Monday, January 22, 2007

What's wrong with the framework of "judging?"

Very often in health and development communication efforts targeted at the Third World, we hear our First World colleagues say things such as "We ought to be able to judge certain practices as inherently bad, ought we not?" Take for instance the Taliban's treatment of women in Afghanistan. According to these colleagues, we ought to be able to critique the Taliban and it's treatment of women. One of the things I would however like to point out in this context is that it was after all this impetus for freeing the women of Afghanistan from the Taliban regime that played out in US war efforts in Afghanistan.

That the Taliban's treatment of women needs to be critiqued is a legitimate point. I would, however, like to add to this criticism by further suggesting that we also ought to locate our critique of the Taliban and its practices within the broader sociohistorical context of the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the role of the US in equipping the warlords in Afghanistan and supporting the Taliban. Attending to this sociohistorical discourse draws our attention to the broader violence of colonial politics that plays out in the lives of Afghan women and in their resistive struggles.

Therefore, for my First World colleagues who are so inclined to want to judge because they can't simply help not taking a stance about the atrocities in the Third World, I suggest that you begin by starting to understand the broader context of structural violence within which these atrocities are located. I also suggest that you interrogate the neo-colonialist agendas of such discourse (for instance the discourse of freeing Afghani women to intervene in Afghanistan) and the ways in you which you participate in that. I also suggest that when talking about the helpless women of the South, you begin by looking at the works of organizations such as RAWA. Finally, I suggest you interrogate your own positions of privilege and the ways in which such colonialist discourse maintains your position of privilege.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mohan, thanks for blogging. Keep it up!