Why do I have three different copies of Homi Bhabha’s essay “Culture’s In Between”, all photocopied from different books? Apparently I forgot that I’d gotten the essay immediately after procuring it each time. I realized what I’d done when I read Akhil Gupta’s critique of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, “Imagined Nations”, in A Companion to the Anthropology of Politics (2004). Gupta mentions Bhabha’s essay, so I thought I’d take a peek and subsequently discovered just how shaky my memory is. Oh well.
Anyway, Gupta’s essay also mentions Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, a book I’d read when I was in high school. I didn’t understand it at all. I didn’t catch any of the stuff it was saying about nationalism, colonialism, and historical memory and instead mostly read it on the surface, as a story about a bunch of kids in India with supernatural powers. Dumb, huh?
(Why exactly was I reading Salman Rushdie? Well, at the time my family was living in an apartment building that had lots of university students. When someone moved out, it was kind of a tradition that they leave behind unwanted books in the laundry room, and hey presto, I had a new book to read.)
Well, Midnight’s Children is in the next room, so I can re-read it when I have a spare moment (namely, after I get my degree). It should be obvious from my blogging that I’ve mostly been consuming light fiction lately (e.g., comic books and the occasional episode of Battlestar Galactica), so Rushdie will have to wait. And as for improving my memory, I have EndNote now to keep me organized. Whee-ha, my life just keeps getting more exciting.
As in, the opposite of deja vu, it’s the feeling that something has never happened before. I was just reading Stuart Hall’s introduction to Questions of Cultural Identity when I got the feeling. The introductory chapter is actually rather central to my thesis because it’s here that Hall outlines his thinking on identification versus identity and I use his definition quite a lot. It’s been a few months since I’ve actually had to read the essay. I’ve just now read it again and I got the distinct feeling that I’d never read it before. There were entire parts that I didn’t remember at all. In fact, I may actually understand it better now. I must say, the critical distance afforded by time is helpful in getting the most out of a meaty essay, especially when the first time around I had to read that meaty essay on the quick because my proposal was due the next week. This is just like when I re-read Elizabeth Povinelli’s “Radical Worlds: The Anthropology of Incommensurability and Inconceivability” and could actually appreciate what it was saying.
Anyway, that is all. Please return to your regular lives.
What exactly does Bakhtin mean when he refers to “style,” and how is style different from genre in his thinking? I’m not entirely clear on it and it’s bugging me more and more. I’m going to have to do some more digging on the topic and maybe read the other essays in Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Still, Bakhtin’s got such an interesting-sounding name: Mikhail Mikhailovich BAAHK-TEEEHN. Or M.M. Bakhtin for short, also great-sounding.
And speaking of linguistics, I’ve discovered an unexpected benefit from having to ride the bus all the time — namely, that I get to eavesdrop on the conversations of the other riders, and consequently I get to listen to a lot more French-English codeswitching than I usually do. I just heard some intrasentential codeswitching, so I I guess I have to reject my original contention that such codeswitching doesn’t happen around here. I wish I could read on a moving vehicle without feeling like I need to vomit, otherwise I’d do more on the bus than daydreaming and surreptitiously scoping out the other people there.