Insurgent Tongues

In a time of rising authoritarian leaderships around the globe, dismantling the myriad languages of domination—from explicit militarized lexicons to insidious vestiges of colonialism—is vital. The Insurgent Tongues folio interrogates the insurgent nature of language and languages of (counter)insurgency while working to unsettle the absoluteness of power in all forms. Organized into three sections, the folio explores linguistic multiplicity and complicity, the role of contextualized time and space, and the ever-present relationship between the personal and the political.

Accompanying each piece of writing in the folio is an artwork by Sa’dia Rehman. Sa’dia is a Queens-born multidisciplinary artist who draws upon the self as shaped by homes in post-Gulf War New Jersey, pre&post- 9/11 New York City, and the Trump-era Midwest. Sa’dia grew up in a family, neighborhood and world where languages weaved into one another: Urdu, Hindko, Pashto, Punjabi, Bangla, Hindi, Spanish, Greek, Italian, English. This collage of language is reflected in her visual use of material. Through multiple medias that include works on paper, assemblages, and wall drawings, Sa’dia grapples with the constraints and possibilities of self and collective making as well as issues of representation, war, power, race, and gender centered on the family unit.

Even the Persians are now Showing Signs of Demanding a Constitutional Government, 2019, velvet, Islamic prayer mats, artist’s and artist’s sister’s jeans on gessoed drop cloth, 90 x 59 inches. Photo credit to Grace E. Bowen

It’s not the bullet that makes you bolt, / but the very words /
emerging from the muzzle’s restraint / the classroom in disguise

How does violence blossom // What’s known must be made unknown

Is every english word I pull from my mouth a child screaming / over the soft chants of ma and nanni ma?

a land mistaken for a people is a people / objectified as spoils of the land

I forced myself to tell her to accept it and think of it as entering into a new theater. Turn it into raw material and endure to write about it.

/ Pərˈ(h)aps / preceding us, one ballad to each tongue,
oh, / ‘absəˌlōō(y)tlē /, we refrained from singing

& if the speaker does not know that this language is faulty, then the speaker has been secretly muzzled

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