Bones, ongoing

“O my body, make of me always a [hu]man who questions!” 

This project responds to the increased visibility of both fascist rhetoric and Black/Indigenous/Immigrant resistance in the global North. Following Aimé Césaire, we take this as evidence that colonisation is an ongoing force in the present. Following Sylvia Wynter, we see biomedicine as deeply implicated in this dynamic and therefore rich with decolonising potential. And following Frantz Fanon, quoted above, we believe our bodies are a means to activate this.

With Dr Stephanie Davis and Dr Tehseen Noorani, I have been thinking about how coloniality affects our bodies and how decoloniality could be a mode of healing. To do so, we have been reflexively entering contemporary disease as intergenerational dis-ease.

For more about our collab, check out the September 2018 issue of Consented magazine. Below is how I am starting to do the work.

In 2016 a fascist leader wins the presidency of the United States, revealing colonisation as an ongoing, organising force for white supremacy. That same year, then living in New York City, I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) – a musculoskeletal condition involving the inflammation of all my joints and gradual fusion of my spine. The rheumatologist told me that the disease is particularly common in people of my ethnicity – Pākehā New Zealanders – as it is passed down through our British ancestry, leading me to wonder whether if one mapped the global prevalence of AS they might also map the British Empire.

Shortly thereafter my participation in a healing ceremony suggested that my bones have come to die in me while I am still alive because they have a story to tell. Around the same time, I learned from a novel that the well-known word for tribe in te reo Māori – the native language of Aotearoa New Zealand – is also the lesser-known word for bone (“iwi”). Spiralling around my slowly disabling body in rapid succession, these three happenings – one science, one pagan, one art – colluded to remind me that my bones are my ancestors. And that my ancestors are whispering, speaking, shouting. I can feel it in my bones.

Told to take steroids every day, I am instead mixing science studies, pagan practices, and art activism to engage in dialogue with my AS about coloniality and decoloniality. To experiment with old and new ways of approaching AS not as something to quiet and kill so much as amplify and animate. A more-than-human collaborator. Specifically, I am entering the fragility, fusion, discomfort and dislocating in my bones to ask questions about the fragility, fusion, discomfort, and dislocating of my settler ancestors in the hope of contributing to efforts for resisting white supremacy.

For example, Fanon (1952) writes of whiteness as an experience of “affective ankylosis” because the “white world” gets in the way of any ability “to liquidate the past once and for all”. In other words, the colonial episteme wraps, traps us in ignorance, making it difficult to move and be moved. Engaging the process of fusion in my bones-cum-ancestors may thus provide a useful muse for engaging the process of fusion in whiteness.

Given that my AS is (from) my British ancestors, I am in particular expecting my bones to speak of the connections between this dis-ease and cosmological violence; my British ancestors were missionaries. In turn, and again following the demands of my bones, this points me to the role of movement/s in healing contemporary conditions of white supremacy – whether individual, collective, psychic, physical, spiritual, political, or all of the above.