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Dr. Amin Interviews Professor Al-Rawi



Amin was born in Cairo, the son of an Egyptian father and a French mother (both medical doctors). He spent his childhood and youth in Port Said there he attended a French high school, leaving in 1947 with a Baccalauréat.

It was at high school that Amin was first politicized when, during the Second World War, Egyptian students were split between communists and nationalists Amin belonged to the former group. By then Amin had already adopted a resolute stance against fascism and Nazism. While the upheaval against British domination in Egypt informed his politics, he rejected the idea that the enemy of their enemy, Nazi Germany, was the Egyptians' friend. [4]

In 1947 Amin left for Paris where he obtained a second high school diploma with a specialization in elementary mathematics from the prestigious Lycée Henri IV. He gained a diploma in political science at Sciences Po (1952) before graduating in statistics at INSEE (1956) and also in economics (1957).

In his autobiography Itinéraire intellectuel (1990) he wrote that in order to spend a substantial amount of time in "militant action" he could devote only a minimum to preparing for his university exams. The intellectual and the political struggle remained inseparable for Amin all throughout his life. Rather than explaining the world and its atrocities he meant to highlight and to be part of struggles aimed at changing the world. [4]

After arriving in Paris, Amin joined the French Communist Party (PCF), but he later distanced himself from Soviet Marxism and associated himself for some time with Maoist circles. With other students he published a magazine entitled Étudiants Anticolonialistes. His ideas and political position were also strongly influenced by the 1955 Asian–African Bandung Conference and the nationalization of the Suez Canal. The latter even encouraged him to postpone his PhD thesis that was ready in June 1956 to take part in the political unrest. [4]

In 1957 he presented his thesis, supervised by François Perroux among others, originally titled The origins of underdevelopment – capitalist accumulation on a world scale but retitled The structural effects of the international integration of precapitalist economies. A theoretical study of the mechanism which creates so-called underdeveloped economies.

After finishing his thesis, Amin went back to Cairo, where he worked from 1957 to 1960 as a research officer for the government's "Institution for Economic Management" where he worked on ensuring the state’s representation on the boards of directors of public sector companies while at the same time immersing himself in the very tense political climate linked to the nationalization of the Canal, the 1956 war and the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement. His participation in the Communist Party that was clandestine at the time made for very difficult working conditions. [4]

In 1960 Amin left for Paris where he worked for six months for the Department of Economic and Financial Studies - Service des Études Économiques et Financières (SEEF).

Subsequently, Amin left France, to become an adviser to the Ministry of Planning in Bamako (Mali) under the presidency of Modibo Keïta. He held that position from 1960 to 1963 working with prominent French economists such as Jean Bénard and Charles Bettelheim. With some scepticism Amin witnessed the growing emphasis on maximizing growth in order to “close the gap”. Although he abandoned working as a ‘bureaucrat’ after he left Mali, Samir Amin continued to act as an adviser for several governments, such as China, Vietnam, Algeria, Venezuela, and Bolivia. [4]

In 1963 he was offered a fellowship at the Institut Africain de Développement Économique et de Planification (IDEP). Within the IDEP Amin created several institutions that eventually became independent entities. Among them one that later became the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), conceived on the model of the Latin American Council for Social Sciences (CLACSO).

Until 1970 he worked there as well as being a professor at the University of Poitiers, Dakar and Paris (of Paris VIII, Vincennes). In 1970 he became director of the IDEP, which he managed until 1980. In 1980 Amin left the IDEP and became a director of the Third World Forum in Dakar. In Amin's life and thinking the three activities have been closely connected: work in economic management, teaching/ research, and the political struggle. [4]

“Samir Amin has been one of the most important and influential intellectuals of the Third World”. [4] Amin's theoretical pioneering role has been often overlooked because his thesis of 1957 was not published until 1970 in extended book form under the title L’accumulation à l’échelle mondiale (Accumulation at the global level). [4]

Amin lived in Dakar until the end of July 2018. On July 31 st he was, diagnosed with lung cancer, transferred to a hospital in Paris. Amin died on August 12 th at the age of 86.

Samir Amin is considered a pioneer of Dependency Theory and World System Theory, while he preferred to call himself part of the school of Global Historical Materialism (see 2.1), together with Paul A. Baran and Paul Sweezy. [3] His key idea, presented as early as 1957 in his Ph.D. dissertation, was that so-called ‘under-developed’ economies should not be considered as independent units but as building blocks of a capitalist world economy. In this world economy, the ‘poor’ nations form the ‘periphery’, forced to a permanent structural adjustment with respect to the reproduction dynamics of the ‘centres’ of the world economy, that is, of the advanced capitalist industrial countries. Around the same time and with similar basic assumptions the so-called desarrollismo (CEPAL, Raul Prebisch) emerged in Latin America, which was developed further a decade later in the discussion on ‘dependencia’ – and even later appeared Wallerstein’s ‘world system analysis’. Samir Amin applied Marxism to a global level, using terms as ‘law of worldwide value’ and ‘super-exploitation’ to analyse the world-economy (see 2.1.1). [3] [4] At the same time his critique extended also to Soviet Marxism and its development program of ‘catching up and overtaking’. [4] Amin believed the countries of the ‘periphery’ would not be able to catch up in the context of a capitalist world-economy, because of the system’s inherent polarization and certain monopolies held by the imperialist countries of the ‘center’ (see 2.1.2). Thus, he called for the ‘periphery’ to ‘delink’ from the world economy, creating ‘autocentric’ development (see 2.2) and rejecting the ‘Eurocentrism’ inherent to Modernisation Theory (see 2.3). [3]

Global historical materialism Edit

Resorting to the analyses of Marx, Polanyi and Braudel, the central starting point of Samir Amin’s theories is a fundamental critique of capitalism, at the centre of which is the conflict structure of the world system. Amin states three fundamental contradictions of capitalist ideology: 1. The requirements of profitability stand against the striving of the working people to determine their own fate (rights of workers as well as democracy were enforced against capitalist logic) 2. The short-term rational economic calculus stands against long-term safeguarding of the future (ecology debate) 3. The expansive dynamics of capitalism lead to polarizing spatial structures - the Center-Periphery Model. [5]

According to Amin, capitalism and its evolution can only be understood as a single integrated global system, composed of ‘developed countries’, which constitute the Center, and of ‘underdeveloped countries’, which are the Peripheries of the system. Development and underdevelopment consequently constitute both facets of the unique expansion of global capitalism. Underdeveloped countries should not be considered as ‘lagging behind’ because of the specific - social, cultural, or even geographic - characteristics of these so-called ‘poor’ countries. Underdevelopment is actually only the result of the forced permanent structural adjustment of these countries to the needs of the accumulation benefiting the system’s Center countries. [4]

Amin identifies himself as being a part of the school of global historical materialism, in contrast to the two other strands of dependency theory, the so-called dependencia and the World Systems Theory. The dependencia school is a Latin American school associated with e. g. Ruy Mauro Marini, Theotônio dos Santos, and Raúl Prebisch. Prominent figures of the World Systems Theory are Immanuel Wallerstein and Giovanni Arrighi. [3] While they use a widely similar scientific vocabulary, Amin rejected f.e. the notion of a semi-periphery and was against the theorization of capitalism as cyclical (as by Nikolai Kondratjew) or any kind of retrojection., thus holding a minority position among the World System theorists. [5]

For Amin, the school of global historical materialism was Marxism understood as a global system. Within this framework, the Marxist law of value is central (see 2.1.1). [3] Nevertheless, he insisted that the economic laws of capitalism, summed up by the law of value, are subordinate to the laws of historical materialism. In Amins understanding of these terms that is to say: economic science, while indispensable, cannot explain the full reality. Mainly because it cannot account either for the historical origins of the system itself, nor for outcomes of class struggle. [6]

“History is not ruled by the infallible unfolding of the law of pure economy. It is created by the societal reactions to these tendencies that express themselves in these laws and that determine the social conditions in whose framework these laws operate. The ‘anti-systemic’ forces impact and also influence real history as does the pure logic of the capitalist accumulation.” (Samir Amin) [4]

Law of worldwide value Edit

Amins theory of a global law of value describes a system of unequal exchange, in which the difference in the wages between labor forces in different nations is greater than the difference between their productivities. Amin talks of “imperial rents” accruing to the global corporations in the Center - elsewhere referred to as “global labor arbitrage”.

Reasons are, according to Amin, that while free trade and relatively open borders allow multinationals to move to where they can find the cheapest labour, governments keep promoting the interests of ‘their’ corporations over those of other countries and restricting the mobility of labor. [6] Accordingly, the periphery is not really connected to global labour markets, accumulation there is stagnant and wages stay low. In contrast, in the centres accumulation is cumulative and wages increase in accordance with rising productivity. This situation is perpetuated by the existence of a massive global reserve army located primarily in the periphery, while at the same time these countries are more structurally dependent, and their governments tend to oppress social movements which would win increased wages. This global dynamic Amin calls „development of underdevelopment“. [7] The aforementioned existence of a lower rate of exploitation of labor in the North and a higher rate of exploitation of labor in the South is further thought to constitute one of the main obstacles to the unity of the international working class. [6]

According to Amin the “Global Law of Value” thus creates the “super-exploitation” of the periphery. Further, the core countries keep monopolies on technology, control of financial flows, military power, ideological and media production, and access to natural resources (see 2.1.2). [8]

Imperialism and Monopoly Capitalism Edit

The system of worldwide value as described above means, that there is one imperial world system, encompassing both the global North and the global South. [6] Amin further believed that capitalism and imperialism were linked at all stages of their development (as opposed to Lenin, who argued that imperialism was a specific stage in the development of capitalism). [4] Amin defined Imperialism as: “precisely the amalgamation of the requirements and laws for the reproduction of capital the social, national and international alliances that underlie them and the political strategies employed by these alliances” (Samir Amin) [6]

According to Amin, capitalism and imperialism reach from the conquest of the Americas during the sixteenth century to today’s phase of what he referred to as “monopoly capitalism”. Further, the polarization between Center and Peripheries is a phenomenon inherent in historical capitalism. Resorting to Arrighi, Amin differentiates the following mechanism of polarization: 1. The capital flight takes place from the periphery to the centre 2. selective migration of workers is heading in the same direction 3. Monopoly situation of the central companies in the global division of labour, in particular, the technology monopoly and the monopoly of global finances 4. Control of centres on access to natural resources. [5] The forms of the Center-Peripheries polarization, as well as the forms of expression of imperialism, have changed over time - but always towards the aggravation of the polarization and not towards its mitigation. [4]

Historically, Amin differentiated three phases: Mercantilism (1500-1800), Expansion (1800-1880) and Monopoly Capitalism (1880-today). Amin adds that the current phase is dominated by generalized, financialized, and globalized oligopolies located primarily in the triad of USA, Europe, and Japan. [6] They practice a sort of collective imperialism by means of military, economic and financial tools such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The triad enjoys the monopoly of five advantages: weapons of mass destruction mass communication systems monetary and financial systems technologies and access to natural resources. It wishes to keep these at any cost and thus has engaged in the militarization of the world in order to avoid losing these monopolies. [4]

Amin further differentiated the existence of two historical phases of the development of monopoly capitalism: proper monopoly capitalism up to 1971, and oligopoly-finance capitalism after that. The Financialization and “deepened globalization” of the latter he considered a strategic response to Stagnation. Stagnation he considered as the rule and rapid economic growth as the exception under late capitalism. According to him, the rapid growth of 1945–1975 was mainly the product of historical conditions brought into being by the Second World War and could not last. The focus on Financialization, which emerged in the late 1970s, to him was a new more potent counter to stagnation “inseparable from the survival requirements of the system”, but eventually leading to the financial crisis 2007-2008. [6]

According to Amin, as a result of imperialism and super-exploitation, political systems in the south are often distorted towards forms of autocratic rule. To maintain control over the periphery, the imperial powers promote backwards-looking social relations drawing on archaic elements. Amin argues for example that political Islam is chiefly a creature of imperialism. The introduction of democracy in the South, without altering the fundamental social relations or challenging imperialism, is nothing but a “fraud” and doubly so given the plutocratic content of the so-called successful democracies in the North. [6]

Delinking Edit

Amin forcefully stated that the emancipation of the so-called ‘underdeveloped’ countries can neither happen while respecting the logic of the globalized capitalist system nor within this system. The South would not be able to catch up in such a capitalist context, because of the system’s inherent polarization. This belief led Samir Amin to assign significant importance to the project adopted by the Asian–African countries at the Bandoeng (Indonesia) Conference in 1955. [4]

Amin called for each country to delink from the world economy meaning to subordinate global relations to domestic development priorities, creating ‘autocentric’ development (but not autarky). [3] Instead of defining value by dominant prices in the world – which result from productivity in the rich countries – Amin suggested that value in each country should be set so that agricultural and industrial workers are paid by their input into the society’s net output. Thereby a National Law of Value should be defined without reference to the Global Law of Value of the capitalist system (e.g. food sovereignty instead of free trade, minimum wages instead of international competitiveness, full employment guaranteed by government). The main effect of this move would be to raise wages in agriculture. Amin suggested that national states redistribute resources between sectors, and centralize and distribute the surplus. Full employment should be guaranteed, and the exodus from rural to urban areas discouraged. [8]

After the decolonization on a state level, this should lead to economic liberation from neo-colonialism. However, Amin underlined that it is almost impossible to delink 100% and estimated a delinking of 70% already a significant achievement. Relatively stable countries with some military power have more leverage in this regard than small countries.

China’s development for example is, according to Amin, determined 50% by its sovereign project and 50% by globalisation. When asked about Brazil and India, he estimated that their trajectories were driven by 20% sovereign project, and 80% globalisation, while South Africa was determined by 0% sovereign project and 100% globalisation. [3]

It was also clear to Amin that such decoupling also requires certain political prerequisites within a country. His country studies, initially limited to Africa, taught him that a national bourgeoisie geared towards a national project, neither existed nor was it emerging. Rather, he observed the emergence of a ‘comprador bourgeoisie’, who benefited from the integration of their respective countries into the asymmetrically structured capitalist world market. Regarding the project of an auto-centered new beginning (the decoupling) he hoped instead for social movements, which is why he was committed to numerous non-governmental organizations until the end. [4]

Eurocentrism Edit

Amin proposed a history of civilization in which accidental advantages of the “West” led to the development of capitalism first in these societies. This then created a global rift, arising from the aggressive outward expansion of capitalism and colonialism. [6] Amin argues that it is a mistake to view Europe as a historical centre of the world. Only in the capitalist period has Europe been dominant.

For Amin, Eurocentrism is not only a worldview but a global project, homogenising the world on a European model under the pretext of ‘catching-up’. In practice, however, capitalism does not homogenise but rather polarises the world. Eurocentrism is thus more of an ideal than a real possibility. It also creates problems in reinforcing racism and imperialism. Fascism remains a permanent risk, because to Amin it is an extreme version of Eurocentrism. [8]

Cambodia Edit

Amin was long an influence on and supporter of the leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime, becoming acquainted with the Khmer Rouge's future leaders in post-World War II Paris, where Pol Pot, Khieu Samphan, and other Cambodian students were studying. Khieu Samphan's doctoral thesis, which he finished in 1959, noted collaborations with Amin and claimed to apply Amin's theories to Cambodia. [9] [10] In the late 1970s, Amin praised the Khmer Rouge as superior to Communist movements in China, Vietnam, or the Soviet Union, and recommended the Khmer Rouge model for Africa. [11]

Amin continued to actively praise the Khmer Rouge into the 1980s. At a 1981 talk in Tokyo, Amin praised Pol Pot's work as "one of the major successes of the struggle for socialism in our era" and as necessary against "expansionism" from the Soviet Union or from Vietnam. [12] Some scholars, such as Marxist anthropologist Kathleen Gough, have noted that Khmer Rouge activists in Paris in the 1950s already held ideas of eliminating counter-revolutionaries and organizing a party center whose decisions could not be questioned. [12] Despite contemporary reports of mass killings committed by the Khmer Rouge, Amin argued that "the cause of the most evil to the people of Kampuchea" lay elsewhere:

The humanitarian argument is in the final analysis the argument offered by all the colonialists. Isn't [the cause of evil] first of all the American imperialists and Lon Nol? Isn't it today the Vietnamese army and their project of colonizing Kampuchea? [13]

Views on world order Edit

Samir Amin expressed view on world order and international relations: “Yes, I do want to see the construction of a multipolar world, and that obviously means the defeat of Washington’s hegemonic project for military control of the planet.” [14]

Here I would make the first priority the construction of a Paris – Berlin – Moscow political and strategic alliance, extended if possible to Beijing and Delhi … to build military strength at a level required by the challenge of the United States. [E]ven the United States pales beside their traditional capacities in the military arena. The American challenge, and Washington’s criminal designs, make such a course necessary … The creation of a front against hegemonism is the number one priority today, as the creation of an anti-Nazi alliance was … yesterday … A rapprochement between the large portions of Eurasia (Europe, Russia, China and India) involving the rest of the Old World … is necessary and possible, and would put an end once and for all to Washington’s plans to extend the Monroe Doctrine to the entire planet. We must head in this direction … above all with determination.” [15]

The ‘European project’ is not going in the direction that is needed to bring Washington to its senses. Indeed, it remains a basically ‘non-European’ project, scarcely more than the European part of the American project … Russia, China and India are the three strategic opponents of Washington’s project. But they appear to believe that they can maneuver and avoid directly clashing with the United State[s]. [16]

Hence, Europe must end its “Atlanticist option” and take the course of the “Eurasian rapprochement” with Russia, China, India and the rest of Asia and Africa. This “Eurasian rapprochement” is necessary for the head-on collision with the United States. [17]

Views on political Islam Edit

According to Samir Amin, political Islam leads its struggle on the terrain of culture, wherein "culture" is intended as "belongingness to one religion". Islamist militants are not actually interested in the discussion of dogmas which form religion, but on the contrary are concerned about the ritual assertion of membership in the community. Such a world view is therefore not only distressing, as it conceals an immense poverty of thought, but it also justifies Imperialism's strategy of substituting a "conflict of cultures" for a conflict between the liberal, imperialist centres and the backward, dominated peripheries.

This importance attributed to culture allows political Islam to obscure from every sphere of life the realistic social dichotomy between the working classes and the global capitalist system which oppresses and exploits them. [18]

The militants of political Islam are only present in areas of conflict in order to furnish people with education and health care, through schools and health clinics. However, these are nothing more than works of charity and means of indoctrination, insofar as they are not means of support for the working class struggle against the system which is responsible for its misery.

Besides, beyond being reactionary on definite matters (see the status of women in Islam) and responsible for fanatical excesses against non-Muslim citizen (such as the Copts in Egypt), political Islam even defends the sacred character of property and legitimises inequality and all the prerequisites of capitalist reproduction. [19]

One example is the Muslim Brotherhood's support in the Egyptian parliament for conservative and reactionary laws which empowers the rights of property owners, to the detriment of the small peasantry.

Political Islam has also always found consent in the bourgeoisie of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as the latter abandoned an anti-imperialist perspective and substituted it for an anti-western stance, which only creates an acceptable impasse of cultures and therefore doesn't represent any obstacle to the developing imperialist control over the world system.

Hence, political Islam aligns itself in general with capitalism and imperialism, without providing the working classes with an effective and non-reactionary method of struggle against their exploitation. [20]

It is important to note, however, that Amin was careful to distinguish his analysis of political Islam from islamophobia, thus remaining sensitive to the anti-Muslim attitudes that currently affect Western Society. [21]


Dr. Amin Interviews Professor Al-Rawi - History

ECONOMY | FOCUS: CHALLENGES AND SUCCESSES

The OECD has welcomed Colombia as a member state, a sign of progress made so far and—in theory—a guarantee of future reforms.

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VIP INTERVIEWS

“The idea is to have a contactless process for passengers at the airport.”

“Globally, chemical data for 1Q2021 is the highest in probably 10 years, driven by improved expectations and demand.”

“The switch to remote learning and then to hybrid was made possible thanks to 10 years of digital transformation research and investment at the Cooperative University of Colombia.”

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“Data analytics is a methodology that Coface uses to deepen and enrich the information we offer to clients.”


Dr. Moeness Amin Interviewed on "Good Morning Montenegro"

As part of a longstanding collaborative relationship with the University of Montenegro, Dr. Moeness Amin, Director of the Center for Advanced Communications (CAC), recently returned to Podgorica, where he presented three seminars in the general area of signal processing for radars. While in Montenegro, he attended an international gathering for information technology and was included as part of the media coverage of the event. In this clip, Dr. Amin shares his opinion on the IT activities currently underway in Montenegro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1c0PTgOXtUs

In a second interview by the State Television of Montenegro, Dr. Amin appeared on the widely watched “Good Morning Montenegro” show. In this interview, he discusses his visit to the University of Montenegro and his views on the graduate research and education there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwwvwwbtcyc

“I was very pleased to have the opportunity to introduce Villanova and the CAC to an eastern European community whose top faculty researchers have joined us in advancing the field of radar imaging and time-frequency signal analysis,” says Dr. Amin.

In both interviews, Dr. Amin shared his insights into Villanova’s teaching and research mission, the student experience, and his opinion on the future of both the field of information technology and Montenegro’s role in it.

In 2010, the College of Engineering signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Montenegro. This year, the CAC hosted Dr. Irena Orovic, Assistant Professor at the University of Montenegro, who worked with Dr. Amin on signal and image processing research and helped CAC researchers address challenging problems in target tracking and multipath resolutions for over-the-horizon radar applications. In 2012, Dr. Srdjan Stankovic, Dean of Electrical Engineering at the University of Montenegro, is planning to spend a semester at Villanova to collaborate on research projects and contribute to scholarly books and journal publications.


Dr. Moeness Amin presenting in Montenegro

Villanova Professor Moeness Amin Wins Humboldt Prize


Moeness Amin, PhD

Renowned radar signal processing expert Moeness Amin, PhD, Director of Villanova University’s Center for Advanced Communications, and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been awarded Germany’s prestigious Humboldt Prize, also known as the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award. Sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, this international honor recognizes the lifetime achievements of researchers whose fundamental discoveries and new theories and insights have had a significant impact on their discipline, and who are “expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.” The Humboldt Prize will be presented to Dr. Amin at the annual Humboldt meeting in Berlin on July 6 th , 2016. The highlight of the meeting is a reception hosted by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The Humboldt Foundation is named in honor of Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), a German geographer, naturalist and explorer. Originally funded by von Humboldt’s friends and colleagues after his death, the foundation was reendowed by the German government after World War II to promote international academic cooperation with German scientists.

Humboldt Prize winners represent countries all over the world and reflect a broad range of disciplines, from the sciences, mathematics and medicine, to linguistics, management and philosophy. Since 2013, only eight researchers from the United States have received the Humboldt Prize in engineering fields, including architecture and material science. No awards have been presented in signal processing—Dr. Amin’s area of specialization. In achieving this honor for the University, Villanova joins Princeton University, University of Illinois, Georgia Institute of Technology, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, Iowa State University, and Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Nominated by long-time collaborator Abdelhak Zoubir, PhD, professor and head of the signal processing group of Germany’s Darmstadt University of Technology (TU-DA), Dr. Amin is cited for “active and vibrant research efforts” and “continued commitment to advances in engineering and technology.” Dr. Zoubir notes Dr. Amin’s focus on “merging technological knowledge with societal needs,” and highlights his representative projects, including, advancing assisted living with radar, improving the quality of wireless services in communications, providing accurate and robust positioning in satellite navigations, enabling search and discoveries of extraterrestrial intelligence in radio telescopes, streamlining postal services and parcel tracking in RFID, and achieving effective structure health monitoring in ultrasound. The nomination material includes documentation of Dr. Amin’s publications throughout the past 10 years, as well as descriptions of his key publications, technical discoveries, and current and future projects.

The Humboldt Prize nomination underscores Dr. Amin’s many accomplishments: “Dr. Amin has significantly contributed to advances in signal analysis and processing for communications, radar, satellite navigation, radio frequency identification (RFID) and ultrasound. The depth and breadth of his research contributions to signal processing are unique, as evidenced by the diversity of his prestigious awards and fellowships.”

Dr. Amin describes the Humboldt Prize as “the award that certainly recognizes my contributions to the broad area of signal processing and crowns all of my past achievements.” Dr. Amin’s numerous accolades include being a Fellow of four societies: the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the International Society of Optical Engineering (SPIE), the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), and the European Association for Signal Processing (EURASIP). Dr. Amin has received technical achievement awards from the IEEE Signal Processing Society in 2014, EURASIP in 2009, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2010. In addition, Dr. Amin was awarded the IEEE Third Millennium Medal, the 2015 IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society Warren D. White Award for “Excellence in Radar Engineering,” and the 2010 Chief of Naval Research Challenge Award. Other honors include being the first faculty in Villanova’s College of Engineering to receive the University’s Outstanding Faculty Research Award in 1997, being named an IEEE Signal Processing Society distinguished lecturer in 2003-2004, and chairing the electrical cluster of the Franklin Institute Committee on Science and the Arts.

A prolific author, the Humboldt Prize nomination references Dr. Amin’s impressive publication record, which includes three books, 20 book chapters, and more than 200 journal articles and 500 conference papers earning more than 10,300 citations with a 51 H-index. The nomination underscores the fact that in 2015, Dr. Amin averaged six published papers a month—a testament to his superior, dynamic and active research. His international partnerships are acknowledged as well: “Dr. Amin’s research collaborations are growing, transcending his university to reach research groups and academic institutions in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Montenegro, Spain, and the United Kingdom.”

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation grants up to 100 Humboldt Research Awards annually in all disciplines, with a prize valued at €60,000 (more than $67,000), and “the possibility of further support during the prize winner's life.” Recipients are invited to spend up to one year cooperating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at a German research institution. Dr. Amin will continue his collaboration with TU-DA’s signal processing group, playing an important role in the development of a new research initiative on assisted living. In addition, the Communications Research Laboratory of Technische Universität Ilmenau and the Institute of Digital Signal Processing of Universität Duisburg-Essen, among others, have expressed strong interest in hosting Dr. Amin as a keynote speaker for seminars and short courses. Dr. Amin states, “It is indeed gratifying to have been selected to receive such international recognition, which will enable me to pursue valuable collaborations with Darmstadt and accelerate the development of radar technology for indoor remote monitoring.”

Dr. Amin also was interviewed about his research on Philadelphia's KYW Radio. Listen to Interview 1 and Interview 2.

For Dr. Amin’s complete biography, including, awards, publications, speaking engagements and research grants, please visit the CAC website.

The official press release about Dr. Amin’s prestigious Humboldt Prize was picked up by a number of national media outlets, including the Houston Chronicle and WDRB 41 Louisville News.‎


Scholar’s Chair Interview: Dr. Charles Aling

I was excited when my next guest agreed to sit in the scholars’ chair for a virtual interview. I have appreciated the work of Egyptologist, Dr. Charles F. Aling, for some time and he was gracious enough to answer some of my questions about people and events related to Egypt, including Joseph, the Hyksos, and the Exodus.

Dr. Charles F. Aling is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul and serves as President of the Institute for Biblical Archaeology and President Emeritus of the Near East Archaeological Society. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with both an M.A. and a PhD, specializing in Egyptology. Dr. Aling served as Assistant Field Director on two archaeological explorations in Egypt: one in the Valley of the Kings and one at the Karnak Temple in Luxor. He has published over fifty articles in publications such as Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, The Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin, Bible and Spade, and Artifax, and is the author of Egypt and Bible History: From Earliest Times to 1000 BC. In addition, he was one of the scholars featured in the movie, Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus.

An aerial view of the Karnak Temple at Luxor, Egypt. Photo: Son of Groucho/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

BIBLE ARCHAEOLOGY REPORT: Welcome Dr. Aling! What sparked your interest in Egyptology?

DR. CHARLES F. ALING: When I first began my studies at the University of Minnesota, I was in Pre-Med. This was not because I had a great interest in medicine but because my father was a doctor and my family expected it of me. But in my sophomore year, I had to take any course I wished that was not science. I enrolled in basic ancient history, and within 3 weeks, I knew this was the field for me. My doctoral work included all aspects of ancient and medieval history, but my favorite area was ancient Egypt. I developed a particular interest in the historical accuracy of the Bible

Ay (right) performs the Opening of the Mouth ceremony on his predecessor, Tutankhamun (left), from the wall of Tutankhamun’s Tomb. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

BIBLE ARCHAEOLOGY REPORT: I understand that you once excavated a royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Can you tell us about that experience?

DR. CHARLES F. ALING: In the early 1970’s I served as assistant field director under Otto Schaden for the excavation of the tomb of King Ay, the successor of King Tut, in the Western Valley of the Kings. I personally found the lid to the king’s sarcophagus. A few years later I again assisted Professor Schaden in his survey of the inscriptions left by King Ay at the Karnak temple.

The tomb and sarcophagus of Pharaoh Ay in the Valley of the Kings. Photo: Roland Unger/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

BIBLE ARCHAEOLOGY REPORT: You have written that you believe Joseph was in Egypt in the Middle Kingdom period. Can you summarize why you feel this is the best fit, and highlight some historical clues in the biblical text which support this?

Pharaoh Sesostris III (also written Senusret III or Senwosret III) was the most important Pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty. He may have been one of the Pharaoh’s whom Joseph served. Photo: Brooklyn Museum/CC BY 3.0

DR. CHARLES F. ALING: For a long time I have believed, based on my views on the Bible’s chronology, that Joseph is best dated to Egypt’s Twelfth Dynasty. While I hold this view for many historical and archaeological reasons, I think one of the key pieces of evidence is that according to Genesis, Joseph was both Vizier and Chief Steward of the King. This is an almost unheard of combination of titles, and the one recorded example we have is from the Twelfth Dynasty, right after the time of Joseph. I believe Joseph’s success in these two roles was copied for his probable successor.

BIBLE ARCHAEOLOGY REPORT: In what way to you think the Hyksos fit into Bible’s chronology?

DR. CHARLES F. ALING: It is my belief that the Hyksos, who were Canaanite rulers of Egypt between the Middle and New Kingdoms, were the kings who began the oppression of the Hebrews. One indication of this is the biblical statement by the first oppressing king that he feared the Hebrews would become more numerous than his people. This could certainly not be true of a native Egyptian king.

BIBLE ARCHAEOLOGY REPORT: Throughout your career, you’ve been a supporter of the early Israelite exodus from Egypt in the 15th century. Can you summarize what you feel are the most compelling arguments for this position?

The head of the Pharaoh Amenhotep II from a sphynx. It is currently housed in the State Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich, Germany. Photo: Osama Shukir Muhammad Amin FRCP (Glasg)/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

DR. CHARLES F. ALING: Regarding the Exodus, the Bible itself (I Kings 6:1) points to an early date (the 1440’s BC). The probable pharaoh, I believe, would be Amenhotep II of Dynasty 18. I think there is compelling evidence from this king’s reign for this view. For one thing, this king had no serious military campaigns after his early years, and his last campaign of those early years was only into the Gaza region for the purpose of bringing slaves into Egypt. The number of new slaves is staggering: 100,000! This fact is consistent with having lost the large Hebrew slave population. Also, Amenhotep II abandoned his northern capital and closed the naval base there. But of equal interest is the change in some of the titles of officials. Briefly, there is no proven High Priest of Amon during the next reign, and one of the corollary titles that the High Priest would hold is Overseer of All Priests of Upper and Lower Egypt. A key military officer by the name of Horemhab took the title of Overseer of Priests and was the first non-priest to hold his title in all of Egyptian history. This shows the military holding religious power. All of this material best fits the reign of a king who no longer trusted his priesthood and who handed over key titles to the military.

I would like to thank Dr. Aling for taking the time to share with us his expertise as an Egyptologist and his views on biblical history. I know it was not easy for him to summarize his findings on broad topics in such a short space. For a much fuller analysis of the archaeology and biblical data that supports Dr. Charles F. Aling’s understanding of the chronology related to Joseph and the Exodus, I highly recommend his book, Egypt and Bible History: From Earliest Times to 1000 BC. It is available from Amazon or Wipf and Stock.

You can learn more about the Institute for Biblical Archaeology and Artifax magazine here: http://bibleartifax.com/

Dr. Aling has also written an excellent six-part series entitled, “Joseph In Egypt” which was published in Bible and Spade magazine. It is available from the Associates for Biblical Research here:

Disclaimer: I allow each archaeologist to answer in his or her own words and may or may not agree with his or her interpretation of their work.

Title Photo: University of Northwestern – St. Paul, Courtesy of Dr. Charles F. Aling


Father of the Smart Grid: Dr. Massoud Amin Recognized as "Thought Leader of the Year"

In a recent announcement by the Energy Thought Summit (ETS), University of Minnesota Professor and IEEE Smart Grid Chair Dr. Massoud Amin received the "Thought Leader of the Year" award. As a first-of-its-kind endowment, the "Thought Leader of the Year" award recognizes "an individual with an inventive, brave vision to inspire the global energy ecosystem," according to ETS. Dr. Amin was selected by a committee of his peers and colleagues from around the world--all who have also made significant contributions to the energy industry.

"I'm humbled and honored by this recognition," Dr. Amin said regarding the award. In addition to his professorship with the University of Minnesota and position with IEEE Smart Grid, Dr. Amin is also the director of the Technological Leadership Institute and Honeywell/H.W. Sweatt Chair in Technological Leadership.

Dr. Amin is known as the "father of the smart grid" because of his teachings and work on power grid theory and research throughout the past three decades. A long list of his accomplishments includes high-ranking involvement with the IEEE, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Texas Reliability Entity, and Midwest Reliability Organization. Most notably, Dr. Amin's expert knowledge on grid security has led to a recent interview on NPR and many other notable media outlets. He has also advised the White House, governors and other agencies on matters related to cyber security.

The award will be presented during the 2015 Energy Thought Summit (ETS15), which is being held March 25-26, 2015 in Austin, Texas. During ETS15, Dr. Amin plans to deliver the "2020 Outlook" and will participate in a panel discussion.


About Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown) and the 1968 Olympic protest: An interview with Dr. Harry Edwards

October 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the historic and remarkable organizing initiative to boycott the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Dr. Harry Edwards led the boycott efforts, as well as the creation of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, in which he involved countless Black activists from throughout the country, including H. Rap Brown.

On Oct. 21, 2018, I was fortunate to interview Dr. Edwards about his 1968 organizing efforts and his affiliation with H. Rap Brown (now Jamil Al-Amin) who also played a leading and inspirational role in this historic 1968 event.

Below is the transcription of the interview with Dr. Edwards:

H. Rap Brown ultimately took the name of Jamil Al-Amin and, as a Muslim leader, was the influential imam in Atlanta’s West End, where he consistently attempted, among other missions, to end the drug invasion in the West End community. Then, in 2000, an Atlanta policeman was killed and Al-Amin was accused of this crime, yet all the indications are that he was not the killer. In fact, another individual, named Otis Jackson, confessed to be the shooter on the evening of March 16, 2000, and yet this was never introduced at trial by the prosecution or defense. Otis Jackson continues to maintain that he was the assailant.

When Jamil Al-Amin was first in prison in Atlanta for this alleged crime, I visited him briefly, along with Alabama attorney J.L. Chestnut, who had been defending Al-Amin while he was in Alabama just after the killing of the Atlanta policeman.

During the 2002 trial, which ended in the conviction of Jamil Al-Amin, we consistently held radio shows on WRFG-Atlanta, along with Al-Amin’s brother, Ed Brown, regarding updates of the trial, and many of us, including myself, were observers in the courtroom.

Al-Amin is now in the United States Prison (USP) in Tucson, Arizona, where he is housed in the general population. He continues to declare his innocence, and supporters are advocating for his return to a Georgia facility where he will finally be able to visit with his family and friends.

At the end of the transcription is a brief biography of Dr. Edwards, the link to a compilation of articles about Jamil Al-Amin, as well as the listing of the four requests made of the Olympic Committee by the ‘Olympic Project for Human Rights’.

Interview with Dr. Harry Edwards

Harry Edwards: Let me talk about Rap and my motivation for bringing him into this situation. In 1964, when I graduated from San Jose State University, I had the options of going into the National Football League (NFL) draft or the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft or even sticking around and preparing for the ‘64 Olympics, as I had thrown the discus far enough to qualify for the trials. But I had a Woodrow Wilson fellowship to Cornell University, which, in point of fact, paid more. So that’s the option that I took.

And while I was there, I wrote my Master’s thesis on the Black Muslim family. And some of the people that I interviewed were part of Malcolm X’s group down in New York City. So I became very much influenced after listening to Malcolm and really coming to understand the extent to which he had literally changed his perspective and paradigm relative to his analysis of African-American circumstances in this country.

And there were two points that he made that really stuck with me. The first was that we had to move from a focus on “civil rights” to “human rights,” because that broadened our basis of not just protest but of alliance possibilities. Because, if we focus on civil rights, we’re stuck within the context of the American judicial political system. But, if we begin to talk about human rights, then that puts us on the same level and the same forum with other human beings on this earth.

The second point that Malcolm made, so clearly, was that the extent to which we were going to be able to make any progress was going to be dependent upon the extent to which there was unity among those who were struggling in this country – especially African-American groups – and not “uniformity” but “unity.” We could all be coming from different aspects of the struggle, but there had to be some “unity” in terms of how we projected that protest power.

And so the notion of “human rights” led me to term the struggle in sports the Olympic Project for Human Rights. And this notion of unity led me to try to broaden the bases of struggle. One of the key people in that whole process was H. Rap Brown.

If you recall back at that time, in 1967-68, Dr. (Martin Luther) King was on the outs with virtually everybody. The more impatient, younger, more militant people involved in the struggle had even started calling him the “Lawd” because he spoke and people responded, oftentimes, unquestioningly. But many young people were beginning to question both the non-violent method as well as the goal of desegregation, which left Black communities literally stranded and isolated and devoid of their leadership structure.

Institutions within the Black community began to collapse, as the middle classes and higher levels of social economic order in American society, including Black society, began to move into and onto the periphery of institutions in the white society. So Black restaurants, Black hotels, Black schools, Black newspapers and most certainly Blacks involved in sports, such as the Negro leagues – all of that began to collapse

And so, there was this young militant group moving into a new direction and a different paradigm than Dr. King. And then the mainstream that had been so supportive of him, particularly the economic structures and the unions and some liberal government interests and even the other Black churches and pastors began to turn away from him because of his outspokenness about the Vietnam War. They thought he had got out of his lane and was bringing undue pressure on the civil rights movement as a consequence, and they were suffering as well as him. So, they had turned on him.

But Dr. King wanted to begin to pool these pieces back together. And, so, one of the things that I did was to get in touch with Dr. King through my good friend Louis Lomax and set up a meeting where we could talk about his endorsement possibilities, as far as he was concerned, of the “Olympic Project for Human Rights.”

And I also got in touch with Rap.

I had been working with Ralph Featherstone, in point of fact, since February to endorse the Olympic Project for Human Rights. So, my goal with the Olympic Project for Human Rights was to bring in SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), to bring in the Black Panther Party, which I was a member of, and Huey Newton, Bobby Seale to bring in Dr. King and Floyd McKissik – to bring in all of these interests around the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

The person, the catalyst in terms of the more militant youthful groups, was H. Rap Brown. Because Rap, at that point in 1968, was the chair of SNCC and probably the most militant face and profile of the younger Black movement in this country. So when he signed off on the boycott of the New York Athletic Club – when he signed off on the Olympic Project for Human Rights – it made it possible for everybody else on that side of the civil rights divide to line up behind the movement.

And then, of course, when Dr. King signed off, that brought in Floyd McKissick of the Congress of Racial Equality and a number of other groups who were more traditionally establishment civil rights leaders.

So, Rap played a critical role in terms of bringing that unity that Malcolm had discussed, at least around this one issue of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. It was an important starting point, I felt.

I was involved with Rap, in point of fact, before he went to prison the first time around the situation in New York City. I was a graduate student at Cornell University and I would come down to New York City to do research and various other activities in the city and a lot of times Rap would pick me up at the airport.

But he and James Forman and Stokely Carmichael were major factors in me framing up the possibilities in terms of political leverage using sports to bring more people into a circle of understanding about what our obligations were.

We could not allow these athletes who had this tremendous forum … this tremendous megaphone … to simply stand out there and continually salute the flag as our churches were being bombed, as our leaders were being shot down, as our children and old Black women were being dribbled down the street like basketballs with firehouses that were so powerful they could take the bark off of trees. Athletes with that great forum had to stand up and say essentially, “We’re better than this.”

And, so, to galvanize people around that idea and who had not seen sports in exactly that framework, was critical. And Rap was one of the early people – early on individuals – who understood that.

But, of course, Rap was an athlete himself. A lot of people think that Kaepernick was the first Black quarterback to become politicized and to militantly assault racism and injustice in the American society. But the first Black quarterback to do that, that I knew, was H. Rap Brown, who had gone to Southern University on a scholarship, before he joined SNCC, and began to really become active in the movement.

He was a heck of an athlete. Rap loved to play basketball, play football – he was in sports just like he was in life. He went out to win – to get things done.

So, he was the first Black quarterback that I knew who became actively involved in the movement and literally set sports aside so that he could do that.

Heather Gray: Given all the activism all of you and others were engaged in, how is it expressed in today’s world?

Edwards: Well, first of all, the fact that 50 years after the Olympic Project for Human Rights, not only is it being talked about, it’s actually being commemorated and celebrated all over the world. We just finished a program at San Jose State University where there’s a 30-foot statue of Smith and Carlos on the campus. But there were people in from Germany, South Africa, Mexico – of course, Italy, France, Brazil. I mean there were people there from all over the world to cover it.

The program that we had was live streamed and if anyone is interested in looking at that program they can go to San Jose University website and the entire program is up on that website.

We had many of the people involved in that movement on the stage and involved in panels including John Carlos and Tommy Smith, and people like Spencer Haywood and most certainly Wyomia Tyus and others. So they can go and look at that. But the fact that we’re talking about it 50 years later means that it had an impact.

The thing with regard to H. Rap Brown was that, like Malcolm, Rap continued to evolve. He continued to evolve his knowledge and understanding and so forth of the movement and challenges that are involved. Most people have no idea of what happened to him after the 1960s. But Rap, of course, was a central figure of focus in J. Edward Hoover’s COINTELPRO program, as was I and Stokely Carmichael and a lot of other people.

But he changed his name (to Jamil Al-Amin). Changed in terms of developing a religious focus. And a lot of people who knew him as H. Rap Brown kind of got lost in the tradewinds of change and have no idea what happened to him or where he is today.

Gray: Why do you think H. Rap Brown changed?

Edwards: Well, I think that we all change. The issue becomes whether we’re developing in a positive direction.

It’s like I tell people about the whole notion of progress in society or in the struggle. Progress is one of those concepts that’s a lot like profit. At one point it comes down to who’s keeping the books. And it’s the same with regard to individual development and progress. At some point it comes down to who’s writing the biography. And if nothing is being written of it in bits and pieces, or nothing at all, you don’t get the full story as to what is happening in a person’s life or the impact that they might be having today as a consequence of the changes that have taken place.

But we all change. The issue is whether our lives are being directed by us to the extent that that is possible or whether our lives are something that is evolving while we’re doing something else.

I think that Rap was on top of the evolution in his life. I think that he had a very good idea of the direction that he was moving in and what he wanted to do. I think that the discipline of Islam, and the very way that it allowed him to frame up increasingly more complicated developments, born as much of the successes of the 1960s as of the failures. I think that all of that propelled him in a different direction than where he was going when he was H. Rap Brown and chairman of SNCC.

Gray: So I want to mention, you have made reference to the fact that Nelson Mandela had a copy of the flier you all developed in the 1968 for the Olympic event. Apparently, someone was able to smuggle that flier into his cell while he was imprisoned on Robben Island in South Africa. When I was in South Africa a few years ago, I was able to visit Mandela’s cell on Robben Island. I was also fortunate to be in South Africa when Mandela was inaugurated in 1994 and he had some of the white prison guards from Robben Island on the platform with him because he had such a profound influence on everyone around him, including other inmates and the guards as well.

Now, attorney J.L. Chestnut from Alabama, who was always assisting H. Rap Brown in the 1960s when Rap was arrested sometimes during the ‘60s movement, told me that the authorities in Alabama were always nervous about Rap when he was in prison. This is because he always had such a profound impact on the inmates and guards around him. That is still in effect today because Federal Bureau of Prisons also gets really nervous about Jamil mixing too much with the general prison population, as well as with the guards. So it’s just on-going, Dr. Edwards.

Edwards: Absolutely. Of course, any time you have someone of that stature and that clarity of mind in terms of who they are and what they are about, it becomes a threat to a system where the basic guideline is “control.” And, so, if they want to maintain maximum control, they do what they have done in this case, which is to eliminate all interview possibilities. It’s virtually impossible to get a letter into Jamil in this situation. And it’s one of the ways that the system controls people that it determines to be an on-going and palpable threat.

Gray: So why are the government entities nervous about someone like Jamil Al-Amin?

Edwards: Well, the problem that the system has is that it can allow an individual to be free and to speak or they can lock him down or her down in total isolation and so forth. If they allow them to be free to speak and to organize and so forth, then they have a problem because there can be influence in that regard. And so you have these kinds of efforts to isolate and eliminate their legitimacy, as happened with Paul Robeson, as is happening now with Colin Kaepernick.

Or you can lock them down, but under those circumstances you create a martyr. So the only way that you can kind of slow down the martyrdom is to totally isolate this person – no contact, no discussion, no information. So then isolated people will not know what’s going on, what others are thinking, what they’re doing, and over a period of time a person can become so isolated, so insulated, so incapsulated that they actually lose contact with the linguistic currency of the current era.

They can’t even speak to people of the Gen Generation or the X Generation or the Boomerang Generation or whatever they want to call the current group of young up and coming activists. They lose contact. They lose access to the linguistic currency necessary to communicate with them. And that’s the hope of the system.

That’s what total isolation can do where they control your reading materials, what you can listen to on the radio or watch on the television set. They control who can send you letters they control letters you can send out. And the next thing you know, somebody who has been isolated has lost touch and contact with the broader masses of people who they would influence and who would benefit from their wisdom and knowledge.

So that is the kind of struggle that takes place when you have somebody like Jamil in this kind of a total lockdown set of circumstances.

Gray: So I guess the assumption is basically that the powers that be, whether it’s J. Edgar Hoover, the CIA, COINTELPRO or the present United States government overall, they want to continue this oppression of people. They want to be able to control them the way they want.

Edwards: Absolutely. And even in the age of the internet and the social media, there is still concern about the management of information. And that becomes a real challenge for anyone who they would oppress today. So they can lock an individual down – that takes place – but more in the boarder spectrum of things, since they can’t totally manage information in the age of social media and the internet, there’s a reliance on fake information.

We have a president who is a pathological liar – a morally malignant degenerate – but he continues to put out this information that paints everybody else as fake and lying and so forth. So that’s what they’ve been driven to in this age as the consequence of the social media. But where they can, they will lock people down, isolate them, cut them off. And, unfortunately, that’s what’s happening to Jamil.

Gray: I also want to ask you what we can share with others as well, what can be inspirational as far as learning more about Jamil and his impact on the United States, but on the world as far as international justice is concerned. So how would you summarize that? What would you tell the people about him to learn from him and be inspired?

Edwards: The first thing that I would tell them is to follow the direction of Malcolm X. Malcolm said that the reading and study of history is the greatest of all endeavors because it allows you to frame up how we got to where we are. I would have them go online – one of the great benefits of the social media – and dig up everything they possible could about H. Rap Brown and about the man that he evolved into.

The second thing that I would suggest is that people understand something that Rap Brown told me over half a century ago, and that is there are no messiahs, because individuals never survive – only the people and the struggle survive.

And a point that he made is something that I continue to reiterate, and that is that there are no final victories. Not only should we not be looking for a messiah, who has all of the answers and who’s going to lead us out of this wilderness, but there are no final victories. It is going to be up to every generation to fight their battles, and not just because they’re the battles they are confronted with. But if they if they do not, then the next generation will not only have to fight its battles, but it will have to fight the battles that the last generation should have fought.

And never ever get into a frame of mind where you think that because you have won a battle, that somehow that is permanent and unchanging. We are fighting now voter suppression in the face of having achieved the Voting Rights Act we’re dealing with medical services for women in the face of having achieved Roe v. Wade and all these other things. We are going back and again battling over a terrain that many people thought conquered.

So, there are no final victories. There are no messiahs. There are just those who are committed to fighting the battle, and I think that is what H. Rap Brown and his evolution is indicative of.

I watched Malcolm X – he evolved. I watched Dr. King evolve. In the end he was talking about economic development. He died in the struggle for economic development in Memphis. He was talking about anti-war measures. I watched Dr. King evolve.

So, everybody has to evolve not just in terms generationally but individually. That’s the model. That’s the lesson that we can learn from studying the life of H. Rap Brown and the individual, the man who he evolved into.

Gray: One of the things that, in the movement, people were evolving to engage in was “human rights.” Could you please explain that again? What specifically is human rights?

Edwards: As long as we were talking about civil rights, if it was on the books, it was done. Then it comes down to going down to vote. Then it comes down to going out to buy a home. Then it comes down to going to this school rather than the school that you were restricted to. That’s civil rights.

Human rights has to do with the respect and dignity of the individual. It goes beyond civil rights. It goes to the issue of having the right to live and walk on this earth with the dignity of a human being. So, this comes down to being able to have safety in your home. Being able to have nutritional necessities met.

I was speaking at a campus this week where students regularly have to choose between books and breakfast, in the richest country on earth.

Being able to have nutritional security in America should be a human right.

Health care should be a human right.

Being able to walk the streets of any community in this country should be a human right.

It is not a matter of civil rights that 147 Black men, women and children are summarily executed in the streets of this country every year by police. That’s an issue of human rights.

And so the issue of human rights, as Malcolm X pointed out as early as 1964, goes beyond what’s on the books in terms of civil rights. It goes down to the dignity and respect and stature of a human being – on this planet, in this country, at this time – and so the impact of the struggle for human rights encompasses civil rights, but it goes so much beyond that. And it involves all groups.

When we talk about civil rights, we tend to talk about “Black” civil rights. Black right to vote. Black right to housing equity. Black right to healthcare.

When we talk about human rights, we’re talking about women, we’re talking about students on campuses across this country. We’re talking about old folks and their right to live out their lives in dignity and so forth. We’re talking about women’s rights to hold a job without being sexually harassed and being able to walk the streets without feeling threatened in their very person because they are women.

When we are talking about human rights, we are talking about the fact that a lot of what happens to Black women doesn’t happen to them because they are Black, it happens to them because they are women. And that’s a human concern that we have to have.

And so I think that when we talk about human rights, when we expand our struggle, as we tried to do with the Olympic Project for Human Rights in 1968 that Rap Brown was so much a part of in bringing in the militant youth movement in alliance with Dr. King and Floyd McKissick and the Congress of Racial Equality. We’re talking about where we need to go with the movement in this country. And it also ties into something that James Baldwin said.

James Baldwin wrote a book in 1962 called “The Fire Next Time,” and in there he said, “We must be visionary enough, we must have the will, and we must have the wisdom to include everybody in our strategies for change because, to the extent that we do not, then we are once again destined to fulfill those words from the Bible, put to song by a slave, ‘God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water. The fire next time.’”

And because the movement, which had been established in the civil rights movement, left so many Black people behind in places like Watts and the Southside of Chicago and so forth – Baldwin wrote that book in 1962 and, in 1965, Watts exploded.

So, we have to understand that we now have to begin to talk about human rights, as Rap Brown did 50 years ago, as the Olympic Project on Human Rights focused on 50 years ago, as Malcolm X spoke of over 50 years ago, as Dr. King was moving toward when he started talking about economic rights and the war in Vietnam and so forth 50 years ago.

So that struggle continues. And the individual that was Rap Brown, who is now Jamil Al-Amin, is as much at the center of that struggle today as he was then.

Gray: Dr. Harry Edwards, I want to thank you so much. And as the South Africans always say, “A luta continua” – the struggle continues – which is what you are saying as well.

Edwards: Absolutely!

About Dr. Harry Edwards

Sociology professor and civic activist Harry Edwards was born in 1942 in East St. Louis, Illinois, to Harry and Adelaide Edwards. Edwards grew up in East St. Louis as the second child in a family of eight children. He attended the newly integrated East St. Louis Senior High School, where he excelled in sports.

After graduating from high school in 1960, Edwards moved to California, where he attended Fresno City College. Edwards then transferred to San Jose State University, where he majored in sociology and graduated summa cum laude with his B.A. degree in sociology in 1964. In 1966, Edwards went on to receive his M.A. degree in sociology from Cornell University, where he was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. In 1970, he received his Ph.D. degree in sociology from Cornell University, where he helped to found United Black Students for Action and the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

Due to his negative experiences as a student athlete on predominately white university campuses, Edwards became heavily involved in exposing the relationship between race and sports in society. By the late 1960s, Edwards began actively organizing protests and demonstrations like the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute at Mexico City involving John Carlos, Peter Norman and Tommie Smith. (The History Makers)

The Olympic Project for Human Rights had Four Central Demands:

  • restore Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight boxing title
  • remove Avery Brundage as head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
  • hire more African American coaches
  • and disinvite South Africa and Rhodesia from the Olympics.

Ali’s belt had been taken by boxing’s powers that be earlier in the year for his resistance to the Vietnam draft. By standing with Ali, OPHR was expressing its opposition to the war.

By calling for the hiring of more African American coaches as well as the ouster of Brundage, they were dragging out of the shadows a part of Olympic history those in power wanted to bury. Brundage was an anti-Semite and a white supremacist, best remembered today for sealing the deal on Hitler’s hosting the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

By demanding the exclusion of South Africa and Rhodesia, they aimed to convey their internationalism and solidarity with the Black freedom struggles against apartheid in Africa.

Part One: “About Jamil Al-Amin, the former H. Rap Brown,” published June 30, 2018

Part Two: “About Jamil Al-Amin with Wendell Paris,” published July 1, 2018

Part Three: “The Unofficial Gag Order of Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown): 16 Years in Prison, Still Not Allowed to Speak,” published July 3, 2018

Part Four: “End the Isolation of Jamil Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown): Open Letter to the Bureau of Prisons and State of Georgia by Concerned Academics,” published July 5, 2018

Part Five: “H. Rap Brown/Jamil Al-Amin: A Profoundly American Story,” published July 7, 2018

Part Six: “The Quakers about Jamil Al-Amin: An Appeal to John Lewis,” published Aug. 16, 2018


Decolonizing Labour Law: A Conversation with Professor Adelle Blackett

Professor Adelle Blackett asks ‘what happens when labour law is forced to see itself in historically rooted, relational, and contextualised terms’? While refusing continuity for its own sake, Blackett stresses the need for developing spaces in which alternative and counter-hegemonic narratives about the purpose of (labour) law are taken seriously – those emerging from labour law’s peripheries in colonised land, dispossessed and disenfranchised people in the global South and North. On 31 August 2020, Amin Parsa and Niklas Selberg from Lund University conversed virtually with Professor Blackett to discuss the trajectory of her research and teaching on decolonisation of labour law, as well as the Othering of labour law by even the most progressive factions of international legal scholarship. Professor Blackett also reflects on the significance of the #BLM movement, the role of legal academia in sealing out historical frames of oppression and exploitation, and our responsibility to cultivate a learning environment that enables students to engage with endemic anti-Black discrimination, racism and police brutality. Reflecting on her own entry to academia, Blackett once concluded that we all have ‘homework’ to do, including ‘the redemptive work of transforming the institutions we inhabit, including our universities and law faculties’. Parsa and Selberg conducted this interview in this spirit and as a step in this direction.

Amin Parsa & Niklas Selberg: You are engaged in a project on decolonising labour law. How did you end up in this endeavour? What does this project entail?

Adelle Blackett: It feels like I have been working on this for most of my time in labour law without necessarily having had a name for it. My early work on international labour law has always been about looking back and using a historical lens to reframe debates that are sealed within a particular intellectual trajectory, into a broader trajectory. Moving beyond the project of understanding labour law as exclusively linked to the industrial revolution implies tying together longer links to histories of slavery, colonisation, and various forms of unfreedom and seeing how they intersect with labour law. The project became one of weaving understandings of the world together – and it increasingly became possible to speak from within the discipline of labour law about these intersections with an understanding of capitalism that was inextricable from the processes of enslavement, of colonisation.

Amin & Niklas: Is there anyone at the intersection of labour law and capitalism that you feel that your work is a continuation of?

Adelle: Without a doubt there is a huge intellectual debt to classic thinkers in the field of slavery. Much of this work started with Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery. We have witnessed a resurgence of interest in the research that he led in the 1940s, as seen in the work of Sven Beckert, Greg Grandin, and a number of others who have pieced together the way in which labour history and the history of capital deeply intersect. From the racial capitalism side, Cedric Robinson’s work is pivotal as it traces a longer story, including that which engages deeply with how we understand Europe and divisions along racial lines prior to the transatlantic slave trade. Stuart Hall and Angela Davis as well. But these thinkers are rarely engaged with by labour law scholars.

My trajectory started with thinking about something as basic as the labour and trade linkage – and why we think about this linkage as new. If you understand this linkage through the lens of slavery, through the lens of colonialism, they are inextricable. When I started writing about this linkage, one of my footnotes alluded to the space for a Critical Race Theory analysis of labour-trade linkage. One of my colleagues pointed to this footnote and he was like ‘what do you mean? Do more work there’. The footnotes weren’t just placeholders for me, they were part of my own grappling with the fact that the narrative I had received from within the field did not yet feel complete to me. I was already in the process of exploring and deepening the narrative. Those footnotes have held me to account. Much of my trajectory has been expanding on those footnotes, bringing together elements that for me were based on my own community history and my own intellectual trajectory that seemed to me to be uniting. Finally, I could make the move toward being able to name this project as one of decolonising the field as part of the collective work of transforming the discipline.

I am calling into question the methodological nationalism that is associated with treating labour as purely a domestic matter, and that in the process enables a deep asymmetry to be perpetuated.

Amin & Niklas: At the later stages of this process, the conceptualisation of transnational labour law comes in. Could you discuss the linkages between the two?

Adelle: These days my work feels like one big project. Transnational labour law was a move away from thinking about international labour law in a purely Westphalian, ‘hierarchy of norms’ kind of way: ‘states enact international law and through either the dualist or monist tradition, international law will have effect within their domestic law, and it will follow a traditional legislative process through implementation and court process enforcement and so on’ – the received story that assumes the national or domestic as the appropriate regulatory space. This is the story we know, but this is also the story that increasingly is challenged. The ‘transnational’ provides a way to open up, but it does so not without risk. It is a concern that some theorising around transnational law takes us away from a framework focused on investing legitimacy in the claims of peoples, of polities, of communities, and instead takes us towards lex mercatoria and large corporations in no way accountable to such polities. The framing of ‘transnational labour law’ is an attempt to grapple with what we have always known in labour law – the central importance of social movements to social change, the bottom-up framing of rights, the importance of also thinking through how demands for redistribution have become the subject of capture.

Working through how governance of labour has been spatially and temporally separated from the governance of the economic has been central to developing an understanding of transnational labour law. The ‘transnational’ focuses on rethinking what law itself should be understood as embodying, taking on a more pluralist vision of law making that sees actors such as workers as having a role in determining the condition of their work. The labour dimension keeps transnational law focused on issues of relative power and attentive to perils and possibilities. My work on transnational labour law has been an attempt to broaden discussions in ways that centre counter-hegemonic contestations of law and legal ordering.

Central to those contestations is rethinking the appropriate level at which labour is meant to be governed. My work challenges the assumption that labour law is naturally or most appropriately a matter of domestic governance and calls into question the assumption that only commerce should be liberalised transnationally. And by ‘liberalised’, we know this means regulated – often with hard law instruments like bilateral investment agreements – at a different governance level. My project is an unmooring of the basic assumption that the most appropriate regulatory level is the national. I am using this language carefully because I am not suggesting that through theorising of transnational labour law one should exclusively or even primarily regulate beyond an individual state – but I am calling into question the methodological nationalism that is associated with treating labour as purely a domestic matter, and that in the process enables a deep asymmetry to be perpetuated. European experiences speak poignantly to the perils of asymmetry in the governance of the social dimensions so, increasingly, this work is taking me to more of the intellectual histories of the post-war architecture. Some of Quinn Slobodian’s work is particularly helpful on understanding the very active encasing of the economic at the international level and the strong resistance to addressing the social at another governance level than the domestic – and that becomes a crucial part of where one goes on a project of transnational law.

There is violence in teaching cases that emerged from slavery without seeing the contradiction of building legal principle upon an historical wrong.

Amin & Niklas: How does consideration of the past in the present inform (or how should it inform) legal education, the organisation of academia and legal practice? Legal scholars are often educators of lawyers. How can we take these insights with us into our teaching?

Adelle: These are questions I grapple with every day in my own teaching. So much of law is actually about forgetting the past. For instance, the notion of legal principle as refined through precedent oftentimes aspires to strip away context as far as possible and retain only the narrow legal principle to guide future interpretation. That very process enables the past to be left behind, while carrying forward the abstract principle. So much of the movement around decolonisation has been about remembering the past as in part a way to challenge the foundation of the principle that is moving forward. One of the clearest examples are cases in property law and insurance law and the like that are about enslaved persons. There is violence in teaching cases that emerged from slavery without seeing the contradiction of building legal principle upon an historical wrong. That is at the core of keeping the past ever present. Decolonisation of law is about holding us to acts of remembering where our principles have come from, and to grappling with whether and how they should be guiding our present and future.

Part of teaching is to communicate how and why the past matters and to acknowledge the shadow it casts on what we are doing. This is hard work. It is destabilising for many scholars and disciplines because, rather than simply saying ‘we are doing something else out here and we are going to form a new discipline, say decolonial law studies’, we are saying ‘this happens in your labour law class, this happens in your property law class’. This is about fundamental rethinking and alternate methodologies. It is about instigating a different set of conversations as one moves through the general curriculum.

Amin & Niklas: In the process of preparing for this interview we read a couple of your works, especially Follow the Drinking Gourd, which was very helpful. Not just for its content, but as a blueprint of practice for both teachers and researchers. In that article you speak of the troubles that come with certain framings of legal questions and problems to which you call for a need to ‘rebuild the canon’. Could you expand on the epistemological assumptions and methodological tools behind the decolonisation of labour law? Who can produce this kind of knowledge and who can be an ally to this? How is decolonising (labour) law in itself localised how does it differ depending on location and position?

Adelle: I start from the epistemological assumption central to settler colonialism – it is ongoing. It is often hard to grapple with the persistence of the past in the present. Even the language of legacy, while important, can obscure the persistence of racial capitalism for example in prison labour and mass incarceration of Black and Indigenous populations. The opposite of colonial is not postcolonial, it is anticolonial, it is decolonial, it is an active process. The opposite of racist is not non-racist, it is anti-racist – as we are reminded in this moment. The quest for legal principles, legal rules, that we can apply in a neutral manner is deeply challenged by these affirmations.

Our starting points matter in our disciplines. In labour law we cannot start without acknowledging the narrow reach of the labour models that we have held up as universal, transplantable, fit for the world of work. Otherwise, we re-enact the erasure of the so-called atypical but ultimately resolutely typical workers in the global North, sometimes referred to as the South of the North, and we reinforce the deep incongruity in most of the world between labour law frameworks and the labour market. To acknowledge this incongruity is not to reify these deeply exploitative conditions but to question the paradigms that we have held up as applicable and appropriate. These paradigms include a production/consumption-based model of how the economy should function – a model that is called into question by climate justice and Indigenous movements.

Much of my work is focused on domestic workers who have literally been written out of labour laws … The very inclusion of these workers challenges us to do something that is radically deeper: to see what it means to take care work as the centre of what the regulations of labour are about.

Amin & Niklas: Old cookbooks were foundational for your analysis of the historical trajectories leading up to the development of the regulation of domestic work. What alternative sources, subjects, links and practices does labour law research committed to decolonisation and/or transnationalism bring to the forefront?

Adelle: I confess that I stumbled upon the cookbooks. It was deeply eye-opening for me as I tended to gravitate around historical sources. My current work is taking me back to the archives of the ILO and the League of Nations, investigating the foundational understanding of what labour was, and it is really striking to see that the kind of disconnect that we have erected now around the division between slavery and labour and forced labour were not at all sealed in that historical moment. In fact, the link was understood to be quite clear by some leading actors, including the ILO and its first Director General. But the cookbooks, they are at once an historical source, but as you rightly point out, a source that would not have been thought a source at all. They brilliantly focus what can happen when you bring a gender focus, when you bring an outsider focus, and when you bring a deep commitment to the idea that it is the subjects of labour law who make the law. Workers weren’t just there, they were actively, of course, resisting, and creatively reformulating the terms of their engagement with whatever spaces that they had.

In domestic labour there are not a lot of artefacts. A clean child is not clean an hour later, food is consumed, neat rooms become dirty. Cookbooks, which are deeply mediated of course, actually remain. The very act of publishing means that a group of workers in times of widespread illiteracy were able to gain access to these modes of exchange. These books are not tell-all novels or autobiographies – yet so much comes through this material, particularly when you read them as a whole. I was committed to reading the recipes, and the biographies that came from them, and learned a lot. One gets a deeply humanising sense of what this meant and how workers were able to navigate and convey important messages and make a record. So yes, these were sources. Some of these sources were preserved because of the revival of the culinary origin-stories – who actually cooked these Southern recipes? There is digitalisation of these sources and an acknowledgement of a code that emerges. I was looking through these sources with a very different sense of what I understood as code: a legal pluralist understanding of law making, alive to power that happened because of these actors in their household. This power was deeply understood and could, at different times, in different often subtle ways, be transgressed by the workers themselves, because they more than anyone understood the pressure points in the different positionalities and dependencies in their household-workplaces.

Amin & Niklas: International law, even in its most progressive articulations, including TWAIL, has surprisingly overlooked labour law. In fact, you note that international labour law is othered by international law. What has caused this othering? How can it be reversed?

Adelle: This is an important question. Part of what has been interesting about looking into the history of international labour law is the realisation that this decentring was not always the case. When international labour law first emerged, it was actually paradigmatic international law. The ILO is what survived of the League of Nations, and it had a massive corpus of international law. It is after the post war period that one sees a shift in particular to the human rights corpus, to international economic law, both of which are directly relevant to and include international labour law. So of course, international labour law nowadays is far from the centre of international law, despite the critical and changing nature of work and what used to be referred to as the international division of labour. One has to make a case for talking about international labour law, as I had to do recently for the work around the ILO centenary, in a leading international law journal.

Universalist labour codes came to be framed as general labour law. That they covered less than 10 per cent of the labour market was simply ignored.

The othering of international labour law partly has to be understood through the ILO’s focus on linking world peace with social justice through a very deliberate, detailed commitment to particular forms of state-based regulation. The contribution of the ILO framework to building welfare states became eclipsed in precisely those states that moved far forward so that the universalist ILO started to be seen as largely irrelevant in the global North. Instead, the ILO was considered useful as a technical cooperation vehicle for regulating elsewhere. It became a basis for exporting hegemonic notions of ‘modern industrial man’ from industrialised market economies to the ‘Third World’, ignoring the structure and dynamism of labour markets and labour organising in most of the world. Universalist labour codes came to be framed as general labour law. That they covered less than 10 per cent of the labour market was simply ignored.

In one of my first law jobs in Canada, when a senior partner learned that I had spent time at the ILO, he literally rolled his eyes and said, ‘Oh, if the ILO has to save us …’. This firm later became one of the major firms bringing cases to the ILO Freedom of Association Committee, and encouraging the Supreme Court of Canada to rely on international labour standards to interpret Canada’s constitutional Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Very strong human rights claims flow through the international labour law corpus. If you have a framework that is focused on building a welfare state, and you increasingly get a breakdown of an embedded liberal approach – in other words, the state showing ability or commitment to sustaining a welfare state – then the corpus that comes through international labour law will turn out to be an important counterweight in the global North to the neoliberal dismantling of the welfare state.

And in the global South, the Othering of international labour law affected the historical memory of Third World engagement to challenge racial capitalism and ongoing colonialism. The ILO was the institutional structure where many decolonial struggles took on particular significance, the anti-apartheid movement being a key example. South Africa was forced to withdraw from the ILO in 1963 and did not return for thirty years. This was part of the Third World mobilising through that space alongside the workers’ group of the ILO to force a reckoning between settler colonialism and labour. One might use later language and refer to that episode as an understanding of racial capitalism flowing through interventions that linked apartheid and labour. The ILO consistently called for change – so much so that when soon-to-be president Nelson Mandela was released from prison, the ILO was one of the first forums that he addressed in 1990 and he acknowledged this effort. This account and engagement with what happened at the ILO, and the reasons why international labour law is increasingly silent on issues of race and slavery, are largely absent from TWAIL scholarship. While in 1944, under its Declaration of Philadelphia, the ILO was at the forefront of addressing racial non-discrimination, the 2019 Centenary Declaration of the ILO does not make any mention of race.

Now I realise, as I am saying this, that there are exciting contemporary discussions happening between CRT scholars and TWAIL scholars, some of which I had the privilege to be involved in, where spaces are opening to make these connections in a forthright manner, carefully centring slavery and racial capitalism. This should open spaces to engage closely with international labour law within CRT and TWAIL. Tendayi Achiume and Asli Bâli have created space for engaging the social in the dialogue between CRT and TWAIL at UCLA, including in a forthcoming symposium in the UCLA Law Review. Adrian Smith’s TWAILR Reflection is another compelling example, and it was great to see several other contributors – Obiora Chinedu Okafor, Titilayo Adebola and Basema Al-Alami – also address TWAIL themes at the ILO.

Amin & Niklas: What can scholars of international law learn from international labour law, specifically in relation to questions of social and economic inequality? Anne Orford, for example, confronted ‘liberal internationalism’ with the need for a project she labelled as ‘asking the social question’: ‘how do we limit the capacity of the market to demand that everything be sacrificed to its logic?’ Haven’t international labour lawyers always asked this kind of question? What would make you happiest for international lawyers to take away from your projects on transnational, international, decolonised labour law?

Adelle: Thanks for this question, I love this question. I have real appreciation for the way in which Anne Orford has centred the critique of Othering in her work. And this work really just crystalises the contemporary marginalisation of international labour law that some of us, notably through the Labour Law and Development Research Laboratory, have been seeking to undo over the last decade. There is a reckoning with the fact that the central dimension of the field has become so Othered that is not even recognised by leading scholars as actively being part of the project of recentring.

International labour law … is quite a detailed corpus that … makes a bit of a parody of the abstraction of asking the ‘social question’ – it has been doing that with precision and care for the past century.

Part of the question is how we revive an understanding of what core international labour law starting points are about – they are all about the social question. This involves in some cases moving not away from but through the granularity of international labour law. It is quite a detailed corpus that sometimes may seem inaccessible or may seem to speak in a language that is not as familiar as human rights treaties. It makes a bit of a parody of the abstraction of asking the ‘social question’ – it has been doing that with precision and care for the past century.

An important dimension of how international labour law has engaged with the ‘social question’ is its consultative or participatory character. In other words, it is not just the corpus, it is the approach, it is the robust engagement of social movements and key actors (with extremely important critical engagement with the current limits of ILO tripartism), it is law making rooted in the experience and understanding of workplaces.

So, what would make me happiest, what would I most want to be taken from my own project? It would be that international labour law offers a centring of marginalised voices, of social movements, and a method for how one goes about fostering that. It would also be pivotal for the project of rethinking international law to start from the rethinking and centring of labour – as a social question, of course, but a social question that is understood to mediate the economic rather than something other than the economic question. The ILO understands this so deeply that it is part of its 1944 Declaration of Philadelphia.

My own historically focused work on settler colonialism and slavery is a reminder that in discussions of international labour law, land must remain central. We need to grapple with the relationship between labour and land as a central way to engage with claims of decolonisation, as well as climate justice.

what can happen when you bring a gender focus, when you bring an outsider focus, and when you bring a deep commitment to the idea that it is the subjects of labour law who make the law.

Increasingly questions have been raised of multiple pandemics that we are currently facing alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic of inequality, pandemic of racial injustice. In light of this, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has interestingly called for a global new deal. Like Orford’s call, the Secretary General’s call engages with these strands that I would argue that international labour law has had at its core for some time. These are not new debates for international labour law, by any stretch of the imagination. But they remain urgent ones.

Amin & Niklas: We are again witnessing a mobilisation of people across the world who are protesting systemic racism. These protests started with the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States. Like Trayvon Martin, whose murder ignited the Black Lives Matter movement, Mike Brown, Eric Gardner, Breonna Tylor, and countless more, George Floyd was a victim of racial violence entrenched in policing. The BLM movement has reverberations far beyond the United States. Recently, Angela Davis pointed out that globalized capitalism cannot be understood adequately if its racial dimension is ignored, and similarly police violence and its formative forces cannot be comprehended without the proper acknowledgement of its racial function. When speaking of decolonising (labour) law, how can we understand the specifically local versions and, at the same time, globally shared experiences of racist police violence as a technology of creating order for capitalist production?

Adelle: This is such an important question, thank you for asking it. I couldn’t agree more. We are in a moment of reckoning with the centrality of racial capitalism to the social ordering of societies. This is crystalised in the US context, but by no stretch of the imagination is it limited to the US. In the labour market we see this so powerfully, so palpably. Many have said that COVID-19 has exposed these fault lines, in particular, that essential workers are Black workers, Indigenous workers, and racialised workers – least likely to confine themselves from their workplace and most likely to be exposed to the virus. These workers are dying in disproportionate numbers. We are seeing the contradictions and painting a picture of what racial stratification looks like in the labour market, and how essential racial stratification is to the ongoing process of organising and caring for our societies. Our starting point is to recognise the deep and unfinished business that emerges from the centuries long transatlantic slave trade, that this trade was global, and that most states were implicated and involved in it. It deeply profited the global North. Its continuation is found in colonial relationships, including settler colonialism. It continues through the structure of our labour markets. It continues through the differential access to labour rights and the asymmetrical ability to participate in labour movements.

Part of what we have to be asking ourselves is whether the frameworks we built on these exclusions are the frameworks we need to challenge these very exclusions? These are not questions to be raised lightly in moments of deep assault on labour rights, where international institutions such as international financial institutions are readily able to name workers and unions as privileged minorities. One needs to be extraordinarily attentive to the tenor of challenges to exclusion, for their ability to – and this is a familiar strategy – pit different categories of workers against each other, rather than to challenge structures that depend on those divisions.

These kinds of questionings emerge in W.E.B. Du Bois’ writings about the First Reconstruction, in this moment aptly referred to by key thinkers like Robin Kelley, at least in the US context, as the Third Reconstruction. The Civil Rights Movement is the Second Reconstruction, and there is insightful work on how at the height of McCarthyism this Movement came to centre education as the litigation strategy for inclusion rather than the deeply segregated workplace. The Third Reconstruction, surrounding this summer’s uprisings in the Movement for Black Lives, is unfinished business, and it includes fundamentally rethinking the broader economic, social and political conditions of Black communities in the US, Indigenous communities, and those who bear the legacies of colonialism. The Third Reconstruction includes forcing labour law frameworks into a position of acknowledging and remedying their own exclusions.

Much of my work is focused on domestic workers who have literally been written out of labour laws. In that case the question one asks is: are we looking at a rewrite that includes them? Departing from this framework implies a broadened understanding of representation and social protection. The very inclusion of these workers challenges us to do something that is radically deeper: to see what it means to take care work as the centre of what the regulations of labour are about. These are just some of the questions that this kind of refocus takes us to. I think the current Movement allows us to see these questions with greater acuity. They are not tangential. They are not add-ons. They are critical challenges to the way that we understand the field and demand closer interrogation in this moment.

Amin & Niklas: Is the point made by Audre Lorde, and often reiterated by BLM, that ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’ relevant for labour lawyers, and if so, what should labour law take from Lorde’s sentiment? Here one could think of the deep connection that the Black Lives Matter movement made with organised labour in the form of the members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) who in 2015 as well as June 2020 organised strikes in support of #BLM.

Adelle: This is crucial. If we redefine what labour is about, we are going to be redefining what our labour actions are going to be about. In the best of traditions around migrant worker rights in various contexts, we have seen shifts in the understanding of labour issues towards asking what issues are closest to the concerns of the workers you are centring.

Earlier versions of this that have now become more broadly understood have concerned gender, childcare and the like. These were initially met with similar responses and it was said: ‘well the paradigmatic worker includes women with childcare responsibilities, so men with childcare responsibility should also be included’. Now Black Lives Matter is very different and becomes foundational if you are taking your attention back to racial capitalism. How can you not then be bringing claims that relate to anti-racist struggles?

What can we understand, for example, about strikes – quintessentially framed through industrialisation – if we analyse them alongside slave revolts and strike action to end forced labour in many of the colonies? They were very much about workers’ collective action, taking it upon themselves to refuse their labour power and in the process, affirming their human dignity. They acted from the understanding of their freedom that included the right to stand up against their own subjugation. This starting point is at the centre of labour law’s emancipatory aims. It is from that starting point that I look at labour struggles, and in that sense I am not prepared to hand the strike over, and call it the master’s tool. Rather, there are longer and thicker histories we need to claim as part of labour law’s founding narrative.

Amin & Niklas: Here we could think about how many people in the United States are surprised to discover that Martin Luther King spoke frequently about labour. The ‘I have a dream’ speech is known but this other history is less acknowledged, including his 1968 speech to the striking Memphis sanitation workers.

Adelle: I just finished a short paper on that for the Democratizing Work manifesto, recently published by Les Éditions Le Seuil. So much of what we remember Dr King for in his ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech was actually pronounced at a gathering in support of the Memphis Sanitation Worker’s strike in April 1968. King knew that going to Memphis was going to be extraordinarily risky, but going there was part of his understanding of the Poor People’s Campaign and the need to build structures deeply supportive of the most marginalised workers. The sanitation workers were treated with utter contempt their life, dignity and working conditions were beyond atrocious. King came and insisted on the right to strike – and the right to strike was linked to the ‘I am a Man’ claim. It is so fundamental. How we as a labour movement could miss the power of that framing and proceed as if the call for reconstruction was something other than labour law, is deeply disturbing to me.

It is time to move away from what Vincent Harding called ‘the conventional King’ and move towards the ‘inconvenient hero’: the Dr King who saw these links and increasingly made them central to his platform. King was prescient: he knew those who espoused a more liberal vision would be okay with basic civil rights such as not being beaten up for wanting to vote (to be considered in the context of ongoing widescale voter suppression in the United States) but would be deeply uncomfortable with the push for socioeconomic rights of the kind that the Sanitation Workers in Memphis were striking for, and for his broader Poor Peoples’ Campaign. When Dr King in 1967 asked ‘where do we go from here’, he asked the question we are all asking now. Much of his agenda, which included for example universal basic income, remains relevant.

Amin & Niklas: How can we as (legal) academics contribute to the transformation of moments into movements and movements into principled and reflective commitments and radical social change?

Adelle: This is such a unique moment. We must teach about it. I start my labour law class with an excerpt from King’s speech to the Sanitation Workers’ Strike. It is about reminding students how deeply connected social movement action for racial justice, for climate justice, for Indigenous rights are to labour law. Then when we work through the technicalities of the labour law frameworks, students are able to see what it accomplishes but also what it seals out and excludes. Because they are holding up a different lens about labour laws’ aspirations. In teaching international labour law, be alive to the lost, unspoken, broader histories of the discipline and foreground them so that teaching keeps alive the transformative potential of the work that students are well placed to carry forward.

As legal academics we have a responsibility to have truthful discussions with our students, where the vision we provide is open and purposeful rather than limited and narrow. The legal academy is not only a training ground for practitioners, it is not Bar School, and it is part of the university for a reason. I think we as a discipline sometimes allow ourselves to forget that and too readily allow ourselves to be at the beck and call of the local and international Bar, when they too know that the legal world is shifting from under them and that they need to be able to name alternatives. People who are able to engage with a broader range of alternatives are needed now.

This is about seeing racial injustice more clearly. Perhaps we realize this not only because of the appalling 8 minutes and 46 seconds of the taped version of George Floyd’s killing, but because we have experienced the sudden change of a global pandemic that has forced us to stop, be alarmed about our inherent vulnerability, and acknowledge a need to listen and move. If we have come to see how quickly the world has changed right under us, we need to focus on cultivating a learning environment that enables our students to engage with core issues in a world that desperately needs change. It should feel terrifying because that’s what it is, but it is also incredibly important to be claiming these spaces for radical social change.

The other dimension flows from any serious engagement with praxis. It is a shared project, it is not the educator just coming in and teaching teaching is shared – students are also the teachers in much of this. Many of the students are the ones who are in the streets making claims audible. That challenges legal academia in the ready assumption the students come to us for us to fill their minds with ‘how to think like lawyers’. Critical scholars in the TWAIL tradition have challenged this for a long time. We are doing something deeply different and moments like these perhaps just provide a little bit more of a space to be clear about that.

This interview emerged out of two events at Lund University. On 5 December 2019, the Department of Gender Studies invited Professor Blackett to present her recent monograph in an event titled ‘Everyday Transgressions – Domestic Workers’, as part of the Gender, Work, and Feminist Political Economy Seminar Series. On 6 December 2019, Professor Blackett participated in a seminar organised by the Law & the Social Research Network at the Faculty of Law on ‘Decolonising Labour Law and Conceptualising Transnational Law’.

Adelle Blackett is the Canada Research Chair in Transnational Labour Law and Development at the Faculty of Law, McGill University, where she teaches and researches in the areas of labour and employment law, trade regulation, law and development, critical race theory and slavery and the law. In 2020 she was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Amin Parsa holds a doctoral degree in Public International Law from the Faculty of Law, Lund University, Sweden and is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the Department of Sociology of Law, Lund University.

Niklas Selberg holds a doctoral degree in private law from the Faculty of Law, Lund University, Sweden and is a senior lecturer at the same institution.


“They Wanted to Take My Womb Out”: Survivor of Medical Abuse in ICE Jail Deported After Speaking Out

An independent medical review team has submitted a report to Congress on a lack of informed consent and “disturbing pattern” of questionable gynecological surgical procedures at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, after an account from a nurse whistleblower in September prompted congressional and federal investigations. At least 19 women, most of whom are Black and Latina, have come forward to allege they were pressured into “unnecessary” gynecological treatment and surgeries — including procedures that left them sterile — while they were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We speak with Jaromy Floriano Navarro, a survivor of medical abuse and neglect at Irwin who was the original source of the information about medical abuse by Dr. Mahendra Amin that was eventually included in the whistleblower report. “From day one that I met Dr. Amin, he said, 'OK, you need surgery,'” Navarro says. “They were really trying to do the surgery on me, for whatever reason. They wanted to take my womb out.” We also speak with Dr. Maggie Mueller, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern Medical Center who was part of the independent medical review team that produced the new report, and Adriano Espaillat, Democratic congressmember from New York who visited the Irwin County Detention Center in September as part of a delegation from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

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Story Dec 28, 2020 “I Just Felt Like I Had No Control Over My Body”: Survivors of Alleged ICE Medical Abuse Speak Out
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AMY GOODMAN : At least 19 women have now come forward to allege they were pressured into unnecessary gynecological treatment and surgeries, including procedures that left them sterile, while they were imprisoned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia. The women are mostly Black and Latina. They were all patients of Dr. Mahendra Amin, the primary gynecologist linked to the jail.

In a shocking new report submitted to Congress Thursday, an independent medical review team of nine board-certified OB-GYNs and two nursing experts examined more than 3,200 pages of the women’s medical records and said they found a lack of informed consent and a, quote, “disturbing pattern” of questionable gynecological surgical procedures. Today they’ll present their findings to the Senate Democratic Caucus.

This comes after whistleblowing nurse Dawn Wooten first spoke out in September about an alarmingly high rate of hysterectomies performed on women at the ICE jail, prompting congressional and federal investigations. An ICE spokesperson said the allegations in the new report raise, quote, “serious concerns that deserve to be investigated quickly and thoroughly.” Meanwhile, the private prison company that operates Irwin, LaSalle Corrections, said it could not comment during the impending investigation.

For more, we’re joined by three guests. Jaromy Floriano Navarro is a survivor of medical abuse and neglect at Irwin. She was the original source of the information about a medical abuse by Dr. Mahendra Amin that was eventually included in the whistleblower report. She is in Mexico right now.

Also with us, from Chicago, Illinois, is Dr. Maggie Mueller. She was part of the independent medical review team that produced the new report. She’s an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern Medical Center.

And we’re joined by Democratic Congressmember Adriano Espaillat of New York, who was part of a delegation from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that visited the Irwin County Jail in September, where he met with jailed women who allege Dr. Amin conducted unnecessary medical procedures on them without their full knowledge and consent. Congressmember Espaillat is the first Dominican American and the first formerly undocumented immigrant to serve in Congress.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! I want to begin with the doctor. Dr. Mueller, if you can talk about what you found happened at Irwin?

DR. MAGGIE MUELLER : Absolutely. So, what we were able to identify, there is really what we think is a concerning pattern of, number one, overly aggressive management of women’s complaints, or lack thereof complaints, actually, as well as significant lack of informed consent for these women who underwent procedures, that they then acknowledged they didn’t understand they were going to undergo.

AMY GOODMAN : And talk about how extensive this was, what these procedures were. We’re not talking about one woman or two women we’re talking about at least 19 women. What were they told? Where did this happen? And how many do you understand were actually given hysterectomies without their knowledge?

DR. MAGGIE MUELLER : Yeah, so, I think that’s a very important point of clarification. So, as you said, we did review 19 cases where we had medical records of women who received care with Dr. Amin. What I mentioned is a pattern, the pattern of overly aggressive procedures. This is not necessarily focusing on hysterectomy or sterilization procedures, but still important surgical procedures that can have implications later on in life, so, for example, taking a patient that really didn’t have any gynecologic complaints, not working them up appropriately, and then performing additional procedures like a dilation and curettage or a diagnostic laparoscopic procedure, and then recommending even more aggressive therapy.

AMY GOODMAN : What does he gain by doing this? I ask this because in 2013 Georgia and federal investigators sued Dr. Amin — this is like seven years ago — the Hospital Authority of Irwin County and a group of other doctors over allegations they falsely billed Medicare and Medicaid. Does he make money off of these hysterectomies?

DR. MAGGIE MUELLER : Well, honestly, I think that’s outside of my ability to make a determination. I am an expert medical witness. I’m able to review medical records and determine whether or not the standard of care was breached. I can’t comment as to what the motivation behind this was, but certainly it warrants further investigation. And that’s what we are asking for with this report.

AMY GOODMAN : Well, I want to go to Jaromy Floriano Navarro. We are speaking to you in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Can you talk about when you were held at Irwin and what happened to you?

JAROMY FLORIANO NAVARRO : Yes, of course. I was held in Irwin from October 18th, 2019, all the way to September 15th, 2020. And I met Dr. Amin March of 2020, because I told the nurse that I had heavy cramps and that all I wanted was some medication, like ibuprofen or something. But instead, she sent me to Dr. Amin for my cramps, and I also had an infection, a vaginal infection.

And from day one that I met Dr. Amin, he said, “OK, you need surgery.” He did a ultrasound, vaginal ultrasound, with a wand. And I didn’t even know he was going to do that. To be honest with you, I didn’t know that I was going to have to take my pants off or lay on that bed and let him look at me. I didn’t know that. Nobody ever told me that I was going have a vaginal ultrasound. And from the moment —

AMY GOODMAN : Was he doing this in his office or at the Irwin jail?

JAROMY FLORIANO NAVARRO : No, it was not at the Irwin County Jail it was at his office, yes.

AMY GOODMAN : So you were brought there from the detention facility. So, go on from there.

JAROMY FLORIANO NAVARRO : Yes, they took me there. I was there about 40 times from March to September, to be honest with you. He told me right off the bat he said, “You have a cyst. And it’s not big, but it could grow. And we need to do a surgery.” That was the first time I had ever heard I had a cyst or seen him, and he told me right off the bat. I was super afraid. I didn’t know what a cyst was or how it formed. He didn’t explain to me none of the above. He didn’t care. He just wanted to do the surgery.

He gave medication for my infection, and then he said that he was going to put a Depo shot on me, because that would help the cyst go away. Basically, I didn’t have a choice. He said that Irwin County Detention Center is no good at keeping up with any medication and that the Depo shot would be the most effective and that it would work for my favor because I didn’t have to depend on Irwin County Detention Center to give me my pills, which it would be any other type of medication for hormones. So, I was left with no choice, and so I had to pick the Depo.

After the Depo, I was bleeding. I wasn’t bleeding heavy, but I was spotting for an entire month. And I told the nurse that I was spotting after the Depo. And I have two kids. I’ve had the Depo before. I had never experienced those type of symptoms.

They took me back to see Dr. Amin from March to July at least [a handful of times.] They would take me out constantly to go see him. He would — he would always check me. If it wasn’t with his fingers, then it would be with the wand. And to be honest with you, it was uncomfortable each and every time. I didn’t like anything he ever did. I didn’t like his posture. I didn’t like the way he stood in front of me or rested his hand on my knee as he did the vaginal search or whatever he was doing. And it was uncomfortable, to be honest with you.

He kept telling me, every single time I would see him, that I was going to have a surgery. But for some reason, I never knew when the surgery was going to be. Finally, when it came time for me to have my second round or my second dose, whatever, my second round of the Depo shot, which was July 31st —

AMY GOODMAN : You’re talking about the drug Depo-Provera.

JAROMY FLORIANO NAVARRO : Yes, yes. He gave me that shot in March. Then he gave me that shot again in July, about the middle of July. He was supposed to give me the shot by the endings of June, but he didn’t. And that was the first red flag that I realized, because I thought to myself, “How is it that he doesn’t even know when it’s my third-month mark? He’s not even giving me the shot the way it’s supposed to be or by the time it’s supposed to be. How is it that my cyst is going to go away if he’s not doing this properly?” So, that was my first concern.

And I told the nurse I told her, “How is it that he doesn’t have any medical records on his computer? Doesn’t that tell him when it’s supposed to be the third month? I don’t understand why he didn’t give me the shot by the endings of June.” When I complained, they took me back to see him, around June 12th. It was around the second week of July. It was me and Yuridia. We both went to see him. And he told her and me that we both needed surgery. That was also Yuridia’s first time seeing Dr. Amin.

AMY GOODMAN : She, too, an immigrant prisoner at Irwin.

JAROMY FLORIANO NAVARRO : Yes. She had the surgery performed. I denied it. So, July 31st was two weeks after we went to see him, and that was the day that it was recorded for me to have my surgery. To my knowledge, as far as the information I was able to collect, I knew that I was going to have my cyst drained, and that was it. That morning, when Ms. Vaughn [phon.] picked me up, she asked me — as they were putting on the chains on me, she asked me, “Do you know where you’re going, what procedure you’re going to have?” And I was like, “No. I think I’m going to see Dr. Amin to have my cyst drained.” And she smirked. She said, “Hmm!” And that was it. And I knew I heard her, but I was just like, “OK, that was odd. Whatever.”

And so, they took me to the hospital, which is about — conveniently, it’s about 15 — 15 to 10 minutes from Irwin County Detention, top. And so, we get to the hospital, and, you know, because of the pandemic, they have to do tests on us. They did the nose swab, and they checked my blood. They took me to the room to prep me. I had to sign papers saying — to my knowledge, because the nurse didn’t allow me to read the paper even though I wanted to. She didn’t allow me to read the paper, the consent form, which said that if anything happens to me during the surgery, they weren’t responsible. So I knew that she said that that’s what it said. And I thought it was just crazy. Like, how am I signing this paper, although Dr. Amin is telling me that I need this surgery before anything happens to the cyst inside my body? I signed the paper. They took me to the room. They prepped me up. They put the IV. I had to take my clothes off, wait for the anesthesia person to come and put the anesthesia on me to go to sleep.

Before the anesthesia person could come in and put me to sleep, Ms. Vaughn and I were speaking. And we were getting to know each other. She was very polite. She was showing me pictures of her kids, and we were talking there for a minute, when at the end of the conversation she said, “You know you’re having a hysterectomy.” I was going to have my womb removed. And I had heard that word before a lot in Irwin County, so I knew that a hysterectomy was to remove our woman parts. And when she said that, I looked at her, and I didn’t say anything. I just automatically prayed. I said, “Lord, did you hear what she said? That’s outrageous. What is she talking about?”

And as soon as I finished my thought, the other officer, who went to get food for them to eat, came back, and he told her, “Hey, they need to speak with you.” So, my heart just raced when he said that. My heart was already beating fast when she said I was going to have a hysterectomy, but when he said, “They need to speak with you,” I knew something wasn’t right.

And she came back in the room, and she told me, “They can’t do the surgery because you have antibodies for COVID .” My whole world sinked at the moment, and I thought I was going to die because of COVID . I mean, I’ve been locked in there. It’s dirty. They don’t feed us correctly. They don’t take care of us. They don’t care how many medical requests we put for COVID . They didn’t care. So, I just was like lost, you know, being in a place locked up all day every day with no sunlight, under constant LSD lights. It’s just constant illumination. It’s like a low grade of torture. So, I just — all of that just ran through my mind as they were telling me I had COVID , antibody COVID . And luckily, they couldn’t do the surgery on me. They couldn’t perform the surgery on me because of the antibodies. And the nurse came in the room and said that Dr. Amin was going to be pissed because he wasn’t going to be able to perform the surgery on me. And she took the IVs out, and they just told me they’ll reschedule it.

And Ms. Vaughn took me back to Irwin County Detention Center. They had to isolate me for a minute. And when they took me back to Irwin County Detention Center, they wouldn’t tell the other ladies that I had COVID . They told the ladies that I was going home, and that’s why they were taking out my stuff from the pod. But I was able to kind of tell them before I left, through the window, that I had COVID and that the reason why I wasn’t going back in there and they were taking my things out of there was because I had COVID .

And they rescheduled the surgery for August the 14th. They were in a rush to do this to me. I was supposed to be gone by the endings of July — by the endings of, excuse me, after July, August. I was supposed to be gone by August, but they held me there, just trying to do the surgery on me for an entire month and a half. That’s not normal. My appeal was over July 31st. I should have been gone two weeks after that, to be honest with you. That is how the process goes. My appeal lasted six months. I was already there for a long time. After that month of July, I was supposed to be gone, at least a week or two weeks later. But, no, they held me there. They were really trying to do the surgery on me. For whatever reason, they wanted to take my womb out.

I refused it, though. August the 14th, I refused that surgery. Before August the 14th, I was speaking with Ms. Hughes, and I was telling her, “Hey, there’s something not right, because the officer said I was going to have my womb removed, and I don’t appreciate that at all, because that’s not what I signed for. You guys never told me that’s what you guys were going to do. Dr. Amin said he was going to do a D&C. He said he was going to drain my cyst. He never said anything about going into my vagina, doing anything through my vagina. He said he was going to drain a cyst, that it was a 20-minute process, three holes on my stomach — one by my belly, by my womb and down, one a little under my womb by my vagina. That’s all he said. He never said anything about going to my vaginal area.” But when I told Ms. Hughes this, she changed her story about four times. She said that Dr. Amin had to request a heavy bleeding procedure, a heavy bleeding surgery on me, because, if not, then ICE would have not approved this process, this procedure.

AMY GOODMAN : Jaromy, when did you get deported in this process?

JAROMY FLORIANO NAVARRO : In this process, I got deported September 16, which is the day after the whistleblower report came out. And I was in shock when I found out that the day after this came out, I got deported, to be honest with you. After that —

AMY GOODMAN : Do you feel like they were deporting you so that you would not speak out?

JAROMY FLORIANO NAVARRO : Of course. Of course that’s why they were deporting me. I knew it. I came back from signing my deportation September 15th, which was the same day that I went back to see Dr. Amin. And he was pissed. He was like, “Why didn’t you get the surgery? Who told you to say no?” And I was like, “Excuse me? It was a misunderstanding. Stories were being changed. How was I supposed to say yes? I’m not going to undergo a surgery that I have no knowledge of.” He was angry, and they deported me the next day.

And that’s the day I found out, August — excuse me, September 15th, I found out that there was a report that went viral. And everybody in Irwin County Detention Center, the officers were all asking if it was me who had spoken up. And I just — I was like, “Yes, it was me. I told. I told a lawyer that you guys were doing illegal surgeries here, because that’s how I felt.”

AMY GOODMAN : Let me bring in Congressmember Adriano Espaillat. You went down to Irwin. You spoke with women there. You are Dominican American. You’re the first undocumented immigrant to be elected to Congress, formerly undocumented. Can you talk about what you found, how typical is Jaromy’s experience, and what the hearing today is all about in Congress?

REP . ADRIANO ESPAILLAT : Well, Amy, just first let me congratulate this young lady for her courage, as well as the whistleblower, who we met with the day before we visited the Irwin correctional detention center.

Look, as I heard her tell her story, the one thing that stood out is that she is very fluent in English. And most of the ladies there are not. And so, imagine being subjected to this kind of treatment and not really understanding what’s being said to you. So, this is a critical piece, because to have informed consent, as you said, Amy, you must understand what they’re telling you. You must understand what your options are and what your condition is.

And so, when we met with the ladies there, let me just say that I was really taken aback by the level of fear that they expressed. And there was one thing that they consistently asked for, was for us to protect them. They felt that if they spoke out, they would wind up in solitary confinement. And so, as the young lady just said, this was sort of like a low grade of torture.

And they expressed how aggressively they were being treated by this doctor. In fact, there was eight women that we spoke to, and two of them were Asian women from China, and they couldn’t — they didn’t have a translator there, so we couldn’t really speak to them. But out of the other six, four of them had been treated by Dr. Amin, so — and they all expressed concern as to the aggressiveness of the tests, the lack of information and, as such, the lack of an informed consent.

And so, this is the critical piece right here. Were they consenting to these very aggressive treatments or procedures? And if so — and if not, then, you know, they’re clear violation. And we’re calling for — I’m calling for the shutdown of the center and the arrest — any doctor that would subject his patients to this type of treatment anywhere in America could be subject to be arrested. And so —

AMY GOODMAN : So you’re calling for Amin’s arrest. Also —

REP . ADRIANO ESPAILLAT : I’m calling for —

AMY GOODMAN : — clearly, the detention center was working with him.

REP . ADRIANO ESPAILLAT : Well, that’s part of the — that should be part of the investigation. The detention center, as you know, is run by a privately owned corporation, LaSalle. We’ve got to follow the money and see whether there was any profit incentive to aggressively submit these women to these very aggressive procedures, that I suspect are also more expensive. And so they cost more money. So, we want to see whether there was also a profit incentive to subject the women to this kind of what the young lady calls low grade of torture. So, yes, there should be a very deep and extensive investigation on this. We want to know if this is just isolated, or is it a common practice in detention centers across America, as well.

AMY GOODMAN : How do you know the women who are being held there right now are not being subjected to the same thing?

REP . ADRIANO ESPAILLAT : That’s correct. They could continue to be — this doctor has a problem history with Medicaid fraud. And, as well, the women have expressed to us, the ones that we spoke to, their fear that they will be subjected to solitary confinement. We don’t know if they’re still big subjected to the same kind of treatment that they have been subjected to for many, many years. So, we are concerned. The whistleblower was very specific as to her denunciations. And we’re proud of her courage, as well. But this must be investigated. This is horrendous.

One of the women that I spoke to, a Dominican woman, told me that she was treated like an animal. And we were able to contact the Dominican Consulate in Georgia and Florida, in Miami, Florida. And five of the Dominican women, who wanted to either be released or deported back home, were sent back home. ICE alleged that the Dominican government never gave them the documents that they needed. When we called the Dominican government, the consulate, they told us that they were never contacted. So, this hurry to extend the stay there for as long as possible to get in these procedures is highly questionable, if not criminal.

AMY GOODMAN : Jaromy, two quick questions before we go. Did you say you were chained to the bed?

JAROMY FLORIANO NAVARRO : No, no, I was not chained to the bed.

AMY GOODMAN : And are you asking to be let back into the United States?

JAROMY FLORIANO NAVARRO : Of course I am. I deserve. I deserve to be let back in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN : And so, let me ask Congressmember Adriano Espaillat: Can Jaomy Floriano Navarro — how could this deportation be reversed, given what she has identified here? A Cameroonian, one of the Cameroonian women — two were deported, but one whose sterilization became very well known was actually taken off the flight in Chicago to be deported, so she has remained now in the United States. Can Jaromy Floriano Navarro — can you facilitate her return?

REP . ADRIANO ESPAILLAT : We will fight to bring her back. She is a victim. And she was subject to what she called a low grade of torture, what I think is also a low grade of torture. She should be allowed back in and treated. Certainly, my office will be willing to work with the lawyers and with her to see if there’s a way that we can bring her back to the United States.

I am also concerned that these women were readily and speedily ushered out of the United States to prevent them, to silence them, to keep them from saying their stories as the story was well and eloquently said today. It’s horrendous. This is the same kind of stories that we heard from the women that we interviewed at the detention center. And this must be fully investigated. Irwin must be shut down. Dr. Amin must be arrested.

AMY GOODMAN : I want to thank you all for being with us. Congressmember Adriano Espaillat is speaking to us, congressmember from New York, again, the first formerly undocumented immigrant to become a member of Congress. Jaromy Floriano Navarro, speaking to us from Mexico, where the U.S. deported her to, she is demanding to be let back into the United States, a survivor of Dr. Amin. And Dr. Maggie Mueller of the Northwestern Medical Center in Chicago, who has done the big report, that we will link to, talking about the number of women — almost 20 — that they know of, who experienced these kinds of threats or actual sterilizations or surgeries without proper informed consent.

When we come back, we share the story of a Palestinian American family living in Trump country, in the very conservative town of Appomattox, Virginia. We’ll speak to filmmaker Nadine Natour about her family. Stay with us.


ICE Deports Migrant Women Who Allege Abuse by Georgia Gynecologist

A protester marches against the Trump Administration's plan to use the Fort Sill Army Base as an immigration detention center in Los Angeles on June 27, 2019. Photo Credit: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE ) officials are attempting to silence migrant women who alleged abuse by a Georgia gynecologist at an immigration detention center, according to lawyers who spoke to The Associated Press.

The Trump administration has already deported six of Dr. Mahendra Amin’s former patients, and now lawyers say at least seven other women at the Irwin County Detention Center have received word that they will soon be deported too. All of the women have complained that Amin operated on them without their consent or performed “procedures that were medically unnecessary and potentially endangered their ability to have children,” The Associated Press reports.

They allege Amin performed operations that caused or worsened their pain without explaining what he was doing or giving them an alternative. Their stories fit a broader pattern of allegations made by detained women against Amin, some of them revealed in interviews with attorneys and medical records reviewed by The Associated Press. But there hasn’t been evidence to support an initial claim that he performed a large number of hysterectomies.

As Colorlines reported in September, several advocacy groups and a nurse working for ICE filed a complaint with the Homeland Security Department’s internal watchdog accusing Irwin County Detention of allowing “questionable hysterectomies,” to be performed on unsuspecting detainees. The Department of Justice ( DOJ ) launched a criminal investigation into the matter, and the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general also is investigating, according to the AP .

Advocates are not just calling for a federal investigation into Dr. Amin, but also into Irwin County Detention and ICE , AP reports. “While people who have been deported might still be able to serve as witnesses in a criminal or civil case, many end up in unstable countries or situations where it becomes difficult to maintain contact with them,” according to the AP .

Elora Mukherjee, a Columbia University law professor who is working with several of the women, told the AP that ICE is intentionally hampering this investigation. “ ICE is destroying the evidence needed for this investigation,” she said.

ICE said it had notified the Homeland Security inspector general “about any planned transfers or removals of Irwin detainees who were former patients of Dr. Amin.”

“Any implication that ICE is attempting to impede the investigation by conducting removals of those being interviewed is completely false,” the agency said in a statement.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

According to ICE policy, the agency must “exercise all appropriate discretion on a case-by-case basis” regarding the deportation of “victims of crime, witnesses to crime, and individuals pursuing legitimate civil rights complaints,” according to the AP .

ICE maintained in a statement to the AP that once a detained migrant has exhausted all appeals, “they remain subject to a final order of removal … and that order must be carried out.”


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