Monday, September 25, 2006

Baby You Know...: The Limits of Desire

"The Case for West Indian Self-Government", C.L.R. James, 1933
"Never Loved A Man", Aretha Franklin, 1967
"Bongo-Man: A Journal of African Youth", Issues 1 and 2, Rupert Lewis, 1968-1969
"Reflections on West Indian Writing and Criticism", Sylvia Wynter, 1969
"One Love, Rhetoric or Reality: Aspects of Afro-Jamaicanism, 1976
Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde, 1984
Alternative Literary Publishing: Five Modern Histories, Sally Dennison, 1984.
"The Ceremony Must be Found: After Humanism", Sylvia Wynter, 1984
"On Disenchanting Discourse: 'Minority' Literary Criticism and Beyond, Sylvia Wynter, 1987
"Beyond the Word of Man: Glissant and the New Antillean Discourse", Sylvia Wynter, 1989
Liliane, Ntozake Shange, 1994.
Traces of a Stream: African American Women Literacy and Social Justice, Jacqueline Jones Royster, 2000
"You're the First One I've Told": New Faces of HIV in the South, Kathyn Whetton-Goldstein, Trang Quyen Nguyen, 2002
Inventory, Dionne Brand, 2006

Last night someone asked (or actually repeated as question that they had been asked) if there was any way to argue for global health that wasn't at bottom either theological or pragmatic. I looked at myself (ms. queen of the third world-making third way) and I had nothing to say. But (as with witty comebacks, and convincing lies) I've had the frustrating luxuy of a night to sleep on it, and now I say...what about an argument for global health that is erotic? What if I want you to live and be healthy not because we are all children of god, not because it is my ethical duty, not because I'm scared you'll eventually pass on your disease to me, but because at the end of the day...I just want you?

This seems a fitting answer for someone who falls in love more often than she pays bills, and I grant that there may be a hidden theology here (maybe i want you because you are we are togther we are god inside), but let's just imagine for now a very possible truth which is that I don't know why I want to be close to you, why I love your smile, why I crave your laguter and hate your suffering, but I know everytime that I do. I just do. Given that we have over-populated the place my lust for you, for the possibility of connecting to you, for your just being free, could be an evolutionary thrust, but really there isn't any more room on the it's not pragmatic to want you, to love you, to demand against likelihood that you deserve to be here, but I do. I want to. I want you.

Sylvia Wynter says this lust of mine is very unlikely. A lust for me and my own kind is even more embattled because I live under a narrative of the universal that says in order for me to have a self I have to define my universal experience of being against the non-being, the lack, the mad, the woman, the black that I actually be.

Wynter also says that by trying to create a humanity (a poetic act in her mind) out of my specificity, out of your specificity, out of our subsumed and unrecognized regional specificity from within a dark place that the enlightened have used to make themselves mean life (to kill us) we create a new science of the human...where the connection between the bioneurological and the rhetorical narrative is intentional, not a trick of enchantment that always has to be masked. The thing is, that Wynter justifies this by claiming that this strategy works for all human beings, not just the specific few (white, landed, sane, men) that have called their self-hood universal...but isn't she making a universal right there. I am suspicous of the way she seems to propose a realler universality to replace a fake universality, a new paradigm shift for the genetic information age (and she's saying this right in the 80's) that re-enacts earlier paradigm shifts such as the shift into secular humanism (still theological...through a worship of race, and natural selection?)...when this secular humanism enabled colonialsim in many of the ways that she says. Her act, in its rigourous and somewhat deconstructive genealogy still seems to valorize to reproduce something of what we cannot afford.

But then again, love is something that we cannot afford (due to the full globe that I mentioned, due to the depressing Thursday night ABC line-up this past week were to love meant to lose be bereft suddenly of the loved one forever...despite any desire for health...for continuation) and love (an enchantment) is sometimes used to trick chaos into cohesion, to present masculinist nationalism as freedom and on and on. Wynter's review of the anthology "One Love" in which the author frames much of his critique of post-independence Jamaican politics in a letter to a love object asking her to stop using her hotcomb points some of this out, but not everything. And I am more than disappointed when in "Reflections" Wynter affirms Lammings absurd statement that Caliban (being the black man) in attempting to rape Miranda (a white creole) is "revolutionary" is "positive" is somehow justified in his procreative right to "people the island with Calibans", I can't afford that. I cannot afford a reversal in which rape remains the dominant way to make people live, to fill a world. So maybe...there has to be a theology to the way in which I want you.

There is certainly an Aretha Franklin heavy soundtrack to the way I need you, the way I don't interchange us, the way I never loved a man the way that I love me. In Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter, Ntozake Shange reminds us of the hypertext of music narrating diaspora, narrating reproductive coherence, narrative looove. She also presents a sharp critique of the burden placed on women for genaological coherence (an impossible narrative already in diaspora) by presenting a protagonista who is dealing with a paradigmaticly diasporic problem. She has (Saidiya Hartman) lost her mother. Everyone says this mother is dead, but really this mother is impossible as mother because she is (in the words of the father(s)) a slut, incapable of motherhood because she betrayed the story about race by running off with a white man. Distance equals death equals the impossibility of diaspora. They say her mother died in the ocean which is why there is no body, but there is the body, the body Wynter insists upon, the abused body, the murdered black female body, the institutionalized somebody trapped in a madhouse making that challenge the persistance of deconstructive differance, and Liliane's body of work, ceremonies (Mama Sylvia look, I found them) to the lost ancestors who are present, messages on the wings of birds from the first free africans in the new world of Haiti, staged burials, earthen vulvas. There is a body. The body that I want. The body that I want to make with you.

Thus it seems my addiction to interactive art, is it theological is it ceremony, is it true? Which for me cannot be in Dennison's words (taken from where I still do not know) "the handmaiden of literature". Can the procreative theft stop. Cannot be in Royster's terms the work of a respectable woman of good reputation and well-reputed marriage (because as Charis says well behaved bookstores rarely make history...and their anniversary as oldest, longest running feminist bookstore in the South is coming up in November). So what is this thing that I do compulsively? Not theological, not pragmatic, merely the persistant will of a spoiled child. I want it, I want it, I want it. Now. NOW!

The Lorde sayeth (i knew it, i knew it would get theological) that we can mother ourselves, meaningt the self that is our own and each other. She says black woman have a romance for mothers because we think this is the one way that we can have intimacy, have love, and get killed in a way that we can survive, that we can be embraced in, but she says that this is bigger. We can mother ourselves. So is it a coincidence that she said to Barbara Smith "we need a press" making colored pamphlets to disperse like flowering seeds of lesbian feminist of color desire for love, for a way to want you, to create you, to make a world with you without a procreative lie that hides the body under the ocean when it is here, I am here. I want you here?
If they would have sat there long enough (vegetable lasagna growing cold, garlic bread going hard, baked chicken and potatoes drowning in broth) that's it. That's what I would have said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is some incredible stuff. I was searching for Sylvia Wynter and I found you. I know I'm really late but I'm trying to find more Sylvia Wynter to read in relation to a critical pedagogy reading group. Any suggestions? I must visit your blog more often. Since this is anonymous, I guess it will be hard for you to respond directly to me, but I'll check back to see if you post anything new under that entry.