La blancheur

These are notes on offprints I no longer need to keep in paper copies. One is Alex Flynn’s piece on color in Machado de Assis, and the other is on the UNESCO study of race relations in Brazil. My marginal note on the Machado article was: “they want un-naturalized indeterminacy.” What did I mean? The authors “argue that whiteness has become increasingly established in Brazilian public discourse as a naturalized category” (abstract). They see race as a process and not as a thing. (I still like the Omi/Winant concept of race as a relation.) Mixture was seen in the early 20th century as a path toward whitening and modernization. What “white” meant was less clear, but it did become a “sedimented and fixed category” in public discourse.

The article has an interesting discussion of reactions to a Machado story, “Pai contra mãe.” Interpreters of the story tend to see the characters as black and white, although there is no unambiguous evidence of their color in the text. Whiteness is a negotiated category in Machado’s world, something readers tend to forget. In this story a slave-catcher avoids abandoning his own child, earning money for his short-term support by capturing an escaped slave, causing her to miscarry. It is not clear that he is white in color, although readers assume this. (I would say he represents the white side of things, acts as agent of slavery, whiteness and so on.)

In any case: this article has a good review of a great deal of literature. Its primary thesis, though, is that racial categories are not fixed, and people doing the work of whiteness may not look white. I am interested in da Silva because she is not as caught up in repeating the fact that racial categories can be ambiguous and depend on place.

Meanwhile, on those UNESCO studies: the hope was, after the Holocaust, to show how not to be racist, but it turned out that Brazil actually was. “Research findings . . . revealed the tensions between the myth [of racial democracy] and the Brazilian style of racism, a tension that had already been discussed by black and white intellectuals and activists in Brazil.” (134)

Axé.

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Museum of Fine Arts

At the end of the summer break I will get to Houston, and I will be there in time to see what is apparently a truly important exhibit on Mexican modernism.

This of course engages my topics: avant-garde discourse (revolution, modernity), and representations of race (nation), interests I must articulate in a more precise way than I am doing at this moment.

I should hone in on all art exhibits in this way.

Axé.

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ERIP, Tlatelolco, Theatre

In October, I am going to Morelia, Mexico for a week and it is excellent. I must remember to make these arrangements for ERIP. (And Washington/Baltimore in November, and California in December, but ERIP comes first.)

There are other things to remember, as well, including this inspiring article by Jacqueline Bixler on memory-theatre and Tlateloloco. Its bibliography and comments are enough to create a marvelous course and I would like to do this. And there are simple things I do not know, such that Paz’ Posdata was a posdata to Tlatelolco.

Axé.

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Le conte du graal, ou le roman de Perceval

You have to order the version I want from France, it seems. Do you think I could get it in New York? And look, look at this film.

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“I’m allowed to feel disappointed”

This is worth thinking about. Something I have procrastinated about is leaving academia. In a way, I feel I was pushed out when I started my first job, which had nothing to do with the kind of job, or life I was interested in. So my career change already happened to me, and when I think of career changes it is to begin doing something that more closely resembles the kind of work I was interested in and thought I could find in academia. I have been reticent about asking certain questions, but something I did discuss with friends and family was leaving. They were all horrified and convinced me not to, and I stayed because I was told I owed it to them, they would suffer too terribly if I left (that is another reason I feel trapped and do not work well). This, actually, shows why I do not ask enough questions–I am not accustomed to receiving non-destructive answers.

Axé.

The Precariat & The Professor

Talking with Jill yesterday about disappointment and the post-ac hustle, I was reminded of Kate Ragon’s chapter for The Precariat & The Professor, “Pleasure & Paradoxes of Organizing in the Corporate University.” We come to academia for a variety of reasons, but so many of us arrived here because we are idealists, we are dreamers– we believed the university was the contemporary City on a Hill, the last remaining one, in fact. Swallowing the bitter pill of the university’s reality is only the beginning of disappointment, which compounds, whether you get on the tenure track, work contingently, or leave for other, better things: Kate Ragon, like Erik Strobl, writes of the frustration of attempting to organize academics who think union labor is somehow below them. Jill, on the other hand, writes of being disappointed that she’s disappointed in herself for willfully walking away from a university who exploited her knowledge…

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On change

“Bien regarder, je crois que ça s’apprend.”
–Emmanuelle Riva in Hiroshima mon amour.

“Change comes first at the societal level, not at the level of the individual. You work to change society, change the relations of production, and this work changes you.” My Marxist boyfriend said this one day in Berkeley during Reagan’s second presidential term, when we were exasperated at the vagaries of the hippies. That was long ago but I remember it because it was true.

I forgot for a long time because of learning to survive the university as it took its entrepreneurial turn, while we were trying to earn tenure in the belief that things still were as they had been. (The vocabulary was still the same, and policies and practices were changing but on their face the changes were small, and most of us lacked the perspective necessary to accurately interpret the shifting panorama.) The cant was that we should work on ourselves, and manage this regardless of circumstances, since the real relations of production had to be irrelevant to rising stars. One was not to recognize the obvious truth that such advice–liberal/conservative propaganda, actually–was only appropriate in situations where the real relations of production were working, at least adequately, for you.

Similarly, change at the individual level does not come from changes in habit: that, again, is liberal/conservative propaganda. Changes in habit flow naturally from deeper change. Deeper change is change in relation to self, in relation to the means of production, in relation to meaning.

All of these things are deeply and definitely true.

Axé.

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A terrible beauty

It is said you cannot psychoanalyze yourself but I am forced to do it as I have found it to be the best available option. That is why I have this weblog.

There were two breakthroughs this week. It is a breakthrough when you find a simple answer. The first was actually one I had in the 1990s but that took some time to get consolidated; it is about recognizing and rejecting abuse. If I feel strange (panicked, horrified, sad, greatly diminished, and so on) it is a reaction to abuse which must be identified, recognized, and refused. If I do this, I straighten right up, and if I do not, I remain in that state for a long, long time.

The next has to do with my acquired fear of certain kinds of writing. It is about the feeling that this is something you must do, but also must not do; it is required of you but not yours; you are not really worthy of it, although you must do it to prove worth. (These are of course a series of double binds.) But the answer is (of course you are worthy and) this is you. (Anyone can see that language and writing are me, it is ridiculous to question it.) Take it on, assume it, take your place, because yes this is for you, this is you.

In psychoanalysis it is said that seeing the problem is solving it. In behaviorism you must learn how to solve it and form habits around this, and all of that is hard work but it is superficial and will not stem the tide, or free you from the undertow of the past and of every unconscious misconception you have. In psychoanalysis the work comes first, in learning to really see. Because just seeing generally is not accurate enough. You have to hit not just the target, but the bull’s eye. It is when you do that that problems fall away and you change magically. The apparatus that was draining you falls away, and new energies are liberated. It is as in the Communist Manifesto (“All that was solid, melts”) and also “Easter, 1916” (“All is changed, changed utterly”). Everything is easy.

I am quite pleased to have seen the things I have seen, and to know the things I know.

Axé.

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