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Below the Radar Transcript

Episode 137: The Breaks — with Julietta Singh

Speakers: Kathy Feng, Am Johal, Julietta Singh

[theme music]

Kathy Feng  0:02 
Hello, I’m Kathy Feng with Below the Radar, a knowledge democracy podcast. Below the Radar is recorded on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.  This time on Below the Radar, host Am Johal speaks with Julietta Singh, author and Associate Professor of English and of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Richmond. In this episode, Am asks her about her latest book, The Breaks, a work of epistolary nonfiction in the form of a letter to her daughter. This interview was recorded prior to its release, but The Breaks is now available from Coffee House Press and Daunt Books Originals. I hope you enjoy the episode!

[theme music fades]

Am Johal  0:43 
Hello, welcome to Below the Radar. Delighted that you could join us again this week. We're really excited to have Dr. Julietta Singh with us from the University of Richmond. Welcome Julietta.

Julietta Singh  0:55 
Thank you so much.

Am Johal  0:57 
It's been really wonderful to encounter your work. The last couple of months, I was doing a bunch of reading with my collaborator on a writing project on friendship and community and your name came up in various writers that we were beginning to read. And so it's been wonderful to sort of jump down the rabbit hole. And wondering if you can sort of begin with just introducing yourself a little bit.

Julietta Singh  1:20 
Sure. I'm really happy to be identified as somebody to think about in relation to friendship and community. So I feel very honored by that. I'll start by saying that. So I am a Canadian person. I grew up in Winnipeg to diasporic parents, both immigrant. And I moved to the US for university to do my PhD and somehow ended up staying here. So I work at the University of Richmond in Virginia on Powhatan land. I teach across queer studies, postcolonial studies, and what is broadly referred to as the ecological humanities. And I'm both an academic and nonfiction writer. I have a new rescue dog in my midst here with us today. And I also have a nine year old kid. Did I miss anything? Are there any important details I've missed out? 

Am Johal  2:14 
We'll probably get to it. [laughs]

Julietta Singh  2:16 
More will be revealed as time passes.

Am Johal  2:18 
Julietta, so the first book of yours that I encountered, maybe we can begin there a little bit. It's from 2018, from Duke University Press, Unthinking Mastery: Dehumanism and Decolonial Entanglements. And wondering if you could talk a little bit about where that project began from you sort of the premise of the book that began and turned into the book itself.

Julietta Singh  2:42 
Yeah, it started in my PhD work. Not as my dissertation project, but as a kind of irksome phenomenon that I was identifying as a student, where I was reading a lot of anti-colonial discourse of the early- and mid-20th centuries. And I was noticing a kind of preoccupation in that discourse with a renunciation of mastery. So, a kind of diagnosis of the colonial relation as being a relation of mastery between masters and slaves. And obviously in anti-colonial discourse, a series of prescriptions or desired political movements to undo that relation. And I kept noticing that in anybody who I'd encounter the sort of great thinkers of the anti-colonial moments of the 20th century—like Gandhi, like Frantz Fanon, who are kind of key figures in that book—that while they renounced colonial mastery, they kept returning to mastery as the antidote to it. So for Gandhi, very famously, one becomes a self master. Mastery over oneself becomes the way to fight colonial mastery. And for someone like Fanon, a moment of temporal mastery, where you literally tear down the conditions of your oppression and throw out your masters in a moment of physical and violent revolution, in order to create a more equitable future. And I was haunted by the ways that mastery seemed to both be the problem and overwhelmingly the solution. At the same time is I was studying comparative literature for my PhD, and noticing that all the greats of the scholarship of that time, of that era, were also calling for ever more mastery over our fields, over area studies, over our knowledge production. And I felt really uneasy about it as somebody who understood myself, physically, psychologically, temperamentally, totally unable to be masterful, even while I understood that I desired it. And so I think the project really set off by way of a suspicion I had or a curiosity I had about the discourses I was studying. And about this kind of key phenomenon that was both the problem and the solution to the legacies of colonization.

Am Johal  5:10 
And you're bringing a lens as well from feminist and queer studies into decolonial frameworks, and it's a fascinating entanglement. And I'm wondering if you could, sort of, parse through some of Fanon's approach and Gandhi's approach in terms of how you look at it in the book.

Julietta Singh  5:28 
I'm a real... I don't think I use this term in the book, I definitely use it in The Breaks and have used it often in public discussion and teaching and learning beyond my writing. But I'm really invested in the notion of indebted critique. And so while I come at everything that I read, and everything that I do from a feminist and queer perspective, I'm also really invested in the kinds of legacies that we've inherited, that we can't do without. And I think of Gandhi and Fanon, for all of their problems, for all of their patriarchy, for all of their inability to kind of think things like gender, and sexuality and disability, and even in some ways, ecology and ways that I find necessary in this moment. I still have learned a lot from them and take a lot from them. And so it's very easy to renounce Gandhi. It's very easy to say, Gandhi's politics were— Am I allowed to swear? In this podcast? 

Am Johal  6:27 
Yeah, for sure. For sure. 

Julietta Singh  6:28 
Okay. So Gandhi's politics were very fucked up. And a lot of incredible scholarship has revealed that. And the same can be said for Fanon. They were obviously very much products of their cultures and their times, even while they were trying to think more capaciously beyond the limits of those times. But you know, any time you're looking back at those revolutionary archives that are patriarchal, that come from masculine leaders of the past, it's something you always have to encounter. And I think, instead of throwing them out, I really wanted to see what could happen in the present moment with them with the kind of kernel of what they were doing, if we extended what they were doing, rather than to shut it down.

Am Johal  7:11 
Now, in the book, you also sort of work through other thinkers like Judith Butler, Agamben, Mbembe. And wondering if you can talk a little bit about what in their work you found interesting to think through.

Julietta Singh  7:24 
With Butler, I was really leaning on their formulation of vulnerability, and trying to think for myself about what it would mean to produce a kind of scholarship that, in working against mastery and working against the legacies of mastery, could also be vulnerable. Not just at the level of like, what would intellectual vulnerability be? What would it mean to read vulnerably? And what would it mean to write vulnerably? And Butler's written so beautifully and expansively about that term. And so I really took from them a kind of political call for vulnerability to try to think about what it would look like in my own thinking, and to a certain extent, in Unthinking Mastery, also in my own life. Which I write more explicitly and in detail about in my other books, in my later books. But for Butler, I think it was really vulnerability that was key. And for the others, you know, I was kind of mining... I hate that term, but I think it's true, as a graduate student that I was really kind of going through and looking at the most important figures that I had been trained to look at, to look for, to see the ways in which their post colonial preoccupations kept returning us to things like the need for language mastery. Whether that's about learning native languages, or mastering native languages, or mastering the languages of one's masters in order to kind of overcome them. And so I think those other sort of key postcolonial figures were figures who became really instrumental to me for everything that they taught me about postcolonial life, postcolonial politics, what sometimes called the postcolonial condition. But also to see in them some absences or some repetitions, some inheritances really, that hadn't been challenged, like that very core question of mastery. I think of mastery as an inheritance that all of us  have been bestowed, that really needs to be critically rethought at the end of the world, in these apocalyptic times that we're living through now. It's not mastery that saves us it's other forms of world relation.

Am Johal  9:36 
There's so many wonderful passages in the book and it's really wonderfully written. There's one in the middle of the book, where I'm going to quote I've got it written down here. "We live because we have deposited energy and matter into the world, and because forces well beyond what we can see or hear or touch have embedded themselves in us and have enabled and sustained our existences. The impossible historical inventory to which we might aspire includes those ecological and material entities that underlie our individual and collective forms of being." There's a part in the later chapters where you're getting into ecological questions, questions of the animal. And I'm wondering if you can speak to that a little bit.

Julietta Singh  10:20 
Yeah, I think the way that I... I struggled with how to organize that book. You know, it was my first big book, and the puzzle of how to put it together felt very overwhelming. And I ended up doing something that I probably wouldn't do now, but made very logical sense. And I think still does. Which is to kind of put up front the critique and engagement with figures like Gandhi and Fanon at the top half of the book, to think about that anti-colonial revolutionary moment filled with promise. And then on the back half of the book, look at postcolonial writers, and to engage with postcolonial writers through mostly fiction, and also plays, and to engage with the ways that they teach us very much that our ways of being human are always, kind of, fantastically attached to a notion of mastery. But also that are very fundamentally ambivalent in our in our cores, in our political cores. And so I wanted to explore that kind of waffling and the postcolonial moment, that kind of upsets the colonial inheritances that we've been bestowed. And to do that, in the second half of the book, I started for the first time, as an academic, writing myself into that work. And so in each of the back half chapters, there are little scenes in which I'm writing about the animal, the political question of the animal in postcolonial studies, but also trying to inquire over my own animal relations. Human-animal relations, and also with my kind of attachments to a humanitarian ethics that also needs to be critically rethought, and critically undone. So it was a way of kind of placing myself into those scenes, not just from on high as an intellectual, but as somebody whose life is very much wrapped up in those systems and those ways of thinking, even while I'm trying to think against them.

Am Johal  12:16 
I know in encountering your work, I was reading at the time, some of the work of Jasbir Puar, Leela Gandhi, Claire Colebrook, and others, some of whom cited you as well. I'm wondering, if you can talk a little bit about in your work, I find that there's a kind of a return to the body as a site of political agency that's functioning within a context and in historical context. And despite all the problems with it, it's still a place of possibility.

Julietta Singh  12:43 
Yeah. You know, I published this book called No Archive Will Restore You in 2018, in the same year that Unthinking Mastery came out. And one of the first questions that I was asked about it is, "Isn't your attachment to the body— Or isn't your kind of commitment to the body, or your engagement with the body, a way of reaffirming the kind of problem that we're trying to exceed?" So this feminist interviewer was understanding the body as a, kind of, limit, or a trap that we needed to exceed as feminist scholars, given how reductive the female body has been made to be over time. And I was really surprised by the question, it made perfect sense to me when she asked but it's... it kind of misses the point. Which is to say that I'm interested in a thinking of the body that exceeds gender and sexuality and race. And it's so interesting to think about the body in these pandemic times, because it's a moment where we can no longer in any way deny that our bodies are radically entangled with one another. And my thinking of the body is a thinking of the body that doesn't want to disavow it because of patriarchy, and because of racism, but wants to see it as A) absolutely inextricable from any kind of thinking. The body as part and parcel of our thinking, and our being, and our revolutionary action, etc. But also, because the body is part of our way of being earthly, there, kind of, isn't an earthly being without the body. And I'm interested in the potentials of the body as a site of ecology. As a site of struggle, as a site of pain, but also as a site of commitment that we make with one another and towards one another. So the body for me has been really instrumental. And there's a moment in my new book, where I kind of tongue in cheek say, "You know, I really wanted to write a book that wasn't about the body at all." Which is very hilarious and stupid when you think about it, because the book is a letter to my child, and there's kind of no... There's like no mother without the body, you know, but I was tired of the body after all the No Archive embodiment, because I described the book as a kind of body archive. And if we can call the book a body archive, I think I was kind of through with it and then realized while I was writing the new book, The Breaks, this letter to my daughter, that the body, our bodies, are so vital and instrumental and there's no part of me that wants to disavow it. I want to understand it differently. I want to work with a differently, I want to be in my body and with your body differently. But I don't want to do away with it. It's very cyborg-y. As a non-techie person, I can't quite go there. [laughs]

Am Johal  15:37 
In your book, No Archive Will Restore You, from that wonderful publisher Punctum Books—

Julietta Singh  15:43 
Thanks for the shout out to Punctum, I love Punctum. 

Am Johal  15:45 
Yeah, I just, I really, I love what they're doing. You start with a Gramsci quote: "The starting point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is knowing thyself as a product of the historical processes to date, which is deposited in you and infinity of creases without leaving an inventory. Therefore, it is at the outset to compile such an inventory." It's a very personal book as well, you, you're very comfortable weaving in your own personal stories in each of your work, in fact. And I'm wondering if you can speak to the quote, and that sort of beginning point of that project, and also the importance to your own mode of work and theoretical process to weave in the personal in the way that you do from, you know, talking about your your child, your relationships, the death of your father, brain surgery... You know, there's like so many examples where you talk about intimate personal parts of your your life is part of thinking through theoretically, the project and the questions that you're trying to get to.

Julietta Singh  16:50 
I need to just say, brain surgery. Neurosurgery always gets collapsed with brain surgery, but I haven't had brain surgery. But this is a common confusion.

Am Johal  17:00 
I went there, because I actually had brain surgery two and a half years ago, but we could talk about that offline.

Julietta Singh  17:05 
Yes, let's talk, let's talk neurosurgery and the brain for sure. So yeah, I think, you know, often I'm asked about as a writer who uses myself in my life. I always say, I don't think there's anything especially interesting or important about me in any way. And that's kind of the point. So I'm not a person who writes autobiographically because I think that I live an exceptional life, or exceptional things happened to me. Maybe, maybe sometimes they do, but in the same way that they— exceptional things happen to all of us sometimes, right, for better and for worse. But I think it became really important to me through that kind of attempt at unthinking mastery to work myself in to think about what it would mean to make oneself more vulnerable, not in terms of sheer exposé. But in terms of a kind of careful curation of ideas or problems that I wanted to think through, or I wanted to work out. And understanding that there's kind of nowhere better to work those things out than in the intimate details of one's own everyday life. You know? And I think for the most part, I think, especially in The Breaks, I write about myself through a series of what I consider to be my failings. You know, my desire for another world, and my failures to manifest that world. And I think the intimacy of that, of that personal writing, to me feels really important to get at the heart of things. And I, I never write what I already know. I write what I want to learn, or what I want to understand. And in doing that, it seems totally organic to me, to use myself, or to use scenes from everyday life, in order to amplify much bigger, greater political, ecological crises that we're facing. And so the kind of insertion of myself always feels like... People often think I'm, like, telling so much about myself. And I never feel that way. I feel like I'm carefully curating, as a writer, a series of scenes and episodes that are real, but are that in no sense exhaustive. But are selected, or curated, precisely because they help me to amplify something but I'm trying to think through or that I'm trying to express. Then you asked me another question?

Am Johal  19:34 
I guess, in terms of the stakes of the book, the quote from Gramsci was kind of a beginning point in terms of, what were you trying to do with that book?

Julietta Singh  19:45 
Okay, I love that Gramsci quote, and I was kind of obsessed with it. And I open No Archive Will Restore You with a scene in which I'm in grad school and the heat is out in my very tiny studio apartment and I'm trying to read Orientalism. And learning Said for the first time in a really concrete way, and stumbling on this quote by Gramsci that I totally didn't understand, but that I really loved. And I really, as a teacher, I love those moments. I love to tell my students about those moments where you read things, and you're like, "I don't know what the fuck this means. But I know it's amazing. And I really want to think through it. And I'm going to return to it over and over again over time, and understand it differently at different moments of my life, and at different moments of my education." And that Gramsci quote, for me was one that really stayed with me. And you know, it's wordy. It's a wordy quote, but the spirit of it is: in order to be ethical and political subjects, we have to understand ourselves as beings who are comprised of incredible historical inventory, that we can never know in full, but that we have an ethical obligation to undertake anyway. So it's an impossible archive that one needs to understand oneself in order to be very conscious and clear about what one's doing in the world. And I took that summons, and I shifted it to a kind of queer and feminist inquiry about the body. Because I was really interested in the ways in which we're trained and socialized as particularly gendered, particularly raced, particularly cultured individuals, who disavow a lot of the aspects of our everyday life. And who are trained to think about ourselves as totally contained subjects who aren't always being infiltrated from the outside and also infiltrating others. And so it's really an exploration of that, of trying to think about all of the things we're not supposed to talk about, like sex, like shitting, like anything that is meant to be private, and that has to do instrumentally with the body. But also to think about what it would mean to undo my own ideas of the body and my own training of myself as a kind of aspiring masterful subject and to really embrace another orientation and another way of being.

Am Johal  22:11 
I'm wondering, it's a long road for a young person from Winnipeg to land in the northeast at a university. I'm wondering if you can talk about your... A little bit of your upbringing in Winnipeg, and your road to academic life, in some senses. It's fascinating as a brown kid from rural BC. This is also super interesting, I think in terms of you know, how you found yourself in the way that you did, and the questions you're trying to inhabit.

Julietta Singh  22:37 
Do you want to know a secret? [laughs]

Am Johal  22:39 
Yeah.

Julietta Singh  22:40 
I was a high school dropout from Winnipeg. And I had a really amazing guidance counselor, who was so, so kind to me. And I spent most of high school in his office. I left home very young at 15, and was like crashing with friends and their families. And I stopped going to school at some point. And I didn't take any math and science—which really still shows in my life—after like, 10th grade. And he was incredible. He was like, "Look, you're a super awesome kid who's going through a really hard time. And I'm going to give you a break." And the break was, I'm going to get you to like study some stuff on the side. So he gave me this like big huge biology textbook and had me study the biology textbook, which I didn't understand at all. And I'm sure I got a 5% on that exam, but he's still passed me with a C. So he basically gave me all the grades I needed at the base minimum to get myself later into the University of Winnipeg. And so, I started undergrad at 17 at the University of Winnipeg, and I was at that point living in my sister's basement, in a very disgusting place that I still really palpably remember the smell of, and never want to smell it again. And I failed out completely because I had no study skills and hadn't completed high school properly. And then I left and I went into radio broadcasting. And I signed up for an extensive community college radio broadcasting program. That was me and 16 guys from like, small town Manitoba, who wanted to be, like, classic rock DJs. And I was like, "I'm going to be a journalist, and I'm going to change the world." And I got an internship at CJOB radio in Winnipeg. And I had a really interesting... So I was 18, I guess at the time, or 19, and I had a really interesting crisis. Because I was confident in my disposition, but I understood that I didn't know very much. And I was going off to like city hall to report on budget day, or covering really gruesome murders. And I understood that I didn't have the education to do it ethically. And I was doing it, and I was pulling it off, and nobody was questioning me, but I shouldn't have been doing it and I understood it. And so I stopped doing that. I also worked overnights for like a year at the, you know, running the overnight show. Like, it was a, it was a terrible job. And I would get really angry calls because I had to do the sports reporting. And I would say, "Spokane [spo-kaine], Washington," and then people would call and told me that I didn't know anything. And I have no, you know, eligibility to be doing the sports on radio. So anyway, I quit that. And eventually I went back to school, and I basically rolled into the office of the Chair of English. And I was probably 21 at the time. And I said, "Here's the situation, I'm going to be a Canadian Literature major. And I need to take introductory classes and advanced classes at the same time." And I just came in a little older, and a little more committed and clear, and nailed it. And then I went and did an MA at McMaster to study with Susie O'Brien, because I was a very budding eco-critical person, Can. Lit. eco-critical person. And then my professors at Mac were like, "You should go to the US." And the logic was you should go to the US because if you go to the US, you're going to be golden upon return, and you can get any job you want in Canada, and it never happened. I just finished my PhD and there were no jobs in Canada. And the job market had collapsed. And I ended up here and just never left.

Am Johal  26:23 
Oh, fascinating.

Julietta Singh  26:24 
But I'm secretly plotting a return, Am. So just let Canada know.

Am Johal  26:31 
Well, you need to come visit us in Vancouver for sure. 

Julietta Singh  26:33 
I would love to. 

Am Johal  26:34 
So you have a new book that just came out this year. Or, it's just about to.

Julietta Singh  26:39 
It's just about to, in six days. 

Am Johal  26:40 
In six days.

Julietta Singh  26:41
It's about to drop.

Am Johal  26:42 
The timeliness, the timeliness. So why don't you share with us, sort of, where this project began from? These are stories for your daughter, and definitely you're in the context of climate change and climate justice. But if you could share about what this work was about?

Julietta Singh  27:00 
Yeah, thanks. Thanks for giving me a little shout out for that imminent release. It's coming out with Coach House Books in Canada and Coffee House Press in the US on the same day. So next, next Tuesday. And the book is something that I've been wanting to write for a long time. But I had these other books that I was working on. And I think, I really loved the epistolary form, I really loved the letter form. And I was really inspired by some of what I call the Black paternal epistolary. So people like Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me, James Baldwin's letter to his nephew are really important to me. But also about Black men and Black boys tipping into manhood. And I wanted to think about a letter to my daughter, that would help her to understand the complexities of the present, and the absences of the world that we're living in. So in the United States, I write extensively about the ways that this country really lacks any kind of nuanced understanding of brownness. It's a nation that's very polarized, given the history of slavery, between a kind of national narrative discourse, that's about blackness and whiteness, and it doesn't yet fully understand how to articulate brownness, whether through indigeneity, first brownness, or through immigrant brownness. And I wanted her to understand growing up in the South, you know, she was born here in Richmond, Virginia, and was asking me in her early education questions that were really complicated about where she stood. Or where she was positioned in this education system that's so geared around a kind of black and white history. And so I wrote the book, in part with a kind of urgency in the aftermath of Trump's election in 2016. And the world that we were living in that continued up until the book was acquired, and I was doing final revisions in the pandemic, that really felt catastrophic. And I couldn't help but to think that the argument of the book, if the book can be said to have an argument, is that we've tended to, and very much been taught to think about reproduction, as a kind of reproduction of the same, but a little bit better. So if you have kids, you have kids that you hope we're going to be like you, but a little bit better off financially or psychologically, or what have you. And I wanted to imagine a kind of reproduction that is A) inherently pedagogical, like to think about parenting as pedagogy. And also to think about what it would mean to think about a pedagogical parenting that wasn't about reproducing me at all, but was geared toward my own undoing. And toward the production of something totally other, given how inextricably bound our lives are to extractive capitalism and systemic racism. And so it's a kind of experimental book insofar as it's a, it's kind of structured around a series of conversations and moments and questions between my daughter and myself in which I'm trying to think through the limits of my politics and the possibilities of teaching her something else, something that's not me. And also in that teaching, learning how to undo myself, and learning how to, kind of, mobilize with her for a future that we can survive.

Am Johal  30:30
Sounds amazing, and it was wonderful to read through it the last few days. I'm wondering if you'd be willing to read from it?

Julietta Singh  30:37 
I'd be really happy to. Do you have a— Do you want me to just start at the beginning? Or do you have a spot you want me to go to?

Am Johal  30:43 
Yeah, why don't we start at the beginning? I think that would be...

Julietta Singh  30:45 
Okay. Okay, it's called The Breaks. "In the run up to Thanksgiving last year, you learned a whitewashed story at school about how the first peoples of this land were happy to give their sacred spaces to the consumptive force of European men in the name of civilization and progress. You came home from school and unzipped your backpack, revealing with artistic pride, a picture book you had colored and stapled yourself. Your kindergarten teacher asked you to color in a little Native American girl, then a Native American boy, followed by a pilgrim girl and boy, each one garbed in their traditional attire. I admired the craft of your book, a swell of parental pride coursing through me as I witnessed the evidence of my progeny, doing and making things in the world beyond me. And I relished that you had colored all four children brown like you. As you flipped through the pages of your book, you narrated a sad story about how much the pilgrims had suffered when they arrived on this land. I felt a surge in my body, an immediate unstoppable need to explain the other forms of suffering elided by this disturbingly singular narrative. I described some of the impacts of this arrival on Indigenous peoples, the European theft of their autonomies, cultures, languages and lands. I explained that colonial practices dramatically changed how humans live in relation to this land. And I told you that this historical moment of colonial contact was crucial to understanding how we have arrived at the global ecological crisis we face today. I will never forget the way you looked at me then, your head slightly tilted to one side, your eyes wide in bewilderment. We were sitting on the landing at the top of the apartment stairs, the contents of your backpack scattered around us. "This is not what my teacher told us," you said with unmistakable agitation. I knew that for the first time you were confronting the existence of conflicting worldviews. A vital gulf between your formal education and your maternal one. "That's okay," I said, "My job as your mother is to tell you the stories differently. And to tell you other stories that don't get told at school." I pressed on to explain that history is a story based on a version of the past. "Can you hear the word story in history?" I asked. You nodded slowly, a little body in deep rumination. "These stories need to be told from the perspectives of those who have been most damaged by history. These other stories," I said, "Can teach us how to keep living." From the onset of your public education, you have been learning what it means to be American through a manicured version of history that keeps European whiteness at its centre. This form of education willfully forgets the lives that were destroyed, the bodies that were brutalized, and the cultures and traditions that were abolished or displaced to establish that center space. It tells you a singular and continuous narrative of Western capitalist expansion, obscuring the bleak fact that much of what we call progress has been a direct and unrelenting line to the wholesale destruction of the earth. Against this obliterating narrative, I gleaned from the fragments in an attempt to teach us otherwise. I scramble to harvest alternative histories omitted by the textbooks, the histories of those who have faced annihilation and lived towards survival. Learning to mother at the end of the world is an infinite toggle between wanting to make you feel safe and needing you to know that the earth and its inhabitants are facing a catastrophic crisis. This morning, you went off to school to learn discipline, to hone your reading and writing skills, to study official state history. I am at my desk sipping tea, turning over words. Tthe birds are chirping outside my window. You, me, the birds. We are all creatures living as though we have a future, as though tomorrow will continue to resemble today. Meanwhile, plans are being devised to drive the marketplace forward when the Earth's non-renewable resources are exhausted. Scientists and businessmen are plotting to colonize the moon in a relentless drive to create an alternative human habitat when this one can no longer foster us. There is no consideration of ceasing extraction, only a maniacal mission to discover other worlds to plunder. When the earth is rendered uninhabitable, when extractive capitalism leads to wholesale ecological collapse, we will not be chosen for this new other planetary world. We, along with nearly everyone else will be left in ecological destruction, to scavenge what we can from the wreckage or to perish. The truth is, I am glad not to be among the chosen ones. I know in my body, the cost of discovering new worlds, the brutal violence that accompanies the colonial mission. No, I do not want to leave this planet. What I want is another world. And when I say another world, I mean this one, toppled and reborn.

Am Johal  35:50 
Julietta, thank you so much for your generosity and sharing your beautiful words. It's such a pleasure to hear them spoken out loud by you. It's a beautiful book. I encourage everyone listening to get it, The Breaks. It's out in September. This episode will be out sometime in October, so you'll have full access to it. Julietta, thank you so much for joining us on Below the Radar.

Julietta Singh  36:13 
It was such a pleasure and I hope we get to hang out in person in real time soon. 

Am Johal  36:18 
Absolutely. You have to come to Vancouver. 

Julietta Singh  36:20 
I would very much love to. Thanks Am. 

Am Johal  36:23 
Thank you.

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Kathy Feng  36:26 
Below the Radar is a knowledge democracy podcast created by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. Thanks for listening to our conversation with Julietta Singh. Learn more about Julietta’s work and find links to her books in the show notes. There, you can also find a link to the full transcript of this conversation. Thanks again, and see you next time on Below the Radar.

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Transcript auto-generated by Otter.ai and edited by the Below the Radar team.
October 13, 2021
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