Solidarity and activism is not the only outcome of this writing—the cultural conversation is being advanced too
During my time working for English PEN I’ve often used the phrase ‘literary campaigning’ to describe our particular style of activism. Its a term that probably seems self evident: we use literature to draw attention to the situation of writers at risk. For example, we might read the writing of an imprisoned poet outside an embassy, or stage a world-wide reading at multiple locations around the world.
Its an approach that has value for several reasons. Not only is it non-violent, but it is also not particularly hostile or antagonistic to those who have imprisoned the writer or who are responsible for their persecution. So it has a diplomatic quality.
It also a fantastic act of solidarity for the embattled writer. Where they have been entirely censored through imprisonment (or even death) it is a way to give them a voice and restore to them some sort of expression. Continue reading “Literary Campaigning at its Best”
To what extent should people explain their culture to outsiders?
JK Rowling periodically releases short pieces of writing on her Pottermore site that build upon the Harry Potter world. She has recently published information on wizarding schools around the world, such as Uagadou in Uganda or Mahoutokoro in Japan. Its a clever way to engage fans from all over the world, bringing a little bit of the magic to those who might not readily see themselves reflected in Ron, Hermione and Harry.
But with her ‘History of Magic in North America‘ JK Rowling appears to have become unstuck. Her attempt to integrate the Native American community into her world building has drawn criticism… not least because she lumps the myriad tribes and Nations together under one ‘Native American community’ catch-all. Continue reading “Harry Potter and the Ethnographic Refusal”
We are challenged by an island’s worth of puzzles as the player is transported to the gothic mansion of Grey Holm and the hostile hospitality of The Craftsman
For the past few weeks I’ve been playing The Room series, a set of three games for mobile devices by Fireproof Games. This week I completed The Room Three, and thought I’d write a quick review.
The premise of all three games is simple. The player is presented with an ornate contraption, and the task is to unlock the secrets contained within. Do you pull this lever, or press that button? What combination of switches must you flick in order to open the door? How do I make that panel slide back? Where is the key that fits that lock? Continue reading “In Praise of The Room Three”
Is this censorship or merely curation?
You’re all aware of the controversy surrounding the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford University, right?
To recap: Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) was the colonialist, businessman and white supremacist whose career in Southern Africa had huge impact on the continent. The celebrated Rhodes Scholarship programme at Oxford University was established by his estate. As such, there is a statue of him at Oriel College at Oxford. Some current students are campaigning to have the statue removed on the grounds that Rhodes was a racist and not someone who should be glorified in stone.
This campaign is happening in a milieu of renewed debates about freedom of expression and decency at universities. I am against ‘no platform’ policies, and against the abuse of useful innovations such as Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings as a way to shut down offensive speech. Continue reading “Rhodes, Political Correctness and the Censorship of History”
This week, the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was criticised for publishing a shocking cartoon about migrants and rape culture.
It features a depiction of the terrible image of drowned three year-old Aylan Kurdi alongside what appear to be some dirty old men, chasing women Benny Hill style.
Continue reading “Even the most offensive art can have two meanings”
In an enlightening article on Little Atoms about ‘safe spaces’ and free speech, Marie Le Conte writes:
While discussions of identity and privilege online haven’t always been constructive in recent times, it’s hard to deny that this isn’t something cis straight white men will ever get. This, of course, doesn’t mean that they never get picked on, or that their lives must therefore be perfect; it’s just that they’ll never know what it feels like to be continuously attacked for what they represent, not who they are.
The phrase “its just that they’ll never know what its like” jumped out at me, because in its absolutist form I think its very wrong. Cis straight white men might not know what its like; and they will certainly never know what it is to be picked on in this way; but it is certainly possible that they can know what it is like to be picked on… because those who have experienced it can describe it to them! Continue reading “Do cis white straight men know what its like?”
Both projects are unexpectedly poignanty and revealing self-portraits.
Here are two wonderful and funny examples of people interviewing their older selves. Continue reading “Self interviews”
photographs of human rights defenders which are taken and the person knows that this photo might be used at a later point in time to raise awareness, when he or she is in prison or vanished.
A while ago I posted on The Darker Side of Selfies, and the way in which the mainstream media illustrate the news of tragic young deaths with images from the victims’ social media accounts.
Whether it is a car accident, a drug overdose, a gang murder, or a bullying related suicide, the photo editors turn to the victim’s Facebook page or Twitter stream to harvest images. … Used in this new, unintended context, these images strike a discordant note. The carefree narcissism inherent in any selfie jars with the fact of the artist/subject’s untimely death.
The death of Terrie Lynch and Alexandra Binns this week is a good example. Continue reading “Photography Imbued with Sadness”
My story is called ‘Frozen Out’, an awkward conversation between a husband and wife. Its inclusion in the anthology is all the sweeter because the other eighteen stories are uniformly excellent.
I’m delighted to have a story featured in the anthology We Need to Talk, launched yesterday. The publisher is Jurassic London—here’s the blurb from their website:
All of us, at some point, are involved in difficult conversations. Whether that’s tough talks with clients or bosses, or break-ups, or coming out, or telling someone you love them, or giving advice to that friend who just doesn’t want to hear it. Some conversations are even more difficult, as sufferers of any potentially serious illness will know.
But one thing’s for sure, these conversations are fascinating. So much so that we’ve teamed up with Kindred and The Eve Appeal, to launch a writing competition on the theme of difficult conversations.
My story is called ‘Frozen Out’, an awkward conversation between a husband and wife. Its inclusion in the anthology is all the sweeter because the other eighteen stories are uniformly excellent. Continue reading “We Need To Talk launched for The Eve Appeal”
I am fascinated with the Waterlogue app, which converts any image into a watercolour. Most apps and PhotoShop filters that purport to recreate a particular artistic style seem to do a poor job of it – mangling the image but without reproducing the essence of the art form.
Such ‘artistic’ filters are usually used to convey a sense of beauty. The examples from the Waterlogue community all have an extremely traditional subject matter: landscapes, portraits and still life, framed rather conventionally.
I put six of recent history’s most famous yet shocking images through the tool. The results are below. They are instantly recognisable, and although the paint removes detail from the images, I find them just as sad as the photographic versions.
Continue reading “Shocking photographs reproduced in watercolour”