Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So...what do you work on?: A Self Interview Towards Answerability

Used to be whenever people asked me what i "worked on" or worse what I "did" I would make up something new everytime. "Southern Hip Hop Lyrics as a Narrative Reflection of the Ilegal Import of Anti-Retroviral Medication in South Africa", "Girl Soldiers and the Deconstructive Traces of Fred Wilson's Mammy Salt-Shakers", "Incarceration and Island: OutKast and the Refugee All-Stars present..."...not that these haven't all been "interests" of mine, and not that anything lasts forever...but I have decided AHEM
that it's time to be true to the fact that certain voices have been pushing me here and lifting me up since when and that whether or not I know how to say it..there is something that I am committed to that drives me (crazy). That is to say the hit it and quit it days are over (at least for now. ha!). As an about to be advanced/post-prelims grad student it is time to express some sort of committment. So the following is an interview conversation with myself about what the hell it is I'm doing here anyway. Listen in!

1. What disciplinary discourses are you in conversation with? What do you have to say to them?
Great question. Firstly all of them. I am in stubborn resistance to the claims of any discourse or institution (outside of my momma) to be able to effectively discipline me. As Daddy reminds me, it's no good trusting a word that comes right before "and punish" in Foucault. Nah mean? (And yes, my daddy loves me enough to go to bandn and by foucault because I'm reading it). (So the first answer is that I am in conversation with Momma and Daddy first...as always.)

That said, there are a number of DISCOURSES that I am speaking to and that speak to me powerfully and I will continue to pretend that they can't control me (even though the fact that I am even asking myself these questions means that they probably do...at least to the extent that I want to be legible to the people speaking these languages.)
So African American Literary and Cultural Theory: I want to say what if African-American means the whole black new world, not just US blacks and not even just blacks speaking English? What then? I also want to say that gender has been deeply informing the ways that we have been saying that black people can be free (and usually meaning that black men can be part of a violent colonialist capitalist project without suicide...which is actually not true). I also want to say that African American literary production (an impossible thing if you think about it) has not just been on the page, it has critically also been strategic pedagogies, movement buildings and fashionings or else none of this would ever work. I also want to say that there is something that black can mean that doesn't depend on America...maybe even its hemispheric sense. So..

Caribbean Studies: I want to say that the theoretical space of the Caribbean (not only relevant as it's classic plantation or epitomal creole clash between native-afro-euro people, but also as the space of imagined, feared and possible popular revolutions) constructs what people mean when they say America (especially US Imperialists). I think that looking at the way that the re-imagined space of the caribbean for those who would call themselves diasporic (after and in response to those who would call themselves exiles) allows for a different way to respond to empire and imperialist relationships to land...like what is possible when there is more water than land...what happens when the ideological wars have to be fought on the literal margins because the center is completely politically duped....when when the mass is scattered...

(Black) Diaspora Studies: I want to point out how important the idea of reproduction (of race) is to even being able to say "diaspora". I want us to be able to think about the way "diasporic movement" has been gendered male while diasporic trauma has been gendered female (and the way that progress has been heterosexualized) through thinking "stillness in diaspora", which allows us to look at what this way of saying really complies with and reproduces. I want to say that diaspora is a queer thing that changes what family can mean and do. I think that really thinking the relationship between reproduction, queerness and diaspora allows for sustainability that isn't the reproduction of the same. (Following McKittrick, I also think that thinking diaspora my be (one of) our last best hope(s) for theorizing a relationship to land and space that is not ownership. Following Tina Campt I also think that to do this we need a real attention to discourses of indigeneity.

Postcolonial Studies: I want to disavow this term post-colonial right away...but I also have to acknowledge that it has become cliche to disavow it. Lorna Goodison asks "when does the post-colonial end?" which I think is a good and unanswerable question. I need a post-colonial studies (an "other-than-colonial" studies?) that does not assume the nation. I want to say things that I cannot say in anything but post-colonial appropriations of colonizing languages that it is dangerous to always refer back to the metropole although it is impossible really not to. I want to say that emphasizing the roles of Canadian and American white supremacy in shaping the critique of diasporic caribbean feminist anti-imperialists allows at least a small detour to that inevitable reference.

Black Feminist Literary Criticism: I just want to say that Barbara Smith was right was right is right the first time. About all of it. About lesbian meaning its critique and not its identity about publishing and activism as literary and inseperable. About all of it.
Gender and Sexuality Theory: I want to say... what about approaching the explosion of gender binaries and the reconceptualization of connectivities through the redefinition of what "girl" for example means, not just in an anatomical sense, but in a racialized and geographical sense? What if we thought about the relationship to the body without forgetting to think through the gendered relationshipt to land at the same time. What if we could make an environmental shift that would make it not true that all black (lesbian) feminists writers die of breast cancer for example?

Public Intellectualisms: Yes of course. We need the basic questions about how the University steals from the kids it allows us to call ourselves public intellectuals by serving. Yes of course. We also need to think through why and when we use the nation as a frame (or as an automatic public). We need to think through what we mean by "the community" and wonder where community is (not) and think about who we are really healing, helping, teaching (if not ourselves.)

English/Lit: Language is a conversation about how we say we are. I want Caribbean reappropriations and transformations of both English language structures and literary texts to change and reveal what these structures already mean and do. I want it to be clear that English is something that DOES...and that so are we if we admit it.
2. What is the relevance of death to your project?
So the relevance of death to my project is absolutely the above. The writers that I need to talk about this have mostly died of breast cancer. That means something. It means that I(we) need to create a relationship to this work and to this place that is not carcinogenic, that does not kill us dead. It means that healing is always the purpose and mode of my work.
3. What is the overall intended effect of your work?
"Overall" you say. Yes. My intention is that my work rain like a refreshing cloack of new paths over all. My intention is that the discourses that I am speaking to realize the stakes of our statement. My intention is that everyone knows that stories are everywhere and mean everything and the most important thing which is that we can make one up. My intention is that I can apply the process of loving my mother to everything and that everyone can too..without necessarily calling it "loving my mother".
4. Can you say what you are doing in one sentence? No. (That's the sentence...Okay.) I am exploring the poetics of woman centered anti-imperialist relationships to word, land and body? Hmm. Not so satifying.
5. What is the relationship between your different reading lists?
They are bastard cousins. Okay so a "black new world" that my primary list suggests is in production is the particular form of Pocomania or postcolonial ethical project that I am interested in the most, and reproduction in terms of gender, sexuality and deviance is the mode through which this world is or is not new.
6. What books should your dissertation be next to on the ideal shelf?
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the rainbow is Enuf and The Prophet.

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