A Small Place – Text Review

Jamaica Kincaid’s, A Small Place, tells the story of present day Antigua and how it has been shaped by British colonialism.  Despite being a popular tourist destination for Westerners, the real Antigua is described by the book’s narrator (and author) as corrupt and dilapidated.  Because this book deals with post-colonialism, I couldn’t help but think about Ahmad’s critique on Jameson’s Third World literature theory.  Although Kincaid writes about the effects of slavery and colonialism, she does so in her own voice and on her own terms.  Her work should not be disregarded as third world lit just because she talks about colonialism.  Likewise, her experiences should not be viewed as a single story of what life is like in Antigua.  According to the author, Antigua is a place ruined by the aftermath of slavery and British rule.  She describes that many of the major businesses were run by white people, some of whom refused to serve blacks or even respect their humanity.  The Mill Reef Club was one of these places and was built and run by Americans who wanted to use Antigua as a vacation spot.  They only allowed blacks into the club as servants and otherwise wanted nothing to do with the people living there.  Kincaid describes the owners as “unchristian-like” and  inhuman animals with bad manners (Kincaid 28).  Thus, she uses words a colonist might say about a slave to expose the white residents’ unabashed racism in a town that is not their own. 

Kincaid also condemns the tourists who visit Antigua for its tropical climate and beauty.  She assumes a western audience and directly calls out the reader by using “you”.  She writes that we tourists ignore the injustices we see and marvel at the quaint, impoverished lifestyles of the inhabitants.  In doing so, she lumps us (western tourists) together and constructs us as Other.  On the contrary, Kincaid also describes how Antiguans are Othered in their own home as a result of British colonial rule.  She writes that Antiguans were forced to speak English, follow British rules, and celebrate British holidays.  In this way, Antiguains can be thought of as subaltern.  Kincaid writes about the pain and humiliation of having to talk about the horrors of colonial rule in the language of their oppressors.  She says that “the language of the criminal can explain and express the deed only from the criminals point of view. It cannot contain the horror of the deed…” (Kincaid 32).  Similarly, I’m reminded of Persepolis in the way Antiguans are born and raised in English culture, but not accepted as English.  Both works depict people who struggle with identity and fail to be truly accepted in a culture in which they feel is their own.

A Small Place urges us as westerners to think deeply about how we act and perceive others.  Kincaid speaks directly to us and calls us out for our ugly behavior as ignorant tourists and bystanders.  She forces us to think about the injustices and power structures that we would rather ignore. Kincaid urges us to think critically about the things we take for granted and open our eyes to the inequities to which we have become blind.

A Boomer’s Guide to Representation in Media

Dear Sarah,

My father, a white middle aged man, is a producer for a TV network and he keeps complaining about how the industry is changing. He gripes that “everything is so PC” and that he can’t tell a joke without upsetting the “liberal snowflakes”.  These comments really hurt my feelings! Like most young people, I understand the importance of representation and diversity in the media. I have tried to explain this to my father, but he won’t listen to me! Even worse, he insists that classic racist stereotypes are good for ratings and that they make “old fashioned” viewers like him laugh.  How can I convince my dad that he needs to let go of his old fashioned ways?

-A Concerned Daughter

Ah, the classic excuse of “It’s not my fault, I was raised that way”.  I agree it can be difficult to see our parents and grandparents struggle to adapt to our ever changing world.  However, I don’t think they should get a free pass just because change is scary. You did a good thing by trying to start a dialog with your dad!  Working as a TV producer, he has the potential to change the whitewashed and stereotypical shows that dominate the industry. Here is a brief guide to what I think your dad needs to know.

  1. America is a melting pot of attitudes, cultures, races, and religions! Shouldn’t our media reflect this?  

For the most part, the story of the white nuclear family has been overplayed. We have seen it time and time again, and frankly it gets boring!  I think there are far more interesting and enriching experiences out there to be told. Don’t live in a diverse community? The great news is that (if done properly) TV and movies can introduce people to new cultures and lifestyles that they might be unaware of.  And I’m not just talking about educational shows that would be featured on the history channel or PBS. We need to feature real people and tell compelling stories while being careful not to generalize or use stereotypes. Our media needs to reflect the differences in gender, sexuality, family structure, race, religion, etc. that makes our country a beautifully diverse place.  

2. Diversity in media makes everyone feel welcome

If American media only portrays the archetypal apple pie eating, flag waving, christian American citizen, Americans who don’t fit that mold can feel othered and isolated.  Immigrants or those with different religions or cultural practices shouldn’t feel that they must choose between assimilation or alienation. Our media (TV or otherwise) should reflect many different experiences so that everyone feels represented in one way or another.  For example, a makeup ad in Seventeen Magazine that features a transgender woman could help 1000’s of Trans teens feel like there are others who are going though similar experiences. Keeping with this example, making LQBTQ individuals commonplace in the media will help expose them to people like your dad.  Eventually, things won’t seem so strange and your dad slowly begins to accept that not everyone is exactly like him. Perhaps, he will even be able to see that this is a good thing! 

3. Changes must be made, but they need to be made very carefully 

So far we’ve learned why it’s important to include a variety of experiences on TV and other media sources. But we must also discuss how we can implement these changes without reinforcing damaging stereotypes or creating new ones.  Although I’m sure your dad is great at his job, we are in desperate need of more diversity in our production, writing, and directing teams.  In order to tell compelling stories about diverse characters, those groups must be represented on the team creating the story! It seems like a simple idea, but it’s not often practiced. Additionally, it’s important that non-white (and non-binary) characters are featured as main characters with fully fleshed-out personalities. We can’t just cast a diverse character as the sidekick or best friend and call it inclusive.  Often when this happens, the character’s personality is solely based on a trope (things like the “ sassy black woman” or the “gay best friend”). Not only do these kinds of portrayals reinforce negative stereotypes, but they are also lazy ways of faking representation.

Armed with this information, I hope that your dad realizes just how important representation is in American media.  We spend countless hours of our lives watching TV, looking at ads, and reading books and magazines. What we see, hear, and read during those hours have very real impacts on the lives of adults and even bigger impacts on kids.  Hopefully, your dad (and others like him) will finally realize this. Good luck!


How Everyday Discourse Contributes to Sex Discrimination

By Sarah Goulder

Although we have made great strides in creating a more inclusive and progressive world, there is still much work to be done to limit (and hopefully one day eliminate) sexism, homophobia, and overall hate.  The ways in which these injustices manifest today is much more subtle than it once was. For instance, the kind of inequality that Simone de Beauvoir references in The Second Sex is much more obvious and severe than what is seen today.  However, her ideas on othering and its consequences still apply to sexism and other areas of prejudice.  Currently, the things we say, how we act on social media, and what we see on television and film all contribute to the persistence of systemic injustice in the modern world.  Specifically, I would like to focus on sexist and homophobic discourse in everyday life and in american media, as both of these areas contribute significantly to the perpetuation of discrimination and bias.  


A recent encounter with a terribly unoriginal and sexist joke sparked my interest in writing about this topic.  A friend of mine recently said a version of the “make me a sandwich” joke about another woman.  My blood started to boil, but I remained silent and let it go because I knew that my friend was not an actual misogynist.  In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have. That type of “joke” is an example of why sexism and gender discrimination still exist. Casual comments rooted in prejudice (whether it’s sexism, racism, or homophobia) are indicative of a much larger issue how we reinforce everyday bias and discrimination.  Here is a link to a blog site that does a good job of explaining why this particular joke is problematic.  Going beyond sexism, the way we speak (and where we do it) have real world consequences that many people would rather not acknowledge.  This article discusses a few recent(-ish) examples of celebrities and comedians, like Stephen Colbert that have engaged in “casual homophobia” by using anti-gay tropes and language.  Despite our intentions, casual prejudicial discourse prevents us from moving forward culturally and makes it difficult to create political and legal changes to unfair policies.  

The Iranian Revolution of 1979

The Iranian Revolution which ended in 1979, resulted in the removal of Iran’s last monarch and the creation of a new Islamic Republic.  Prior to the revolution, Iran was led by the Shah (emperor) Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The Shah ruled Iran with an oppressive force that was seen as corrupt, intimidating, and intolerant of public criticism. However, he also sought to westernize Iran and was pressured by the U.S. to instate a national development program called the White Revolution.  This program disrupted the wealth and power dynamics of landowners and religious leaders, but it also catapulted Iran into a period of economic growth and prosperity. Despite some of its successes, the program created social disparities and was not accepted by everyone in Iran. Most notably, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was an outspoken critic of the White Revolution and the Shah’s government.

Khomeini was a professor and cleric who was exiled for speaking out against the Shah and his policies.  While living in Paris, he continued to criticize the regime as tensions in Iran grew due to the massive social and economic changes brought on by the White Revolution. Thus, Khomeini became a symbol and main opposing force against Mohammad Reza. Khomeini wanted to reintegrate religion back into the government and decrease the western influence in Iran.  Despite his conservative religious ideas, Khomeini was supported by many groups in the resistance (rich, poor, working class, upper class, men, women, etc.).

The revolution finally reached a boiling point in 1978 after a newspaper article slandered Khomeini. This led to a massive protest by religious school students who were later joined by more young protesters. The government responded violently to the protests and many dissenters were killed.  Demonstrations continued and the death toll rose sharply after the military open fired on protesters in Tehran later that year. Shortly after, government employees and oil workers went on strike which intensified the conflict. As public unrest grew increasingly difficult to manage, the Shah fled Iran in 1979. This allowed the beloved Khomeini to return to Iran and take control of the government.  After a national referendum vote on April 1st, Khomeini succeeded in creating the Islamic Republic.

Note from Caroline: Afsane Rezaei’s video in this week’s module picks up after this, giving more context on what happened after the rise of Khomeini.



“Iran 1979: Anatomy of a Revolution.” Al Jazeera, 1 Feb 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2017/11/iran-1979-anatomy-revolution-171112085321494.html. Accessed 9 Feb 2020.

Ansari, Ali. “Iranian Revolution of 1979.” EDGE, Stanford University, 23 Aug 1999 https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/war_peace/middleeast/hiranianrev.html Accessed 9 Feb 2020

 “The Iranian Revolution of February 1979.” Middle East Institute, 29 Jan 2009, www.mei.edu/publications/iranian-revolution-february-1979. Accessed 9 Feb 2020

Afray, Janet. “Iranian Revolution.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 20 Sep 2019, https://www.britannica.com/event/Iranian-Revolution. Accessed 9 Feb 2020