Reclaiming ‘race’ in postcolonialism: A personal reflection on the politics of the racial experience

Happy Wednesday.

I had the amazing opportunity to write for @Writers of Colour as part of their Academic Space of Media Diversified. This piece of writing was based on my own personal reflections and considerations and so far the feedback has been really insightful. I hope this piece of work is helpful to others writing on the politics of pedagogy in their subjective curriculums. We should always ask questions when learning, particularly about what is omitted from our lesson plans and texts, and why.

Please see the essay attached.

Thank you and best regards,


Media Diversified

Written by Amal Abu-Bakare and edited by Xavia Warren

This past October, while reading Homi Bhabha’s TheLocation of Culture, I came across the following poetic verse:

“I am standing here in your poem-unsatisfied.” (1994:xxi)

Originating from Eastern War Time, a poem by the radical feminist Adrienne Rich, this verse was highlighted by the famous literary critic and postcolonial author as an important example of a ‘peculiar political stance’ not to be undermined.[i] For myself, Rich’s words invoked a personal reflection on my own political stance, as a person of colour trying to locate myself in the academic field of International Relations (IR).

IR is the scholarly pursuit of knowledge about the international: its politics, its history, and its events. I originally pursued this area of study whilst trying to understand my own politicized experiences as a racialized Muslim woman growing up in the post-9/11 era. Despite a Eurocentric…

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This blog is a product of multiple emotions and anxieties over matters of race, sexuality, colonialism, terrorism, and other conflicts that I am currently coping with as result of beginning my doctorate at 24 years of age.  As a student of IR hoping to be an eventual academic, I am pursuing this writing project as a way of trying to mentally map my thoughts and anguishes in relation to my frustration with the state of international politics and the study of international politics. What do I mean by this?

I mean as a person pursuing the study of IR theory, a field still popularly marked by assumptions such as:

  • A  eurocentric belief in the utmost  significance of the nation state( government and institutions alike ) and the reinforcement of political explanations that center around  the nation state, its formation, and the history of its formation ( all from the eurocentric perspective no alternatives)
  • A  belief in a  natural state of anarchy existing outside the fault lines of states (Thank you Hobbes)
  • That that there are  two main strands of IR, Realism and Liberalism, and then there exists everything else ( This last assumption is mostly true in the North American study of IR not the UK)

With all these assumptions, there has been a lot missing for me. As a Saudi-born Nigerian-Canadian, there was an issue of national belonging that did not accord for me. As a racialized person existing in post 9/11, my experiences as a both  Muslim and ‘Black’ person were not reflected in my material. The issues of race, rape culture, and religion that I discussed in my  social and activist circles were not reflected in my reading material, even though they seemed relevant enough for international/national policymakers to regulate, so that my body and existence as a person was able to be sensationalized in the media at a moment’s notice.

After 5 years of studying IR in North America and the UK ( 3 years in one and 2 1/4) I now realize that there are three reasons that  I am insecure about my pursuits. What if…

  • The reason my personal encounters with international politics may not be reflected in IR is because I  have been reading/studying the wrong material?
  • The reason my personal encounters with international politics may not be reflected in IR is because they are instead encountered in other and maybe even more progressive disciplines like sociology, anthropology, global development studies?Maybe I should be studying them instead?
  • The reason my personal encounters with international politics may not be reflected in IR is because IR was not meant to reflect my experiences?

This last insecurity is the focus of my blog: What if IR was not meant to explain and acknowledge my experiences?

My resolution for 2017 is to try and force ‘my personal’ into the political, specifically the internationally political, so as to see what happens. I will re-evaluate come December 2017, and see where I am.