I promise not to inundate people with daily blogs, but the reality is that if I did people would not read it – so why waste my time. Some writers may argue that they write for themselves. The reality is, we write for an audience whether perceived or not or as Jean-Paul Sartre said, “one writes for the universal reader… and the exigency of the writer is, as a rule, addressed to all men”. So rather than a daily regurgitation of my day (which can be found in brief on Facebook) I will update my blog when I feel I have something bursting from my gut or when I think a comfortable enough gap has elapsed since I last wrote.
Ontology of Language
It’s been two weeks since I have orientated myself into my new land and, with brute force, continued to disorient myself from Western ideologies of thinking about the world (playing on the word “Orient” here since our first reading in class was an excerpt from Edward Said’s classic text, Orientalism).
I have met some amazing people. Surprisingly, a large number of people in my course are not British and I live in a very diverse neighborhood. So not only am I getting a taste of British culture, I am also forced to reconcile with individuals from all across Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. It’s an amazing experience to say the least. Other than trying to navigate with no car and counting money, language has been the hardest obstacle to overcome. I thought coming from an Anglophone country to another Anglophone country that the least of my worries would be language. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Too bad I’m not an anthropologist because I believe my observations and experiences with language would make for a great case study. Never before have I been thrust into hearing so many derivations of the English language. Beyond that are the meanings attached to objects in different cultures and how words are translated into English. If you take a mirror, as a basic example, and it will be called something different elsewhere (obviously), but more importantly the meaning attached to it is different. Perhaps we look at mirrors as a means to simply view ourselves, but elsewhere, that mirror could be associated with vanity.
Admittedly, I’m having a hard time with some of the readings we have been assigned. The difficulty is not in my inability to grasp the text (like my inability to get my mind around calculus). Instead, the problem is getting through the academic mumbo jumbo (read as Bull Shit – FYI – this and other expletives are perfectly permissible in class) in order to gain a clear sense of what the author is trying to convey. I mean how can I understand your point, when you have quoted a reference in French or Greek with no translation? I equate that to being in church when someone starts speaking tongues. If God has a message that he wants to convey, why would he make it in such a way that only a few can understand. Sorry to offend anyone, but this part of the church I simply can’t grasp my hands around and this is a part of academia that I struggle with as well. So sometimes I feel dejected, but then eventually I get over those feelings of dejection because I realize if it were easy, there would be no need for me to be in school. I’ve quickly come to another realization (one that has actually been able to help me get through my readings). That realization is that the best education comes outside of the classroom. Perhaps this is why I have heard over-and-over again since arriving that I don’t need to come to class!
Yesterday, I attended a screening as part of the Nollywood film festival. The film was called Arugba and the overarching theme (in a series of numerous themes) was tradition in the face of modernity. Often times, this clash can be problematic for communities. As I watched the film and listened to the conversations afterwards, I was able to relate it to Paul Gilroy’s discourse in black identity, The Black Atlantic (which was the reading for this week). In chapter 6 of his book he says that we must “rethink the concept of tradition so that it can no longer function as modernity’s polar opposite”. Another example of outside learning has been my visit to the Horniman Museum. I was amazed at not only the beauty of the grounds and the small collection, but the truthfulness that was revealed by the museum. The fact is, most of the major museums in the West are nothing more than the pillages of colonial empires (I’m borrowing that point from Albert Barnes). As such, the objects are often classified and ordered from a Western perspective whereby the works of the East or of Sub Sahara Africa, for example, may be represented in a way in which their significance is lessened or in some cases over romanticized. Many institutions today recognize this Oriental viewpoint and attempt to give balance with regards to representations. The Horniman Museum, on the other hand, has left its original gallery the way it was originally conceived. I thought this was an interesting lesson into history and a practical example of Orientalism. I will note the entire museum is not set up this way. I found the section on Africa and the photography exhibit on Yemen to be absolutely fascinating and well put together.
The practical stuff
So what’s next for me? Reading -since I am grossly behind. Short trips to neighboring countries. Attend more lectures, movies, and certainly more museums. Getting home by bus after 12. Other than a late night pub crawl in Camden and taking a long cab ride home, I’ve been in by 10 faithfully (most trains don’t run after 12:00am). Get used to life without a microwave and clothes dryer. Open a bank account. Find Amy Winehouse. Try to find the Snappy Snap that George Michael crashed into (I believe I found it, but I am not 100% sure). Figure out how to watch my Bridget Jones DVD on my computer, how to stream the Real Housewives of Atlanta and American sports. In shah Allah practice Arabic. Try not to use words in writing or in person that cannot be found in the dictionary (tacit snub at Gilroy). Use words like tacit, subversive, discourse, ontology, and polemic as many times as possible. Stop saying dollars and cents and converting everything to dollars in my head. Join a yoga class. Ponder a PHD program. Update my CV, figure out how to rule the world (ok not really – just find my place and my major contributions to it) AND continue to lose and alienate people/things in my life that just aren’t productive to my growth and development as a person. The reality is, people are toxic and I’m on a full-throttle detox. Until next time. Cheers!