I had this place abandoned for a little while. The opening of conference season and my first real (!) own (!) seminar (!) had me quite occupied. But by now, the presentations are written, half the course is over, and the other half sufficiently prepared to dedicate some time to this space again. Maybe later on I’ll write about this year’s conference season, or about my experiences with teaching (there’d be a lot to say…!), or start an unfinished-books-reading list, but for now I rather work on a few things I wanted to publish here.
The first thing I came across months ago already, but especially teaching made me aware of how urgent it is. Over at The Golden Bork, there is this wonderful entrance about spelling names of famous anthropologists. It includes the all-time-favorites Geertz (it’s Gur, not Geer – sorry.) and Obeyesekere and many a french name (looking at you, anglophil-centered anthro-geeks!), but also Arjun Appadurai. Do not miss the comment section if you want to know how to say Bourdieu in english!
Once upon a time in the far away kingdom of academia, young Genderella set forth on her way to make a PhD. On her long journey through the corridors of knowledge, she came across many friendly allies, who would help her sort the peas and lentils from the ashes. She would learn about the difference between sex and gender, about intersectionality, about queerness and the importance of fair and inclusive speech. But every now and then, evil step-sisters and brothers crossed her way, too. There came this particularly dark month, where in only four weeks, she broke so many glass slippers on the stairs, she almost forgot how to dance.
One day, she was sitting with her male peers and had lunch. A few days earlier, news had spread about some terrible incidents in the kingdom of Cologne at saint’s day of St. Sylvester. For many parts, the conversation was focussed on the origin of the bandits. Genderella tried to introduce her perspective into the discussion, stating that more important than the origin of the bandits would be a discussion about the security of women more in general. But no-one reacted to her intervention. A few minutes later, on of her male colleagues voiced the same critique, and then the other men would engage in that discussion for a short time, before coming back to the earlier direction of the talk. That’s when Genderella noticed, her opinions were not as important as those of her cis-male peers.
It happened another day, that Genderella participated in a discussion about a text from one of her peers. She then suggested gender as analytical category to look at a problem. Her peer accepted the critique and thanked her for it, but an evil stepfather could not hold on to himself and said, Genderella must obviously be wrong, because gender was not at all important to that question: something else already was. So Genderella realized, there could only be one explanation for every problem in the world – or in a text, respectively. Continue reading
Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her (2012, faber and faber) is the most impressive book I’ve read this year. (And it’s close to being the most impressive one for the last 12 month, too.) In a way, it could be considered the book-version of an essay I had to write in high school. My English teacher back then once made us write an essay about love, and after throwing a little pubertal tantrum about how this was too much of an invasion of my privacy, I resigned and meticulously enumerated and characterized all the different facets of love I encountered in the relationships to the people close to me. Now while Diaz also centers his story around an ego, Yunior, his love stories are (who would have guessed from that title?!) all failed ones.
Set in a milieu of a Caribbean migrant New York suburb, the language is sprawled with Spanish half-sentences, curse-words, and allusions that I imagine will be difficult to understand for the non-Spanish-speaking reader. However, this makes for an extraordinary vividness and caught me right from the start. The quality of the language stands in stark contrast to the melancholy that spreads through the stories, there’s little hope in love as there is little hope in life, it seems. But it’s not a sad book somehow, more one about the difficult choices people sometimes have to make and on how expectations can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies, and how one mistake can follow you around for years.
How did I come across the book?
I’ve been looking for Haitian Authors a few years ago, and discovered Edwidge Danticat’s novel The Farming of Bones [Huge Recommendation!] on the Parsley Massacre at the Haitian-Dominican Border in 1937. So I continued searching for contemporary writer’s with Caribbean background, and Diaz seems to be one of the big fishes. Then I found This is How You Lose Her on offer for less than a dollar, so I had to get it.
When and where did I read it?
Late January, mostly before going to bed, but also on the bus to work. The paragraphs allow for reading in smaller time slots.
I can’t, she said. I can’t make any mistakes. Why is sex with me a mistake, you demanded, but she just shook her head, pulled your hand out of her pants. Paloma was convinced that if she made any mistakes in the next two years, any mistakes at all, she would be stuck in that family of hers forever. That was her nightmare. Imagine if I don’t get anywhere, she said. You’d still have me, you tried to reassure her, but Paloma looked at you like the apocalypse would be preferable. (p.151f)