Poetry, Academia, and Feminist Knowledge-Making: A Workshop with Celina Su
As part of AGITATE! Journal’s Feminist Knowledge Production Series, we invited Celina Su—scholar, poet, and member of AGITATE! Editorial Board— to conduct a workshop titled Poetry, Academia, and Feminist Knowledge-Making on March 30, 2023. In the workshop, whose recording we present here, Su discusses poetry as mode of social inquiry and as a vehicle for seeking epistemic justice, especially for stories that do not find expression in academic writing. She invites the participants to explore the connections between poetics and feminist knowledge through poems written from diverse temporal and geographical locations that decenter mainstream and canonical understandings. Unlike other forms of academic writing and research, poetry allows us to express what we feel in our gut and to explore subjectivities of self and another, while also expanding the possibilities of articulating situated knowledges. Poetry can enable us to witness, note, and share complexities from our learning, unencumbered by our disciplines. Su reflects on how poetry has been an integral part of her research with refugees in Thailand and of her grassroots activism around education and urban issues in New York City, and pushes participants to incorporate poetics as part of their own anti-disciplinary agitational practice.
The following poems, which the participants read in preparation for the workshop, provided the foundation for this collective engagement:
- Mina Loy, “Feminist Manifesto“.
- Oswaldo de Andrade, “Cannibalist Manifesto”.
- Celina Su, Landia, excerpts from “Route 1095,” (pp. 6-18); Marina Romani’s essay on translating “Route 1095”.
- Celina Su, Landia, excerpts from “Notes on the shape of absence,” (pp. 58-61, 64-69).
- Layli Long Soldier Whereas, (pp. 57, 61-63, 79-80, 89-93).
- Sarah Riggs and Celina Su, “letter-poems”.
- Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red, (pp. 9-14, 23-25).
- There Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee, “Calliope/ Epic Poetry,” (pp. 45-58).
- Belladonna Collaborative, “Mapping the tenth circle”.
- Mirene Arsanios, excerpts from Notes on Mother Tongues, (pp. 1-7, 18-19).
- Celina Su, “JFK airport,” excerpt, NYT magazine.
You can watch the first workshop in the AGITATE! Feminist Knowledge Production event series, Feminisms, Translations, Solidarities: A Conversation with the Translators and Editors of ‘The Purple Color Of Kurdish Politics’, here.
Feminisms, Translations, Solidarities: A Conversation with the Translators and Editors of ‘The Purple Color of Kurdish Politics’
In February 2023, AGITATE! launched our Feminist Knowledge Production event series, organized in collaboration with Richa Nagar’s graduate seminar on Feminist Knowledge Production at the University of Minnesota. We are pleased to share with you a recording of the first event in the series: a conversation with the translators and editors of ‘The Purple Color of Kurdish Politics.’ In this one-of-a-kind, newly translated collection of prison writings by more than twenty Kurdish women politicians, the contributors reflect on their personal and collective struggles against patriarchy and anti-Kurdish repression in Turkey. The writers also offer significant analyses of the radical feminist principles and practices through which they transformed the political structures and state offices in which they operated.
In this panel, held days after the devastating earthquake in Kurdistan, Turkey, and Syria, Emek Ergun, one of the editors of the book and a member of the AGITATE! Editorial Board, engages with volume contributors, Dilek Hüseyinzadegan, Berivan Kutlay Sarıkaya, Mediha Sorma, and Susan Benson-Sökmen. Hüseyinzadegan, Kutlay Sarıkaya, Sorma, and Benson-Sökmen have each translated stories that Kurdish women politicians wrote during incarceration. The translators reflect on their journeys as scholars and activists from various socio-political locations within the state of Turkey and how their co-constitutive commitments to Kurdish liberation, Kurdish women’s movement, and justice bring them together in this project of translation. Interbraiding questions of translation and solidarity, the panelists share how they grappled with the ethical and political dilemmas of translating the writings of Kurdish women politicians who continue to be imprisoned. They discuss the ways in which they determined the terms of translation and tackled that which was untranslatable. They share their concerns about the orientalist meanings that readers of an English translation may ascribe to the writings, even as they reflect on the colonizing violence of the English language. Alongside these themes, this conversation also gives a rare insight into the intersectional politics of the Kurdish women’s movement which struggles not only against the Turkish state but also regional and local patriarchal agendas that shape their experiences of oppression and marginalization. Taken together, the panelists give us a deep sense of the translational labors that went into creating this collection–one in which incarcerated Kurdish women challenge the epistemic violence that they have been subjected to by telling their own stories and by inspiring a feminist solidarity rooted in a common commitment to Kurdish liberation.
Emek Ergun is a feminist translator and Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her work examines the ways in which politically subversive texts cross borders in translation and become transplanted in different localities facilitating epistemic exchanges, transformative encounters, and resistant solidarities among feminists situated in distinctive geopolitical contexts. Emek’s first single-authored book, Virgin Crossing Borders: Feminist Resistance and Solidarity in Translation was published by the University of Illinois Press in January 2023. Emek is a member of the AGITATE! Editorial Board.
Dilek Hüseyinzadegan is a feminist political philosopher and Associate Professor at Emory University, Atlanta. Dilek is working on a new project on post- and decolonial feminisms as well as their implications for interpreting and evaluating the canon of Western philosophy. She serves as the Philosophy Advisor and Co-Editor of the Turkish translations of Intellectual Biographies Series (Cambridge University Press and Is Kultur Yayinlari), and of Charles Mills’ The Racial Contract (Cornell University Press and Patika Yayinlari).
Berivan Kutlay Sarıkaya holds a PhD in Adult Education and Community Development from the University of Toronto and is Lecturer at Trent University. Berivan’s doctoral dissertation examines gender, state violence, incarceration, memory, trauma and resistance among Kurdish women. She is currently working on Kurdish women’s political prisoners’ experiences in Diyarbakir Military Prison, their contribution to building the current Kurdish women’s movement in Turkey, and their eventual displacement in Europe and North America.
Mediha Sorma is a PhD candidate at the Gender Women and Sexuality Studies Program at the University of Washington Seattle. She holds a BA degree in Translation and Interpreting Studies and an MA degree in Critical and Cultural Studies from Bogazici University, Istanbul. Her dissertation examines the ways in which Kurdish women in Turkey produce insurgent bodies, non-statist discourses of resistance, and anti-national epistemes of kinship through radical practices of mothering and reproduction.
Susan Benson-Sökmen holds a PhD in History from the University of Toronto and is a lecturer at Ryerson University and University of Toronto. She is currently working on a book manuscript, The Poetry of the Past-Resistance and Remembrance in the Kurdish Borderlands of the Modern Middle East (based on her dissertation) for Peter Lang Publishers.
AGITATE! Feminist Knowledge Production Event Series: Spring 2023
AGITATE! Journal invites you to a series of virtual workshops and discussions hosted in conjunction with the “Feminist Knowledge Production” seminar taught by Professor Richa Nagar in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota.
February 9: Feminisms, Translations, Solidarities: A Workshop with the Translators and Editors of ‘The Purple Color of Kurdish Politics’
When: February 9, 2023, Thursday, 2:00 to 3:30pm US Central Time | 11:00pm to 12:30am Turkish Time.
A workshop on ‘Feminisms, Translations, Solidarities’ with the translators and editors of a powerful book, The Purple Color of Kurdish Politics (Pluto Books, 2022). This is a one-of-a-kind, newly translated collection of prison writings by more than 20 Kurdish women politicians. The contributors reflect on their personal and collective struggles against patriarchy and anti-Kurdish repression in Turkey. They also offer significant analyses of the radical feminist principles and practices through which they transformed the politicalstructures and state offices in which they operated.
March 23: Black Feminism and Hip Hop Pedagogy: A Workshop with Ruth Nicole Brown
When: March 23, 2023, Thursday, 2:00 to 3:30 pm US Central Time
This workshop will be led by Prof. Ruth Nicole Brown, Chair of the Department of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University. Brown’s research documents and analyzes Black girls’ lived experiences and the practical ways they make Black girlhood with those who love them. Her previous work has explored how Black girl’s conceptualize freedom, creativity, and relationships in Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT). Brown founded SOLHOT in 2006 as a collective space to celebrate Black girlhood and to date it remains her most cherished and consistent practice of meeting Black girls face to face and heart to heart. SOLHOT has received support from The Novo Foundation (2018-2021), campus grants, Champaign-Urbana institutions, and those who actively participate. A Whiting Foundation Public Engagement Fellow (2019-2020), Brown’s Black Girl Genius Week (BGGW) exhausts the rituals of SOLHOT to widen the cipher and experience the imaginative capabilities and artistry that only occurs when Black girls and women are together as homegirls. BGGW has taken place in central Illinois (2014, 2016, & 2019), Columbia, SC (2019 & 2020), and Chicago, IL (2019 & 2020).
March 30: Poetry, Academia, and Feminist Knowledge-Making: A Workshop with Celina Su
When: March 30, 2023, Thursday, 2:00 to 3:30 pm US Central Time
This workshop lingers with the feelings, sensorial observations, metaphors, and other ineffable or elusive dimensions of our work as social researchers. In this workshop, we take notes and details of these dimensions seriously; we attempt to center them, rather than sweep them away to our footnotes or off the pages of our academic writing. Sometimes, by heightening and resensitizing ourselves to language and juxtaposition, we can then dwell anew with uncertainty and possibility. Together, we will reflect on and engage poetry as a mode of inquiry, and feminist poetics as a practice of care.
Prof. Celina Su was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and lives in Brooklyn, part of unceded Lenapehoking. Her first book of poetry, Landia, was published by Belladonna* in 2018. Her writing includes two poetry chapbooks, three books on the politics of social policy and civil society, and pieces in the New York Times Magazine, n+1, Harper’s, and elsewhere. Su is the Marilyn J. Gittell Chair in Urban Studies and a Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York.
*Registrants will receive updates about AGITATE! publications and future events via email.
Feminisms, Translations, Solidarities: A workshop with the translators and editors of ‘The Purple Color of Kurdish Politics’
Join us for a workshop with the editors and translators of the The Purple Color of Kurdish Politics on February 9, 2023, Thursday, 2:00 to 3:30pm US Central Time | 11:00pm to 12:30am Turkish Time.
The Purple Color of Kurdish Politics (Pluto Books, 2022) is a one-of-a-kind collection of prison writings from more than 20 Kurdish women politicians. Here they reflect on their personal and collective struggles against patriarchy and anti-Kurdish repression in Turkey; on the radical feminist principles and practices through which they transformed the political structures and state offices in which they operated. They discuss what worked and what didn’t, and the ways in which Turkey’s anti-capitalist and socialist movements closely informed their political stances and practices.
Woman Life Freedom: A Panel on the Protests in Iran
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died while in the custody of the Iranian Guidance Patrol, has become the symbol of the massive protests in Iran. Iranian women have been in the forefront of the protests, removing their hijabs and/or cutting their hair. In this conversation, Professors Yalda Hamidi, Minoo Moallem, and Fatemeh Sadeghi discuss the recent Iranian protests, the Iranian women’s movement, compulsory hijab, body politics, and the slogan, “Woman, Life, Freedom.”
This panel was organized by the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota and co-sponsored by AGITATE! Journal.
Woman Life Freedom: A Conversation on the Protests in Iran
Please join the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota for a conversation with Professors Minoo Moallem, Fatemeh Sadeghi, and Yalda Hamidi about the protests in Iran. The panelists will address circumstances that have led to the protests, politics of representation, and feminist organizing in Iran. This event is co-sponsored by AGITATE! Journal. Please see attached flyer and circulate widely.
What? “Woman, Life, Freedom”- A Panel on the Protests in Iran
When? Friday, September 30th, 1:30-3:00 PM, CST
Dr. Minoo Moallem is a Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, and the Director of Media Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Moallem received her MA and BA from the University of Tehran and her Ph.D. from Université de Montréal. She is the author of Persian Carpets: The Nation As a Transnational Commodity, Routledge, 2018; Between Warrior Brother and Veiled Sister. Islamic Fundamentalism and the Cultural Politics of Patriarchy in Iran, University of California Press, 2005, the co-editor (with Caren Kaplan and Norma Alarcon) of Between Woman and Nation: Nationalisms, Transnational Feminisms and The State, Duke University Press, 1999, as well as many journal articles.
Dr Fatemeh Sadeghi is a political scientist specialized in political thought and gender studies. She previously researched on gender ethics in Islamic sharia and Zoroastrianism, gender in nationalism and Islamism, Islamist politics, and Iranian Revolution. She also studied the unveiling campaign of the first Pahlavi Iran and the compulsory hijab of the Islamic Republic. In recent years she worked on the constitutional thought in postrevolutionary Iran. Dr. Sadeghi is a currently a research associate at TAKHAYYUL, an ERC-funded project at the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity. Her research is on redemptive aspirations inspired by political and intellectual traditions to make envisioning a different future possible. Focusing on Iran, she studies underlying cognitive historical procedures enabling the individuals and groups to define their identities in a creative, cognitive process typically concerned with what is unreal, unknowable, hypothetical, or yet-to be.
Dr. Yalda Hamidi is Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Minnesota State University. She is interested in transnational and Islamic feminisms, feminist pedagogy, and feminist cultural and literary studies. Her article, “Politics of Location in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis” is under publication in the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies. In 2020, she published “Locating Sickness: Disability, Queerness, and Race in a Memoir” in Kohl: A Journal for Body and Gender Research. In the academic year of 2021-22, Professor Hamidi is a fellow of The Socially Just Classroom: Teaching for Equity 2030, and she serves on the Diversity/ Reducing the Achievement Gap Committee.
Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale– Screening and Panel Discussion
by Leena Manimekalai, Bhavana Goparaju, Ajmina Kassim, and Semmalar Annam in conversation with Roja Suganthy-Singh
On October 15th, 2021, AGITATE! launched the North American tour of Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale in collaboration with the Department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota.1 The event included a screening of this film, followed by a panel discussion with the film’s director, Leena Manimekalai; Bhavana Goparaju, a co-producer of the film; Ajmina Kassim, who plays the protagonist, Yosanna; and Semmalar Annam who plays Yosanna’s mother. The conversation was facilitated by Roja Suganthy-Singh, the author of Spotted Goddesses: Dalit women’s agency-narratives on caste and gender violence.
Maadathy is a powerful film that tells the story of Yosanna–a young girl who belongs to the “unseeable” Vannar caste. Since its premiere at the Busan film festival in 2019, the film has garnered much critical acclaim and accolades for its nuanced and searing depiction of the pernicious intersection of gender and caste.
Here, we share with our readers an edited recording of the panel discussion that followed the film screening. In the conversation, Manimekalai and Goparaju discuss the challenges of being women filmmakers committed to telling stories from the margins in a deeply male-dominated and casteist industry. The panelists point to the urgency and risks of bringing attention to the rampant sexual violence that takes place at the intersection of caste and gender. Also important are Manimekalai’s reflections on her process of community-based filmmaking in multiple genres and the way in which she arrived at Maadathy. She mentions how meeting women’s rights activists from across India and documenting their stories of overcoming sexual violence, casteism, and sexism were critical in her journey to becoming a feminist filmmaker. The panel discussion illuminates the process, stakes, and importance of telling a story of caste oppression and sexual violence through a female gaze. Indeed, as Drishadwati Bargi argues in her insightful and moving review of Maadathy, it is the feminist lens in the presentation of Dalit lives and the unspeakable violence that determines their everyday existence that make this film stand out among other anti-caste movies. Together, the film and the panel discussion leave us with haunting creativity, inspired perspectives, new possibilities, and previously unseen stories brought to life through a fierce collective of feminist filmmakers, producers, and actors.
Click here for Drishadwati Bargi’s review of Maadathy.
Image copyright: Team Maadathy
Leena Manimekalai is a a leading Tamil poet and filmmaker from India. Her films and writings are deeply driven by social justice. Her narrative documentaries on the dynamics of caste, gender, globalization, art therapy, student politics, eco-feminism, indigenous people’s rights and LGBTQ lives have been internationally acclaimed and have won several awards in prestigious international film festivals and civil rights circuits. Manimekalai’s directorial debut Sengadal: The Dead Sea won her NAWFF Award at Tokyo for the Best Asian Woman Cinema and also was recognized with prestigious Indian Panorama selections. Her documentary Goddesses won her the Golden Conch at the Mumbai International Film Festival and nominations for Horizon Award in Munich and Asia Pacific Screen Award in Melbourne. Manimekalai has received the Charles Wallace Art Award (2012) in Visual Ethnography, the EU Fellowship (2005) in Media and Conflict Resolution and the Commonwealth Fellowship(2009) for her work in cinema and gender.
Bhavana Goparaju is an Indian filmmaker and one of the co-producers of Maadathy. She worked with veteran Malayalam director Anil Kumar on the script for Maiya and was the Associate Producer of Mantra which premiered in USA and was selected for Indian Panorama at IFFI, Goa. In 2017, She produced the Bengali short film Ek Poshla Rupkatha, an international collaboration between India and Russia which won six international awards. Goparaju founded Jeevi Films and is co-producing a Hindi Feature film In the Belly of a Tiger directed by Jatla Siddhartha. She is currently developing films and web series projects in English, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu languages.
Semmalar Annam is an actor from Coimbatore, India, who rose to fame with the critically acclaimed Tamil film Ammani (2016) directed by Lakshmy Ramakrishnan. Semmalar is well known for her street plays on social and environmental causes performed in Coimbatore. She studied acting and theater at the Stanislavsky Acting School, Chennai.Annam’s debut film Malarmathi, about a sexually abused orphan won the state’s best film and best director award. Semmalar has also acted in several advertisements, documentaries, and short films.
Ajmina Kassim is an actor and design student from the state of Kerala, India, who debuted in the Malayalam movie, Udaharanam Sujatha (2017). Maadathy is her second feature length film.
Dr. Roja Suganthy-Singh is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, Women and Gender Studies, at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York. Her activism and research primarily focus on the intersections of race, class, caste, and gender using post-colonial and transnational feminist lens. Singh provides dialogues on a wide range of subjects focusing on race, gender, sexuality, and healthcare, cross cultural interactions, world cultures, indigenous cultural studies, and global gender studies. She continues to be deeply involved in Human Rights advocacy in India, especially focusing on education of girls and youth from Dalit communities in Tamil Nadu. Her writings have appeared as book chapters and her recently published book, Spotted Goddesses: Dalit Women’s agency-narratives on caste and gender violence.
- The event was co-sponsored by the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and the Institute of Advanced Studies Collaborative on Memory, Movement, Montage at the University of Minnesota and made possible through the collective labors of Richa Nagar, Nida Sajid, Roja Suganthy-Singh, Zenzele Isoke, Bhavana Goparaju, Nithya Rajan, Casey Kenney, and Liz Johnson. ↵
Moving Memories: An Archive of Bangladeshi Queer Migrants in the US
Curated by Efadul Huq and Rasel Ahmed for SAADA
Moving Memories is an archive of Bangladeshi Queer migrants in the US. The archive is hosted by SAADA (South Asian American Digital Archive) and was created in partnership with Queer Archives of the Bengal Delta. The exhibit centers the voices of ten Bangladeshi queer migrants whose oral histories were curated by Efadul Huq and Rasel Ahmed. The archive which presents these powerful stories in audio and text, are interwoven with multimedia art by Dipankar Singha and Ata Mojlish.
You can view/listen/read the archive in SAADA’s collection here.
On 5th November 2021, the curators of Moving Memories, Huq and Ahmed spoke to the students of Gender and Global Politics, a special course organized as a transnational pedagogical collaboration by Richa Nagar and co-facilitated by her and Nithya Rajan for the department of Gender, Women, and Sexualities Studies at the University of Minnesota. The students engaged with the exhibit and collaboratively articulated questions for Ahmed and Huq. This discussion took place during a session co-taught by them, titled: Queering the Terrain of Geopolitics, Rights, Violence, and Representation. In this discussion, the curators talk about the politics of archiving transnational, marginalized stories of Bangladeshi queer migrants and what it means to co-create an archive with communities that they are part of, and the question of who “owns” these stories. Huq and Ahmed talk about the project of agitating against the idea of archive as a repository of truth and facts, by creating “an archive of feeling” that indexes the transnational power structures within which the lives of the people and communities whose stories are part of Moving Memories unfold. What emerges in this discussion is the idea of the archive as a relationship between co-creators rather than a collection of stories. Along with the gift of this dynamic archive of previously unheard stories Ahmed and Huq complicate dominant desires for archiving and the messiness of queer archiving.
Efadul Huq is a poet and Assistant Professor of Environmental Science & Policy at Smith College, Massachusetts. Huq’s research and teaching span areas of environmental justice, international community development, urban sustainability and political ecology with a geographic focus on South Asia and the United States. His transnationally engaged research and teaching are woven into his collaborative work with community organizations, advocacy groups, citizen science initiatives, professional planning organizations and diverse publics. Bridging conversations on home-making and environment, Huq’s collaborative research with community-based advocacy organizations informs the planning for wetlands, rivers and informal settlements in Bangladesh. Huq also co-founded a community-based archive called Queer Archives of the Bengal Delta, which preserves queer social and political memories and artifacts relevant to the Bengal Delta and produces a situated analysis of global gender and sexual politics.
Rasel Ahmed is a community-based filmmaker, archivist, and educator. He is the co-founder and editor of the first Bangladeshi LGBT magazine Roopbaan. Through his film and political work, Rasel explores the themes of migration, displacement, and exile. He is the co-founder of a community-based archive called Queer Archives of the Bengal Delta. Rasel has an MFA from Columbia University and has recently joined the Ohio State University’s Theatre, Film, and Media Arts Department.
AGITATE! Editorial Collective would like to thank the students of GWSS 3003 for participating in this discussion with Efadul Huq and Rasel Ahmed, and articulating the powerful questions that generated this conversation.
Movie Screening and panel discussion: Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale
“Maadathy” unfolds the story of an adolescent girl born
in an “unseeable” slave caste group but refuses to be defined by it.
When: 15 October 2021, 9:15 -11:45 am (CDT)
Hosts: GWSS and AGITATE! Unsettling Knowledges
Panelists: Leena Manimekalai (Director and writer), Ajmina Kassim
(Actor), Semmalar Annam (Actor), Bhavana Goparaju (Producer), Prof.
Jebaroja Singh (St. John Fisher College).
Trailer: Maadathy – Official Trailer | Ajmina Kassim | Leena Manimekalai |
Leena Manimekalai Interview with Bharadwaj Rangan about Maadathy:
Leena Manimekalai Interview With Baradwaj Rangan | Deep Focus | Maadathy
Sowing and cultivating solidarities: Imagining transnational and translocal solidarities through research and pedagogy
Link to Zoom recording of event
“Sowing and cultivating solidarities: Imagining transnational
and translocal solidarities through research and pedagogy” seeks to advance
the collaborative work of envisioning and enacting scholarly, artistric,
and pedagogical practices in search of justice. Jointly organized by the
Imagining Transnational Solidarities Research Circle (ITSRC) and AGITATE!:
Unsettling Knowledges, this symposium aims to forge the labor of
collaborative research and pedagogical praxes based on critical and
creative dialogues among the invited speakers and artists, and the
participants. To deliberate on what makes scholarship, artistry, and
teaching transformative, we will convene two sessions that focus on
learning from resilient and creative epistemologies that refuse to be
silent, in spite of and despite settler colonial occupation and apartheid.
We enter this difficult realm through the following questions: How do we
learn from and teach about over seven decades of struggles in Palestine and
Kashmir? How can we learn from, converse, and grow with the poetic and
political energies of feminist and queer scholars/artists/activists? How
can such engagement help us to: (a) refuse disciplinary and geographical
borders that seek to contain resistance; (b) grapple critically with
occupations, imperialism, colonization and other forms of violence and
erasures; while (c) sowing and cultivating situated solidarities that forge
enduring relationships across struggles?