Monika Bulaj, Rushdie, and the Commonwealth

Monika Bulaj is from a photograph who told the story of Afghanistan from a different light than what we are used to. She traveled for many years through Afghanistan and not once in her Ted Talk did she mention anything negative about the people. She talks about how an Afgan soldier forgot to stamp her passport because he was so surprised that he saw her. Instead, the soldier offered her some tea and she knew that “he’s very surprised was her protection.” She mentions how humble the people were and how she shared their prayers and bread. Not once did Bulaj mention anything bad about middle east people. I admire the work she has done because saw these from herself instead of believing the stories. She saw the “hidden light” which lived within the people. We do pretend to protect middle eastern people but we don’t know their true stories and we don’t see them as people. We don’t tell stories about their prayers and their humble spirits. We tell stories of their terror and violence (which is no different from ours).

If we look at Rushdie’s work on Commonwealth Literature, he tries to decipher exactly what Commonwealth literature means and looks like in the literary canon. He says, “the nearest I could get to a definition sounded distinctly patronizing: ‘Commonwealth literature’ it appears, is that body of writing created, I think, in the English language, by persons who are not themselves white Britons, or Irish, or citizens of the United States” (63). I have questioned the literature canon plenty of times and have yet to come up with a feasible idea on why created works are labeled in these made up categories.

When reading Rushdie’s work, I had to look up the definition of the commonwealth. Commonwealth means independent country or community. Really, there’s no elaborate definition that makes sense to me to call something “Commonwealth Literature.” Rushdie is also confused about this definition because if we are to believe that commonwealth literature is written by people whose second language is English, but they write in English instead of their native language, what do we label writers who do write in their native language? The literary canon is a mythical, bizarre thing. The authors in this category do not have many similarities when it comes to their writings. If the canon is going to group writings, shouldn’t it be based on the writings and not nationality?

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The canon itself is a form of colonialism. The way in which it groups writers has undertones of colonial ideologies. Of course, those writers are going to write in English because English is the dominant language. You’re not going to sit with the President of the United States and assume he is going to speak fluent Spanish or Creole. However, we can assume that other countries are going to be able to speak English. Rushdie knows that history “creates complexities” and we shouldn’t “try to simplify them” (65). The colonial rule created hybridity when it comes to people’s ideologies, identification of self, and languages. So how the literary canon try to group people into categories based off of language?

In this course, I was able to grapple with a lot of my thoughts and explore my ideas. A lot of the questions that poco theorist raise are constant questions that I ask myself. Like I’ve said in the past, I am American. I am a Black American. I am a Black American woman. I can keep adding multiple identifiers to describe myself. Each identifier gives me a different purpose. However, all of which have been developed through colonial ideology.

For this blog, I actually began this blog in 2013 for Dr. Bleach’s course. I used to get over 30,000 views every year. The blog was based on injustice in American society and there were so many subliminal in societies media that were overlooked. I shut the blog down because it started making me sick. Everything I was writing about became overwhelming and too much. Since taking this course, I began my blog again but I’m still not sure if I will continue with it. It takes lots of dedication to run a blog. I’m not sure if I’m ready to dive into the realm of truth again. Yes, I could write a blog about kitchen items and how to organize a bedroom but, what purpose would that serve me or society? It doesn’t help people’s minds and sometimes, you need food for thought. Maybe one day I can begin doing it again but I’m honestly not ready.

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