The Art of Politics

In honor of our 20th anniversary, we wanted to share our perspectives on crafting this vibrant issue, which features poetry by Bushra RehmanPurvi ShahYaliniDream and Ather Zia, along with a photo essay by Sabelo Narasimhan. Together, these pieces highlight the diversity of voices in the diaspora, ranging from Narasimhan’s visual documentation of protests against New York City’s Stop-and-Frisk policy to Rehman’s tongue-in-cheek take on break-ups.

Last year when we put out a call for submissions for a 20th anniversary issue, the response from artists was considerable. We see this anniversary issue as a reflection of how important art-making is to social change. Creativity is the life breath that keeps us moving in the direction we wish to take our politics. Indeed, if anything has been revealed over the last twenty years, it is that violence and injustice perpetuate differently, yet cyclically—pain is a continued part of political and social struggle. But the arts offerings here demonstrate the need for us to rely on and share messages of hope. These works are archives in themselves. They capture the history of a movement, while bridging generations and illuminating a sustainable future. So we present this issue as an offering of words and images—as a complex collage of our pasts, presents and futures—simultaneously tragic and hopeful. Since many of the featured artists began their careers around the same time as the founding of SAMAR, we asked each contributor to write about their own creative and political evolution in a brief statement that introduces their work. The intricacy of emotions, and the individual and social identities that unfold in these artist reflections, in turn, reflects the complexity of the progressive South Asian movement that informs the work of SAMAR.

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we encourage you to not only read this issue, but to flip back through previous issues, as well. Today, through the extraordinary work of SAADA: The South Asian American Digital Association, we can revisit the initial years of SAMAR as a print magazine. This virtual archive documents the different forms and critical frameworks that have shaped SAMAR over its twenty years. SAMAR originally emerged in the winter of 1992, out of the efforts of a few individuals who were frustrated with academic analyses of South Asian issues that remained inaccessible to most communities on the subcontinent and across the diaspora. As the first issue of SAMAR was going to print, Hindu extremists demolished the Babri Masjid-- part of a disconcerting rise in communalism across South Asia. As a result, SAMAR’s editorial collective shifted the forum topic of the second issue to focus on the roots and manifestations of communalism. Then, as now, SAMAR aims to provide a venue for writers, journalists, artists and concerned citizens of the world to publish accessible progressive and radical critiques of conservative politics.  

As we move into our 21st year, SAMAR is excited about continuing to present insightful analysis about South Asian movements and struggles. We are finding new ways of working as a collective—one currently held down by a core group of women volunteers living across varied times zones, juggling the demands of balancing family and social justice work. As such, we have decided to shift the magazine to a quarterly format. We will continue to respond to current issues related to South Asia and the diaspora and to be a key source of radical perspectives on topics like militarization, communalism, women’s rights, workers’ rights and war.

Our next issue, due to come out in May, will be focused on women & gender-based violence. We are seeking articles on the recent events in Delhi, along with reflections on violence, the women’s movement, and the resurgence of youth activism, both in South Asia and the diaspora. The deadline for submissions is March 31st.  

We look forward to another twenty years and to hearing from you.

In the struggle,

The SAMAR Editorial Collective:

Beena Ahmad
Sulekha Gangopadhyay
Surabhi Kukke
Ahalya Satkunaratnam
Anantha Sudhakar
Saba Waheed

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