Category Archives: women

Pilgrim State and Motherland: From Migration to Homecoming

This is an essay from guest writer for Intersections, Jacqueline Walker, the author of Pilgrim State.

In 1959, as a five year old, I arrived in Southampton from Jamaica having experienced periods of separation from my mother. Like many Caribbean parents of the time, my mother had been working away, in her case in Canada, to save enough money to take her family to Britain. As children we were being united not just with our physical mother but with the country we had been taught to think of as the Mother Country. Many years later, when I began research into the construction of British Caribbean identity for a postgraduate thesis, it became clear that the confluence between Caribbean notions of mothers and Motherland with experiences of separation and reunion were not just part of my personal childhood history. The work of Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, amongst others, has explored the response of Black British people to migration and colonialism. My intention here is to examine one strand of this thinking, with particular reference to a number of literary works, Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners and my own book Pilgrim State in order to better understand the ways that the experience of migration and settlement for people of Caribbean descent has changed over the last sixty years.


The effects of enslavement on the relationship to ‘self’ has been commented on by writers such as CLR James and Franz Fanon. For more than two hundred years people of African descent had their bodies and minds enslaved through a number of violent and subtle stages that internalised oppression, making bearable what was, in reality, insufferable. However, people will always subvert oppression and Africans were not passive victims; they never have been, they rebelled, not just through acts of open revolt, such as those which occurred in Barbados or Haiti[1]. In every day life enslaved peoples subverted the power of the plantocracy, developing coded, highly mobile language systems, casting spells, corrupting food and saboutaging work schedules. However, one of the most effective and least known modes of resistance was the action taken by women in relation to their own reproduction. Control of fertility was, not surprisingly, a central arena for conflict; the issue being not simply how many children a woman would have, but when they would be born, who the father would be and the eventual fate of those children. Continue reading


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The Blunders of Multiculturalism in Germany

by editor Sanaz Raji

Recently I read of a court decision regarding Nisha, a 26 year old Moroccan living in Germany. Nisha filed for an early divorce on the grounds that her husband was beating her. However, the court decision produced a shocking surprise– the female judge, following the logic of multiculturalism, said that Nisha (and other Muslim women residing with their Muslim spouses in Germany) should “expect” to be beaten, citing what I believe is a poor translation of the Qu’ran stating that a man has the right to “corporal punishment”. This absolute reading of Sura 4, verse 34, as allowed for Muslim women to be treated as Johannas Hari puts “reduced to third-class citizens stripped of core legal protections – because of the doctrine of multiculturalism, which says a society should be divided into separate cultures with different norms according to ethnic origin.” I’ve put an a link to his excellent article on this topic-  Continue reading

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Food and the Paradox of Abundance

Here’s a brief summary of Brigida Marovelli’s research about food habits and food choice among three generations of Italian women in an urban context.


by Brigida Marovelli


Next to breathing, eating is perhaps the most essential of all human activities, and one with which much of social life is entwined.” (Mintz & De Bois, 2002:102).


Food habits and their complexity

Nowadays there is a relevant public debate about food policy, food security, and biodiversity, as well as about dieting, physical activity and health (Waxman 2004).

Globalisation is characterized by the growth of city economies and consequently the increase of urbanisation and migration. Obesity is one of the major public health concern of both high-income countries and of developing countries, as people are “exposed to increased availability and aggressive promotion of processed, inexpensive food – generally high in fats, sugar and salt – but reduced access and affordability of fruits and vegetables (Waxman 2004:59)”. Additionally a fall of the high energy expenditure activities, such as farming, mining or forestry, due primarily to urbanisation, has modified the lifestyle toward a more sedentary one. Another consequence of urbanisation is the reduction of the time dedicated to the preparation of food, encouraging the introduction of highly processed foods. All these factors have contributed to a massive increase in overweight and obesity both in urban and in rural areas (Monteiro et al. 2004), with a consequential proliferation of non-communicable diseases, that aggravates the burden of health systems (Waxman 2004). Lang defines under the label of nutrition transition the transfers of dietary patterns and of health profiles from one area to another (Lang 1999). Nutritionists usually refer to transition from high-income countries to low- or medium-income countries (Popkin 2001), focusing essentially on the burgerisation (Lang 1999).

I believe that food choice should be seen as a complex phenomenon, in which different layers of meaning and different social pressures interact. Food is strictly related to the way people perceive their body and their ideas about health. This means food is related to identity, to who we perceive we are. Continue reading

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Conference-Festival on ‘Writing Resistance: The Literature of Exile’

21 June 2007, The Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA

An full day of discussion, debate, and performances organised by Exiled Writers Ink! in association with English Pen and Amnesty International.

For a detailed programme and registration see

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