Dr. Leon, is leading CARE’s work on precarity, labour and digital futures. He is a 2021 recipient of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Science Whitinga Research Fellowship researching on, Examining the effects of the expansion of gig work on health and wellbeing in a post-pandemic economy at CARE, Massey University.
“The thing with a message like Hindu Lives Matter, is that it has to be read within this broader infrastructure of messages that are calling for Muslim genocide,” says Mohan Dutta, professor at Massey University in #NewZealand, who has researched anti-Muslim hate in #India.
Dutta worked on a 2021 report about the experiences Muslims in India have with Islamophobic content on digital platforms. It found that, since Modi’s election victory in 2014 and 2019, “the hate on digital platforms in India and in the Indian diaspora has proliferated exponentially.”
“The content of digital hate driven by Hindutva,” the report notes, referring to an ideology promoting Hindu hegemony, “has been directed at India’s religious minorities, Muslims and Christians, as well as oppressed caste communities.”Dutta says using language mirroring the Black Lives Matter slogan, which is rooted in organizing against racist structures, falsely suggests that Hindus are systematically oppressed in India. “It’s ironic that a majoritarian structure takes that hashtag to deploy hate towards India’s Muslim minority community, which has consistently been targeted by hate,” he says.
We at CARE: Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation are excited to collaborate with our civil society partners Islamophobia Register, The Humanism Project and Aman to build these Community-led Culture-Centered dialogues on addressing the structural drivers of Islamophobia through the participation of the “margins of the margins”. About the collaboration Islamophobia Register Australia presents “Difficult Conversations”Difficult Conversations is a community-led, culture-centered activating of structural transformation to address the drivers of Islamophobia – it aims to build and implement actionable solutions to help tackle Islamophobia in Australia.
The “Difficult Conversations” Project is utilising the ground-breaking, culture-centered and evidence-based approach to organising against prejudice and racism, that prepares both community participants, and civil society and government stakeholders, for different roles than they are typically used to, and measures the results when they are brought together.
Parkroyal Parramatta, 30 Phillip Street, Parramatta (Gidley King Room)
Tuesday 2nd August 9:30am to 4pm
Speakers include: Derya Iner Principal Researcher & Author of Islamophobia in Australia Reports
Mariam Veiszadeh Lawyer, Founder & President Islamophobia Register Australia
Rita Jabri Markwell Lawyer & Advisor Australian Muslim Advocacy Network
Professor Mohan Dutta Director, Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research & Evaluation (CARE) Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication, School of Communication, Journalism, and Marketing Massey University NZ
Senator Fatima Payman, WA Senator first hijab wearing Afghan Australian Muslim woman in Parliament (TBC)
Julie Inman Grant eSafety Commissioner (TBC)
Kara Hinesley Director of Public Policy Twitter Australia (TBC)
Josh Machin Head of Policy (Australia) Facebook /Meta (TBC)
Thank you for tuning in yesterday for the release of Māori Expert Advisory Group (MEAG) Report to @minhealthnz – HE KAUPAPA WAKA at CARE: Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation.
For the far-right, free speech is the discursive trope organised to silence speech. This communicative inversion, the turning of materiality on its head through discursive tropes, is a communicative tool deployed by the right to hold up and perpetuate a broader culture of hate that targets Indigenous, people of colour, gender diverse, women, and diversely abled academics.
When the Newsroom story, Academics divided on their own freedoms, made its way into my mailbox, I was looking forward to reading it. The story was behind a paywall, and I had to wait until noon to read it, when thankfully a colleague kindly forwarded the text of the story to me. The story reported from a survey commissioned by the Free Speech Union and carried out by Curia Market Research. Curia boasts many clients including Pfizer, Microsoft, and the National party. In its opening page, the company pitches itself as having run polling services for New Zealand Prime Ministers and opposition politicians.
The Free Speech Union was formed initially as the Free Speech Coalition in response to the cancelling of an event at an Auckland Council-owned venue to be held by the far-right white supremacists Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux. Although it claims support from both sides of the political and ideological spectrum, the positions expressed by the Free Speech Union since its formation in 2018 seem to be concerned with the safeguarding of a particular form of free speech- the freedom to speech of those occupying positions of privilege. This form of speech is organised to target and silence the speech, health and safety of those at the margins of societies.
In multiple instances where the Free Speech Union has run an organised campaign, the campaign seems to be driven to safeguard the expressions of white, patriarchal, colonial structures.
The podcasts on the website of the Free Speech Union seem to be predominantly concerned with what it terms “American style culture war” and “woke culture”.
It seems the “chilling effect” the Union is concerned about is the speech of those in hegemonic positions of power. The Union’s narrative constructing the fear of being cancelled is driven to safeguard those identity positions in power that have historically and in contemporary contexts perpetuated the silencing of the raced, gendered, colonial margins.
In December 2021, the Union created an academic freedom fund in support of two academics who were being investigated by the Royal Society for a letter they wrote to the New Zealand Listener disputing the scientific legitimacy of Mātauranga Māori. When I received the survey from the Free Speech Union, I ignored it because of the seeming parochial ideological investments of the Union. Speaking with and witnessing the social media accounts of other ethnic minority, Indigenous, and gender diverse colleagues, I observed similar responses.
It was the same reason I had earlier ignored the invitation from the Union to an interview on the film The Kashmir Files. The Union platformed Roy Kaunds, a Hindutva ideologue who has been called out by Indian diaspora activists for his Islamophobic speech. Mr Kaunds previously appeared on the far-right hate infrastructure, Counterspin Media. The Kashmir Files has been critiqued for its role as a propaganda device in spreading Islamophobia, and Hindutva ideologues have deployed the film to produce and circulate Islamophobic hate speech, reflected in calls to carry out genocide of Muslims and organised rape of Muslim women.
It seemed that I was on the radar of the Union as an academic with a different viewpoint (in the words of the person who called me), and yet I hadn’t registered a word of solidarity from the Union over the six or seven months my academic freedom was being threatened by the supporters of Hindutva, a far-right nationalist political ideology, here in Aotearoa. Mr Kaunds, the Union’s proponent of Free Speech in the context of The Kashmir Files was part of the communicative infrastructure targeting my academic freedom in the context of Hindutva.
The Newsroom article did not tell us much about the sample of the reported survey, the sampling strategy, and the demographic and ideological characteristics of the sample. Moreover, my concerns about source credibility related to the survey are validated by the survey items that were reported in the article. For instance, the article suggests 21 per cent of respondents score 0-2.5 on a 10-point scale in indicating the freedom to “question and test received wisdom.” Without further elucidation of what the item means by received wisdom, the reader is left to guess what the item is pointing toward. In other words, the perception of academic freedom reflected by the item seems to depend on what the operationalisation of “received wisdom” is.
The far right’s attack on justice-based scholarship is often legitimised through the language of freedom to test “received wisdom,” held up by the communicative construction of “woke culture” as a strategy to further marginalise voices at the margins. Indeed, the item may be interpreted to support the preconfigured agenda of the Union, that there is an “American culture war” problem in Aotearoa New Zealand. The items that follow, freedom to debate or discuss “gender and sex issues” and “treaty issues,” give away the ideological agenda of the Union. We learn that 50 per cent of the academics feel silenced about debating treaty issues (20 per cent scoring 0-2.5 and 20 per cent scoring 2.6-5.0 on a 10-point scale). We also learn that 47 per cent of the academics feel silenced debating about gender and sex issues (27 per cent scoring 0-2.5 and 20 per cent scoring 2.6-5.0 on a 10-point scale).
These items once again don’t really elucidate much. They remain vague about the aspects of these issues where academics seem to be experiencing chilling effects.
The focus on these two areas seems random, unless read from the ideological agenda of the far-right here in Aotearoa. For the far-right discursive infrastructures, “gender and sex issues” and “treaty issues” are key sites for perpetuating hate that is targeted at the margins. The freedom of speech here is deployed specifically to legitimise and circulate hate. The language of “cancel culture” is discursively deployed to erase and silence articulations from the raced, classed, gendered margins of the settler-colonial state, silencing the voices and academic freedom of those at the margins.
Who are the academics experiencing chilling effects in discussing “sex and gender” and “treaty issues?” Unless the academics responding to these items on the survey are experts in these areas, the concept of academic freedom in these areas doesn’t extend to them. A physicist’s academic freedom to make statements about “treaty issues” or “sex and gender” is as legitimate as my claim about academic freedom to make pronouncements about the muon G-2 experiment. We cannot tell from the news story whether the academics experiencing chilling effects in discussing these issues are area experts.
In the absence of details about the sample (including subject areas) and analysis of the findings disaggregated by area of scholarship, one might speculate given the context that the academics who responded to the survey are not experts in the areas of “sex and gender” and “treaty issues.” Lacking such detail, the survey could be read as a politically motivated campaign to deploy the tropes of “cancel culture” and “wokeism” to target the academic freedom of scholars at the intersectional “margins of the margins.”
In a political climate where the far-right has weaponised diverse forms of attacks on academic freedoms to uphold the hegemonic structures of whiteness, patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism, the Free Speech Union’s survey of academic freedom is an exemplar of communicative inversion, directed at perpetuating a chilling climate in the name of promoting academic freedom.
Professor Mohan Dutta isDean’s Chair Professor of Communication. He is the Director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), developing culturally-centered, community-based projects of social change, advocacy, and activism that articulate health as a human right.
While for much of the past two years there was a sense of collective risk mitigation by the “team of five million”, the government has since shifted that burden more towards individuals and personal responsibility.
But this avoids the fact that not all individuals have to negotiate the same amount of risk. And research shows gig work is one of the riskiest types of employment during a pandemic.
Furthermore, gig workers lack a public voice with which to communicate these risks to the general public and decision makers. But as our recent report – Experiences with COVID-19 Among Gig Workers – shows, these workers have been at a high risk of both contracting and transmitting the COVID-19 virus.
No way to speak out
We interviewed 25 rideshare and delivery drivers about their experiences during the pandemic. We found the structural features of their employment not only exposed them to increased risk from the virus, but also offered minimal protection should they be too ill to work.
While conventional businesses have established infrastructures for voicing dissatisfaction with COVID policy – through organisations such as Hospitality NZ, for example – gig workers lack equivalent communication channels.
This inequality also extends to gig workers’ access to culturally appropriate preventive health information. Not unlike the inequities faced by Māori and migrant communities, this leaves gig workers (many of whom are also migrants who don’t speak English as their first language) more vulnerable to the negative health effects of COVID-19.
Such risk is compounded by the structural features of gig work. Our report is grounded in the voices of workers themselves and argues that seven structural features influence their experiences: the work is piecemeal, precarious, individualised, gamified, dehumanised, automated and hyper-competitive.
Algorithm as manager
By its nature, the work is driven by immediate supply and demand – drivers are paid for each micro-transaction, rather than a wage, meaning time spent waiting for jobs goes unpaid:
Sometimes it’s really quiet. It’s not even worth … turning your car on for. Yeah, it’s basically just waiting until … you know there’s going to be demand.
This in turn means no job security. If demand decreases, so does income – exactly what happened to rideshare drivers in the pandemic, with some reporting their incomes had halved or worse.
Rideshare workers’ only communication with their “employer” (their status as contractors is being disputed globally) is through a phone app, meaning interactions take the form of a game, with both parties trying to extract the most money.
There is a built-in power asymmetry, however. For example, Uber withholds information about a passenger’s destination and the length of the proposed trip, which could help a driver gauge whether to accept a job.
With no human manager and effectively managed by an algorithm, many interviewees commented on the dehumanised nature of their interactions with Uber and their isolation from other drivers. Classified as independent contractors, they function as individual micro-businesses with no colleagues and no voice or influence in their organisation:
If you’re part of it, then you’re part of it. You know this is how things are going to be. So there’s no point questioning it because there is no human component to it, so there’s no one to question.
On the COVID front line
Because of their status as independent contractors, however, risk mitigation such as masks, sanitiser or plastic screens has been their own responsibility.
While Uber offered a $20 rebate for sanitiser in 2020, drivers reported a difficult application process, with many giving up. Drivers also felt they lacked preventive health education.
On top of increased precariousness and health risks, drivers also faced the consequences of COVID’s polarising effects. They reported picking up anti-mask, unvaccinated passengers, under pressure to accept the rides due to financial anxiety and the threat of poor ratings.
Especially at the beginning of the first COVID happening, a lot of customers didn’t really want to wear a mask … and I was wearing a mask obviously. But there’s some of them tried to reach for my mask and trying to make me take it off and being abusive and all this kind of thing.
If drivers become infected with COVID-19, they often lack the financial resources to cover their household expenses. Their need to keep working then puts the wider community at risk, too. The ‘Experiences with COVID-19 Among Gig Workers’ report was launched on March 24.
Risk but few rewards
There have been trade union efforts to organise rideshare and delivery drivers, including an ongoing Employment Court claim seeking employment rights. As contractors, however, drivers are legally barred from full union membership – again denying drivers the means to communicate their grievances.
All of these structural features mean rideshare and delivery workers have been isolated, voiceless and highly vulnerable during the pandemic. Without protections such as sick pay or annual leave, gig workers also cannot choose to work from home.
But, as some have argued, they are providing what can be regarded as an essential service, putting themselves at risk while delivering food and other goods to customers in isolation.
One of the many lessons of the pandemic is the urgent need for workers in the gig economy to have their voices heard. We all need to be more aware of the precarious and risky working conditions of the person who delivers our takeaways or takes us to a party. And we need to support worker-led collectivisation efforts.
with Prof. Mohan Dutta and New Zzealand activist Anjum Rahman
Join us LIVE for the White Paper Launch with Prof. Mohan Dutta and NZ activist Anjum Rahman on Hindutva, digital networks of hate, and implications for democracy: A critical analysis of responses to the Chief Censor’s Review of The Kashmir Files in Aotearoa
with Mariam Veiszadeh, Dr. Derya Iner & Prof. Mohan Dutta
CARE *EVENT UPDATE*
Unfortunately, tonight’s CARE Event: The Islamophobia in Australia Report: A dialogue with Mariam Veiszade, Dr Derya Iner & Prof. Mohan Dutta is rescheduled. We will be in touch with you soon with an updated date/time. Apologies for any inconvenience. Thank you
Join us for this dialogue and presentation on 23rd March 2022 @ 6PM NZDT LIVE via CARE ‘s Facebook & YouTube channel.
Mariam Veiszadeh is an award-winning human rights advocate, lawyer, diversity and inclusion practitioner, contributing author and media commentator. She is also the founder and President of the Islamophobia Register Australia and has been involved in the anti-racism space for over a decade.
Mariam was recently appointed as inaugural CEO of Media Diversity Australia and has held multiple board positions including formerly as Co-Chair of Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights and Our Watch.
With many accolades to her name including the Fairfax Daily Life 2016 Woman of the year, the 2015 Westpac Woman of Influence and Welcoming Australia Life Member Award in 2021, Mariam is renowned for influencing positive change both in the workplace and in society more broadly.
Mariam was born in Afghanistan and came to Australia in 1990 with her family as a refugee and has long been a vocal champion of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. When Kabul fell in August last year, Mariam was at the forefront of advocating for Australia to increase its humanitarian intake.
Derya Iner is Senior Lecturer and Research Coordinator at the Centre for Islamic Studies (CISAC), Charles Sturt University, teaching and researching subjects on contemporary issues related to Islam, Islamic cultures and Muslims. Iner is also the course coordinator of Contemporary Islamic Studies at CISAC. Iner completed her PhD in Cultural Studies and Gender Studies in Wisconsin-Madison (USA). Her research focuses particularly on Islamophobia, especially women and children’s experience with Islamophobia, Western Muslim youth and their religious identity and Women in Islam and Islamic cultures. Iner is the chief investigator and editor of the Islamophobia in Australia Report I (2017) and Islamophobia in Australia Report II (2019), which drew worldwide attention by reaching out to potential 730 million international audiences (according to CSU’s media metrics report). Iner’s recent publications include a co-edited volume with John Esposito Islamophobia and Radicalisation: Breeding Intolerance and Violence (Palgrave 2019). Derya is also an executive board member of the Islamophobia Register Australia and co-founder of International Islamophobia and Children Network. Iner currently focuses on the research Mosque Attacks in Australia, Children of Islamophobia and Islamophobia in Australia Report III.
Children of Islamophobia Project: The project started with the intention of exploring the direct and indirect (i.e. relational) effects of Islamophobia on children. The project was conducted in NSW, WA and VIC in collaboration with Prof Samina Yasmeen of University of Western Australia and Prof Linda Briskman of Western Sydney University. The pilot study conducted in 2018 focused on interviewing with mothers and by doing so understanding the family dynamics, parental dynamics and state of being in terms of coping with Islamophobia. The research also aimed to inform the development of suitable methodologies to implement while conducting the research directly on children. As a result of the pilot, the scope of the study was further developed by proposing to investigate Muslim and non-Muslim children’ sense of oneself and the other under the climate of Islamophobia in Australia.