New professor M. Shadee Malaklou teaches revolution
Critical Identities Studies professor M. Shadee Malaklou seeks to fight injustice in the Beloit College and community. Pondering questions of gender, sexuality and race as they intersect with power has been a lifelong personal pursuit of Malaklou’s. Her childhood experiences with issues of identity led her to question how people treat others based on gender, sexuality, and race. While growing up in Orange County, Calif., her grandmother came from Iran to help raise her — and cultures clashed.
“She would fix my lunches and of course she was from the old country. So she would make me rice and kabobs. I [was] not taking tuna casseroles to school,” she said.
One particular experience from kindergarten has stuck with her. “I had this girl who I thought was my best friend. … She had always given me crucifix necklaces that would remind me how we were different in some way. And I remember I really coveted the crucifix necklaces because it felt like a little bit of whiteness that I was getting,” she continued. “Then, after we had been friends for a little bit all of a sudden one day at recess she was like if you want to continue to be my friend you can’t speak that language to your grandmother, you can’t talk to her when she talks to you, you should dye your hair blonde, and wear blue contacts, you should bring normal foods to school, and I was just desperate to be her friend that I wanted so much to be read as white that I said yes. And so for like three days I did not speak to my grandmother. It literally still is a trauma that I deal with. Because I think here is this one woman who gave me all of my love, she’s the place I got all my support from because my mother couldn’t give it to me. And I was so quick and so ready to betray her because I wanted so much to be the person this girl was describing. So I think that I have literally spent my entire life trying to understand why I said yes to her.”
To explore those questions, Malaklou went to University of California, Irvine, and Duke University in North Carolina. Her Ph.D. focused on the intersection of race and gender. More specifically “how racialization is sexualized and sexualization is racialized.”
Through her various classes, her Black Lives Matter class in particular, Professor Malaklou has her students “rethink their values and rethink where we seek protections and where we seek support.” By critically engaging with intersections of identity and power, she hopes education can inspire her students to create social change. “I want them to fuck shit up,” she said. “I want them to literally learn how to destroy the world that they knew and think about new sociality, new worldliness, and about ways of connecting to each other and to living things.”