My name is Maraika Kuipers-Sharsher, I am a graduate student in the USF Master in Migration Studies Program with the hopes of becoming a refugee lawyer. Through this program, I have been exposed to many amazing learning opportunities and wanted to share one on our MIMS blog.
I attended a teach-in on Colonial Geographies *Border Crossing: Kashmir, Mexico, and Palestine, hosted by AMED (Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas) Studies at SFSU. AMED focuses on decolonizing research surrounding Arabs and Muslims and builds on comparative ethnic studies to address issues that affect communities of color. They engage with activists and students to follow a philosophy of scholarship and action, resisting imperialism and questioning the dominant political narrative that otherizes Arab and Muslim communities that permeate our scholarship, political policies, and histories.
The teach- in combined two classes on “Edward Said” and “Comparative Border Studies: Palestine and Mexico.” There was a panel of distinguished professors including Dr. Huma Dar (UC Berkeley), Dr. Leslie Quintanilla (SFSU), and Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi (SFSU). We started the teach-in with the documentary Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies Arabs, by Jack Shaheen, and discussed how Arabs and Muslims are portrayed in the media; how the Arab image is tainted with orientalist ideas of faraway lands and barbaric men and how this has influenced scholarship in the fields of anthropology, philosophy, and history, among others.
In his landmark work Orientalism, Edward Said describes the calculated reduction of the Arab world and the vilification and dehumanization of the Palestinians as a result of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. While Said fought to humanize Palestinian identity and rights, capitalizing on Palestinian resilience and the rejection of the human rights atrocities brought on by British, Israeli, and American imperialism, he played a central role in the evening’s discussion. Because orientalist thought is used as the basis for injustice, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, his philosophy can be applied to the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir, where the Indian government has instituted a lock down of the province—shutting off internet and phone service, as well as depriving Kashmiri Muslims of their citizenship, and detaining them indefinitely without cause. It can also be seen in the othering of Central Americans on the border of Mexico, US immigration policies banning Asylum for central Americans, Africans, and other people who made the treacherous trip to the border in search of safety. And, of course speaks to the Palestinian struggle to exist under Israeli occupation, where Palestinian villages are being destroyed, children are being arrested and tortured, and their identity is being erased. There is no doubt, Said’s work continues to serve as a beacon of light in the hopeless void of displacement and longing for home.
Along the course of the evening we also heard powerful stories of identity from Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi from her book, Arab and Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence and Belonging, where she courageously advocates for the indivisibility of justice and describes how complicated going home can be. She described how being an Arab Muslim in the U.S. post 9-11 affected her feelings of belonging in a land where she had previously felt considerably safe; and how that feeling changed with the surge in anti-Arab racism and the implementation of a war that has killed millions of Arabs, and continues to kill thousands more, each year.
As Palestinians where is home? We have been barred from returning to our homes where our hearts and our memories reside. We will never stop fighting for our right to return, for our hopes to be realized, and our dignity restored. This sentiment can be shared by Kashmiris and others in the fears that they too will become permanent refugees, destined for a life of exile and longing. Now is the time to act. What is so unique about the MIMS program is that it teaches scholarship and action, exposes us to many migrant experiences, and lets us be creative in our research and specializations. We are already equipped with the compassion and determination to get us there, but with the mentorship and guidance from this program and others we can make an impact on peoples’ lives.
If you want to know more AMED, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and subscribe to their mailing list to get updates on events and emerging scholarship in the field of Arab and Muslim studies. You may find the live stream is on the AMED Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AMEDStudies/videos/1212315445646153/