Shy Radicals: An interview with Hamja Ahsan

“To some extent all our political motivations and morality are based on imaginary states”

Hamja Ahsan, author of Shy Radicals: The Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert, discusses humour, connecting diverse movements and struggles, and imaginary spaces in activism.

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Lani: Welcome to Sideways Times, a UK-based podcast in which we talk about the politics of disability and disability justice. Throughout this podcast I hope to have many conversations which deepen and broaden as well as challenge our understanding of how to work against ableism and how this connects to other struggles.

I am Lani Parker and in this edition I talk to Hamja Ahsan about his book Shy Radicals: The Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert. We discussed what influenced the book, the use of humour in the book and in art in general, and how the themes relate to issues of racism and ableism, as well as some more things. I hope you enjoy it, let me know what you think.

Lani: Hi Hamja, thank you for coming to meet me. To start with could you tell me a bit about Shy Radicals and how it came about?

Hamja: So Shy Radicals has something I feel has always existed in me as a form of coping with feeling excluded and demeaned and bullied I guess, through what I call extrovert supremacist culture. It became a book last year, published by Bookworks – it’s an artist’s writing publisher. They’ve published people like Lubaina Himid, Liam Gillick and Jeremy Deller and then they’re like one of the best I think experimental publishers. And there’s a series called Common Objectives which is edited by an activist called Nina Power, who you might know through organisations like Defend the Right to Protest, or the Alfie Meadows campaign, and feminist philosophy. And she selected this as part of the series. So the way I’ve conceptualised my own feelings of inferiority and being bullied through being someone who is going to be the more awkward shy or quiet person in the room and thinking in a way of… not seeing it as something to be corrected but a different mode of being. I guess the questions which are often around the term neurodiversity and the way many people with Asperger’s Syndrome or autistic spectrum, and forms of resisting mental health diagnosis and medical models of mental disability, and reclaiming them as different ways of being. So I made up a revolutionary political party which would be like the Black Panthers but for shy people. Continue reading “Shy Radicals: An interview with Hamja Ahsan”

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Sideways Times founder Lani Parker shares her thoughts on disability justice and interdependence

Going against the flow

We’re talking about a human relationship of interdependence that values everybody as part of the world that we live in. And not only people but the whole world.

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Read the transcript

Lani: Welcome to Sideways Times, a new UK-based podcast in which we talk about the politics of disability and disability justice. Through this podcast I hope to have many conversations which broaden, deepen and challenge our understanding of how to work against ableism and how this connects to other struggles. I’m Lani Parker, and in this edition Andrea D’Cruz interviews me, following requests from some people to hear more of my perspective. We mainly talk about some of my thoughts around disability justice and interdependence, following many conversations with many amazing people.

Andrea: I first learnt about the framework of disability justice from having conversations with you, and it’s something that’s come up in a few of the previous podcasts that you’ve recorded – so I though it’d be really nice if we could have a whole podcast that was you talking about what disability justice means, and what it means to you personally, so maybe we could start – could you give me 3 sentences on what disability justice is, or what it means to you?

Lani: OK, so… disability justice as a framework was kind of put together by some disabled women of colour, or disabled people of colour, in the States, and to me the key things about it are that it connects issues and movements together, and that it has – it’s radically anti-capitalist, and that it has a commitment to interdependence and valuing the gifts that disabled people bring to the world, and so there’s lots of aspects to it, but I would say those are more than 3 sentences, but a little bit about what I think.

Continue reading “Sideways Times founder Lani Parker shares her thoughts on disability justice and interdependence”

Disabled artists are out here: A conversation with Okka

Stairs and Whispers - D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back. Edited by Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka and Daniel SlumanPoet, artist and writer Khairani Barokka (Okka) speaks to Lani Parker of Sideways Times about the importance of narrative, storytelling and emotions as an artist; colonialism, disability, her art and her PhD.

Being a human is confusing, and challenging for everybody. But I’m glad that I feel like the worst of what I’ve gone through in life, knock on wood, was gone through with an understanding of how language can shape and reflect experiences.

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Khairani Barokka: I am an Indonesian writer, poet and artist in London. I’m a PhD researcher at Goldsmiths in visual cultures, doing a PhD by practice. I have been researching and writing and making for 6 years now on specifically intersectional experimental ways of telling stories, particularly around crip cultures and feminisms. Continue reading “Disabled artists are out here: A conversation with Okka”

Independence and interdependence: an interview with Michelle Daley

Michelle Daley, co-founder of Sisters of Frida, talks to Lani Parker of Sideways Times about black disabled people’s experiences in Britain, intersectionalities with the disabled people’s movement, global privilege and interdependence.

We should keep growing, like a tree. Keep pushing forward, keep going, in all directions.
Michelle Daley

The interview is provided as a podcast with a transcript below.

Continue reading “Independence and interdependence: an interview with Michelle Daley”

Conversation with Steve Graby on Personal Assistance: The Challenge of Autonomy

knotted rope to illustrate tension and solidarityThis month Lani interviews Steve Graby, a Disability Studies researcher at the University of Leeds. They discuss the tensions inherent within the personal assistance employer-employee relationship, as well as the opportunities for solidarity.

Read more about Steve’s work: visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

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Read the transcript below. Continue reading “Conversation with Steve Graby on Personal Assistance: The Challenge of Autonomy”

“Disability justice is the art and the practice of honouring the body” An interview with Lydia X.Z. Brown

In this interview Lydia X.Z Brown  talks about disability justice as a praxis which honours the body and the whole person. Disability justice is a radical framework which requires understanding the interconnected nature of oppression and that we must tackle all forms of oppression in order to change the system we live in. We also talk about differences in language,  tensions within disability movements and the importance of using a variety of tactics amongst other things….

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Transcript below:

Continue reading ““Disability justice is the art and the practice of honouring the body” An interview with Lydia X.Z. Brown”

Thinking Through Borders

Farzana Khan wrote this piece back in December 2015. It is long but really worth the read. I particularly like her emphasis on building infrastructures of justice; if the infrastructure of justice is not there then infrastructures of injustice are reproduced. Using the framework of borders Khan talks about the politics of solidarity, collective liberation, self-care and more.  With reference to her own work in the UK context, the article explores personal and collective borders, national and international borders and how they interact with each other. She talks about the hard work of being committed to each other and of building interdependence. 

The emphasis on communities comes from the realization that we can’t continue letting our own spaces uphold power structures in the guise of solidarity, that we can’t shy away from hard dynamics, but instead be committed to each other. Real deep-rooted change requires ALL of us. So, in the absence of borders, if we are still committed to their removal, how do we hold ourselves together? Mia Mingus reminds us:

Interdependency is both ‘you and I’ and ‘we’. It is solidarity, in the best sense of the word. It is inscribing community on our skin over and over and over again. It is truly moving together in an oppressive world towards liberation and refusing to let the personal be a scapegoat for the political. It is knowing that one organization, one student or community group is not a movement. It is working in coalition and collaboration. Because the truth is: we need each other. We need each other. And every time we turn away from each other, we turn away from ourselves. We know this. Let us not go around, but instead, courageously through.

As we organize in solidarity, our own borders need to be examined: how are they maintained, and do they work towards holding on to power and privilege?

In the making of movements, how we sustain our movements and ourselves is key. This means doing the internal work, the heart-work, the unearthing of our selves and our organizing spaces. I recognize that the space and capacity to reflect on praxis is tied to privilege, where often the most directly affected within structures of oppression are in the business of survival/resistance/responding without the luxury of thinking deeply about this very work. However, I maintain that this is worthwhile, because it calls us in on our selves. We have to do the work to be better humans for the better world we want to live in, and all the while continue to learn how to do this. Right now is exactly the time to do this, as we sit under the weight of failing state infrastructures, we also sit on the cusp of reimagining what is possible outside of the state.

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