Week Six: Said, Orientalism, and the sadness of their relevance

First, I want to reiterate how much I appreciate the attention and time you are giving your own blogs and your peers’.  You are really setting the bar high for each other.  That is what graduate school is for–to push your brain’s function well past its previous abilities.  I enjoy reading your different interpretations.  They are the highlight of my week often.

If there is one theory that has informed my scholarship over any other, it is Edward Said‘s concept of orientalism.  I wish it weren’t so relevant today.  But as you can see from my presentation that I want you to watch (link below), I argue that it is more relevant today than ever.  It is difficult for me to read anything without this lens, and I almost feel like I am cursing you and your ability to watch the news or have a conversation with a stranger again (as in the conversation I recently had where someone made the comment, “She may as well have had a towel on her head for as much as I could understand her” in reference to the woman she asked for directions.  Sigh.)  In my mind, there is nothing as dangerous as essentializing a people.  Hence why I remind my Democrat friends that Republicans, too, love their families, etc.  Essentializing is seductive in its ease.  But it is also the first step in dehumanizing.

I imagine many of you will be able to share powerful narratives about being othered (some of you already have).  Those personal connections are a strong tool when defining one’s subject position.

For your blog post this week, discuss the definitions and the Said reading and if you would like to apply it anything you are witnessing, feel free to do so.

I REALLY HOPE some of you will join me to see Vandana Shiva at WCU.  We don’t get to see a critical poco, ecofeminist scholar often, and even though we are all busy, we should consider taking a step off of our hamster wheels to make time for critical thought. I will buy dinner before the event for all of us.  Let me know if you can attend ASAP!

So for this week’s required viewing, I humbly offer you a talk I have given in various forms at West Chester University, Lehigh University, and at our own KU–and then was invited to give at Shepherd University as part of a yearlong investigation of Malala. I am happy that so many people are willing to listen to what I have to say.  And this idea that I present runs through much of my scholarship.  Some see Said’s works as outdated; I wish it were.

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Let’s go on a field trip! Vandana Shiva at WCU

So, this is kind of a big deal and comes at a great time during our semester.  I won’t require attendance as the talk is at West Chester University, but I will buy dinner before the talk for anyone that wants to join me.  We need to reserve tickets in advance, so please email me by Feb. 28 if you can join in the fun.  Click below for a PDF of the flyer with details.

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Week Five: Isn’t every po-co novel about hybridity in the end?

With hundreds more on my shelf waiting to be read and hundreds already behind me, I find myself asking the above question more and more often.  I feel like the trope of searching for identity, while really in all books, comes through almost every time I use my po-co theory lens and sit with a novel or short story from most places in the world (most recently Moshin Hamid’s short story “The Third Born” in the New Yorker).  I feel like I am bestowing not a curse, maybe a burden or at least a responsibility on your shoulders as we delve deeper into our studies, that you may never be able to look at a text in the same way again.  While that thrills me, I also know that there is something of an innocence lost, an inability to just read a book for the sake of reading it, which while it would be nice, also feels like a shirking of responsibility as a global citizen.  Anyway, enough of my pining and navel gazing..

This week we continue working with Nervous Conditions.  I think you are seeing why we are reading this novel along with our study of mimicry and now hybridity.  The novel begs to be paired with these concepts, and I think makes these concepts clearer for you.  I hope.  We spend some more time with Walcott.  I hope you enjoyed the poem from last week (I didn’t see much tangling with “A Latin Primer” in your posts last week, so if it shows up in this week’s writing, all the better).  It gets better every time I read it.

In this week’s original blog post, just keep up the good work.  You are responding well to the texts. I like to see those direct quotes and analysis.   I am responding and running the class as I would in a traditional classroom.  I find the less I say, the more you say.  If you need/want more response, just let me know.  I would also be happy to chat over Skype or in my office as I return to campus this week.

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The image above is from “Homes Abroad,” a wonderful first person narrative about the work of identity.

You might want to start adding “tags” to your posts.  I have no idea how the Interweb works, but I know tags help people find the good work you are doing.  And I love seeing your posts start to look more like blogs.  People will be very impressed with the work you are doing.

Also, I am noticing on the click counter that most of you are not taking advantage of the links I am adding.  While this week’s link is really only a way to see what people are writing right now, the past few weeks’ links have been there to send you to critical information that I think would be helpful to a young poco scholar.  So do your best to find some time to engage with the secondary material I am offering, things that I would probably show you during class if we were to meet in a classroom.

I leave you with this short discussion of hybridity in various academic fields.  I am not sure why we need pictures of people running on a treadmill, but I think the conversation is interesting.

Week Four: Mimicry, Identity, and the bildungsroman

I hope you have already buckled your seat belts, because our wild ride through po-co theory continues this week with the concept of mimicry and then next week with hybridity.  My diss advisor Deep Singh is, for real, a lifesaver, because he has articulated these two concepts in a way I have never seen before.  So concise.  This post will save you a lot of mental trouble, so I would read it before you hit the Bhabha piece.  Reading Deep’s piece, I am reminded of how important it is to have a rock star as an advisor…

It seems our conversation about identity is bound to continue, and the novel I have chosen for this week (or the first half of it) is pretty much THE novel a po-co scholar will use to discuss these two concepts.  Plus, I love this novel because I think it is teachable to a secondary school population.  Getting world lit texts in the classroom is a goal of mine, so anytime I can assign a piece that a high school teacher could use, I do.

What I would like you to do with week’s blog post is apply your understanding of the theory to Nervous Conditions (I think you should be able to do that having just read the first half).  Pick a scene or a character and start to play with applying theory to text.  If you are feeling nervous about doing that (sorry, I had to), let me know.  I am here to help.

I love this cover.  I love the extra-diegetic gaze of the girl.  So smart and assertive.  We don’t always see book covers like this one, as this great piece will illustrate in just a few minutes of your time.

If you have an extra 90 minutes, you can watch this.  NOT required.  Just throwing it out there for your consideration if you would like to spend an hour and a half with Homi Bhabha instead of Ryan Gosling.

Blogosphere and the Class

As I am reading your conversations, I would like to ask you to consider starting to do a few things:

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  • Try to vary to whom you respond so all voices are met with conversation.  You should be following all student blogs and my blog.  Please check to ensure that you are following all of us.
  • Be sure to moderate your comments so that your peers’ voices are heard (and so that I can do the correct accounting of student work).  Because there may be a lag in responses coming up after I assess a blog post, I am going to ask that each of you keeps track of the number of responses you have done throughout the course of the semester.   If you notice a discrepancy on D2L, please let me know.
  • If you haven’t already, please start using direct quotes from the texts in your responses.  I like that some of you are adding a works cited.  Because we are using a common text, I will not require a works cited, though it is a good habit.
  • Blogging is bit of a different genre than many of you are used to, and I do think it is one wave of the future that academics must have an understanding of.  Please consider using paragraphing more generously (I am not saying cut your ideas–just offer more breaks for the readers’ eyes).
  • Also with blogging, the reader will be looking for images and links.  Start to play around a little bit in these next few weeks with making your blog more “bloggy.”  But keep up with the solid content.
  • It would help me if you would “like” my weekly posts just as a check-in so I know everyone has read it.  I don’t need you to really like it!
  • Try to mention all of the elements of the reading in your posts.

Keep up the great work!