Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How Shall I Greet Thee?

We've been receiving a few annual christmas letters from friends around the country.  Mostly folks from our "former lives" -- friends from husband's high school, our friends from a church we attended 30 years ago, friends that we only hear from during christmas. Most of the letters talk about what folks did during the year - travels, new grandkids, retirement, volunteer work.

I guess this dates me. Younger folks no longer mail christmas cards and letters. They tweet, facebook, instagram, pinterest, etc. Why wait for year-end to regal your friends with the highlights of your year when you can do it on a daily basis?

I've been thinking of how to greet my friends this holiday season. I will have to write different kinds of letters -- to the high school classmates that I've reconnected with, to former office mates when I worked for a corporation, to childhood friends from back home, to friends in various organizations that I belong, to colleagues at work, to former church-mates, to new friends, etc.

These are the parts of myself that connect with these different groups. They knew me when ...and so if I reciprocate with a letter of my own, shouldn't I let them know how I have changed over the years? But would they want to know? I am not sure. When I read these letters, I don't get that sense of wanting to connect at that level. It may be enough for them that we know that they are still alive and active; that they are living meaningful and fun-filled lives. That they have the money and privilege to do so.

If I write this letter, my preference is to take this opportunity to reconnect at a much deeper and more meaningful level. To speak from my heart about what really matters to me at this time of my life. But I hesitate and I'm wondering why.  It's the same dilemma I wrestle with when a friend asks: Leny, how come you don't talk or write about your inner spiritual practice? In response, I said that, on the contrary, I've been quite public about my inner processes/reflections. For the past twenty years, I've written about my process of decolonization and indigenization. To me, this is spiritual work. It is integral. It is wholistic. It is political. It is personal. It is sacred.

The more I move away colonial thinking (binary, linear, fragmented, hierarchical, non-indigenous), the more I find it hard to talk in terms of what is spiritual and what isn't.

Same with these holidays. Christmas is part of my Methodist childhood. So there is always a part of me that gets nostalgic for the church Christmas programs, the caroling, Handel's messiah, simbang gabi. I've since deconstructed the religion of my childhood - how Protestant Christianity is married to capitalism and empire -  so, of course, the shopping frenzy (to feed the near-death capitalist system) didn't escape me.  I tried to be as wise as I could be about it. I didn't contribute to the coffers of mall shops and bought mostly from local merchants.

So this going local was the theme of these holidays for me. This is part of my growing commitment to sustainability, to creating a smaller carbon footprint, to lesser use of resources. It is part of a commitment to develop a relationship to a Place.

For the past decades, the search for a Place of one's own was more or less a symbolic process for me. The search for connection to a Home and Land, to Homeland, led to a desire to acquire knowledge about Filipino indigenous knowledge systems and practices. But this couldn't remain an academic pursuit alone. The idea of belonging to a Place  became a call to consider the Indigenous worldview as a starting point. What does it mean to be indigenous to a place? Can I be indigenous to a Place that originally belonged to the Coast Miwok, Pomo, Kashaya, Wintun, Wappo, Numlaki, and other tribes in this region of Northern California?

Yesterday, I looked at the pile of books next to the bed and noticed how they are mostly by Native authors writing about indigenizing the academy, Original Instructions, ceremony, native science, traditional ecological knowledge, and other related topics. I noted that this is a marked departure from my previous academic interests. Maybe this is a good sign. No, not maybe. It is a good sign. It feels so.

A friend forwarded me an essay about how the idea/image of Santa Claus was influenced by the shamans of the northern tribes who inhaled a lot of mushrooms that made them see fat and floating beings. Hah, I thought, so there goes the indigenous roots of a modern christmas icon. There is a continuity here, a sort of shape-shifting, that if acknowledged can signal that boundaries are quite porous. Having said so, I am ever more vigilant in seeing how open and generous frameworks from the indigenous worldview often get abused and appropriated by modern, colonial thinking folks.

See, I have circled back again. This is the politics of the sacred.

So how shall I greet Thee?

Friday, December 14, 2012

connecting the dots

massacre of children in Connecticut today
typhoon Pablo devastate parts of Davao
no more coconuts, bananas
mountain boulders descend into town
relief work
appeals for donation
melting of ice in Greenland
need for gun control
drones continue to bomb Pakistan border
 Israel and Palestine
extreme weather
king tides
Pacquiao knocked out
end of unemployment benefits
fiscal cliff debates
RH bill passed
Supreme Court and gay marriage
North Korea launch missile

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Notes from Pedagogies of Crossing/Jacqui Alexander

Every native of everywhere is a potential tourist. And every tourist is a native of somewhere. Every native would like a way out, every  native would like a rest. Every native would like a tour. But some natives, most natives in the world, cannot go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the realities of their lives. And they are too poor to live properly in the place where they live, which is the very place the tourist wants to go. So when the native sees you, the tourist, they envy you. They envy your own ability to leave your banality and boredom. They envy your ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for yourself. (Jamaica Kincaid).

Collectivized "envy" is not the same as individual "envy." When collectivized, envy can ask important questions about how banality comes to be made into a source of pleasure, about who manufactures it, and about what can be done to transform it. ...Without these understandings, we will be unable to map the lines between our own location - between where we are, what we see, and what we do. We would be left to render only incomplete, skewed accounts of history...We need to develop a similar urgency around relational curricular projects that put us in conversation, not domination, with a range of relational knowledges. There is something quite profound about not knowing, claiming not to know, or not gaining access to knowledge that enables us to know that we are not the sole (re)producers of our lives. But we would have to apprehend the loss that comes from not knowing and feel its absence in an immediate and palpable way in order to remake ourselves enough, so that our analysis might change. We have to learn to intuit the consequences of not knowing, to experience their effects in order to reverse some of the deeply embedded deposits on which imperial psyche rests - a psyche that still holds on to the idea of manifest destiny and the fiction of protection and safety from an enemy, who is either calculating on the borders outside or hovering on the margins within. We would love to visit the devastation of living segregated lives.
A new conceptual map with an implied pedagogy that requires:

  • painstaking labor of reenvisioning curriculum, which at the very least does not reside within national and disciplinary borders
    • which takes account of the broad tempos and movements of history, while paying close attention to historical specificity
    • which demystifies the fictitious boundaries between the academy and the community
      • a division that leaves community work to particular disciplines, and worse, to particular bodies
    • which brings self-conscious positionality to the knowledge we produce, the contradictory positions we occupy and the internal systems of rewards and privileges from those very positions
    • which pays close attention to the questions we bring inside the classroom as we instruct students in the delicate task of learning how to pose questions.
  • and yet we confront a major difficulty in reconciling desire with practice, of teaching a vision we have not fully lived, of moving inside and across the outlines of a map, with no guarantees.
  • Such work places a great demand on the imagination, on practice, on reconfiguring the relationship between practice and theory and on building solidarity with different communities, while remaining aware of the suspicion that academic knowledge bears.