International Women’s Day Reading List

From feminist theory, to history and contemporary politics, these are some of Pluto’s best books, old and new, that celebrate radical women.

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Revolutionary Learning: Marxism, Feminism and Knowledge by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab Carpenter T03129

Revolutionary Learning by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab explores the Marxist and feminist theorisation of knowledge production and learning. From an explicitly feminist perspective, the authors reconsider the contributions of Marx, Gramsci and Freire to educational theory, expanding Marxist analyses of education by considering it in relation to patriarchal and imperialist capitalism.  The reproductive nature of institutions is revealed through an ethnography of schools and pushed further by the authors who go on to examine how education and consciousness connects with the broader environment of public policy, civil society, the market, and other instruments of ‘public pedagogy.’

The book’s use of work by feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial scholars means it will have significant implications for critical education scholarship, but its use value extends beyond educational praxis; providing the tools dissect, theorize, resist and transform capitalist social relations.

 

Captive Revolution: Palestinian Women’s Anti-Colonial Struggle within the Israeli Prison System by Nahla AbdoAbdo T02851

Throughout the world, women have played a part in struggles against colonialism, imperialism and other forms of oppression, but their vital contributions to revolutions, national liberation and anti-colonial resistance are rarely chronicled.

Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolution seeks to break the silence on Palestinian women political detainees. Based on stories of the women themselves, as well as her own experiences as a former political prisoner, Abdo draws on a wealth of oral history and primary research in order to analyse their anti-colonial struggle, their agency and their appalling treatment as political detainees. Through crucial comparisons between the experiences of female political detainees in other conflict; a history of female activism emerges.

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‘Feminism is for Everybody’ bell hooks for International Woman’s Day

bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody is the antidote to every ‘when’s international men’s day?!’ tweet. Designed to be read by all genders, this short, accessible introduction to feminist theory, by one of its liveliest and most influential practitioners, seeks to rescue feminism from esoterism and academic jargon; simplifying, arguing and convincing.

 

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Everywhere I go I proudly tell folks who want to know who I am and what I do that I am a writer, a feminist theorist, a cultural critic. I tell them I write about movies and popular culture, analysing the message in the medium. Most people find this exciting and want to know more. Everyone goes to movies, watches television, glances through magazines, and everyone has thoughts about the messages they receive, about the images they look at. It is easy for the diverse public I encounter to understand what I do as a cultural critic, to understand my passion for writing (lots of folks want to write, and do). But feminist theory — that’s the place where the questions stop. In- stead I tend to hear all about the evil of feminism and the bad feminists: how “they” hate men; how “they” want to go against nature — and god; how “they” are all lesbians; how “they” are taking all the jobs and making the world hard for white men, who do not stand a chance. When I ask these same folks about the feminist books or magazines they read, when I ask them about the feminist talks they have heard, about the feminist activists they know, they respond by let- ting me know that everything they know about feminism has come into their lives thirdhand, that they really have not come close enough to feminist movement to know what really happens, what it’s really about. Mostly they think feminism is a bunch of angry women who want to be like men. They do not even think about feminism as being about rights — about women gaining equal rights. When I talk about the feminism I know — up close and personal — they willingly listen, although when our conversations end, they are quick to tell me I am different, not like the “real” feminists who hate men, who are angry. I assure them I am as a real and as radical a feminist as one can be, and if they dare to come closer to feminism they will see it is not how they have imagined it.

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“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear” The Islamophobia machine by John L. Esposito

The Islamophobia first espoused by conservative bloggers, right-wing talk show hosts, rampant trump-exec-orderracists on Twitter and evangelical religious leaders has found a home in the White House. The decision of thousands of people to stand up to racism and protest this week is encouraging, but as intolerance becomes government policy uncovering the scare tactics, revealing the motives and exposing the ideologies that drive this Islamophobia machine becomes increasingly important. 

This essay, written by John L. Esposito, is taken from Nathan Lean’s ‘The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims’, which seeks to challenge the narrative of fear that has for too long dominated discussions about Muslims and Islam, Esposito offers a historical perspective on this ever-rising tide. The second edition, scheduled for publication in September 2017, will include new material on the Trump victory, exploring the new government that is currently coming to shape in the US, emphasising that this book is now more relevant than other.

Islamophobia did not suddenly come into being after the events of 9/11. Like anti-Semitism and xenophobia, it has long and deep historical roots. Its contemporary resurgence has been triggered by the significant influx of Muslims to the West in the late twentieth century, the Iranian revolution, hijackings, hostage taking, and other acts of terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s, attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and subsequent terrorist attacks in Europe.

WHAT ARE THE ROOTS OF THIS MODERN EPIDEMIC?

Most Americans’ first encounter with an unknown Islam occurred with the Iranian Revolution of 1978 and the taking of hostages in the American embassy, which resulted in an explosion of interest and coverage of the religion of Islam as well as of the Middle East and the Muslim world that has increased exponentially over the years. Today, Islam and the Middle East often dominate the negative headlines. Despite the fact that Islam is the second largest religion in the world and the third largest religion in the United States—as well as the fact that American Muslims are an integral part of the American mosaic in the twenty-first century—the acts of terrorists over the last three decades have fed the growth of Islamophobia in this country.

THE POST 9/11 CLIMATE:

The catastrophic events of 9/11 and continued attacks in Muslim countries, as well as in Germany, France and London, have obscured many positive developments and have exacerbated the growth of Islamophobia almost exponentially. Islam and Muslims have become guilty until proven innocent, a reversal of the classic American legal maxim. Islam is often viewed as the cause rather than the context for radicalism, extremism, and terrorism. Islam as the culprit is a simple answer, easier than considering the core political issues and grievances that resonate in much of the Muslim world (that is, the failures of many Muslim governments and societies, American foreign policy of intervention and dominance, Western support for authoritarian regimes, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, or support for Israel’s wars in Gaza and Lebanon). It is not difficult to find material that emphasizes selective analyses of Islam and events in the Muslim world, material which is crisis-oriented and headline-driven, fuelling stereotypes, fears, and discrimination. Islam’s portrayal as a triple threat (political, civilizational, and demographic) has been magnified by a number of journalists and scholars who trivialize the complexity of political, social, and religious dynamics in the Muslim world.

The result has been to downplay the negative consequences of Western support for authoritarian regimes, and the blowback from American and European foreign policies in the Middle East, from the Palestinian–Israeli conflict to the invasion of Iraq. Anti-Americanism or anti-westernization (which has increased significantly among the mainstream in the Muslim world and globally as a result of these policies) is often equated simply with Muslim hatred of our western way of life.islamophobia

Today, Islamophobia distorts the prism through which Muslims are viewed domestically. Anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate crimes proliferate. Legitimate concerns in the United States and Europe for domestic security have been offset by the abuse of anti-terrorism legislation, indiscriminate arrests, and imprisonments that compromise Muslims’ civil liberties. Mainstream Islamic institutions (civil rights groups, political action committees, charities) are indiscriminately accused of raising money for extremism by individuals and sometimes governments without the hard evidence that would lead to successful prosecution.

Significant minorities of non-Muslim Americans show a great tolerance for policies that would profile Muslims, require special identity cards, and question the loyalty of all Muslim citizens. A 2006 USA Today-Gallup Poll found that substantial minorities of Americans admit to having negative feelings or prejudices against people of the Muslim faith, and favour using heightened security measures with Muslims as a way to help prevent terrorism. Fewer than half the respondents believed that US Muslims are loyal to the United States. Nearly one-quarter of Americans—22 percent—said they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbour; 31 percent said they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim man on their flight, and 18 percent said they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim woman on their flight. About 4 in 10 Americans favour more rigorous security measures for Muslims than those used for other US citizens: requiring Muslims who are US citizens to carry a special ID and undergo special, more intensive, security checks before boarding airplanes in the United States. When US respondents were asked, in the Gallup World Poll, what they admire about the Muslim world, the most common response was “nothing” (33 percent); the second most common was “I don’t know” (22 percent). Despite major polling by Gallup and PEW that show that American Muslims are well integrated economically and politically, a January 2010 Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies report found that more than 4 in 10 Americans (43 percent) admit to feeling at least “a little” prejudice toward Muslims—more than twice the number who say the same about Christians (18 percent), Jews (15 percent) and Buddhists (14 percent). Nine percent of Americans admitted feeling “a great deal” of prejudice towards Muslims, while 20 percent admitted feeling “some” prejudice. Surprisingly, Gallup data revealed a link between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, that contempt for Jews makes a person “about 32 times as likely to report the same level of prejudice toward Muslims.”

The extent to which the religion of Islam and the mainstream Muslim majority have been conflated with the beliefs and actions of an extremist minority can be seen not only in major polls but also in opposition to mosque construction, in locations from Manhattan and Staten Island to Tennessee and California, which has become not just a local but a national political issue. In the 2008 US presidential elections and the 2010 Congressional elections, anti-mosque and anti-Sharia hysteria have shown that Islamophobia has gone mainstream. islamophobic-tweet

Across the US, a major debate erupted over the building of an Islamic community centre a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Centre. A June 22, 2010 New York Post editorial said, “There’s no denying the elephant in the room. Neither is there any rejoicing over the mosques … because where there are mosques, there are Muslims, and where there are Muslims, there are problems… .” The author warns of New York becoming “New Yorkistan,” just as London has become “Londonstan,” “degenerated” by a Muslim community “into a launching pad for terrorists.”

Islamophobia, like anti-Semitism, will not be eradicated easily or soon. Islamophobia is not a problem for Muslims alone; it is our problem. Governments, policymakers, the media, educational institutions, and religious and corporate leaders have a critical role to play in transforming our societies and influencing our citizens and policies to contain the voices of hate and the exclusivist theologies (of militant religious and secular fundamentalists alike) if we are to promote global understanding and peace. As we know from the history of anti-Semitism and of racism in America, bigots and racists aren’t born. As the lyrics from the musical South Pacific remind us: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year. It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, you’ve got to be carefully taught.”

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The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims by Nathan Lean is available from Pluto Press here.

The Trump Emergency by Bill V. Mullen

 

W.E.B. DuBois was quoted as saying ‘either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States’. Trump’s bid to ‘Make America Great Again’ was vitalised by this potentially destructive ignorance; racism, misogyny, ableism and homophobia were omnipresent during his campaign and his appointments stoke a similar fire. 

Bill V. Mullen, author of W.E.B. Du Bois: Revolutionary Across the Colour Line’, deconstructs the recent election; making predictions and prescribing the measures necessary to fight this destructive ignorance. 

Three things must be said at the start about the role of racism, xenophobia and nativism in Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election.

Firstly, Trump scapegoated immigrants from Mexico and Muslims in what has become a kkk_trumpright-nationalist move globally to split the working-class.  As a result, we have seen an upturn in hate crimes and racist attacks in the U.S., especially against Muslims, in the seven days since the election. African Americans and Latinos, many poor or working-class, overwhelmingly rejected him by margins of 8 and 9 to one. Black women voted against Trump by 93 percent, the highest of any single group in the electorate. Trump’s solid majority of votes was won among whites without a college degree. Though Trump voters did list immigration as one of their main reasons for supporting him, the deeper, longer-term effect of that scapegoating is not easy to determine, it is important to note that Trump’s actual margin of victory among whites was almost exactly the same as Mitt Romney’s over Obama in 2012 (20 percent – 21 percent).  See Mike Davis:

The great surprise of the election was not a huge white working-class shift to Trump but rather his success in retaining the loyalty of Romney voters, and indeed even slightly improving on the latter’s performance amongst evangelicals for whom the election was viewed as a last stand. Thus economic populism and nativism potently combined with, but did not displace, the traditional social conservative agenda[1]

Secondly, voter suppression, especially of minority votes, massively effected the outcome. Hillary Clinton earned 10 million fewer votes than Barack Obama in 2008 and a smaller percentage of the African-American vote than did Obama in 2012: 88 versus 93 percent.  In some states like Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana, the combination of new “voter I.D.” laws and reduction in polling places likely repressed minority turnout.

Third, the fact that 60 million people in the U.S. voted for an openly racist, nativist, misogynist candidate has devastated and enraged the political morale of many, especially racial minorities. Trump’s formal endorsement by the Ku Klux Klan, his appointment of an anti-semitic white nationalist, Stephen Bannon, to a key advising post, his campaign’s open outreach to white supremacists, is a toxic reminder of the U.S.’s history as a capitalist, slaveholding empire of war, genocide, imperialism and ruin. ‘Whitelash’ is one current popular expression for this development.

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Dry Your Eyes and Organise! A Pluto Press reading list

With the election of Donald Trump it’s time for the left to take action! We cannot and will not let racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism be legitimised and normalised. Here are our list of books to arm yourself against the rise of proto-fascism!

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THEORY:

Using Gramsci: A New Approach by Michele Filippinifilippini-t02985

Released this month, Michele Filippini proposes a new approach based on the analysis of previously ignored concepts in his works, creating a book which stands apart. Look on Wikiquote and you won’t unearth Antonio Gramsci’s much-quoted dictum ‘I love the poorly educated’. Gramsci stressed the need for popular workers’ education to encourage development of intellectuals from the working class. His work sought to reveal, rather than obscure; through his writing we come to understand how hegemony is produced, likewise ideology, how civil society functions and what constitutes collective organisms, society and crisis. In this time of crisis, we need Filippini’s rigorous reappraisal of Gramsci’s work to better understand the political machinations we encounter.

Racism: A Critical Analysis by Mike Cole

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Racism traces the legacy of racism across three countries in-depth: the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. In examining the United States, Cole charts the dual legacies of indigenous genocide and slavery, as well as exploring anti-Latina/o and anti-Asian racism. As we contemplate histories of racism, Cole asks us to re-engage with arguments about the central role of capitalism in perpetuating the most vicious of inequalities. Anxieties about migrant labour and the dilution of ‘authentic’ – read White – American culture the election landscape. However Cole distances himself from the liberal platitiudes of ‘Love Trumps Hate’, instead showing that racism is both endemic and multifaceted and not solvable by the election of a Democratic candidate. This book serves as an important reminder of the need to take a long view as we renew our shared struggle against the racism still scarring human lives across the globe.

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks

In Feminist Theory, hooks maintains that mainstream feminism’s reliance on white, middle-class, and professional spokeswomen obscures the involvement, leadership, and centrality of women of colour and poor women in the hooks-t00702movement for women’s liberation. The campaign of Hillary Clinton relied too heavily on false assumptions about identity politics, it presumed a universal experience of womanhood, embodied by Clinton, which was not substantiated by most American women’s lived experiences. Failing acknowledge the full complexity and diversity of women’s experience, in order to create a mass movement to end women’s oppression resulted in the election of a sexist tyrant. Hooks argues that feminism’s goal of seeking credibility and acceptance on already existing ground – rather than demanding the lasting and more fundamental transformation of society – has shortchanged the movement. In order to resist and fight towards an equal world for women we must conceive of a society outside of the confines of the patriarchal pre-existing one. Let’s follow hooks to the letter, her writing established her as one of feminism’s most challenging and influential voices and it could not be more necessary, urgent and relevant.

After Queer Theory: The Limits of Sexual Politics by James Penneypenney-t02732

After Queer Theory is predicated on the provocative claim that queer theory has run its course, made obsolete by the elaboration of its own logic within capitalism. James Penney argues that far from signalling the end of anti-homophobic criticism, however, the end of queer presents the occasion to rethink the relation between sexuality and politics. The regressive homophobia of the American election suggests that queer politics subsumption into mainstream political discourse was in vain, queer politics finds itself at a critical juncture. After Queer Theory argues that it is necessary to wrest sexuality from the dead end of identity politics, opening it up to a universal emancipatory struggle beyond the reach of capitalism’s powers of commodification.

ACTION:

We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism by cox-t02839Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen

We live in the twilight of neoliberalism: the failed election of another Clinton president proves that the ruling classes can no longer rule as before, and ordinary people are no longer willing to be ruled in the old way. Pursued by global elites since the 1970s, neoliberalism is defined by dispossession and ever-increasing inequality. The refusal to continue to be ruled like this appears in an arc of resistance stretching from rural India to North America. Written prior to Trump’s election, Cox and Nilsen’s emphasis lies with left wing movements, but this should not be read as a disconnected from our present reality, instead because the book shows how movements can develop from local conflicts to global struggles; how neoliberalism operates as a social movement from above, and how popular struggles can create new worlds from below, the book is a guide to resisting the current crisis.

Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today by  John Holloway

‘The concept of revolution itself is in crisis’, writes John Holloway, difficult to eshew when the word has foundholloway-t01965 itself in the mouths of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. In this book, John Holloway asks how we can reformulate our understanding of revolution as the struggle against power, not for power. Modern protest movements ground their actions in both Marxism and Anarchism, fighting for radical social change in terms that have nothing to do with the taking of state power. This is in clear opposition to the traditional Marxist theory of revolution which centres on the overthrow of government. Holloway reposes some of the basic concepts of Marxism in a critical development of the subversive Marxist tradition represented by Adorno, Bloch and Lukacs, amongst others, and grounded in a rethinking of Marx’s concept of ‘fetishisation’– how doing is transformed into being. This radical rethinking demonstrates how we can bring about social and political change today.

Common Ground: Democracy and Collectivity in an Age of Individualism by Jeremy Gilbert

Common Ground explores the philosophical relationship between collectivity, individuality, gilbert-t01517affect and agency in the neoliberal era. Jeremy Gilbert argues that individualism is forced upon us by neoliberal culture, fatally limiting our capacity to escape the current crisis of democratic politics. The book asks how forces and ideas opposed to neoliberal hegemony, and to the individualist tradition in Western thought, might serve to protect some form of communality, and how far we must accept assumptions about the nature of individuality and collectivity which are the legacy of an elitist tradition. Along the way it examines different ideas and practices of collectivity, from conservative notions of hierarchical and patriarchal communities to the politics of ‘horizontality’ and ‘the commons’ which are at the heart of radical movements today. Exploring this fundamental faultline in contemporary political struggle, Common Ground proposes a radically non-individualist mode of imagining social life, collective creativity and democratic possibility.

Solidarity without Borders: Gramscian Perspectives on Migration and Civil Society Alliances edited by Óscar García Agustín and Martin Bak Jørgensen

This book presents an argument for Gramsci’s theory of the formation of a transnational agustin-t03061counter-hegemonic bloc, methods of modern resistance and new forms of solidarity between these forming groups. With case studies of the Gezi Park Protests in Turkey, social movements in Ireland and the Lampedusa in Hamburg among others, the argument is explored via national contexts and structured around political dimensions.

Four themes are discussed: the diversity of new migrant political actors; solidarity and new alliances across borders; avoiding misplaced alliances; and spaces of resistance. Migrants are often deprived of agency and placed outside the mobilisations taking place across Europe. Solidarity without Borders will demonstrate how new solidarity relations are shaped and how these may construct a new common ground for struggle and for developing the political alternatives we will desperately need over the coming four years.

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All books are available from the Pluto website

 

The Life of W.E.B. Du Bois and Black Lives Matter

In this essay, Bill Mullen, author of the forthcoming W.E.B. DuBois biography Revolutionary Across the Colour Line, considers the historical precedence set by DuBois’ thought. This survey of DuBois’ radicalism (evidenced in his advocating of the redistribution of public wealth, his alignment with Pan Africanism and solidarity with working class movements worldwide) allows us to contextualise the political motivations of the Black Lives coalition network, following the recent publication of their agenda. 

Mullen WDBJust weeks ago the Movement for Black Lives in the U.S. released its political platform.  The six-part document called for a wide range of reforms of American capitalism: a universal health care system; a constitutional right to free higher education; cuts in military expenditures and re-investment in local infrastructures; a progressive restructuring of tax codes to ‘ensure and radical and equitable redistribution of wealth;’ a guarantee of the right of workers to organise. The document also called for the demilitarisation of U.S. police, an end to capital punishment, and the end of surveillance of Black communities by law enforcement.1

The Movement for Black Lives platform is a document the late W.E.B. Du Bois would have would have proudly endorsed.  Indeed, in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, Du Bois published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper The Atlanta Creed, a bullet point program for Black equality and liberation.  The ‘Creed’ called for ‘Business for Public Welfare, and not for Private Profit;’ ‘No monopoly of land, materials, or machines in private hands;’ ‘Political power not for jobs but for public recognition of the Negro’s right to share equally and proportionally in all public expenditures; for protecting all labour in wage and work; and for redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor through taxation and nationalisation.’ Most boldly, Du Bois called for Socialism: ‘We believe in the ultimate triumph of some form of Socialism the world over; that is, state ownership and control of the means of production, and equality of income; we believe that the ultimate power in the state should rest in the hands of those who work, and that the state should be ruled by them.’2

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Islamophobia: The New Western Racism

Traverso Jewish modIn this essay, written exclusively for the Pluto blog, author of the recently published End of Jewish Modernity and prolific historian of the twentieth-century, Enzo Traverso examines the parallels between two strains of modern xenophobia: anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Looking at politics, the media and cultural output, Traverso reveals significant similarities between today’s Islamophobia and the older anti-Semitism.

‘A new wave of Islamophobia is spreading in the West. President Donald Trump vowed during the election to expel all Muslims from the United States and  across the European Union, conservative currents claim laws against Islam. Islam is perceived as a barbarism and a threat to Western, “Jewish-Christian” civilization, a tendency gaining strength in France following a succession of terrorist attacks  In this culture of extreme xenophobia and prejudice, the notion that Muslim citizens be compelled to wear a yellow star and crescent on their clothes, like Jews during the Second World War, no longer seems beyond the realms of possibility. Continue reading