(A long memo to self, shared with friends in mind.)
That title sounds a little too serious, as a title about something that, after all, is just a blog. Then again, if not a problem of mixed messages, I do have the problem of mixed “wavelengths” of communication: I am one of those unfortunate individuals who is often thought to be serious when just joking, or that I am joking when I instead mean to be serious. In fact, I would probably make a good comedian, if I would only be serious about it.
One little example: Sara recently asked, “should sociologists blog? should anthropologists blog?” Without any smiley faces, I replied that, yes, sociologists should blog, but anthropologists would be better off becoming sociologists (which also implies they should not be blogging until they do). I provoked an “oh come on!” like response from a colleague whose patience I have been testing, and had to explain that I was joking. And then I said, but let’s pretend to be serious, and discuss it anyway.
The point of this post (discovering it as I write it), is that my writing for this blog has reached a point that feels like a crossroads. I have advocated against compartmentalizations, the latter running against the “open” ethos behind the blog. Yet, I like focus and concentration. I never expected something that is just a blog to be so challenging — the mixture of wavelengths, different messages pitched at different levels, sometimes alternating between one kind and the other in the same day, or even in the same hour, going from wining in a Trinidadian carnival to social science co-opted by the Pentagon. One resists it, the other dwells on it. It’s uncomfortable gymnastics.
The tensions within this blog have left me divided. Trying to do many different things, oriented to different audiences, with multiple goals in mind. For a while I thought: no need to compartmentalize (something I have set out as a problematic way of thinking); just let the hybrid develop, with its mixed messages and mixed allegiances; bring the practice I preach into practice through the preaching; send different signals, to break established boundaries, and thus bring about the “openness” I have been seeking; get accustomed to being uncomfortable with the interior friction; bring a “trojan horse” into the virtual department, and so on.
There was this interest in projecting the “discipline” outwards, engaging with colleagues, finding new ways of writing and communicating anthropology, and addressing immediate disciplinary concerns. Conference calls, calls for papers, university news, book reviews, notes, summaries of papers, summaries of news reports, and essays on questions of ethics and practice thus all formed part of this thrust.
Then there was this desire to just enjoy myself, to play around with ideas and different media, to spoof and satire, to be purely polemical. The funny thing was that it ended up being me who grew uncomfortable with the juxtapositions. I have thesis, and I have antithesis, but I don’t see a possible synthesis. Besides, not every hybrid is strong and beautiful, healthy and enduring, just for being a hybrid.
There are only a few objectives I could agree on, and I am deciding to allocate separate spaces for them. What continues is the interest with militant critique, with anti-imperialism and decolonization. But what needs space of its own is the more literary side, the interest in music, the broadening of attention to Caribbean cultures beyond that at the centre of my published ethnographies, the writing of what a friend called a “hilarious body slam,” the “open source ethnography,” the sharp pamphlet-like denunciations, the side that is more raw, and one that does not play up to any expectations of any kind of “anthropology” in any form.
When you go and put “anthropology” in the title of your blog, or book, or whatever else, what you end up realizing is that you are signing on to a finite measure of scripts and roles. Maybe that is a conservative view of tradition — an anthropology like the Roman Catholic Church, which is not an amusement park and therefore does not need to have the latest ride (such as gay female priests). Maybe the “open” is better served by doing it over there, without flashing any membership cards, and the “anthropology” can stay here. And of course this is all a symptom of the past year, where I have found myself at a crossroads of many things, having to completely revise and rethink affiliations, engagements, interests, directions.
And I hate envying Guanaguanare and Black Girl on Mars at a distance, wishing I could do what they do, more regularly, more often, without distraction. Then I suddenly remembered that I was free, and so away I go.
This blog will remain here where it is, still relatively active, but with a narrower focus. “Just for the record” I may change little of the overall self-descriptions of the blog produced on this blog, but I may “migrate” some posts over to something new that I am working on, leaving both with greater focus and greater intensity. I certainly have enough material for more than one blog and I can keep them all pretty busy.
Until soon then, I will leave you with one little hint of what is coming next, and it is the most obscure hint I could possibly find:
I can hardly wait. Now comes the good stuff.