Monthly Archives: March 2017

Bad poetry

Here is a bad poem or at least, one I dislike. I read it while reading an interesting book review that shows precisely why everyone is fatigued with the Democratic Party, in the same magazine with a yet more interesting book review on Hitler, characterized as a warning from history. This was the title of an important BBC series on the second world war made in the late 90s, that is apparently being rebroadcast now.

I am of course fascinated with the Shoah since I find my Polish and Lithuanian cousins in its databases. I have seen Night will fall, a documentary about a documentary that has been finished at last. This second film is very beautifully photographed, strange though that may seem to say. But the cameramen were artists and I think they had good film and equipment.

Meanwhile, it seems that the FBI sat on the Trump-Russia file for months. But at least there is such a thing as Radio Cómeme — which offers better poetry than does (necessarily) Sharon Olds.

Axé.

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Research today

Ultimately, what really defines whiteness is not melanin or nationality – it’s power. And while demographics may be shifting, Kenneth Prewitt, a former director of the United States Census Bureau, is sceptical that whites will ever be a minority. White people will “figure out some way to reshuffle the deck”, he told me, finding new ways to bolster their numbers and protect white privilege. Perhaps, in the near future, he suggests, successful Asians (now classed as “honorary whites”) will undergo a similar process to the Irish and become “white.” When you look at the mutable history of whiteness the idea is certainly not beyond the pale.

Meanwhile, here is a map of lynching in America.

Axé.

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Famous writers I should have known about, or should have worked with more

I really do not get out enough. My students should know about Mario Bellatín, Hilda HIlst, Pedro Lemebel, Naty Menstrual, and Eugenia Prado. It seems that they, together with Diamela Eltit and others, wrote or are writing the nueva narrativa femenina latinoamericana.

I should have told my student about Sarduy, Escrito sobre un cuerpo, and Nelly Richard, Masculino/femenino; I might (although this does not go with the project so exactly) talk about what convergence there is or is not between “feminine” and postmodern writing.

Axé.

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The muse of history

I. CLIO
“let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth”

The past’s fantasia cannot hold or let
us go. Flycatcher catching itself in
the pool’s glint gaze, Samarkand where Tamerlane
hewed his bloody thread, unspooling across
the hacked-to-pieces field, a triple axle
splitting Clio’s cataract, muddy then
clear, the opal of a rain-sheened open
eye that looks at nothing but yet holds
our look.
Euterpe, my head is in my hands.
Flies speckle the field. The sizer, hissing,
straps dynamite to a waist no bigger
than a fly’s wing span, but the daughters
of Babylon do not tarry—the road flares
burn blue, bog irises, erect, quivering.

The poem has five parts, and that was the first. I liked it and wanted to study it, but wrote on my copy of it that I must see about deadlines for the ERIP conference in Morelia, and remember to find the book Lower Education. So I am studying the poem here.

Axé.

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Filed under ALFS presentation, Poetry, Race book

Steal this university!

The book seems dated now, but I did not pay enough attention when it came out in 2003, although I read the reviews. It is about how the for-profit ethos has crept into universities. I do not know whether I knew enough then to understand the book as I do now.

I learned a very great deal from the third chapter, about the inefficiency of merit raises, whose points are supported by this recent article on metrics. And I am fascinated with the poor behavior of some professors I know in the 1995 Yale strike.

The truly important insight I had while reading in this book, however, was that much of the academic advice I have received and been confused by came from professors dealing with the slow encroachment of this model. Either they were in a position to take advantage of it (e.g. had other people to grade for them and were otherwise in a position to say, don’t spend time on teaching), or were themselves struggling with it and saying things that did not make sense entirely, because they, too, were in a new world they did not fully recognize because it used (in another way) the vocabulary of the old, and were looking through a glass, darkly.

Axé.

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Filed under ALFS presentation, Da Whiteman, What Is A Scholar?, Working

Things people have sent me to try.

Alan Watts on Chesterton.

Paul Preston on the Spanish Civil War — as holocaust.

The Holocaust Encyclopedia actually has an entry on the Spanish Civil War.

U.S. economists are always wrong.

Hattie says:

There was also an excerpt from Chris Hayes’s new book, A Colony Within a Nation. As he says,  “In the nation, you have rights;  in the colony you have commands.” These are the two Americas. We need this  kind of structural historical analysis to understand the way systemic racism works. That is, those of us who live in the nation do. Those who live in the colony know all about it. It is absolutely part and parcel of what our country is. No use denying it.

Axé.

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Encore des nouvelles. On modernity, and on race.

– Thursday is César Vallejo’s birthday and he will be 125.

– This, as we know, could also be about Vallejo, as it is about many:

Living in Budapest, connected to a self-confident and industrializing West but set apart from it by language and often religion, Polanyi and his contemporaries embodied one of the central facts about the cultural and political ferment that we often equate with modernism: Its vitality depended on the admixture of a modern social order and outlook with often archaic folk communities. (Bartók’s music is a classic example.)

Polanyi is one of many intellectuals I would like to understand.

I am interested also in the conversion of the Jews in the nineteenth century, as both Marx’ and Heinrich Heine’s parents converted, as my ancestor did. Polanyi and other twentieth century figures longed, says Gareth Dale, for “a social order in which the entire issue of assimilation would be an irrelevance.” (It could be worth reading the book whose review I refer here to learn more about what this meant then, because it is yet another experience of race and difference in the high modernist period.)

Then there is Marisol de la Cadena:

…mestizo and mestizaje…are doubly hybrid. On the one hand they house an empirical hybridity, built upon eighteenth and nineteenth century racial taxonomies and according to which ‘mestizos’ are non-indigenous individuals, the result of biological or cultural mixtures. Yet, mestizos’ genealogy starts earlier, when ‘mixture’ denoted transgression of the rule of faith, and its statutes of purity. Within this taxonomic regime mestizos could be, at the same time, indigenous. Apparently dominant, racial theories sustained by scientific knowledge mixed with, (rather than cancel) previous faith based racial taxonomies. ‘Mestizo’ thus houses a conceptual hybridity – the mixture of two classificatory regimes – which reveals subordinate alternatives for mestizo subject positions, including forms of indigeneity.

Y sí, and that is what the talk the other day did not address, and it is key for my piece on Isaacs: there is racial and religious mestizaje that stand in for each other. THIS is a good insight, I do think. (About mestizaje itself, the other way in which the word or concept “means in two accents” is that it is deployed in both oppressive and utopian or liberating ways.)

And Isaacs is another 19th century person, working on the conversion of the Jews, and there is a connection here.

(I so must create a system in which to put all these thoughts together.)

Axé.

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Filed under Bibliography, Movement, Race book, Theories