Designing my signature line

This is an honest answer to all questions.

1/ Pronouns: I have a gender neutral name for a reason, suckaz, and I resent this question. I am, however, a woman, and I have never doubted it. People who see or know me say she/her. When people don’t see or know me, and assume I may be he/him, I like it. Who doesn’t enjoy changing identities sometimes, not to mention being perceived as a member of the ruling class, and treated like it?

2/ Visible race: In California, perceived white/Anglo, or at least was originally; in Louisiana, often perceived “mixed” — people say Mexican, Puerto Rican, Creole, yellow, or “Jewish/Arab;” one time someone said “too mixed to determine.” In Denmark, perceived as Native American but the features to which they were referring are actually Anglo-German unless I have even more crypto-Jewish background than I think (and my DNA test does not suggest this).

3/ Ethnicity: post-Anglo, Anglo, proto-Hispanic, something; whiteness as o cultural practice isn’t something I have appeared to learn completely.

4/ Ethnic background: 1/8 Ashkenazi from that Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire, 1/8 Ashkenazi from Hannover, 1/4 Welsh, 1/4 German, 1/4 English, more or less.

5/ National origin: California, Viceroyalty of New Spain; Greater Mexico.

6/ Citizenship: United States of America, by birth.

7/ Religion: Candomblé, y la religión es una cosa privada, que he nacido con separación de iglesia y estado, así que no me digan nada.


Gonzalo Quintero 2018

So I had cited this piece of his that I was interested in, and I lost the article and now cannot find it, so I am eliminating it, but it was in the context of Kristen Silva Greusz and Rodrigo Lazo, people who have shown “shows how closely imbricated with Spanish America the United States has been since its inception.” I hope I find it one day, and I do need to consistently use one of the ways that exist to keep bibliography.

(I am so tired of activism, service and administration and I would so like to just do research and writing. I am not interested in lower-level teaching, either, unless “lower level” is introduction to Latin American Studies, introduction to theory, things like that. All I want to do is exercise, cultural/artistic activity, and reading/writing, and give classes related to the said reading/writing. Teaching foreign languages is not even on my list.)


Classical music, Königsberg, our ancestor, Gayl Jones, and Sonny Boy Williamson

This evening I did nothing; I could have worked or worked out or washed dishes, or done other useful things, but I was riveted to my chair listening to the radio.

First, The Squash Hut. Selected songs by Samuel Scheidt, Heinrich Schütz, Johann Hildebrand, Heinrich Albert, Johann Bach, Andreas Hammerschmidt, Johann Nauwach, Johann Hermann Schein and Michael Jacobi (Dorothee Mields, soprano; Hathor Consort, Romina Lischka, conductor). This music was composed in Königsberg during the 30 Years’ War, completely ethereal.

Next, the Chicago Symphony with Jaap von Zweden directing, on Wagner, Rachmaninoff, Grieg and Tchaikovsky, and the compositions were so original, I could hardly believe it. Denis Kozhukhin was on piano.

Kant and E.T.A. Hoffman were from Königsberg, and my great-great grandfather Вениамин Βαρи graduated from Talmudic school there. It is said that he destroyed his letters from Marx when he moved back to the Russian Empire, but I have heard his letters to Marx are archived in the Kremlin.

Βαρи, in the period after Königsberg and before St. Petersburg, studied with Alexander von Humboldt. The family claims this was at Leipzig but I don’t know that Humboldt taught there, and I have seen B.’s baptismal certificate (Humboldt thought conversion unnecessary and unwise) from Berlin, made in 1833. The family does say B. went to study in Paris with Humboldt when he was posted there by Frederik Wilhelm, and came back to Berlin with him when he was called back. 

Königsberg was almost entirely destroyed in 1944-45 and the USSR executed all remaining inhabitants, so Kaliningrad has almost nothing to do with the city that was literally wiped off the map. I have decided to be nostalgic for it. Mitau, my ancestor’s childhood town, was also destroyed, and also rebuilt as a Soviet industrial town.

To finalize this evening’s cultural excursion we are jumping to someone completely different: Gayl Jones, since after all, my homelands were destroyed and I live in the United States, which like many, is a more interesting place than may meet the eye. And by now I am listening to Sonny Boy Williamson, and so should you, because he, like the composers and musicians mentioned above, has duende.


Academic freedom

Academic freedom won’t survive if it is defended merely or mainly as a principle. It survives in and because of a bundle of values and practices—including ways of spending time and the pursuit of knowledge without preidentified end—that undergird the insti­tution. It is crucially important for administrators and faculty alike to understand how the shift of the core mission of the university toward preprofessional education has weakened the academic values that have placed scholar and society in tension since the death of Socrates. The AAUP’s founders understood very well that in the protected space of the university, new theories, ideas, facts, and interpretations emerge that can be threatening to people in power. In the AAUP’s 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure, John Dewey and his colleagues noted that social scientists require pro­tection above those in all other disciplines precisely because their insights into the moral and economic needs of society are likely to be as disturbing as they are transformative.

At the present moment, this point applies to humanistic studies tout court. Close study of lan­guages and social structures, history, ethnic studies, political thought, the history of art, rhetoric, philoso­phy, archaeology, and more—all these have had and continue to have transformative effects on students and society, advancing democracy, civil rights, indige­nous rights, the equitable distribution of wealth, peace movements, and social justice. To immerse oneself in their study is to remove oneself, to a slight or con­siderable degree, from the almost all-encompassing demand of the market. It is to become aware of diverse modes of thinking and living—a rare experi­ence that, as Dewey said of art, involves “more than placing something on the top of consciousness over what was previously known. It involves reconstruc­tion which may be painful.”

It has never been easy to celebrate these qualities. In conditions of economic and social stress, the diffi­culty can seem insurmountable. Just as I don’t blame administrators, I don’t blame students for pursuing knowledge that they believe will prepare them for the world of work. But if they continue to avoid liberal arts classrooms, faculty numbers will continue to fall, and the novel, creative thinking historically fostered there, whose loss is mourned in Cuarón’s Children of Men, will fade from institutional life. This inescap­able equation is exerting its effect rapidly in some colleges and universities, slowly in others, but it is happening almost everywhere. Department closures and reductions in humanistic course offerings limit scholars’ freedom to produce work that is critical and, in its essence, countercultural.

Joy Connolly, Dialogue across Divides.

Another great course in comparative literature

You would study El reino de este mundo, Changó, el gran putas (which is also about the Haitian revolution but by an actual Afro-Latin author), and Haitian material, and Louisiana material on Mackandal.

(I wish I could teach classes like that. A colleague said: “I am glad this is my retirement job, because if it were my career, it would fail, as one cannot get ahead here.”)