Vietnam (a poem) by Zehra Nigah


By Zehra Nigah

(A war-time song of the children being born)


Ever since my eyes opened

I have only ever seen flames rain down in this world

From the womb of this trench

I learned to live and to stay alive

I learned to bear every pain and torment

Ever since I learned to speak

My lips have spoken these words

This roof that covers my slum—will it ever be blue?

Will stars ever twinkle in it?

And when will milk turn clouds into whatever I imagine

And when will the brightest sun allow me to clutch them in my fists

When will I run in the fields to kiss a gust of wind

Or caress the cold of the moon with my fingers

I’ve heard it said

I believe it, too

There are no chains on the sun, moon, wind.

Testimony (اظہار) by Ahmed Faraz

On the occasion of his 87th birth anniversary


Testimony (اظہار)

By Ahmed Faraz


If I am as silent as a rock

Don’t think that I

Am a stranger to the embers of fidelity.

Don’t look at me with such contempt

O sculptor of marble! It’s possible

That your chisel knew from its first cut

That the fire that burned within me for you

That I suppressed

Was the very fire of my life

Insaan, by Zehra Nigah

(an attempt at a translation)

Human (Insaan)


My eyes were covered by a curse of blood

You gave my eyes dreams


I was cloaked in darkness

You placed a full moon in my hands


I was afraid of the lamp’s flame

You gave my steps the sun


I had no authority over myself

You sentenced me with choice


My race was so many confused questions

How did you give them all such clear answers


Having heard the tale of my heart’s woe

You offered so many titles, so many chapters


You removed all of the thorns from my hem

And gave me roses for my lap


You remembered each and every one of my sorrows

And gave me happinesses without keeping track

Sahir Ludhianvi on the stupidity of war

खून अपना हो या पराया हो
नस्ल ए आदम का खून है आखिर
जंग मशरिक में हो या मगरिब में
अम्न ए आलम का खून है आख़िरबम घरों पर गिरें कि सरहद पर
रूहे-तामीर जख्म खाती है
खेत अपने जलें या औरों के
जीस्त फाकों से तिलमिलाती है

जंग तो खुद ही एक मसला है टैंक आगे बढ़ें या पीछे हटें
कोख धरती की बांझ होती है
फतेह का जश्न हो या हार का सोग
जिंदगी मय्यतों पे रोती है

जंग क्या मसअलों का हल देगी
खून ओर आग आज बरसेगी
भूख ओर एहतियाज कल देगी
इसलिए ए शरीफ इंसानों
जंग टलती रहे तो बेहतर है
आप ओर हम सभी के आंगन में
शम्मा जलती रहे तो बेहतर है

You should read Kris Manjapra’s book on M.N. Roy

I’ve spent the day thinking about what Roy must have felt like being expelled from the Comintern for arguing, in part, that it was possible for British colonialism to end without a revolution; that the British bourgeoisie would settle accounts with the Indian bourgeoisie and set them up as rulers; that the new arrangement would not mean a massive change in the social structure in India, but would rather help British capitalism restore itself after the crisis it faced after WWI; that Indian Communists should work inside the Congress Party and move its base to the left and chase the capitalists out (he got that last one wrong) … that he saw all of that in 1928, and had the misfortune of presenting that argument at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern right as the Russian Communist Party was licking its wounds over the massive debacle (to put it lightly) of how it dealt with the Kuomintang and the massacre of the Chinese Communists; that he was a casualty of the retrenchment that happened after 1928 only to have the Comintern reverse its position in 1935.  What it must have felt like to have helped to establish the Mexican Communist Party, debated with and convinced Lenin on the national question, gone to Germany and worked with the SpartakistBund, been the Comintern envoy in China, set up a base in Tashkent to train Indian Communists (largely Muslims) … and then be expelled by the Comintern … and then be proven right.  Manjapra’s book does an excellent job making sense of all of this.



For folks coming to my talk on “the politics of Afro-pessimism” — a list of things that I have been reading in preparation. (I will keep updating this list as we get closer to the conference) … and in case it’s not clear: the talk is designed to be critical of the theories calling themselves afro-pessimist.


Ansfield, Ben. “Still Submerged: The Uninhabitability of Urban Redevelopment.” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 124-41. Print.
Bennetta, Jules-Rosette. “Afro-Pessimism’s Many Guises.” Public Culture 14.3 (2002): 603-5. Print.
Cesaire, Aime. Discourse on Colonialism. Trans. Joan Pinkham. New York: Monthly Review, 2000. Print.
Chandler, Nahum Dimitri. Toward an African Future–of the Limit of World. London: Living Commons Collective, 2013. Print.
Clegg, John J. “Capitalism and Slavery.” Critical Historical Studies 2.2 (2015): 281-304. Print.
da Silva, Denise Ferreira. “Before Man: Sylvia Wynter’s Rewriting of the Modern Episteme.” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 90-105. Print.
Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. New York: Seal Press, 1988. Print.
Davies, Carole Boyce. “From Maquerade to Maskarade: Caribbean Cultural Resistance and the Rehumanizing Project.” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 203-25. Print.
Day, Iyko. “Being or Nothingness: Indigeneity, Antiblackness, and Settler Colonial Critique.” Critical Ethnic Studies 1.2 (2105): 102-21. Print.
Eudell, Demetrius L. “‘Come on Kid, Let’s Go Get the Thing’: The Sociogenic Principle and the Being of Being Black/Human.” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 226-48. Print.
Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington. New York: Grove Press, 1963. Print.
Gordon, Lewis R. Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism. Amherst: Humanity Books, 1999. Print.
Hartman, Saidiya and Frank B. Wilderson III. “The Position of the Unthought.” Qui Parle 13.2 (2003): 183-201. Print.
Hartman, Saidiya. Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.
—. “Venus in Two Acts.” small axe, number 26 12.2 (2008): 1-14. Print.
Ingersoll, Thomas N. “Steve Martinot. The Rule of Racialization: Class, Identity,
Governance.” The American Historical Review 108.5 (2003): 1437-8. Print.
James, Joy. Resisting State Violence: Radicalism, Gender & Race in U.S. Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. Print.
Kelley, Robin D. G. “Cedric J. Robinson: the Making of a Black Radical Intellectual.” CounterPunch 17 June 2016. Web. 20 June 2017. <…


Marshall, Stephen H. “The Political Life of Fungibility.” Theory & Event 15.3 (2012). Web. 21 June 2016. <


Martinot, Steve and Jared Sexton. “The Avant-Garde of White Supremacy.” Social Identities 9.2 (2003): 169-81. Print.
Martinot, Steve. The Rule of Racialization: Class, Identity, Consciousness. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003. Print.
Massa, Andre Lopes. Implications of Wilderson’s Afro-Pessimism. 16 December 2014. Web. 28 June 2016. <…


Mbembe, Achille. “African Modes of Self-Writing.” Public Culture 14.1 (2002): 239-73. Print.
—. On the Postcolony. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Print.
McKittrick, Katherine and Sylvia Wynter. “Unparalleled Catastrophe of Our Species? Or, to Give Humanness a Different Future: Conversations.” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 9-89. Print.
McKittrick, Katherine. “Axis, Bold as Love: On Sylvia Wynter, Jimi Hendrix, and the Promise of Science.” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 142-163. Print.
—. Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. Print.
McKittrick, Katherine. “Yours in the Intellectual Struggle: Sylvia Wynter and the Realization of Living.” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 1-8. Print.
Mignolo, Walter D. “Sylvia Wynter: What Does it Mean to Be Human?” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 106-123. Print.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Penguin, 1988. Print.
Moten, Fred. “Black Op.” PMLA 123.5 (2008): 1743-7. Print.
—. “Blackness and Nothingness (Mysticism in the Flesh).” The South Atlantic Quarterly 112.4 (2013): 737-80. Print.
—. “The Subprime and the beautiful.” African Identities 11.2 (2013): 237-45. Print.
Patterson, Orlando. Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982. Print.
Robinson, Cedric J. Black Marxism: the Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. Print.
Rubio, Philip. “The Rule of Racialization: Class, Identity, Governance. By Steve Martinot.” Journal of Social History (2005): 1140-2. Print.
Saunders, Patricia J. “Fugitive Dreams of Diaspora: Conversations with Saidiya Hartman.” Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal 6.1 (2008). Web. 20 June 2016. <…


Sexton, Jared. “Afro-Pessimism: The Unclear Word.” Rhizomes 29 (2016). Web. 25 June 2016. <…


—. Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. Print.
—. “People-of-Color-Blindness: Notes on the Afterlife of Slavery.” Social Text 28.2 (2010): 31-56. Print.
—. “The Social Life of Social Death: On Afro-Pessimism and Black Optimism.” InTensions 5 (2011): 1-47. Web. 10 June 2016. <…


Sharma, Nandita. “Strategic Anti-Essentialism: Decolonizing Decolonization.” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 164-82. Print.
Walcott, Rinaldo. “Genres of Human: Multiculturalism, Cosmo-politics, and the Caribbean Basin.” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Ed. Katherine McKittrick. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 183-202. Print.
Weheliye, Alexander G. Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. Print.
Wilderson III, Frank B. “We’re trying to destroy the world” Jared Ball, Todd Steven Burroughs and Dr. Hate. October 2014. 1-24. Print. 25 February 2016. <…


—. “Grammar & Ghosts: the Performative Limits of African Freedom.” Theatre Survey 50.1 (2009): 119-25. Print.
—. “Gramsci’s Black Marx: Whither the Slave in Civil Society?” Social Identities 9.2 (2003): 225-40. Print.
—. Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. Print.
—. Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010. Print.
—. “The Prison Slave as Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal.” Social Justice 30.2 (2003): 18-27. Print.

Resources about the crackdown in JNU (Delhi)

I will be updating this page frequently.  A number of people have asked for a clearinghouse of resources about the events at JNU in Delhi.  If you have resources that you believe should be included, please do send them to me.  A solidarity statement from students and faculty at the University of Texas, Austin is forthcoming.

Full text of Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech

Thank God for JNU

Srirupa Bhattacharya: Knock on the Door

Amartya Sen: Indians are too tolerant of intolerance

Tehelka: the march for Kanhaiya ended up Keeping the “soul of the country alive”

Police Register Sedition Case Against Unidentified Students

Thousands march in Delhi in #StandWithJNU protest

‘Defending Bharat Mata’, With Kicks and Punches

Romila Thapar: Be Warned, the Assault on JNU is Part of a Pattern

A Short Summary of the Law of Sedition in India

Soli Sorabjee: sedition charge deplorable

Video of the JNU solidarity march

JNU row snowballs into massive protest: Lawyers, students scuffle at court while teachers join agitation

Boston stands in solidarity with JNU

Letter of Solidarity to the Students of JNU, India: Democratic Students’ Alliance, Pakistan

Propaganda war: Sangh Parivar takes to the streets to paint JNU as a ‘den of traitors’

Tithi Bhattacharya: Kanhaiya Kumar stands in a tradition beyond the nation-state

Letter from academics condemning the crackdown at JNU

Spring Comes to JNU : Love, Laughter and Rage


Romila Thapar: ‘The Protests by JNU Students, Teachers Have Been Remarkable’

Mahishasura & beef claims in cop report

UK South Asia Centers condemn the crackdown at JNU

American Anthropology Association in solidarity with the students at JNU

Omkar Goswami’s editorial: “We’ve forgotten the lessons of Germany 1933 and India 1975”

Aditya Sarkar: “On Framing JNU for an imaginary crime”

Justice AP Shah: Yakub Menon, Afzal Guru’s executions were politically motivated

Solidarity Statement from Writers and Activists in Nepal

Peter Ronald Desouza: “JNU and the idea of India”

An open letter to Umar Khalid

Lawrence Liang’s critique of ultranationalism in India




Justice for Larry Jackson, Jr

Dear fellow faculty members and members of the UT community:

The national conversation about police violence that has followed in the wake of the protests in Ferguson, MO has important ramifications here in Austin, TX. As many of you know, in July of 2013, Larry Jackson, Jr. an unarmed African-American man, was shot and killed by Detective Charles Kleinert of the Austin Police Department. Because of the work of activists across the city, we were able to pressure the District Attorney’s office and ensure that Kleinert, unlike so many police officers across the country, was actually indicted.

That indictment is now in jeopardy. Kleinert’s lawyers are attempting to argue that his case should go to federal court rather than county court because at the time of the shooting Kleinert claims to have been working for federal law enforcement. If he succeeds in that claim, it is very likely that he will receive federal immunity and will not face any punishment for killing Larry Jackson, Jr. This is essentially an attempt to dial back the work that has happened here in Austin and reproduce the national pattern of getting police officers off on legal technicalities.

The People’s Task Force is calling for a day of action on March 3, 2015, the day that Kleinert’s petition to move his trial to federal court will be heard by Judge Lee Yeakel. We believe that organizing the largest possible protest will make a difference, not only in the case but also in deepening the attention on questions of race and law enforcement here in Austin. We will be gathering at 7pm outside the federal courthouse (501 W 5th St). It is likely that a decision will be released by that point in the day, but we still feel that it will be important to make sure that everyone in Austin knows and pays attention to what happens.

We are hoping to have as many faculty members as possible endorse this call to action as a way to help build support for Larry Jackson’s family and to make sure that justice is delivered to them. If you would like to endorse, please email Snehal Shingavi at There is also a petition to sign at:

Thank you.

Current endorsers:

Brian Bremen, Department of English, UT Austin

Drea Brown, Graduate Student, African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin

Charlotte Canning, Department of Theater and Dance, UT Austin

Mia Carter, Department of English, UT Austin

Gustavo Melo Cerqueira, Graduate Student, African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin

Lyndon K. Gill, Department of African & African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology, UT Austin
Mark Anthony Gooden, Department of Educational Administration, UT Austin

Barbara Harlow, Department of English, UT Austin

Charles Holm, Graduate Student, African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin

Juliet Hooker, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin

Heather Houser, Department of English, UT Austin

Xavier Livermon, Ph.D, African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin

Lisa Moore, Department of English, UT Austin

Gretchen Murphy, Department of English, UT Austin

Carla Ramos, Graduate Student, African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin

Sharmila Rudrappa, Department of Sociology, UT Austin

Snehal Shingavi, Department of English, UT Austin

Eric Tang, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin

Kevin D. Thomas, Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations

Joao Vargas, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin

Jennifer Wilks, Department of English, UT Austin

Helena Woodard, Department of English, UT Austin

We should always boycott apartheid

Ordinary people throughout the world must press harder and harder for a movement for Boycott, Divest and Sanctions against Israel
Snehal Shingavi , Saturday 26 Jul 2014

The most recent events in Gaza have shocked the conscience of the world so deeply that we have seen the largest pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the world that we have ever seen. From London, to Sydney, to South Africa, to Chicago, thousands have come out to demand a cessation to the bombing. Even fifteen years ago, during the Second Intifada, the global protest movement was not nearly as large. Something profound has occurred that has altered Israel’s ability to present its case to the world and have it be accepted as gospel.

First, the bombings of Gaza have produced a concentrated spectacle of what daily life in Gaza is like: bombing from Israeli Defense Forces, indiscriminate round-ups of Palestinians, collective punishment, inadequate access to food, water, and medicine, and the absolute disregard for civilian life. The bombing of hospitals, schools, UN refugee camps, apartment complexes, killing entire families, and even children playing on the beach are not “accidents” but the direct outcome of Israeli policies which have turned Gaza into one of the most densely populated places on the earth and then deprived that population of basic necessities, including the freedom to move. The fact that Israel does the same things it is doing now even when there are no Hamas rockets on which to deflect attention gives lie to the claim that this has anything to do with self-defense. As Noura Erekat, the legal scholar, has convincingly argued, Israel, like every other occupying power, has no right to self-defense. It has, rather, an obligation to preserve the lives of those it occupies, and it has flouted that obligation repeatedly.

Second, the rhetoric from inside Israel has shifted very decisively towards the far-right. The anecdotes reported in the media are chilling enough: the burning alive of an innocent Palestinian boy by an Israeli lynch mob; soccer fans shouting “death to Arabs!”; Israeli youth patrolling the streets with Kahanist t-shirts; the repeated accusations that one is not a citizen of Israel if one is not loyal to its military campaigns; and on and on. But even worse have been the reports of what has been said by the political establishment. Ayelet Shaked, member of Israel Beiteinu, called for the deaths of Palestinian mothers since they give birth to “more little snakes.” Despite knowing that the three teenage Israeli youth who had been feared to be kidnapped were actually dead, Prime Minister Netanyahu whipped up racist hysteria and did nothing to stop the mobs from attacking Palestinians in the streets. The once popular belief that Israel represented the leading force for democracy and social justice in the Middle East has been betrayed by the rampant racism, chauvinism, and xenophobia.

Finally, as these lines are being written, new protests have emerged in the West Bank. A march from Ramallah to Jerusalem, one of the largest in a decade, has unleashed the spirit of the third Intifada. Pictures of protesters tearing down the separation (also known as the “apartheid”) wall that Israel used to annex unlawfully more of the West Bank. The spirit of unity that was only formally represented in the alliance announced between Hamas and Fatah a few months ago has become transformed into a truly popular and nationally unity against the horrors that Israel is committing in Palestine. Two years after the revolutionary movements of the Arab Spring, it seems that the spirit of popular rebellion has come to Palestine as well.

These new processes have altered the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict substantially, even as they have not yet fully been able to transform the political commitments of the most powerful nations in the world. The US Senate voted unanimously to support Israel. The French government declared a ban on protests in support of Israel. The European Union even balked at the opportunity to condemn Israel for killing citizens of the EU, Ibrahim al-Kilani, his wife, and five children. Despite the shift in global public opinion decisively towards support for the Palestinian cause, the leadership of the most powerful countries in the world remains decisively committed to Israeli apartheid and occupation.

This is the context in which the calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions have to be understood and the reasons why ordinary people throughout the world must press harder and harder for a movement for BDS. It was as a consequence of the struggles of black South Africans that global civil society was inspired to isolate apartheid South Africa through a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions in the 1980s. The parallels to today could not be clearer. The refusal of Israel to stop its criminal war on Gaza and the refusal of the world powers to act mean that the job falls to the only two actors capable of making social change: the Palestinians and global civil society. The former has already acted and sacrificed—lives, health, dignity, and freedom. It falls on the rest of us to heed their call.

*Snehal Shingavi is an Assistant Professor, English, University of Texas Austin