Orientalism in Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love is a movie based on the memoir Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. It chronicles Gilbert’s post-divorce search to ‘re-find her passion, her spark, her fire for life’ as she travels from her home in Manhattan to Italy, India, and Bali for one year. While this movie was widely popular when it came out, it has also been heavily critiqued for its reliance on orientalist tropes of the ‘Far East’ as a source of spiritual healing for white people. When Liz, the main character, travels to Italy she spends a significant amount of time with locals, even making an Italian family a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. However, when she travels to India and Bali the locals are in the background while she socializes with almost exclusively expats. The locals who Liz does interact with in India and Bali are reduced to stereotypes and caricatures, only there for Liz to use as steps to her ‘enlightenment.’ In the ashram in India she makes friends with a 17 year old girl, Tulsi, whom Liz comforts after she tells her she is being forced into an arranged marriage that she does not want, giving Liz the opportunity to reflect on her own failed marriage. In Bali she visits a ‘healer,’ Ketut, who “teaches her everything he knows” in broken English with a grin on his face, showing her the path to ‘balance’ in her life. In Bali she also makes friends with a single mother who heals her physical ailments and listens to her problems, a brown woman Liz ‘saves’ by collecting donations from her friends and family for the woman (seemingly without permission). India and Bali are also portrayed as simple and otherworldly, a “paradise” for Americans to “discover” and “find themselves.” The locals in India and Bali are background characters who don’t particularly seem to be existing in the 21st century, a spectacle to look at and to create the “peaceful” atmosphere Liz so desires. Where this movie is from the point of view of a white woman, all other non-white characters are Othered, reduced, and homogenized for her consumption and personal fulfillment.

The Costumes of Black Panther

The Marvel film Black Panther has been widely celebrated since its release in 2018. One well-loved aspect of the movie has been its imagery, particularly the costumes! Oscar nominated Ruth E. Carter has spent over 30 years of her career as a costume designer for African American movies, including Do The Right Thing and Selma. Her work designing the costumes for Black Panther has been the subject of many interviews and articles due to its incredible detail and backstory! Because the storyline for the movie was so secretive, Carter didn’t even have the fully story before she began the 6 moth long pre-production journey of designing the costumes. She decided to take certain aspects of regions of the fictional African nation of Wakanda as inspiration to draw from cultures of actually existing African regions and countries for the costumes. She sent her team on a mission to find and source jewelry, clothes, and accessories from different parts of Africa to use as inspiration for her work. Most of the costume elements, down to even her use of color, was inspired by what they found! The deep and vibrant reds of the costumes for the Dora Milaje, the elite women warriors, were inspired be Maasai warriors, and the beading of their costumes was inspired by the Turkana and Maasia. Their leather harnesses were crafted in South Africa. While the costume for the Black Panther was mostly done by Marvel, as they design all superhero costumes, Carter added the raised, triangular silver motif, which she refers to as “the sacred geometry of Africa.” The wrap W’Kabi wears drew from Lesotho blankets. Queen Ramonda’s crown was based on hats that Zulu women wear. Carter’s inspiration was based in indigenous African culture, but she also wanted the costumes to have a futuristic feel to them. Thus she also drew on the field of Afro-Futurism in her designing! All together, Carter’s work came together to create an incredibly detailed, thorough, and beautiful set of costumes for Black Panther that brings her life work portraying Black history and culture through costume into the future.



Alleyne, Allyssia. “How ‘Black Panther’ Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter Wove an Afrofuturist Fantasy.” CNN, Cable News Network, 21 Feb. 2019, www.cnn.com/style/article/black-panther-costumes-ruth-e-carter/index.html.

“Looking Marvel-Ous: Designing Costumes for ‘Black Panther’.” Public Radio International, 2AD, www.pri.org/stories/2019-02-21/looking-marvel-ous-designing-costumes-black-panther.

Ryzik, Melena. “The Afrofuturistic Designs of ‘Black Panther’.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Feb. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/02/23/movies/black-panther-afrofuturism-costumes-ruth-carter.html.

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) Strikes and The Targeting of International Students

By Kimberly Johnson

In December 2019 graduate student teaching assistants at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) went on a wildcat strike, a strike without union authorization, calling for a cost of living adjustment (COLA) to their stipend. Many of the students say they are spending 50% or more of their ~$25,000/year stipend on rent monthly, meaning they are severely rent burdened. The graduate students started with a grade strike, withholding grades from the courses they taught in the fall quarter, but they are now on a full teaching strike. The COLA strikes have spread throughout the University of California school system as well! UC Hastings’ AFSCME 3299 vote to authorize a strike with 89% support last week, representing the UC Hastings School of Law students. Graduate students at UC Los Angeles striked for one day this past Thursday. Some graduate students at UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara are striking, and graduate students at UC Berkeley have said they are strike ready upon the support of other departments. UC San Diego graduate students are set to begin a grading strike on this upcoming Monday. Thursday, March 5th there was a COLA day of action across the UC system schools during which UCSC strikers and their supporters blocked the entrances to UCSC and in-person classes were cancelled.

[Image description: a tweet from Twitter account COLA Agitation Committee that reads “SPREAD THE STRIKE” and then mentions all the COLA accounts across the University of California system. There is an attached image of UCSC strikers blocking an entrance into University of California Santa Cruz.]

During the course of the UCSC wildcat strike the university has threatened the graduate students with firings twice and followed through with this threats, firing about 54 graduate students and telling dozens more they would not be hired for the spring quarter on February 28th. This has not deterred the strikes, but it has been particularly alarming for international students. International students on student visas are not able to get non-university jobs, and without university jobs international students will be forced to pay tuition and/or living expenses out of pocket to maintain full-time student status. Without full-time student status their visas will be revoked. In early February the university reminded international students of this, a clear intimidation tactic.


Intimidating workers with threats to their residency/immigration status is not new or unique to the university, it is extremely pervasive in the US. It is particularly utilized in workplaces that employ undocumented workers. It is not always explicit or aggressive, often employers just rely on fear of speaking out and subsequent retaliation to get away with treating workers unjustly. Polly in The Leavers experiences this when she works at the nail salon that does not pay her for the first 3 months she was there and expects her to pay to be trained. This is clearly illegal, but her boss knew it was unlikely Polly would say anything or be able to do anything about it.

Read more:



UC Santa Cruz dismisses 54 striking graduate student workers over withheld grades

UC Hastings Workers Vote Overwhelmingly to Authorize Strike

Social Media and Cultural Appropriation

By Kimberly Johnson

Over the past few months a dance called the Renegade has been all over social media, particularly TikTok. When the dance made the switch over to TikTok from Dubsmash, credit to the creator did not come along with it. However, over the course of the past several days the creator of the dance has gotten her due credit. Her name is Jalaiah Harmon, a Black 14-year-old girl from Atlanta, Georgia. In an interview for The New York Times she shared how frustrating it was that her dance was being shared so widely and posted largely by white TikTok users without any credit given to her.

Jalaiah Harmon’s experience fall in line with hundreds of years of Black culture being appropriated with little to no credit in the U.S. For a little girl who loves dance and attends numerous dance classes, a viral dance video could mean access to opportunities that would help her dance dreams come true. Though she is getting the credit she deserves now, many Black creators do not ever get credit for their content. Even further, their content is frequently stolen by white creators who then use it to go viral, a phenomenon that can be extremely advantageous in an increasingly social-media oriented society.

Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/13/style/the-original-renegade.html