Some Notes On … is a section which features my autoethnographic fieldnotes as I document my thoughts throughout different parts of my PhD project. Here, I write about the text resources discussed in our podcast episode.

For Episode 12, You Want To See Yourself In That Story: The Impact Of Religion And Regional Origin, we discussed the following texts:

1) TV show episode – Doctor Who: Demons of the Punjab 

There are hints of Partition at the beginning of the episode – an offhanded comment about how the roads aren’t safe. The impacts of Partition and colonisation are still being felt till today. The episode explores different national and regional origin and how it is important in different contexts. Indians and Pakistanis in their home countries may have different relationships/perceptions of each other than in a third country like the UK. 

The episode focuses on Prem and Manish, two Hindu brothers. Hindu-Muslim marriages were and still are considered problematic because of the history of divide and rule the Empire subjected its colonised subjects to. The communal violence we get hints of in the episode, we can see even 70 years later. The characters talk about how arbitrary borders feel when you’ve grown up in one place and have your identity tied to that place only to suddenly be told your religion means you have to move.  I can’t even imagine how it felt for people then in what became India and Pakistan and East Pakistan. Of course, this is still a hugely contentious issue – the arbitrariness of borders and the arrogance of imperial attitudes in Kashmir and the North East of India. Prem blames the British for potential conflict in India – thanks to their slapdash partition over six weeks and thoughtlessness born of ignorance and lack of care.

“Men without a clue are imposing a border like a crack through our country.” – Ambarin

Ambarin who has lived through wars and droughts simply because a country with guns took over a country without them to exploit labour and resources – something that’ can be seen around the world. And it’s something we still feel the impacts of with the line between developed and developing countries. Why are we developing? Who developed and why? And now the oppressed have become the oppressors in the case of India and its attitudes to marginalised groups of people – reflecting ongoing cycles of trauma and abuse.

My quote from the episode notes: God Manish is such an asshole. What combination of things makes people like this? These attitudes aren’t restricted to a particular region either. Fear and hatred of difference of migrants and immigrants is unfortunately a worldwide phenomenon, throughout history. Manish is portrayed as the Hindutva terrorist predecessor, one of whom, of course, killed Gandhi. He declares that Pakistan is for muslims and India for Hindus. These binaries leave no room for nuance and complexity and it means that even now, Muslims are seen to be traitors in India whose loyalties lie with our neighbour. Manish thinks Ambarin and all Muslims no longer belong in India. Tragically, this isn’t even an obsolete attitude. Ordinary households were and are torn apart along lines of religion. Ordinary people whipped into a frenzy of violence – is this any different from what’s happening now? 

Manish kills the Hindu sadhu so that he can’t marry his brother to a Muslim woman, a woman he grew up with. He leads a bunch of Hindutva terrorists to his home to get rid of his Muslim neighbours and to take over the land.

“They’re checking the land for people who don’t belong.” – Manish.

Who decides who belongs? Manish believes Prem and Kunal (his other brother who was killed in the war) fought for religious segregation not integration. This is a bit like how fascists today hark back to glorious military history forgetting the lessons inherent in that history. They pick and choose narrow aspects to focus on without understanding the context of that history. 

Ambarin wanted to start new traditions after independence. She went on to marry a Hindu man she loves officiated by a strange woman she doesn’t know (the Doctor) – so she sort of did. Ambarin also thinks Sheffield sounds like an exotic world in a throwaway line which made me laugh and love how England isn’t centered. Growing up, the England of Enid Blyton and the Britain of Harry Potter did feel like an exotic world to me. 

 

2) Fan podcast – Verity: Angels and Demons of the Punjab

Indian history of the Partition isn’t taught even in many parts of the UK – though Britain was directly responsible for the consequences. Forget Partition, even the more brutal parts of the British Empire is erased in history classrooms in the UK. As one of the hosts says, it’s an optional part of some history curricula. This feeds into the narrative of imagined historical glories and ends up with people romanticising the British Empire and its propaganda of bringing civilisation to the savages. 

The episode deals with the idea of history itself – how there is no one single version and it depends on who’s telling the story and the history. Even that is highly subjective since only one group of people decides what is true in mainstream imaginations. What we know about history isn’t necessarily true, not unless you undertake some comprehensive research. 

The Scottish co-host talks about how while the Empire isn’t glorified by the Scottish people, they distance themselves from their role and success in the Empire.  There needs to be nuance in their role both as victims and oppressors. The Scottish themselves were colonised by the English and their language and culture was attempted to be erased. However, they were colonisers as well and benefited hugely from the Empire and the slave trade. Their denial about their role in the British Empire, but enjoying its accompanying benefits of the profits from the resources of the countries they colonised, continues to this day. She also gives a brief history lesson based on her own research of the Partition and the British role in it as well as the role played by the Muslims and Hindus. She discusses the many different stories – those who wanted one state, those who wanted two, violence and disappearance and mass migration, moderates and extremists on both sides, fear of being oppressed by the other side. This issue wouldn’t exist if Britain hadn’t colonised India and directly led to the impoverishment of an old, rich civilisation by “sucking out the wealth like leeches”. Because that’s what colonisation does – it preys on rich countries to steal from them. She also offers a brief history of Indians fighting in World War II – over a million Indians fought to get independence from the British Empire in exchange. 

The hosts acknowledge they’re three white ladies talking about something which didn’t impact them. They went to look for South Asian responses to the episode and also found historical resources. They signpost the documentary: The Day India Burned (+ other Vinay Patel’s research resources). 

Using stories and science fiction and fantasy to raise awareness about real-world history can make these historical events more impactful – especially when it focuses on individual stories which move them beyond mere statistics. 

They mention how Ambarin as an older woman was such a great character – especially since older women of colour are so rare. They talk about how we know the religions of very few Doctor Who companions – or indeed the faith of the Doctor themselves. We know Yaz is Muslim but we don’t know if it’s religiously Muslim or culturally Muslim. For example, I would consider myself an atheist who is culturally Hindu because I grew up in a Hindu family in a Hindu context. There have been very few writers of colour in the history of Doctor Who – Malorie Blackman with Rosa was the first and now there’s Vinay Patel. This seems to have been a very popular episode on both the Doctor Who podcasts I listen to as well as on the internet at large – or at least the responses I encountered. 

The politics of Veteran’s Day in the US/UK – it’s become a thing which harks back to glories of the military past without interrogating the cruelties of this military occupation of different countries around the world. Wearing the poppies has now been linked to aggressive nationalism. This is similar to India currently where the army plays such a outsized role in the idea of patriotism without actually caring about the lives and circumstances of soldiers themselves. 

Different cultural contexts means that people have different priorities and preferences. What is important or not depends on which country you’re in/which part of the country you’re in. This would be great if one didn’t try to impose its way of life/culture/language/whatever on another. Assimilation into the dominant culture versus just having your own culture a part of the dominant culture is something many societies continue to grapple with – something which is going to be even more important as different environmental, economic and political factors drive migration. 

The episode ends with the Scottish co-host asserting that the unsavoury bits of their history – including imperialism and racism – needs to be a part of their history so that people can come to terms with it and make amends for it. Germany does acknowledge the dark part of their history and they’re better off for it. 

 

3) Fan podcast – Witch, Please: Witch, Please and the Rise of White Nationalism

Marcel had to re-title her talk about Harry Potter and the Rise of Fascism to Harry Potter and Social Justice at a fan expo to prevent being mobbed by white supremacists. This reminds me of India where you have you be so careful about your cultural events and talks. Muslim events/Pakistani speakers have been attacked by Hindutva goons; movies like Padmavati have been boycotted and protested.  Fragile Hindu sentiments, despite being the dominant group in the country, are forever ready to be offended. This also affects universities and writers and other parts of arts and culture. 

Marcel likes talking to fan expos because presenting at academic conferences reaches very few people since they’re so sparsely attended whereas fan expos about popular topics like Harry Potter reach a lot of people. This is similar to my podcast/research aim – to make academic ideas and research more accessible to people. Academic conferences are also expensive – you have to pay to attend, often quite a lot of money. Academia makes everything so ridiculously inaccessible! Marcel also likes interacting with non-academics to get out of the academic bubble, a bubble which academics who engage with popular culture often fall into where they end up only talking to each other about theory rather than engage with fans who don’t necessarily articulate the theory but engage in practice of the theory. Fans also have valuable insights to offer which come from multiple experiences, backgrounds and perspectives. Again, this is something my project is trying to explore. Sometimes academics also look in limited places for resources (for example historical archives rather than on a place like Twitter) and miss out on fan communities who are engaging with the text in different ways. For some people, the idea of being a public facing academic is engaging and fun and an important way to reach the communities they are a part of/studying/including in their research. Other academics would rather think of academia as separate from the public. Marcel advices academics who don’t want to engage with the public to not do it but not wear their academic hat on a public platform like Twitter where people may expect academic engagement from them. People are tired of being talked down to by academics, especially academic writing that is verbose and jargon-laden. The host propose that the difference between journalist and public intellectuals is the latter want to think deeply about ideas and complexities and invite feedback and disagreement and other kinds of conversation.

Germany is an example of a society which has come back from totalitarianism – maybe something to be hopeful about the future as so many countries are run by authoritarian leaders. 

The hosts make fun of the link between free speech and democracy – something that is definitely taken over the public discourse in the US and something which is awful in India in terms of the rampant and very mainstream Islamaphobia, classism and casteism. When I was listening to this episode, I couldn’t help but think about the Kent RO advertisement about maidservants which implied they might be responsible for spreading disease in otherwise clean homes + the meme which linked reservation to COVID-19 demanding that the pandemic should target people from OBC-SC-ST backgrounds first – they’re reserved for the disease. 

The talk discusses Harry Potter and the link to rise in white nationalism hate crimes in the US, Canada and the UK. In India, this is Hindutva versus Islam which is the parallels I was mostly drawing on. Harry Potter teaches lessons about fascism, how to be allies and how to fight fascism. A lot of protests and activists from certain backgrounds use the Harry Potter framework by drawing on these themes and characters. Recently in India with the anti-Citizenship Amendment Bill, there was a post drawing parallels between the Muggle-Born Registration Commission and the CAA.

The talk covers four points – what fascism looks like, how it uses existing systems of power – media and democracy, how to be an ally, how to fight back. The Potterverse uses allegories to fascism – rise of Voldemort, a fascist dictator. This is much more apparent in the Fantastic Beasts films with Grindelwald which made me think of parallels with Modi. I think Modi and the BJP are much more of a fascist government than the situation in the US and the UK; the latter two might be heading there – definitely the US with its response to the Black Lives Matter protests – but we’re already there. The political resisters in HP are called Undesirables – like anti-nationals in India. 

Once Voldemort rises, Diagon Alley is a wasteland, shopkeepers and anybody else who seems to have sympathies with the resistance are disappeared or forced to work for Voldemort – like the students being arrested in India for protesting CAA or the doctor who was sent to a mental hospital for challenging the government on the lack of its COVID-19 prep. Preparing for this episode is making me much more depressed than I would have imagined. 

The education system is also used to prop up fascism – Hogwarts attendance is mandatory and half-blood students are segregated – like what BJP does with its shakhas and how it’s rewriting history books in schools as well as in the architecture of the country – renaming roads, building statues, pushing a narrative of the Mughals (but doesn’t really seem to have a problem with the Empire which was much worse for India?). Muslim and Dalit students are targeted. 

Role of media where The Daily Prophet presents Ministry approved messages without any critical thinking or any criticism – again, what we see happening in media today in India where Islamophobia and propaganda and outright lies are pushed. Media is supposed to hold the media to account and question and challenge their claims. I think citizens also need to do this. But now in India, the mere questioning of anything the government does is tarnished as anti-national and unworthy of existence – what happened in Kashmir, what happened in Delhi – propaganda against Muslims. 

Death Eaters believe in blood purity and consider some witches and wizards better than others; Muggles, Muggle-borns and other magical people (OMP – a term I first heard on The Gayly Prophet) aren’t even seen as human. How is this different from Hindutva terrorists? 

How fascism intersects with gender-based violence – in the books, Bertha Jorkins, Mrs Roberts in Goblet of Fire are targets. Similar in India where Muslim or “anti-national” women who dare question male authority often bear the brunt of the anger. Since Muggles are used as a metaphor for race, the series doesn’t explore the intersection with racialised violence which is where Hermione being racebent can offer more nuanced insights. 

Marcel points out that the Ministry of magic under Fudge isn’t that different from the Ministry of Magic under Voldemort – just less extreme and less overtly bigoted. This is similar to Congress in India. There is no coherent sense of justice and utter lack of human rights considerations when it comes to imprisonment and torture by Dementors (Sirius – POA, Hagrid – COS, Harry – OOTP) + the treatment of Other Magical People like goblins, house elves, centaurs, giants and werewolves. 

Voldemort does use violence and intimidation but he is also very easily able to raise an army to take over the Ministry – just like Grindelwald is able to raise an army in France to fight the Muggles. It’s similar to those Hindus in India who have always had latent Islamophobia but are now much more comfortable voicing this and benefiting from this system. The Weasleys benefit from their pureblood status too – similar to Hindu resisters now (a person beaten up recently who was then told by the mob that they thought he was Muslim). Existing systems of power are designed to privilege a certain group of people already; this is taken advantage of by fascist dictators – Fudge led to Voldemort. 

Since we read the books from Harry’s point of view, we like to think we would do what he did and stand up to fascism. But this isn’t always as easy in real life. Acknowledging your privilege and using this to protect the marginalised people to even begin being an ally is difficult. The Weasleys are good allies. Ron grows up in a wizard supremacist society and internalises some of these ideas (about werewolves, goblins, house elves) but then grows to unlearn some of these problematic ideas thanks to his friendships and his growing awareness of the injustice of the magical world and the existing systems of oppression. Hermione, on the other hand, protects the vulnerable such as Lupin’s werewolf secret and house elves with SPEW because as an oppressed outsider to this system, she recognises others who are also marginalised just as she is – solidarity amongst differently marginalised people.

Different skills to resist – knit (as Hermione does), making protest signs, cooking (Shaheen Bagh) – working together with different skills and abilities and bringing them all together in the resistance movement. In India, different ways of doing this including the kidlit community. 

Alternative media like The Quibbler and Potterwatch raise awareness and resist facism – we see this with Indian media like Scroll, The Wire, The News Minute as well as social media documentation and amplification of news.

Intersections of race (or caste in an Indian context), religion, class, regional/national origin (migrant crisis during COVID-19 – people abroad had a much easier time travelling back home to India than labourers back to their villages – and the former were treated with more compassion and dignity).

The nonsensical first audience question which Marcel shut down asked about a rise in hate crime hoaxes! The All Lives Matter to a Black Lives Matter conversation! UGH whataboutery. 

Another audience question was what makes the wizarding world vulnerable to fascism? Just like our world, society seems to be very invested in protecting some forms of power – white people, wizards/witches, blood purity, upper caste Hindus. “An insistence that difference is bad and not something to be celebrated.” The fear of difference being a part of the structural framework of the society  leading to lack of respect and equality for everyone.

The hosts talk about how vulnerable but important it is to share anti-bigoted and inclusive things on social media networks like Facebook where you have people who you don’t know very well and may not share your political opinion. I think it’s easy to make fun of “armchair activism” but I think this sort of conversation is also important – to share things which are important and to hopefully introduce people to new ways of thinking beyond their echo chamber. At the same time, I’m guilty of just deleting people who are super bigoted and I find it really difficult to call people out on their nonsense because I become very emotional about it.

 

4) Fan podcast – Harry Potter and the Sacred Text Owl Post Edition: How to Be in Community with Burns Stanfield [listen till 19 minutes 52 seconds]

(I’ve already used this episode as a text for Episode 3, so I’m supplementing the notes I made then with these new ones. For the old notes, click here.)

During the pandemic quarantine, it was difficult to find in-person community beyond your own household. Then, more than ever, I understood the need for finding communities in different contexts – religion and beyond. In India, this community has recently shown itself through all those people with privilege coming together in different ways to look after the most vulnerable people in the country – migrant labourers, neighbours who didn’t have access to things like food or medicines etc. In the UK too, community groups were looking after vulnerable people in their neighbourhoods. Of course, it’s not always good. Situations like this can also lead to selfishness and panic and fear and hatred – which it did do too. But, as an eternal optimist, I like to think about the positives. 

It’s difficult to be vulnerable about your emotions and feelings with people and easier to just sit with these feelings by yourself. But going beyond that initial mental block is so important. I’m especially thinking of it in terms of the mental health impact of the quarantine and how it has affected people differently. I became socially disconnected from everyone for a few weeks until a couple of my friends checked up on me aggressively and it broke that mental block and respond to them. However, even now, I still feel the effects of my pandemic brain going into self-isolation thanks to anxiety and depression which didn’t manifest in quite this way earlier. As the Reverend says, it’s sometimes easier to be by yourself especially when you don’t have the energy to socialise because of stress or anxiety or whatever. But talking to people is so valuable.

People use art and stories to make sense of the world. Communities come together to treat a text as sacred in different ways and contexts – as they do with Harry Potter. I like the idea of community where you take some time to be together with someone else for some time a week/month just as a form of practising love. Travelling, reading and making this podcast are ways for me to do this to a degree. 

 

5) Fan podcast – Harry Potter and the Sacred Text Owl Post Edition: Reclaiming Tradition with Professor Matt Potts [listen till 20ish minutes]

(I’ve already used this episode as a text for Episode 3, so I’m supplementing the notes I made then with these new ones. For the old notes, click here.)

Like Casper, I also had a negative opinion of tradition, because it has been used to exclude and commit physical/psychological/structural violence against marginalised groups of people. I think a balance between old traditions and new traditions is so necessary all over the world, especially in India – to challenge bigoted and misogynist ideas.

A lot of religious texts were written thousands of years ago and reflected the values then. How can these be reoriented to reflect values now? It’s the same with fictional canon. It features the limited perspective of just one creator with the associated blind-spots. Tradition can be seen as flexible and dynamic through retellings which highlight contemporary values and the acknowledgement that these texts are always available to be changed. You can do this through academia as well as art and stories and culture. 

Traditions of marriage – who can get married and how – have evolved. However, some people still cling to one version of tradition and resist change – not just gay and inter-racial marriages, but in India inter-religious, inter-caste, inter-class too. In many parts of the country, people are killed for marrying the wrong kind of person for the sake of so-called honour under the dubious title “honour killings”. 

A lot of the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text listeners aren’t religious but use religious practices suggested by the podcast to treat Harry Potter as a sacred text and to more deeply connect with the themes, characters and books + draw parallels to their own lives and societies. 

Depending on which part of the world/country you’re in, different religions are dominant and different ones are marginalised – how do you negotiate with that while being inclusive? How do I love the world better? Religion is just one context through which to practise this – stories are such an important way to do this and religious texts can recognise this.

 

6) Fan podcast – Harry Potter and the Sacred Text Special Edition: Owl Post and Broderick Greer [listen till 18ish minutes]

(I’ve already used this episode as a text for Episode 3, so I’m supplementing the notes I made then with these new ones. For the old notes, click here.)

I like this idea of people speaking back to the text – especially when the text/its creator have a sense of power – both religious or cultural texts, especially when it is done by those who otherwise don’t have a voice. In India, I wonder if plays and skits serve this function with things like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata where people in towns and villages – big and small – create their own versions of the stories by using the familiar story skeleton but adding their own themes and priorities. 

 

7) Fan podcast – Fan podcast – #WizardTeam: Pottermore Edition Part 3 History of Magic in North America

Johnnie Jae is a guest from an indigenous background who engages with a lot of popular culture and its intersection with native American tribes and runs the website A Tribe Called GeekThe hosts invited Johnnie to talk about the Magic in North America series on Pottermore because they wanted to highlight a voice which was actually impacted by it. 

Native people are rarely included. When they are included, it’s usually through problematic representations rife with stereotypes. For this reason, Johnnie was a bit wary of the articles at the outset but had faith in J. K. Rowling whose books address prejudice and activism. She was disappointed by how even there they are always portrayed as primitive people perpetuating false ideas of the culture. There is no monolithic Native Americal culture – there are diverse tribes with their own unique cultures, languages, histories. But media pushes just a singular narrative of Native Americans which reflected in Rowling’s representation. 

One of the stereotypes is that Native Americans are mystical, magical people who don’t actually exist in contemporary USA. Their culture isn’t fantasy but is often represented as such. Other people of colour face similar problems in a white supremacist colonised society. Native cultures are frequently exoticised and treated like they’re museum exhibits rather than living people.

Media exposes people to a certain stereotypical idea of Native Americans without including the nuances and complexities of the culture – shows lack of research and respect. 

In Anne With An E, the Christian missionaries tried to brutally assimilate Native children like Ka’kwet into the Christian norm – a piece of Canadian history where they were stolen from their families and sent to residential schools similar to the Aboriginals in Australia. Her language, name, hair, clothes – all aspects of her culture was stripped away from her and her very identity was taken. The idea that Natives needed to be civilised – Anne With An E, I think, did a good job of educating people about the history and also positioned Anne and Gilbert as trying to learn about the culture, its practices, its medicine without being judgemental about it and treating it with dignity and respect, counter to the others in their community. 

Killing native people wasn’t considered wrong – people were paid to do it. There was no sense of justice for them. Children being stolen to be sent into boarding schools/adopted by white people was their version of “the Native problem” being solved. 

I couldn’t help but draw parallels with Indian tribal and rural cultures. Their ways of knowledge and medicine and culture are dismissed and their connection with the land is ignored. They aren’t considered as equal citizens, especially when compared to the wealthier, urban people. The Indian government acts as a colonial force. The commodification and appropriation of tribal cultures – it’s the same with Indian artisans as well. Urban upper-class shops and artists will mark up these products and sell them without having this money go back to the people who made them. Some people are working against this, of course. The financial impact on artisans is great when these products are produced cheaply by others which means the artisans can’t make a living off their work and the time and effort they put into it isn’t recognised. 

Writers from indingeous communities writing their own stories is important since these stories are missing in mainstream media. Learning through marginalised experiences when something like Rowling’s articles come to light is also important. It is a valuable source of education though it is harmful for these groups to always have to engage with these ideas which are so dismissive of them. 

 

8) Essay – Thor: Ragnarok is a Hilarious Blockbuster About the Evils of Imperialism

The perils of being erased from history can be witnessed through Hela and the damage she wreaks. It’s a bit similar to being falsely represented in history and the impact this misrepresentation has now. Hela’s existence is erased, Loki’s heritage is hidden – both cause damage in different ways because of their true stories being replaced by false narratives. Meanwhile, Odin perpetuates the story of his benevolence. There’s also the intersections of gender and power when it comes to Hela. Who is allowed to wield power? Whose stories are written out of history? Whose power is bound up so it can’t be used? 

Along with Hela, this deliberately constructed history (as much of history is – deliberately constructed, that is) destroys the Valkyries too. There is no female power in the kingdom of Asgard. It’s similar to history of female participation, agitation, resistance, leadership, warriors  being wiped out especially when it comes to women from colonised cultures.

This is a real tactic that powerful countries and peoples employ in an effort to ignore their own participation in subjugation, colonialism, and systems of privilege. History books get rewritten so that events are more palatable. Stories are told to highlight the kindness and inherent rightness of the victors. Holidays are created for people who did abominable things. Resources are mined and historical artifacts are stolen away at night… and those things are never returned or paid for in kind. As Hela says to Thor, standing in the Asgardian throne room—“Where do you think all this gold came from?”

People coming together to fight a fascist/dictatorial/colonial power in the movie is very relevant to current times. The Asgardians become refugees – similar to Aang becoming a refugee in Avatar: The Last Airbender as well as the Doctor as the last Time Lord. This is complicated by the fact that the Doctor is also a stand-in for British imperialism so he’s both victim and beneficiary. People and countries are destroyed on the whims of a ruler/the powerful few and systems of power always oppress huge groups of people. 

Their fear of being toppled from their seat of power means that the other realms are relatively at their mercy when it comes to aid and peacekeeping (aside from Earth, which Asgard seems to have decided to leave alone after driving out the Frost Giants, probably because of its perceived primitiveness). This is also a tactic used by powerful groups in order to maintain their positions of privilege—when empires abandon their colonies, many of these places suffer economic collapse and upheaval, and Asgard’s withdrawal results in much of the same.

Control over terminology is key for people who want to maintain power. It’s part of the reason that no one wants to be labeled as “Nazis” or “fascists” even when their group ideology is directly influenced by Nazi or fascist beliefs—no one wants the bad PR. The Grandmaster can still be a good guy, even if he keeps slaves to fight in an arena for the sake of distracting the masses with entertainment… just as long as he doesn’t call those poor souls “slaves.”

Not just the extremists but also movements like BlackLivesMatter which is being co-opted into All Lives Matter – people who don’t think themselves as racist but who benefit from their privilege and use this to oppress others – Amy Cooper calling cops against a black man for being filmed in the park breaking the rules 

It is hardly surprising that Taika Waititi has pulled all of these threads together to finally give better context to the cost of Asgard’s rule, and the power wielded by many across Marvel’s galaxy. The Maori director, who carefully wove in references to make certain that aboriginal culture was reflected in the film, who made certain that it was shot in Australia and that Indigenous Australians and New Zealanders were hired for the production, has a direct understanding of how imperialism affects the people who are absorbed by or suffer beneath it. Ragnarok is not interested in maintaining the story sold in Thor, that Asgard is a gleaming beacon of culture and advancement led by fair-minded noble aliens who only interfere when their might is helpful to others. Asgard was built on the bones of the people it slaughtered, and no amount of paint can cover that up.

Colonialism has impacted different countries in different ways but still continues to benefit the colonisers – even when their countries are in flames. This actively needs to be dismantled through different aspects of life – culture, economy, society, politics – the stories we tell ourselves shape our lives. The American empire treats war as a capitalist enterprise by looking for oil and resources in different countries and finding ways to destabalise these countries so that it can profit. This is supplemented by American cultural imperialism with food, movies, etc. taking over different countries all over the world. The idea of American freedom and democracy doesn’t hold up when you look at its own borders. When it comes to refugees and the climate crisis, many parts of the world have already been impacted by this and have been left to fend for themselves. People either flee or are subject to conflict in their home countries born out of lack of options. Which refugees matter and where? In India, only Hindu refugees currently seem to matter.

 

9) Fan podcast – Our Opinions Are Correct: What’s the matter with Star Wars? (listen from 32 minutes 29 seconds to 37ish minutes)

This articulates the thoughts I had while listening to the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text excerpts. As an atheist, I use fandom and stories to draw parallels with religion, though I do wish there was an in-person fan community I could be a part of. Or even just a community built on shared interests because that’s the part of religion I am most attracted by. Not just congregating to pray or discuss the text but also other little offshoots built on your interactions and relationships with each other – where you meet people you wouldn’t otherwise have encountered from diverse backgrounds. It reminds me of the Love and Monsters episode of Doctor Who where the group meets to discuss the mystery of the Doctor but ends up forming strong bonds of friendship and community (until *spoiler alert* they’re all subsumed by the alien, of course).