Category Archives: Questions

Extrinsic and intrinsic

I was happy today because work was going well. I have been impaired for so long I barely know what this is like. It is another planet.

In the meantime I was meditating on this post and thread. I could repeat various points. If desire were enough, it would also be true that hard work was enough to make you rich. Yes, people do in fact need information and ideas on how to do things. Some strains of academic advice are pointless or miss the point (my original interest in the post, and in the post it discusses).

But I am primarily interested in the question of “extrinsic” and “intrinsic” reasons for doing things. Should one do things for some form of gain, or do them for themselves in a very pure way? Where does the border between intrinsic and extrinsic lie? Are we not all actually located in their overlapping? I am as committed to field as anyone, although perhaps differently so.

I really am research first. I want, and always wanted research and writing in a town with libraries, archives and cultural life, and a harrassment-free workplace. I would change fields to get this. That scandalizes people since it means the field, the specific discovery, is not the “instrinsic” reward I seek–it is the activity itself, the atmosphere, I want. Am I more “extrinsically” motivated, then, than is meet?

(Yes — because these motivations do not fit the US academic model, they fit the think-tank or journalistic or other models. At the same time, I would never have understood all of these things had I happened to always work at a place like USP. Then I would think I was suited to academia in a seamless way.)

(I am efficient and if anything too fast; I am research first; I have administrative talent and do not oppose “service.” This is why all the coaxing to work daily and more quickly, and put research higher on the agenda that many seem to need are destructive, not helpful for me. It is not that I am anti-teaching, I am good at it, find it interesting, and believe it should be done well, but one thing I do NOT need is to be reminded that teaching is only one par of the job. Also notice how I do not say I MUST have a teaching job–I say I MUST have a research job. This seems to be a great difference between me and most academics.)

HEART OF POST: I do notice, though, that when I have gotten stuck on things the issue is always that, for “extrinsic” reasons, I am trying to make an argument I do not really support (utter lack of “intrinsic” reason), or I am trying to rush something along (insufficient emphasis on intrinsic reason). I notice further that while my actual motivations are almost entirely intrinsic, my training is to ignore these reasons almost entirely and focus on the extrinsic — one is working to survive.

(Although I have also always said that if survival is the only reason to do things, then we can just work in a bank. This observation is considered scandalous by many academics. I think it is considered scandalous because their actual attitude is closer to that of a bank worker than they want to admit.)

Intrinsic: as Amálio and I said back then, we got into this to have fun. Or is that extrinsic? Fun involves learning words, saying things, and drawing pictures, I said when very young. Later I said it was seeing research happen, considering its meaning, doing some of one’s own, making hypotheses, combing through documents, contemplating fascinating statements, having odd adventures while finding the places where the documents lay, and writing prose. Are these extrinsic or intrinsic motivations and if the result is not that one gets to continue, or the cost is too high in some way, did one lack “intrinsic” motivation in the first place? No, and that is why I think we are all located in the overlap.

So intrinsic to me does not mean that one expects no “reward.” It does mean that one must not relinquish integrity or voice. Those are the basic elements, without which all organization falls apart and all strategies and methods of work management fail.




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That work allergy

I do not think it is lack of interest, much though I have tried to claim over the past twenty years that it is. And true as it is that I have other interests that could be professional interests, interests I feel I could pursue with greater happiness and success because they are in fields less fraught for me and also more open to me. But once again, I do not think my academic problem is lack of interest.

It is, rather, the sensation of having been imprisoned and having the jailers use me work, which they have appropriated, to beat me with. One can defend against that perverse use of one’s work by saying one has lost interest in it. But this explanation is not satisfactory as it is inaccurate. More accurately, that work needs to be rescued from its glass case (they have used it as an instrument of torture but really it is the Sleeping Beauty).

And yes, one has the power. One forgets but one has it, and that is why this weblog was conceived of as insurgent: Sandinista, Zapatista, Freirista. And I see now more clearly than ever why I dislike academic advice. It not only assumes one does not know what one is doing or that one is not actually interested in what one is doing — it also ignores what is the heart of the matter for very many of us.

The issue is not not knowing what one is doing or not being interested in what one is doing or not being willing to sacrifice for what one has decided to do. It is having work stolen and competence seen as a liability. It is having been told repeatedly that one is not authorized to do this. It is not for you, you are not invited, you will never make it…

There is no amount of discipline or “time management” that will have its desired effect if you have been convinced you either are not competent or should not be, and that your work either is not yours or should not be. There are also no medications or rest cures to cure this problem. It has to be named and recognized to be countered. I oppose academic advice because it is so often deployed and also constructed to interdict such naming. It comes not to clarify but to cloud vision.

I resist and fear not the work itself but the officious advice that surrounds it. I do not need exhortations to rush or other warnings of the various sorts one gets. I need to remember that I am in fact authorized to do what I am doing, and to use my time doing it.

Sondé miroir, O Legba. We are all great sacrificers and penitents.



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On autonomy and peace

I almost never feel autonomous, but I sometimes feel peaceful.  Sometimes I can see what autonomy and peace would be like together; they look good.

As a younger person I knew neither was meant for me, but I admired them and I was surprised one day long ago when it seemed I had them on firm loan. If you surrounded yourself with people who liked themselves and allowed themselves to enjoy life, you would find that they lent you autonomy and peace, I learned.

Later as professors, and then in Reeducation, we had to renounce both. We were now flawed clients seeking favor and without right to autonomy or peace–or reason or joy, of course. I used to have to leave the country to come into contact with these things, but I wonder whether I can conjure them, create them, here, now.

I also wonder whether, when my friend said I clearly did not like academia and I said I just did not like my job, I actually meant I did not mind academia. Perhaps it was that I did not yet know what it was to like something.


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A thesis on specificity and exceptionalism

Exceptionalism calls specific what is not. My utterly unpublishable example is Cadjin(e) exceptionalism.

“We are the only ones ever shamed for speaking our language.” (Uninformed)

“Our experience can only be understood from the inside.” (So it cannot be an object of study, only a subject of storytelling.)

“This is a folkway only we have.” (Uninformed)

Cultural exceptionalism attempts to maintain isolation so as to remain unaware of anything that might suggest non-uniqueness.

It is also nostalgic — the Cadjin(e)s, for example, who sport the Imperial fleur-de-lys as a sign of solidarity and cultural identity, are nostalgic for the empire that (r)ejected them. This last point, of course, could bear discussion, since the fleur-de-lys is deployed as a symbol of resistance against English imperialism, but still…


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Coldhearted 2

One of the more exhausting aspects of having my mother die is having to explain again and again to people that my father is not moving to Central Time, and justifying that.

He likes it where he lives and prefers living in his town over moving to unknown and uncomfortable towns just because his children live there. He is coldhearted, it is said, to privilege place over family.

This gives me some insight into all the urgent academic advice about how you should be willing to live anywhere: perhaps most people really do not care deeply about the places they live, do not form relationships with geography and soil.



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Job interview outfits … for half senior faculty, half administrative positions

They decided to interview all women, which is interesting since I can see what they are wearing. All have sensible shoes, a little too old for them, like these, but I probably need those to look conservative enough for the kind of thing I am applying for and because I can no longer wear real heels. I much prefer these, but they are $395.

In terms of outfits, I am not sure I can get away with what they were wearing. They were dressed at the level of dressiness I use for work, which is all right for a graduate student on a job interview but perhaps not for me on a job interview. One had on a suit and a shell, without jewelry. The outfit was too plain; you must wear a necklace or a scarf if you have on a jacket and a shell. Another had on a beautiful skirt and sweater that I would love to wear as an interview outfit and that did not require jewelry, but is that not too casual, really, for someone twenty years older?

In my opinion, I look fantastic in this sweater (which in person is less casual) and a short straight skirt, and this skirt and sweater, and I really do not feel like acquiring a suit, and jackets are so uncomfortable. I would rather wear a dress, but I think I need a suit. Probably a navy suit. I can wear gray, black, and brown as well, but I look strangely well in navy.

Ideally I would have a knee-length camel sheath dress with a matching suit jacket in the same length. Albert Nipon. I had a Donna Karan suit for years and it was very good, but I could not afford one now. I could perhaps shop in Chicago when I get there.

What do you think? Should one spend a fortune on clothes one likes, but does not covet . . . ?



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I should not say this in real life now, but…

I do not agree that communicative approaches, those methods referred to as grammar-translation, the direct and natural methods, and so on, are merely teaching “styles” — they have different goals and produce different results. Since we as a group do not have a common approach, the de facto departmental method is that used by those who teach the most sections; therefore, I favor creating as small a group as possible to dedicate to the basic sequence, and starting to use, rather than squelch, the expertise of all faculty, all the time.

Imagine for a moment a world in which all courses were taught for pleasure, not as “service.”



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Vallejo, el extranjero

…it seemed that if we could only decide who Vallejo was we might know what his poems mean.

Was this so and if it was, were we just falling prey to some form of the intentional fallacy?

Not necessarily.

It was that these poems were coming from a uneven, multi-leveled and multilayered collage of contexts, only some of them familiar.

It was that the speaker, the subject of discourse, was split, doubled, decentered and on the move.


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One more thing I disagree with

“You must take care of yourself (and not your work).”

Some fallacies inhere in this sentence (depending on how it is used).




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Mon cours

I said I would give a senior/graduate level course called Raza y palabra, on race and writing in Spain and Latin America, 1486-2014. This happened in a flash of inspiration and I do not now remember my concept clearly. The title is entirely too ambitious, and there is entirely too much potential material. I must order books, however, and I must remember that the students know less than I do. Much less, in fact.

Here is something quite simple I could do.

1. Talk about what race is generally. Perhaps use some of Tanya Golash-Boza’s new anthology — either the book, or the material she also anthologized lately in a special issue of a journal (that I can find). Inquiry: what is race?

2. Talk about the idea of the “Hispanic” or the “Latin” (“por mi raza hablará el espíritu”). Material from José Piedra, José Ortega y Gasset, Joshua Goode, Jerome Branche. This “includes” Spain. Inquiry: what is Hispanic? (Note: the idea of the mestizo nation is how exceptionalism and also specificity are asserted; one is alleged to have moved beyond race — and yet this allegedly supra-racial identity is defined in racial terms.)

3. Talk about the “Afro-Hispanic difference.” (Decide what to read here). Inquiry: what difference does race make? Possible theme: contesting the criollo.

4. Talk about indigenismo, considering among other things the ways in which it is deployed in service of the (criollo) nation. Use Arguedas here, go for it.

5. Talk about the Chicano movement, the plan espiritual de Aztlán, Anzaldúa.

***And have a list of films to have them watch, and a list of books to review. Films are for common discussion, and books for individual presentations.***

What do you think?




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