India Diary: Three

The Free Breakfast for School Children is about to cover the country and be initiated in every chapter and branch of the Black Panther Party. This program was created because the Black Panther Party understands that our children need a nourishing breakfast every morning so that they can learn.

These Breakfasts include every nutrient that they need for the day. For too long have our people gone hungry and without the proper health aids they need. But the Black Panther Party says that this type of thing must be halted, because we must survive this evil government and build a new one fit for the service of all the people. This program is run through donations of concerned people and the avaricious businessmen that pitch selfishly a little to the program. We say that this is not enough, especially from those that thrive off the Black Community like leeches. All of the avaricious businessmen have their factories etc. centered in our communities and even most of the people that work in these sweat shops are members of the oppressed masses.

It is a beautiful sight to see our children eat in the mornings after remembering the times when our stomachs were not full, and even the teachers in the schools say that there is a great improvement in the academic skills of the children that do get the breakfast. At one time there were children that passed out in class from hunger, or had to be sent home for something to eat. But our children shall be fed, and the Black Panther Party will not let the malady of hunger keep our children down any longer.

The Breakfast Program has already been initiated in several chapters, and our love for the masses makes us realize that it must continue permanently and be a national program. But we need your help and that means money, food, and time. We want to turn the programs over to the community, but without your efforts and support we cannot.—Huey Newton, The Breakfast Program

Care Work
De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.—Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes were Watching God

How is Black studies about care?

Care / Work

How might theorizing black studies in the wake—and black being in the wake—as conscious modes of inhabitation of that imminence and immanence (revealed every day in multiple quotidian ways) ground our work as we map relations between the past and present, map the ways that the past haunts the present? The existence of black studies as an object of study does not ameliorate the quotidian experiences of terror in black lives lived in an anti-black world. To do that, I argue that we must be about the work of what I am calling “wake work.” Wakes are processes; through them we think about the dead and about our relations to them; they are rituals through which to enact grief and memory. Wakes allow those among the living to mourn the passing of the dead through ritual; they are the watching of relatives and friends beside the body of the deceased from death to burial and the accompanying drinking, feasting, and other observances; a watching practiced as a religious observance. But wakes are also “the track left on the water’s surface by a ship; the disturbance caused by a body swimming, or one that is moved, in water; the air currents behind a body in flight; a region of disturbed flow; in the line of sight of (an observed object); and (something) in the line of recoil of (a gun)”; finally, wake also means being awake and, most importantly, consciousness.—Christina Sharpe, “Black Studies in the Wake”

Emotional Labor

When:How does care become care-work or care/work or care:work? Is there ever a point where care is not care-work or care/work or care:work? This is a question about how gendering happens and also about pedagogy. I was going to write disciplinarity, thinking with Black studies and Queer studies and Postcolonial studies and Women’s studies and minoritized teachers and crying students and exhausted students and defeated students and students who are forced to drop out and to feel stupid and to feel unwanted by institutions, and the work of caring and the caring as being with.

To take trigger warnings seriously is pedagogy as care work, care-work, care/work, care:work

One understands the resistance to this kind of care-work, care:work, care/work, care work—how it genders and minoritizes, how it demands labor beyond contract hours, how it extends contact hours, how it demands contact—the hugs one learns to give, the tissues one learns to keep, the sympathy one learns to extend and extend and extend.

Is this love?

Black love?

Feminism has taught us to consider the slash between care and work, to question how work is (de)valued as care. The enslaved shall be termed loyal if they turn away from their kin—natal alienation, invasion by property relations—and serve their owners: care/work. Stephanie Coontz teaches me that U.S. white women’s labor was valued as equally as white men’s labor, and then—I forget the sequence of transformations—was devalued as work and revalued as care. One cooks and cleans and plants and harvests and sews and repairs and nurses and buries because one cares—this is no longer valued as work. The beginning of care/work—or one origin story.

Colonial archives record white men lamenting that African women are beasts of burden: men laze around while women work. Colonial administrators want to save African women from tedious labor that does not benefit the colonial administration. African women should work for the colonial administration, not for ungrateful African men. Care/work. Colonial administrators care about African women’s work.
an email to a friend:

chop.dice.slice.chop.dice.slice.boil.chop.dice,make gate.wash dishes.make gate. wash dishes.make gate.wash dishes.chop.dice.slice.roast.chop.dice.slice.roast.

Care/Work as the work of hosting people who care but who cannot see the work. Visits of compassion and love generate work. And anger. And resentment.


I joke-not-joke that I’d like to write a guide for visitors:

  • call ahead
  • find out if the sick person is available
  • ask about drug and sleep cycles
  • leave your ego outside
  • do not overstay
  • consider the work your visit generates

This is all work for people who care, but not about work. A few notice. A few care. I am grateful to them.
emotional labor: the ongoing guilt that care feels like, is experienced as, work.
“Cancer is not a concentration camp, but it shares the quality of annihilation: it negates the possibility of life outside and beyond itself; it subsumes all living. The daily life of a patient becomes so intensely preoccupied with his or her illness that the world fades away. Every last morsel of energy is spent tending the disease.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies

Try not to lose yourself. Try to create space for yourself. Well-meaning advice. It’s easy to give well-meaning advice.

Time is now sliced by treatment: days for blood tests, days for chemo, times to take pills, times to monitor side effects, good mornings, bad mornings, good evenings, bad evenings, each new twinge a question mark

Chemo is given in cycles—a day of treatment—30 minutes of pre-treatment, 3 hours of drug one, 2 hours of drug 2, bathroom breaks—12-21 days in between—side effects to monitor and manage—blood tests, daily pills, good days and better days, strong appetite days and no appetite days


and making it possible, even bearable, love and kindness from friends—carework

Reading: April 19, 2016

Joan Birika, A Never Ending Journey to Equality

Sam Biddle, I Have No Idea what this Startup Does

Faraz Talat, Explaining LGBT Politics in Punjabi

Rahawa Haile, A Low and Distant Paradise

Jason Diamond, Why do Cats Love Bookstores?


Jaffari Allen and Ryan Jobson, “The Decolonizing Generation,” Current Anthropology (April 2016)

I was reading something else, but since it chose not to take women thinkers seriously, I won’t bother to post it.

Reading: April 18, 2016

Vijay Prashad, The Chill Wind from the North

Jemima Pierre, The Puppet, The Dictator, and The President

Julie Enszer, Giving Up

Aya de Leon, Portrait of the #WriterMom as a Member of the Working Class

Bryan McCann, Brazil on the Brink

Israeli Violations of Palestinian Academic Freedom

Documents of Dalit Discrimination

Geoff Manaugh, Bacteria Rule Everything Around Me

Angela McRobbie, Is Passionate Work a Neoliberal Delusion?

Nanjala Nyabola, Kenya: It Really is About Dicks

Christine Mungai, Why African Cities are Full of Street Vendors and Hawkers

Articles & Chapters

Yomaira C. Figueroa, “Reparations as Transformation: Radical Literary (Re)imaginings of Futurities through Decolonial Love,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol 4. No. 1 2015.

Chinnaiah Jangam, “Politics of Identity and the Project of Writing History in Postcolonial India: A Dalit Critique,” Economic & Political Weekly (October 3, 2015)

Reading: April 15, 2016

Aisha Ali Haji, Just a Band’s New Book is a Parting Gift to Fans

Joseph Campana, “A Shirt Loves a Body

Postcolonial Grammar Snobs

“To Become Louder Even Still”: Responses to Sexual Violence in Literary Spaces

Owaahh, At Garissa University, the Covenant was Broken

Vijay Prashad, Global Gaze on Caste

Patrick Gathara, Why Kenya Thinks it Wins When it Loses

Alex McElroy interviews John Keene, Upending the Archive

Articles and Chapters

Thomas Glave, “Fire and Ink,”  Callaloo (Summer 2003)

Amandine Gay, “Deny and Punish: A French History of Concealed Violence,” Occasion (December 2015)

Anjali Arondekar, “Without a Trace: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive,” Journal of the History of Sexuality (January/April 2005)


India Diary: Two

Picture what we can create if we dare give ourselves permission to imagine freely.

—Pumla Dineo Gqola, A Renegade Called Simphiwe

One ventures into the unknown with the faint hope—or irrepressible arrogance—that its contours will not be entirely unfamiliar: this might be the meaning of unexpected. Something tethers, perhaps it is the imagination, moving ahead of us, beyond us, through us, frightening in its intensities and desires and ambitions. One faces the shock of the unexpected.

John Keene’s Annotations uses third person pronouns—he and him—to locate the child/hood being narrated. It reminds me of how foreign past selves become—perhaps this explains my ongoing resistance to the first person memoir: to write about one’s past selves as though they can be present, even partially, as an “I” strikes me as obscene. I default to “one,” to mark the strangeness of the encounter with selves whose actions and desires often seem entirely incomprehensible.

India Diary: Two started as a meditation on private and public healthcare in India spurred by the hotel-like lobby of the place we are frequenting: a concierge, a comfortable café, beautifully designed and arranged waiting chairs, not a wound in sight, not a stretcher, no visible signs of distress, and no hospital smell. In these facilities, sickness has been purged from public view—it lives in hidden wards and examination rooms.


A reprieve?

Still not my story to tell.


The chemotherapy ward is sparse, clinical, normal: 4 beds in a row separated by small partitions—attendants dressed in green and white swarm around. They are kind, they smile, they exude calm, they issue instructions: “Just enjoy the view—it is a beautiful view.”


Slow release medication—the idea of it—has prepared me a little for the idea of a drug so powerful—so toxic—that it must be delivered over 3 hours. Medical care is so often what we hear about—they operated on me, I had to use a bed pan, I took my medications, they gave me blood. Caregivers witness it in different ways—it doesn’t take much intelligence to operate an oxygen tank, but it is terrifying to need to learn how to do so at 11 or 12. Again, to keep escaping here, now, what I cannot comprehend. If there is comfort in what I cannot—dare not—understand, there is also the treachery of memory.

This is also wake work.


Here, now, we plan for visits. Tomorrow, next week, next month: medical care demands a future imagination, a way of imagining what we can create: meals, joy, beauty.


From where I’m sitting, I look at two other people receiving treatment. Attendants sit in a row facing their particular patients. The patients watch TV as their bodies receive treatment. It is banal, if that word can be used, but an expensive banal, a treatment that should be available to everyone—that is one factor of economic justice. Here, now, economic justice as a practice of freedom and love—this—this I cannot get away from. This I insist on as a vision of a livable, shareable world.


My concentration is shot.


Wambui Mwangi reminds me to think and imagine from where I am standing, to take the occasion of being in place, no matter how temporary or unstable that place, to think and act, to shift and nudge, to find ways to make that ground more possible, more livable, more shareable. It is not always or immediately clear what that entails—grounds change, and I am often disoriented. But the ethical force of her demand—the reminder that it is a demand—tethers me to the world we co-imagine and co-create.