china as a settler colonial state

given the current situation in east turkestan (xinjiang), i think that it would be useful for us to discuss how the people’s republic of china is a settler colonial state. although the PRC actively denies that there are indigenous people in china, the name of xinjiang, which means “new border” or “new frontier” points out that the territory was a relatively recent addition to the qing empire, whose territory the PRC inherited–minus mongolia and taiwan

how has this “new territory” been subject to policies of settler colonialism, particularly what wolfe (2006) has called the “elimination of the native”?

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settler concern as a “non-performative”

I’ve wondered how institutions whose mandate is to care or show concern end up producing lots of reports. I’ve also noticed how these institutions have become nearly therapeutic in their desire to listen closely, to increase the voices included in the “conversation;” yet, they never seem to change social relationships on the ground. Maybe they were never supposed to do anything more than register a problem, to nod

This sense is nothing new. In fact, Vine Deloria’s (1969) Custer Died for Your Sins contains a darkly humorous account of task forces and secret task forces tasked primarily with listening. In Deloria’s account these institutions of concern for the “plight” of American Indians are linked with a sense of unreality, of seeing oneself as alien. These two experiences seem to be related to a problem of how one’s voice doesn’t register, or at least doesn’t register as one might expect it would, within institutions. Recently Sara Ahmed has coined the term “non-performative” to get at this feature of “being given a hearing” in institutional settings

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singsiaw sanga’ayen to ko rakat! 老師,一路好走 maharateng ciLifokan 紀念黃貴潮老師


我們坐在太平洋社區Lifok (黃貴潮) 老師的公寓裡面,書架、書桌、工作桌、餐桌、等都堆滿了筆記本、書、各種各樣的印刷品和照片。黃貴潮老師一邊幫我詮釋一首歌一邊寫「浪漫」、「幽默」、 「感情」兩個字,並用很日本味的英文說「romantic」、「humor」、「sentimental」

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my plastic fast: recoup

over lent, i fasted from single use plastic

as it turned out, i figured out how hard it is, for systemic reasons, to remove plastic from one’s life, even if one is well meaning

for one, it requires a great deal of planning. overall, i liked this. now that we are in eastertide, i will maintain the kind of mindfulness about making and packing my own lunch on most workdays, bringing a water container or reusable coffee cup as well as utensils along with me

but try as i might, i don’t always tell people at restaurants “please no straw”

nor have i figured out how to avoid plastic salad dressing containers that come with salad when i eat at my neighborhood places

secondly, there are ways that food safety concerns keep us from being able to refuse plastic: cheese at all of the supermarkets i frequent is always packed in cling wrap; requests to have it cut in placed in my own containers were refused on health code reasons

finally, do we risk a kind of self-righteousness here? after all, the ability to avoid single use plastic often correlates with kinds of social and real capital. one’s ability to shop at places that sell in bulk or to plan ahead, for example, are not evenly distributed in our society. does a kind of purism here cause one to reproduce a kind of class antagonism but cloak it in goodness?

still, i found pleasure in making my own conditioner and skin care products and bringing a DIY feel to bread and soy milk

also, i learned that in order for us to move away from plastic, we will need to figure out how to get grocery stores, restaurants, and retail concerns to use less packaging and to make more products available without plastic. that is political work

so it turns out that my lenten fast actually encourages me to continue the work of caring for the environment

boat horns, common experiences, and decolonizing covers

at the AAS this year, i participated in a panel of a group of people with whom i started working last year, who have been organizing conferences, panels, and an edited volume on the subject of “resonating occupations,” or the ways that colonialism / colonial occupations have registered, sounded, or been resisted sonically. although i could have given a paper from last year’s conference, i decided to do what most of us did for this event, which was to write something new. originally, i thought that it would take me in relatively worn paths for me, working on the ways that songs by suming rupi, intended to be protest songs, don’t always sound that way to settler listeners. instead, i ended up writing about the sound of boat horns in a few songs from the 1980s…

because i’ve posted the text of much of this talk on my taiwan soundscapes blog, i’m just including a link here. follow the series to read this work on boat horns:

listening to boat horns: common but conflictual experiences

fasting from plastic: how it broke just as it began

it turned out that my fast from single use plastic broke nearly just as it began (time to pick myself up and start over…)

to prepare for my fast, i did all the right things: made a inventory of the single use plastic in my daily life, remembered to pull together what i needed to avoid single use plastic, and encouraged myself actively to refuse single use plastic by saying “please no straw” or “please use my cup.” carrying my string bags, equipped with bento box and reusable coffee cup thermos, i was ready to face the challenge

but it wasn’t that simple. who would have thought that single use plastic appears when you least expect it?

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plastic free life? weighing your commitments

ok…i know. toothbrushes are good for oral health, but not so good for the ocean. but what are we to do if we go plastic free here? the only alternatives seem to involve pig hair bristles. even if i didn’t live with a vegetarian, i might worry about my complicity with factory farming if i were to buy such brushes

and then there are claims by some manufacturers that the bristles are biodegradable nylon or bamboo. can you believe such claims? no, says a 2015 blog post

it turns out that, as argued by alexis shotwell, trying to achieve purity is not a good goal. i’m going to fail going plastic free, but that will force me to weigh my different ethical commitments and think of good ways to live in spite of necessary compromise


fasting from plastic: toiletries

today i was thinking about my grooming habits and how they require quite a bit of plastic, from toothbrushes and toothpaste to the packaging for facial masks. can i get rid of this plastic?

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my plastic fast (3): groceries without plastic, or a setback

having looked over all of the single use plastic that i typically use, i found that i do pretty well with grocery shopping but could do better. i’m particularly worried about those products that form a major part of my diet that i cannot buy without packaging, like tofu

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