Increasingly I wonder how the predominantly U.S.-based, though also found in French legislation, approach to anti-identitarian politics can play out in Africa, and whether it is even possible to translate its terms into African politics. Given the vitiated nature of the category of citizen, and the contested nature of the term “worker,” and the mostly absent presence of the “cosmopolitan,” and, as I keep pointing out, the infant-creating labor of the term wananchi, what forms of identity-making, identity-fracturing, solidarity-constituting rhetorics and practices might we invoke? How might we learn from the church’s successes in these areas (well, modified successes) while also learning from its failures?
I am seduced, increasingly, by the appeal to normality, the seeming promise of normalization. To admit that I crave its privileges might be considered bad politics, yet a politics that rejects its own ambivalence-creating desires is both dishonest and untenable.
I am teaching poetry again, literature again, and I am reminded of how very much I love reading and teaching and researching literature, especially poetry. Some part of my brain has been singing arias of joy for the past week as I prep for and talk about poetry in class. It is especially welcome after the past 4 months of reading anthropological and historical studies and government and NGO reports. Useful these might be, and, to be fair, the questions they raise push and pull pleasurably at the limits of my knowledge and abilities. Obviously, reading the Waki Report requires a different critical facility than reading Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” though there is much that is transferable. I fear, however, that the pleasure of the literary text, the aesthetic experience, does not carry over to Waki and Kriegler and the various Civil Society reports.
I remain amazed by the ordinariness of blackness here, though, I must admit, its ordinariness is strained in certain stores, certain neighborhoods, and certain restaurants.
The Asian store that is two minutes from my house is wonderful! But, 95% of the signage is not in English, and so I restrict myself to those items that I know, for sure, do not contain meat products. I still managed to buy kimchee that had anchovy—I didn’t read the label.
I still need to complete a review of Seismosis, the wonderful book by John Keene and Christopher Stackhouse. I have a few lines written, but need much more time to absorb and think and play.
Need to read more poetry! I’ve been re-reading Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck and Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony, in part to re-think the politics of testimony and the power of witness. In a piece I wrote, due to go up on KenyaImagine at some point, though I’ll probably also post it here, I re-visit the idea of impunity as foreclosing the act of witness and, as a result, absolving us of our ethical obligations. Had I time, had I time, had I time, I might venture into those deep theoretical waters and write some kind of essay that thinks along with thinkers on ethics and so on. Had I time.
Time bends. It is not that I don’t have it, but that it is allocated: reading, writing, research, writing, revision, teaching, grading, reading, more reading, and a lot more writing. Yes, I love this life, and, yes, I do eat and sleep and hang out and cook and so on.
A colleague has returned from visiting her daughter in Tanzania, and we talked about the pace of life, how, it’s impossible for we from the continent and those who visit not to think about temporality, our slowed down, speeded up, fractured, and re-made temporalities, our slowed and fastened speeches. I talk faster in Gikuyu than I do in English, which is an achievement of some kind; speed not being linked to fluency.