Category Archives: Theories

Resist

It is not what they do to you, it is what they can get you to do to yourself, is an important point for those of us who are dealing with misogyny or any kind of discrimination, really.

Another thing to remember is that although we are constantly told that most people can never admit they are in the wrong and that the sign of moral progress is to do so, even when you are in fact the wronged party, people lose respect for you when you apologize and you should consider not doing it. Do they? When they have in fact committed major crimes? They do not.

What I would like, though, for 2018 is to have more authority over the students, and therefore be in a position to be kinder to them or at least feel less wounded by them. In the old world, this authority existed in the structure of programs but now it does not. You have to be very, very solid in the bubble that is your courses, your world, and leave things at that.

I am on it.

Axé.

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Je voulais dire

I had meant to post some time ago that you should not tell your children they are inferior / defective / less than. We were told we were incompetent, although we could not see it (that was part of the incompetence). That was why we were to do things our parents liked. We would fail, but if we failed at things our parents liked, then our parents would at least rescue us. Since we were impaired, we would need this, so we must take heed.

I woke up this morning thinking of how I like being an amateur. My current fantasy involves moving to Eastern Europe so I will have to acquire probably two difficult languages in order to function. I will be talented, at permanent disadvantage for research and scholarship. Just being able to go to the theatre and understand dialogue will be a great achievement, and it will be a private one.

I always think of fantasies like this as fresh-start fantasies: start again, become a world expert and feel free in a field my detractors do not control, and a language they do not speak. They are, but they are also amateurism fantasies. Perhaps I should activate the become-a-world-expert aspect of the fantasy now, with what I have at hand now.

Axé.

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The question

How is it that, according to da Silva, the mestizo subject is produced? This is the question for today. Here is a fairly recent talk by her, and I have been trying to understand just this one book for far too long.

On pages 248-249 the mestiço as the Brazilian subject is discussed. What precise racial and color markings the particular mestiço has “will determine whether he or she belongs in the present and in the future of the nation.” To be Brazilian is to have to operate in this murky and changeable situation. (There is a great deal more on these pages about transcendental poesis and the scene of engulfment, and I still do not understand these paragraphs well enough.)

On page 246 the mestiço is shown signify Portuguese productive power, because s/he is produced in a gendered way (through the appropriation of black female bodies). Only whiteness signifies the transparent I. The blackness and Africanness inherited from the woman remain in the mestiço. They are dangerous signifiers of a subject of affectability who must signify Brazil’s unstable placing at the outskirts of the modern [world-system].

Axé.

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La session thérapeutique

I am not trying to follow any kind of schedule at all, just get up and start doing things that need to be done, sit down for all meals and go to the pool/gym every day. This is how I always did things before, and I will point out that no schedule does not mean nothing happens regularly. Before I always studied my foreign language for an hour a day, for instance, and often at the same time each day, but I did not try to fit things into a grid–I let them find their own rhythm. One of the things I most dislike is to feel rushed and prodded; it causes me to play dead like an opossum until the danger has passed. This is why I think I am not like most professors. I think they cannot handle the flexible schedule and have to find a way to make it rigid. I, on the other hand, may have been born for it, or perhaps I was coached to it from an early age.

Not being rushed is one of my main innovations this term. Taking on service that I am in the mood for and turning down all service I am not, is also new (in the past my criterion was what was most necessary). I have dropped my “busy” persona, that I imitated from my dissertation director. She always said she was overwhelmed with random work so as to gain more research time without being called selfish. I know how dangerous it was to say directly that you were going to commit the sin of research during regular business hours–I tried it myself and paid dearly for it–but the “busy” persona is stressful and I think it also stresses the students, so I have dropped it.

I have realized that some of my colleagues are not colleagues but bad boyfriends. That is, they are boyfriends, but they are not very good at it and they seem to think of me as a girlfriend and not a colleague, so that is that. I am breaking up with them, which means I am rescinding the honor of considering them colleagues. This cuts cognitive dissonance and time spent negotiating, so reduces stress. I am gravitating to other people because they are colleagues.

I have protested an instance and a half of mistreatment. I will follow up on the half, and protest a third incident as well. I am recognizing a fourth, from the past, as another such incident although it was too long ago to address–at least not in the original form. I am not rising above things and this is another way in which I am departing from standard advice, which is not reality-based but insists you convince yourself you are living in the world the givers-of-advice seem to do.

I have not recovered from Reeducation or from my first education, much though I have talked about them. Reeducation had two phases, in two cities, and each had several steps. I am afraid to address these things as I should because I need an analyst to do it right. I am fairly sure I will veer destructively if I do it alone, and the topic bores psychotherapists since they believe in staying on the surface of things. Meanwhile I beat around the bush, walk around the lake, not walking through or jumping in.

Axé.

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Last sunset in Lettland

There is so much to do here that is of interest to me, and it is so beautiful. I want to come back, and soon, but one does not know when that would be. After my dear month in Mexico City in 2012 I said I would be back within the year. I have not been back since.

I had two arguments by e-mail, one about whether I should rush to apply for a Fulbright here (I shouldn’t, I should just sail steady and keep an eye on Baltic Fulbright offerings) and one about whether I should have a product placement blog on travel in hopes of getting vouchers for tours and cruises. I reacted to this with horror and then, more composed as I sat on a city bus in my new dress, feeling poised, realized what the fight-or-flight reaction had been:

1/ Traveling in the way that I do is the space in which I allow myself, and am allowed to be fully myself, to have utter integrity. I don’t want to give this up because then there would be nothing left of me at all.

2/ Traveling to me is deeply personal. I want to do the things I want to do. I don’t want to perform travel to please others, or be obliged to feign enjoyment. I’d honestly rather do sex work to support independent travel, than go on “free” cruises and tours and then blog about them. I would go on cruises and tours and write about them, even write positively about them, if I were also PAID to go on the excursion and for the writing, but that would be a completely different situation. And if I monetize my travel experiences in some way, benefit financially from selling my stories, I want to be the one who decides what stories I tell.

3/ It strikes me that there is something really perverse in commodifying yourself and your experience to promote a commodity, and masking this activity as a travel narrative. It also strikes me that the travel companies really win here–they get advertising they hardly pay for, and the person they underpaid considers it a gift.

In any case, some things from today are:

a/ The Great Cemetery of Riga, and other important cemeteries one could see; in the great cemetery I discovered the memorial stone for Kristian Jaak Peterson, founder of modern Estonian literature, compared to Pushkin and Goethe, who lived 21 years and mastered 20 languages;

b/ An earlier conversation in which I learned that the Latvian national epic was composed in the nineteenth century like Martin Fierro, and it involves a pre-Christian hero. He fought for the old gods against the catechists, and could kill bears with his bare hands.

c/ The conversation with the old man waiting for the bus. I will write about him in more detail later. I must remember to discuss the languages he speaks and why; his anti-Communism (and dislike of political news on television); his experiences in Siberia and the Red Army; his love for Estonia and fishing; the parades he had seen with both Hitler and Stalin on the very street where we were waiting for the bus.

d/ The open-air ethnographic museum, my thoughts on peasant life and the Wild West, my appreciation of these insufficiently respected people.

Axé.

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On primitivism and aristocracy

I do not agree with everything in this Appiah article on primitivism but there are some very interesting references in it.

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I have been in Utrecht for a week and it has changed me greatly. I want to live here. I looked at some notes I made the first day and I know so much more about the town now, and the Netherlands are so much more familiar now.

I have learned something important: the idea that was imposed upon me, that one should finish the Ph.D. in a field like letters, and then decide what to do with one’s life, is an aristocratic one, was what aristocrats actually did. It is not an odd neurosis of mine that one must first prove personhood via the Ph.D. and ideally tenure in a top place in a humanities field before going on with one’s life, finding ones true field and vocation — it is an aristocratic ideal that was actually communicated to me as a requirement.

This is very interesting. Parents who want children out of the nest, on the one hand, but want to tie them to it hand and foot, on the other. I had some other psychoanalytic insights as well, about early infancy.

Axé.

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On procrastination and block

Jonathan has a theory on procrastination which applies rather well but I have more ideas on it. My thoughts are not yet well formed but one is that there is a great difference between procrastination and block. I have been greatly frustrated by trying to use techniques designed to fight procrastination on block. I think at this point that Jonathan’s theory straddles the two. That is why it is tantalizing: it gets at something, but not quite.

Here are some of my fragmentary thoughts: procrastination can be tackled rationally, with techniques like Tanya’s, but block comes from the unconscious and has to be dealt with at more or less a psychoanalytic level. When I was blocked on that infamous manuscript and thought I was procrastinating, I kept having dreams that, if I had been willing to read them, meant that the project had to be dropped so that I could live.

The idea that is nipping at my heels, and that parallels both Jonathan’s theory and mine, has to do with addiction: I’ve heard that one is addicted not to “feel good” but to limit oneself: first through intoxication and yet more importantly, through hangover or withdrawal and the search for more drugs. Desired is the hangover and the limits it imposes. Why does one want limits? So as not to see beyond the horizon. Beyond the horizon are vistas you cannot yet tolerate, or that some introjected authority does not wish you to see.

You do not want to start because you do not believe you deserve to finish, suggests Jonathan (he calls this procrastination, although I would say this kind of procrastination is tinged with block). You both want and do not want the project, and are not aware of the full dimensions of this conflict, say I (this is outright block). In both cases, you are hanging onto limits.

The antidotes for askesis and acedia, as I found out by reading the early church fathers and Aquinas, are charity and love. This fits Jonathan’s theory (and I should unearth and share the piece of creative nonfiction I published on that). Charity and love, when lacking, are hard to find or build, but it is they and not discipline or strategy that stop procrastination. What stops block is deeper work, that involves seeing things you would rather not.

Axé.

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