I am reading about how race and ethnicity affected by colonization in turn affects the gender relations and gender identity. It is about how the colonizers came with supremacist attitude and engaged in a cultural amnesia in the native land and forced the original people of that land into subjugation and humiliation. How this affected the women of the colonized world and how they have subverted and resisted.
I read the work of many women authors across the colonised world Canada (Beth Brant) to Australia (Jackie Huggins), African America (bell hooks), Vietnam (Trinh Ti Minh Ha) and many more. While reading about Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid‘s work On Seeing England For The First Time some doubt occurred to me. This work is her angry reaction to how much the English people influenced the life of natives in her land where she grew up. She recalls how they used to dress like English, talk like English, eat English food, read about England’s history, geography and whether (something people in her place cannot even relate to). This is called cultural amnesia done by the coloniser where original language, culture, cuisine everything was slowly replaced by the culture of the Masters.
The coloured people, colonized people resisted to this sort of language colonization, cultural colonization through their writing and have tried to hold on, bring back, reformulate, reconstruct the original identity.
Question came to my mind – what about Afghanistan? I didn’t read anything about Afghanistan’s post colonial thinkers. From what we know from Wikipedia, Afghanistan wasn’t directly colonized by England but the British rulers in India anxious about their monopoly over opium trade and threats from Russia ensured a lot of internal disturbances and interference in Afghanistan. This has left a legacy on Kabul at least. (Also, read Afghanistan: The Legacy of The British Empire A Brief History by Dana Visalli)
Legacy sounds like positive term while cultural cleansing or amnesia is a very negative term. But is it always true that what was before is worth cherishing and what came with colonizers was all bad? I remember when Taliban were thrown out by US Army, photos of Kabul women from Pre-Taliban days, wearing short skirts, riding scooter, going to the city library, reading a book were circulated on social media, as a remembrance of the happy days Kabul women had lost, which have now been restored, thanks to USA’s ‘war on terror.’
At the same time certain voices also crept in making the point that it was precisely these kind of interference with the local culture and ethnicity that led to the rise of Taliban in the first place, as a resistance to loss of original culture to Europeans. Similar angst is also expressed by Hindu Nationalists in India.
How does a woman reconcile and negotiate her cultural identity with the gender identity where her culture is inherently oppressive to women. Is she first an Afghani women or is she just a women for whom her personal freedom is more important even at the cost of loss of culture?
I don’t have the answer and the more I read the more confused I feel. I am putting this on the blog here and hopefully find answer someday.
A side note, two days off Facebook and I already feel liberated from the expectation of acceptance, validation and appreciation. I am writing my blog and I don’t care I nobody reads or not. The fun of coming back go blogging after years of posting things on Facebook is that these are writings ‘on the wall’, they have a longer shelf life as opposed to throwing things ‘to the FB wall’ from where they bounce and fall into a dark vacuum. On blog I may not have instant readership or instant gratification by way of Likes and Shares but I know it would stay, it would be indexed by Google spiders and even years later people searching for something rare about which I wrote and nobody else did, they’d find me. For eg. Even 10 years later my blog post about my experience of visiting the Landmark Education Forum in Bangalore is still coming up at top 3 in the search results, people still comment on it, find it relevant and thank me for writing it.