Sunday, March 27, 2011
Recently, my loves, I have been very confused. I have been dwelving in post-colonialism and what it means to be colored and what it means to be post-colonial and what do we do as a society past this interaction between East and West and is separate but equal possible and what the hell is sovereignty?! All these paradigms and terminologies give me a headache! And yes. I meant dwelve. So don't try to underline 'dwelve' with a red squiggly line, ok? dwelve: verb 1. somewhere between delving and dwelling 2. fall head first into something while thinking and thinking on the topic until it tortures you 3. falling into a well and thinking so much as to how to stay afloat that is drowns you.
I was so confused, I did not know what to do. But when we are drowning, we call for help. I had nothing to lose so I went to James Early. Mr. Early, well to me he is one of those people you admire from a far and get all worked up to meet him that by the time you have enough courage to come up to him, he's out the door doing something fabulous and adventurous. Mr. Early is the Director of Cultural Heritage Policy at the Center of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution. I met him at one of the symposiums my boss Manjula Kumar and I run about Race and 21st Century America. Once when we were meeting before the symposium, he started out his sentence with "As a Marxist" and I knew he and I were going to get along. This man and I had an appointment to meet, but he had to cancel because he was to return the former president of Haiti who was exiled for 7 years Jean- Bertrand Aristide to from South Africa to Haiti. He was on that private plane! This is who I want my mentor to be. As you can see, I just admire this man. So finally we met.
For a good 30 minutes (as I always do) I ranted about my confusions: what are indigenous communities to us? What is culture? What is sovereignty? Who am I? Priyanka? Or Priyanka a post-colonial woman who will always in the eyes of a White man be this erotic object from the Orient? (Things I always complain about). All these words came rushing out. He just watched as my hands moved around fervently. I stopped. I was too exhausted.
And then he spoke. He told me the words we used are symbols in themselves. They are not reality. But we need to choose our words carefully so that we can express that reality, those feelings to someone else. We use words to describe a constantly changing reality. Culture is like reality. It is dynamic. History is important to look at. Yes understanding and studying history can help us understand reality, but I am not accountable for hundreds of years of history. He asked me about me. Who I was. How I describe myself. I told him that I was 19 and was Indian. He asked me if I was born there. I said no. I was born in Canada. He said you see? "I was born in the South of the United States but I often tell people I am African and stress this because I am compelled to. Just as you are compelled to talk of your Indian roots". He continued describing more things: But with the sexuality and Indian lineage and third world eroticism, ascribing it onto myself without acknowledging I was in this country and Canadian is shifting that of western citizenship reality in my eyes. He told me that culture is dynamic. It is true because my dad came to this country. Had post colonial attitudes stayed stagnant, he would not have this job. He said that reality is multi-vocal. He chuckled and said that was quite post-modernistic. I nervously laughed. Nervously because I was hesitant and worried that I have been worrying myself to death over nothing. He asked me to reflect. So I will. But what he said about words makes me think. Yes. I am trying to come to terms with words. Well may be I need to define my terms before I use them. If I can define anglocentric, then I think I can get closer to my reality.
How the world fascinates me so.
I am still dwelving.
But people like Mr. Early prevent me from drowning.
Until next Wednesday, Mr. Early.