i tried, in my response, to suggest we regard these practices relatively. i did state that i favored external intervention in extreme cases, like genocide or slavery. i never stated that the symbolic reasoning for practices trumped other considerations. so why should i defend a position i didn't take? the logic you are using to counter my position is forced. i am not suggesting functionalist anthropological reasons trump others; but i am saying the beliefs of people have to be taken into consideration. when i state that, you seem to hear me saying that they override other considerations. i didn't say that.

you want me to document my claim that these practices concern rites of passage, and not other considerations. well, ayo's response concerning the warri state that point, and i think it is very widespread. anyway, that would take me more time than i'm willing to give to this debate. i read it enough, here and there, to remember it. if, however, you want to claim it is now being used to repress women's sexuality, i'd agree that it has become increasingly so that people use that reasoning. i doubt very much that was true in the past; in fact, i'd bet it was never really the case until the modern period. now that logic is used universally in islamic circles, and has become a dominant rationale for the procedure. but times change.

my last point, moses, is that you seem to want me to impute western, imperialist thinking to africans who oppose the practice. i didn't say or think that. i fully support african people and organizations that work to end it, and i don't think of them as servants to imperial thinking. however, and here is where we might disagree, i feel that american legislative practices and attitudes towards africa are generally condescending, neo-colonialist, and degrading--with some few exceptions. insisting that africans behave as the u.s. congress dictates is a real and present danger; it is manifest in the africom policies and various forms of epistemic violence that continue on levels where popular opinion is being solicited. when it comes to the real everyday relations, things change, and collaboration becomes possible. but you seem to think there is no risk involved of u.s. thinking or practices as being dominant or hegemonic, and i do.

ken


On 10/31/14, 2:07 PM, Moses Ebe Ochonu wrote:
"amnesty is not a western organization. you are right about it being founded in the west and getting most of its funding in the west. its centers for research are now located around the world, with two centers in africa. if its principles date back to the enlightenment, that doesn't mean africans haven't adopted those principles. all african states have signed onto the u.n. declaration of universal rights. but more importantly, ai works by supporting human rights orgs in african countries, lobbies the govts, publicizes concerns, and asks its advocates to write authorities in african states asking them to act on behalf of prisoners of conscience.
not all interventions are the same. what to do about slavery in mauretania is not the same as what to do about journalists being harassed or jailed in burundi or ethiopia. in some cases we write u.s. authorities asking them to bring pressure on a govt, but even there, not all forms of pressure are acceptable. mostly we want to publicize the event and lobby foreign govts to act. that seems to have an impact."

---Kenn


Ken,

What you wrote above would apply to every Western-founded-and-funded NGO working in Africa. I challenged you to name one foreign NGO in Africa that does not operate along those lines and you could not. The difference you're trying to draw between AI and other foreign advocacy organizations in Africa simply does not exist. Really, "amnesty is not a Western organization" simply because it has centers and offices in African countries that employ local staff? Come on, Ken, the anti-FGM NGOs that you rail against also have similar local structures.

Surely when John Mbaku and me express the kind of outrage that your students voiced about what you call "symbolic" cutting or female-circumcision-as rights-of-passage we are not inspired by Western arrogance rooted in Western notions of modernity and civilized culture, are we? We are human and resent certain practices for being morally outrageous and for violating basic human norms of decency, fairness, and protection of the juvenile. You seem to see the hand and eyes of imperialism and post-Enlightenment European modernity in every Western and non-Western reaction to and advocacy on African practices--except of course when it comes to the work of your beloved AI. This, I submit to you, is another kind of hangover.

Perhaps it is cultural relativism run amok; perhaps it is an exaggerated fear of and anxiety about the reach of Western neocolonial power; perhaps it is benign but misguided commitment to multiculturalism. I don't know.

On your labored and unpersuasive effort to distinguish between "small, symbolic" cutting and more invasive procedures, as well as your analogy of male circumcision, I'd say a few things:

1. Should one by the same relativist logic not condemn human sacrifice or other kinds of infractions because they have symbolic import for the communities that practice them?

2. We part ways on your distinctions, which I, like your students, do not agree should mitigate the moral offense that the practice causes and the damage it does to the girls subjected to it. I have not read any piece of anthropology that asserts this rites-of-passage-only explanation for "FGM." Please point me in that direction. And while doing so, give me some proof that even in the case of these symbolic, small cuttings, there is no trauma, risk of infection and long term damage to reproductive systems and capacity. As a digression, this rights-of-passage explanation reminds me of the good old days of colonial functionalist anthropology, in which there was a strong emphasis on preserving every practice encountered in Africa because it was supposedly a component of an undifferentiated African cultural corpus and served a (symbolic) function or purpose, or was a rites of passage ritual. Many terrible African practices were romanticized, sensationalized, and exoticized by the Evans-Prichards of this world in the name documenting (and celebrating) African rights of passage. By the way, in some African precolonial societies, one rite-of-passage requirement was a demonstration of a young man's ability to kill, the criterion often fulfilled with the presentation of a human skull of a victim. Should this practice have endured because it was part of some dark ritual of passage from boyhood to manhood?

3. You seem to suggest that opposing a culture or things done for cultural reasons amounts to imperial, know-it-all arrogance, and that only a medical critique is tenable or sustainable. Here I couldn't disagree more. As I wrote earlier, the medical concern is quite easy to remove and address. Once you've done that, would you then accept the practice of "FGM" and change your mind to support it? Were the missionaries wrong to advocate against the killing of twins in certain parts of Southern Nigeria? If that is imperialism, Africa needs more of it. Or perhaps they should have left it to local groups, who didn't know any better than the practitioners, to do the advocacy. Certain practices and cultures are simply out of step with our world and with the values and sensibilities of our current human conditions. Equivocating on them and nuancing them to me is unacceptable. I guess this is where we differ.

4. On male circumcision, the preponderance of medical opinion comes down on the side of the practice being medically beneficial, providing  protection against disease and infection. Not only that, its aesthetic outcome is widely acknowledged. Finally, apart from the risk of infection when the wounds are not nursed probably, I've yet to read of any long lasting risk to male reproductive capacity or sexuality. Moreover, male circumcision is not done anywhere that I know of as a mechanism for suppressing male sexual expression or for controlling male bodies and sexuality. Because of all these reasons, male circumcision, whether religiously commanded or medically recommended, is seen as a practice whose benefits outweigh whatever trauma the child may be subjected to in the process, and the violation of the law of consent. We perform many procedures on children because they are beneficial. Not waiting till the child comes of age in this case is worth it. But in the case of "FGM" what medical benefit can we point to? And then we have to consider the risk of long-lasting bodily and reproductive damage. There is also the risk of psychological damage in a world in which "FGM" is not the norm but an aberration.

Put simply, you and I are on different planets on this issue, and our disagreements run the gamut of all the registers that have been invoked in this discussion. I am not as obsessed with or paranoid about imperialism and Western modernity as you are, especially when I am dealing with African interlocutors. I generally grant Africans the right to express their outrage and values without connecting them to a supposedly omnipotent/hegemonic European frame of discursive reference. I do nuance and complexity when an issue lends itself to such complication. But searching for and highlighting complexity in cases which call for moral and ethical clarity for me amounts to a form of complicity.



On Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 11:20 AM, kenneth harrow <harrow@msu.edu> wrote:
hi moses
this is complicated. i had thought the exchanges on this topic were pretty much finished, but i always welcome responding to you.
i have been pretty much partly misread throughout this thread. the topic elicits such heat.
i am, as usual, not the world expert on the topic, but i know a few things, and have had long experience in dealing with or seeing the politics of it played out. so, i'll ask your indulgence as i explain my position.
where to begin? the radical excision of the parts of the genitalia that goes by the name fgm, and the infibulation that some also practice, seems quite terrible to me, and frankly most people i know. but, but, there are a few caveats that matter a lot to me. what is the labia is cut simply to make a mark, without any removal of the flesh? what if that is not done to stop women from enjoying sex but to initiate a girl into womanhood? how is that worse than male circumcision? if there is no real "mutilation," why is it shocking?

i screened Warrior Marks at MSU maybe 15-20 years ago, and the msu students (primarily female, as it so happened) were outraged, and had trouble holding back their scorn, dislike, almost hatred of africans for practicing "fgm," and the response i was given to the question i posed above was filled with abhorrence and venom.
why is that? anyone who has been around western reactions to african practices understands that the two cultures frame things differently, and that shapes the reactions. in this case, the western student sees science and medicine as trumping african religious beliefs, which they would regard as backward superstition. the western student is not humble: he or she feels they know the truth, and at best, as a "nice kind missionary" might "sacrifice" their modern comfortable status at home and go out and "save the natives."
i hope you and i agree on how reprehensible this is, and at least has to be a consideration in the issues at stake.

are there any points at which i would hold my nose and say, yes, we have to stop such and such a practice, at all cost; have to intervene as outsiders? of course; i advocate for intervention, for instance, over genocide. when human rights are violated, i advocate for intervention, but there it has to be more nuanced. i would not advocate reintroducing foreign rule, violation of sovereignty, because a govt violates human rights. but i would advocate for pressures to be brought to bear, including withholding funding. an example would be withholding american military aid to rwanda because it has stifled the opposition, jailed the political candidate who opposed kagame, because journalists have been killed, and so on.

as an aside, then, the case of amnesty. it isn't all or nothing: i am not arguing, i did not argue, that we not express our advocacy over "fgm" in africa, but that it should take the form of supporting women's organizations in africa that are working on the issue. that was my experience in senegal, and i found their work exemplary, in contrast to the u.s. congress desire to without funding to senegal until the senegalese govt passed laws against it. i feel the same way still. (to repeat; the senegal govt caved and passed anti-fgm legislation; the women's groups went out, patiently, year after year, and finally made headway. the former approach reinforced senegalese deference to the donor nation; the latter grew organically out of the local population. i favor the latter, applaud it)

amnesty is not a western organization. you are right about it being founded in the west and getting most of its funding in the west. its centers for research are now located around the world, with two centers in africa. if its principles date back to the enlightenment, that doesn't mean africans haven't adopted those principles. all african states have signed onto the u.n. declaration of universal rights. but more importantly, ai works by supporting human rights orgs in african countries, lobbies the govts, publicizes concerns, and asks its advocates to write authorities in african states asking them to act on behalf of prisoners of conscience.
not all interventions are the same. what to do about slavery in mauretania is not the same as what to do about journalists being harassed or jailed in burundi or ethiopia. in some cases we write u.s. authorities asking them to bring pressure on a govt, but even there, not all forms of pressure are acceptable. mostly we want to publicize the event and lobby foreign govts to act. that seems to have an impact.

i want to end by returning to cutting. i am not trivializing what it means to cut a child. however, i want to also not trivialize what it might mean to intervene in a practice where the child is taught in his or her community that not undergoing traditional initiation means not becoming a full man or woman (as i tried to indicate in referencing dogon practices). there are competing issues at stake: not violating the child's body versus not violating the community's beliefs and worldviews. the former, the body, is not an absolutely pure object that shouldn't be touched. i gave as an example facial scarification. we could cite many others. the latter is not an absolute: slavery, in its various forms, can't be tolerated, despite a community's claims that it forms the framework for the society. but when the objection is made, by john mbaku or my american students, that any cutting, even if merely symbolic, is absolutely to be prohibited, i believe we are not discussing simply the child's agency or the dated nature of the practice, but something more, something inherent in the refusal absolutely to hear what the other has to say or believe. that is where i see modernism, call it western if you want, shut its ears to others.

because i am jewish, i am perhaps more sensitive to what this means re male circumcision as well. for a while the germans outlawed it, until there was such a reaction that merkel had to have the legislation reversed. in a play by arthur miller, dealing with the holocaust, at one point a jewish chararacter says to another who claims he will pass as non-jewish, "what will you do when they look down your pants." if jews decide some day to end circumcision on medical grounds, and that that symbol of the covenant is less important than the child's health or agency, so be it. but if non-jews tell them, you can't inflict this on a child, then i would have to say, having seen the act performed (the baby is 8 days old; the cutting doesn't appear to inflict great pain; the child cries briefly, and it is over), knowing all the members of my religious community around the world undergo this ritual, who are you to tell us what to do?
if you explain to me why it is wrong, i will listen, and if you are right, i will have to change my mind. but i would hope that i would have something to say about the matter.

all traditions can be changed; but they are not all the same, and the means for changing them have to be weighed given the circumstances. that was what i was trying to say, and especially i want to say, the decision should be made not "from above" except in extreme cases, like genocide or slavery. mostly it should be made in collaboration.
best
ken



On 10/30/14, 9:07 PM, Moses Ebe Ochonu wrote:
Ken,

I think folks, including myself, were reacting to your seeming trivialization of female circumcision through the use of expressions like "small cutting," "symbolic cutting," etc. One discursive tactic for trivializing a matter is to unnecessarily complicate it, which is what folks read you to be doing when you sought to classify, following the WHO, female circumcision into gradations and varieties, as if to suggest that only some forms of the practice are hurtful, traumatizing, morally wrong, and thus deserving of condemnation. I for one understood your point about foreign activists and actors, but I read it as others did in conjunction with what seemed like your refusal to unequivocally condemn a practice that you now say you oppose.

By the way, if I may ask, if a practice is wrong, what is wrong with foreigners and foreign NGOs using their resources and visibility to spotlight it or mobilize people against it? At any rate, is there a foreign NGO that does not work with local groups and partners that share its advocacy? If you know of any, please let me know because you seem to be erecting a straw man of foreign NGOs who go to Africa to imperially tell Africans what to do and not to do without collaborating with or working through local partners. You're a member of Amnesty International, a group founded and funded in the West, which campaigns against human rights violations in Africa and in many cases prescribe certain notions of human rights protection and violation to African governments and peoples--notions that may in fact be informed by Western notions of rights and personhood. Why don't you see that as a form of imperialism? Why are you involved with them? If your answer is that they work with or through local partners, well, so do the anti-FGM foreign NGOs that you so vehemently condemn. I really see a double standard here with your commitment to AI and its work in African countries condemning and promoting certain practices it deems either morally reprehensible or noble. 

My overarching point in all this is to suggest that the idea that foreign NGOs who campaign against FGM in Africa are imperialist and should cede the stage completely to Africans is neither practical nor consistent with your own activist commitments.

On Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 10:21 AM, kenneth harrow <harrow@msu.edu> wrote:
dear ibk
i agree partly with you, but disagree strongly on other points.
i am an american, so a westerner. i don't see the world in one optic shared by everyone else. there is no single west, no single africa, no single villain out there. there are perspectives that vary, and some of those that predominate in the west are terrible about africa. maybe that means americans are imperfect, and if you can concede that you might agree that there are also views in africa that are not so great. what bothers me is lumping everyone into the same mold.

i raised the issue of male circumcision on this thread as well, and john said, another day for that. fine. but it isn't just jews who practice it; not only muslims who practice it; lots of christians throughout the world do so as well. and as for the "west" not  "toying with it" because jews practice it, it is hardly the case that because it is a jewish tradition that it hasn't been challenged. you are imagining a jewish presence and power that doesn't exist. in fact, that is classic antisemitism.
 you can google the issue if you want to find enormous attempts to prohibit male circumcision, not only in the u.s. but in europe as well. and in fact in amnesty international as well.
i agree with you, however, that the representation of female circumcision by the west has been part of the long tradition of western denigration of africans as barbarous, and it doesn't help to adopt the dominant western tropes of civilization and barbarism that served colonialist discourse for hundreds of years.
finally, i want to make it plain to john and others participating in this discussion that i agree that the practices of excision and infibulation ought to be ended, but not by outside donors imposing their cultural norms on africans, but rather by african populations themselves taking control of the issue. i support african groups opposed to the practice; i strongly disagree that the u.s. congress should tie its money to africans changing their practices as a result.
even if i don't like the practice, i find that is a form of imperialism.
ken




On 10/29/14, 7:54 AM, Ibukunolu A Babajide wrote:
Dear friends,
 
This is thye most illuminating narrative I have read on this topic.  Coming from a supposed "victim" it is even more compelling.  I have three daughters and I will NEVER allow any of them to be circumcised.  The issues that we need to address are these:
 
1.  The characterization of the practice by the West;
2.  The dehumanization of Africa and recruitment of Africans to do the dirty for them on fellow Africans; and
3.  Finding African solutions to African issues without being led by the nose by ignorant non Africans who make money and create their own narratives.
 
I raised the issue of male circumcision and so far nobody has taken up the gauntlet, afterall it fits samlessly into Jewish tradition and the west will not toy with that tradition.
 
Cheers.
 
IBK



_________________________
Ibukunolu Alao Babajide (IBK)

On 29 October 2014 09:57, ofure aito <ofureaito@gmail.com> wrote:
May I add my voice by sharing my experience on FGM conversation. First, I understand the position of Mr/Dr/Prof Kadiri and Samuel as well as Prof Mbaku's strong opposing position. I was genitally mutilated in what is called 'circumcision' at age 5 along with my elder sister at age 8. I recall a middle aged woman coming to our house one late afternoon and asking my mum to buy her new razors. Thereafter, my sister was taken to the bathroom. When she returned she walked astride. I worried and was transfixed by the way she walked after a simple visit to the bathroom. I didn't understand what was happening but within me I said I will not go to the bathroom. So I went to our room and hid under the bed, in fear and rejection of walking like my sister. My father came to lure me out to the bathroom where I was given my 'skin cut' and walked like my sister. When I returned to the living room I overheard our neighbor's son in our house explaining to my brother the reason why were walking like that was because we had just been circumcised. The point in this recall is that, I was born in the city and grew in the city, yet my parents felt it was necessary, even when I was already conscious of my environment. My parents never explained. My understanding came from what the neighbour said.
I do not subscribe to fgm or circumcision, but I wonder how much damage that has cost women in African societies since the 60s to date in terms of diseases and sexual deprivation? Our arguments usually take cue from western prompting. The symbolic sexual control it is expected to pose has not limited women's potentials in so many areas of self achievements and actualization (even in the precolonial that the practice was strongest and a thing of pride, women were leaders, partake in policy making, decision makers at home, during war and peace). Even promiscuity has never been  affected or controlled, because in my growing up days we hear about women: married or single, who were described as 'wayward', putting it mildly. It has not stagnated women and their identity, sexuality and sensuality.
>From my experience, the change in the 21st century like Prof Mbaku clamour for is subjective and dependent on individual choices. My parents did not choose to do what they did until we were almost in our teens.
I stand on the argument that it is a societal tradition, not culture that may have outlived its implication, especially, in the age of technological consciousness. The interpretation and practice are subjective but the age-old view is to control women's sexual power and identity vis-a-viz male dominance. Has this actually been the case. Another point is that change is a natural, evolutionary process (Darwinian law) that must come. Whether, we clamour for it or not some of these anachronistic and 'perverse' practices will become obsolete and without people necessarily demanding the change. Even the culture of piercing and tattooing in the west as fad is fading.
And I do agree with Samuel that until the west has given a name and approval, Africa does not come up with her on opinionated view. For instance, the issue breastfeeding in the 70s was disdained by the west in order to sell baby formular and now, exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months is ideal. Africa is the dump site of various ideological tests and we Africans do not see anything good done in, by or come out of Africa.
Ofure

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