Experiments in Resistance: DeCentering through Radical Intersectionality and Editorial Politics
In the midst of heteronormative Brahmanical patriarchy, ceaseless violence of the carceral capitalist state, persistence of caste-supremacy and sexual violence, could dissenting voices come together to produce a parallel collaborative radically intersectional expressive space? It is not the case that revolution and resistance, whether on the streets, on paper, or in film and image, are alien to India. Yet, this rich tradition of resistance has historically fashioned its own demons. When you peel the layers of revolutionary discourse in India, you often find more of the same: a persisting savarna, upper class, hetero-patriarchal politics of exclusion. The savarna upper-class nexus remains the center of both the carceral capitalist politics of the state and the revolutionary politics of resistance.
What is a center? How does it come to be? Cartographical centers were conjured by a history of colonization that produced the so-called geographic “margins.” A similar process produces discursive centers and edges. Viewed from the historical “margins,” the center is a fuzzy political conglomerate of class, and caste hierarchy, carceral capitalism, and entrenched heteronormative Brahminical patriarchy. Examined narratively, the center recounts the story of a single subcontinental subjectivity: the savarna, upper-class (most commonly North India), able bodied, heterosexual man. And yet, other ways of knowing and being have persisted in the subcontinent. To dismantle the politics of marginalisation, we begin by displacing the center. Practices of decentering require radical intersectionality.
DeCenter Mag was born from shockingly productive conversations of exhaustion. When one woman turned weary of the enduring misogyny of the revolution, ten others appeared to point out the overt or covert persistence of caste, violence, and elitism in the counter-hegemonic spaces structured around the skeletal frame of savarna patriarchy. Like neo-liberal feminism, savarna feminism, and carceral feminism overlook the masculinist gaze of discourses that fixate on marginalised bodies. Savarna marxism and leftist politics, too, have historically overlooked how caste and patriarchy bleed into the exploitation of the working class. Despite the inclusive desires of savarna feminism or upper-caste marxism, the movements remain caged in structural politics that are designed to reproduce class, caste, and patriarchal hegemonies.
Not rejecting existing and historical radical movements entirely, but rather turning towards them one collaborative critical eye and another towards the future, DeCenter aims for radical revisions. This is our sincere homage to the many bodies of literature--feminist, leftist, Ambedkarite, and others--that have shaped us.
So, DeCenter’s first task was to dissolve the tried and tested internal structure of known resistance spaces. In other words, we began by resisting the exploitation and objectification of token diversity and creating an editorial politics that reflects our political vision. Over six months, we assembled a team of feminists, Ambedkarites, and leftists from academic, journalistic, legal, and artistic backgrounds to shape a radically intersectional vision of resistance.
81.25 % of our team is made up of Dalits, Bahujans, Adivasis, Muslims and Minorities (a total of 13 editors). 81.25% of our team comprises editors who identify as women. Roughly 38% of our team is represented by Dalit activists, journalists, legal scholars, and academics. 18.7% of our team is made up of women who come from intercaste (savarna-Bahujan) and savarna backgrounds (a total of 3 editors). On our team, we have editors from South, East, West, and North India. Kashmir and the Northeast are represented on our geographically-linguistically diverse team. We follow an editorial policy of horizontalism, i.e., there is no hierarchy among editors (no sub or assistant editors, no editor-in-chief). When an editorial conflict arises, we resolve it either by voting or by assigning group authority to the member from the community closest to that of the writer/piece/question. Naturally, this means we spend a lot of time debating, discussing, and re-visioning editorial practices.
DeCenter is an expressive space for counter-hegemonic perspectives rarely represented, fiercely silenced, and frequently tone-policed in mainstream media. We aim to amplify voices from the “margins” and practice a policy of affirmative action in order to highlight critiques produced by Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi, Muslim, Queer, and Disabled writers, poets, photographers, journalists, critics, activists, and academics. Grammar and language have often been used to gain political and narrative leverage and enforce structural exclusion. Critical of the politics of language and tone policing, we lay emphasis on ideas over structure and encourage works in translation.
Our first issue arrives on the heels of recent protests in India and global movements against racism. It also arrives in the midst of the farmers’ struggle and movement in India. The incessant sexual violations and coercion of Dalit women in the village, street, or on the frontlines of protest shapes our sense of urgency. The military occupation of Kashmir colours the background. The brutality of police, most recently described by Dalit labour activist Nodeep Kaur in her bail plea and otherwise noted by numerous incarcerated journalists, activists, writers, academics, and students, too, moves us to publish without assuming languid pauses over the proper use of punctuation. The voices of our contributors demand an audience and thus, the primary task of our editors has been to reach out far and wide and invite everyone to be part of our experiments in resisting regimes of enforced silence. We have had some successes.
Across our issue, from Rupsa Nag’s interview of Imphal Talkies’ Akhu Chingangbam and Afrah Asif’s conversation with Dalit transgender activist Grace Banu to Pranjali Kureel, Sankul Sonawane, and Preeti Koli’s dedicated analyses of the Indian education system and the NEP 2020’s impact on Dalit students, from Sheikh Saqib narration of the everyday experiences of the siege of Kashmir to Randeep Maddoke, Varinder Maddoke, and Nav Rahi’s photographic documentations of the farmers’ protests, we see writers, photographers, artists, academics and journalists looking from outside in with a critical gaze and a deep dedication to community. That our contributors have remained steadfast in the work of decentering while battling on global and personal scales the damages of our current public health, political and economic crises is a testament to their commitment to resistance. We welcome readers to share, support, critique and engage with these pieces.
We have also encountered significant limitations in the production of our inaugural issue. First, the material constraints of working with a small budget meant that we had to limit the number of pieces we were able to accept in order to compensate our contributors for their intellectual and artistic labour. We are hoping to raise more funds for our second issue and expand our sections in terms of number, languages, and accessibility features. We also hope to be able to compensate our editors, who, for this issue, volunteered their labour. Second, we remain committed to extending our outreach for the second issue. It became increasingly and often frustratingly apparent to our editors that millennia of marginalisation and the dystopic realities of the pandemic kept many from submitting pieces. To our minoritized, marginalised, and otherwise “othered” readers: We are interested in your stories, art, politics, and voices. Most of our editors themselves took years to lean into their political-literary/artistic worlds and have encountered narrative marginalisation. We remain committed to publishing with our policy of affirmative action and we do publish first time writers. We will continue to expand our sections and language capacity. The work of decolonizing, decentering, and resisting is far from finished; here’s one start.