Monday, May 19, 2014

A European Academic Who Works in the Area of Indigenous Rights Writes

I received this letter from an academic working at a European university on April 24, 2014. 

I felt very excited by the contact because of the work he is doing with indigenous people and his understanding of how my work connects with his.

To put it succinctly: Indigineity=vulnerability. Literally, as in indigenous cultures everywhere have been and are being devastated. And in the sense that many indigenous cultures accept vulnerability as a way of being and are thus able to respect the vulnerability of nature, children, emotional beingness, etc, whereas showing up naked and vulnerable goes against every tenet of civilization.

His modified letter is below.

Dear Ms. Diamant, 
   If I understand you correctly, you see a connection between nudity and the wellbeing of the planet. 
   This is exactly one of my positions. I am a cultural psychologist, [affiliated with an internationally recognized dept. of indigenous rights, teaching in Europe]. In my classes, students not only receive theoretical input, but are trained to be naked, before they are allowed to participate in excursions to indigenous peoples in Africa or other places. Each year, we spend one week in Geneva, where we attend the UN session on indigenous rights, with accommodation at the local naturist resort. 
   The situation of indigenous peoples is very serious. They are very much exposed to globalizing influence. Their cultural identity is being criminalized, they are being forced into clothes. This goes along with a loss of their closeness to nature. We are witnessing this planet to be covered by destructive global culture. 
In our work in the fields, we try to counteract these processes. When we visit indigenous peoples, we take off our clothes and thus communicate our acceptance and respect of their traditional appearance. Humankind has been naked on this planet for thousands of years. This is species-appropriate for Homo sapiens. By forcing humans into permanent disguise, psychological mechanisms of deprecating nature are being triggered, including the disapproval of the natural human being. 
   I would very much appreciate future cooperation. 
With kind regards, 
A European academic

I asked if I could share his writing on my blog and he said yes but that I would need to make him anonymous because at the institution where he is a professor and researcher his employment and tenure have been threatened. "They are looking for reasons to get rid of me. They even presented a fabricated letter of someone, who did not even participate in the field training, to impute base motives to the fact that nakedness is part of the preparation for excursions to indigenous peoples." He had to pay thousands of euros to a lawyer to save his job. Not really surprising, but sad.

Here is a portion of my reply:

   I think nakedness and vulnerability are inherently related (in what I call global industrialized culture or, simply, civilization).
   To choose vulnerability at a time when humans are so very vulnerable appears to our culture to be a paradoxical stance. 
   I.e., how can being naked and allowing oneself to be vulnerable be empowering in a culture in which the foundation is domination (over less fortunate people, animals, nature, feminine energy, women, children, etc.), a culture where we all are taught to disconnect from heart and fiercely guard our authenticity?
   I seek to "be the change" by showing up the way I believe we need to show up to survive.
   As a reluctant academic, I am always enraged at the amount of wankery in research: disembodied ideas while the world is being destroyed. Perhaps you can understand? But that's our culture.
   I'm not sure how much you've looked at my website but, for one thing, I do a Vulnerability Vigil every month, where I stand naked on the street shielded only by a sign (a gesture of gentleness to those who are deeply affronted by nakedness). This month I used the extinction symbol on my sign.
   I've written extensively about why I do the project, but the extinction symbol says it without words. In my estimation, we are beyond the "postmodern," our mutually assured extinction, to me, is post-everything: post-art, post-pursuit of happiness, post-democracy, etc. Almost nowhere in any of our cultural discourses have we remotely caught up to the reality. 
   I think of my work as indigenous, but even that is problematic. Because I am white and of European descent, I am not "allowed" to appropriate that label. But what I'm doing came a) from an ability I have to listen to my intuition and body/heart/soul and b) is deeply related to how indigenous people have lived for millennia.
I feel like I am a reverse anthropologist, taking cultural excursions into my own culture with some of the p.o.v. and beingness of a traditional indigenous person. A fraught position to be in, needless to say.

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