Category Archives: Banes

Taking the high road

Department of e-mails not sent:

Dear committee member,

The question would be what gives you the right to speak in this tone to anyone.

If the dean, an AAUP member, confuses tenure track/tenured with FTE NTT, which I highly doubt he does, it would be our job to point out the error.

To keep these things clear is precisely the charge of this committee.

Yours,

Z
Professor and chair (as far as you are concerned)

Axé.

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Cannibalizing

Working at a university that is cannibalizing itself, in department that is, and a state that is, is disheartening and it is hard not to feel downhearted, not to feel joy. I used to be energized by work and inspired by what happened on campus — it was why I liked school — but here I only feel sad and ashamed.

Earlier on my poststructuralist education was disconcerting to me, being who I was. The messages I received were: you must not trust yourself, but decenter yourself; you should not trust your thoughts; and your words cannot mean what you believe them to mean. I was arguing against these ideas in my beautifully written, yet malformed dissertation and it was very visceral.

These topics are still hard to write near. To write, you must trust yourself and your words to some degree, and you must place your voice in your work. It is not enough just not to yell at yourself. You also have to trust yourself. You have to believe you are real. You also have to believe you do not deserve destruction. You have to believe you have value of at least some kind.

I would like to believe I had some sort of value. Once I did not question my own value. Questioning of the value of people was not part of the world then.

Axé.

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“Opportunity cost?”

So I have a truly major speaker coming, a project I did not think would be a good use of my time but that others wanted done, and they have now quit their roles in making the event truly happen well. On the other hand, I am being told I am doing a wonderful job leading the relevant organization and unit.

I am conflicted about this because it cuts into research time. Irritated. But where time is really wasted is in negotiating with the people who want to waste my time, and in non-pleasurable, but also non-work time I spend when I feel used and humiliated by those who are trying to waste my time for me.

Then I think: I am foolish to have accepted this general project. This causes me to feel unworthy to do my own work. But I should have accepted it, I can do it and my own work. What I should do is stop giving power to people who are wasting my time and energy.

Also, for others, the classic model works: research first, teaching next, and no service. But I am an activist, and know it is wrong. I am ashamed of it and want to go away, to where this characteristic is not a sign of inferiority. But mostly I feel ashamed when people tell me my time is not as valuable as theirs.

Axé.

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Plus jamais

Something I really dislike that men do at work is go into hysterical fits about how the institution is dying and only I can help save it, beg me to help them with a major institution-saving project, convince me to commit to it 50%, and then forget about their 50% … and THEN act irritated that my 50% has been done, making them look bad since they have not come through on theirs. I must be terribly, inappropriately powerful to have been able to do anything, and I am very cruel because I have, in their view, shown them up.

I am not willing to put up with this any more.

Axé.

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Emotions around this project and related ones

…that make me want to avoid it. Shame, which causes lethargy and withdrawal, which causes avoidance. Meanwhile, more interestingly:

…trauma, anger, repression, self-recrimination, rebellion, claustrophobia, impatience, restlessness, desire to explore, desire to live, desire not to be entombed

…I really need to unpack all of this.

Axé.

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Insight du jour — once again

I am so tired of having to psychoanalyze myself and also of finding that I keep coming to the same conclusions yet do not progress, or progress so slowly.

In any case my insight, new for today is that a great part of my struggle here has to do with not having come here by my own choice. I had to shut down my better judgment, de-prioritize myself to do it, and this makes it difficult to gain access to self. How to change that, how to put self first regardless, how to own the situation, how to be in this atmosphere which inspires withdrawal for its own reasons, is the question. But part of it is not having the centeredness you can have in anything when you feel it is yours.

I learned that abusers stay in your head. If you have to keep struggling or worrying, it is that this relationship has distorted your mind. There was a long period here, for instance, where uppermost in my mind were my parents, every hour–their suffering, how could I remedy it; my inadequacy and uncaringness in their eyes, what could I do to become worthy of them, and how could I demonstrate love in a way they could believe?

I decided there isn’t reason to doubt my background of family abuse. If fear of extreme violence and desire to get to a safe place are always dancing at the back of my mind (unless I do get to a place that feels safe, which is most of the world but not places with the characteristics of Maringouin and Vichy State), is there any doubt?

The family always intruded upon work in terribly inappropriate ways, and had terrible problems that needed resolution, but would then expect me to be fine, not worry, and “go on with my life” as though nothing had happened. This continues in some form now. It is: they create a violent or otherwise heartrending incident, get service on it, but then  expect me to recover as quickly as they have. This is why the “just go on with your life” dictum is so hurtful, and feels so much like abandonment.

The trauma was realizing that my father, the apparently less-bad abuser, was abusive too. I don’t think there really is doubt about this and I do note that my brother now seems to consider that it is a gift when he does not “say mean things” (or perhaps, has them just below the surface). But what I feel bad about, the worst about in life, is that I rejected, destroyed my academic career. I rejected it when I realized how troubled he was. It was a traumatic realization and I needed to work with it.

Where and what am I, and what do I have the right to say? These things become clearer in non-abusive spaces, where what is reflected back to me is the light. But in the murk, I do not dare exist or be for myself, only to serve, unless as backup I have a lot of money in the bank (that is why having money is so important metaphorically).

But all the things I did, including the self-destructive things, were attempts to have self and voice. I would love to feel the way I know others do, their feet on the ground, no executioner at their back. I would love to feel my voice coming right up from my stomach, all the way out my mouth, this is me. I would love to feel my mind clear and present, instead of shut down waiting for the next blow.

The problem is not allowing for self, not acting for self, not permitting conviction. I was interested in environment, economics, law, because there I thought I could act with conviction. People never think, initially, I should do these things but when I begin to speak the willing are able see my level of passion and how well informed I am.

The other reason I thought I should go into these things was that I thought I could do them even in bad circumstances (I could put them over quality of life). I realize here that I am making a fairly good argument here for leaving my job, giving up on doing what I came to do, but most fundamentally I am making an argument for voice and self.

And this has been a meditation, and it is good to meditate, and when one considers that I woke up this morning wondering what hotline to call. I am just not sure what I would like to do.It is an unfamiliar feeling but I long for care. These things that sound attractive:

1/ Die. But not before my father does, or before I go traveling slowly around the world and stay somewhere if I find work, but if not join some ascetic ashram.

2/ Go to law school at LSU (THAT is something I really should have done, long ago, although I would not have gotten to live in Oregon then) — although it is too late in my life to develop the career I could have developed had I started 22 years ago, when I wanted to.

3/ Get, or have a job in current field, but at an R1.

4/ Get some really interesting think tank, or movement job.

5/ I have fantasies about going to a sanitarium, some sort of in-patient anti-depressive resort, where you could do analysis and yoga and research. I think of hospitals but people go on resort vacations, beach vacations, yoga retreats, sabbaticals, and writing retreats.

Keywords: care – voice – self – faith in self – self-love – not caretaking – recognizing abusiveness – standing up to abuse – voice – self – faith in self – self-love – love of work – respect for own work.

Mantra: much of my father most insistent advice was wrong (only the things he said when he dropped his mask were right)

Axé.

 

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Books and journals going now

…because they are just too tattered, they are depressing me. They are wonderful and epoch-making as well, and I hate to let them go since they are like limbs. They are:

New German Critique 22 (Winter 1981), special issue on Modernism. Articles by Habermas, Giddens, Bürger, Huyssen, Nägele, Bainard Cowan, Michael Ryan, more.
Revista Iberoamericana 118-119 (enero-junio 1982), with classic articles on the avant-garde, wonderful (if outdated) texts I should really reread; 127 (abril-junio 1984), a marvelous issue on “la proyección de lo indígena en las literaturas de la América Hispánica” with articles on Mariátegui, indigenismo, and much more; 175 (abril-junio 1996), with additional wonderful articles on modernisms I want to reread.
Santiago, Silviano. Uma literatura nos trópicos.

There is so much that I don’t read or write because I do not feel at ease or at home. I am concentrating on holding things together, repressing the desire for life, and containing or tolerating pain and outright terror.

I read and wrote little for several years because I had a book contract. I was not sure I agreed with the revisions I had promised for commercial reasons, and I knew this project could not be finished in six months. But I could not say this, because I was afraid that if I said so out loud I would be accused of laziness or conspiracy to procrastinate, and would have to undergo torture for it. So I did not read or write for other projects, because I was to manage time such as to concentrate on this project; yet I could not find a way to plan the time since in fact, there was no feasible way to read enough in six months to consider whether or not the required revisions were desirable, let alone make them.

Without that six-month deadline, that recurred again and again, I could have worked these things out but the six-month deadline, with the exhortations about time management, laziness and conspiracy to procrastinate, but due to these exhortations I mostly transformed myself into a rabbit or cat, hid behind the couch, and panted.

After that I came here to Maringouin. I had wanted to do something more interesting but had been exhorted not to. I felt guilty about the pain I would cause others if I did not do as they wished, and fearful of the torture I would have to undergo if I caused them that pain. I came here to Maringouin on the theory that now, relieved of that deadline, I would write and read.

What I did was build program and serve others, because they were crying out in pain and requiring it and also because we were all threatened with annihilation if I refused, I was told. Now I do not know whether I would write and read the things I would write and read as an academic in this field if I were no longer employed in it, but I can no longer tolerate this repression.

Let us look at the ways in which I have been repressed by certain categories of academic work, or more accurately by their distortion under neoliberalism:

  1. Teaching. Your primary interest is to be a nurturing teacher of lower division students; your next interest is accompanying advanced undergraduates as they emote with literary texts. Those students may deserve someone to do this with them but it is not me.
  2. Research. You should publish, but not what you are interested in or think best. You should do only what is most marketable, because the objective is not knowledge but measurable production in the most visible English-language venues possible.
  3. Service. You should over-function. We will give you no credit for this, in fact we will penalize you for this, but we will annihilate you and yours completely if you do not over-function.

Mutilate yourself to survive the present, so you will still be alive to regenerate and flourish in the future, is the message I have always perceived. That, of course, fits my personal history but I think there is also a politics to this: teaching as caretaking, research as product preparation, and service as defense against siege.

Axé.

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