30 November 2006

partition was the right thing to do. discuss.

this was the debate topic I set for my colonialism & nationalism in India module this autumn. it was fun. we debated the merits of British India's partition into India and Pakistan in 1947, discussed the casualties (estimates range from less than 100,000 to over 500,000 dead, many more displaced/separated from their families, etc., and took sides on the issue.

at the end of the discussion I took 10 minutes to allow the students to express their own views (not their pro/con roles) on the topic. they all agreed that partition was not the right thing to do, that it had led to horrible migrations and deaths, it was the result of the calcification of a bi-polar discourse of Hindu and Muslim, and that it seemed like it could have been avoided, perhaps not in the years immediately prior to 1947, but had the discourse gone another way, it might not have seemed the only option.

so I asked/suggested: the situation in Iraq, then, given what you're saying about India/Pakistan, would also fall into the same category: partition would be a bad thing. most of them protested this, saying, in fact, that partition of Iraq would be a good thing and seem to solve the myriad problems there. Ah. history. we love learning from it, don't we!

yes, the situation is different in many ways, but it's also similar: artificially reified broad categories (Hindu/Muslim--Shia/Sunni/Kurd) mapped onto territory that itself relies on earlier colonial line-drawing. my expertise doesn't lie in Iraq, Kurdistan, or the Gulf region, but this piece provides a good argument against partition, and reveals the extent to which American pundits (next blog post! etymology of pundit and its political implications!) are making the same arguments that many in the British colonial establishment made. Let's hope that the Iraqis aren't forced, by the exigencies of international and domestic political maneuvering and typological pigeonholing, into positions similar to Jinnah and Nehru in 1946-7. Let's hope.

27 November 2006

weaver, weaving, wife: Greek? victorian? Manusamhita?

ah metaphors. ah etymologies. how I love thee. let me trace for you (really for me to get this clearer in my head) the path of my afternoon's research:

I'm preparing a talk on spinning for the department. this involves a wee bit of panic and some cursing of myself in June when December seemed so far away, the autumn so ripe with research time and possibilities. ha ha ha.

and so I am reading and thinking intensively. this is good. I sat down to read Chris Bayly's article on 'The origins of swadeshi' in Arjun Appadurai's book The Social Life of Things. Good information, interesting, and I hadn't quite developed my critique of the article as a whole when:
According to the Laws of Manu, unmarried girls were the spinners ('spinsters'), whereas after marriage they graduated to weavers (becoming 'wives'). (293)
intriguing. no citation. I google the Laws of Manu, now out of copyright after a few millennia. I search through it for 'wife' 'weaver' 'unmarried' 'girl' 'spinster' 'spin' and a few other terms. nothing. I google the relevant terms in google books and come up with, you guessed it, Bayly's essay.

so, to the etymology: where does wife come from? I go to my handy on-line sanskrit dictionary, look up wife. not really sounding like weaver nor related, meaning-wise, to weaver. hm. wife comes from the old English wif. this is sometimes connected to weaver, but only anecdotally (read: in blogposts I found when googling in hour 2 of this ordeal). then I hit on the motherlode: late nineteenth century texts waxing lyrical about the role of women! It seems that John Ruskin wrote this awesome dialogue-based text (Ethics of the Dust--note to self: must write book in dialogue form at some point, with myself as 'Lecturer') about women as weavers, claiming an Anglo-Saxon etymology for the connection, and advising girls that their good-wife status will be measured by their ability as seamstresses and weavers. and this then led me to (of course) the Greeks! Ruskin was obsessed with the weaving connections--good wife/bad wife--in Aeschylus and others, where the positive force of the weaver is contrasted to the arachnid-based nefarious web-spinner. In some discussions of this, I found the weaver-wife thing repeated.

it is unclear from this whether the weaver-wife connection was something that Ruskin/19th century classicists came up with that doesn't in fact relate to etymology at all or whether it really is in the greek (help here?). there's also the anglo-saxon 'peace-weaver' role for women, in which a woman would be wed across enemy lines in order to bridge a political disagreement. but in many of the sites I saw describing peace-weavers, they were distinct from 'wives' more broadly. some anglo-saxon history sites made the connection between weaver and wife, but with no citations I could find, and thus it would be just as likely their source was our dear Ruskin.

So: thoughts? wife-weaver? Greek connection? certainly none of my digging supported the Laws of Manu contention. I'm down the rabbit hole, and I've forgotten now why this is important. gender? India? spinsters? spinning? hm.

Thanksgiving in Wales (2)

a happy and turkey-filled Thanksgiving was had by all on this side of the atlantic--no access to pumpkin, and so instead we had butternut squash soup (care of Ruth from last year's soup discussion) and sweet potato-pecan pie (with crazed amounts of Southern Comfort and cream involved, making it oh-so-good). And thus Tday went without a hitch, save me forgetting completely about the lovely cranberry-apricot sauce I had made which is now adorning literally every meal we are eating. save breakfast. but I'm pondering it as a topping for oatmeal. anyone? thoughts?

Christmas tree is coming today and then decorating will have to ensue, despite the lack of our decs from California. this is what popcorn and cranberries are for, except when you have a dog. hm. we may resort to decorating with now useless RAM modules and Luke's old dog tags. shiny!

we also celebrated our colleague's recent book release this weekend, which is very exciting and will be coming out in paperback soon for those interested and yet not having the spare £55.

we've been watching thirtysomething. and this has caused me to reflect on adulthood, as when I first watched the show I was not thirtysomething. now I am firmly so, and it reads very differently. hosting thanksgiving is adult-like. but one still feels somehow as if one is playing house. does this go away? I used to think it would, but now I am not so sure. I think this: one never actually becomes the adult person you think your parents are when you are 8. For that adult person existed only in your 8-year-old mind. Really they were (early) thirtysomethings and making it up, just as you are now in your thirtysomething life. and thus adulthood. hm.

21 November 2006

securitise this...

now that I'm a politics person I'm learning you can talk about 'security' with regard to more than just military security or the security of the territorial boundaries of a state. one can speak of the feelings of security one has as a resident of said state, the security in knowing that your human rights aren't being violated (probably) and the like.

part of me likes the idea of moving political science beyond this strict state-centered/militaristic focus, sure. but it seems this has gone a bit far.

as with the US shifting the discourse around hunger to one of security.

conclusion? hunger no longer exists in the US. hurrah!
it's now low or very low food security. awesome.

click here for my favourite epidemiology blog's take on this.

20 November 2006

achieving real-people-dom

one of our on-going sagas here in the UK is to attempt to get credit. due to the credit-based culture in the US, back there we could have purchased several fairly expensive cars on the amount of credit Lady Visa and Master Card were willing to give us (shout out to Renaissance Faire geeks there). Here, we have been turned down flat for credit cards by our bank and mortgage lender, Lloyds, and generously offered a card with a £260 limit by the dolts over at Barclays (they are dolts not because of this, this just adds to their ridiculousness).

So I'm in M&S (Marks and Spencer, like KFC has decided that initials are the way to go for the whole re-branding/updating. and it's working marvelously) in city centre purchasing sheets for Mike's recent visit. I'm asked if I have an M&S card, I prepare the automatic, pavlovian response of: no, no thanks, no really no and then stifle it: why not apply? they don't keep track of the applications here in the UK (in the US they do) and so it doesn't matter if I get rejected. I apply, and lo! after many weeks in the empty ocean of credit-less-ness, we have arrived at the shores of mastercard, a full £2000 limit to our names! yea, praise be to the goddesses of credit. may the beeping of cash registers and the tapping of numberpads forever hail thy glory.

the card arrives: they market it as 'the little black number' it's matte black. with chartreuse edges. it is, in a word, awesome. we are now real people.

I heart capitalism.

13 November 2006

pumpkin redux

so a pumpkin is a fruit. that blows my mind. I discovered this upon trying to find out if the object that was included in my organic veg delivery was more a canteloupe melon or a squash. I thought the latter until I actually cut into the thing, which was melon-like in consistency but green on the outside, much like this picture from the 19th century. I have decided to treat it like a squash. I will report back on what happens. In the meantime, I am feeling very late Victorian.

stand well clear...

remember the voice in the Mac 1984 commercial? not the voiceover at the end, but the voice of the overlord? that sort of British-as-all-knowing-elite complex of referents they were going for? imagine that voice saying:

Stand Well Clear. Vehicle Reversing. Stand Well Clear. Vehicle Reversing. Stand Well Clear. Vehicle Reversing.

This is what I'm experiencing right now, coupled with a beeping sound also reminiscent of the tones in the 1984 ad.

only this is coming from the large cocacola truck backing its red, round logo-covered rear end directly towards my window (my office is directly above the loading dock for the cafe below).

surreal to say the least. the Orwellian future is in fact, as we all know, a late-capitalist info-regime, where we 'participate' in our own bodily destruction with dollars and pence.

Stand well clear.

12 November 2006

Calling All Would-Be Book Cover Design Experts

I have a very long post on the techne, phronesis, and really the ontos of hot tubs. I don't know if anyone really wants to read it, but I will be compelled to write it. However, I can't put that together until or if the tub stops leaking like a sieve.

So, for now, something that may interest more readers. I just found out that the publisher of the book I hope to be submitting this spring actually wants me to pick out the cover image. On the one hand, it sounds fantastic to have some control over such an important process; on the other, I haven't a clue what to pick and the 'power' scares me. On my first book I had zero input on design/cover/layout issues.

The book is an attempt to illuminate queer theory through readings of US television shows, and to use queer theory to offer a set of readings of TV shows and to produce a set of arguments about the politics of television. The book is titled 'The Queer Politics of Television' and it will have six chapters on various shows (Six Feet Under, Desperate Housewives, The L Word, Big Love, and one other). With that in mind, I ask all of you:

What image should go on the cover?

10 November 2006

hot tub photos

the saga in pictures. more coming today. we have power, we have water, and now all we need is for the electric heater to heat that water. 12 degrees (Celsius) and rising!

Click here.

Many thanks to Julian & Jane for trekking out from London for Tues & Wed crucial early stages, and to Mike for trekking from the wilds of Denver and spending his week off making his fingers bleed. Fun was had by all.

08 November 2006

where have I been?

well, I'm still here--just overwhelmed with the stuff. And rather than spending the downtime blogging, I find it difficult to be in front of the computer for more than is completely necessary. that said, I should add: hurrah for our discussion on the whole marriage thing. I didn't participate for many things I would have said were said already, and more elegantly than I was capable of.

In other news: Bangladeshi Mohammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank got the Nobel Peace prize a week or so back--go microfinance. may it someday alleviate poverty everywhere, put power in the hands of the meek, and change the world. Luke: happier on the beach than in the park, because in the park he has a job to do--namely, eliminate the squirrel population. Dogs laugh on the beach. Hot tub: growing in our back yard. Pictures soon. Rumsfeld: buh bye. we should send him a nice fruitbasket.

Currently reading: Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. The daVinci code on crack. or acid. or something.

Welsh: week 5 or so. Shumai! Bora da! Noswaith dda! Mae hi'n niwlog. [hello! good morning! good evening! It's foggy.] very exciting.