Category Archives: Theories

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.




Filed under Questions, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

To do

This article; the syllabi; the LASA2015 abstract; the grading; the parking permit.

In the fall: the other article.

It is strange no longer to collude in my own oppression but I appear to be achieving this. I will become stronger still.

The very worst aspect of working at our place is the way we are undermined by the administration and used to undermine each other. I will guard against this.



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So it is going now, and I am becoming one with this project. Whole. The image of jumping off into a project does not work for me. I decided it was not a question of jumping off, but of drawing things toward me.

You have to think in terms of integration and love, not alienation, rubrics, duty. That is my academic advice.



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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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Esto es significativo

¿Maras, hambre, ignorancia? Los niños trabajadores y abandonados de América central salen a correr al “país del nunca jamás” guiados por esa especie de sombra impuesta por el norte sobre el sur de nuestra América, con su manera de susurrar que el único camino a la vida mejor es la renuncia a la dignidad.

This is quite an interesting comment on the United States, values here, what it means to be a person here.



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L’été, ou l’appétit vient en mangeant

1. Now it is summer. I am still trying to relearn the self-care I renounced for Reeducation. I am trying to do this every day. I am also noticing how much more relaxing reading is than watching film, and how much more restful actual books are than anything one can read on a device.

2. Self-care involves not being required, and thence attempting to become another person for the sake of survival. It also means recognizing the toxicity of a certain environment and not allowing it to engage one in any of the many ways it can. Self-care means remembering one has rights and also might be right about some things. It means remembering to pay attention to the people who like one’s work. It means remembering that those who believe in pointless sacrifice have lost their power.

3. I would rather be going to this conference but I have to work. I would like to be pursuing cold cases from the civil rights movement or, if I had actually become the environmental lawyer I had wanted to be in high school, filing suit against the tar sands project. I wanted a high level career and if I could have had that in the arts and humanities, and if there were not so much other urgent work that needed doing, I would have been satisfied.

4. But in fact I work at a lower level. For that to be interesting and worth sacrificing for, I would have to be working on one of the projects I consider urgent. Then I would not be frustrated or bored. I would not feel so much longing, and things would have meaning. I would not feel that I was “fiddling while Rome burns.” It would be easier to concentrate since I would be doing what want to do, as opposed to do something else while trying to suppress my actual interests.

5. Nonetheless l’appétit vient en mangeant. There is a lot else to do and even if I would rather do the things that seem actually urgent to me, we will all try to do the things we have to do with love.

6. Yesterday in the café an old man came up and said I should be a simultaneous interpreter, I had rare skills. Thinking about this I saw how true it was. I thought of pursuing that as a young person but it was not ambitious enough, I did not want to simply speak others’ words. I see now that it would be more like working magic, and that it fits me in more ways than I realized then. And I would live in a city, make enough to live on, see interesting people and discuss interesting things … and might have more time for political work as well.

7. So is my lack of pleasure in the work I do have — more interesting in itself, por cierto, than simultaneous interpretation — a lack of interest, as I claim it is? Or is it a symptom of disinvestment in self? Or is it an allergy to my working conditions? I think it has been all of these, but is primarily the first. I am not even very deeply interested in foreign languages. They are my superpower, as it were, something I can wield, but not my goal.

8. But once again, l’appétit vient en mangeant. There is a lot to do here and even if I would rather do the things that seem actually urgent to me, I will try to do all things we have to do with love.

9. A social worker asked me about my mother’s life while she was dying and her comment was that it sounded like a life not lived. I disagreed, but thought the statement applied more accurately to me. I renounced my life when I went to Reeducation, and I have never fully managed to step out of the grave.

10. I will use this as a mantra, I think: vos podés estar en el lugar que te proponés. It is what someone said. It is unrealistic but not as unrealistic as the dicta I bowed to, namely, you should not be this happy, or this successful.




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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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Formatif et déformatif

I am still bored with the “formative” series since this weblog is already my Bildungs-space, but it is still an opportunity to look at things from a slightly different angle and think of a few new things.

One thing I have always wondered about is what the students mean when they say I am not like the other faculty — it must be something about formation.

I am not like the other Spanish professors in that I am from Comparative Literature and do not speak just Spanish and English; I am not teaching my native language or the one other language I speak well. It is a very great difference because my formation explicitly rejects nationalisms and theirs embraces them explicitly.

There is much more to say on these matters, so this post is another stand-in.


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And still more

…on Reeducation as gendered attack.

You were not to think as an autonomous adult or as a person with any kind of professional training.

These were considered signs of poor, not good mental health and the truth is the opposite.

On another topic, I must remember to write my three-tiered manifesto.


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