Still Living the Dream: Colonial settler mythology and a Critical Analysis of the Mapping of Places, Spaces and Subjects in the Americas

Introduction – Today, maps are such normalized aspects of life, resources so embedded in society and everyday living that it is easy to lose sight of the important relationship between maps and those who produce them. Commonly mistaken for “mirrors of reality”, maps can be more accurately understood as political propositions of places, spaces and things (Wood, Fels, & Krygier, 2010). Due to their role in the “representation and comprehension of spatial knowledge”, maps have been described as being “forever embedded in spatial politics (Manhoff, 2014), and as such can be read as text, and decoded, like any other creative cultural artifact (Kellner, 1995).

In order to develop a critical understanding of maps as texts, maps can be decoded through various ideological lenses to understand what might otherwise go unrecognized as embedded political and ideological depictions of reality. As Henri Lefebvre stated in The Production of Space (1991), “(social) space is a (social) product… the space thus produced also serves as a tool of thought and of action… in addition to being a means of production it is also a means of control, and hence of domination, of power” (p. 26). Another way of saying this is that maps are not “objective” depictions of reality that are absolute or agreed, but instead reflect the interpretations, imaginations and designs of individuals and communities who have exercised power through the acts of producing maps; acts that normalize propositions and arguments about space (Wood et al., 2010).

The production of space is further problematized for its hegemonic nature by Michel Foucault, who clarified the notion of the production of subjects in space, and revealed how the production of space contributes to individual and collective identity formation, the creation of norms, and “othering” (Razack, 2002, pp. 10–13). Maps have not only shaped how people conceptualize the physical world, they have also shaped how people see themselves in the world. Thus, to engage in the practices used in critical cartography, which treats mapping as spatial politics and maps as official documents of power and colonization (Manhoff, 2014), is to engage in practices that are manifestation of critical theory, and should be understood as liberatory praxis with transformative potential (Bohman, 2015; Freire, 1971, p. 36).

This paper is an exercise of the practices used in critical cartography, intended to examine the relationship between maps, power, meaning-making and identity. Through an analysis of Le Canada ou Nouvelle France (Figure 1.0), created by Nicolas Sanson, and a Humanized Landscapes (Figure 2.0), created by Charles C. Mann, I will apply the methods of critical cartography to reveal the stories of the maps.


Methods In Race, Space, and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society, Sherene H. Razack described a white settler society as one “established by Europeans on non-European soil” (Razack, 2002, p. 1). Those with knowledge of world history and, more specifically the colonization of much of the non-European world by Western Europe, should be able to recall at least one example of a country born out of a white settler society. The United States and Canada are both examples of nations born out of a white settler society.

Mythologies and national stories develop to support the acceptance of a particular narrative that explains a nation’s origins and history. “They enable citizens to think of themselves as part of a community, defining who belongs and who does not belong to the nation” (p. 2). According to Razack, “a quintessential feature of white settler mythologies is…the disavowal of conquest, genocide, slavery, and the exploitation of the labour of peoples of color” (p. 2). Because the national mythologies of white settler societies are deeply spatialized stories, they serve to install Europeans as entitled to the land, and these claims become codified in law (p. 3). Europeans have essentially been imagining and actively working to create the Eurocentric world they would like to live in for close to 500 years, while rewriting history and passing laws that serve to validate their myths and protect their spoils.

It is only logical that those who would claim the lands of others and rewrite history would also map the spaces and places in their stories. As Razack put it, “the subject who maps his space and thereby knows and controls it, is also the imperial man claiming the territories of others for his own; the inventor of terra nullius”, meaning “no-man’s land” (Razack, 2002, p. 12). Never simply the representation of a place, “once accepted and circulated – once they are recognized as legitimate knowledge – maps have influence over how the SPACE is perceived and what action takes place within it” (McDowell & Sharp, 1999, p. 25). To unmap or denaturalize spaces, then, requires us to “explore space as a social product, uncovering how bodies are produced in spaces and how spaces produce bodies” (Razack, 2002, p. 17). It is then necessary to consider how “subjects come to know themselves in and through space and within multiple systems of domination” (p. 17), and explore racial heirarchies, which “come into existence through patriarchy and capitalism” (p.6).


Map Descriptions – Figure 1.0, Le Canada ou Nouvelle France (Le Canada), was created by Nicolas Sanson, royal geographer to Kings Louis XIII and XIV, and considered by some to be the father of French cartography, in 1656 CE (“Guiana and Caribana,” 1700). Inscribed in French and Latin, the name translates to “Canada” or New France”. It is a depiction of the region of North America known today as Canada, as well as part of the United States and the southern tip of Greenland peeking in at the top. Le Canada was created early in the period of the European “exploration” and colonization of North America.

Figure 2.0, Humanized Landscapes, was created by Charles C. Mann for use in his book 1491: Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (Mann, 2005), and can be understood as a counter mapping of the Americas from the perspective of a writer that is challenging the myth of the Americas being a pristine, and underutilized, garden of Eden that was only tamed, and fully utilized, when Europeans arrived, in a book that presents research about the accomplishments of communities and cultures in the Americas prior to the invasion of Europeans. With English text, the map attempts to portray regions of the physical landscape of the Americas now known to have been cultivated and shaped by Indigenous peoples.


Map Evaluations – Central to the story told through Le Canada is the notion and myth of terra nullus, or empty, uninhabited land. Created by European colonizers for European colonizers, terra nullus was a legal term applied more frequently to spaces and places that were inhabited by people who were not“…Christian, not agricultural, not commercial, not ‘sufficiently evolved, or simply in the way” (Razack, 2002, p. 3). For the individuals and groups of people who had left their homes in western Europe in order to find wealth or improve the standing of the family name, claiming to discover entire swaths of uninhabited land that could be claims for the crown or for self was an exciting reality and a tempting one. Given the limited ownership of property and the high populations known to many Europeans who migrated to the Americas, the “New World”, with all of its resources, was something of a treasure at the end of a rainbow; a new garden of Eden in the minds of the public, and a catalyst for new visions and possibilities for the future.

Completed over one hundred years after the French arrived in North America, Le Canada portrays reported French knowledge of the space that is North America. Surely, the people of French descent who lived in these lands were aware of more than is displayed on the map, especially those living on the “frontiers” of French settlements. But as an official legal document, Le Canada argues that “civilization” in North America exists in concentrated areas, predominantly on the east coast, east of the Great Lakes. Beyond the lakes, to the north and to the west, is empty space. Some of the places in that empty space have been named, but the naming is sparse in comparison to the east coast, as are the indications of natural landforms. It is as though the cartographer had utilized a vignette style of photography to attract the reader’s eye and attention to a desired space on the plane of the map, analogous to a dream in which tunnel vision of what is ahead is all that is visible, and nothing else matters.

There is no indication of the flora, fauna or indigenous people of the regions depicted in the map. If indigenous names were borrowed to names places or spaces, and they were, these names are not identifiable and the cultures responsible for providing the French with names of those places are not mentioned. Territories that are claimed by Spain and England are recognizable, however, and the indication of borders reveals the importance of the presence of other colonial powers for the French visionary, Nicolas Sanson.

I would argue that the map proposes that North America was an empty space waiting to be claimed by whoever is most ambitious. The map argues that the French, the English and Spanish are all in on the competition, but that the French have the best positioning and potential for controlling and fathering an entirely new world. If the French are clever and daring enough, and if they overcome the British and eventually the Spanish, they could potentially unite the entire new world under one French banner. The map teaches that great adventure and mystery is still out there; and that the unknown still exists! And it is to the west.

The implications of all of these lessons are that the indigenous people of the land are unimportant when considering the space that is North America. They need not even be thought of.

Figure 1.0, Humanized Landscapes, however, is a representation of the region of the world we call the Americas prior to the arrival of the French, the British and the Spanish. It contains the following text:

Despite its complexity, this map of Indian effects on the environment is incomplete. The most important omission is fire. I have highlighted some areas where indigenous fire effectively controlled the landscape, but Indian burning played an important ecological role throughout the hemisphere. Similarly, scattered clearing, burning and earth movement for draining occurred in all agricultural areas – this map indicates only those areas in which these factors were especially concentrated (Mann, 2005).


Charles C. Mann used this map to show the influence indigenous people had on shaping the land that Europeans encountered as of 1491 C.E. Directly and intentionally challenging the myth of terra nullus, Humanized Landscapes provides a counter-story about pre-European indigenous culture and accomplishment in the Americas, but can also be juxtaposed with Le Canada to better understand the inherent flaws and lies told through the stories of colonial-age European cartographical representations of the Americas.

Figure 2.1 is a close-up of Humanized Landscapes that depicts a large portion of North America, including areas portrayed in Le Canada. In it Mann presents areas with raised fields, widespread forest clearing for agriculture, and areas dominated by anthropogenic fire that serves as evidence of Indigenous peoples working and shaping the land. Unlike the large empty spaces portrayed in Le Canada, Humanized Landscapes reveals that indigenous people were not only in the spaces Europeans considered uninhabited, they were thriving there and exerting their will on the land. Therefore, what was empty space to the Europeans were known places for Indigenous people.

European perception of this land as pristine and underutilized is also part of a story told through Humanized Landscapes of the very different cultural and ideological aesthetic of Europeans and Indigenous groups throughout the Americas. Generally less concerned with dominating the natural environment and instead taking on an holistic understanding of their relationship with the land, Indigenous peoples of the Americas are said to have developed settlements that were, compared to Western European standards at the time, more integrated into the natural environment (Mann, 2005). Many indigenous cultures preferred to utilize tension instead of compression for mechanical engineering purposes and “…wove together reeds rather than cutting up trees into planks and nailing them together” when making boats or buildings, for example (Mann, 2005, p. 83-84).

Not only does the title, Humanized Landscapes, tell a story, but the content of the map does as well. In this map are stories of Indigenous ecological wisdom and prowess, ambition, innovation and creativity, as well as another piece to the puzzle of the beautiful manifestations of human culture and accomplishment. In a world afflicted with the destruction of so much of the indigenous accomplishment in the Americas by Europeans, the findings of Mann’s research and the portrayal of his learnings in this map should be treasured and studied further so we can learn more about the past and the stories that have been lost through colonization.


ConclusionLe Canada, a French colonial representation of North America, and Humanized Landscapes, a counter-map of Indigenous cultivation of land in the Americas, are cultural artifacts that allow readers to understand the spaces and places represented in the maps, as well as the individuals who created them. They also teach us about the subjects of those spaces and places, whose identities were and continue to be shaped by the politics, ideologies and notions of race and othering that they portray and argue. Scanning from Le Canada to Humanized Landscapes, indigenous people literally go from “nothing to something”. Apparently erased and muted from the French mind, indigenous people in the Americas were not the audience or the subjects of concern when Nicolas Sanson created this depiction of North America. The history of the land that unfolded after the time of the creation of the map would also reflect this bigoted French mindset. Humanized Landscape, on the contrary, humanizes the people of the land. It shows accomplishments as well as a commitment to ideals on the part of Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and suggests we question the vision for and methods used to create the civilizations that have been built on top of Indigenous communities, and in their spaces.   More than anything else, these maps tell a story of the need to question the notion of objectivity, the need to deconstruct and explore ourselves, our world, our relationship with each other, and our relationship with the earth.


Figure 1.0


Figure 2.0

Humanized landscapes-big

Figure 2.1

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Freire, P. (1971). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder & Herder.

Guiana and Caribana. (1700). Retrieved October 30, 2015, from

Kellner, D. (1995). Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity, and Politics Between the Modern and the Postmodern. London; New York: Routledge.

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The Production of Space. Oxford, OX, UK; Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.

Mann, C. C. (2005). 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. New York: Knopf.

McDowell, L., & Sharp, J. P. (1999). A Feminist Glossary of Human Geography. London; New York; New York: Arnold ; Co-published in the U.S.A. by Oxford University Press.

Perkins, C. (2003). Cartography: mapping theory. Progress in Human Geography, 27(3), 341–351.

Razack, S. (2002). Race, Space, and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society. Toronto: Between the Lines.

Wood, D., Fels, J., & Krygier, J. (2010). Rethinking the Power of Maps. New York: Guilford Press.



The Educational Industrial Complex

Mapping the Educational Industrial Complex

Diane Ravitch's blog

Dipti Desai is a professor of the arts and art education at New York University. She teaches both pre-service and in-service art teachers. As she watched what was happening in the world of education, she decided to create a graphic to illustrate the “Educational Industrial Complex.” Readers may know that when President Dwight D. Eisenhower was leaving office after his second term, he warned voters to be wary of the “Military Industrial Complex.” Who knew that in 2015 we would have to keep our eyes on the “educational industrial complex,” a combination of corporations, philanthropies, government agencies, and the organizations that promote privatization and high-stakes testing?


The report can be downloaded here.

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The Nourishment That Comes From Freedom: Afrofuturism as a Critical Praxis of Resistance

Some will scoff at what has perhaps become a cliché assertion for many, but reigns true nonetheless: There is no such thing as coincidence. Things coincide and correspond, but to view such instances as having no causal or even a syncretic connection should be understood as shortsighted, or too much to fathom for our human eyes and minds.


A week before I started my search for courses to take at the start of the 3rd year of my PhD experience, I had a dinner party at my house.

I made a big lasagna, grilled some meat and veggies, bought a few bottles of wine. My girlfriend baked a glorious strawberry-lemon pie, and we invited a small group of friends over.  We had ourselves a good old time.

At one point late in the evening, when the vibes were more mellow and while everyone was eating pie, drinking wine, and engaging in smaller conversations with those nearest them, I decided to take my tarot cards out. 29a42305ad1677ec302081afcbf17d47Something about the way the night had gone, the way the wine was flowing, and the way everyone joked played in a lighthearted way caused me to see the moment.  And I decided to engage the entire mass of people in a group reading.

Each person chose a card. I provided some prompting to ensure the chooser was in the appropriate mental space and had activated at least some of their spiritual faculties, while the group channeled their energy toward the chooser.  Some minds were blown.

The relevance of each reading shocked all of the people that were in my home and, hopefully, provided them with timely insights.  One friend, who was preparing to go on a 6 month trip away from her partner seemed to be ruminating on the card she had pulled and the symbolic meaning of its features.  I noticed that she had become somewhat withdrawn and asked if everything was okay.  The group quieted down and listened as she told us that the messages she’d received through the card had reminded her of stories her father had told her when she was young. Tears were released as she shared a memory of her father teaching her the very same lesson the tarot card had reminded her of.

I poured more wine for those in need and we toasted to her late, great father.  Laughter followed the tears and the night went on.  One and on, we talked and laughed and somehow we eventually landed on the topic of #Afrofuturism.

A Critical Praxis

I had heard the term Afrofuturism before, but I was only vaguely familiar.  From what I understand, Afrofuturism is a cultural form that incorporates science fiction, history, fantasy, magical realism, people of color,  especially folk of the African Diaspora, is #Afrocentric, and served as a vehicle for analyzing and critiquing the experiences of people of color, imagining and reimagining narratives about the past, how we got where we are today, and the future. As such, I recognize the practice of creating works that can be characterized as Afrofuturistic as acts of resistance and healing, part of and in line with critical practices that are intended to support our individual and collective liberation. in_tune_with_the_universe_by_yangzeninjaAnd I dig it!

About a week later, when looking for classes to register for, I came across a course titled, “Aboard the Mothership: Introduction to Afrofuturism.” I saw the connectivity and, of course, I signed up.

Led by Professor Tananarive Due, the course has been a breath of fresh air and has served as a call back to my writing.  Exploring other worlds and dystopian possibilities, challenging race, class, gender and sexuality norms, and doing so through the minds and imaginations of people of color has been an invitation to escape the oppressive nature a world plagued by  White Supremacy, Capitalism, Patriarchy, Heteronormativity, meritocracy, and other ‘glass mountains’ western society is balancing on.

Suddenly, all of the stories I’ve always wanted to tell feel like they can be prioritized.  Like, they will happen.  I’ve even begun to create outlines for them, and at this point I’ve got outlines for 10 stories.  I hope to contribute to works that can liberate, and I’m so ready to do so.  Maybe my next blog will be a first go at it… We’ll see.

For now, I would like to share an artist that I learned about only after joining the Afrofuturism course who has been described as Afrofuturistic, and who creates some beautiful works of art that I have come to appreciate.  Wangechi Mutu is a Kenyan born, New York livin’ artist who once described Afrofuturism as “an aesthetic that uses the imaginative strategies of science fiction to envision alternate realities for Africa and people of African descent.”  Please check her out and enjoy.

Riding Death In My Sleep, by Wangechi Mutu

Here is some of her work.

CRI_97147 A Hundred Lavish Months of Bushwack

Mutu makes her collages on Mylar instead of paper, because it’s plastic surface allows paint to pool rather than absorb into the sheet. This gives a glittering—at times almost grotesquely leprous—sheen to the figures she renders. The figure in One Hundred Lavish Months of Bushwhack appears dressed in festive garments and with an aggressively stance, her stiletto-clad left foot poised to kick. However, if you look closer you will notice blood hemorrhaging from her head and mangled right foot. Mutilated and unstable, she is being held up at her ankle by a small, sinister-looking figure. Mutu has described women as “barometers,” innately vulnerable to the fluctuation of social and cultural norms. Here the vestiges of combat (political, cultural, and perhaps literal) have actually scarred and broken her. Yet Mutu has reconstructed this woman into something elegantly disordered, mythical and powerful, rising up, leaving the viewer to reconsider the notion of the feminine ideal.

-Maura Lynch, MoMa Inside Out, March 28, 2010



Critical Love Theory

Critical Love Theory (CLT) is a concept I have been developing since August of 2013.  It involves recognition of what love is not and attempts to identify spaces where there has been a lack of love in order to actually grow love in those spaces.

In All About Love, bell hooks writes of love being unable to exist in places where abuse and neglect reside.  A Critical Love Theory framework is grounded in the belief that knowledge of self informs is necessary for self-determination. Paulo Freire also wrote about education requiring and fostering love.

“Know thyself in order to serve” is a phrase I learned from a school I taught at that used the phrase as a slogan.  Building on the implications of this slogan, the practice of Critical Love calls for reflection and dialogue in order to identify harm experienced through past and current abuse and neglect, paying close attention to trauma experienced. Moving from identifying instances  trauma, abuse and neglect, reflection, dialogue, and deep study of the impact and contributing factors to trauma, abuse and neglect ensues.  Through recognition of injury,  then development of deep understanding of the harm experienced, reflection, dialogue and resources are used to locate where love has been lacking and where it must be grown.

Through locating spaces where the growth of love would be appropriate or needed given the trauma, abuse or neglect that was experienced as a result of a lack of love in those spaces of a person’s life, new understandings of the context of the harm experienced serves as a platform to generate ideas, then goals, and then plans of action to grow love in those locations. and their impact in order to resist reproduction of abuse and neglect, in order to heal, and in order to restore some sense of justice and peace for those involved so that love may grow.

I will continue to write on this topic as this theory and framework continues to develop.





Liberation, like madness, is always a few steps away for most of us.

When fear guides, clear recognition of mistakes is always belated.  And empowerment through brutality cannot last long.

Mastery, however, like love, is within.

Not all choose that path.

Not all are prepared…

May mastery beckon your spirit.

May you step into mastery, leaving fear behind.

From me, light and love will always be sent your way.

I give thanks for all of the memories and the opportunities to learn and grow.

I wouldn’t change a thing.


All Plants Need Water


You can take a horse to water, but a fearful horse may think you’re trying to drown it.

And then, the horse may actually hurt you.

Like kick you in the face!

So what else can you do but let it go.  It will find water on its own.  Horses can take good care of themselves.  In fact, the mistake may have been that you tried to guide or assist a majestic and sovereign being fully capable of caring for itself.  Maybe it wasn’t even for the horse.  Maybe it was all about you.

Perhaps it was the desire to share water, because you knew where water could be found.  After all, Everyone needs water.

Some say, “poor horse.”  Others may say, “damn, look at that guy’s face now!”

Perhaps there were no victims in that scenario…

Internalizing the role of the victim can lead to the justification of barbaric acts, including self inflicted ones.  As in the case above, the horse may jerk back and attempt to “escape”, despite no true threat to their safety.  And in attempting to escape the perceived threat, they may become injured or further injure the person, or others.

When you see yourself as the victim, then you feel entitled, and others “just have to deal with it.”  Words like “accountability” will be used to justify the cruelty.  Internalizing the role of the victim makes it hard to even say sorry, for the “victim”.

All plants need water.  Some are desert plants, some are tropical.  Neglect the plant, and the roots search for new sources of water.

If plants could blame and be fearful, imagine what your house would be like if you were to neglect your plants.

Give thanks for our gifts of agency and resourcefulness.  Humans, unlike horses and plants, are equipped with a consciousness that can continue to evolve and overcome mental traps, like victim-hood.  We are capable of shifting our consciousness to mimic plants, animals, and more.  It is important to maintain these practices in order to live mindfully.  Unless, of course, we CHOOSE less.  We can choose to act like beasts.  And moods are addictive, even habit forming.  So what is internalized can, and will, if it is not recognized and intentionally overcome, become a part of our identity.  Yes.

I’m working on it, Uncle Rico.  No, I’m using my intent.  And I must agree now… I’m not meditating enough.

Back to meditation.


Racing, crashing and burning.


When traveling though new terrain, it is common for people to be stimulated by new sites, sounds, and smells. Quite often, the wandering traveler will drift in the direction that calls to them, listening to their heart, or stomach (or other parts that drive them), in order to explore the magic that exists in the new.

The new is glorious. The new is fresh. The new inspires and transforms. The new is addictive and compelling. Or not. But when the new is all of those things, the new can sprout seeds that grow, in time, and will lead to unforeseen change…

Compared to the traveler who knows their destination, the wanderer may flutter about, this way and that, like a leaf falling horizontally across the earth, magnetically attracted to attractions and settling only for a while, the traveler who is clear about their destination, may venture in a different manner. The difference between the two can be striking, and the rout may appear more direct. When the traveler is accustomed to the path being traveled, it is easy for the traveler to overlook the sites, sounds, and smells along the way. In fact, the normalized path being traveled can easily become a blur if and when the traveler decides to speed through the path. Perhaps it is the pace at which the traveler travels that is one of the more significant factors that will determine the degree to which the traveler will absorb the goods along the path. Surely, the mindful traveler will make effective use of the full experience of the journey.

I woke up one day and found myself racing along a path just before my crash. I was racing along a path that I know well. I had been there before and taken for granted the sights, sounds, and smells on the path. And it was only moments before I crashed that I recognized the path.

I noticed the path that I was on because I was falling off of the path. And when I fell, I fell into other familiar spaces. These spaces along the path provided a perfect view of the path and others racing along the path as well. Only then did I see all the beauty around me. And while the breeze that blew past me, evidence of the speed at which I traveled, made it hard to see all that was around me, my eyes and my body slowly adjusted to the stillness I felt, despite my heart racing and craving the pace I had become used to. And my pride, once roaring like a lion, now compelled me to position my body as if I was only just resting. But in reality, like a wounded beast, like a lion injured while in pursuit of sustenance, my posturing was only a front to keep any threats at bay, for I could not run or keep up the pace that I had taken for granted only moments before. And when the threats, both imagined and real, we gone, I searched and searched for my injuries. But they were not physical injuries. My injuries were internal and had affected my internal workings as well as my spirit.

When people break a bone in their body, depending on how bad the break is, people generally receive treatment that requires them to rest that part of the body. They conscientiously do not use that part of the body in order to allow it to heal, get stronger, and reset. A consequence may be, depending on the part of the body that has been injured, that the injured area may lose mass and appear smaller than the healthier part (as in the case of a broken left arm compared to a healthy right arm after a month of being unused), or, as in the case of a broken leg, a person may gain weight because of an inability to remain as active as they had previously been. In extreme cases, a broken bone may need to be severed from the body. If the bone is irreperable, it can cause infection that could spread and lead to death. This is true for a part of the body that is as small as a tooth or large as a leg. The now “dead” body part must be severed or the consequences can be fatal.



But what to do with a broken heart? Is it possible to not use it anymore? Or is that a natural consequence of the heart being shattered? Does it shut down automatically? Should we favor a different part of the body? What will be the long term consequence of resting the heart? We cannot discard the heart or sever it from the body. Can we remove it mentally? Emotionally? I’m sure many can. And many do. But me, I cannot fathom it. It feels as though it will rot away, fester and eat at all of the particles of my being. What to do? What to do? What to do?


Tensions related to “Global Citizenship”



I helped organize a colloquium that took place yesterday and, thankfully, it can be considered a success.  In addition to it having been completed, the turnout was better than I expected and the discussion that ensued was quite engaging.  I’d say we had about 30-40 people present and while the Dean was not able to be present, the three other presenters did a very good job of tackling the issues presented from various perspectives and providing insight for all to grapple with.

One particularly interesting segment of the gathering was when my mentor and adviser, Dr. Carlos Alberto Torres, presented what he called “Tensions, Contradictions and Conundrums” related to Global Citizenship.  Listed in this order, although not presented in this order, were the following:

  1. Solidarity and differences between: Global Education, Civic Education, Global Citizenship Education, Planetarian Citizenship
  2. Citizenship and Globalization: Multiple Globalizations (neoliberal globalization; anti-globalization, hybrid cultures, human rights, war against terrorism/terrorist model
  3. Framework versus Emerging Perspectives: (measurement issues, meterics), UNESCO as an agitator, the legacy of UNESCO
  4. Dilemma of Liberal Democracies?: From subject to National State Citizenship to Global Citizenship
  5. What about value added?: of Global Citizenship (tension with nationalism and with religious fundamentalism)
  6. Decoupling Human Rights Politics from Imperialism: Golf War 1991, former Yugoslavia wars, Serbo-Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Syria (?)
  7. Paradigmatic change of the discourse in education
  8. The role of life-long learning as opposed to classroom-based instruction

Each of these points were expounded on in detail and were followed by responses from the other panelists before opening the discussion up to the crowd.

As someone who was born in Grenada, a nation that was invaded by the United States, and raised in Berkeley, California, I have struggled with the idea of standing, facing a flag, putting my hand over my heart, and reciting words of “allegiance”.  For long enough I didn’t even understand the words, and when I did I became that much more adamant that I would NOT.  For this I have had my fair share of difficult moments and conversations with classmates, teachers, colleagues and others.  I’ve also faced hostile reactions like when I did not stand, put my hand over my heart or recite anything when the national anthem was sung at a St. John’s University basketball game in NY in 2002, months after the attack on the world trade towers.  When I reflect on experiences like those, I wonder about the tension between national loyalty and the notion of global citizenship.  It reminds me of the hostile nature of some of the more extreme, right-wing charged movements in the US that have led to the banning of ethnic studies, the hunting, inhumane treatment, and deportation of undocumented people, and the prison industrial complex that plagues this nation as a whole, but that thrives on predominantly Black and Latino lives and bodies.  What about the plight of disenfranchised/marginalized peoples in each nation?  How will we ensure that our causes remain relevant and prioritized?  At the same time, global citizenship may be the only solution for empowering and granting rights to people who would otherwise remain “stateless”, and in effect “rightless”, in the eyes of the states that they reside in. I’m thinking of the many refugees that have not been granted asylum and remain undocumented, migrants seeking better opportunities for themselves and their children, and others whose humanity is not honored by national governments worldwide.  For them, Global Citizenship may bring recognition of individual rights.  For these people, the issue is both urgent and important.  And this issue is directly related to the conflict between individual rights and cultural rights.  Not all “rights” are universal.  Some cultures are, simply put, in opposition when it comes to notions of what it means to be a human being and what humans should be and are entitled to.  The concept of global citizenship is perceived by many as a continuation of imperialism and the conquest of the European “west” over all others.

Where is the middle ground?  How do we resolve this tension, which is but one example from a list of the tensions related to Global Citizenship?

Today’s problem…

Education that consists mostly of direct teaching often impedes rather than helps natural human development. The early years are useless for the transmission of culture; therefore the first part of life is disregarded. But those apparently useless years are most fundamental, for during that period an astounding phenomenon takes place: the creation of a human psyche and the development of human behavior. The child learns to function independently, to manipulate, to walk, to talk, to think and to direct himself through his will. The process takes place not because adults teach but because the child creates.

…Man is not made of culture alone; there is something much more essential. If this part continues to be disregarded and emphasis put only on culture, the more advanced man becomes, the more dangerous he will be. Man has discovered flight, he has discovered atomic energy, but he has failed to discover himself…” (Montessori, 1966, ix-x).

Montessori, Maria. (1966). The Secret of Childhood. New York: Ballantine Books, ix-x.

A powerful assertion. The only thing I disagree with and will challenge is the notion that the early years are useless for the transmission of culture.


We are of the source

Of the source

Written November 4, 2010

And before they left the source, they gathered as much of themselves as they could.

They gathered as much love and light as they could because they would need to remember.

They were aware that the awareness they enjoyed at the moment would not be, after being birthed.

They had taken care to select just the right individuals to channel themselves through.  Together these individuals embodied all that they would need to be prepared and properly reminded of their purpose… after their births and after earning their physical bodies.

They embraces, by separating and acknowledging their similarities and differences, became one, and then separated once more.  They parted and gave themselves to the source, which was aware that they were ready.

To the guides they were handed over, and on the great path they were hurled.  Lights all around, darkness closed in.

Senses became muted and they felt the weight of a body on their spirits.

Restricted, although still having a sensation of weightlessness and invincibility, the kind that connects one with everything in it’s surroundings, they each opened their eyes, only to close them again.

Open, then closed.

And while they could hear their own voices in the distance, they soon became unfamiliar.  Then, it made no sense at all.  And the journey of remembering their purpose was in full swing.

And the journey was a blissful adventure or agonizing torture, depending on the day and how frequently they realigned themselves with the great source.  Through prayer, or concentration, silence and awareness.  For the great source was their home and one day they would once again reconvene.

But there was much work to do.

Spirits in star-suits, working to best utilize their resources.