I have been abducted by the final chapters of my dissertation. The Stockholm Syndrome effects are setting in nicely. (Occasionally—let’s call these photosynthesis breaks—I get water and sun.)
A friend once described the hackneyed fantasy of the dissertation writer, and how much it unnerved him. The fantasy’s genre is the western, he said, and the dissertation writer is a cowboy mounting a steed. Fastening on the horse’s harness followed by his own holster (on the buckle of his brass belt, which keeps up his perfectly faded Levis), he dreamily looks out onto the haystacks where the entire cast of his family and friends have gathered to see him off. He is, after all, star of his own film. Occasionally a damsel wipes away a tear on a lily-stitched handkerchief. His mother nods wordless affirmations. A child approaches the horse with a red apple for the dissertation writer—the high angle from the mount make his tiny hands look even more diminutive—and squeaks, ‘One for the road?’
When he rides off into the distance only the dust lifted by the horse’s hooves beneath the red orb of the setting sun can be discerned.
Teaching duties, child care (my friend had two small children), family responsibilities, financial instability, job insecurity, health woes and ever more woeful health insurance disasters, loneliness, mental anguish, the sum total of everyday life’s crises, big and small: none of that figures into the cowboy fantasy of the luxurious, open-ended window of writing time. Never you mind the idea of other projects—be they blog, book, or bamboo farm—bidding for your time. Those other projects get jealous and throw scenes. There are seven or eight drafts of blog posts, twelve unfinished poems, three half-written journal articles, and one film scenario that are jealous of my diverted attention. There’s not much reassurance I can give them other than cooing softly. I’ll be back. I’ll be good. We’ll spend more time together and I’ll take you to that chicken-and-waffle place you like.
There is no reason this platform should be limited by my temporary limitations. To that end I’ve asked some some stellar people to contribute a guest post each Monday in August, possibly adding more in early September.
The blog is framed around the question of ‘the indivisible unit of politics and aesthetics,’ and it acts from a skepticism toward obligatory universalisms. Since both the framing and starting principle can be interpreted widely, I have asked each to write about something they are uniquely situated to tackle.
First up, film scholar Linnéa Hussein will take on the question of whether ‘healthy nationalism’ at the Olympics is possible from the perspective of an Arab growing up in Germany (she argues it isn’t). Elliott Prasse-Freeman, no stranger to TNI, is writing about ‘immunization’ and collective fears of a global contagion crisis, animating the post by his personal experience of deciding whether to visit Kampala despite a recent Ebola outbreak. Christina Kral and Adriana Valdez Young investigate urban spaces one question at a time. I look forward to seeing what poet and former rare books librarian Matthew Battles (who has authored a book on the subject) cooks up.