IRC18: Offline, Kandbari, February 22-24, 2018


07. #FeminismIRL?

Last updated on Jan 15, 2018.

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Context of the Session

How might Internet temporalities and spaces relate to what Alain Badiou calls the “event of politics” and also to what Badiou terms the “worldless space of global capitalism.” (Badiou, 2001, Zizek, 2011) This exploratory panel will examine how digital divides that are structured by classism; casteism and urbanization produce Offline feminism and queer politics. We will focus on key movements/moments and address a few broad philosophical questions. The discussion focuses on the possibilities and problematics of “offline” organizing in the context of farmer suicide and indebtedness, debates regarding the role technology plays in ending gender based violence, and the construction of spaces of revelry, care, and affect created by and for feminists.

What might offline feminism look like in India today?

This question is framed in the context of farmer indebtedness and suicide, and threats to the dignity and right to life of farmers, many of whom are women. Panelists will draw on United Nations research and participatory research with female farmers that largely took place Offline. We will ask how digital technologies can be useful tools in organizing farmers’ rights movements and the challenges of using technology in rural India.

Participants will also discuss feminist activism and creative production in occupied Kashmir, where technology has been consistently censored by the Indian state.

Are Offline and Online world’s really separate from each other? What are implications for ostensibly pure #Offline spaces for feminists?

The Panel also touches on recent debates in the feminist/queer movement in India and globally, regarding sexual harassment and gender based violence. Panelists will address how and why a polarizing rhetoric has emerged, often attempting to construct succinct binaries of Offline versus Online feminism. We will question how and why “Internet feminism” is constructed as antithetical to actions taken against gender based harassment and violence where technology is not central?

This discussion is part of a broader theme that the panel will address, which questions whether there is really an ostensibly “pure” Offline world or a wholly Online realm that exist separately from each other. Imagining a pastoral pre-technological moment particularly in the Indian subcontinent may revisit Orientalist discourse. Similarly, uses of the Internet in India and globally occur in context and are imbricated into the workings of broader societal norms and histories of power.

Drawing on personal experiences, panelists will ask if and when the Internet functions as an effective tool against gender based violence. We will also share Offline strategies for dealing with traumatic encounters with misogyny.

Participants will address the importance of and challenges of cultivating offline feminist/queer spaces of meeting, art production, music and revelry.

How does online and offline movement building structure emotional bonds?

Is #feminism a political party of one, comprised of competing marginalities, banging keys and staring into screens? Are spaces of enjoyment and care important for the feminist movement IRL?

When we meet in the streets, and enter each other’s lives in real time, do we experience something that might be stronger than an Internet connection?

Works Cited

Badiou, Alain. Being and Event. London: Continuum, 2001.

Zizek, Slavoj. “On Alain Badiou and Logiques des mondes.” Web. Accessed: 21 Nov. 2017.

Session Plan

The session is envisioned as a panel discussion that will include feminist and queer artists, activists and thinkers in the Indian subcontinent.

The objectives of this session are to have a meaningful dialogue regarding the role that offline and online movement building, protest and dialogue play in feminist and queer movements in India and globally. The objective of this session also lies in touching on topical issues in Indian feminist and queer politics from a perspective that pays close and critical attention to technology, its use, overuse and implications. I hope that the discussion generates an interesting dialogue. If possible, the presentations from this session could be recorded and help to form an archive regarding contemporary debates in feminist/queer politics in India. If possible, papers from this panel could also be published online.

Paper Abstracts

'The List': Polarizing but Not Necessarily So - Mamatha Karollil

The publishing of ‘the list’ of alleged sexual harassers in Indian academia online has provoked intense debate on modes of feminist resistance to / organizing against patriarchy- via legal routes, institutional procedures and due process pitted AGAINST what has been characterized as reactive, atavistic, forms of unthought through ‘mob justice’(as particularly afforded by the internet). Another framing of the debate - and this informs the larger #metoo online campaign as well- has been the framing of it through notions of the sensational, the trendy, a particularly egregious effect /form of the much maligned identity politics (again, as afforded by the internet) versus more substantive, long-term and outcome-oriented forms of ‘real’ feminist organizing. I would like to examine these against longstanding divergences and debates within feminist politics, looking for convergences, appealing for a both-and logic as against an either-or one.

Tools for Care - Sive

In the past few years social media has played an important role in engaging with political issues— organizing them, an alternative media channel, facilitating dialogues, etc. Unjust events have spurred dialogues on private fb walls and public channels among people. There are several borrowed judgments and surficial information being passed off as ideologies and used to call each other out. Even activists having similar positions have started to pick small fights among one other. There are only conflicts, while our lives and democracies are at stake.

We have to find proper ways to communicate; be good listeners and not distort information, make observations and not judgments, use “Clean Language” to question people’s beliefs, give our consent to our fellow comrades, choose the right manner and time to speak with every individual. Many of us tend to make our personal–- political, and without resolving it at a personal level we tend to get global about these issues. Does it help us move forward? Or is this when we create similar social order like that of the oppressor? We all need to heal ourselves first, or we tend to hurt each other in ways we don’t realize— our family, friends, partners, colleagues at work, even strangers and acquaintances who we interact with regularly. In this session Sive would look at the importance of “Tools for Care” to heal relationships, the body, bring out efficiency at workspaces, communicate better, to forgive and to care.

Indian Occupied Feminism? Kashmir, Feminism and Censorship - Tara Atluri

In three months in 2017, the Internet was banned ten times in Kashmir. The bans began in April due to the Parliamentary elections. The suspension of Broad bound and mobile services has continued, often due to efforts to prevent political protests organized by students following the assault and murder of Kashmiri civilians by Indian authorities. This was an attempt to stop political organizing by separatist groups after violent clashes between those termed `militants’ and state authorities.

This paper will address the relationship between Kashmiri feminism and technology. The overemphasize that many feminist movements often place on the Internet as an organizing tool will be discussed. I will address the forms feminism takes in contexts where it is precisely due to political persecution that those who experience state led misogyny cannot easily access online feminisms.

I will also discuss the untranslateable pain of rape and torture, foundational aspects of colonial occupation where colonized women’s bodies are assaulted in ways that are symbolic of the conquering of land. Nyla Ali Khan writes,

Responsible feminist scholarship on Kashmir would make an enormous contribution to the plethora of work on the subject by considering the assertion of Kashmiri women’s agency as historicized moments in a particular geographical location. (Khan, 2012)

The imagined mobilities of free floating Internet technologies and the rise of online activisms exist at the same moment that many die because of borders and in the name of homeland.

I will question the possibilities and politics of transnational feminist solidarities in a time of technological proliferation by looking at the relationship between Internet censorship in Kashmir and feminism.

Are Kashmiri feminists part of a transnational feminist community that often relies heavily on the Internet as a means of communication and organizing? What effect do repeated Internet bans have on Kashmiri feminism? How are Kashmiri feminists creating innovative forms of resistance against state occupation, rape, and torture in context of violent forms of censorship?

Poet Agha Shahid Ali described Kashmir in deeply emotive ways, capturing all the tragic beauty of a place that is difficult to love without inevitable melancholic and scarring loss. Ali wrote of his native Kashmir as The Country Without a Post Office, which quite sadly still holds true in an Internet era. As Ali writes in “Stationary,”

The moon did not become the sun.
It just fell on the desert
in great sheets, reams
of silver handmade by you.
The night is your cottage industry now,
the day is your brisk emporium.
The world is full of paper.

Write to me.

Session Team

Mamatha Karollil has a Ph.D. in Social Sciences (Psychology and Sociology) from TISS and teaches at the School of Human Studies in Ambedkar University Delhi. Her ‘interests’ include feminism, psychoanalysis, queer politics, pedagogy, stories (as methodology and outside academy, sustenance), sex and sexuality, intimacies and community.

Sive is a social-art lab and a transdisciplinary collective committed to build a dialogue around caste and gender through creative and community pedagogies. Its founders, Jyotsna Siddharth is a writer and an activist. She has worked with several non-profits and bilateral organisations on gender, governance and human rights. She has engaged with caste- gender and understanding intimate relationships, through social movements, academia and creative writing. Jyotsna holds a Masters in Development Studies from TISS and Social Anthropology from SOAS. She is a recipient of Chevening Scholarship (2014). Sive is co-founded by Vidisha Saini, an artist and a curator engaged with contemporary art, collaborations and pedagogy. She has a transdisciplinary practice and works with image, language and other performative mediums, queer, feminist & immigrant solidarity groups, digital formats and research-based processes. Vidisha has engaged with various Indian and international platforms through art works, writings and organising. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Photography & Media, and Integrated Media from California Institute of the Arts.

Tara Atluri has a Ph.D in Sociology. She is the author of two books, Azadi: Sexual Politics and Postcolonial Worlds (Toronto: Demeter Press, 2016) and Uncommitted Crimes: The Defiance of the Artistic Imagi/nation (Toronto: Inanna Publications, December 2017). Tara is a lecturer/writer/researcher/artist.