Monday, February 16, 2009

Reaching the marginalized

Marginalization and related articulations comes across strongly in this week's readings. Dutta (2008) writes marginalization as" being at the periphery of a dominant system and that marginalization is embodied in the position of being under, of being silenced, of being without a voice and of being without resources". Marginalization can be caused by poverty, ignorance, location, access, positionality in the societal and economic system (pecking order!!) and in God's own country, insurance!! 
From a critical cultural perspective, marginalization occurs from basic structural deprivations, created and sustained by structural inequities and unequal distribution at resources, further created and sustained by unhealthy practices which are in turn created and sustained by those in positions of power (Dutta, 2008). True, and I feel this is ingrained in our lives. The principle and declaration of human rights (1948) say "all human beings are equal...etc...". There can never be a statement farther from truth. Our birth in our families, our education, upbringing, the challenges we are cued to face, our subsequent choices, they are mired in privilege. One could argue that even the privileged are marginalized and its true, they are, but the privileged are more able to negotiate their marginalized status. Marginalization in the contemporary world is a very political term and various people/ communities use it for their convenience and to justify their action from their position. These is further confirmation from me that any action on my part on writing for/ behalf marginalized voices, challenging the dominant paradigm has to be essentially political and not a apolitical exercise as there is no such position. 
A culture centered approach challenges the dominant paradigm and opens legitimate discursive spaces for marginalized cultural groups, bringing to fore the narratives that are articulated within these cultural spaces (Dutta, 2008, 2004). Indeed, applying the CCA creates this discursive spaces but one can contend that this act also perpetuates their marginalized status as the dominant world, really does not understand, rather the voices are further support to the "exoticized" and "other" status. Lets ask ourselves, what did Ismael Beah's book do for the child soldiers, Rigorberta Menchu for the Quiche Indians in Guatemala and for that matter, Mukhtar Mai's account for the Pakistani women. They did provide a space for articulation of the hitherto marginalized voices and served to make them known but the "other" tag became more popular/ pronounced and indelibly marked. Yes, the world provided legitimacy but as what? So, in these negotiated spaces, CCA is not a magic pill but a powerful tool which if used without proper thought can further marginalize. In the same way, eliciting participation is not the silver bullet too!! First of all what do we mean by that and what does the community understand by the words...do they have a similar meaning/ sounding word in their language. In the world where every single development worker/ scholar either is co-opted by the donor conditionalities, NGO climate, funding language, or proceeds in her own articulations by building/ learning on the previous knowledge, original thought/ challenging the learning/ established positions is seldom seen. (the larger life co-opts too!!). I feel we need to question these readings as well and the concepts therein and not just a passive acceptance.
Pain, suffering, healing; these are all parts of life and co-exist together. It is very stimulating and interesting to read the ways in which these are being accessed by people other than the person herself. Many of our professors would say this is not social science but social studies, well so be it as long as it allows us to facilitate positive health outcomes. But with all these, the fact always remains, the more the narratives, the greater the variety, the greater the contestation and so the necessity of our humble acceptance of failing to draw a single conclusion, to know that ispite of all my research my actions are not infallible and willing to constantly negotiate. 
Last note; Mohan, that picture is definitely not Kalahandi, but East Africa. So, it raises a question as to whether pictures of poverty are the same worldwide and in that sense static. And why Kalahandi...by mentioning it in yet another intellectual work, are we not further marginalizing it? I wonder what expectations would Nadine/ Steph or Raihan carry in their mind if they ever visit Kalahandi or it remains in their minds etched as a poverty ridden landscape as Rwanda and Cambodia's image in my mind as a mass of different sized human skulls carelessly thrown about. 

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