In what ways can/do your understandings of human oppression shape or may shape your personal and professional relationships and practices.

Length: 1108 words

From what I’ve understood of women’s oppression across ages, I would support a new feminist humanism in which would be based on ‘democratic reconstruction’. This way, we can avert ethnocentric mistakes about what it means to be human. In order to mitigate women’s oppression, one has to recognize how it is tied to other forms of oppression. For all women gender is at all times interlocked with other systems of oppression “depending on their race, class, sexuality, physical and mental abilities, religion, nationality, age, relation to children and so on.” (Grant, 1995, p. 56) It is futile to solve women’s subordination at the exclusion of various other forms of oppression. Hence a sound motto for social change would be ‘liberation of the self’ – a liberation that applies across various axis of oppression.

In my professional practice I would take a sceptical approach to dominant ideologies of culture in order to prevent oppression. Take say the ideology of multiculturalism in the postcolonial Canadian context. Today Canadian politicians use catchwords such as ‘inclusive politics’. But a closer scrutiny reveals how such posturing deflects attention from “the colonization of peoples within Canada and other forms of racial oppression.” (Sullivan, Eyre, & Roman, 1998, p.

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233) In this respect one has reason to be suspicious of how far the ideology of multiculturalism can be regarded liberatory. In Canada of today, we see how immigrants’ participation and integration into society is hampered by policies of multiculturalism, leading to unequal treatment meted out to different ethno-demographic groups. This understanding of the oppressive outcomes of multiculturalism will inform the decisions I would take in my professional practice. Since the ideology of multiculturalism is equally applicable to institutions as they are to nation-states, they hold relevance to my professional practice.
Professionals would benefit greatly through their cognisance of Du Bois’ discourse on race and racism, as it brings to focus the often-neglected fact that

“it is possible to reject biology-based concepts of race and any and all forms of racism without denying the socio-historic and politico-economic reality of race and racism. The so-called “anti-race” theorists who argue that race and race-consciousness are the cause of racism and racial oppression are quite simply thinking wrong about race and have not done their homework on the origins and evolution(s), and the historic socio-political uses and abuses of race.” (Robinson & Diaz, 1999, p. 33)

These days all the professions are increasingly getting corporatized. This is a dangerous tendency for it undermines independence and critical engagement with pressing issues facing the profession. It constrains fair-minded professional by making them vulnerable to “the sweeping moves toward corporate restructuring, privatization, down-sizing and amalgamation”. (Sullivan, Eyre, & Roman, 1998, p. 233) The cumulative effects of these effects are slowly converting professional practice into “systems of award restructuring, productivity agreements, standardization, and a re-emphasis on professionalism — all of which thwart the development of a praxis oriented, site-specific, politically engaged practice”. (Sullivan, Eyre, & Roman, 1998, p. 233) In the case of professionals in the field of education, we are already witnessing how

“the general commodification of academic labour is biased against women academics, all of which really extend to all those working toward radical social change. These include the privileging of research over teaching, quantity of publications over quality of publications, short-term outcomes over long-term outcomes, and funding over substance. Basing higher education on a competitive market model inevitably reproduces the struggles for hegemony seen outside the academy in full force”. (Sullivan, Eyre, & Roman, 1998, p. 233)

In this context of the state of academia today, it is important that educators are given opportunities in their training to extend a critical understanding of their own attitudes and beliefs about diversity and difference and how inequities are often politically and socially constructed through established power relations operating on all levels of social life. This is crucial, “as research indicates that pre-service teachers have a tendency to focus on the `individuals’ as the fulcrum of change, at the expense of acknowledging the role those systemic and structural forms of oppression plays in the lives of minority groups.” (Levine, 2004, p.12)

Edward Said has offered key insights on oppression in the imperialist context. In his important work Orientalism, Said has articulated in the unique historical regional context of the Middle East, how “the cruder colonialism of U.S./Israeli occupations in Palestine are asynchronically juxtaposed with an already emergent, on a global scale, reality of neo-colonialism.” (Medina, 2013, p.15) Said’s conception makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the views of sociologist Anzaldua, who sees a more subtle form of oppression at work in the United States. Today, the problems facing native Americans need remedy:

“The cruder physical colonial borderlands must give way to the complexities of much subtler “geography of selves” bearing class, racial, gender, sexual, and psychic “Borderlands” of dualistic thinking, feeling, and sensing that help perpetuate global colonial and racial oppression from within.” (Tamdgidi, 2007, p.114)

The understanding of how to rebuild from oppression can serve as a useful guideline for my own professional practice. This might entail a “different conception of the architecture of self and social oppression which in turn calls for a different, a simultaneity, of self and broader social liberation.” (Tamdgidi, 2007, p.113)


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