“The communities I write about in the book — South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh immigrants — are “othered” and scapegoated today in our country. But at the same time, they are finding the strength, courage and purpose to reshape America by telling their own narratives, building community power, and changing policy.” — Deepa Iyer 

Column » ‘By the Book’ with Joseph Preville

41j8PRILBzL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_by JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE and JULIE POUCHER HARBIN  for ISLAMiCommentary on SEPTEMBER 29, 2015:

A vibrant multiracial America is emerging right before our eyes.  According to a new report by the Pew Research Center, “Multiracial Americans are at the cutting edge of social and demographic change in the U.S.—young, proud, tolerant and growing at a rate three times as fast as the population as a whole.” (“Multiracial in America,” June 11, 2015).

Deepa Iyer takes a looks at the struggles behind this momentous change in the United States and the challenges ahead in We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future (The New Press, November 2015).  She writes that America “has yet to fully confront the scope and effects of racial anxiety, Islamophobia, and xenophobia that have permeated our national narratives and policies in the years since 9/11.  We must change this legal, cultural, and political climate of hostility and suspicion, especially as communities perceived as ‘others’ change American cities, schools, and neighborhoods due to population increases and migration patterns.”

A native of Kerala, India, Deepa Iyer immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 with her parents and brother to Louisville, Kentucky.  In a 2014 interview, she reflected on her early experiences as an immigrant to America: “It did not take long to find out I was on the margins, that I was not mainstream. In the mid-80s in Kentucky, people were used to a black or white racial paradigm.  People like me fit neither.  I definitely had my share of experiencing some bullying and harassment at school, which shaped my sense of being different.”

Iyer, currently a Senior Fellow at Center for Social Inclusion, is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and University of Notre Dame Law School.  An activist, writer and lawyer, she has served as a Trial Attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice and as Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). 

Her work on immigrant and civil rights issues began at the Asian American Justice Center in the late 1990s. While at SAALT for nearly a decade, she shaped the formation of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of local South Asian groups, and served as Chair of the National Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). Iyer’s essays on immigration, the post 9/11 backlash, and racism have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, USA Today, Al-Jazeera and the Nation.

With contentious national debates on race, religion, and immigration making the news every day, We Too Sing America is a fresh voice in the conversation.

Deepa Iyer discusses her new book in this exclusive interview.

Deepa Iyer (credit: Les Talusan Photography)
Deepa Iyer (credit: Les Talusan Photography)

Why did you choose to take the title of your book from a Langston Hughes poem?  Does the poem have special meaning for you as an activist for social justice?

Almost ninety years ago, Langston Hughes wrote a poem about how Black people, though they were marginalized and rejected in all aspects of American society, grew stronger and wiser. He wrote that they too “sing America.” The communities I write about in the book — South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh immigrants — are “othered” and scapegoated today in our country. But at the same time, they are finding the strength, courage and purpose to reshape America by telling their own narratives, building community power, and changing policy. That is why the poem resonated with me. Continue reading

by IMAN SULTAN for ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on AUGUST 24, 2015:

Iman Sultan
Iman Sultan

Granada is renowned as the last stronghold of Andalusian Muslims before the shadow of the Spanish Inquisition descended on the entire peninsula and drove them out. It is the inspiration of teary poets reminiscing of the bygone Golden Age of the Muslim ummah, and the site of political nostalgia among Muslim nationalists. Recently, it has also become a center of epistemic resistance among people from around the world and across different faith groups, nationalities and academic disciplines.

A program called Critical Muslim Studies (CMS), an intensive two-week summer school, convened there in early June with activists, intellectuals and professors who specialize in liberation theology and believe in utilizing religion and spirituality to achieve political justice. Roberto Hernandez — a Latino professor and activist, who had been involved in the Berkeley student strike of 1999 when students took to the streets because the university was disbanding the Ethnic Studies department — was the director of this program.

The Critical Muslim Studies program took place in the old Arab neighborhood of Al-Baizin in Spain. (photo by Iman Sultan)
The Critical Muslim Studies program took place in the old Arab neighborhood of Al-Baizin in Spain. (photo by Iman Sultan)

The location proved key. Ramon Grosfoguel, an ethnic studies professor and critical scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, explained why we were in Granada. The historical city was not only the last outpost of Muslim civilization in Spain, it was the first victim of colonial modernity that was about to sweep the world, and which the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella were forging.  The same tactics used in the Inquisition, he explained, were used in the conquest of the Americas and and in the genocide of indigenous and African peoples. Current-day Granada is fraught with this history and divisive consciousness. Near Plaza Nueva, a public square filled with restaurants and shops, a gigantic statue of Columbus kneeling at Isabella’s feet and giving her his plans for conquest rises into the sky with the beacon of the Alhambra gleaming on the horizon.

Grosfoguel postulated that the Muslim conquest of Iberia was in fact not a conquest, but a liberation. In the 8th century, Spain did not exist as we know it today, but constituted different languages and peoples. The Iberian people were primarily Unitarian Christians and Jews, suffering under the boot of foreign Visigothic rule. An army of 8,000 Muslims (at the most) defeated an army of 150,000 Visigoths in only three years, a seemingly impossible feat. What enabled the Muslims to triumph? The answer lay in the people. The inhabitants of Iberia had not only joined the incoming Muslim armies in liberating themselves, they had also appealed to Morocco several times for help. What resulted? Interfaith relations flourished and there was unity amongst these Mediterranean peoples. The invisible line in the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Africa, West and East, did not exist at the time, but only appeared with The Inquisition and the advent of colonialism.

Continue reading

Between Psychoanalysis as Practice and as Social Theory

by TAMAR SHIRINIAN for ISLAMiCommentary on DECEMBER 29, 2014:

 “Is psychoanalysis possible in the Islamic Republic of Iran?” This is the question that Gohar Homayounpour poses to herself, and to us, at the beginning of this memoir of displacement, nostalgia, love, and pain. Twenty years after leaving her country, Homayounpour, an Iranian, Western-trained psychoanalyst, returns to Tehran to establish a psychoanalytic practice. When an American colleague exclaims, “I do not think that Iranians can free-associate!” Homayounpour responds that in her opinion Iranians do nothing but. Iranian culture, she says, revolves around stories. Why wouldn’t Freud’s methods work, given Iranians’ need to talk? — Excerpt from the Overview of Gohar Homayounpour’s book Doing Psychoanalysis in Iran (MIT Press, 2012)

Tamar Shirinian
Tamar Shirinian

While many in the West think of Iran as an impossible site for the practice of psychoanalysis — where the patient is assumed to be far too repressed to be able to talk freely — Iranian psychoanalyst Gohar Homayounpour says in fact there are many ways in which the context of Iran is precisely the perfect place for a practice.

Homayounpour was invited to Duke University last month by the Women’s Studies department to participate in a series of talks on her work. One talk — “Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran” — covered the clinical aspects of psychoanalysis in a doctor-patient setting and how the social and political context, including during the 2009 Iran elections protests, is of great importance.

Another covered the “Geographies of Psychoanalysis,” which shed light on the importance of an attunement to geographies outside of the West (the focus of the International Psychoanalysis Association until very recently) and its implications for psychoanalysis.

For her third talk — “Psychoanalysis and the Veil” — she was joined by Ranjana Khanna (Director of Women’s Studies at Duke and professor of English, women’s studies, and literature) and Duke literature professor Negar Mottahedeh.

I had the privilege to attend two of the three talks, “Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran” and “Geographies of Psychoanalysis.” In this essay, I would like to explore the themes of these talks and implications for my own research. Continue reading

via SOCIOLOGY OF ISLAM LISTSERV on SEPTEMBER 19, 2014: 

ISLAMOPHOBIA: GENDER, SEXUALITY AND RACISM

Special Issue of the Islamophobia Studies Journal 

Islamophobia Studies Journal

Abstracts due:           October 10, 2014

Full Articles due:       March 2, 2015

This special issue of Islamophobia Studies Journal (ISJ) aims to generate and circulate new knowledge about the relationship between Islamophobia, gender, sexuality and racism.

It has been over a decade since the mediatization of events on 9-11-2001 created new forms and techniques of Islamophobia and brought along intensified scrutiny of politicized forms of Islam. Across the globe we note interactions between context-specific Islamophobia and its powerful transnational flows from elsewhere. We live in a world of increasing inter-connectedness, such that news, policies, images and practices can travel instantaneously between different sites. And in the current deepening economic crisis, we are witnessing an escalation of migration from postcolonial sites including Muslim-majority countries.

In this context gender, sexuality and race are enlisted in a variety of ways to legitimize and bolster Islamophobic discourses and practices. For instance, under the guise of saving women and queers from Arab and Muslim communities, Islamophobic colonial feminism and more recently imperialist concerns about “the status of homosexuality” has been used to legitimize invasions, occupations, war and destruction. Scholars have addressed some highly publicized examples, such as the occupation of Afghanistan that then U.S. President George W. Bush claimed, with the active support of colonial feminists, as a plan to “free” Afghan women from Afghan men. Islamophobia and Orientalism also guided the manipulation and deployment of queer sexualities in Abu Ghraib. While a plethora of examples abound, the analyses are very few. This project will shift that disconnect by providing a means to understand site-specific as well as transnational phenomena. Continue reading

Via SOCIOLOGY OF ISLAM LISTSERV: 

This is a Call for Papers for two panels which will be held during the Fourth World Congress for Middle East Studies (WOCMES) 18th-22nd August 2014 in Ankara (Turkey).  Continue reading