Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Indigenous Studies Engages Ethnic Studies: Schedule

This symposium is organized as an effort to move the field of Ethnic Studies beyond the usual emphasis on immigration, diaspora and slavery paradigms, and to incorporate the critical potential of Indigenous Studies as an integral part of our intellectual agenda. Just as the scholarship ‘about’ people of color does not describe our notion and practice of Ethnic Studies, scholarship ‘about’ indigenous people must reflect more than merely the violent history of the academy within indigenous communities. It must, in fact, engage the sophisticated indigenous theories, which have been circulating for many years, especially those that confront the ways in which colonial power still operates in nation-states. This symposium is an important step towards facilitating this integration.

Friday, May 8, 2009
9.30 AM - 5.00 PM
UCSD Social Sciences Building
Room 107

9.30 AM: Breakfast

10.00 - 11.45 AM: Panel 1
Moderator: Ross Frank, Associate Professor in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego

Noenoe Silva, Associate Professor of Hawaiian and Indigenous Politics, University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
The Study of Indigenous Politics at the University of Hawai'i.

Michelle Erai, University of California, Office of the President Post-doctoral Fellow
Gender: A site of engagement for Indigenous and Ethnic Studies?

Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
The Delicacies of doing Indigenous Studies within Ethnic Studies

Traci Brynne Voyles, Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
Queer Ecologies: the 'Navajo Problem' and Intimate Cartographies of the Navajo Nation, 1928-1943

11.45 AM - 12.45 PM: Lunch

1.00 - 2.45 PM: Panel 2
Moderator: Denise Ferreira da Silva, Associate Professor in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego

Andrea Smith, Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, University of California, Riverside
White Supremacy and Settler Colonialism

Chris Finley, PhD Candidate in American Culture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Conquest: A Love Story in the New World

Mark Harris, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, La Trobe University, Australia
Lost between memorialising and forgetting: a reflection upon the recent trend towards apologies made by modern settler States to Indigenous peoples

Lani Teves, PhD Candidate in American Culture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
We're All Hawaiians Now: Kanaka Maoli Alterities and the 21st Century Ahupua'a

3.00 - 4.45 PM: Panel 3
Moderator: Adria Imada, Assistant Professor in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego

Audra Simpson, Assistant Professor in Anthropology, Columbia University
Indigenous Resistance and Etiologies of Consent: Mohawk Nationalism, "Proper Citizenship" and Settler Emergency

Ma Vang, Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
Statelessness and Citizenship in the Hmong Veterans' Naturalization Act of 1997

Maile Arvin, M.A./Ph.D. Student in Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
Sovereignty Will Not Be Funded: Indigenous Citizenship and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

*** Co-sponsored by: Department of Ethnic Studies, California Cultures in Comparative Perspectives, Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor, Office of the Dean of Social Sciences, Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor, Faculty Equity ***

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lady Sings the Blues

I just turned in the first draft of my prospectus, so I have a bit of a breather until tomorrow when my work gets ripped into and I return to stress-ball state. In the meantime, I've been listening to music over YouTube and finally got my hands on some amazing music that I lost when my computer crashed a year or so ago.

One of the best things about going through a break up (not that going through one is particularly enjoyable in any way), is that, in your stronger moments, you can re-discover aspects of your pre-relationship life that got somewhat muted during the relationship. Of course, the trick is not to lose those parts of you, in the first place, (something I need to be more deliberate about the next time around). In any case, my moments of "re-discovery" have all circulated around music and books - music for memories, and books for inspiration. In the first week, I listened to the one swing album I own: Colin Jones and the Big Little Band. It got it my very semester at Oberlin, when I took swing classes. Besides the music itself, which is fun, it has a lot of sweet, untainted memories attached to it - the kinds of memories that come few and far between, but are essential for sustenance, in a break-up. I hadn't listened to that CD in forever, maybe not since my sophomore year, but listening to it again a few months ago gave me a sense of very simple happiness.

This morning though, as I was winding up the draft of my prospectus, I was browsing YouTube for music to play in the background. And I came to a playlist titled "Lady Sings the Blues." It has many of the songs from the album of the same name - one that I fell in love with the first time I heard it (I'm referring to the two volume compilation, not the Billie Holiday album). I don't remember how long ago that was, but the CD belonged to my uncle who I was visiting in London. I remember playing that CD every morning after he and my aunt left for work, just lounging around on their sofa, day-dreaming. I even downloaded it onto my laptop, but I lost all my music last year because of a harddrive crash).

I definitely hadn't forgotten about this CD... there are a handful of songs from it that have graced my YouTube playlist for a while now. But finding almost the entire set today was pretty amazing. Like I said, I've always really enjoyed the compilation, and so listening to it again brought back some really calming memories. I must've been going through some kind of intense period in my life back when I first heard the CD, because listening to the songs on it always makes me feel somehow stronger, more hopeful; it makes me believe in myself again, in who I am and what I am capable of... again, a feeling that is so crucial, but often so hard to come by, when going through a rough patch. But I guess, subconsciously, the songs remind me that I've encountered hard times before, and that I've survived them pretty ok.

Listening to the songs today, they really spoke to me, to so many of the feelings I am currently experiencing. It did make me wonder though why they had resonated with me so much before. Was I somehow already anticipating this moment then? Or is that, in some way, this moment is no different from others I've experienced, that it has just taken on a different form? And either way, I'm not sure what this says about me - is it that I am a cynic? Or a (tragic) romantic? Or that I subconsciously fantasize about personal difficulties because they help me realize my strength? I'm not really sure... but in any case, it was pretty fascinating. It might just be, too, that for me these songs conjure up the image, the feel, of it means to be a "woman" - a perfect combination of tenderness, ferocity, sensuality, wisdom, survival.

Here are some of my absolutely favorite songs from the compilations... admittedly not the "bluest." I really like pretty much all of them, so it's kind of hard picking just a few. But these are the songs that never go old, that I never tire of.

Julie London - Cry Me River (I remember loving this song as a child. I think my dad had it on LP, unless it's a totally made-up memory.)

Dinah Washington - Call Me Irresponsible

Gladys Knight - Midnight Train to Georgia

Aretha Franklin - Today I Sing the Blues

Etta James - Sugar on the Floor
(OK... this one's not the Etta James song on the album. But it's one of my top two favorite Etta James songs. She was such a revelation for me my sophomore year... so wonderfully amazing!)

Dorothy Moore - Misty Blue (I almost want to say this is my favorite song ever... I'm pretty sure it's on the CD too, although the playlist below doesn't indicate that. Whatever, it's beautiful!!! UPDATE: It's a shame that this video cuts the song off so abruptly. But I really like the video itself too... Anyway, full audio can be found here.)

And finally, just for fun: Diana Ross - Touch Me in the Morning

Here's the playlist from the compilation. I don't think this is the exact CD my uncle had... perhaps the UK version is slightly different? I don't know... or I could just be wrong.

Disc: 1
1. Key Largo - Sarah Vaughan

2. Solitude - Ella Fitzgerald
3. Embraceable You - Dianne Reeves
4. Don't Go to Strangers - Etta James
5. Call Me - Della Reese
6. I'm Just a Lucky So and So - Diana Krall
7. Call Me Irresponsible - Dinah Washington
8. Something Cool - June Christy
9. You Go to My Head - Keely Smith
10. Very Thought of You - Nancy Wilson
11. My Funny Valentine - Dinah Shore
12. It Had to Be You - Kay Starr
13. One for My Baby (And One More for the Road) - Rosemary Clooney
14. I'll Be Seeing You - Peggy Lee
Disc: 2
1. In A Sentimental Mood - Dianne Reeves

2. Here's That Rainy Day - Peggy Lee
3. Stormy Weather - Sarah Vaughan
4. In a Sentimental Mood - Dianne Reeves
5. They Can't Take That Away from Me - Diana Krall
6. Body and Soul - Etta James
7. Some Day My Prince Will Come - Cassandra Wilson
8. More Than This - Norah Jones
9. Thrill Is Gone - Patricia Barber
10. You're Changed - Nancy Wilson
11. Cry Me a River - Julie London
12. Don't Explain - June Christy
13. Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be?) - Rosemary Clooney
14. I Wish You Love - Keely Smith
15. We'll Be Together Again - Lena Horne

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Toba Tek Singh

I'm working quite frantically on my prospectus. I need to finish a complete draft by Monday... and although I feel good about it, I have tons of thinking and writing to do. My advisor's not easy to please... but that is precisely why I appreciate her so much, because she really does demand good work. In any case, if I am to qualify this quarter (I'm still keeping my fingers crossed), that means very little blog posting. But, since I do want to keep this space somewhat alive, I'll be trying to post some stuff occasionally.

As I was contemplating a good starting point - a good hook, so to speak - for my prospectus, I went back to some of the Partition literature I'd looked at for my thesis. There are two fictional pieces that I am truly and completely moved by, and keep going back to over and over again. One of these is the film Khamosh Pani about which I posted some time ago. The other is a short story by Urdu author, Sa'adat Hasan Mato, titled Toba Tek Singh. This story is one of Manto's most popular, and indeed, it is one of the most popular pieces within Partition fiction. I am actually quite intrigued by Manto himself for many of his stories are quite stunning - he writes about the grotesque, the monstrous, in the most banal, unspectaculairzed, unsensationalized tone. I am thinking particularly of Thanda Ghosht (Cold Meat) and Khol Do (Open It, often also titled The Return), both Partition stories as well. Both of these stories provoked harsh reactions - the former was banned in Pakistan, and obscenity charges were brought against him with respect to the latter. Manto, however, was no stranger to such harsh reactions - he was publicly decried and hauled to court on obscenity charges on numerous occasions. Manto's stories, in fact, were often cast as 'pornographic.'

I won't go into the details of Manto's life here. There's a collection of essays about his life and works that I've read in part, but still need to do a closer reading of. There's also a pretty decent 'portrait' of Manto available here.

Anyway, coming back to Toba Tek Singh, this is a very different kind of story compared to the other two mentioned above. It is dark humor, yet poignant. I don't care much for the translation pasted below - or for any of the other translations available online. I like, instead, the translation by M. Asaduddin, but it is unavailable over the internet. So, the majority of the text pasted below is a translation by Richard McGill Murphy. However, the last few italicized paragraphs, which are the most beautiful and powerful, I've used M. Asaduddin's translation.

Hopefully, I'll be able to write more about this short story later.


Toba Tek Singh

Two or three years after Partition, the governments of Pakistan and India decided to exchange lunatics in the same way that they had exchanged civilian prisoners. In other words, Muslim lunatics in Indian madhouses would be sent to Pakistan, while Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistani madhouses would be handed over to India.

I can't say whether this decision made sense or not. In any event, a date for the lunatic exchange was fixed after high level conferences on both sides of the border. All the details were carefully worked out. On the Indian side, Muslim lunatics with relatives in India would be allowed to stay. The remainder would be sent to the frontier. Here in Pakistan nearly all the Hindus and Sikhs were gone, so the question of retaining non-Muslim lunatics did not arise. All the Hindu and Sikh lunatics would be sent to the frontier in police custody.

I don't know what happened over there. When news of the lunatic exchange reached the madhouse here in Lahore, however, it became an absorbing topic of discussion among the inmates. There was one Muslim lunatic who had read the newspaper Zamindar1 every day for twelve years. One of his friends asked him: "Maulvi Sahib! What is Pakistan?" After careful thought he replied: "It's a place in India where they make razors."

Hearing this, his friend was content.

One Sikh lunatic asked another Sikh: "Sardar ji, why are they sending us to India? We don't even speak the language."

"I understand the Indian language," the other replied, smiling. "Indians are devilish people who strut around haughtily," he added.

While bathing, a Muslim lunatic shouted "Long live Pakistan!" with such vigor that he slipped on the floor and knocked himself out.

There were also some lunatics who weren't really crazy. Most of these inmates were murderers whose families had bribed the madhouse officials to have them committed in order to save them from the hangman's noose. These inmates understood something of why India had been divided, and they had heard of Pakistan. But they weren't all that well informed. The newspapers didn't tell them a great deal, and the illiterate guards who looked after them weren't much help either. All they knew was that there was a man named Mohammed Ali Jinnah, whom people called the Qaid-e-Azem. He had made a separate country for the Muslims, called Pakistan. They had no idea where it was, or what its boundaries might be. This is why all the lunatics who hadn't entirely lost their senses were perplexed as to whether they were in Pakistan or India. If they were in India, then where was Pakistan? If they were in Pakistan, then how was it that the place where they lived had until recently been known as India?

One lunatic got so involved in this India/Pakistan question that he became even crazier. One day he climbed a tree and sat on one of its branches for two hours, lecturing without pause on the complex issues of Partition. When the guards told him to come down, he climbed higher. When they tried to frighten him with threats, he replied: "I will live neither in India nor in Pakistan. I'll live in this tree right here!" With much difficulty, they eventually coaxed him down. When he reached the ground he wept and embraced his Hindu and Sikh friends, distraught at the idea that they would leave him and go to India.

One man held an M.S. degree and had been a radio engineer. He kept apart from the other inmates, and spent all his time walking silently up and down a particular footpath in the garden. After hearing about the exchange, however, he turned in his clothes and ran naked all over the grounds.

There was one fat Muslim lunatic from Chiniot who had been an enthusiastic Muslim League activist. He used to wash fifteen or sixteen times a day, but abandoned the habit overnight. His name was Mohammed Ali. One day he announced that he was the Qaid-e-Azem, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Seeing this, a Sikh lunatic declared himself to be Master Tara Singh. Blood would have flowed, except that both were reclassified as dangerous lunatics and confined to separate quarters.

There was also a young Hindu lawyer from Lahore who had gone mad over an unhappy love affair. He was distressed to hear that Amritsar was now in India, because his beloved was a Hindu girl from that city. Although she had rejected him, he had not forgotten her after losing his mind. For this reason he cursed the Muslim leaders who had split India into two parts, so that his beloved remained Indian while he became Pakistani.

When news of the exchange reached the madhouse, several lunatics tried to comfort the lawyer by telling him that he would be sent to India, where his beloved lived. But he didn't want to leave Lahore, fearing that his practice would not thrive in Amritsar.

In the European Ward there were two Anglo-Indian lunatics. They were very worried to hear that the English had left after granting independence to India. In hushed tones, they spent hours discussing how this would affect their situation in the madhouse. Would the European Ward remain, or would it disappear? Would they be served English breakfasts? What, would they be forced to eat poisonous bloody Indian chapattis instead of bread?

One Sikh had been an inmate for fifteen years. He spoke a strange language of his own, constantly repeating this nonsensical phrase: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyan o mung di daal of di lalteen."2 He never slept. According to the guards, he hadn't slept a wink in fifteen years. Occasionally, however, he would rest by propping himself against a wall.

His feet and ankles had become swollen from standing all the time, but in spite of these physical problems he refused to lie down and rest. He would listen with great concentration whenever there was discussion of India, Pakistan and the forthcoming lunatic exchange. Asked for his opinion, he would reply with great seriousness: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana di mung di daal of di Pakistan gornament."3

Later he replaced "of di Pakistan gornament" with "of di Toba Tek Singh gornament." He also started asking the other inmates where Toba Tek Singh was, and to which country it belonged. But nobody knew whether it was in Pakistan or India. When they argued the question they only became more confused. After all, Sialkot had once been in India, but was apparently now in Pakistan. Who knew whether Lahore, which was now in Pakistan, might not go over to India tomorrow? Or whether all of India might become Pakistan? And was there any guarantee that both Pakistan and India would not one day vanish altogether?

This Sikh lunatic's hair was unkempt and thin. Because he washed so rarely, his hair and beard had matted together, giving him a frightening appearance. But he was a harmless fellow. In fifteen years, he had never fought with anyone.

The attendants knew only that he owned land in Toba Tek Singh district. Having been a prosperous landlord, he suddenly lost his mind. So his relatives bound him with heavy chains and sent him off to the madhouse.

His family used to visit him once a month. After making sure that he was in good health, they would go away again. These family visits continued for many years, but they stopped when the India/Pakistan troubles began.

This lunatic's name was Bashan Singh, but everyone called him Toba Tek Singh. Although he had very little sense of time, he seemed to know when his relatives were coming to visit. He would tell the officer in charge that his visit was impending. On the day itself he would wash his body thoroughly and comb and oil his hair. Then he would put on his best clothes and go to meet his relatives.

If they asked him any question he would either remain silent or say: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana di mung di daal of di laaltein."

Bashan Singh had a fifteen-year-old daughter who grew by a finger's height every month. He didn't recognize her when she came to visit him. As a small child, she used to cry whenever she saw her father. She continued to cry now that she was older.

When the Partition problems began, Bashan Singh started asking the other lunatics about Toba Tek Singh. Since he never got a satisfactory answer, his concern deepened day by day.

Then his relatives stopped visiting him. Formerly he could predict their arrival, but now it was as though the voice inside him had been silenced. He very much wanted to see those people, who spoke to him sympathetically and brought gifts of flowers, sweets and clothing. Surely they could tell him whether Toba Tek Singh was in Pakistan or India. After all, he was under the impression that they came from Toba Tek Singh, where his land was.

There was another lunatic in that madhouse who thought he was God. One day, Bashan Singh asked him whether Toba Tek Singh was in Pakistan or India. Guffawing, he replied: "Neither, because I haven't yet decided where to put it!"

Bashan Singh begged this "God" to resolve the status of Toba Tek Singh and thus end his perplexity. But "God" was far too busy to deal with this matter because of all the other orders that he had to give. One day Bashan Singh lost his temper and shouted: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana di mung di daal of wahay Guru ji wa Khalsa and wahay Guru ji ki fatah. Jo bolay so nahal sat akal!"

By this he might have meant: "You are the God of the Muslims. If you were a Sikh God then you would certainly help me."

A few days before the day of the exchange, one of Bashan Singh's Muslim friends came to visit from Toba Tek Singh. This man had never visited the madhouse before. Seeing him, Bashan Singh turned abruptly and started walking away. But the guard stopped him.

"He's come to visit you. It's your friend Fazluddin," the guard said.

Glancing at Fazluddin, Bashan Singh muttered a bit. Fazluddin advanced and took him by the elbow. "I've been planning to visit you for ages, but I haven't had the time until now," he said. "All your relatives have gone safely to India. I helped them as much as I could. Your daughter Rup Kur . . ."

Bashan Singh seemed to remember something. "Daughter Rup Kur," he said.

Fazluddin hesitated, and then replied: "Yes, she's . . . she's also fine. She left with them."

Bashan Singh said nothing. Fazluddin continued: "They asked me to make sure you were all right. Now I hear that you're going to India. Give my salaams to brother Balbir Singh and brother Wadhada Singh. And to sister Imrat Kur also . . . Tell brother Balbir Singh that I'm doing fine. One of the two brown cows that he left has calved. The other one calved also, but it died after six days. And . . . and say that if there's anything else I can do for them, I'm always ready. And I've brought you some sweets."

Bashan Singh handed the package over to the guard. "Where is Toba Tek Singh?" he asked.

Fazluddin was taken aback. "Toba Tek Singh? Where is it? It's where it's always been," he replied.

"In Pakistan or in India?" Bashan Singh persisted.

Fazluddin became flustered. "It's in India. No no, Pakistan."

Bashan Singh walked away, muttering: "Upar di gur gur di annexe di dhiyana di mung di daal of di Pakistan and Hindustan of di dar fatay mun!"

Finally all the preparations for the exchange were complete. The lists of all the lunatics to be transferred were finalized, and the date for the exchange itself was fixed.

The weather was very cold. The Hindu and Sikh lunatics from the Lahore madhouse were loaded into trucks under police supervision. At the Wahga border post, the Pakistani and Indian officials met each other and completed the necessary formalities. Then the exchange began. It continued all through the night.

It was not easy to unload the lunatics and send them across the border. Some of them didn't even want to leave the trucks. Those who did get out were hard to control because they started wandering all over the place. When the guards tried to clothe those lunatics who were naked, they immediately ripped the garments off their bodies. Some cursed, some sang, and others fought. They were crying and talking, but nothing could be understood. The madwomen were creating an uproar of their own. And it was cold enough to make your teeth chatter.

Most of the lunatics were opposed to the exchange. They didn't understand why they should be uprooted and sent to some unknown place. Some, only half-mad, started shouting "Long live Pakistan!" Two or three brawls erupted between Sikh and Muslim lunatics who became enraged when they heard the slogans.

When Bashan Singh's turn came to be entered in the register, he spoke to the official in charge. "Where is Toba Tek Singh?" he asked. "Is it in Pakistan or India?"

The official laughed. "It's in Pakistan," he replied.

Hearing this, Bashan Singh leapt back and ran to where his remaining companions stood waiting. The Pakistani guards caught him and tried to bring him back to the crossing point, but he refused to go.

"Toba Tek Singh is here!" he cried. Then he started raving at top volume: "Upar di gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana mang di daal of di Toba Tek Singh and Pakistan!"

They tried their best to persuade him that Toba Tek Singh had already gone to Hindustan, or would be sent there immediately. But he was resolute. When they tried to move him forcibly to the other side, he stood on his swollen legs at a spot in the middle, in a posture that seemed to suggest that no power on earth could move him from there.

Because he was a harmless fellow, they did not use force anymore. He was allowed to stand right there, while the exchange proceedings continued.

Just before sunrise, a sky rending cry emerged from the gullet of Bishen Singh, who till then had stood still and unmoving. Several officials came running to the spot and found that the man who had stood still on his legs, day and night for fifteen years, was lying on his face. Over there, behind the barbed wires, was Hindustan. Over here, behind identical wires lay Pakistan. In between, on a bit of land that had no name, lay Toba Tek Singh.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Courtroom Victory for Ward Churchill and Academic Freedom of Speech

Hooray for Juries
by Dave Lindorff

A group of 6 ordinary people in a Colorado courtroom saw through the McCarthyite political tactics of the University of Colorado officials and Colorado politicians who conducted a witch hunt against tenured professor and long-time Native American activist Ward Churchill, saying with remarkable clarity and sense that he never would have had his tenure revoked and been fired by the university had it not been for his unapologetic left-wing politics and writings.

It was an enormous victory for academic freedom and for the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech.

It is unclear at this point what the split was on the jury on the issue of damages, which ultimately resulted in a symbolic award of $1 dollar. There was a letter from the jury to the trial judge, Denver District Court Judge Larry J. Naves, during deliberations, asking whether they could replace one juror if they couldn’t get a unanimous agreement on the $1-dollar award, but when told that was not possible, they reached that decision unanimously.

A university spokesman, Ken McConnellogue, tried to argue that the low damage award was “some vindication” for the university’s action in firing Prof. Churchill. The Boulder school is now fighting Churchill’s effort to be reinstated in his job, where he had been chairman of the school’s ethnic studies department. McConnellogue claims that because it was a faculty committee that had been instrumental in his firing, an order by the court reinstating him to his position would “probably draw a sharp reaction.”

The idea that somehow a dispassionate group of faculty members at the university had reviewed Prof. Churchill’s scholarship and determined he had plagiarized and falsified his research is simply nonsense.

There may possibly have been a time when faculty committees reviewing tenure decisions were independent scholarly bodies unswayed by administrators—though given the history of blacklists and firings of tenured professors during the 1950s, I doubt it--but in any event those days, real or imagined, are long gone. Over the past several decades, the concept of academic self-governance has been fatally eroded at most universities. At many institutions, administrators routinely override hiring decisions reached by faculty committees, and all kinds of pressures are brought on individual faculty members to reach decisions that are desired by administrators.

Administrators at many schools have aggrandized the power to veto unpaid and sabbatical leaves, to assign heavier teaching loads, to over-rule tenure decisions, etc. In addition, administrators determine or have the final say on raises, which increasingly are based upon ill-defined and hard to challenge “merit” considerations. All of this makes faculty members on critical committees such as the one which was assigned to investigate Churchill’s scholarship, extremely vulnerable to administration pressure—the more so when powerful political figures like the state’s governor and members of the state legislature, who have made clear their desire to see Churchill sacked, are added to the mix.

The academic committee impaneled to investigate him claimed that Churchill had plagiarized articles, but in truth the works they referred to which Churchill had quoted in some of his work were things he had himself written earlier, either anonymously, or with other writers. He was, in other words, being accused of plagiarizing from himself.

As Tom Mayer, a professor in the Sociology Department at the University of Colorado, wrote in a paper titled: “The Plagiarism Charges Against Ward Churchill,” the faculty committee accusations against Churchill were “largely discredited” by a number of respected independent scholars, and the committee’s own report was larded with “errors of omission and commission.” He writes that the faculty “Report of the Investigative Committee” itself “improperly converts legitimate scholarly controversies into indictments of the positions taken by Professor Churchill.” Mayer adds that the three specific cases of alleged plagiarism condemned by the faculty investigative committee, had appeared in writings that were never intended to be scholarly or to be used for his academic advancement, but rather were rather part of Churchill’s voluminous body of political writings. (Mayer goes on to say that even in those three cases, the accusations of plagiarism are “without compelling force.”) Moreover, all three examples, he notes, were over 14 years old, and the charges about them had been circulated by his critics for over a decade, with no one at the university taking any action “until he became a political pariah.”

The jury, as if often the case, saw through the political subterfuge to the root of the problem, which was that Churchill’s body of writing (much of which has been groundbreaking, such as his 1988 book “Agents of Repression”, co-authored with Jim Vander Wall, and his 1992 book “Fantasies of the Master Race”), which includes 14 books and 150 publications, would never have been subject to investigation, had it not been for the climate of political repression that followed the 9-11 attacks. His political difficulties arose in the wake of his publication in 2003 of a book-length essay on 9-11, titled “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality.” That essay argued that some of those who died in the Twin Towers, rather than simply innocent victims, had been “a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire.” Provocatively calling such people “Little Eichmanns,” Churchill had claimed that their financial machinations had led to death and suffering around the world, and thus to the attack on the US.

It was inflammatory language coming at a time when the American public was being inflamed by demagogues in Washington and a flood of media propaganda and jingoism, but it was also a correct assessment of the role of Wall Street financial firms, as has been made all the more apparent by the recent financial crisis. (In fact, had Churchill written the same thing today, and included American homeowners and workers in his list of the victims of those financial technocrats, the resulting level of public outrage might have been a good deal less—as witness the death threats reportedly being made these days against the recipients of AIG bonuses.)

In fact, it wasn’t publication of Churchill’s 9-11 tract that got him in trouble. It was the workings of the right—most notably former ‘60s fringe leftist-turned-right-wing agitator David Horowitz—who began dogging Churchill in 2005. Horowitz, whose own scholarship is a shameless Swiss cheese of errors and plagiarism, has been conducting a well-funded (courtesy of such right-wing outfits as the Olin Foundation) one-man campaign of smearing and “outing” academic leftists on American campuses, made Churchill a poster child for his absurd charge that universities have become dens of leftism.

It is now up to Judge Naves to decide whether to order the University of Colorado to reinstate Prof. Churchill.

He should do so, though it remains to be seen whether he will have the same political courage shown by those 12 jurors. If he does, he will order reinstatement.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

San Diego Silences JROTC guns

The pieces below are almost two months old, but still, it is incredibly inspiring. Over the past couple of years, I've volunteered in San Diego with an organization called The Project on Youth and Non-military Opportunities (ProjectYANO), although for various reasons I haven't been that active the past few months. In any case, here's a bit about the organization from their About Us page:

Project YANO is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization that provides young people with an alternative point of view about military enlistment. Many of our members are armed forces veterans who believe that high school students are getting a distorted picture of the military and war from recruiting ads and marketing. In particular, we are concerned that many low-income students and students of color are being diverted away from higher education and into the military, where they are found in disproportionate numbers.

In our base community of San Diego County, Project YANO sends veterans to youth groups and local schools to speak about the realities of military life and war so that young people will better understand what is behind the armed forces sales pitch. As an alternative, students are given nonmilitary options for local job training and college financial aid. Project YANO also urges youths to become community activists and consider pursuing careers in social change.

Our goal is to help young people see a different side to these issues so they will have a more balanced picture and be able to make educated decisions about their future. We encourage them to think critically, search for more information, and then make up their own minds

Since its founding in 1984, Project YANO has sought to educate school officials about the need to give students a more balanced view on the military. We have also urged schools to make students and their families more aware of how to protect their privacy by using their right to opt out if student information is going to be released to military recruiters.

Project YANO’s direct outreach focuses on youths in San Diego County, but we also provide resources and advice to other groups across the country.
Our Resource List describes tools that can be used to organize similar efforts in other communities.

Over the past year or so, YANO has been working with high school students in the city to oppose the installation of firing ranges by the JROTC on school campuses. Besides the obvious problematics of teaching students to fire weapons on school property (especially when San Diego City Schools have a zero-tolerance policy for weapons), the installation of firing ranges exemplies the increased militarization of not only schools, but of black and brown communities in general, so that money for education and employment is diverted away from constructive, productive learning and vocations, and into military activity. For more detailed analysis of this issue, read articles here, here and here.

In February, however, after months of resistance to and lobbying of the school board by students, parents and other concerned members of the community, the San Diego Unified School Board passed a resolution, by a 3-2 vote, to ban all marksmanship training in the district. Here's the text of the resolution:

Resolution in the Matter of Eliminating Marksmanship Training From San Diego Unified School District Schools

WHEREAS, the San Diego Unified School District has a zero-tolerance policy on weapons in schools and seeks, as one of its primary goals, to teach students to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence; and

WHEREAS, the District cannot risk sending a mixed message to students when some of their lives have been recently taken by gun violence;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that any existing school district property used for shooting ranges shall be immediately closed for that purpose and converted for other educational uses by the beginning of the next regular school year.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that marksmanship training, whether it is conducted oncampus or off-campus, and through textbooks or physical instruction, shall not be taught in connection with the San Diego Unified School District and shall be discontinued immediately.

The article below details this activism around, and consequences of, this vote. Below that is a poem written by Ernie McCray, a retired educator of 37 years, about the students that organized around this issue. Although we're supposedly living in a time of hope, cynicism abounds, even among those of us committed to social justice work and to communities of struggle. Within that context, then, the work of these high schools students is truly inspiring for they accomplished something presumed impossible - they went up against systems deeply entrenched in structures of inequality and violence - i.e. not only the educational system, but also that of the omnipresent, and apparently omnipotent, military.

San Diego Silences JROTC Guns
February 10, 2009 (see photos below) - San Diego Unified, located in the middle of one of the largest military complexes in the world, took the uncharacteristic step of banning rifle training conducted under the military's high school JROTC program. Eleven schools with rifle ranges were affected in the nation's eighth largest urban district.

Before the board meeting began, speakers representing local high schools and colleges addressed an outside crowd of 200 students, parents, teachers and community supporters. Some high schools sent so many students that two charter buses, courtesy of the AFSC, were used for transportation. Anticipating a long evening before the school board would discuss the rifle training issue, the Association of Raza Educators provided tamales to help sustain the crowd.

It wasn't until four hours into the board meeting, at 9:00 PM, that the agenda item came up for discussion. The vote was preceded by testimony from about 15 pro- and con- speakers in front of a crowd that was largely in favor of terminating the weapons training program. One school board member said that in all of his many years on the board, this was the most impressive student effort he had ever seen. Even two board members who opposed the resolution expressed their admiration for the students' involvement. When the decision was made, the resolution, which immediately banned all marksmanship training in the district, passed by a vote of 3-2. The crowd then spilled out of the auditorium to hold a loud and joyous celebration.

This achievement was made possible by a collaboration of students and various community groups who first came together in 2007 as the Education Not Arms Coalition. One of their main concerns was the way schools were tracking students into military training (via JROTC) while denying them adequate class alternatives, especially ones needed to qualify for college. Students from African American and Latino families were being disproportionately affected.

To address the problem, the coalition adopted three initial goals--convince the school district to:

-stop placing students into military science (JROTC) classes without their informed consent.
-stop telling parents and students that the class will help them qualify for college, when it won't.
-ban weapons training and JROTC gun ranges in San Diego schools.

All three goals have now been achieved, the first two by a superintendent's directive, the third by school board action. Throughout the over one-year long campaign, high school students have played a central role in educating and mobilizing their peers, with support from a variety of community and college groups.

Audio of the entire Feb. 10 hearing and school board decision is posted on the SD Unified site: Video should be added soon.

For a video news report, visit:

For more information:

About 150 students from a dozen schools, plus another 50 teachers, parents and other supporters, rally at school district headquarters before school board meeting.

As the board meeting begins, a JROTC color guard and students opposing JROTC rifle ranges stand face-to-face for the pledge of allegiance.

After waiting 4-1/2 hours for the school board to vote, cheering students celebrate their victory outside.

Freedom Isn’t Free
(A Shout Out to Some Beautiful Freedom Fighters I know)

by Ernie McCray

You beautiful freedom fighters
came into my life
out of nowhere it seemed
like a cosmic prize,
a glorious surprise.
You’re all so young and dedicated
and so utterly refreshing and wise.
You’re a melody playing in my ears,
a vision of hope dancing before my eyes,
warming and soothing my soul,
giving energy to a belief I strive
to hold inside
that a better world
can be realized.

Please take pride
in how you have risen
out of a society
that gives voice to a philosophy
that “Freedom isn’t free,”
attributing such a philosophy
due to the sacrifices
of our country’s
army GI’s,
and marines giving honor to semper fi,
and flyboys and girls patrolling the skies,
while swabbies keep their eyes
on the sea.
Keep your heads held high
knowing that you intuitively
understand that such decrees
ignore others of this country’s citizenry
who have struggled
when they shouldn’t have had to
Talking about:
Frederick D
and Booker T
and Harriet T
and Sojourner T
and H. Rap and Stokely
and the SNCC
and Schwermer, Goodman and Chaney
found in an earthen dam in Mississippi
and Thurgood and Rosa P
and Martin,
a disciple of Gandhi,
dreaming out loud
in Washington D.C.
and Cesar Chavez
and Dolores Huerta
bestowing dignity
on La Raza as a legacy
and Malcolm
and Medgar
and Gloria Steinem and Fannie Mae
and Al and Jesse
and Muhammad Ali
and Chicanos, like the Brown Berets
and Las Adelitas de Aztlan, bringing awareness
to a people’s culture and history.
And YOU, if you ask me,
because you have
followed in the footsteps
of these heroic personalities,
confronting ever so intelligently
and diplomatically
and insistently
and lovingly
some ugly practices
that were going down
in your schools,
scraping and crawling
against being militarized
against your will,
standing steadfastly
against your schools telling your folks lies
about JROTC,
shining a light
for all to see
on the glaring hypocrisy
of weapons training
where a Zero Tolerance Policy
was said to be.

No, freedom isn’t free
but I have observed with the utmost respect
how you freedom fighters
have paid the price,
how you set out to get a job done,
and how you’ve held yourself erect,
from the day you started
until the day you WON,
refusing to be moved
“like a tree that’s planted by the water”
in an old civil rights anthem sung
at another time when the good guys won.

Oh, this old son-of-a-gun
will hold you beautiful freedom fighters
in a special place
in my heart until my day is done.