It is becoming more and more difficult for me to pretend that I’m not completely disgusted and disillusioned with Academia. I realize that my position is a tad bit unusual as the lone hijab-wearing, abaya-clad “angry minority” (yes, I’ve been called that), reciting Fanon, Guevara, Ibn khaldun, Ibn Taymiyyah, Azzam, Biko, or Nkrumah like a mantra and refusing to apparently ascribe to Western Academia lock, stock, and barrel. Clearly, such a person is bound to stand out like a sore thumb in the oh-so-civil world of Graduate studies. But even then, the illusion of belonging there can be maintained with a healthy dose of denial and cognitive dissonance. However, ever so often something happens that rips away this thin veneer of carefully concocted self-delusion.

I don’t know about you, but participating in panels filled with privileged Westerners and their native informants debating about whether or not it is legitimate to use war as a mean of bringing peace to the world, or how to better civilize the planet by spreading democracy (and by extension Western values), just doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe I’m just too primitive to understand that such debates are in fact the sort of intellectual sparring academics and scholars partake in while washing down the bitter taste of such unpleasant topics with liberal amounts of wine and cheese.

In these rousing debates the wars in question are always meant to be launched against some far off countries inhabited by amorphous masses whose lives are always deemed not quite as sacred or as important. In fact, these countries are portrayed as such hellish dens of inequity that the only options available to these populations is apparently to either A) live miserable lives, or B) die miserably. The Global South is hence declared to be a geographical exception where the rules of law can be bended. A place where concepts such as human rights, civil liberties, political and religious freedoms become hypothetical and never quite fact. A place where national sovereignty, equal rights, and self-determination are debatable at best. The domain of preemptive wars, drone assassinations, and outsourced torture. All that is required to give this process of transmutation the illusion of respectability and legitimacy is to coin new concepts such as illegal combatants. And who better to embark into the clever bending of reality itself than academics and scholars.

Keep in mind that none of these people have ever lived in the vicinity of a war torn region, let alone experienced one. Keep in mind that these experts will go home at the end of their day never fearing a stray bullet or a drone attack. Keep in mind that none of them will ever see the inside of a tyrant’s gallows, disappear in the middle of the night, or experience first hand the agony of state mandated torture. Keep in mind that none of them will ever watch everything they own and everyone they’ve ever cared about go up in flames after a missile strike. Keep in mind that they will never have to dig into the debris of their former dwellings searching for the body parts of their loved ones, or smell the awful reek of charred human skin. Keep in mind that they will never have to search franticly for their lost children wondering whether they are still alive or not. Keep in mind that they will never know the bitterness and desolation of exile, or find themselves huddling with what remains of their families around a poorly lit fire in a God forsaken refugee camp. No, these men and women have the luxury of talking about war without ever having to live with its consequences.

Yet, these same individuals are under the impression that they somehow possess more insight on the lives of people of colour than those principally concerned. Privilege is having the luxury to wax poetics about civilization, progress, freedom, and war without so much as losing a drop of blood in the process. Violence, cultural assimilation, and economic blackmail are easy to consider as possible means for achieving a so-called honourable end, when one doesn’t have to be at the receiving end of said means. The levels of violence unleashed by the Western world against the Global South on almost every possible level are truly mind boggling. Having the same perpetrator frame for its victims how they should feel about the whole thing is adding insult to injury.

Truly, whitesplaining never ceases to amaze me. Excuse me, if I ask you to kindly talk to the hand because this “angry minority” is certainly done listening to your drivel.

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8 thoughts on “More Whitesplaining? No, Thank You.

  1. This was such an excellent read and it speaks true to the privilege that White people have in Academic circles. Not only do they control narrative in terms of the thinkers and authors that we study but there’s a huge lack of representation in the people that teach as well. Sometimes I attend conferences on Africa and literally 99% of the people on the panel are white and like you said, the difference in understanding the plight of people is so different! Gladly across universities in UK we’re now having #WhyismyCurriculumWhite campaigns to force our universities to overhaul some modules.

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    1. That is amazing. In North America it really depends on the University and the faculty in question. In some areas great strides have been made to adopt a more critical approach to existing curriculums, however for the most part it remains very Eurocentric. Here in Canada, the aboriginal question is barely touch on. The brutal colonial land theft that took place here is glossed over, and the consequences of it that continue to plague the lives of First Nations are for the most part ignored. So, as you can see we still have long way to go.

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  2. I take it you you study Politics? I’m so out of the academia loop these days, but reading your post reminded me why I decided I did not want to be a part of it. It also didn’t help that I was doing Religious Studies, where my faith was being relegated as “phenomenology” (still don’t know if I understand the term correctly!). There is an ugly side to academia, it’s not just pouring over books in the library and taking classes with titles you literally have to read off because they’re so long, but that’s why we need more voices like yours! We have to figure out a way for theorists to take their work outside of their ivory towers and only “renegades” like you have the passion and drive to do it. But I believe in you! 🙂

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    1. Many thanks sister for your words of encouragement. It really does mean a lot to me. My work is in sociology particularly in political sociology (so somewhere between political science and sociology). I totally understand your frustration about academia and its ivory towers, the narrative about Islam in the social science is particularly vehement in that respect. I’ll do my best to hang in there Inshallah 🙂

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