Book Review: Claiming Tribal Identity: The Five Tribes and the Politics of Federal Acknowledgment

This book is more so about entire tribes claiming Native identity over an individual doing so (Circe Strum perhaps covers “the individual” aspect of identity better in her work if you’re interested in that more, though she doesn’t really cover the de-enrolled, which is a topic I am still looking for better scholarship on…). While this is a largely objective examination, Miller seems to focus only on tribes that have have what one might call the “most legitimate” claims to federal recognition (again, Strum probably covers the “fake” or “least legitimate claims the best). Miller does seem to, by default, side/rest with federally recognized tribes like the Five Tribes who are sometimes seen as the most colonized (and also seen as even inflicting assimilation on other tribes), though Miller clearly sympathizes with some unrecognized tribes highly covered in this work (like the Lumbee, which I knew the most about and the MOWA, which I knew nothing about) that are still seeking or who recently sought federal recognition. The “older” federally recognized tribes (that incorporated “European notions of citizenship and nationhood” the most), Miller says, are judged if their culture doesn’t seem “frozen in time” or for not being “traditional” enough. For rebuttal to this, Miller says that tribes have always “evolved” and that, basically, we should not judge them for it (the assumption being that non-federally recognized tribes tend to judge them alongside the dominate settler state). However, accepting that federally recognized tribes are sovereign and can therefore set their own requirements (at least to some degree), Miller does not seem very imaginative in critiquing what they have chosen. There are some European “nationhoods” better than others, one might fathom. But perhaps that is another book or a book per tribe, as it would be hard to lump them all together. I really recommend this book if you are interested in the federal recognition process, which I had little insight on before now. Pages have quotes I found most interesting.

Below are some quotes I wanted to archive here:

“There are 566 Indian tribes, bands, and Alaska Native villages recognized by the BIA, and no one could be expected to know the name of every one.” Pg5

“What is often lost in the critiques of the Federal Acknowledgement Process is the fact the leaders of the Five Tribes and other Indian nations do not see it as an entirely foreign, nonaboriginal regimen. They were actively engaged in its creation during the 1970s, and they continue to support the process because they view it as the best method available to determine which groups are viable indigenous nations today. By supporting the government process, Five Tribes leaders are engaging in an ongoing Native project that seeks new ways to define their peoples using both precontact, “traditional” measures and criteria borrowed from the dominant, Euro-American society. Ventures that seek to delineate and measure “Indianness” and “tribes” are no less troublesome from the tribal persepective. However, how native leaders perceive unrecognized individuals and groups is important to understanding modern Indian identity. The Five Tribes and related groups have exerted their sovereignty by extending government relations to formerly unrecognized tribes in the Southeast. They have also chosen to withhold recognition to groups they feel are inauthentic. While they support the process of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribal leaders us their own definitions and “ways of seeing” when making these decisions. Their criteria generally represent a complex mixture of indigenous and non-Indian notions of ethnicity and authenticity. The Five Tribes and other long-recognized Native nations have always been actively engaged in tribal acknowledgement debates. Today they have important reasons for remaining involved. Recognition politics involving established tribes, unrecognized communities, and non-Indians exposes the fundamental truth about ethnic and racial identities: they are constantly evolving and negotiated.” Pg 7

“Confusing the matter is the fact that there are three often-conflicting definitions at play: American Indians are the only people defined as an ethnic group, a racial group, and by reference to membership in a recognized tribe (politically). Many individuals do not comprehend the distinctions. Because of the confusion, the Five Tribes and others came to demand citizenship in a federally recognized tribe as the gold standard for Indian identification.” Pg 13

“A host of scholars – many of whom, like Deloria, have aided petitioning tribes – support the ‘small pie’ theory. They believe that government definitions of Indians and tribes are simply part of the old colonial order, set to ‘divide and conquer’ Native peoples. These scholars see these government definitions as overreliant on nonindigenous models of tribalism, blood quantum, government rolls and censuses. Many of them call upon tribes and Native peoples to undertake decolonization projects, imploring Indian leaders to pursue a new acknowledgment agenda, on that is more inclusive and less based on national imperatives and Western epistemologies of race, history, empiricism, and science. The most accepted scholarly position, which has been called the ‘liberal-inclusive’ model for identifying tribes and Indian individuals, implies that the vast majority of unrecognized Indian groups and individuals are worthy of acknowledgment. This acknowledgment is not forthcoming, they say, due to a host of factors, including federal neglect, inadequate Euro-American recordkeeping, racism, and opposition from established tribes. Scholars who take this position find it shameful that marginal, unacknowledged aboriginal peoples are languishing today. Certain individuals within this loosely defined ideological school argue that officials should rely not on the current restrictive policy, but upon self-identification, community acceptance, and state recognition.” Pg 16

“In existing writings about federally recognized tribes and their engagement with tribal acknowledgment politics, a palpable theme is clear: presently recognized nations are not acting the ‘Indian way’ when they refuse to acknowledge their less fortunate Indian relatives and share with them. To many writers, federally recognized tribal leaders are so ensconced in the hegemonic colonial order that they are no even aware that they are replicated and reinforcing it inequities. According to this line, because the Five Tribes and related groups like the Mississippi Band of Choctaws and the Eastern Band of Cherokees have embraced nonindigenous notions of ‘being Indian’  and tribal citizenship using federal censuses such as the Dawes Rolls and blood quantum they are not being authentic. Some critics charge that modern tribes like the Choctaw Nation have rejected aboriginal notions and conceptions of Indian social organization and nationhood. This thinking, however, seems to me to once again reinforce stereotypes about Indians as largely unchanging, primordial societies. The fact that the Creek and Cherokee Nations have evolved and adopted European notions of citizenship and nationhood is somehow held against them in tribal acknowledgment debates. We hear echoes of the ‘Noble Savage’ idea once again. In other context when tribes have demanded a assay in controlling their cultural property and identities – by protesting Indian sports mascots or the marketing of cars and clothing with their tribal names, or by arguing that studios should hire real Indians as actors – these actions are applauded. However, when these occur in tribal recognition contexts, the tribes are viewed as greedy or racists. The unspoken theme is that tribes are not actin gin the ‘traditional’ Indian way…With their cultures seen as frozen in time, the more tribes deviate from popular representation, the more they are seen as inauthentic. To the degree that they are seen as assimilated (or colonized and enveloped in the hegemonic order), they are also seen as inauthentic, corrupted, and polluted. The supreme irony is that when recognized tribes demand empirical data to prove tribal authenticity, critics charge that they are not being authentically ingenious by doing so.” Pg 18

“After the removal era initiated officially in 1830 and the Seminole Wars of the 1840s, most Americans had the misperception that not Indians remained in the Southeast. Small communities of Indians persisted, however. Largely hidden in isolated pockets of their former homelands, southeastern Indians struggled ot survive, both physically and cultural, in the harsh social an political climate of the nineteenth century South. The groups that remained found refuge in generally undesired places: mountain hollows, swamps, costal marshes and pine-barrens were their homes…Most communities had intermarried with non-Indians and faced challenges to their racial status as Indians—local and state politicians repeated questioned their tribal acknowledgment and tried to break up their reservations.”pg30

“The manner in which Indians have been recorded, tracked, and identified has also worked against establishing concrete tribal identities. Lacking a relationship with the federal government, these groups do not posses associated reservation records, tribal rolls, and recorded blood degrees that often help modern tribes prove their indigenousness. The work of U.S. census takers also clouds the waters. Until 1960, when self-identification became the rule, census Bureau instructed enumerators to use their own judgement to identify the supposed race of residents. This was most often based on the testimony of respondents or the visual judgement of the census taker. Neither was scientific, and this was hardly foolproof, yet these record would prove important for groups trying to establish tribal recognition.” Pg35

“As historian Theda Perdue and anthropologist Jack Campisi have noted separately, the closing of all-Indian schools created a crisis for southeastern Indians. When institutions like the East Carolina Indian School in Sampson County, North Caroline, locked its doors, a symbol of Indian pride, independence, and identity was closed as well. Despite the negative publicity surrounding integration, some silver lining soon appeared. The loss of schools prompted many groups to establish formal tribal entities in place of old board of education and related committees.” Pg 49

“Just as the Five Tribes and others were formalizing their tribal governments and running their own programs, legal aid groups were helping nonrecognized tribes do the same: the two were on a collision course. One result was the Federal Acknowledgment Process, establsiehd within the BIA in 1978. Its rigorous criteria and evaluation process reflected the desires of the Five Tribes and many other reservation tribes to have a stringent regimen, on that protected their rights, economic resources, and overall ability to define ‘Indians” and “tribes.” Throughout these debates pulsed questions of “authenticity” and being “real” or “bona fide” Indians and tribes. While academics and unrecognized tribes questioned the ability of any party to accurately define “Indian” and “tribe,” as a practical political and cultural matter tribes and their federal allies groped toward a way to measure and define these highly problematic terms. By 1978 leaders of federally recognized tribes felt they had found the answer in the new Federal Acknowledgment Process, with many unrecognized groups agreeing that finally a way had been found to determine what group were “real” tribes.” Pg 87

“The final roll listed 2,956 Cherokees still living in the Southeast, with the majority concentrated around today’s Eastern Cherokee reservation in western North Carolina, but hundreds of others were scattered in surrounding states, many of whom the North Carolina group insisted were non-Indians…

…Those people who entered tribal rolls by legal maneuver were called ‘court citizens’ by the Indians…These dubious enrollees, with rights secured, often then led the charge to destroy the tribal governments and Indian way of life. Through this tumultuous, fraudulent process, the claims were so substantial that the Cherokees ended up running out of land for real Cherokee people.” Pg 91

“Soon the Cherokees of Oklahoma under appointed principal chiefs J.B. Milam and W.W. Keeler found their land claim challenged by a group calling itself the Old Settler Cherokees. Descendants of the first group of Cherokees to emigrate west of the Mississippi prior to the Trail of Tears, some of the Old Settler Cherokees filed suit with the ICC separate from the larger Cherokee Tribe. The Department of the Interior solicitor ultimately determined that this entity had been incorporated into the larger Cherokee Nation in the 1830sand was precluded from filing suit independently.” Pg107

“A host of scholars who have studied surviving southeastern Indian groups conclude that few if any of these peoples possess cultures that do not bear the mark of significant contact with nonindigenous societies. Even the most “traditional,” such as the Seminoles of Florida, whom Nancy O.  Lurie describes as “Contact-Traditional,” were significantly altered from precolonial days by the time pioneer “salvage” ethnologists described their cultural traits and created laundry lists that have since become benchmarks for defining aboriginal culture in the region. To many more traditional reservation-based groups, having surviving Indian cultural traits is extremely important to proving authenticity, although they are not required for acknowledgement via the BIA process. The existence of surviving Indian cultural traits is highly persuasive to most observers in proving that a group still exists as a viable tribal community.” Pg163

“Some tribes maintain blood quantum, such as once-quarter proven blood degree from their tribe. Even so-called purely ‘descendancy’ tribes such as the Five Tribes with no blood quantum requirement jealously guard some proven, documentary link by blood to distant ancestors. More than any single BIA requirement, however, this criterion has proven troublesome for southeastern groups because of its reliance on on-Indian records and the confused (and confusing) nature of surviving documents.”Pg 172

“They were ‘half breeds,’ ‘mongrel races,’ and ‘mixed-bloods.” These individuals and families may have gravitated to frontier areas or to mixed-race communities that were more welcoming of their heritage. They too kept traditions of their Indian lineage alive, yet the fact that they assimilated into existing, non-tribal  (if also nonwhite) communities leads to the same conclusion as the white-Indian individuals mentioned: it could hardly be said that these mixed Indian, black, and white communities were tribes. Because of stereotypes, however, it is easer to view these impoverished, marginal enclaves as Indian. The basic facts pertinent to tribal recognition are the same: thousands of individuals left tribal communities in the nineteenth century, and their descendants cannot now make a convincing case to be aboringal Indian tribes.” Pg 239

“As principal chief Chad Smith told me, many people saying they are Cherokee likely have some ancestry. However, their ancestors ‘expatriated from the nation’ and renounced their tribal ties by failing to travel west on the Trail of Tears. The cost of that decision is that their descendants cannot now claim citizenship. Cherokee Nation Supreme Court justice Troy Wayne Poteete further emphasizes the often emotion, group kindship nation of the issue, fine details often missed by non-Indians claiming Indian status. ‘Our issue is no our ancestors had so little to pass on to us. We lost 90 percent of what we had. What they were able to pass on to us was a unique legal status, as well as a distinct culture and heritage.’”Pg301

“Ideally, leaders of the Five Tribes would exercise their sovereignty and be the governments that recognize groups that claim to be their blood kin. However, political and legal realities intervene: only the federal government can recognize that a ‘government-to-government’ relationship exists between it and forgotten Indian communities scattered about the country. As such, the Five Tribes and other reservation groups helped establish the Federal Acknowledgment Process within the BIA in 1978 to determine which groups were still living indigenous communities.” Pg365

“It is no surprise that the Five Tribes, longtime leaders in remaining Native while assimilating nonindigenous ways, are leading the crusade to define Native people sin the United States today. They are demanding the power to say who is Indian, rather than having the ‘white man’ do it for them.” Pg 368

Book Review: Consider the Platypus: Evolution through Biology’s Most Baffling Beasts

Next time you run into a person who hates cats tell them we share more DNA with cats than dogs! This was a fun book to browse through and I probably learned more about our animal relatives then I did in any biology textbook.

I vaguely remember cringing in parts about farmed animals and how they were described as “surviving” because they were part of our food chain (at least for the cow?). But I no longer have the book in front of me to verify that.

 

Book review: Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World

I skipped around in this one but the essay/chapter “Freezing Ark: The Cyropolitics of Endangered Species Preservation” by Matthew Chrulew stood out to me. Below is a quote from it.

 

“At the same time as they assist captive breeding, frozen zoos also transform its mode of operation, in particular by making possible the storage and manipulation of a species body divorced from any living members of the population. Their unique compression of space and suspension of time here diverges from the prevailing zoo-biopolitical logics that they also supplement and intensify. They collect and order to a living spectacle for public exhibition but a set of functional biological artifacts. A frozen zoo has no visitors or displays; it can exclude the already already embarrassing justifications of entertainment and education and concentrate entirely on research and conservation. Alongside the conservationist care that targets the reproduction and flourishing of a surviving population, whether in or ex situ (or increasingly, via metapopulation management, both), frozen zoos focus on materials extracted from and, for certain uses, subsuitable for living organisms. They thus eliminate the necessity of taking animals from the wild to boost the captive population’s genetic diversity, or of transferring animals between zoos for planned matings, a risky practice due to the difficulties of transport – a stressful and dangerous procedure that regularly  leads to injury, trauma, or fatality – – but also to the inscrutability of animal agency in sexual encounters. The genes of dead animals can even be reintroduced into the population, circumventing the limits of age and death and reorganizing patterns of generational transmission. The transfer of cryopereserved cells thus allows zookeeprs to collect and exchange genes and to manage reproduction while bypassing the risks to conservation and welfare of collecting or transporting animal, the frustrating vagaries of mate incompatibility, and the loss of genetic diversity through mortality. Yet this development of noninvasive or simply more efficient interventions, which has its own economic and ethical advantages, at the same time reveals the inadequacy of zoo care for producing ‘natural’ reproductive behaviors.”

Book Review: Paternus by Dyrk Ashton

Unfortunately, I was forming too many questions that weren’t getting answers so I started skimming this grimdark, mythpunk novel. What I found did not make up for the more cringey aspects of the writing and character development. I was willing to hang in there for the plot but so much of the exposition wasn’t logical to me (the ontology of the gods, etc.). This is a DNF for me, but if you have answers to some of the problematic examples I have below, let me know. I’m willing to listen but I wasn’t willing to keep reading. This book is potentially offensive to those who still practice religions whose “characters” become caricatures (especially Hindu gods mentioned) and there’s some glib references to things like the first and second “Holocaust” of mortals, which could be triggering. There’s a lot more showing than telling in the writing, as other reviewers on goodreads have pointed out, but the story becomes a thesis of another white man trying make all religions one which I rolled my eyes at. I get that other authors (below) have done the same thing, but this was just a really shallow and dude-bro version of it. A lot of the male reviewers giving this so many positive reviews confirmed this for me.

First, I liked the idea that this book was indie and that the updated cover to this novel reminded me of Percy Jackson (not that I like that series, it just seemed like a response to it/like that is what it was selling). The cover looks like one of the opening scenes in Percy Jackson with the minotaur, but it might actually be a buffalo on the cover? But the gods in this novel feel more cartoony – like in Thundercats or Gargoyles. Humanoid beings that seem to be a statement on Egyptian depictions over the real reasons Egyptians put animal heads on their gods. Like that seems to be what I can make out based on other reviewers, but correct me if I’m wrong. It also seems silly to depict them like this in light of the fact not all Egyptian gods were depicted with animal heads. But I’ll move on.

Where I really get hung up, and why I held out for as long as I did, was the mythos. The ontology and cosmology of gods. To its benefit, it doesn’t seem to hinge on the same “Gods need prayer badly” trope that American Gods does. Apparently there is a “Father” character (thus the title?) that is the creator/head of all gods in all mythologies. This reminded me of Father in The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, who creates the next generation of gods from mortals but different in that Mount Char’s Father can create his replacements and step down (a Demiurge?) and he never claims to be the creator of all of the other gods of all past religions, I don’t think. There’s more complexity left open in that book (that I really really recommend!).

In Jo Walton’s Thessaly  series there’s a similar thread, where Apollo explains that Zeus is really the head of all of these different circles of mythical deities (ie goes by many names, whatever). There’s really only one  supreme being and all religions are connected and answer to Him. It feels very monotheistic to some degree — like no, no these little gods really answer to one transcendent father figure, thus implying there is a big-g God like in Christianity. I think even Jesus is brought up in that part of the book and later in the series there’s this bastardization of Christianity that forms from a child who was taken from a specific timeline but was never really well educated on his religion so it’s this warped interpretation. It’s…interesting. But it’s not the most interesting part of the book to me. It’s funny looking back on how The Just City tried to suppress a Christian monotheistic view in some sense (within its characters censoring some texts, I think?) yet its own cosmic gods seemed to answer to a monotheism. I think that’s the irony of Neoplatonism in general? I don’t know. I’m not a philosopher. Anyways, my point is this isn’t a new thing Dyrk Ashton is doing, and there’s a few who did it better. The Automation by anonymous is another one that does something syncretic, yet it doesn’t make overt claims on what is/who is The One or big-g God, but it’s implied there is a system that functionally could include reasons why all religions/myths exist. It just doesn’t waste it’s time listing its reasons and it certainly doesn’t try to make other religions fit into a box for a novel. Things are left open to interpretation and belief, as they should be.

This is my biggest beef with a novel like Paternus. I think it’s fine to say that all religions are true, but it’s another to rewrite how they are true or say “they are one.”

I also think this erases the arguments religions have with themselves. Christianity is perhaps a response to how Judaism was “wrong” or needed to “change” in its view. Islam was formed out of similar “arguments,” you could argue. The fact there are so many religions based on a single conversation is interesting, but to pick a side in a novel can invalidate an entire population. It also doesn’t always feel right to butt one conversation into another conversation happening when you don’t have much to add. I don’t know. This is something I’ve struggled with as well as other writers. I think it comes down to something like the “Elvis” argument I’ve heard for Black Music recently. Are you paying dues to the culture you’re taking from or are you like Elvis and stealing to make your brand? With this book, are we rebranding literal religions? But let me make another point.

Take this quote from Paternus for example:

“Though the name given to The Rhino by his father is Arges, the one early clan of watoto took to calling him Hephaestus, a name later appropriated by one of the insolent petit gods he’d trained as a smith. The peoples of Asgard called him Völundr, then Dvalinn for a time, and their descendants on this world, Wayland the Smith. The Romans knew him from stories passed down for generation as Vulcan. To the proto-Hungarians he was Hadúr, god of fires and war, and in cosmologies of Africa he is remembered as Gu, Vodun of iron.” p.120

So, there’s a lot going on here but I’m lead to wonder why there’s no mention of Prometheus, since actually Hephaestus would have been a “petit” god after him and their mythologies largely blended at times (Who made Pandora? Who released Athena from Zeus’s head? Depends on who you ask). You can’t  say the same of Arges and Hephaestus at all. Their myths don’t overlap so it’s hard to know where Ashton is coming from, comparing a cyclops to an Olympian. Likewise, the Egyptian equivalent of Hephaestus would have been Ptah, but another character in the novel is said bear that persona. This incongruity just really made me sigh when I found it.

On a positive note, Ashton really tried with the female character. You can tell his heart was in the right place, never mind some of the awkward things he chose to focus on. Fi really takes center stage as the MC. But the corny dialog was just too much to make it count for me. Dyrk Ashton seems like a very interesting and nice guy who has lived an interesting life. I’m glad he’s writing and has been able to get so much attention as an indie author but I think I’ll just wait for what comes next from him rather than continue this series. I feel like there’s something better that can come from him.

 

Other reviews I agree with:

 

– 80% through the book and still there is no indication of what first borns are, where their power is coming from and what they are up to! When the reader does not know about basic rules of the world, then everything that happens seems like divine interventions and when everything feels like that, it is hard to stay engaged as you cannot expect what comes next and whatever comes next does not make any sense. The book looks like a movie with tons of CGI which you cannot enjoy as there is no explanation for them….Shoving tons of mythical characters in a book does not make it cool! This is not an action movie that the more CGI you put into it the better it gets! The story should make sense. Those mythical characters should fit into the story.

 

It’s not enough for the book to explain that a character is one god in a Pantheon but it then has to spell out all the gods they are in all pantheons, who their mother is, and how they feel about life. This can go on for pages and is often right in the middle of impactful events. Funnily enough, the main characters constantly ask for an explanation and don’t get a full one until like 60% and 80% into the book.

One scene this hit me the hardest was when we have a relatively minor character who is dying, and as they are dying they reflect for a solid page or two on how they feel about humanity.

The pacing/explaining is hurt further by the constant POV swaps, literally between paragraphs, and the LOL random moments that occur.

On the bright side, I really like Fi. The Fi/Edgar relationship was super great. Would have loved to see more of that. Zeke, on the other hand, was insufferable. Zeke reads like hardcore wish fulfillment.

 

 

Oh look a squirrel

What if that squirrel knows
that burying the nut actually planted a tree
That he didn’t do it just to hide it – to store it for later
Sure, he might come back to it if it hasn’t grown
Might deem the thing worth eating instead if it won’t sprout
But what if his ultimate goal was to insure
the propagation of his supply
What if the squirrel knew where trees come from
and just wanted an orchard
If we grant him reasoning to hide nuts,
why not grant him reasoning to grow them
We call him forgetful but how can something who remembers
a cold winter forget where his nuts are
Do you not also forget where you put things,
beloved gardener (are you sure where your spade is now)
If he knows to hoard them in secret places
why couldn’t he also know what makes a tree
Are we so sure we’re the only ones with agriculture

Book Review: Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family by Sophie Lewis

Lewis, in her 2017 article about Haraway’s Cthulucene, (which got me to read this book, btw) once stated that she “remain[s] for reading Haraway against Haraway.” For reading the Cyborgian against the Cthonic, said another way (?). But after reading _Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family_, I read Lewis against Lewis. For me, Lewis is ultimately saying the same thing as “Make Kin Not Babies!” (Haraway). I see her as playing devil’s advocate, where she entertains natalist fantasies while showing its ridiculous and often horrific side, only to make the Cthonic’s ultimate point. But of course I’m a bit too absolutist because the choice is easier for me, maybe, and I’m not in a position to see making babies as an act of resistance. But I don’t think this book really ousts what it clears its throat at. Even Haraway called it “The seriously radical cry for full gestational justice that I long for” (cover).

This book did open my eyes to what I did not know/had been missing and to the fact that change/justice is not as simple as a slogan (not that I believed a slogan would simply catch on, either). But Lewis seems so focused on, say, the letter S (for Surrogacy!) in our trek to get from A to Z that the book only ends up being part of the conversation. A necessary part (and I think it knows what it is), but it does not dispel tentacular thinking like I had been lead to believe it would. “No Sky Gods!” is still radical for me. Who needs
Zeus when you can make your own kin like Hephaestus?

Quotes from the book I want to bookmark:

“Scientists have discovered–by experimentally putting placental cells in mouse carcasses –that the active cells of pregnancy ‘rampage’ (unless aggressively contained) through every tissue they touch. Kathy Acker was not citing these studies when she remarked that having cancer was like having a baby, but she was unconsciously channeling its findings. ” (p. 2)

“Why accept  Nature as natural? If this is what childbirth is ‘naturally’ like, they reasoned looking about them in the maternity wards of Europe and American, then it quite obviously needs to be denatured, remade.” (p 7).

“Supposedly nonracist, universalist concerns about quality of life slip, easily, into competitive latter-day-imperial worries about being overtaken, overrun. Somehow, with the exception of a few self-important millenarians fond of trumpeting their intention to voluntarily go extinct, the phenomenon of the ‘objectively’ crowded earth (not good for any of us!) is always imagined ‘out there.’ …Borrowing the historical experience of forced surrogacy from the American plantation, Atwood had, they said, clearly adapted its emotiveness for the purposes of a color-blind – white – feminism. At least the original novel had referred to Gilead’s eugenic purging of the tacitly African ‘Children of Ham,’ thereby demonstrating some recognition of the racial character of reproductive  stratification as elaborated through the Middle Passage…Even so, we are not yet living in The Handmaid’s Tale. People’s eagerness to assert that we are betokens nothing so much as wishful thinking. What do I mean by this? That, inasmuch as it promises that a ‘universal’ (trans-erasive) feminist solidarity would automatically flourish in the worst of all possible worlds, the dystopia functions as  a kind of utopia: a vision of the vast majority of women finally seeing the light and counting themselves as feminists because society has started systematically treating them all — not just black women — like chattel.” ” (p11-13)

“The humanist idealization of ‘fetal motherhood’ rests on the conviction that gestation is not work but the very pinnacle of wholeness and self-realization. It goes hand-in-hand with an even more dubious correlate: that surrogacy is contamination (a kind of forced cyborgicity), fragmentation (‘the body in bits’), and abjection (victimization by brothel, tech cabal, or industrial farm). ”

“Instead of defending themselves as workers with rights and power, upper-middle-class surrogates are doubling down on the ideology of maternal generosity and going the ‘respectability’ route in deeply anti-communist fashion. Fra from agreeing with Claudia Card that ‘we need to pluralize the term ”biological mother,”’ SurroMoms naturalize the cult of the one mother, the ‘real’ mother, whose possession of her baby is total.”

Quote from: “The incomplete education of American Jews” on Vox

There’s a lot of scorn for liberal Zionism out there, and there’s a sense that you have to choose between being an anti-Zionist or a Zionist and that being a Zionist has to mean that you 100 percent agree with Israeli government policy. First, that’s just not true, that you have to pick one or the other. But second, I actually am on the side of saying that we should not be talking about Zionism anymore, at all. Zionism was a movement that created the state of Israel, with all of the footnotes that you need. Yes, the creation of the state of Israel was also the Nakba, and Jews and Palestinians experienced that extremely differently.

But now we’re in a situation where the movement ended; now we have a country. There’s some language on the far left that says Israel isn’t a real place. But Israel is an actual country, it’s a member of the United Nations, whether you like it or not, whether you think it should have been created or not. It’s not an idea, it’s not a movement.

The US is a country that was also birthed in bloodshed, that has 400 years of the sin of slavery in its past, as well as the genocide of Native Americans. I don’t think anybody is seriously suggesting that everybody in the United States who is not Native American or descended from people who were enslaved get up and leave.

I think the question is: What kind of reparations are possible and what kind of reparations are necessary in order to achieve that path? I think that’s the same question we should be asking about Israel: How do we move forward in a way that will guarantee the human rights of everybody in the region, including Jews, including Palestinians? And human rights include citizenship in a country. How does that include reparations? How does Israel come to terms with the Nakba without telling 7 million people to get up and go back to Poland or Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever they came from?

from Vox

TBR: The We and the They by Kyra Ann Dawkins

“Our collective genesis guides our heartbeat as We run.”

With nature reclaiming cities and mountainous tides drowning islands, a group of individuals — known collectively as the We — find themselves ravaged by hunger and struggling to survive. When another community — the They — promise them luxurious meals, the We are unable to decline.

After following the They to their farm, the We begin to notice some mysterious habits: odd sacrifices, talk of flames, and a strange book. Follow along as the We uncover the truth behind the secretive group and learn the most important part of being human.

The We and the They is a fiction novel set in a world crumbling underneath the grip of the Great Famine. You will enjoy this book if you are fascinated by oral tradition, you like considering questions about community and identity, or you just want a break from curating your “I.”

I’m interested in how nature will be portrayed in this story. See more on goodreads. 

2021 TV Mini Reviews

An ongoing list of TV I’m watching/I watched in 2021. Only the shows I’ve finished.

  • WandaVision* – Damn. The feels. But I could have written a better ending/twist, tbh.
  • Rutherford Falls* – So good. Every time you think you know where it’s going it subverts expectations. I know they were setting up for season 2 but I wished they were able to imagine redemption and forgiveness and a path forward for the ed Helms character.
  • Shadow and Bone – kind of felt like Carnival Row in some aspects + FMA on others. It was average TV but the book might be better? The magic didn’t make sense to me and the twists also didn’t. I liked the side characters a bit better, honestly.
  • How-to with John Wilson* – I may have actually watched this in 2020. I’m not sure. It messed me up and is one of the best and weirdest shows I’ve ever seen.
  • Jupiter’s Legacy – this was average and kinda meh. It reminded me of the first episode of Invincible which I didn’t finish.
  • Made for Love* – dystopian without feeling like a dystopian. Funny and weird.
  • Behind Her Eyes* – While I feel like the twist was a bit contrived but it still messed with me and I didn’t see it coming. I am not the same.
  • Solar Opposites – season 2 was too short. I wanted more episodes. I’m here for the people in the wall.
  • A Discovery of Witches – season 2. What the hell happened. I hate this show now it is terrible turn back time to the future pls thanks.
  • The Pursuit of Love* – it was so enjoyable to watch. For some reason it reminded me of my grandmother. It’s kind of got Dickinson vibes, with the modern music and the jokes sprinkled into the period piece.
  • Everything’s Gonna Be Okay – season 2. I had no idea the places it could go but it went there and it has been wonderful.
  • Hacks – TBA
  • Mythic Quest – season 2 TBA
  • Mare of Easttown – the twist broke my heart. Also, is this the second story Julianne Nicholson has been in that involves incest?
  • We Are Lady Parts* – a lot of this felt like watching Princess Jellyfish for some reason and I loved it.  I would watch this a million times over listening to Christian rock.

 

An * = favorite this year.

Better late than never. 2020 TV mini reviews.

TV that shaped my 2020 (that I can remember). I’m going to make an ongoing list for 2021 so I can keep track of them and I don’t want these two pandemic years to run together.
  • The Capture – never watched a more morally ambiguous show!
  • Archer – finally he wakes up!
  • Dollface – below average start but a good finish. I liked the Women’s March episode.
  • His Dark Materials – better than the book in some ways?
  • Upright – made me feel-good cry. Also THE SOUNDTRACK. [Australian]
  • The Amber Ruffin Show – helped me get through 2020. I love her.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt interactive episode – there need not be any other interactivity on shows now. Please.
  • Normal People – don’t @ me.
  • What We Do in the Shadows – * looks a camera * duh
  • Dead to Me – I like soap operas that aren’t?
  • Lovecraft Country – except the ending. WTF.
  • The Good Lord Bird – could have leaned into the comedy more since they fudged other stuff but eh, I liked it.
  • Dickinson – I didn’t watch it until 2020 and it changed my life.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks – fine, try to be like Rick and Morty. Doesn’t bother me. I’ll watch the second season.
  • Dave – Hi, I’m ashamed.
  • Search Party – Vote for Dory.
  • Everything’s Gonna Be Okay – Josh Thomas is my aesthetic [Australian]
  • Mythic Quest – what if Mac were smart but still an asshole?
  • Out of Her Mind – I loved this woman-child
  • Schitt’s Creek – I started watching this in 2020 and I think I finished it  early 2021. I still don’t get the hype and don’t understand how something so mediocre went on for so long. But part of me does get it. It was groundbreaking in its representation of a world without hate and showing family love. It offended no one with morals. It annoys me that that = groundbreaking, maybe.
  • Killing Eve – Um? More like kill me, please. Love this show.
  • Rick and Morty – the train episode. THE TRAIN EPISODE.
  • Bojack – the ending didn’t leave me with much hope for redemption and forgiveness, tbh.
  • The Duchess – I love that this show pisses Bryan off and her headbands are perf.
  • Colbert Late Show – I loved getting to know this side of Colbert and seeing his family.
  • Umbrella Academy – still better than the comic. I like the direction they’re going with things.
  • Tiger King – I didn’t say it was good TV.

Honorable mention: Late Show with James Corden. He plays after Colbert and I have found the pandemic has made him grow on me maybe because there’s no more karaoke stuff. I like the show when it seems more informal.