Friday, December 4, 2009

The Pernicious Hierarchy of Privilege, by Deepa D.

The excerpts below are from Deepa D.'s blog, here. [5 Dec. 2009 update: someone posted a comment here to Deepa D. which alerted me to the fact that someone thought this blog was Deepa D.'s, or that I was Deepa D., or something like that. So, to be super clear: EVERYTHING that follows, with the sole exception of the very, very last line in brackets, WAS written by Deepa D., and is FROM HER BLOG, which is linked to twice--once in the second line of this post, where it says "here", and again in that very, very last line where it says here. What follows here is ONLY A PORTION (EXCERPTS), of her post and I recommend getting yourselves over there real quick to read it all. I just wanted to introduce her ideas to this blog and its readers, as I think her point is unfortunately one that needs to be brought often.] -- Julian

The pernicious hierarchy of privilege

A discussion started by a friend pointed me towards a book called The Archer’s Heart by Astrid Amara, which apparently was a 2008 Lambda Literary Award Finalist.

It is not a book I had heard of, but when I read the summary, just these lines gave me an indication that it was based in some part on the Mahabharat:
Tarek Amia would gladly see Jandu Paran brought low. Born the son of a charioteer, Tarek has no love for the royal princes who have slighted and insulted him all his life. Only Keshan’s philosophies have elevated him from the brutal ranks of common soldiers.
The cringe-inducing anagram of shastras for "mystic weapons, known as shartas" was enough to tell me this was a book I would not be able to stomach, but it was when I followed a link to this review of the book that I really became angry.

Because there I found that the book's editor had left a comment, explaining the lack of acknowledgement towards "various homages", where she said:

BTW, kudos to you for having enough familiarity with the Mahabharata to even be able to make this comment. I knew nothing of it before beginning my edit of this text. I’m glad to have come to know it, though.

This is the privilege of the publishing industry - to permit editors to oversee books based off of external cultures with complete ignorance, because that knowledge is not considered relevant to the book's value, the author's reputation, or the readership's opinion. [...]

[T]here seems to be example after wretched example that the publishing industry in the west does not consider the sources its books are ripping off of, appropriating, misrepresenting, borrowing, or retelling, to be worthy of including in the canon of knowledge from which to edit by.

This is the hubris that I cannot fathom -- I know just enough of Anansi and Iktomi, of Monkey and Dingo to know that even systematic, rigorous research will not grant me access to the sacred heart of their stories, and it not access I wish to have. I do not covet someone else's sanctified space, I have my own. [...]
[Please read her whole post here. It is powerful in its entirety.]

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