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  • (En)countering Inclusion. Repeating:Refrain
  • Louise Saldanha (bio)

Once upon a time, in a northern land both white and great, there lived a dusky, raven-haired girl—although, by the time of this telling, she was hardly a girl any longer. Nevertheless, because she was brown and small, it remained easier to think of her as such. Besides, she read children’s books a lot. Thus, she was smiled on fondly as but a little, delicate, gentle creature with surely only the prettiest words for everyone falling from her lips.

Now, it so happened that, in the country where she lived, many of her compatriots, who were, together, all the colours of the rainbow, had worked long and industriously to weave a rich and comforting tapestry of inclusivity large enough to cloak the entire land.

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Meant to beautify not just the place but the people as well, this warm and fuzzy fabric threaded together all the colours and stripes in which we all come and just melted the hearts of everyone upon whom it came to be draped. The showy mesh was much celebrated, for the country had previously been most horribly and oppressively bland.

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This is where all the troubling must start. One day, the dark-skinned girl was walking in this liberal and expansive land while reading a children’s book featuring some sort of diversity (she cannot remember which [End Page 114] sort—they all blurred, by now, into the same story of initial alienations and final reconciliations), and she tripped.

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All this inclusivity had made things crowded—both on the pages of the books she was reading, and now, she noticed as she got up and dusted herself off, among the many people of all shapes and colours surrounding her.

Moreover, despite the inclusivity and belonging, the visibility and the presence, the warmth of recognition the tapestry provided, the girl now realized why she had always felt it hemmed her in, tripped her up, made it difficult to breathe. All these identities—personal, national, cultural, religious, racial, gendered, dis-abled, generational, trans—such good, good company, but really, what difference have these differences made? Despite all this good, good company, the world does not seem to be, as a system, as a structure, all the better for it.

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Inclusion might well make it possible for the systems and structures arranging the welcome to be thought of as progressive and just, but the difference the different can make is regulated, sorted out, and contained in ways that ensure the maintenance of certain priorities and logics of equality, market, freedom, and choice, orchestrating knowledges and experiences and bodies into coherent citizens. Inclusion, the girl sees now, is what holds her and her good company in place. Inclusion amends the social, cultural, and political fabric.

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[End Page 115]

It is a generous enfolding, a tenacious enfolding, that the included—as those who also belong—cannot always afford to undo without choosing their own undoing as well. Inclusion confirms the expansiveness of the state while replicating its power simultaneously. Inclusion is how the state repeats its power.

Facts, histories, lived experiences of dispossession, colonization, racism, homophobia, ableism, and classism are met with impatient sighs, evidence of being outdated, personal shortcomings that need to be got over and moved on from in a way that “everybody else” seems to have no problem doing. Even here in this forum, I am included.

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Back to the girl and this inclusion she now wishes to trouble by making every effort to cast off the cloak and its trimmings. She demands: “Why is this supportive synthetic good for, say, warming the cockles on a bracing day of curry making or a day of pride marching but not for keeping away the chill of standards and ideals I must fit so as all the better to bask in its protection?” Now, the people of this land, who were known for being a rather tolerant...


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pp. 114-119
Launched on MUSE
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