Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Womb as Blindspot: Reproduction as Usual

The Womb of Space: The Cross Cultural Imagination, Wilson Harris, 1983
"Sound Effects: Tricia Rose interviews Beth Coleman", 2001
"Black Secret Technology: Detroit Techno and the Information Age", Ben Williams, 2001
"Tales of an Asiatic Geek Girl: Slant from Paper to Pixels" Mimi Nguyen, 2001
"Bandung is Done: Passages in AfroAsian Epistemology" Vijay Prashad, 2006
"Complicating Racial Binaries: Asian Canadians and African Canadians as Visible Minorities", Eleanor TY, 2006
"One People, One Nation? Creolization and Its Tensions in Trinidadian and Guyanese Fiction, Lourdes Lopez Ropero, 2006
"Chutney, Mestissage and Other Mixed Metaphors: Reading Indo Caribbean Art in Afro Caribbean Contexts", Gita Rajan, 2006
"Performing Postmodernist Passing: Nikki S. Lee, Tuff and Ghost Dog in Yellowface/Blackface", Cathy Covell Wagner, 2006
"Toward a Black Pacific", Gary Okihiro, 2006

As usual, reading breeds reading. After reading these essays (and monograph) I ordered Paul Beatty's TUFF from the library..and I'm halfway through it already. Not to say the real sick truth which is that it seems that the way that I am celebratingt he fact that I have passed my prelim exams and am technically free from the reading list that I have been reproducing for you here by exuberantly creating another reading list. Lilly library had a crate of books waiting for me before the ink had even dried on my committee's signatures. So yes. It's sick. I am obsessed with books and no one knows how I got this way. Or do they?
It's my use of the term "breeds" unqualified in the first sentence of this entry that should tip you off. I'm up to something. As usual. Breeding as usual. What interests me about this set of readings is the way that feminized space becomes the place where a meeting of cultures--even creolization perhaps---can happen on terms that are somehow no longer gendered...even though they are happening...supposedly in my womb...which is the ocean, which makes the nation, and a profit somehow. Right. So in the case of Wilson Harris's book the space of possible cultural mixing is a womb. Though I am intrigued by this idea of making space through relationships I am confused about how Harris's analysis of Ellison's Invisible Man requires that the protagonist be Anansi and Odysseus struggling through episodic voyages introduced by a feminized (and he admits)debased muse. I am not arguing that this observation is incorrect. Unfortunately one of my favorite books (Invisible Man) and one of my least favorite movies (Hustle and Flow) share the same narrative crutch. The possibility of democracy is based on the ability of a man to express himself (every man gets a verse right), but somehow this journey towards democracy depends on the availability of a slappable woman, usually as the bridge across which men of different cultures can meet. (Aside: I mean think about it Triple Six Mafia actually got an academy award (even THEY thought they were being punked) for "It's Hard Out Here for Pimp"--and OF COURSE the majority white men who are members of the academy voted for that, because they understand. Maintaining a violent patriarchy in which the bodies of all women are property is HARD. It requires constant violence and the work through which lies about equality become believable. Of course 36M is also really is being punked (pun(k) intended, because in that economy violence against women is just the sketching pad for the violence against the feminized black man and feminizable everyone else. Maybe it helps if you wear bright colors, hang out in miami and stay high. But you best believe if Ashton can appropriate the word punk into a household term, an academy award only makes you a houseslave (sorry Forrest Whitaker, Jaimie Foxx, Halle Berry and Officer Denzel...but you know I'm right---Hattie McDaniels backs me up), and they will use the violence you earn on my body to enslave you too...so can we just stop?)

Anyway, as I am saying I don't disagree with Harris's observation that cross cultural imaginings between men (or the action of hybrid greco-yoruba man creations)
happens in Ellison over the debased body of some woman everytime. I am just asking why that's okay. And not only does Harris seenm to portray this as a necessary and minor evil in his reading of Ellison...his entire thesis (that there is such a thing as the womb of space...where the cross-cultural imagination is produced) seems to say that this is the way that it should be! Harris doesn't exclude women from his analysis, he doesn't debase the work of female novelist to uplift the work of men, he doesn't do any of the things that during the same period Ishmael Reed and Amiri Baraka were engaged in...but in the version of the academy that I would want to create that is not grounds for any award. What I am saying is that brilliant as Harris's analysis is, the thing that I am left with is that "womb" remains an available and unproblematic term for him to use. Some part of a body of a woman remains neutral as a space, operizational as a machine (see Benitez-Rojo) and this is a problem.

Maybe this availability of the disembodied womb is related to Ty's ability to assume the nation in an analysis of race in Canada that while seeking to displace the black white binary, produces a US Canada binary that only reinscribes the hegemony of the US in deciding what race really means (which is expendability---Foucault would say...which is the production of death---Mbembe would say after). And though Bandung is supposed to be Done, a creolization that can generate a unified nation is the best case scenario in the Ropero even though one could argue that the logic of nation provides no technology for transcending imagined/inherited? heritages...in fact allit providesisa narrative in which some kind of supremacy must narrated on racial terms or otherwise. Does the nation..when feminized (so usually) become another womb in which creolization must happen? And in that case does this strange ability for a womb to operate on its own without any human being being invoked pass on to the nation in a way that erases the culpability of the state that narrates the nation through its structural violences? Does this same thing happen with an ocean that can be feminized...the atlantic, the pacific...whichever it is most convenient to normalize penetration through? My baseline question is what kind of spatial production is the invocation of the disembodied womb enabling? What would happen if we were to make space for the possibility of women, not just reproducing whatever men decide to insert into them, not just creating a landscape upon which men of different cultures meet..made one through the magic of noticed and excluded gender difference, but space where women could actually make anything, make something.
Thus the importance of Mimi Nguyen's piece on zine production from paper to pixels. Nguyen includes some of the hatemail that she recieved through which white men tried to deny her process of creating something by bringing the conversation back to their descriptions of her as exotic, rapeable, site for their continued masculinization of themselves through imagined and enacted violence. Nguyen herself is actually more interested in interrogating the means of production, denying the logic in which she would be the means through which the status quo could be reproduced. Nguyen is interested in what the difference between a love object called copy machine (the access to which she negotiates sometimes through the false possibility of sex) and a love object (or less loveable object) called laptop means. What, she asks, is the difference between stolen copywritten images and stolen pieces of html code...google searched images transplanted for other uses. Which is a good question, similar to Laura Wexler's question at the Feminist Theory Workshop this past weekend about what the difference between photography as metaphorized through light and flash and the now digital photographic relationship means. These are questions that I will show my love for by reasking and not answering completely. One thing that all these questions require is an attention to the act of making and the politics of production (see what beth coleman says about dj pedagogies)...so I'll only know if I get to make stuff..with you.
lex (your official phd candidate...what what!)

1 comment:

kameelah said...

just wanted to say congrats, though i had no doubts that you'd pass those exams :)