Tuesday, March 28, 2006


What is it good for? Relatively nothing!

Today was the last straw. YorkU is a very liberal university, and although I didn't know that before I came here, I haven't minded too much. Challenging your beliefs is an important part of learning, but you have to draw the line somewhere: and I draw that line at idiocy.

Now that we're in the last week of class, most courses are winding down to exams and having reviews. Today's postcolonial geographies class was no exception: the professor (who I shall not name) took the time to explain her own research and why she came to lecture the course. Her research area is "South Asians in Canada: a postcolonial identity" - she is Indian herself, thus fulfilling the criteria for her study! She made some good points: for example how South Asians group together to lobby politically and so on.

Where my views started to diverge from hers was when she began disputing the term "South Asian". In Canada that is the common term; in the UK the term is simply "Asian" (other regions of Asia are referred to separately). Apparently it is a "social construction", because the people of that region "have nothing in common except suffering under colonial rule" and South is used to 'other' people and make them seem inferior.

To prove this point, she asked the class "which countries lie to the south of Asia?" Most of us were a little bemused, so she answered mostly herself - apparently Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines (!) and Papua New Guinea are South Asia.

[Never mind that that region already has a name: South-East Asia (gasp). Similarly, what we call the Middle East used to bear the name South-West Asia; and the -stans are called Central Asia. Brilliant, eh?]

Interesting point... but why stop there? Australia is to the south of Asia. So is Antarctica. The point is, you need to regionalise identities so that census forms don't have a list as long as your arm of ethnicities. She was also rather put out at the discrimination in census forms: apparently Canada lists "South Asians" as "visible minority" (ie. you is black) and in the UK "Asians" are listed as "black". What?!? There are about 50 ethnicities on the British census form: there are so many people from that region that just lumping them as "South Asian" would be ridiculous, let alone calling them all darkies. Just because you're subaltern and postcolonial doesn't give you the right to make facts up to support your already thin argument!

Aargh, I'm ranting. Patrick and I were seriously angry after that class, especially as she moved on so quickly that we didn't have time to call her out on her mistakes. Maybe I will bring it up on Wednesday in our last class...

1 comment:

Son of Man said...

I'm banging my head against a wall right along side you brother...