Dang, I’ve been having a hard time keeping up lately. Not very surprisingly. This writing a book caper does tend to take more than a few minutes a day, after all, and the time has to come from somewhere. And there are other odds and ends, and so – items I want to comment on have been piling up. I do what I can, I wake up nice and early, a good deal earlier than I would like to in fact, but still the piling up goes on. So I’m just going to do a miscellany, a grab-bag, an everything all at once comment, and whittle the pile down a little.
There’s this from Normblog on something George Monbiot said the other day.
The ‘fury it generated among Muslims’. So ‘Muslims’ are entitled by their reactive fury, are they, to determine whether the lives of the people of Iraq may be freed from the tyranny of the Saddam Hussein regime? Would Monbiot allow the same veto power to, say, the racist reactions of some British people over how the issue of asylum-seekers should be handled? It’s not only how people react; it’s whether they have any business reacting in that way.
Just so. And that’s true even if the people doing the reacting are in some sense part of an oppressed group. I’m not sure people always hold that thought firmly enough in mind. Next up, Timothy Burke on Rigoberta Menchu.
The question for me was, “Why did she, with assistance from interlocutors, refashion herself into the most abject and maximally oppressed subject that she could?” The answer to that question, the fault of that untruth, lies not so much in Menchu but in her intended audience. Here I think the academic left, that portion of it most invested in identity politics (which is not the whole or necessarily even the majority of the academic left), takes it on the chin. Menchu is what some of them most wanted, a speaking subaltern.
But read the whole thing. It’s really very good. Farther down we get this:
You want what people in my field call “the African voice”. If you don’t have it in the syllabus, in your talk, in your paper, in your book, somebody’s going to get up in the audience and say, “Where is the authentic African voice?” and mutter dire imprecations when you say, “I don’t have it. I can’t find it. It doesn’t exist”. You may quote or mention or study an African, or many, but if they’re middle-class, or “Westernized”, or literate, or working for the colonial state, somebody’s going to tell you that’s not enough. The light of old anthropological quests for the pure untouched native is going to shine through the tissue paper of more contemporary theory.
Right, that’s enough for this one. I have to get away from this dratted desk for awhile. More later, from Scott McLemee, Cliopatria, Panda’s Thumb, Terry Eagleton.