A Hungarian friend shared poetry from her homeland on Thursday, which she has translated and continues to engage with in her off hours when not studying and soaking in new brain-stretched ideas. One in particular struck me, a beautiful slash through reality written in 1925 by Attila József, a poet who died at the age of 32. This is the translation of With a pure heart.
With a pure heart.
Without father without mother
without God or homeland either
without crib or coffin-cover
without kisses or a lover
for the third day – without fussing
I have eaten next to nothing.
My store of power are my years
I sell all my twenty years.
Perhaps, if no else will
the buyer will be the devil.
With a pure heart – that’s a job:
I may kill and I shall rob.
They’ll catch me, hang me high
in blessed earth I shall lie,
and poisonous grass will start
to grow on my beautiful heart.
Translated by Thomas Kabdebo
I include this as the body of my post because I want to embrace the essence of being human-as-scholar and scholar-as-must-be-human, not thinker-in-spite-of-pumping-heart-and-pulsing-caprices. It speaks of poverty, of useless youth in a time when youth was wasted and given no place to spend its sharpness, of what becomes of the starvation of the human flicker on a landscape all dark with turned-away eyes.
This realizes in me the answer to my occasional question as a lonely student: what more? I think the answer is less a concrete or fixed prospect but rather a negation of the alternative, that is, more than less might be. The study might isolate, might unhook from more vibrant, frequented spaces, but it is nonetheless a purpose, a proposal of mind. And this is something between the seller and the devil, yet.
Full title for this post = Scholarly enterprise: quilting, loping, slutting it up casting my line
I just attended a graduate workshop/mini-conference at the GC entitled “Failure,” an annual event hosted by the Social and Political Theory Student Association. I was there for about 11 hours and when I left, the stimulating conversations were very much still going on. What an event! Young and burgeoning scholars from the fields of political science, English, sociology, feminist studies, critical race theory, education, etc., etc. The room was lively from the get-go and while I was intimidated at various points, the joy of the exchange, the interlacing of minds was beyond thrilling.
So much to say, but I will share what I presented on today and then some of the ideas I have bookmarked to look into (the plethora and thrum of which I could never fully encapsulate in a blog post).
My talk: “‘Low-status’ adult immigrant learners in non-profit education: Framing failure as a first step in pedagogy and academia.” The basic summary is this: The non-profit education of adult immigrants invisible-izes and dehumanizes these learners while serving neoliberal and societal interests in the United States. This form of education must be challenged for its reliance on the discursive construction of adult immigrants in the American narrative, the paternalistic ways in which non-profit education takes place in terms of pedagogy and programming, and the related myopia in the American academy of a monoculturalist, America-centric ideological tradition that reifies a theoretical regime premised on historically-constructed cultural categories (especially race, but also language, class, and other terms) as well as the paternalistic prescription of pedagogy as a unidirectional process.
Areas of interest for the future (in no particular order):
Ahmed, “The Promise of Happiness”
Bourdieu’s concepts of “field” and “habitus”
Ranciere, “The Hatred of Democracy”
Butler’s discussion of livability (and her discussion of the delegation of sovreignty)
The semantic confusion of the ethical and the economic in framing terrorism and violence
Fricker, “Epistemic Injustice”
Ambiguity as a challenge to binarisms in academic thinking
Bradotti, “Nomadic Subjects”
Tessman, “Moral Failure”
Postmodernist feminist literature on “everyday resistance”
What a delightfully exhausting day!
By Jeangagnon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Since I’ve started taking classes at the Graduate Center in 2014, I’ve consistently gone outside my department to swim — awkwardly — in new fields. I’ve taken classes in the areas of philosophy, sociology, and Hispanic-Luso Brazilian studies and am pulling from these fields as well as linguistics, social and critical theory, and others to construct the interdisciplinary theoretical lens I’m working with. It’s a daunting growth process in some ways, not least of which because I have a complex about my limitations (which are compounded by the cognitive overload of being a grad student), yet I’m finding increasingly that I can see no way back. How could it make sense that in education, we focus only on classroom-based practice? We must understand the importance of education policy in determining schooling priorities, which implies the study of history and political economy. Further, we have to look into the design of pedagogy (the practice of teaching and learning), which calls for an understanding of ontology and epistemology, dimensions of philosophy that deal with being and knowing and which are intrinsic to understanding how learning occurs and how learners and teachers participate in the learning process. And we can’t forget about learner identity, which is inherently sociological, philosophical, and even political in nature.
Am I making things too complicated? Probably. But I tell my students that the stratification of theory, empirical research, and practice — which Bourdieu, Freire and others have argued is inherently valueless — is an artificial division in the field of education, one that disempowers classroom teachers and renders academics disconnected. Why not pull together ideas that help us speak in many different idioms, many different repertoires? Why not learn the speech of the policy-makers, the theorists, the giant-killers, and the worker bees…because they and we are us all?