Friday, January 15, 2010



My sister, her baby, and husband are visiting for the first time this weekend. Los Angeles takes on different tones and shades when visitors come and stay with me--more sunny, more bright, less mysterious. Only a year and half into my life here, I still feel as thought I am visiting much of the time. LA is a very coy place, revealing its jealously guarded secrets ever-slowly to me. I live in a neighborhood now where the concentration of palm trees is low and languid; the 1920's art deco apartments that line my neighborhood's streets feel transitional--a compromise between East and West coast. The trees around here are deciduous. Someone wanted to feel, or at least see, an indication of seasonal shifts in this city-out-of-time. My sister deplaned and stood in front of baggage claim in LAX looking puzzled. "I feel like I landed in the '80s."
"Get ready, it only gets weirder," I tell her.
My brother-in-law then asks if LA is like the LA in Mulholland Drive. I answer, "yes," knowing that he will never feel that way. David Lynch's LA is not for visitors, only for temporary residents. "I did see the Twin Peaks midget at Ralph's at midnight once." That's true, too. My one and only celebrity sighting.


Some intellectual ideas I encountered this week which are new to me, essential to understanding the direction of postcolonial studies as it stands, and in danger of disappearing from my brain presently:

1. Enlightenment humanism was part and parcel of the colonizing project. The attempt to "enlighten" the savage and indolent native in the New World, in India, and finally in Africa grew not simply out of exploitative motivations, but the desire to aid and elevate, to make the native more "humane," as it were. This is the humanism which inspires both the Utilitarian and Trusteeship models of colonialism--we will "help" you until you can manage yourselves. We will save you from your own tyrannical oriental despots and bestow representational government (all hail democracy) upon you. This rhetoric is a familiar one to us in the 21st century--not much different from the U.S.'s current civilizing mission in Iraq and Afghanistan

2. Modernity in the metropole is modernity in the colony; they are inseparable. The process of modernization in Europe is not on an accelerated timescale, after which the global South is constantly chasing (pantingly out of breath, too), but instead, entirely contingent on the colonial project. The rise of capitalism is directly connected to colonial projects, and European capitalism in full 19th century swing was completely dependent on a form of continued feudalism in the colonies.

3. In a book by something Piper called Cartographic Fictions, the argument is put forth about Kim that the hybrid subject (namely Kim) is not a figure of liberation or ambivalence, as Homi Bhabha would have it, but instead an essential tool in ideology formation. Damn, girl. That is what I have to say about that for now.


Today I brought my lunch, leftovers of a savoy cabbage sweet potato gratin I made the other night, to school, which I sloppily ate during my South Asian history lecture. My professor did not approve.


How much of top 40 radio hits include the word "hotel"? How many of them are about the very isolated action of a nameless ass shaking rhythmically in a club? And is that ass shaking to the song that the ass itself appears in? Questions for the universe.


My nephew is almost 11 months old. He has six teeth, can pull himself up to standing, and mimics, in sound, noises and words that he hears adults say to him. He is a diligent student and wants to harness language with an almost desperate fervor. He makes me wonder to what degree acquisition of language is an act of sheer will.

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