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Minority Struggles and Quiet Activism

Experiences of Indian–Australian Women

Michele Lobo (Michele.lobo@deakin.edu.au) is at Deakin University, Australia.

The challenges that “minority” women encounter in Australia play a crucial role in expanding the language of feminism. From the author’s position as a diasporic Australian woman of Anglo-Indian Christian heritage, she explores the emotional struggle to challenge institutional racism in a country where whiteness provides symbolic and material privileges. This struggle has its roots in everyday acts of “quiet” activism that unfolded in Kolkata, India, where she was born. She had failed to see these as performances of feminism, however, because it veered away from the Brahminism of the feminist movement. The event of migration and racialisation as “ethnic,” “NESB” and “Indian” was a visceral experience that opened her eyes to the possibilities for more hopeful futures in Australian cities.

The city is a site of potentiality when routine everyday practices embedded within institutions like the police, the criminal justice system, the state, and the media embody commitments to difference, empowerment, and social justice. In societies with white majority cultures, such as the United States (US) and Australia, however, the increased securitisation of national borders, counterterrorism laws, militarisation of immigration control, police brutality, inhuman asylum seeker policies, and heightened policing of everyday life make these ordinary practices of justice challenging and difficult. The presence of the hypervisible, or sometimes invisible, body of the ethnic-minority migrant, the Muslim, the refugee, and the asylum seeker circulates fear as well as anxiety and emerges as suspect or “out of place.” This otherness in city spaces, which is a visceral condition of racialisation, stigmatisation, marginalisation, and exclusion felt as anger, hurt, and humiliation by bodies who fail to inhabit the norms of a white majority culture, escapes attention.

Like white settler societies such as the US, Australia is a country with a rich indigenous history founded on the fallacy of terra nullius (land that belongs to no one) where whiteness continues to provide privilege on the basis of skin colour, but is also much more than that (Hage 1998, 2017; Shaw 2007). Contemporary research suggests that whiteness is a historically and socially constructed normative position of power, a set of cultural practices, and an “Anglo inspired cultural orientation” (Anderson 2011; Hage 2012: 2; Kobayashi et al 2011). The effects of such power and privilege take ethnic-minority migrant newcomers (including refugees and asylum seekers) in Australian cities by surprise: it shocks, angers, hurts, and humiliates bodies that are fixed or misrecognised as “ethnics,” “NESBs” (persons with non-English-speaking backgrounds), “dole bludgers” (social welfare recipients), and “potential terrorists.” I have experienced the relational nature of these emotions as a migrant newcomer of Indian heritage living in Dandenong, a working-class suburban area in south-eastern Melbourne.

In July 2000, I arrived in Melbourne from Kolkata, a city popularly known as a home for Anglo-Indians who are of mixed descent in India (Blunt and Bonnerjee 2013; Bonnerjee 2018). Dandenong was changing rapidly with the arrival of migrants from countries in South Asia, West Asia and South Africa. Fixed as “ethnic,” “NESB” or “Indian,” racism was a visceral experience that opened my eyes and moved my body. I witnessed and listened to stories of instantaneous judgments that humiliated ethnic/ethno-religious minority residents in public spaces who were hypervisible through skin pigmentation, facial characteristics, demeanour, dress, food, ways of life, and places where they lived. Although these judgments initially affect job opportunities available to migrant newcomers, they “adapt,” “settle down,” and soon express gratitude for the “new life” their children experience in Australia. For first-generation migrants, fatigue, anger, and outrage simmers or circulates in private and semi-public spaces of the home and community centres, rather than on social media platforms. These negative affects reduce bodily capacities to bring about social change and unintentionally implicate hypervisible ethnic/ethno-religious minorities in reproductions of the power and privilege of whiteness.

Diasporic feminisms in white majority cultures like those in the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, however, illuminate the mobility produced by migration as an enabling experience that stimulates learning and contributes to an ethical orientation to difference (Ahmed 2004, 2010; Lobo 2010; Lobo and Morgan 2012). For example, Ahmed (2010: 215), a diasporic South Asian feminist scholar, argues that it is when bodies are moved, affected, “twisted and turned” that they also develop an ethical orientation. They begin to learn how to notice what previously escaped their attention. In other words, the personal experience of migration, “bad encounters,” and bad feelings, open minds and bodies to everyday practices that continue to reproduce the politics and histories of suffering that we might have previously overlooked.

But, Rawat and Satyanarayana (2016) draw attention to the autobiography of Mata Prasad, a Dalit writer who underlines that such learning is often the experience of those who inhabit positions of relative privilege through their mobility. Prasad focuses on the experience of privileged Indian men, such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, Rajendra Prasad, and Lala Lajpat Rai, in precolonial India who strengthened Indian nationalism and called for independence from British colonial rule, after they suffered humiliation (apaman) in white majority cultures (for example, in South Africa and England). It was the loss of dignity through name-calling and everyday racist acts that enabled these mobile men to emerge from the zone of silence or relative privilege in colonial India and engage in new learning. Prasad, however, regrets that it is this privileged position occupied by Brahmins and upper-caste Hindus (savarna) that also blinds them to the humiliation of untouchability experienced for centuries by Dalits (avarna).

Liberal and Marxist feminist ideologies, and the women’s movement in India that emerged in the 1970s tried to address humiliation, oppression, social inequalities, and sexual violence by unsettling patriarchal practices, but Dalits felt silenced by a mainstream feminism that was perceived as elitist and Brahminical (Menon 2012; Rawat and Satyanarayana 2016; Rege 2000). Hailing from an Anglo-Indian Christian minority community in India at the turn of the century, I was in a position of relative privilege in comparison to Dalits, but, like them, I could not identify with mainstream Indian feminism. In struggles to address the right to human dignity and social inequalities, it was the “quiet” everyday acts that emphasised Christian values and/or unfolded in Christian institutions that were more relevant for me; I did not see these practices as feminist acts.

Also, feminism seemed less relevant to middle-class, Anglo-Indian communities in Kolkata, where women are recognised as more assertive in challenging sexual violence or patriarchy in the privacy of the home and semi-public spaces (Bonnerjee 2018; Lahiri-Dutt 1999, 2011; Lobo and Morgan 2012). Lahiri-Dutt (1999: 69), an Australian of Bengali-Hindu heritage in Kolkata argues that Anglo-Indian women were “unwitting trailblazers of women’s emancipation” in the city. But, such trailblazing among the Anglo-Indian community in precolonial and postcolonial India followed the norms of a Western lifestyle and reproduced the power and privilege of whiteness, even though stereotypical colonial discourses constructed Anglo-Indians as “morally and intellectually inferior to the sons and daughters of England” (James 2003: 52).

Hope lay in migration to countries with white majority cultures of the UK, Canada, and Australia, where through intermarriage and/or the “accumulation of whiteness” (D’Cruz 1999; Hage 1998; Lobo and Morgan 2012) they could transform their hybrid Anglo-Indian identity and “pass” as white at last. But, of course, such transformations were not so simple, particularly for first-generation Anglo-Indian migrants in a new country where they were finally identified as “Indian” rather than white, Australian, British, or Canadian. For me, the event of migration contributed to a more progressive and transformative politics of difference that aimed to loosen the grip and desire for the power and privilege of whiteness that many ethnic-minority migrants, including Anglo-Indians, desire. Through “minority” experiences in suburban Australia, this paper provides new insights into spatial understandings of diaspora that intersect with, but are also quite different from other white settler societies.

Retracing Feminist Roots from ‘Down Under’

Bodily experiences as a migrant newcomer, a translocal subjectivity that spans Australia as well as India, and opportunities for doctoral research at an Australian university helped me expand my vision and retrace my feminist roots to India. As a newcomer, my female body emerged as a site of vulnerability, agency, and power—rather than just oppression—even though the materiality of everyday life affected my skin, blood, and bones (Lobo and Morgan 2012). Moving from Kolkata to Melbourne with my husband and two dependent children, we experienced the comfort of a warm welcome from our extended family. But, soon it was time to “settle down” and “move on,” which involved finding a job and renting a flat, difficult for newcomers without an employment or housing history in Australian cities. After several days of walking the streets wearing borrowed overcoats in wintry July, we managed to rent a small two-bedroom flat in a block of six units. It had a shared garden, a backyard for drying clothes, and was quite comfortable. Loud, shrill voices that came from a boarding house opposite and screaming police sirens every other night made me feel like we were in Kolkata.

The first night we slept on sheets of newspapers on the linoleum floor (we were yet to buy a bed) and the cold seemed to seep into our bones. It brought back memories of “roughing it out” on geography field trips to Himalayan towns and villages and the 10-day college leadership camps where the skill of sleeping on a relatively hard cold floor had to be cultivated by relatively privileged city folk like me. Although I grew accustomed to short bouts of living frugally that involved bathing with half a bucket of icy water and eating basic food, such as rotis and potatoes, the chill of a long Melbourne winter with its weak, slanted sunrays and an inefficient small heater caused considerable discomfort. With the support of government rental/family assistance, we paid some bills; Indian savings when converted to dollars disappeared very fast. Our children wore pre-loved uniforms, we shopped at markets for fruits and vegetables at the end of the day when prices hit rock bottom, and we pushed our provisions home in a supermarket trolley as we did not own a car, often perceived as a basic need in Australia.

In 2000, when our family arrived from Kolkata, perhaps we conformed to the negative stereotypes of Dandenong that percolate through official and popular discourses: a place that is culturally diverse and socio-economically disadvantaged. For example, Harry, a local resident in a position of leadership, lamented that Dandenong, a place with “good quality homes and good quality people” had now become a “shit hole” with “second-class citizens.” He said:

They live on the smell of an oily rag. It does not cost them very much to live. They see the food, veggies, jeez, it’s so cheap. Their diet is poor, that is their staple diet until they follow the Australian way of life. At the market, they bargain and barter and knock you down. It is the ethnic influence. Itupsets elderly people, push, shove, bustle. Manners are lacking. It’s the way they do things in their own country. They’re rude and arrogant. They struggle, they work hard, they push the kids out to work, to get educated. They value things different from Australians.

In the Australian context, the metaphor of the “smell of an oily rag” is popularly used to refer to people who struggle financially to maintain a minimum standard of living. We lived off the “smell of an oily rag” because, although my husband and I had the privilege of a university education, good English skills, as well as professional job experience recognised by the Australian government, we failed to get paid work. Cleaning offices/shopping centres/homes, retail work, and low-skilled factory work are opportunities available to ethnic-minority migrants and necessary for survival. Many relatively privileged Indians take up such jobs and swallow their pride, particularly if they clean toilets, a job done more often by Dalits, lower-caste Hindus, and minorities in Indian cities. This humbling experience among Christian communities is popularly known as “Baptism by Fire,” or a rite of initiation as a new migrant in Australia.

As a middle-class Indian woman of Anglo-Indian Christian heritage born in Kolkata, I was relatively privileged through my access to education at a missionary school and college run by the Loreto order of nuns. Loreto nuns established the first girls’ school in Kolkata in 1842 and drew on an education philosophy inspired by Mary Ward, an Irish woman who founded the Order. In a discussion of femininity, Allender (2016) traces Loreto’s commitment to educational opportunities for women (including poor Eurasian or Anglo-Indian women) in colonial India from 1890 to 1932 that focused on charity, freedom, and piety steeped in Christianity. Much later, as a member of the school in Kolkata, I had opportunities to support women fighting poverty and struggling for social justice. Christian “retreats,” annual Young Christian Students (YCS) leadership camps, visits to homes for the aged, acts of charity to support the poor, including those at sister schools, and Loreto’s Morapai outreach mission three hours from Kolkata were “quiet acts” that were part of everyday school life. Participation in the annual Corpus Christi procession on the main streets of Kolkata performed the diversity of Christian spirituality in a city with a dominant Bengali Hindu culture. Since these everyday acts were steeped in Christian religiosity rather than mainstream feminism, I failed to see these small interventions and quiet acts as performances of feminism that empowered women in the struggle for social justice.

This trend in my failure to acknowledge my feminist roots continued through university, where I assumed a leadership role in a national Christian body for students (All India Catholic University Federation) that exposed me to the missionary work of Jesuits. Allender (2016) argues that Jesuit priests, who had a history of working with the underprivileged and had challenged colonial mentalities, were close allies of Loreto nuns. Drawing on inspiration from nuns and priests, I engaged in quiet forms of activism through events such as national Christian leadership camps in regional towns (for example, in Midnapore, Krishnagar, West Bengal) that empowered young “minority bodies” (including Dalits and Scheduled Tribes) in the struggle for social justice. Street marches by university students called for participation in blood donation camps and the setting up of a blood bank at the Students Health Home, a student-run organisation that provided better health services to socio-economically disadvantaged students at a nominal cost. Other quiet acts included weekly visits to slums, and listening to women’s stories and collective projects of self-employment that focused on empowering slum dwellers. In contrast to “noisy” acts of mainstream student activism and political mobilisation, these events enabled Christian minority groups to participate in the struggle for social justice. These collective acts resonate with literature in contemporary Western feminism (including Australian feminism) that focuses on encounter- and place-sharing (Fincher and Iveson 2012; Askins 2014, 2015; Lobo 2018).

InNewcastle upon Tyne in north-eastern England, Askins (2014, 2015) explores a quiet politics in community spacesthat brings together asylum seekers, refugees, and local residents in intimate relationships of care and friendship. These quiet forms of feminism are also evident in place-based social and political change in the global South (Bayat 2013; Roy and Shaw 2015). In white settler nations like Canada, indigenous scholar Leanne Simpson (2011: 11) focuses on community processions as “quiet, collective acts of resurgence” that decolonise city spaces. In Kolkata, however, quiet acts of resurgence and mobilisation were inspired by schoolteachers, university professors, priests, and nuns who focused on an ethos of generosity, humility, and hope. These qualities strengthen struggles of dealing with the subtleties of white privilege that I experienced as a migrant newcomer, and inspired my research on the micropolitics of everyday encounters and belonging in cities of the global North, home to increasing numbers of ethnic/ethno-religious minority migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who are hypervisible, but also indigenous peoples who are “collectively unseen” (Simpson 2011: 11).

Within urban studies, explorations of belonging are informed by a large body of thought that draws on philosophies of difference to think about justice/injustice in the city (Blunt and Bonnerjee 2013). Reviewing this literature, feminist geographers Ruth Fincher and Kurt Iveson (2012: 237) argue for the “right to the city” that involves a dialogue between “philosophical justice-thinking” and struggles against injustice on the ground. It involves exploring feelings of injustice that unfold as despair, but also a wider politics of hope in/of the city.

Feminist Politics/Praxis and Anti-racist Scholarship

Contemporary research maps histories and geographies of Indian migration to Australia, highlighting middle-class backgrounds, professional skills, age, and ethnicity (Khorana 2014; Voigt-Graf and Khoo 2004). Khorana (2014: 254), however, argues that little is known about the composition and cultural practices of the Indian diaspora, even though it has emerged as “an ethnic community of significance” in Australia. As an ethnic minority, I am part of the Indian diaspora in Australia, but as a mature-aged woman of Anglo-Indian heritage I do not perform an authentic or essentialised Indian cultural identity expressed through art, music, religious practices, ceremonies, language, knowledges, and ways of life that might position younger “Indian accademics” favourably in the “lust” for knowledges from the global South within the Western acadamy in expanding Australia–India diplomatic relations. As an ethnic-minority migrant newcomer living in Dandenong, I was not perceived as a skilled professional, but “passed” as an Indian international student, a presence increasingly visible in Australian universities.

A recent interview I conducted for a research project highlighted that Indian students are perceived as hard-working and intelligent, but often disliked because they are culturally different. They are stereotyped as rich, rude, arrogant, and dirty, and their practices of “eating loud,” speaking with “annoying accents,” and smelling because they fail to have a morning shower is unsettling for “Australian students” who feel out of place in the university environment (email communication, local Australian student, Melbourne, May 2018). Indian international students are aware of these stereotypes through online forums, as a student said:

I get that they have a bad image of us Indians and it’s become like a stereotype without any reason—they will automatically brand us like that.

(Interview, Indian student, Melbourne, January 2018)

Another student spoke of an encounter on the Monash freeway in Melbourne and said:

A lady who was 60-plus was driving, and the lady was overtaking, she was in her lane, we were in our lane. She just came, took the lane, came to the other side and she was shouting “fucking Indians don’t you mind, don’t you have any manners on the road,” all that stuff, she was literally yelling at us using the country name, India and saying “Go back to your country.” (Interview, Indian student, Melbourne, January 2018)

Students struggle on by communicating and embodying responsibility through everyday encounters that show an openness to difference in their temporary home in Australia (Lobo 2013).

My commitment to a politics of difference, resistance, and the struggle for social justice is strengthened through intersecting scholarship on feminisms (Western, indigenous, Indian, Southern, diasporic), human geography, and anti-racism. The seminal work of Australian feminist geographers, in particular, opened my mind to a radical feminist politics of possibility that valued difference and resisted whiteness (Fincher and Jacobs 1998; Shaw 2007). But, it was also the visceral nature of anti-racist scholarship within geography and beyond, by courageous diasporic and indigenous writers that enabled me to interrogate whiteness and Anglo-ness as a “fantasy” position of cultural dominance (Ahmed 2007; Hage 2003; Moreton-Robinson 2015; Nayak 2010; Saldanha 2012).

My “first” exposure to feminist politics occurred through my doctoral supervisor, a young Anglo-Australian woman who engaged in what feminist scholar Rosi Braidotti (2014) would describe as institutional activism within the academy. This was quiet activism that also constituted a part of embodied resistance to what feminist Judith Butler in her interview with Sara Ahmed (2016: 487) highlights as “forms of disciplinary power, cruelty and brutality within academic life.” This exercise of power in the academy regulates what counts as knowledge, and unfolds through struggles for recognition. Butler draws on Ahmed’s “sweaty concepts” to argue for actions that are embedded in our tissues and muscles through embodied resistance to such power and cruelty. Indigenous/native scholars in North America recognise these forms of power within the Western academy when they describe it as “structurally a colonialist, capitalist, and white supremacist institution” (Smith 2014: 214) that must be challenged. Having a voice as a mature, aged, first-generation migrant woman of colour, even though I was initially unsuccessful in winning a doctoral scholarship and unfamiliar with the norms of the Western academy, enabled me to relay this embodied resistance through feminist praxis that interrogated the power and subtleties of whiteness.

Feminist geographers, Audrey Kobayashi and Linda Peake (2000) researching everyday life in Canadian cities informed my early understandings of whiteness. Whiteness is conceptualised in three ways: first, a historically constructed position that provides power, privilege, and benefits that are material as well as symbolic; second, a position of moral superiority that constructs sameness and difference in place through the “white gaze;” and third, a range of cultural practices in relation to norms acknowledged as natural and universal. Whiteness functions, then, as a socio-spatial epistemology that regulates knowledge of people and places (Dwyer and Jones III 2000). Feminist scholars situated in the Western academy decentre, resist, and refuse the privileges of whiteness from varied positions: white, African American, diasporic (for example, Indian), Latin American and indigenous (Ahmed 2000; Moreton-Robinson 2015; hooks 2000; Mohanty 2003).

A feminist politics of location and the feminist tool of self-reflexivity were crucial to my emerging research practice that explores home as both “here” and “there,” a place of creativity, subjectivity, and resistance. This positionality enables me, a diasporic Indian woman, to produce translocal knowledges that are partial and situated rather than perform what the feminist Haraway (1997) calls “god trick” or a view from nowhere. But, acknowledging my position in the research process was possible through the feminist tool of critical self-reflexivity that exposed the power and privilege of whiteness (Lobo 2010). The feminist mantra “the personal is political” provided a space to highlight stories told by research participants as well as my own stories as a diasporic Indian woman. These stories in Dandenong focused on banal experiences that were part of everyday life such as neighbourhood talk, feelings of anger stirred by racism, and a comforting sense of belonging that escaped rational explanations.

Feminists who are situated or work in the global South, however, have highlighted the dilemmas of self-reflexivity, a practice that emerged in the 1990s within Western feminisms (Nagar 2002; Raju 2002). Nagar (2002) and Raju (2002) argue that although such praxis is useful in exposing hierarchical power relations, it also runs the risk of “navel gazing” and self-indulgence that produces dilemmas when producing collaborative knowledge that communicates across worlds. Kobayashi (2003: 347), in an evaluation of self-reflexivity as feminist praxis, argues that the dilemma is acknowledging moral responsibility and bringing about social change without being self-centred, denying the subjectivity of the researched, and creating a “condition of detached alterity.” In response to these critiques, I argue that self-reflexivity that is attentive to emotion was crucial as a migrant newcomer and a diasporic Indian. Personally, it enabled me to respond when my body felt numb, when outrage made my face feel flushed and my head dizzy, when humiliation stifled and strangulated, and pain hit my guts and rippled through my tissues, blood, and bones. Rather than belonging to me, emotions sensed as embodied experiences emerged as transpersonal and relationally produced within particular socio-spatial contexts (Bondi et al 2005).

Research on the emotional and affective states of bodies with different histories and geographies of racialisation in cities such as Melbourne, Darwin (Northern Australia), Detroit, and Paris broadened my theoretical insights on the fractured nature of whiteness (Lobo 2010). Although intersections of gender, age, sexuality, and class produced whiteness as socially and spatially contingent, the fleshiness of encounters or what happens to the physical body of “skin, blood and bones” that is wounded, shattered, numbed, and silenced by racism has been highlighted by cultural geographers and diasporic Indian scholars (Nayak 2010; Saldanha 2010). In these explorations, whiteness emerges as a bodily orientation as well as a visceral force that gains strength through its ability to spread, change itself, become viscous, and claim space (Ahmed 2007; Saldanha 2010). In Australia, Hage (2015) argues that whiteness and the norms of Anglo-ness provide cultural dominance in the nation. Whiteness is more than an essence or a skin colour privilege, but worth accumulating by ethnic-minority migrants because it provides a privileged relationship to the national space. Hypervisible ethnic-minority migrants, therefore, desire to “accumulate whiteness” by acquiring a particular “linguistic, physical and cultural disposition” (Hage 1998: 53) characteristic of “Anglo-ness.” This access to whiteness involves adopting the look, accent, taste, attitudes, behaviour, and lifestyle preferences that conform to the norms set by Anglo-Australians (Hage 1998; Stratton 1998). Accumulation also occurs through educational qualifications and professional occupations, indicators of a higher social status. Such an accumulation of whiteness, however, is limited in unsettling the framework of Cultural Othering that racialises, burdens and wounds hypervisible migrants in Australia (Lobo 2010).

Thinking with emotions enabled me to move beyond the framework of Cultural Othering through ethically bridging worlds across difference in cities where I engage in fieldwork such as Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin, Detroit and Paris (Lobo 2010). Such ethical knowledge creation moves beyond “fleshless academicism” (van der Tuin 2014: 240) and contributes to a transformative politics by affirming difference even in the midst of vulnerability, precarity, and struggle. Vulnerability shows we are affected by how we are addressed or overlooked, and results in responsiveness; it is not a condition of passivity. Although the feminist practice of elevating “minor” occluded, overlooked, or erased indigenous and Southern knowledges has the capacity to decolonise the academy, the awareness, pacification and domestication of such knowledges is always a risk (Chow 2002; Smith 2014; Tuwihai-Smith 2012).

In Conclusion

Feminisms opened my eyes to the possibilities for reimagining citizenship through an affirmative politics of hope that moves beyond self-interest/self-maintenance, when visceral affects of anger, outrage, and hurt exhaust bodies touched by the power and privilege of whiteness. It is embodied experiences of discomfort and vulnerability that provide openings to a feminist politics of possibility and avenues for “becoming otherwise” or becoming other than what we are in our struggle for social justice (Grosz 2011). For feminists Judith Butler (1990) and Sara Ahmed (2017: 491) we need to shift the question from “Who do I want to be?” to “What kind of life do I want to live with others?”

Feminisms are united through thought, action, and politics that enable us to “become otherwise,” “become more than ourselves,” and engage in solidarity struggles that highlight the possibilities for affirming life in the midst of fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout (Ahmed 2016; Braidotti 2014; Grosz 2011; Menon 2012; Mohanty 2003; Povinelli 2011). Today, feminism percolates through interdisciplinary research and theoretical insights committed to equality, empowerment, social change, and justice. It inspires research on gender and the agency of women, and draws in female and male researchers who explore race, ethnicity, indigeneity, sexual abuse, sexually transmitted infections, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, state repression, domestic violence, as well as Anthropocene feminisms that challenge the figure of the “anthropos” or universal man in narratives of the climate crisis (Barad 2003; Haraway 2016; Menon 2012; Yusoff 2016). Reflecting on Gender Trouble (Butler 1990), Ahmed (2016: 484) in an interview with Judith Butler calls for enactments of courage that create trouble by challenging the status quo, even though these efforts may be maligned or seen as “ostensibly destructive.” Given the precarity and vulnerability that is supported by austerity measures, anti-migration, nationalism, and racism, Ahmed (2017) argues for a feminist life committed to equality, freedom, and justice, which might involve playing the role of a killjoy when we complain or speak out. But, contemporary research in Western societies suggests that feminism has also become an “F-word” that is misunderstood: it is associated with anger, aggression, and ridiculed as laughable, causing a younger generation to distance themselves from the goals and vision of feminism (Berkowitz 2014; John 2011). But, ironically, it was courageous responses and the politics of hope expressed within Western feminist scholarship that nourished me as an Indian diasporic woman of “minority” Anglo-Indian heritage. Driven by a spirit of adventure, I was confronted with institutional and everyday racism that I began to challenge as a new migrant. In my explorations of encounter and coexistence in a human, but also more-than-human world, I expand the language of feminism through a politics of belonging that values translocal knowledges of place that entangle life as a “minority” woman in India and Australia.

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Updated On : 26th Apr, 2019

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