Monthly Archives: June 2015

On southern pride

A local musician, one of my colleagues, and some other people have been going on about how — if I understand them — it is unfortunate that Dylann Roof associated himself with the Confederate battle flag, because that flag has nothing to do with racial violence. It does have everything to do with their families’ apparently cozy and/or heroic pasts, which of course have nothing to do with racial violence.

It is an interesting contradiction … or is it just a cover-up? Of course that flag means what it means, and its wavers know that, but they say it just means “heritage” — ancestors that died — so they can keep waving it and feel well. OR: is it that the pain of defeat and occupation, which one can still feel in some little towns here, is great and one needs a symbol of defiance?

But I am being too kind, I think — people are nostalgic for the bad old days but will not say so as it is unfashionable, so they say contradictory things. I idly watched The Butler and there are problems with the film but it does do a good job of reminding one of how, quite recently, people got away with treating black people and of how difficult it was for them to navigate the situation. I thought, “These allegedly kind Confederates should watch what the butler has to go through, and then they will understand.” Then I realized, “No. Actually, they want to be the ones who put him through it.”

Southern culture means black culture and creolization, actually, and it is quite distinct from Northern culture. It also means living in the aftermath of slavery and apartheid. In this panorama that battle flag is the badge of a certain group, not of everyone. It seems that that group is the one whose identity is bound up in the maintenance of white supremacy, which is disallowed, so it is without content as it were, and it is writhing in pain therefore.

The expression of this writhing is baroque — so many conceits, so much surface talk, around a center that is either empty or that has to hide its contents. Talking to these people is like talking to people who are hiding something and I guess it is because they are. These are my fragmentary thoughts so far on this matter. Have you any?



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On the “entrepreneurial” model and education as a commodity

What do I mean by “against students”? By using this expression I am trying to describe a series of speech acts, which consistently position students, or at least specific kinds of students, as a threat to education, to free speech, to civilisation: we might even say, to life itself.  In speaking against students, these speech acts also speak for more or less explicitly articulated sets of values: freedom, reason, education, democracy. These values are identified as requiring the reproduction of norms of conduct that students are themselves failing to reproduce.  Even if that failure is explained as a result of ideological shifts that students are not held responsible for – whether it be neoliberalism, managerialism or a new sexual puritanism – it is in the bodies of students that the failure is located.

The entire article is well worth reading. Related: I want to think about sexual assault policies again.

In somewhat related news I have become fascinated by the series Call the Midwife which is, for one thing, feminist and for another, a fascinating document on the advent of the National Health and the transformation it brought. Electricity, running water, a bathroom in each apartment, and birth control as well as safe abortion are such new things, and they have so changed the contours of life for those with access to them.

When I lived in Europe in the seventies — not the thirties, the seventies — there were still many apartment buildings with toilets on the landings (only) and showers in the courtyards (only). But it was the social democracy that had changed the lives of the majority. “There were so many ugly girls,” I was told of life before the war; after the war better nutrition had made many beautiful. (I saw echoes of that, of course, later on in the third and fourth worlds, realizing that in fairy stories the princesses are always beautiful not for some symbolic reason but because they have had literally had the chance to grow straight bones.)


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I will cure myself with research today. It really does change your perspective and return your dignity.



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It would be, do not allow the way the university treats you to affect your own professional identity. Do not let them undermine your stability or sense of self-worth. This, however, is easier said than done … how does it not mean “rise above it, dear?”

I have always admired the skill of some people, who know they are being mistreated and remain proud, rather than wonder if it is something they have done or that they deserve or that the are overreacting to — or not notice it is mistreatment, since it is the only treatment they know.

But I have always admired the skill of some people.




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Des théories

Continuing, I miss Puerto Rico and Louisville and everywhere, but mostly Puerto Rico and the things I did not get to do there (which would have involved piercing that touristy surface). I guess we can say this summer is exciting and eventful so far but I need it to be restorative.

I went to campus to try to resolve these funding issues and ran into a colleague who said he had funding issues as well and was angry. I thought yes, I am angry, and this is the prohibited emotion since one is only allowed to be angry at oneself.

Depression and anxiety are repressed anger; self-destruction is anger turned upon oneself. These are clichés, but does that matter?



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Je suis arrivée / Sobre la tristeza

I woke up this morning at home. I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom. I woke up telling myself that just because I was home did not mean I had to suffer. I woke up saying just because I was now so close to my university and so far from the things I love and need, I still did not have to be complicit in my own oppression. I woke up promising myself to treat myself well.

I had been, first, at LASA in Puerto Rico, an expensive conference where logistics were so poor that it was hard to get to see panels. I got some things out of it but not really enough. Puerto Rico was interesting but hard to be in since it is so expensive. It was also sad because it is a colony. I had never been to an outright colony before, and I now appreciate writers like Maryse Condé in a way I never did.

Next I went to the AP reading in Louisville, which was interesting but again an experience which took energy. This is not the easiest town to get to know, and although ETS provides food, the food was of poor enough quality that we were all ill at ease when not ill outright. We spent money we had not planned on spending, to buy cleaner and more nutritious food. We thus underwent more stress, and profited less than we had expected to do.

These voyages, then, were tiring and a little less pleasant and useful than I had counted on their being, but they were distracting and interesting, and I was away from home. Now here, the university informs me that it will not, after all, reimburse me for the Puerto Rico conference. So I feel it is not true, I may keep my mind stayed on freedom but I am NOT the master of my fate. I am not one of those who cries but I have been having trouble not, so I have not yet been into the university to fight this situation in person, and I am not in good enough shape to call my aged father today.


I feel I am sinking. I took this job because I had nowhere else to go without help and because it was what my mother wanted. I hurt my mother so much in life just by being who I was. I always tried to do the things she wanted if I could, so as to mitigate the pain I was causing to the extent that might be possible. But I did think I would be able to make the best of it, and get away again. I promised myself I would be in a position to leave as soon as my mother died (I would not take any risks sooner, so as not to upset her further).

But it is late, and I am not in a position to leave, and if I am not reimbursed for this conference my debt burden will increase such that it will become even harder to leave … and even more fundamentally, being treated this way by the university really gets me down.

Estoy tan triste. And I do note that I keep saying “I am so sorry, Mom, I am so sorry, please do not hurt me.” I keep saying this as if to save my life. That is why I cannot leave the house; it would not be appropriate to say it in public. And I note that every time I think this, I am taking a wrong road. I should never have allowed my mother so much power, and I should not allow it to her now.

Nor should I make her so responsible. This last point is not for her sake but for mine: when I think this, I sabotage the power I do have. And the university’s decision is based on a clerical error someone made, and I may be able to have it reversed. If not it only means taking on an additional thousand dollars in debt and there are worse things. I have never filed for bankruptcy, so this is still an option in a worst case scenario (as in, if there are additional disasters).



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Some light reading on gender

Here. My feminist education is lacking. I am very often called unnaturally or unfairly rational, and also bossy. In fact I am neither, only competent. If my feminist education were better I would have realized before now that these were discriminatory terms based on gender stereotypes.



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Book notes for June

There is this Cambria Press, whose general editor is Román de la Campa, and it requires no subsidy … and it has a book on Central American avant-garde narrative. Here is its complete list.

The University of New Mexico is bringing out a book about Navajo hero twins, by Nolan Karras James, and other interesting books on Native American themes, particularly one about Inca resistance.

Duke has the new Gloria Anzaldúa I need and I wonder if I should present my contrarian views on her at ERIP or LASA. There are a couple of new books on race and music in the Caribbean, on how racial democracy privileges whiteness and praises blackness in theory but does not support it in practice. There is also a book, Cachita’s Streets, which I would really like to use for my cultural studies class or classes, and Indian Given, a book that could be helpful to think about race with. (I would like to see all of these books in libraries, and not have to buy and keep them; this, again, is why I should be going to New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Austin often — and to some extent, Houston.

There is an issue of differences — a journal I should look at more — where Balibar discusses Althusser and “reanimates his concept of ideology as an analytic tool for contemporary cultural and political critique,” and one of SAQ, another journal I should look at more, on 1970s feminism, and there are more studies on different aspects of race.

In short, I should leave every weekend, to one of the four aforementioned cities; I should drive Friday starting as early as possible, go out that night and then sit and read Saturday, stroll Sunday morning and drive back late. (If it is Baton Rouge, of course, I should just go in early Saturday morning.)

From Vanderbilt there is a must-have for teaching: Jerome Branche’s Black Writing, Culture, and the State in Latin America. I could use it as a textbook in Fall, 2017, for instance; especially since it comes as an e-book for $9.99. We could read this and some of the texts it discusses, and see films; it would be a great class, so I have ordered the book.

Also from Vanderbilt there is also a cultural history of the 19th century from this press but I looked at it in page proofs and it seemed thin; it might be something for cultural studies classes, though, for people to do reviews of.


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Not-writing is like a bath running

Not-writing is like a bath running.

In other words: I am not entirely happy about certain offers to come here and give workshops, because the Herculean amount of planning and organization it would take to fund and publicize these events would impede my own research and writing. I must find a way to keep this situation under control, as having the workshops would be lovely.

I had said I would no longer put effort toward creating ephemeral events the university would not thank me for creating, when I could put the same effort toward my own work. Yet at the same time, I need to populate this wasteland. How can the workshops be conceived such that they are more than a flash in the pan? That is the question.


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La méditation, et la tranquilité

I went to Puerto Rico expecting to relax and concentrate, but mostly listened to people and was fragmented by newness. Now I have to go to Louisville, and then here, and then to Alexandria (LA), and here, and Angola (LA), and here, and I want to go to New Orleans. Then I go to Denver, and then I come here; I turn around and immediately go to Europe.

In all of these endeavors, and starting now, I will only do one thing at a time and I will be in the center of it. Even when I am working for someone else and on something else, as in Louisville, or on something of my own that is secondary, as in Alexandria, Angola, and Denver. I will be sure to go to New Orleans because it will be for me.

I no longer have anything to escape from if I am now acting on my own behalf. I want to meditate.

All of these voyages are for work, and at home I must work, and when I get to Europe I will do work but I will also be on vacation, in a meditative rhythm, in Mediterranean tranquillity, yes; and I am hardly spending a thing so if I do not rush anything it will still be enough.


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