What’s Up in the World? - Weekly Digest 02/06/2016 Written by Harriet Lane-Tobin

Intersectionality, semantics, race and the power of the narrative. This week's digest explores these issues moving from fact to fiction, local to international. 

In the wake of the constant struggles centred around race and police brutality, Homa Khaleeli’s Guardian article details the “Say Her Name” movement and its shift from the men who are killed in these acts to women. Khaleeli frames this argument in relation to the work of Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. Crenshaw advocates for these events to be approached and understood in relation to the term coined as intersectionality: "The way different forms of discrimination overlap and compound each other – it is a brutal illustration of how racism and sexism play out on black women’s bodies” (Khaleeli 2016). This can be used here and across contexts of structural violence in a socio-political sphere.

#SayHerName vigil in remembrance of black women and girls killed by the police, Union Square, New York. Photograph: Tim Knox for the Guardian

#SayHerName vigil in remembrance of black women and girls killed by the police, Union Square, New York. Photograph: Tim Knox for the Guardian


Uri Friedman’s article in The Atlantic discusses the importance of language, labels, and what meanings they illicit when applied to something such as a terrorist organisation. Friedman details this in relation to the work of Wole Soyinka on the “Islamic State”. Soyinka argues that one should not ignore the power of semantics and that a term like “Islamic State” can conjure multiple truths within its utterance. “[One] should recognise that while the group’s official name is one truth, its distortion of mainstream interpretations of Islam and its subversion of states are truths as well” (Soyinka in Friedman 2016). 

Penny Pepper’s Guardian opinion piece contends with issues over the representation of the disabled or impaired body in film and literature. She starts her piece as a critique of the latest Hollywood offering “Me before You”, centred around a paraplegic male lead. Here, Pepper argues that whilst visibility is important we need to use the voices and bodies of those who are really impacted by them to have any kind of impact.

What about when it comes to fiction? We can learn about what is 'true' equally from the semantics of fiction. Hephzibah Anderson’s BBC article discusses this in relation to the iconic Lewis Caroll's “Alice in Wonderland”. From “falling down a rabbit hole” to encountering a smoking caterpillar, what can the delight of ‘children's’ tales tell us of the world we are situated in, past or present?

In Aaron Smale’s Al Jazeera article he discusses the high rate of Māori inmates in the New Zealand justice system. Smale argues that this due to historical and structural violence imposed on Māori in New Zealand, creating a stark image of deeper anxieties and inequalities in within ‘our’ nation. This is something which needs to be looked closer at in order to address the larger issues at play that moves beyond the crime itself.