The Sparkplug: Volume 1

Volume #1, Issue #5

Acceptable Censorship: The extradition farce and media silence on Julian Assange


Exposing the show trial against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, by Elizabeth Leier

The spoils of war: a decade after publication, what have we really learned from the War Diaries? by Lital Khaikin

Since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, a generation of us have grown up with this US-led war. A generation of us have witnessed friends, still in their teens, enlisting to fight an imperialist war with an enemy that was raised and armed by the US. Now, this same generation has come of age watching the US government persecute Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange for publishing the truth about the nature of US wars and perpetration of war crimes, also laying bare the complicity of allies like Canada, Australia, and the U.K. It is grotesque that in all this time, the only real punishment that has been given out has been against Assange, as he spends most of his time imprisoned in solitary confinement awaiting the verdict on his extradition trial.

This issue looks at both the implication of the trial against Assange on media freedom, and the wider imprint of the War Diaries considering the continued engagement of NATO forces across the Middle East. Joining this issue is fellow Canadian Dimension contributor, Elizabeth Leier, breaking down the essential points of the persecution of Assange to date in “Exposing the Show Trial Against Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange”.

Volume #1, Issue #4

Pesticides and Poverty: The smoldering legacy of Bhopal


Of what use is memory? The Union Carbide explosion in Bhopal still lingers, 36 years later, by Lital Khaikin

On Bhopal, memory and the responsibility of theatre: Interview with Rahul Varma and Rohan Kulkarni

This edition of The Sparkplug commemorates the legacy of the tragic gas explosion that shook Bhopal on December 2, 1984, and critiques the role of neocolonial development by corrupt governments and corporate cronies. Featured in this issue is an interview with Montreal-based playwright and theatrical director Rahul Varma, who wrote the events into a play called Bhopal (premiered in 2001), as well as Toronto-based academic and theatre critic Rohan Kulkarni.

For the memory of Bhopal, as for the continuity of the industrial disaster’s legacy, enterprising recorders of history may borrow the words of Arthur D. Little himself – the founder of the consulting firm that was eventually hired by Union Carbide: “Other people’s troubles are our business”.

Volume #1, Issue #3

Of Purity and Autonomy: A Nation for Whom?


Excerpts: The Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism, by Nandita Haksar

The Seeds of Alienation: The politics of exclusion in Kashmir’s independence movement, by Lital Khaikin

On repression, neoliberal reforms, and disenfranchisement in Kashmir: Interview with Nandita Haksar

This third issue of The Sparkplug considers the challenges and contradictions that are entangled in Kashmir’s pursuit for self-determination. Included is a conversation with author and human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar, based around her research on how the nationalist movement in Jammu and Kashmir intersects with the socio-economic challenges that in turn face migrants to Northeast India.

Class struggle and caste segregation are firmly at the centre of this confrontation, around which, like vultures, circle the divisions of religion, industry, and supposed “economic development”. From the military industrial complex, to the entertainment and tourism industries, the influences of multinational capital have unfolded over decades.

Volume #1, Issue #2

The Meaning of Words (or, Democracy by Any Other Name)


Eritrea: Forget “rights” and speak of duties and responsibilities, by Abraham T. Zere

Canada lifts sanctions against Eritrea, human rights abuses continue, by Lital Khaikin

A glimpse at the current state of affairs in Eritrea: Interview with Abraham T. Zere

Under the guiding hand of the Ministry of Information, Eritrea shows the world a façade of progress. It flaunts two years of rapprochement with Ethiopia, expanding ports, and an illusion of successfully combatting the coronavirus crisis. Government officials, including President Isaias Afwerki himself, further promote the image of a functional society, manipulating public image through the complicity of Hollywood stars and influential figures who promote the photogenic side of the country, while choosing to remain silent and ignorant of the festering horrors of the regime.

This issue welcomes back Eritrean-American journalist and author Abraham Tesfalul Zere — who was one of the first authors published by The Green Violin, through a chapbook called Anecdotes of Indefinite Anarchy: Dispatches from Eritrea. Zere reminds us of the autocratic reality of Eritrea — a reality that will surely prove to be inconvenient for politicians and international capitalists amid the loosening of global sanctions against the country.

Volume #1, Issue #1

The Trenches between Languages and Nation-building


Getting the Last Word: Storytelling in Defiance of Language Death, by X.C.

Who’s Entitled? Diamond Mining and Internal Displacement in Botswana, by Lital Khaikin

This inaugural issue of The Sparkplug reflects on the impact of mining on displacement, land division and the loss of language. Languages are living fields of experience, embodying the eternal human challenge of being liberated through communication, and restricted by finite terms. The shades and tones of innumerable human languages are precious, conveying to us entirely new ways of living, thinking, and connecting. But what pushes them to the edge of disappearance?