Here is some of something I said on e-mail today:
I am trying to understand how two circuits of signification, despite disarticulation at some levels, connect (and connect they do): (a) different definitions of race and the racial, different formations of racial meaning in different places, and (b) race and the world system, where things look much more the same and white, however defined, is the desirable category.
The highly emotional tone of some Brazilian and Brazilianist commentators (don’t criticize us, we did not have Jim Crow, it is not us, really!) actually reminds me of the tone of what some of my ancestors said when Douglass published his narrative, which described their plantation (yes, we did behave that badly outside, but not inside the house, he was a child and he is just remembering wrong!).
Da Silva and some others claim that race is constitutive in modernity; if that is true, it explains why liberal reforms (or Habermasian “further Enlightenment”) do not solve the problem of inequality. This is congruent with King taking on the state in general in the end, as opposed to advocating for the extension of American Dream to all as he had done earlier, and with C.L.R. James’ comment that Toussaint’s failure was “a failure of Enlightenment.”
I noticed it was easier to say these things to a specific other person than to myself; the ideas are still not well enough researched and formulated but I did better on e-mail, with a “send” button, than I was doing in my Lyx document.
This, then, becomes the reason to write abstracts to send to conferences.
I remembered that someone I know used me as imagined audience for his books as he was writing them. Isolated in a snowy town that smells of its paper mill he was not sure he would have an audience at all, and this was making it difficult to frame his texts. I am easy to talk to and am in field, although not in region, so he decided his ideal audience would be someone like me. All through all of the writing, three books, first year to full professor, he imagined he was writing me letters as it were, explaining what he had discovered.
I did not really appreciate this when I heard about it — that is, I did, but not as I do now. I am thinking my current problem may not be that I have not quite designed my text, but that I have not quite designed my interlocutor.