The Interspecies and Intersectional Justice conference could’ve been the 2nd best conference I’ve seen or heard on the topic, at least complementary to The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter.
[Some talks not to be missed: Dr. A. Breeze Harper’s, who mentioned and had organised The VPBLM, and among others I linked below (besides the problematic one), Aph Ko’s talk:]
BUT there is so much wrong with the presentation that followed Aph’s powerful talk!
Watching Zarna Joshi of Women of Color Speak Out and her erasure of indigenous cultures and her ally theatre, I’ve been on a rollercoaster of feeling nauseated, annoyed, disgusted, etc. In her introduction (at least she seemed honest therein, not counting crucial omissions such as she’s a Brahmin [the most caste-privileged]). One part of her talk is coming up in the 1st link that follows. 38m40s “Pythagoras theorem comes from ancient indigenous wisdom of India, it is in the Hindu scriptures and was there for a lot longer than Europeans had ever heard of mathematics…”
Not only is Hinduism not indigenous, but it has been destroying indigenous cultures and languages, and continues to do so. Shakahara (is a Sanskrit term for vegetarianism, it stands for plant-eaters*) was also co-option.
Co-option of indigenous beliefs and her tone and lack of humility when corrected by a Xicano/Latino/Aztec at the end. Joshi had been, in her talk, speaking of Native people of respective land masses as one entity. She implies Hinduism, the world’s 3rd largest religion and a feudal system that excludes indigenous (and Dalit), is indigenous when it’s an estate and part of at least two others in India.
She doesn’t, and in any case is the worst possible person to, speak about land grabs and absurd violence against Adivasis and Dalits [Content warning for link: brutal rape and violence I could not even read through].
Did Joshi learn the name of any of the indigenous peoples of the lands she has been talking about, like the Niger Delta or Congo? Or does she know there are over 3000 ethnic groups with distinct cultures in Africa. Joshi merely says when corrected in Q&A, that there are many languages, and customs in different parts, and that Africa is not a country, as if we don’t know. She lives on Turtle island.
This is like Arundhati Roy calling herself black in ELLE magazine, except for the latter, black folks could tell it’s BS. Brahmins and Banias act like they have no lanes when it’s convenient to them, as do other savarnas. Some have been calling Roy a Brahmin (she doesn’t need to be from a Hindu family to be one, she is in any case Savarna).
Brahmins and forward castes (savarna) are to India what white people are to South Africa (the minority that controls institutions, are visible in the media etc.), the “divinely-appointed”, the holders of knowledge (they co-opted from Dalits and indigenous peoples – whose land they also stole and keep stealing); they experience some racism in the Global North/West, but surely like the Japanese woman who asked a question, regardless of skin colour (there is admiration or objectification of their respective cultures). Joshi keeps her patronising Brahminical tone and detracts from the latter question, explains her coined term “colonial hangover”. Assuming that it was metaphorically from the spiking of drinks or drinking water of the colonised people, this is NOT a hangover unless you grew up a rather privileged British Brahmin whose experience is in no way comparable to even a British person of a lower caste or a desi of another religion. I think her following suggestion of “colonial education among your communities” is a subconscious slip of her tongue. Then, never did she ask the woman if she had answered her question. We know more about Japanese exploitation of South Korean women, than we know about ongoing rapes of Adivasi and Dalit-Bahujan women by Brahminical men, or threats (CW for link: writer meena kandasamy getting a threat wishing for her gang rape pornography, because she tweeted about attending a beef-eating festival), and apathy by Savarna women who practice something akin to white feminism – Braminist feminism.
This depicts Krishna (whom Joshi prayed to, softly-but-in-the-mic, at the start of her talk) suckling a cow, pushing away the calf, while a woman reprimands him. More about Krishna.
Browsing 3 short un-numbered pages of Joshi’s male guru, Swami Mukundananda’s Spiritual Dialectics:
1. I came across casteist spin that help young and naive(?) Hindus think there is no casteism, in other words, the Indian version of “I don’t see race”. However, she is someone navigating the world as Zarna [Brahmin name].
But of course one outgrows this naivety, even in a diaspora where Hindu traditions remain very 1752. Anyone in social justice is likely to have realised the oppressiveness, on Turtle Island e.g., one would realise most organisers are upper caste whether or not one reads BGD (see Gee’s statement in interview linked); and if one is oppressed, one is probably more aware from early on. Cf white kids and black kids but in casteism, there is no parallel with colourism necessarily, although there is also colourism towards girls/women.
Zarna and I are the same age (idk her but she likes to talk about her past activism, and mentions her age then) and from diasporas, she, from the 1st world and I from the developing. I don’t know any anti-casteist movement in Southern Africa, but I know some UK and USian groups. For someone who boasts about her excellent British education to have researched Adivasis to erase them [to the point of not using the word ‘Adivasi’ at all (lest someone looks it up and figures her out?), to call Hindus indigenous] then claim a right to talk about African indigenous peoples and First Nations, like Zarna did, is absurd.
2. He claims that Buddhism came after the Vedas. This is more erasure.
3. He uses ableist discourse that uses disabled people to make a point.
That account he gives of 3 Blind men each touching different parts of an elephant’s body once and arguing over their conclusions, is not how Blind people operate, unless this was a game being played by a sighted person where Blind folks were used as animals would be, and they are only allowed to touch one part for a second and guess. They wouldn’t draw a conclusion based on that. The elephant of course stands there like a non-interactive object, neither warm nor breathing. The animals in the reader’s imagination are the Blind, it could’ve been a story that uses 3 monkeys to make the same point.
But let’s not dis her Guru, whom she only praised in that presentation (and whom she also writes books for). Also note that the term ‘shakahari’ (she firmly says to the audience “you’re not a vegan, you’re a shakahari (plant-eater)”) is considered outdated by someone in Bangalore, who had not heard it since high school, or it is simply not used outside of Hindu religious discourse.
Krishna’s sexual harassment is not only ok but revered up to this day, worldwide (in a framework that says women can’t climb trees in this case?).
Joshi’s talk with Q&A was 3 and 4 times longer than lauren Ornelas or Brenda Sanders respectively. As if we needed over an hour of erasing indigenous peoples with a patronising tone and spreading misconceptions along with information that is also important but not her own research. Her 1st world Brahminical discourse is not the only one, she erased indenture and erased complexities such as French colonies forcing Indians after indenture, to register babies with Christian first names. Only one’s middle name could be Indian until they changed the legislation in Reunion island.
This is a Brahmin woman spreading misinformation to an audience who is already misinformed, about India – a country where the Dadri lynching was perpetrated by upper castes and where tribal people in Jharkhand’s Latehar live in fear and are more severely affected by drought, after the lynching of 2 young boys. Nowhere did she mention the lynchings, this is about the shakaharis she is so proud of!
Here is Joshi, claiming to be ‘intersectional’, pretending she and other Hindus are indigenous which is as if Zionists were to claim they are Mizrahim**, Palestinian or both. How could that amazing conference end on the such a low note, and of all the moving and well-researched and well-thought-out talks there were, hers is the only one scheduled to go live? Joshi was presumably never asked in a public way to not co-opt (assuming I could give permission to share this [nope, do not share with whites and Brahminists], it puts me at risk but I’ll share this with a few organisers), and her talk was dispersing of misinformation, which has been viewed live and later by many hundreds.
If anyone reading this knows Adivasis or Dalits who want to write about this, they may by all means use this, without crediting me.
PS. It’s taking me a while to get the timestamps because Joshi’s Braminical tone is frankly triggering, more timestamps coming up in comments below.
. Adivasi and Dalit activists doing tireless advocacy or awareness work in India and diasporas. My focus is toward South India, as are my examples, being Dravidian myself. Every womanist, feminist or social justice activist, among Indians or diasporics I know, knows how damaging casteism is. But more know they’ll get away with it. Here is an Indian journalist thinking she’ll get away with being anti-indigenous Soni Sori, pictured, was attacked with a corrosive substance and she was fighting for her life at the time. Rupa was dragged on social media by Dalit activists but otherwise, she can get away with it – Rupa still seems to be a journalist, thus caste privilege works like white privilege.
. Gee Semmalar for telling me Joshi is a Brahmin name, and for clarifying that Brahminism/Vedic religion unlike Aryan religion came after Buddhism.
*Jayaprakash Satyamurthy for the link and for telling me more about ‘shakahari’.
**My Mizrahi friend, billie rain.