Snippets

My still-in-progress weekend labor.

Tell me what I was smoking when I decided that two conference papers was “totally doable, oh, yes, no problem!” (So what if I’m 95% done with one and 88% done with the other? It’s still crazy!)

Anyhow.

Paper One

Crucially, intimate life, and especially marriage, functions as a temporal anchor that survives the ravages of colonial modernity and guarantees futurity. Phrased another way, this [draft] policy [on culture and heritage] valorizes and attempts to return to pre-colonial modes of intimacy, in which “different communities lived in harmony within their socio-cultural, economic, physical and natural environments.” Marriage becomes a metonym for pre-colonial harmony. Yet, it is marriage as fantasy. In these pre-colonial, traditional marriages, there are no intra- or inter-ethnic, intra- or inter-racial, intra- or inter-class conflicts or modes of dissent. These are imagined relationships, as historical accounts prove.

Even if we were to privilege the family as the dominant intimate structure in pre-colonial and colonial-era Kenya, it is still a complex structure that is not necessarily based on stable gendered, monogamous heterosexual roles. Anthropologists of Kenya have recorded woman-to-woman marriages among the Gikuyu and the Nandi; partner sharing among the Maasai and Gikuyu, and group frottage and masturbation among the Gikuyu. Pre-colonial and colonial-era Kenya is full of heterogeneous gender- and sexual formations and intimacies.

Paper Two

Wole Soyinka’s The Interpreters is filled with failing, failed, and perverse intimate relationships. Biodun Sagoe, the frustrated journalist, cannot convince his girlfriend, Dehinwa, to sleep with him (32, 33); Egbo, heir to a rural kingdom, falls in lust with the urban courtesan, Simi, though she warns that he will be disappointed (50-60,); Sekoni, the engineer turned sculptor, has perverse relationships with fetish objects, first with his failed power-plant project (26-31) and later his sculpture, the wrestler (99-100); and Joe Golder, the homosexual U.S.-born professor of history, is physically assaulted by the young Nigerian men he tries to seduce. Within the body of criticism on the novel, these dystopic intimate relationships have been considered metonyms for dysfunctional, post-independent Nigeria. The protagonists’ inabilities to create and sustain healthy intimate relations mirrors the State’s inability to create healthy, corruption-free institutions.
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Voidancy provides a useful model for re-thinking the gendered and intimate politics of diaspora, and this use becomes evident when we trace its genealogy. Sagoe credits his sweetheart’s aunt, who “farted like a beast” (71), with providing a model for his “Voidant introversion.” This model was subsequently supplemented by his mother, a “most religious farter” (71). Soyinka’s attention to the productive and reproductive role of women’s bodies re-thinks their place within nation-centered histories. As feminist scholars have argued, nation-centered histories privilege women’s biologically reproductive roles. Women produce and reproduce citizens through giving birth. In contrast, Voidancy critiques intimate success as biological reproduction by privileging waste, the production of gas and shit. If biological reproduction is intimate success, then the production of waste, non-reproducible products, shit and farts, counts as intimate failure.

Complicating the distinction between biological and cultural modes of transmission, Voidancy travels from women’s bodies to men’s bodies to cultural statements, and its circuits of circulation can always be appropriated and re-appropriated across gender, across sexuality, across generations, across race, across nations, and across the nature-culture divide. While the prevailing logic of diasporic cultural production has privileged the connection between insemination and dissemination, following on the idea of diaspora as scattering or sowing seed, Voidancy emphasizes waste and remainder, what cannot travel yet, simultaneously, is always carried, what cannot be reproduced (biologically) yet is always produced through biological motion. The cultural production and dissemination of Voidancy as a philosophy sunders embodied production from any reliance on heteronormativity.