Open Letter in support of student protesters who were arrested at UT Austin on April 23

(to sign, please tweet me at @sshingavi)

To the University of Texas, Austin administration:

We, the undersigned, members of the UT community are troubled by the arrest of peaceful protesters at the Office of the President on April 23, 2014. Non-violent student protest ought to be met not with criminalization but with negotiations and dialogue.

Students were sitting-in to protest the University of Texas’s decision to proceed with the implementation of Shared Services, a proposal that would restructure the operations of the University of Texas by eliminating 500 departmental staff positions. Not only has such a proposal been subject to serious debate and misgivings on the part of members of the campus community, it has been met with opposition in all of the other universities where it has been implemented. The elimination of departmental staff positions not only means that the university will be able to provide fewer services to students and faculty at UT, it also means that the services that are provided will be offered by people doing the work of those who have been laid off. Such a restructuring of the university not only threatens the educational mission of the university but it also undermines some of the university’s best resources and talents.

The criminalization of non-violent student protest has a long history at UT Austin, including the arrests of the UT-10 in 1999, the arrests of anti-war protesters in 2003, and the arrest of anti-sweatshop activists in 2012. This pattern of criminalizing dissent unnecessarily creates a climate in which students are unable to raise their own concerns about changes taking place at the university and in the broader community.

We think that it is time for this pattern of responding to protest with police to stop in favor of a policy of active engagement with student concerns. We encourage the University of Texas and the Travis County Attorney to drop the charges against the students arrested yesterday. We encourage the University to revise its policies in dealing with student protesters. But most importantly, we encourage the University of Texas to rethink its commitment to the staff who work tirelessly to make UT Austin the flagship university of Texas and to reconsider its implementation of Shared Services.




A. Naomi Paik, Asst. Professor, American Studies, UT Austin

Aaron Bady, Postdoctoral Fellow, English, UT Austin

Amanda Gray, Graduate Student, American Studies, UT Austin

Ana Minian, Harrington Faculty Fellow, Center for Mexican American Studies, UT Austin

Anam Bangash, undergraduate, UT Austin

Anindya Dey, Graduate Student, Physics, UT Austin

Anne Lewis, Sr. Lecture, Radio Television Film, UT Austin

Ashlyn Davis, graduate student, American Studies, UT Austin

Barbara Harlow, Professor, English, UT Austin

Ben Carrington, Associate Professor, Sociology and African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin

Bernth Lindfors, Professor Emeritus of English, UT Austin

Brian Doherty, Senior Lecturer, English, UT Austin

Cary Cordova, Assistant Professor, Department of American Studies, UT Austin

Cole Wehrle, Graduate Student, English, UT Austin

Cynthia Talbot, Associate Professor, History & Asian Studies, UT Austin

Dana Cloud, Professor, Communication Studies, UT Austin

Deb Palmer, Associate Professor, Bilingual/Bicultural Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, UT Austin

Don Howard, Associate Professor, Radio/Television/Film, UT Austin

Elisa Underwood, Graduate Student, American Studies, UT Austin

Ellen Spiro, Professor, Radio Television Film, UT Austin

Emily Lederman, Graduate Student and AI, English, UT Austin

Eric Covey, Assistant Instructor, American Studies, UT Austin

Eric Schenk, Former Academic English Program Instructor, retired, ESL Services, International Office, UT Austin

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

Gretchen Murphy, Professor, English, UT Austin

Heather Hindman, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, UT Austin

Heather Houser, Asst. Professor, English, UT Austin

Helene Quanquin, visiting professor, Sorbonne-Nouvelle (Paris III)

Ian Woolford, PhD, Alumnus, UT Austin

Jaime Puente, Doctoral Student, American Studies, UT Austin

Jason Brownlee, Assoc. Professor, Department of Government, UT Austin

Jauzey Imam, undergraduate, class of 2015, UT Austin

Jennifer Kelly, PhD Candidate, Department of American Studies, UT Austin

Jennifer Wilks, Associate Professor, English, UT Austin

John Schaefer, UT alumnus

Josephine Lawson, UT Student, class of 2017

Jossianna Arroyo-Martínez, Professor, Spanish and Portuguese, African and African American Studies, UT Austin

Julie Kantor, Graduate Student in American Studies, AI in Rhetoric, UT Austin

Julie Minich, Asst. Professor, English, UT Austin

Juliet Hooker, Associate Professor of Government and African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin

Kamala Visweswaran, Associate Professor, Anthropology, UT Austin

Karen Gustafson, Research Associate, Radio Television Film, UT Austin

Katya Kolesova, graduate student, Communication Studies, UT Austin

Kristen Brustad, Associate professor, MES, UT Austin

Laura Davila, alumna, UT Austin

Laura Lyons, UT Alumna

Luis E. Cárcamo-Huechante, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, UT Austin

Luis Marentes, Associate Prof. Of Spanish (dept. Languages, Literatures & Cultures) U of Massachusetts Amherst, UT alumnus

Mahmoud Al-Batal, Professor, Middle Eastern Studies, UT Austin

Mariana Mora, UT Alumna

Mia Carter, Associate Professor, Department of English, UT Austin

Michelle Monk, Department Administrator, Radio-Television-Film, UT Austin

Mona Mehdy, Assoc. Professor, Molecular Biosciences, UT Austin

Monica Muñoz Martinez, Carlos E. Castañeda Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Mexican American Studies, UT Austin

Neville Hoad, Associate Professor, English, UT Austin

Noah De Lissovoy, Asst. Professor, Curriculum and Instruction, UT Austin

Pablo Gonzalez, alumnus, UT Austin

Purnima Bose, UT Alumna

R. Scott Garbacz, PhD Candidate, English, UT Austin

Rachel Jennings, PhD, English, UT Austin

Ramey Ko, Lecturer, Center for Asian American Studies, UT Austin

Rasha Diab, Asst. Professor, Rhetoric and Writing, UT Austin

Regina Mills, Graduate Student, English, UT Austin

Rhiannon Goad, Graduate Student and Assistant Instructor, Department of English, UT Austin

Robert Jensen, Professor, Communications, UT Austin

Robert Oppenheim, Associate Professor, Asian Studies, UT Austin

Robert Oxford, graduate student, American Studies, UT Austin

Rocio Villalobos, Coordinator, Multicultural Engagement Center, UT Austin

S. Shankar, UT Alumnus, Professor, Department of English, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Saif Kazim, UT Alumnus, class of 2013

Sarah Frank, graduate student, English, UT Austin

Sarah Tuttle, Research Associate, McDonald Observatory

Shannon Speed, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Director, Native American and Indigenous Studies, UT Austin

Sheela Jane Menon, graduate student, English, UT Austin

Shiyam Galyon, alumnus, UT Austin

Snehal Shingavi, Asst. Professor, English, UT Austin

Sona A. Shah, Assistant Director, Center for Asian American Studies, UT Austin

Syed Akbar Hyder, Assoc. Professor, Asian Studies, UT Austin

Tarek El-Ariss, Assoc. Professor, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, UT Austin

Taryn Stoneking, undergraduate, UT Austin, class of 2015

Teri Adams, UT Alumna

Victoria Vlach, Administrative Associate, Dept. of Asian Studies, UT Austin



Faculty letter in support of divestment from Israel at University of Washington

April 14, 2014

To whom it may concern:

We, the undersigned faculty from universities around the country, salute and commend the efforts of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights at the University of Washington, Seattle, to get the UW Student Senate to pass a measured and thoughtful motion to divest from corporations that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

We agree with the motion in its recognition that the Israeli occupation is both illegal under international law and involves extensive and ongoing violations of human rights and international law that are systemic in nature and thoroughly documented by a range of internationally respected organizations. Corporations that collaborate with and profit from the occupation are themselves therefore complicit in the perpetration of human rights violations. Furthermore, we endorse the statement that a decision to divest from corporations that profit from these fundamental violations is and should be in keeping with the commitment to respect for human rights, non-discrimination and ethical values that is a cornerstone of any university’s moral and intellectual mission. It is clearly in keeping with the University of Washington’s own stated commitment to “the active pursuit of global engagement and connectedness” and to fostering “engaged and responsible citizenship”.

We therefore urge the Student Senate at the University of Washington, Seattle, to live up to these ethical principles and to pass the divestment resolution.


Joel Beinin, Stanford University

Eduardo Cadava, Princeton University

Mary Yu Danico, California State University, Pomona

Colin Dayan, Vanderbilt University

Erica Edwards, University of California Riverside

Alessandro Fornazzari, University of California, Riverside

Cynthia Franklin, University of Hawai’i

Jess Ghannam, University of California, San Francisco

Terri Ginsberg, International Council for Middle East Studies

Macarena Gomez-Barrís, University of Southern California

Barbara Harlow, University of Texas, Austin

Linda Hess, Stanford University

Cheryl Higashida , University of Colorado, Boulder

Nasser Hussain, Amherst College

Robin D. Kelley, University of California Los Angeles

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University

Jodi Kim, University of California Riverside

David Klein, California State University, Northridge

Dennis Kortheuer, California State University, Long Beach

Mariam Lam, University of California Riverside

David Lloyd, University of California Riverside

Alex Lubin, University of New Mexico

Sunanina Maira, University of California, Davis

Frederick C. Moten, University of California, Riverside

Bill Mullen, Purdue University

Nadine Suleiman Naber, University of Illinois, Chicago

David Palumbo-Liu, Stanford University

Laura Pulido, University of Southern California

Dylan Rodriguez, University of California Riverside

Jeff Sacks, University of California Riverside

Steven Salaita, Virginia Tech

Sarita See, University of California Riverside

Freya Schiwy, University of California, Riverside

Malini Johar Schueller, University of Florida, Gainesville

Snehal Shingavi, University of Texas, Austin

Rajini Srikanth, University of Massachusetts Boston

Neferti Tadiar, Barnard College

Faculty Letter Against Shared Services at UT Austin

Dear President Powers,

We are deeply concerned about the Business Productivity Initiative and its impact on the university community and on our ability to teach and engage in meaningful research. We are dismayed that the Initiative has already invested more than $4 million paid to Accenture Corporation in order to “sell” the University on the Plan — money that could have been used to meet our core missions and enhance staff services and staff support. We question the Plan’s potential for cost saving; we have been given inaccurate statistics and graphs throughout the campus discussion period.

Implementation of the proposed shared services plan, whether touted as a series of “pilot” experiments or done wholesale, will inevitably endanger one of the foundations of this university’s greatness—the sense of community that joins together faculty, staff, and students. Our multitalented, abundantly generous, highly skilled, deeply committed and invested staff is an essential element of our community.

People choose to work at The University of Texas at Austin because they believe in its educational and social missions. Adoption of a shared services model will weaken departments’ commitment to those missions by devaluing bonds between faculty and staff that develop from working toward common goals. We oppose any plan that removes dedicated staff from departments and consolidates the specialized services offered both students and faculty at the departmental level. The stability and coherence of staff at the departmental level ensures effective and productive intradepartmental communications, and ideally facilitates relations between faculty, staff, and our students. We are already short staffed and should hire more departmental support, not less. We oppose the use of attrition and forced retirement as money saving ventures.

We who work at the university know our staff as generous and deeply committed professionals, as parents and caretakers, community volunteers, as fellow citizens of Austin, Travis County, and the state of Texas. These are people who help make our campus the compassionate, intelligent, diverse, vibrant, and enviable place that attracts visitors to the Forty Acres; their support of faculty and students forge the lifelong bonds of attachment to and affection for the university that are its very lifeblood. We should choose to invest in our campus community as a whole because that investment strengthens our city, its families, and our common spirit.

For many of us, it is very difficult not to see the university’s embrace of the Business Productivity Initiative as part of the overly zealous, profit-motivated corporatist mandate, which is likely to erode public institutions and public services across this country. The greatest tragedy of these privatization schemes is that they destroy the democratic spirit by calculatedly de-valuing our common wealth and the very notions of collective endeavor, mutual support, and the common good.

These are inestimable values; they matter to us, greatly. We implore you to withdraw your support of the Shared Services Plan.

Letter authored by,

Mia Carter, Associate Professor of English, University Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor; University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teacher; 2014 Alcalde “Texas Ten”; Member of TSEU-CWA 6186

Julius G. Getman, Earl E. Sheffield Regents Chair; Professor, School of Law; Member of TSEU-CWA 6186

Anne Lewis, Sr. Lecturer Radio-Television-Film; 2010 University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teacher; Executive Board Member TSEU-CWA 6186

Faculty Signatories:

Michael Adams, Interim Director, James A. Michener Center for Writers; Director, Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program; Associate Professor, Department of English

Kamran Asdar Ali, Fellow of Marlene and Morton Meyerson Centennial Chair; Associate Professor, Director, Academic Program, Department of Anthropology, Department of Asian Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, South Asia Institute

Lynn A. Baker, Frederick M. Baron Chair in Law

Samuel Baker, Associate Professor of English

Phillip Barrish, Associate Professor; Director, Lower-Division Literature Program, Department of English

Mary Beltrán, Associate Professor, Dept. of Radio-Television-Film; Affiliate, Women’s & Gender Studies, Center for Mexican American Studies

Daniela Bini, Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature; recipient of President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award; Harry H. Ransom Teaching Award; Liberal Arts Council Teaching Award; Cavaliere (Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana) conferred by the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano.

Daniel Birkholz, Director, English Department Honors Program; Associate Professor of English; Recipient, President’s Associates Teaching Award

Lynn E. Blais, Leroy G. Denman, Jr. Regents Professor in Real Property Law

Hans C. Boas, Raymond Dickson, Alton C. Allen, and Dillon Anderson Centennial Professor; Director, Linguistics Research Center, Department of Linguistics; Department of Germanic Studies

 Brian A. Bremen, Associate Professor of English; Provost’s Teaching Fellow

 Barry Brummett, Charles Sapp Centennial Professor in Communication; Department of Communication Studies Chair

Erika Bsumek, Associate Professor of History

 Thomas Buckley, Specialist, Rhetoric and Writing; Member of TSEU-CWA 6186

Ben Carrington, Associate Professor of Sociology and African and African Diaspora Studies; Member of TSEU-CWA 6186

 Evan Carton, Joan Negley Kelleher Centennial Professor in Rhetoric and Composition; Professor, Dept. of English

Oscar Cásares
, Fellow of Susan Taylor McDaniel Regents Associate Professorship in Creative Writing; Associate Professor of English

Dana Cloud, Associate Professor; Director of Graduate Studies; Fellow to Everett Collier Chair in Communication Studies

 Cary Cordova, Assistant Professor, Department of American Studies; Faculty Affiliate, Center for Mexican American Studies

Ann Cvetkovich, Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English; Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies

 Diane Davis, Director, Digital Writing and Research Lab; Professor of Rhetoric & Writing

Janet M. Davis, Associate Professor; American Studies, History, Women’s and Gender Studies

Lesley Dean-Jones, Associate Professor of Classics

 Noah De Lissovoy, Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction

James Denbow, Professor of Anthropology

Rasha Diab, Assistant Professor, Department of Rhetoric and Writing. Affiliate: Departments of English and Middle Eastern Studies

 Brian Doherty, Senior Lecturer, English; Member TSEU-CWA 6186

Ariel Dulitzky, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Human Rights Clinic; Director, KBH Center for Latin American Law, University of Texas School of Law

 Tarek El-Ariss, Associate Professor of Arabic Studies and Comparative Literature, Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Susan B. Empson, Professor, STEM Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Karen Engle, Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair in Law, Co-Director and Founder Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

 Lester Faigley, Robert Adger Law and Thos. H. Law Professor in Humanities, English/Rhetoric and Writing

Toyin Falola, Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities; Distinguished Teaching Professor; Professor, Department of History

Linda Ferreira-Buckley, Lillian and Tom B. Rhodes Centennial Teaching Fellow; Associate Professor of English, Rhetoric & Writing

William E. Forbath, Lloyd M. Bentsen Chair in Law

Steve Friesen, Professor, Department of Religious Studies; President¹s Associates Teaching Excellence Award (2011)

Karl Galinsky, Floyd A. Cailloux Centennial Professor of Classics; University Distinguished Teaching Professor; Max-Planck International Research Award 2009

Joshua Gunn, Associate Professor, Communication Studies

 Frank A. Guridy, Associate Professor of History

Barbara Harlow, Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor of English Literature with courtesy appointments in Comparative Literature, Middle Eastern Studies, and affiliations with Women’s and Gender Studies, South Asia Institute, and the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice (UT Law School); Member of TSEU-CWA 6186

Jim Hankinson, Professor of Philosophy and Classics

John Hartigan, Director, Américo Paredes Center for Cultural Studies; Professor, Department of Anthropology

Edeltraud Harzer, Senior Lecturer, Asian Studies

Kurt Heinzelman, Professor of Poetry and Poetics, Department of English; Editor-in-Chief, TSLL; Editor-at-Large, Bat City Review

 Susan Heinzelman, Director, Center for Women and Gender Studies; Associate Professor of English

 Lars Hinrichs, Fellow of J. R. Millikan Centennial Associate Professorship in English Literature; Associate Professor of English Language and Linguistics

 John Hoberman, Professor of Germanic Studies; Member of TSEU-CWA 6186

 Neville Hoad, Associate Professor of English

 Juliet Hooker, Associate Director for Scholarly Programs, Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies; Associate Professor of Government and African and African Diaspora Studies

Heather Houser, Katherine Ross Richards Centennial Teaching Fellow in English; Assistant Professor of English; Member TSEU-CWA 6186

 Don Howard, Associate Professor, Radio-Television-Film, UT3D Director

Madeline Hsu, Associate Professor, History

 Thomas K. Hubbard, Professor of Classics; Fellow of the Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Professorship in the Humanities

John Huehnergard, Professor, Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Robert Jensen, Professor of Journalism

Martin Kevorkian, Associate Professor and Associate Chair, English

Terri LeClercq, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, retired and Norman Black Professorship in Ethical Communication in Law School of Law

 Richard M Lewis, Associate Professor and Area Head for Screenwriting, Radio Television and Film

 Tatjana Lichtenstein, Assistant Professor, Department of History

 Allen MacDuffie, Fellow of Jane and Roland Blumberg Centennial Assistant Professorship in English; Assistant Professor of English

Geoff Marslett, Senior Lecturer, Radio Television Film; Board of Regents’ Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award; Member of TSEU-CWA 6186

Alberto A. Martínez, Associate Professor, Department of History

Anne M. Martinez, Assistant Professor, Department of History

Tracie Matysik, Associate Professor, Raymond S. Dickson Teaching Awardee, Department of History

 Mona Mehdy, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

 Jeffrey L. Meikle, Stiles Professor in American Studies, Professor of Art and Art History

Sofian Merabet, Assistant Professor of Anthropology; Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Mark Metzler, Associate Professor of History

Karl Hagstrom Miller, Fellow of George W. Littlefield Associate Professorship in American History; Associate Professor, American Studies and History

Julie Avril Minich, Leslie Waggener, Sr. Centennial Teaching Fellow; Assistant Professor, Department of English

Michelle Monk, Department Administrator, Radio-Television-Film; Member of CWA-TSEU 6168

Lisa L. Moore, Interim Director, The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies; Professor of English

Steven A. Moore, PhD, RA, Bartlett Cocke Regents Professor of Architecture and Planning; Director, Graduate Program in Sustainable Design, School of Architecture

Monica Muñoz Martinez, PhD, Carlos E. Castañeda Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Mexican American Studies

 Patrick Olivelle, Professor, Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair Emeritus in the Humanities

Antonella D. Olson, Distinguished Senior Lecturer in Italian, 2012 University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teacher, 2009 Texas Exes Teaching Award, 2001 Harry H. Ransom Award

 Angela Naomi Paik, Fellow of Mary Helen Thompson Centennial; Assistant Professorship in the Humanities, Department of American Studies, Center for Asian American Studies, Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, Department of African and African American Studies, Rapoport Center for Law and Human Rights; Member TSEU-CWA

 Tom Palaima, Robert M. Armstrong Centennial Professor; Director PASP Classics; UT Alumni/ae Association’s Jean Holloway Award for Excellence in Teaching 2003-4; Plan II Chad Oliver Teaching Award 2004-5; MacArthur fellow 1985-90; Member of CWA-TSEU 6168

Deborah Palmer, Associate Professor, Bilingual/Bicultural Education Department of Curriculum and Instruction; faculty affiliate Center for Mexican American Studies; Member TSEU-CWA

 Deborah Paredez, Katherine Ross Richards Centennial Teaching Fellow in English, Associate Professor of English

Carla Petievich, Visiting Professor, South Asia Institute

Lucas A. Powe Jr., Anne Green Regents Chair in Law; Professor of Government

Megan Raby, Assistant Professor, Department of History

 Guy P. Raffa, Associate Professor of Italian; Member of CWA-TSEU 6186

PJ Raval, Assistant Professor, Department of Radio-Television-Film

 Ann Reynolds, Associate Professor, Art History

 Matt Richardson, Fellow of Chair in African and African Diaspora Studies; Associate Professor African and African Diaspora Studies and English

Sharmila Rudrappa, Associate Professor, (Future) Director Academic Program, Department of Sociology

John Rumrich, Arthur J. Thaman and Wilhelmina Dore’ Thaman Endowed Professor in English

Elizabeth Scala, Associate Professor of English

Nancy Schiesari, Professor, Radio-Television-Film

 Megan Seaholm, Senior Lecturer, Department of History

Martha Ann Selby, Professor of South Asian Studies; Member of CWA-TSEU 6186

Dina Sherzer, Professor Emeritus, Department of French and Italian

Joel Sherzer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology

 Snehal Shingavi, Fellow of Jane and Roland Blumberg Centennial Assistant Professorship in English; Assistant Professor, Department of English

Christen Smith, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology; Department of African and African Diaspora Studies

Shannon Speed, Associate Professor of Anthropology; Director, Native American and Indigenous Studies

 James Spindler, The Sylvan Lang Professor; Professor, UT McCombs School of Business

Ellen Spiro, Professor, Department of Radio Television Film

Janet Staiger, William P. Hobby Centennial Professor Emeritus in Communication and Professor Emeritus of Women’s and Gender Studies; Chair of Faculty Council, 2009-10

Kathleen Stewart, Professor, Anthropology

Pauline Strong, Professor of Anthropology; Director, Humanities Institute

Circe Sturm, Fellow of Dallas TACA Centennial Associate Professorship in the Liberal Arts; Associate Professor of Anthropology; Native American and Indigenous Studies Faculty

Cynthia Talbot, Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies; Member TSEU-CWA 6186

 Kim TallBear, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Eric Tang, Assistant Professor, African & African Diaspora Studies; Member of TSEU-CWA 6186

Rabun Taylor, Associate Professor of Classics

Shirley Thompson, Fellow of Stiles Associate Professorship in American Studies; Fellow of Chair in African and African Diaspora Studies; Associate Professor of American Studies and African and African Diaspora Studies; Member of TSEU-CWA 6186

Luis Urrieta, Jr., Associate Professor; Curriculum & Instruction, Mexican American Studies;
Native American & Indigenous Studies; Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

Angela Valenzuela, Professor, Department of Educational Administration; Center for Mexican American Studies; Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Director of TCEP and Associate Vice President for School Partnerships

Kamala Visweswaran, Associate Professor of Anthropology, South Asian Studies, Asian American Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies; Member of TSEU-CWA 6186

Jennifer Wilks, Associate Professor of English & African and African Diaspora Studies; 2011 Alcalde “Texas Ten”

Hannah C. Wojciehowski, Professor of English

Helena Woodard, Associate Professor, Department of English; Faculty Affiliate, J. Warfield Center for African and African Diaspora Studies

Jo Worthy, Professor, Language and Literacy Studies, Curriculum and Instruction






A Response to the Renewal Faction on Events in Austin

Since so much has been made of Austin by the Renewal Faction, I would like to respond (especially since I’m singled out, again).

Here is the “crisis” to which the Renewal Faction refers in Austin.  I’ve redacted the names because they are unimportant, but if anyone would like to do the accounting, we will happily talk about them.

  • Comrade 1 and 2: political/personal differences
  • Comrade 3: Paternity
  • Comrade 4: long term health issue
  • Comrade 5: returned after custody battle
  • Comrade 6: on leave to finish a book
  • Comrade 7: undeclared personal reasons with a note to rejoin in a few months
  • Comrade 8: returned (irregularly to branch meetings)
  • Comrade 9: returned (reappeared at the Day School)
  • Comrade 10: long-term financial issues (reappeared at the Day School)
  • Comrade 11: difficult work schedule (reappeared at the Day School)
  • Comrade 12: time conflict (still doing fraction work)

There are two ways to interpret this data, but the Austin branch committee (while I was on it) was of the belief that we ought to take comrades at their word for their rationales for leaving rather than impute political debates on them.  We at least hold to the belief that our comrades are not lying to us.

So when the Renewal Faction writes the following

Now comrades may take leave for entirely legitimate reasons involving health, family, employment, and so on. But if ten people go “on leave” more or less simultaneously–at the same time as two others formally resign–then it is foolish to pretend as if the reason is not fundamentally political and indicative of a political crisis.

I can only respond: Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

In a branch that was 35-8 comrades, this is high but not unusual, especially given three things which the Renewal Faction overlooks: 1) The way that neoliberalism actually affects our members in ways that are not only political (i.e. job loss, family crises, etc.) 2)      The sheer exhaustion the branch faced after the most exciting summer that we have ever participated in politically (The War on Texas Women), arguably as large a protest as anything in DC or Chicago, but without the number of nearby branches to help with the organizational challenges. 3)The complicated back and forth we have been trying to navigate around the question of the size of the branch, student/community, and the development of cadre which have created some organizational bumpiness that are not the same thing as political disagreements.

I think that it is a fair question to call this a crisis in the branch, or rather, one reading of the evidence could reasonably lead a comrade to that conclusion.  But such an interpretation is so out of synch with the local evidence, so quick to use data to support its own alarmist conclusions, that it fails to explain the specifics.  Did we in Austin also overestimate the period?  Here is our assessment from the summer work:

At the same time, this movement has a time limit on it.  As soon as the bills pass, the Democratic Party and its ancillary organizations will begin to channel all of that frustration into electoral politics.  It is also clear that the Democrats are not willing to defeat the Republicans.  In order to defeat the bills, we would need to do something on the order of what was done in Madison, WI, namely occupy the Capitol with so many people and for long enough that they cannot pass the bills.  The left does not have the forces or the credibility to do something like this on its own – it would need the mainstream organizations (unions, feminist groups) to be on board as well.  It would require, in other words, a much larger “people’s filibuster.”  Anything short of running out the special session means that the Republicans will be able to use their stacked deck to push through whatever they want.  (Austin District Notes, July 2013)

Later we were even sharper about the limits posed by this movement:

We should also understand that the fight around abortion rights was more or less derailed by the abstention of the Democratic Party (if not by outright orders by Party leaders to pull the plug on an issue that would hurt their chances in the polls).  We continue to build as much as we can around this fight, but it is substantially harder to do so without a clear target and without the kind of mobilizing capacity that the liberal organizations possess.  We take no pleasure in having been right about this: it can only be disorienting for a number of activists who were told that this was the fight of their lives and that “we won’t back down” only to see the Democrats licking their wounds and waiting until 2014.  Some of those people can be brought to socialist politics; most of them will be disoriented or confused or will begin to repeat the shibboleths of Democratic Party sound bites about realism and pragmatism. (Austin District Notes, August 2013)

We did take a slightly over-optimistic turn in September, where I clearly erred in thinking that there was a larger periphery than there was.  Here is what I wrote:

This month the notes will be making the argument for an outward push for ISO events and tablings.  We have already argued that the mood in Austin, while angry at the general nature of the economy and oppression in general, does not still constitute fertile ground for agitational work (i.e. it is possible to call for relatively small rallies, but these do not bring out substantial, organized forces), our most important work will be propagandistic (i.e. informational tablings, meetings, teach-ins, etc.) in order to seed the ground for a revival in struggle.  The raw numbers just in terms of our activity over the past three week bear this out:

·        8/22: 200 people at town hall against APD violence

·        8/24: 80 people out at rally for jobs and justice

·        8/27: 96 contacts at Freshman activities fair

·        8/28: 200 people at rally against bleach balloons

·        8/29: 2-300 people at fight for 15 rally

·        8/29: 400 people at Huston-Tillotson Trayvon event

·        8/31: 100 people at No War on Syria rally

·        8/31:  80-100 people at Planned Parenthood fundraiser

·        9/1: 50-60 people at the “march for civil rights”

·        9/4: 65 people at Why You Should Join the Socialists

·        9/5: 13 people at Graduate Student organizing meeting

·        9/6: 8 people at People’s Task Force meeting

·        9/10: 40-50 people at bleach balloon protest

·        9/12: 15 people at Graduate Student Employees Association meeting

·        9/12: 275 people at Islamophobia event

(If you subtract out our members, we have a periphery of something like 1000-1500 people in the last three weeks alone)

Clearly, not all of these people are socialists or even left of the democrats, but they together represent a sizable chunk of people with whom we can engage in politics and political discussion.  The thing that has been missing has not been political issues that are drawing people out and engaging them in some kind of activity. (Austin District Notes, September 2013)

This was overclaimed, but it seemed right at the time to focus on meeting new political activists and talking to them about politics.  Still, this excited perspective was corrected by October once it was clear that these numbers were aberrational.  What is left out of the Renewal Faction’s assessment are two things.  1) the local character of our perspectives (which were much more conservative than even the national perspectives in some places) which underwent a lot of revision and debate and 2) the fact that even by the logic of the Renewal Faction, the “crisis” happened before September (when it was clear that we didn’t have the membership numbers to respond to all of the interest in the ISO).

In the interest of proving there is a crisis in the organization, the Renewal Faction mischievously misreads what is happening in Austin.   There may very well be an organizational crisis in the ISO.  We do not know because we do not have a full accounting of what happened all over the country.  But I can say with full confidence that what is happening in Austin, while not ideal, does not match the crisis that Shaun J is describing.

Snehal S

An Open Letter About the Events in Texas


An Open Letter About the Events in Texas:

The nation stands at the edge of a historic reversal. Hard won gains of the women’s rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s are about to be turned back with devastating results for women across the country. Abortion, already a barely accessible right for most women, is now being made extinct as conservative politicians attempt to press their advantage in certain states in opportunistic fashion.

But the problem we face is deeper. In Texas, the legislature has used every legal (and some illegal) trick in the book to make sure that the pro-choice majority is not heard. The current legislation under consideration represents some of the most draconian limits on abortion rights ever. And instead of allowing normal democratic procedures to resolve the issue, the legislature has relied on a rigged process to force the bill through. A few examples are worth mention: every procedural objection that was made to Wendy Davis’s historic filibuster; the refusal to hold state-wide hearings to allow affected communities to testify about the consequences of the legislation; the intentional misreporting of how many people testified in opposition to the legislation; the years of gerrymandering which make it nearly impossible for the legislature to reflect the real wishes of the population; the organizing of “special sessions” to push through legislation.

The current legislation is too important to allow these deficits in the democratic process to go unchallenged. The bills in Texas would close down the overwhelming majority of clinics which provide abortions and thereby eliminate all of the ancillary services those clinics also provide – STD testing, family planning, health care. That some of these clinics are also the only places where low-income, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals are able to get health services means that this legislation will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable members of society.

We believe that the legislative process is stacked against those of us who believe that abortion rights are a necessary part of a woman’s ability to control her own body and make decisions about her own health. As a result, it now becomes necessary to take action outside of the legislative process. We firmly believe that if we were to stand up and be counted, the pro-choice forces in this country will outnumber the forces of reaction. It is in this vein that we call on all people who believe in a woman’s right to choose to stand up and be counted.

We propose that marches and rallies be organized in every city in Texas on July 15th in order to show just how deep the pro-choice sentiment actually runs. In Austin, we will be rallying at 8 pm at the Texas Capitol. But as these attacks against choice are not limited to Texas, we invite all those who stand for choice to join us in a national day of solidarity on July 15th. We believe it is possible to win back our rights, but only if we take a stand in the way that people have been standing for their rights in Brazil, Egypt, and Greece: by understanding that popular protest has the ability to change what a narrow minority of people impose under the fiction of legality.


Linda Martín Alcoff, Department of Philosophy, Hunter College/CUNY

Dr. Anjali Arondekar, Associate Professor, Department of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

Wendy Ashmore, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside

Michelle Belden, Bates College Archivist

C. Marshall Bennett, LMSW, President, ACC/AFT Local #6249

Tithi Bhattachrya, Associate Professor of History, Purdue University

Tiffani Bishop, GetEqual TX Central Texas Lead

Eileen Boris, Hull Professor and Chair, Department of Feminist Studies, University of California Santa Barbara

Brian A. Bremen, Associate Professor of English, University of Texas at Austin

Professor Timothy Brennan, Department of Cultural Studies&  Comparative Literature, and English, University of Minnesota

Susan Briante, MFA, PhD, Associate Professor, Creative Writing Program, University of Arizona

Rachel Brickner, Associate Professor of Politics, Acadia University

Karen Brodkin, Professor Emerita, Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles

Carole H. Browner, Distinguished Research Professor, Departments of Anthropology,  Gender Studies & Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior University of California, Los Angeles

Heather Busby, Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas

Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley

Allison Carruth, Assistant Professor, UCLA

Mia Carter, Associate Professor of English, University of Texas, Austin

Margaret Cerullo, Professor, Sociology and Feminist Studies, Hampshire College

Indrani Chatterjee, Associate Professor of History, University of Texas, Austin

Chris Chiappari, Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, St. Olaf College

Dana Cloud, Associate Professor of Communication, University of Texas, Austin

Huma Dar, Asian American & Asian Diaspora Studies Program, UC Berkeley

Bug Davidson, Director of Homoscope Film Festival

Janet M. Davis, Associate Professor of American Studies, History, and Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Anthony DeStefanis, Assistant Professor of History, Department of History and Political Science, Otterbein University

Mia M. Dia, PE, founder of Women’s Alliance for Leadership (WAL) in Dallas Texas

Laurie Donovan, LMFT, LCSW

Jim Downs, Associate Professor of History, Connecticut College

David L. Eng, Richard L. Fisher Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Eve Ensler, Author of The Vagina Monologues

Anton Ford, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Chicago

Sonia Pressman Fuentes, Speaker, Author, “Eat First–You Don’t Know What They’ll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter”

Lauren J. Gantz, PhD Candidate, Department of English, University of Texas at Austin

Montserrat Garibay, National Board Certified Teacher, Vice President for LULAC Council 4859, Austin, Texas

Terri E. Givens, Associate Professor, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin

Shari Goldberg, Assistant Professor of Literary Studies, University of Texas at Dallas

Gilbert G. Gonzalez, Professor Emeritus, Chicano Latino Studies, UC Irvine

Linda Gordon, University Professor of the Humanities, Florence Kelley Professor of History, New York University

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Coordinator of FOR Interfaith Peacewalks, Cofounder of Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence

Elizabeth Gregory, Director, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program, University of Houston

Sondra Hale, Research Professor/Professor Emerita, Anthropology and Gender Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

Lynne Hanley, professor emerita of literature and writing, Hampshire College

Leslie Harris, Dallas Coordinator, CODEPINK Women for Peace

Susan Sage Heinzelman, Associate Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies, University of Texas, Austin

Rosemary Hennessy, Director, Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality, Rice University

Jim Hightower, editor of The Hightower Lowdown, former TX Agriculture Commissioner

Kristen Hogan, English Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies Librarian, University of Texas, Austin

Nancy Hogshead-Makar , two-time Olympic champion

Jim Holstun, English, SUNY Buffalo

Michael Honey, Author and professor, University of Washington Tacoma

Heather Houser, Assistant Professor of English, University of Texas, Austin

Madeline Hsu, Associate Professor of History, University of Texas, Austin

Alison Jaggar, Professor of Distinction, Philosophy and Women and Gender Studies Research Coordinator, University of Colorado at Boulder College

Tsitsi Jaji, Assistant Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Pranav Jani, Associate Professor, English, The Ohio State University

Ann Rosalind Jones, Esther Cloudman Dunn Professor of Comparative Literature, Smith College

Alison Kafer, Associate Professor of Feminist Studies, Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX

Chris Kaiser, Staff Attorney, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault

Deena Kalai, PLLC

Katie Kane, Associate Professor of English, The University of Montana

Suvir Kaul, A. M. Rosenthal Professor, Department of English, University of Pennsylvania

Michael Kazin, Professor of History, Georgetown University, Editor, Dissent

William Keach, Professor of English, Brown University

Marie Kennedy, Professor Emerita of Community Planning, University of Massachusetts Boston

Linda K. Kerber, Brodbeck Professor of History Emerita, University of Iowa

Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History, Columbia University

Katherine C. King, Professor Comparative Literature, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

David Klein, Professor of Mathematics, California State University, Northridge

Karen Kocher, Lecturer, Department of Radio-TV-Film, University of Texas at Austin

Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor of Communication, Rutgers University

Christine Labuski, Assistant Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Faculty Affiliate, Department of Science, Technology, and Society, Virginia Tech University

Beryl Landau, Artist, San Francisco, CA

Edward Lee MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Anne Lewis, Lecturer, Radio Television and Film, University of Texas, Austin, independent film-maker

Holly Lewis, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Texas State University

Bernth Lindfors, Professor Emeritus of English, University of Texas at Austin

Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston

Elaine Tyler May, Regents Professor, Departments of American Studies and History, University of Minnesota

Bryan McCann, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Louisiana State University

Edward J. McCaughan, Professor of Sociology, San Francisco State University

Mona Mehdy, Associate Professor of Biology, University of Texas, Austin

Carlos Muñoz, Jr., Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Scholar and Professor Emeritus, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Ruth Needleman, professor emeritus, Indiana University

Mary Nolan, Professor, Department of History, New York University

Vivian Norris, PhD Honorary Chair Muhamad Yunus Social Business MBA Huffington Post blogger, filmmaker

Charlotte Nunes, PhD candidate, Department of English, UT-Austin

Richard Oestreicher, Associate Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh

Sarah R. Orem, Doctoral Candidate, Department of English, Managing Editor, Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, The University of Texas at Austin

A. Naomi Paik, Assistant Professor of American Studies, University of Texas, Austin

Thomas C. Patterson, Distinguished Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside

Leslie Peirce, Silver Professor of History, New York University

Ann Pellegrini, Director, Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, Associate Professor of Performance Studies & Religious Studies, New York University

Ruth Perry, Ann Fetter Friedlaender Professor of Humanities at M.I.T.

Russell Pinkston, Professor of Composition, University of Texas, Austin

Jaime Puente, MA CMAS, PhD Student Dept of American Studies, UT Austin.

Peter Rachleff, Professor of History, Macalester College

Natalie J. Ring, Associate Professor of History, University of Texas at Dallas

Rochelle G. Ruthchild, Professor Emerita of Graduate Studies, The Union Institute & University

Sharmila Rudrappa, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin

Roshni Rustomji-Kerns,  Professor Emerita,  Sonoma State University. CA

Cynthia Valadez-Mata, Jr. , League of United Latin American Citizens – District 7 Director

Simone Sessolo, Lecturer, the University of Michigan

Jon Shelton, Assistant Professor, Democracy and Justice Studies, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

Falguni A. Sheth, Associate Professor of Philosophy, and Political Theory, School of Critical Social Inquiry, Hampshire College

Shu-mei Shih, Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, Asian Languages and Cultures, Asian American Studies

Snehal Shingavi, Assistant Professor of English, University of Texas, Austin

Professor Kaja Silverman, History of Art, University of Pennsylvania

Joseph Slaughter, Associate Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Lindsay Smith, Houston Feminist Movement

Ellen Spiro, Professor, University of Texas, Austin

Clay Steinman, Professor, Media and Cultural Studies,Macalester College

Kathleen Stewart, Professor and Chair of Anthropology, University of Texas

Landon Storrs, Associate Professor of History, University of Iowa

Susan Stryker, Director, Institute for LGBT Studies and Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies University of Arizona

Merritt Tierce, Executive Director of Texas Equal Access Fund

Sarah Tuttle, Board Member, The Lilith Fund

Angela Valenzuela, Professor, Education Policy & Planning, University of Texas at Austin

Alice Walker, Pulitzer PrizeChris Chiappari, Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, St. Olaf College

winner, author of The Color Purple

Jennifer Jensen Wallach, Associate professor of history, University of North Texas

Devra Weber, Associate Professor, History Department, UC Riverside

Dan Welcher, Lee Hage Jamail Regents Professor of Composition, Butler School of Music, Director, UT New Music Ensemble

Amanda Williams, Board of Directors, the Lilith Fund

Dr. Carol Williams, Associate Professor, Chair of Women and Gender Studies, University of Lethbridge

Jennifer Williams, Visiting Scholar at Rice University

Courtney Williams Barron, doctoral candidate in American Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Jennifer Wilks, Associate Professor of English and African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas, Austin

Sherry Wolf, author, Sexuality and Socialism; editorial board, International Socialist Review.

Keeanga Yahmatta-Taylor, author of Rats, Riots and Revolution: Black Housing in the 1960s, Texas native

Lijun Yuan, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Texas State University, San Marcos

Lee Zimmerman, Professor of English, Hofstra University; Editor Twentieth-Century Literture

Dave Zirin, Sports Editor, The Nation Magazine

Faith Action for Women in Need (FAWN)

GetEqual TX

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas

To sign on, please email

How the Papal example cannot save the University of Texas

In the name of the Father … I mean efficiency

The narrative presented by President Powers, “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT,” sounds too good to be true, in large part because it is.  It is premised on a contradiction which is all the more maddening because it is acknowledged, and then politely ignored.

The strategy developed for making the university work better, more efficiently, and still retain its excellence is “attrition.”  That this was the way that hundreds of thousands were sacrificed on the altar of Europe’s imperial ambitions in the last century, would be worth mentioning, except that the historical memory of our President seems to be limited to the obscure architectural accomplishments of the papacy.  Really, the pope managed to move an obelisk?  Are these the metaphors of innovation to which the university has been reduced?

You cannot have a strategic vision for a university, much less a war, on the basis of attrition.  It would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that the university spent $960,000 to develop its well-worked out plan for saving money that amounts to, well, doing nothing and then charging more for it.  This is strategic neglect masquerading as policy.

Let me give you an example.

Two years ago, the Center for Asian American Studies, an already tiny center, was cut by 25%, despite the fact that we were exceeding expectations in terms of our “efficiency.”  Every metric that the university developed demonstrated at the time that the Center was actually performing well.  That year we also lost a senior faculty member to another institution.  The university did not approve using those savings to hire a replacement faculty member.

Last year, we also lost a full-time staff person, who was then replaced by a part-time staff person, and two of our faculty members were denied tenure.  This year, that part-time staff person is going to have leave her job because it doesn’t provide her with dental coverage which she needs.  The university, we have been informed, will not be refilling her position.

The Center for Asian American Studies will be one more casualty that will prove to the university that its plan is working.  There will be no discussion of the work that the faculty here do, the students they serve, the projects they work on, the communities outside the university to which they connect us.  Will we even pause to ask who is winning this war?

This is what attrition amounts to.  It amounts to taking excellence and then sapping it of all of its strength.  It is only through the deployment of Orwellian rhetoric that passivity can present itself as ingenuity and intelligence.  This is business orthodoxy pretending to be reform.

Lest I forget, here’s the remaining bits of the plan: charge more for things that people need like food and parking, and pay people less for the work they already do.  Oh and then there is also last year’s decision to charge students more tuition.  This is exactly what it means to run the university like a business, and no amount of papal sanctification can turn this water into wine.  We’ve run out of creativity at the top and we are hoping for miracles.

The sad part is that this plan will work: there will be savings, there will be efficiencies.  But it will also mean real, human casualties.  Education will suffer, as will the services that students are offered.  It will also be more expensive to be a longhorn.  Jobs will simply vanish into the ether.  And we will make do with less.  But the emphasis in that sentence has to be on the word “less” and not on the term “make do.”  And by the way, do you want an education in which “making do” is supposed to sound like “halleluiah?”

The nights are real, the days, lies

The nights are real, the days, lies

John Eliya

Scratch out my eyes if you will, I’ll never let go of my dreams

Neither their comforts nor their tortures will drive me to break my promises

New vistas do not dwell in the suburbs of the eyes

Must I also lose the treasures of my imagination?

Yes, my dreams detest the cold and shadowy implications of your mornings

Those mornings were only the shimmering and dizzying cycle of winter’s steam,

Of all of the suns that have ever been sold at evening’s counter

Like my night of dreams, burning, blazing nights

And each day of these icily condensed implications, is good and is true,

By which the blurry orbit of brilliance turns into a 360-degree illness

My darknesses are true, too

And your “albinism” is also a lie

The nights are real, the days, lies

As long as the days are lies, as long

Bear the nights and live in your dreams

They are better than dream-bleaching days

No, I won’t wrap myself in temptation’s fog

Scratch out my eyes if you will, I’ll still never let go of my dreams

I won’t break my promises

This is enough, it is my everything

The predation of months and years is my nemesis

Its reputation has been measured against my life

Let whatever happen, until my last breath let whatever happen

راتیں سچی ہیں، دن جھوٹے ہیں

چاہے تم میری بینائی کھرچ ڈالو پھر بھی میں اپنے خواب نہیں چھوڑوں گا
اِن کی لذت اور اذیت سے میں اپنا عہد نہیں توڑوں گا
تیز نظر نابیناؤں کی آبادی میں ،
کیا میں اپنے دھیان کی یہ پونجی بھی گنوا دوں
ہاں میرے خوابوں کو تمھاری صبحوں کی سرد اور سایہ گوں تعبیر
اِن صبحوں نے شام کے ہاتھوں اب تک جتنے سورج بیچے
وہ سب اک برفانی بھاپ کی چمکیلی اور چکر کھاتی گولائی تھے
سو میرے خوابوں کی راتیں جلتی اور دہکتی راتیں
ایسی یخ بستہ تعبیر کے ہر دن سے اچھی ہیں اور سچی بھی ہیں
جس میں دھندلا چکر کھاتا چمکیلا پن چھ اطراف کا روگ بنا ہے
میرے اندھیرے بھی سچے ہیں
اور تمھارے روگ اُجالے بھی جھوٹے ہیں
راتیں سچی ، دن جھوٹے
جب تک دن جھوٹے ہیں جب تک
راتیں سہنا اور اپنے خوابوں میں رہنا
خوابوں کو بہانے والے دن کے اجالے سے اچھے ہے
ہاں میں بہکاؤں کی دھند سے اڑھوں گا
چاہے تم میری بینائی کھرچ ڈالو میں پھر بھی اپنے خواب نہیں چھوڑوں گا
اپنا عہد نہیں توڑوں گا
یہی تو بس میرا سب کچھ ہے
ماہ و سال کے غارت گر سے میری ٹھنی ہے
میری جان پر آن بنی ہے
چاہے کچھ ہو میرے آخری سانس تلک اب چاہے کچھ ہو

AuthentiCity and AlieNation — a review of Zadie Smith’s NW


In a controversial essay penned in 2008, Zadie Smith campaigned for a shift in the way that we understand and read novels.  Her New York Review of Books essay, “Two Paths for the Novel,” took the dominant tradition of lyrical, realist writing to task for its reliance on deeply held pieties: “the transcendent importance of form, the incantatory power of language to reveal truth, the essential fullness and continuity of the self.”  The novels which have been promoted by the critics in the twentieth century belong squarely to this tradition.

Smith’s rejoinder to this long-standing preference for realism is an inversion of the argument first made by Matthew Arnold in Culture and Anarchy:  now that God is dead, literature and its God, the lyrical self, must become the stuff of our new religion.  Smith’s retort to the Arnoldian penchant for “sweetness and light” is devastating: “But is this really what having a self feels like? Do selves always seek their good, in the end? Are they never perverse? Do they always want meaning? Do they not sometimes want its opposite? And is this how memory works? Do our childhoods often return to us in the form of coherent, lyrical reveries? Is this how time feels? Do the things of the world really come to us like this, embroidered in the verbal fancy of times past? Is this really Realism?”

This is also in part a novelistic rejoinder to Jean-Paul Sartre, himself another kind of advocate for the lyrical realist tradition.  Sartre’s injunction that we eschew the fiction of our own unfreedom (what he called “bad faith”) and embrace the dizzying, nauseating reality that we are always free to choose has given succor to the confident, novelistic self, which finds that when it is being most authentic it is also being its most beautiful.  The problem, as Zadie Smith contends, is that authenticity can also be an alibi, a narrative that we produce about ourselves to reconcile ourselves to our choices, that hides us from the reality that we are rarely as heroic as we appear in the rear-view mirrors of our epics.  It is interesting, isn’t it, that we become the most self-congratulatory, inflated, even eloquent when we feel we are being our most authentic, as if there were any correlation between morality and beauty anymore?

The vision that this leaves us with is perhaps bleak: we are not ultimately or consistently noble creatures, and the stories that we tell ourselves about our choices, even when they are authentic, may not actually help us understand our own place in the world.  Authenticity is another kind of hubris, in Smith’s telling, when most of us are defined by our deep familiarity with its twin: alienation.  But how do you predicate the Bildungsroman, that acme of the lyrical self, on the language of alienation?  Doesn’t this risk turning all literary endeavor into the flat rubble of antihumanism?  And haven’t Pynchon, Delillo, and their coterie of American postmodern novelists done this already?

Smith most recent novel, NW, while retracing steps taken by the postmodernists attempts to steer clear of both the easy course of modernist heroism—the legacy of Woolf and Joyce that hang heavily over this work—and the detritus of postmodernism by shifting the focus of the novel from the self in crisis to the anxieties of place.  The novel follows the lives of four people, all from a council estate called Caldwell in northwest London, as their lives go in directions that none imagined for themselves.  Each of the characters is confronted with the contradiction between a desired because unobtained ideal life, the dissatisfactions of the present, and the nostalgic selves which others remember because they have all shared a geography.  As a result, NW becomes a novel in which the only way to feel better about the sorry selves that we are is to find ways of reconnecting to the places that we inhabit.

The novel begins by taking apart an aphorism of authenticity and hollowing it out: “I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me.”  It quickly turns into incantation and then meaninglessness:

I am the sole

I am the sole author

And later,

I am the

the sole

And even,

I am the sole. The sole. The sole.

The joke is Shakespearean in reverse (“I am a mender of worn soles”), undoing all of the work of literature to shore up the self as the unique confirmation of human heroism.  The anti-lyricism of the line, its emphasis on seriality and repetition, reflects back the emptiness at the center of human alienation rather than seeking out comforts in the fineness of literary revelation.    Later in the novel the same incantation is repeated with more desperation when it comes to mean that the self has no one else to blame for its ruin.  There is no revelatory self which can snatch from this rubble a jewel of good writing: lyricism cannot be a bulwark against radical possibility.

The inauthentic selves, but very real characters, that haunt NW: Leah Hanwell (an Anglo-Irish philosophy major turned public servant who is desperately unhappy about her marriage); Natalie (nee Keisha) Blake (the descendant of Caribbean immigrants who “wills” herself through law school and a family that she also recklessly endangers); Felix Cooper (the painfully optimistic filmmaker/drug dealer whose death becomes the crisis the rest of the novel seeks to understand); and Nathan Bogle (the high school athlete and heart throb turned into homeless pimp).  All of them take drugs, all of them went to the same school, and all of them find it impossible to bear the contradiction between their desires and their realities.  This line could have been written about anyone of them—“She was on the run from herself”; it happens to describe Leah.

The novel is best when it tears apart the fictions of self.  Keisha and her first boyfriend, savagely: “They thought life was a problem that could be solved by means of professionalization.”  Leah at a dinner party, pathetically: “While she was becoming, everyone grew up and became.”  Nathan Bogle, angrily: “See but that’s how you see it—I don’t see it like that.  To me it’s just truth.  She was trying to tell me something true.  But you don’t want to hear that.  You want to hear some other shit.  Oh Nathan I remember when you were this and that and you were all fucking sweet and shit, you get me?  Nice memory.  Last time I was in your yard I was ten.”  And unable find consolation in the omnipresence of their alienation, they can only see in each other reminders that the stories about the selves to which we all cling ring tinny when anyone else speaks them.

This deep attention to the agony of alienation, to the partial lives and devastated ambitions of her characters, prevents the novel from careening into antihumanism by replacing the obvious nihilistic conclusions with a ruthless anti-literariness.  This is a novel peopled by the failure of literary representations, and so its critiques are ruthless and daring: almost every figure of the canon is here politely acknowledged and then surpassed.  Dickens is too earnest; Donne too transcendent; and William Morris is just plain fodder: “The Cock Tavern. MacDonalds. The old Woolworths. The betting shop. The State Empire. Willesden Lane. The cemetery. Whoever said these were fixed coordinates to which she had to be forever faithful? How could she play them false? Freedom was absolute and everywhere, constantly moving location.”

Perhaps it is more precise to say that NW reveals something that we have all suspected but never been able to articulate so clearly: the novelistic tradition’s dependence on the individual (bourgeois) subject makes it too easy to show the seams and joints of its formal choices.  Having abandoned the subject to its own breakdown, NW, variously, becomes a novel in search of authentic form.  And in some ways, this displacement of authenticity from character to location helps to explain the novel’s seriality, pace, and movement; it wants to unsettle in all the ways it can.  After all, the problem with authenticity in the contemporary world is that we imagine it to be both imminent and immanent, which is why we experience it as an adjective (authentic) and a verb (authenticate), as a fact and as a process.

NW is easily the most significant novel of the last decade because it so frontally challenges and excruciatingly interrogates the fiction of fiction, and finds that selves and literature may both benefit from a more gentle anti-heroism.  It allows Smith to challenge some of the odd pieties we have inherited about multiculturalism and neoliberalism without faltering into reactionary clichés about personal uplift.  And in so doing she not only lays bare the dangerous seductions of literature as aesthetic ideology, as a snake oil for the ailing conscience, she also offers the promise of the “real” as an antipode to the literary: “If candor were a thing in the world that a person could hold and retain, if it were an object, maybe Natalie Blake would have seen that the perfect gift at this moment was an honest account of her own difficulties and ambivalences, clearly stated, without disguise, embellishment or prettification.”

Workers demand early referendum in PTCL and withdraw VSS immediately.

Workers demand to early referendum in PTCL and with draw VSS immediately.

PTCL workers and their representative unions will never bow down to the management of foreign owners and fight with all means and ways till final victory.

Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limeted (PTCL) management has announced another Voluntary Separation Scheme VSS last week to slash all together around 16,000 workers in one stroke. The anti worker move is to be resisted with all means as the mood of worker and their representative show.

It is against the prevailing laws to launch the VSS second time with in time span of five years and the move clearly term as malafide intention of the management to terrorize the employees and get rid of vocal and active members of trade unions along with thousands of workers.

The management had had attacked 32,000 workers previously with the same lethal weapon of VSS in 2008. After the privatization of PTCL , the most profitable public sector entity in 2005 , it was the first severe attack of the private management on workers, followed by series of anti workers measures in coming years. The amount in billions of rupees for workers’ pensions have been misappropriated, there is no increase in pensions since long, the due bounce shares of 12% of 2009 is not distributed, NCPG cadre of total number around 6,000 denied their right to regularize since 2007 and their is no upward revise in existing pay scale structure.

The Etisalat has to pay an outstanding amount of 800$ million to Pakistan government under privatization deal for PTCL since long which is  against the shabby privatization deal too, now government has forgo 100$ million to compensate the Etisalat in lie of non transfer of 136 properties to them. The transfer process of these properties were stopped by Sindh High Court on plea of union supported by National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) in .

Workers and their representative bodies on every occasion oppose the illegal anti worker onslaught of the management, in 2009-10 through their heroic struggle challenged the tyranny of private owners, hundreds of workers arrested and sacked from jobs,union leaders were trailed under notorious Anti Terrorist Act(ATA) and reign of terror prevail all over PTCL.

One of the Supreme Court judgment by the bench headed by Chief Justice Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, in a PTCL workers case has tried to change law course drastically in favor of management and owners against the whole course of remedy mechanism provided in existing labour law. The judgment has invoke the centuries old doctrine of “Master and Servant” to settle the industrial dispute in 21 century, fortunately it was setaside by the larger bench .

The PTCL management has managed to steele the last referendum in favor of her favorite union with the help of NIRC with out going into second round which was legally bound to held.

Now again referendum is over due but management don’t want to allow the workers to exercise their democratic right to choose their Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) through vote. Some unions have made application to Registrar , Trade Union, National Industrial Relation Commission (NIRC) ,Islamabad but he was not entertaining the application plea and illegally continuing the earlier CBA who time period is completed in view of Sec 24 (11) of IRA ,2008.
While NIRC is not taking due course provided in IRA Second 19 (2) to hold a secret ballot to determine the CBA with in 15 day after receiving the written application. So unions contended the case in The Islamabad High Court (IHC) against NIRC though writ petition in June 2012.

The IHC has directed on 29 June 2012 to the Registrar Trade Union NIRC on  to dispose of referendum application with in 15 days in accordance with law and also directed no adverse action shall be initiated against any of the employee of office bearer of the Trade Union.

But contrary to the IHC court order and in clear violation of subsection (13) of Section 19- IRA , PTCL management has announce the VSS to hamper the referendum process and weaken the union strength. The VSS is illegal and have no lawful backing as the relevant sections compel  that during the referendum process no employer shall transfer, remove, retrench or terminate any worker or the officer of the trade union with out the permission of the Registrar.

PTCL workers and their representative unions will never bow down to the management of foreign owners and fight with all means and ways till final victory. Its the collective demand of the workers to announce referendum and with draw VSS immediately and nationalize the PTCL again.

Nasir Mansoor
Deputy General Secretary
National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF)
726 Mashriq Center Gulshan Iqbal,Block 14, Karachi, Pakistan.