Sunday, March 31, 2002

I think I'm just mostly overwhelmed. So much going on, so much to do, so much stuff, and all without any clear guiding principle.

Got back to Durham early this afternoon. Had a nice lunch and some time to spend with Rob before he had to go to work. But as soon as he left, I felt really stifled and depressed in my apartment. Outside, the day was grey, grey, grey and drizzly, oppressively non-committal. I fled my apartment with the excuse of finding Hazel Carby's Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist. Five bookstores, twenty books, two hundred dollars (plus two cds) later, I ended my buying spree successfully at the local Barnes & Noble. I don't know if I would have continued the rounds of bookstores in the area if I hadn't found Carby's book there. It's even more depressing that the only thing I know how to do to keep my feeling lost at bay is to buy stuff. At least used books are fairly cheap.

When I finally pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex this evening, I got a call from Rob on my phone. We had a little talk about things, and it made me feel better because I could talk to him about these confusing things.

I don't know. We'll see. My weekend in St. Louis with Joe was bittersweet. I enjoyed being around Joe again, but the whole weekend was permeated with this sense of loss, that no matter how close we still are as friends, we're not what we were.

Maybe tomorrow I can get around to writing about all the ideas, performances, talks, and stuff that I've been stuffing myself with. I feel like I don't even have time to process any of it.

      >> 7:49 PM

Thursday, March 28, 2002

3:35 pm, central time

quick note. still alive. very tired and sleep-deprived. visiting joe for weekend. lots of work to do. more later. magdalen hsu-li performance. aforementioned george lipsitz and blade 2. thesis work. stuff.

      >> 3:36 PM

Monday, March 25, 2002

Augh! Need! Food!

      >> 10:40 AM

Intense discussion of interracial intimacy in class last night. I never felt that it would be such a strongly emotional topic, even as I knew that race matters in so many complex ways. I am surprised that most people in the class feel that they can only love/date/marry someone of their own race because only with someone of their own race can they have that special "something," that special connection. I was a little disturbed that so many of the students repeatedly returned to this "undefinable something," this extra feeling they have with people of their own race, however that race might be defined (and our deadlocked discussions seem to hinge on non-intersecting arguments about what race is). Even the biracial black/Japanese woman felt that she could only "connect" with other black people in a way that suggests that race really is a function solely of black-and-white.

It would be interesting to go around the class and see where people identify their race and how. A question I would like to ask: What defines you as a (raced) person? (History of oppression, cultural ideals, behaviors, skin, etc.) And then to come up with a list of all the things that we have been dancing around in class discussions: what defines "blackness," for example, and how do various students identify themselves as black and others as not?

The question of interracial intimacy would really be one I'd address in one of my percolating papers-in-thought, tentatively titled, "The Politics of Erotic Communication." In such an exploration of how intimates can discuss sex and other difficult subjects, I would begin by charting out this continuum between the private space of intimate relationships -- the stay-in-your-bedroom situation -- and the public or political space of being visible to one's social circles. It's clear from the conversation we had in class that many people believe that political concerns -- especially being "true" to one's self/race -- strongly determine the possibilities of their erotic connections. But there was less talk about what constitutes or drives those erotic connections in the first place. And perhaps I can be a little more general in saying "intimate" instead of "erotic," since a close relationship on the level of lovers or partners need not be physical or sexual. But what is it that allows two people (or more?) to connect, to open up to each other, to be vulnerable yet safe? What are our expectations or demands of our partners? How do we imagine ourselves making a connection to a significant other?

I love this class so much, but I don't know if I could ever lead a class like it. How would I deal with the crying students? How could I validate the thoughts and feelings of people who have (in my mind) such fundamentally closed conceptions of being? I'm realizing so much that I am very much a meta-critical thinker -- I step back from making strong identity statements, trying to exist in that space between various declarations of who we are, what defines us, rather than in those spaces that pinpoint what we are.

But today's class should be interesting since the question the professor left with us was: Given that we are in "progressive" Chapel Hill, do we know more interracial couples or more same-sex couples? I guess I'll have a chance to out myself now. The suggestion in the question is interesting: is race more of a barrier than homosexuality in visibility? I would have to raise the point that many people might not realize that they see a same-sex couple in public. Or that same-sex couples might appear to be "merely" friends, especially if they are interracial?

      >> 9:11 AM

Sunday, March 24, 2002

I have such difficulty reading and staying awake in my apartment. Perhaps I should realize sooner rather than later that I need to pack up my stuff and go work in the library.

At some point, I want to write a little about the George Lipsitz talk I went to on Friday afternoon and Blade II which I saw last night. But right now I'm pushing against a deadline to read 200 pages by 4:30 pm. (Class at 5 pm.)

      >> 12:21 PM

Saturday, March 23, 2002

Something Joe mentioned to me this past week via e-mail is making me think about this blog's space of communication. Joe sent me a nice e-mail after one of my boo-hoo/lonely posts to give me an e-hug and tell me not to be sad and lonely. But he mentioned that when he reads my blog, he feels that I am talking directly to him and that I know he's reading. I don't, though. I might have a site referrer log, but I don't feel that he's visiting my page and reading it. He might feel my presence through my page, but I don't feel his, neither when I write nor when he reads my posts later. The disjuncture, or non-connection, at the very site of communication (this page) is very interesting. It's not quite the same as the distance between writer and reader in a book or newspaper. And even the distance between people in a written letter or an e-mail is different because though I like that Joe is part of my "audience," I am not always writing specifically to him. This blog allows me to be freer about considering audience, in one respect. But that same freedom makes the space of connection between me and whoever's reading so much more ambiguous. [Participate.]

Eep. Back to trying to figure out if it's still possible for me to finish my thesis for this semester when progress made so far is still none. Deadline is April 10th, signed, stamped, and sealed by my advisor and second reader.

Random possible hip-academic talk title of the day: "E-Racing the Colored Body in Cyberspace."

      >> 2:53 PM

Friday, March 22, 2002

Sometimes just the simple pleasures. The coldness of the morning air as I step out of my car in the parking lot. The warmth of the bus as I ascend the steps. The whirr of the bus's ventilation system. My eyes closed, the darkness punctuated by the redness of sunlight seen through eyelids. The warmth of the sun on my face as, intermittently, the sun peeps out from around buildings. The gentle sound of voices, two women speaking in the seats in front of me. The engine of the bus straining to climb the hill.

      >> 9:05 AM

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Hmm. Late start today. Didn't do much but go to happy hour and then talked to E over dinner. She's really tired and just stressed out right now. I suggested she crash at my place instead of deal with the party at her place this evening (prospective students' weekend for the department, a dinner at her house). She was getting all ready to go to sleep on my couch, but then called her house and realized she has someone's luggage in her car, so she needed to go back.

It's odd to see the prospective students and then to talk to current students about them. There already seems to be so much sifting of social circles. Some first-year MA women are telling me who they like and don't like among the prospectives. And I'm not sure what their bases are for such judgments. I haven't really talked to many of the prospective students yet, though, so I haven't been able to make my own judgments. Maybe I'll talk to some of them tomorrow. I might crawl into bed now. Should prepare for class tomorrow first....

      >> 9:35 PM

Oh, and I really liked this part in his memoir when Yoshino was talking about the erotic, and he said that muscular men seemed too "armored" for him, that he liked his men slighter and shy. I feel the same way. ;) Does that mean that I like vulnerable people because I feel like I can protect them? Or dominate them? Hmmm....

I'm doing my laundry in my apartment complex's facilities right now. There are only four washers and four dryers. I think it's incredibly inconsiderate of someone to take up all four dryers, and then not to pick up the clothes promptly at the end of the cycle. In about five minutes, I'm going to go back to the laundry room and remove the clothes form the dryers so I can dry my clothes. I say over half an hour is plenty of time to allow for someone to pick up clothes from the dryer. Grrrrr.

(Hi Koi!)

      >> 8:50 AM

I <3 [Kenji Yoshino].

His talk yesterday was an excerpt from the first chapter of the book he's writing titled Covering. The excerpt was largely a memoir, the story of his coming to terms with his sexuality and thinking about how we deal with stimatized identities as individuals and as legal entities. He provides a three-staged (usually linear, but not necessarily one-way progressive) model of how gays and other stimatized people are forced to assimilate into a mainstream, straight white male norm: conversion, passing, and covering. In conversion, the gay person, for example, wishes/tries desperately to convert to a straight person. In passing, the gay person has reached some level of self-acceptance and is able to say her gayness to herself and possibly a few others, but she generally "passes" as a straight person in the world. Covering refers to the situation in which a gay person has become comfortable inhabiting her gayness, complete with stereotypical gay attributes (i.e. butchness), but in dealing with her workplace or her family reunion, for example, is asked explicitly or implicitly to "cover" her gayness by acting more "feminine," for example. All three stages require the gay person to make as invisible as possible (though with increasingly less intensity) her "gayness."

What I really like about Yoshino's theorization of how we manage our sexualities is that he seems to obviate the essential-constructed identity binarism. He even goes beyond dealing with sexuality necessarily as defining behaviors. Instead, he wants us (meaning mainstream society) to ask the question: why does it matter that a person is stereotypically "gay" in public? Of course, Yoshino is treading difficult ground because at times, his perspective seems very liberal and essentialist. But he also seems firmly grounded, if not always agreeing with, the ideas of queer radicals in the disarticulation of behaviors from identity -- he has a fairly rooted sense of anti-normativity. Rather than deal with that mess of trying to say one way of thinking homosexuality is better, more liberated, than another, though, he focuses (as a law professor) on the possibilities of reading sexuality through the law.

Yoshino engages the civil rights paradigm of equal protection as the extant model for dealing with discrimination cases. In this paradigm, the civil rights acts that dealt primarly with discrimination against racial minorities (with immutable characteristics) flowed into protection for women (again, immutable characteristics), and now is being tested by various other groups like gay rights activists for its ability to protect other stigmatized groups. Yoshino's most interesting case here is that rather than trying simply to apply the civil rights paradigm to sexuality discrimination, he tries to expand the workings of civil rights law to include sexuality while making it stronger, more nuanced, for racial minorities and women. The biggest offering he thinks gay rights can give to antidiscrimination law is an extension of the requirement that the stimatized group be rooted in a defining, immutable characteristic, to deal with cultural markers like the way we do our hair or the way we "act" against the codes of our gender. He's making an argument that antidiscrimination law, in effect, should protect not just people who "can't change" the way they are (a way of thinking that sneakily affirms the logic that there is something wrong with these people), but the very fact that we are all different and should not be excluded from jobs or promotions because we do not hide the evidence of our difference.

I'm also proud of myself for actually going up to talk to Yoshino at the reception afterwards. It helped that Rob gave me some space and time. He said he would wait for me outside and not to rush or anything. After some dawdling and circling around Yoshino like a predator, I leaped in when his satellites had dwindled in number to one. I told him that I loved his autobiographical perspective on his work and that I am in a similar situation of struggling to figure out whether a career in English literature or the law is more effective/fulfilling/or something. He gave me some reassuring advice, though, which was that he believes that a strong commitment to antidiscrimination will find its voice in many different fields. His work, for example, while stemming from legal concerns, has been moving increasingly away from the law. His book due out in late 2003 is going to be marketed to a general public. His memoir writing is highly poetic (beautiful). He also told me that people tend to romanticize the law for what it can do to change the world. A law school education, in his mind, was largely an education in the limits of what the law can do. His work seems to take these limitations as a starting point to argue that we need to move other concerns into what the law can deal with -- like arguing for the acceptance of cultural difference beyond immutability.

      >> 8:26 AM

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Talks galore today. Just went to one by Tom Boellstorff titled "Dubbing Culture: Gay Subjectivity and 'Globalization' in Postcolonial Indonesia." Very interesting cultural anthropology thinking about concepts of subjectivities, where they come from, how cultures bleed into/contort each other, and how mass media mediates and allows for the articulation of various subjectivities. I particularly liked Boellstorff's attempt to theorize Indonesian "gay" identity as a subject position through the metaphor of archipelagos. He argued that the metaphor of the archipelago had strong resonances in Indonesian nation-state discourse and historical maritime considerations. Unlike the closet metaphor so prevalent in our (American/Western) understanding of homosexuality, the archipelago metaphor allows for the simultaenous articulation of same-sex desire/behavior and traditional heteronormative social structures. In other words, "gay" men in Indonesia are both "gay" (and presumably sexually active) and married to women openly. I think Boellstorff's work is very interesting in thinking about the "gay" subject position as constituted outside Western societies where it has been theorized as such. But, as with contemporary anthropology in general, I think he is also far too wary of passing judgment or evaluating the effects of his observations of other societies in a way that seems to valorize behaviors and subjectivities that are constraining. Or maybe I'm just being judgmental, thinking that such an Indonesian "gay" subject position is particularly misogynistic, limiting the woman in the equation to the role of "wife." (In my mind, it's more than just the whole red herring of "false consciousness" of gay men who marry to remain in the social fabric as it is constituted in heterosexual nuclear families.)

His discussion of "dubbing" was very interesting, too. He looks at national language-policy, the way the Indonesian state, in an effort to reinforce a national language on an archipelago in which hundreds of local languages proliferate, deals with imported movies. At first, the Indonesian state tried to dub all movies (have Indonesian-speaking actors recreate the dialogue) so that the Indonesian people will have greater exposure to the national language. But then all of a sudden, the state decided that doing so would confuse the cultural underpinnings of their people. In this logic, the Indonesian people would see an American movie with Hollywood stars speaking (dubbed) in Indonesian, thereby absorbing the cultural logics of America through a confusion of language and culture. Instead, then, the state decided that all foreign movies must be subtitled, with the original language left intact. In this way, the movies would always carry the mark of difference. Boellstorff, however, wants to use the metaphor of dubbing to describe the process by which Indonesian gays take up the language and ideology of "gay" without exactly replicating it. The dubbing, then, marks the disjuncture between the talking images and the sound of the dialogue. It exists with seams up front. Or something like that.

Later tonight, Kenji Yoshino will give a talk titled "Covering: An Assault on Assimilation." I wish people would send out announcements of these things further in advance. I didn't hear about Yoshino's talk until this morning. Grrr. I had planned on doing a lot of work tonight, but now I must go to his talk, so that means I only have a couple hours to do work tonight instead of five or six. :\

      >> 3:28 PM

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Whee! Receptions are fun. The merlot was exceptionally good tonight. The chocolate mousse was yummy as always. The cheese was okay. The port wine was a little too sweet for my taste. Mmm, though..... Free food! The Tobias Wolff reading was entertaining. Wolff has a very dry wit. He read from a novel-in-progress, a first-person narrative of school life. The narrator is a young man who aspires to be a writer. Wolff is a very literary writer, a writer's writer, one who infuses his work with references to other writers, both past and present. It can be very fun stuff.

      >> 9:42 PM

Augh! The library web page has a [new] design/layout! Now I'm all confused....

      >> 1:24 PM

Tonight after my class I will be going to a reading by [Tobias Wolff]. I've only read one really short story by him titled "Say Yes." I didn't understand it. But from the description in the article announcment of his public reading, it sounds like Wolff, like Thomas Wolfe, is strongly an autobiographical writer. I hadn't realized that overt autobiographical-ness (I love making up words) was such a strong strain of fictional writing. Wolff is famous, though, for his memoirs, which as autobiograhical narratives are more upfront about being about his life. I just think autobiographical fictional writing is so great for thinking about fiction as the documenting / narrating of personal experience. But also interesting is to think beyond this commmonplace / common-sense understanding of the impulse to write fiction. What else inspires writers? "Beauty" as an abstract, perhaps. But also social change, political awareness, philosophical determinations of self-hood.

Last night I felt like I was being licked to death, in a good way. Looking down at the sink while shaving this morning, I noticed that there was an extra toothbrush in the toothbrush holder. Hmmmm.

      >> 1:22 PM

"I like it [marching] because it's a people's thing. It's not an individual thing. It's all the things that people do together that gives you strength." -- Yuri Kochiyama in ["The Last Revolutionary"] (via Philo @ [eastwest])

      >> 11:26 AM

Monday, March 18, 2002

Whew! My eyes are blurry from reading all day. Started off early this morning teaching a class while being observed by a fellow teacher for our once-a-semester required evaluations. I'll talk to her on Wednesday about my performance. I had no concrete lesson plans for the class and felt like I fumbled through my words while my students stared at me alternately quizzically and sleepily. Then it was a marathon five-hour reading session of Charles Johnson's Oxherding Tale with an hour break to write a response and have lunch. Keeping busy can feel good. But I only have so much energy to work at this feverish pace. Since six o'clock this evening, I've just been vegging out. Soon I will have to return to the books, picking up the very hard-to-get-through The Wings of the Dove by Henry James. Talked to some other students in the class for which I'm reading the James novel and found that I am not the only one having a hard time concentrating on the book. It's very engaging in its obsessive exploration of consciousness in all its digressive and halting constructions of ideas, but difficult to follow because of its digressions and endless parenthetical asides.

      >> 8:22 PM

Sunday, March 17, 2002

I've been feeling incredibly lonely/depressed when I've been alone in my apartment this past week. It's really horrible. I think I'm going to go out to dinner. I don't know why I'm feeling this way. Just got back home earlier this afternoon from my vacation to Asheville. Spent the next five hours reading and writing a response paper (one-and-a-half hours late -- an improvement over the seven hours late response paper earlier in the semester). Maybe I'm feeling all awful because I've been realizing this week how much work I have to do and how much I haven't done, especially during all the free time I had during break. It's back to school tomorrow. I get to start off the week at 8 am teaching (no lesson plans) where I'll be observed by the peer review committee. :(

      >> 6:30 PM

Did you know that
is its own mirror image?

      >> 6:09 PM

Saturday, March 16, 2002

Spent today hiking and climbing the mountains at [Chimney Rock Park]. There's a cool little rock jutting out at the park with a flag on it. It's got a great view of the surrounding mountains and the valley below. The walking was very tiring, but worth it! I've not climbed so many steps in ages. We walked up about five hundred feet or something. Before we got to the park, we stopped at the [Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site] in downtown Asheville where Wolfe grew up. The house, unfortunately, was closed due to a recent fire. But at the visitor's center, I bought some Wolfe books (don't really know anything about him) and saw a film about him. He's apparently a very "autobiographical" writer. His books are thinly veiled retellings of his life. I'm going to try to read his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel this summer.

Yesterday was a visit to the [Biltmore Estate] in Asheville. Large mansion, huge grounds, lots of gardens (unfortunately not much in bloom). Then, we drove around [UNC Asheville] (has a beautiful view of downtown Asheville nestled in the mountains) and up a big mountain along curvy roads. Afterwards, we went shopping at a mall before returning to the hotel to collapse.

We arrived here on Thursday and spent the evening in downtown Asheville. It's a great little city surrounded by mountains. It's very walkable and has some nice little restaurants and stores, though non-food stores closed early (by 6, mostly) -- probably because it's a tourist off-season. I did get to eat at this vegetarian restaurant [The Laughing Seed Cafe] and stop by [Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe].

Dinner in about an hour and perhaps wandering around downtown again.

      >> 7:11 PM

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Trying to pull my stuff together for the trip to [Asheville, North Carolina]. (Look, Residence Committee! I'm taking a vacation in North Carolina!) Estimated Time of Departure at 10 am is now looking more like 10:30 or 11. And I'm lugging my computer and work with me. Grrr. Five days and I got nothing done. I suck.

Well, toodles. Five-hour drive to unwind with today. Mountain scenery at the end.

      >> 8:27 AM

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

[Heh.] A sort of parallelism.

      >> 12:23 PM

I hate being sick sooooo much. So I have a strep infection now. Woke up with a wicked sore throat after yesterday's feeling that my throat was mildly swollen. I get to be on a course of antibiotics now. Whee.

      >> 11:37 AM

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

No one I know is on AIM. :(

      >> 3:26 PM

And why is Blogger giving me an "Error 104:java.lang.NullPointerException (server:leap)" error message?

      >> 3:26 PM

Made myself some hot chocolate and grabbed a few Petit Ecolier (Little Schoolboy) cookies. Trying to dispel the gloom in my apartment. Barbra Streisand's Back to Broadway album providing some warm ambiance and the halogen lamp feebly trying to brighten the study. Why am I in such a funk?

      >> 3:22 PM

Of course I still think about Joe all the time.

I really need to sit down and just do work. But it's gloomy and drizzly outside and I just feel all disaffected and stuff. I'm staring at the list of things I need to do and it's overwhelming. I don't know how to begin. I can't even sit down and just read.

I did get to talk with Joe on the phone for over an hour, though. (I hope my phone bill isn't outrageous this month.) I'm glad that we're still close and can talk about things, but I'm afraid it might be hard on both of us sometimes. I don't know. Relationships are always hard, even after they technically end. I say we should just live in networks of free love and affection.

I saw Once and Again on TV last night. It's not a show I usually watch. But all of a sudden there was this gay storyline. And one of the daughters is having feelings for another girl! There was even a girl-girl kissing scene at the end. It was very moving. I thought it was great that the show is dealing with a "liberal" mom who is okay with gays, but suddenly has all these anxieties when she thinks her daughter (not the one who ends up kissing another girl) might be a lesbian. And of course it points to all this stuff around family and relations and how we build expectations and stuff on each other.

      >> 1:59 PM

Monday, March 11, 2002

Dinner with Jerma tonight. Fascinating conversation as always. She's given me a new idea about a possible dissertation. I started talking to her about my idea of how I want to approach my graduate studies research (and dissertation). I am thinking about reading fiction that consciously employs various theorizations of race, racial identity, racialism, and racism. I want to deal very specifically with the form of fiction as a vehicle for addressing ideas as well as its use of "theory" as a mode of discourse. Talking with Jerma, though, I came to think more about the whole question of form and disciplines. She is interested in autobiography as it appears in anthropology, history, and other discplines as a way of understanding and relating experience. My new dissertation idea, then, is to link my research interests in fiction/novels that interrogate race through various theoretical lenses to the disciplinary structure of institutional knowledge projects. This, of course, is in line with my interest in the divisions between knowledge projects and the kinds of questions different scholars ask in their work. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few works of fiction that consciously (by this, I mean engage explicitly and formally) deal with particular disciplinary methodologies. Erna Brodber's Louisiana, for example, is a narrative structured around an anthropological/oral history project. So is Karen Tei Yamashita's Brazil-Maru. Lawrence Chua's Gold by the Inch is indebted to the theorizations of economies and culture by people like Theodor Adorno. There are also many examples of novels that take up the form of autobiographical narratives, like Ernest Gaines's The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Mark Danielewicz's The House of Leaves provocatively employed the structure of an academic case study paper framed by a reader's response.

In any case, I'm thinking the question I want to ask and explore in an extensive study is how fiction functions as a vehicle for conveying/interrogating ideas. Why do these writers -- sometimes scholars in the academy -- turn to fiction to work out their ideas? I will probably want to explore the audiences of these books, the publishing histories and circumstances, the rationales behind their composition, and other things.

      >> 8:25 PM

Sunday, March 10, 2002

After Rob left and I fell asleep (again) last night, I got up to watch [Johnny Mnemonic] around midnight. And it wasn't such a bad movie as I'd heard. It's classic William Gibson (based on his short story and he also wrote the screenplay) with all his neuroses about technology, Asians, and information. But even if I don't like how he sees the path of technological development and the relationship we humans might develop or are developing to machines, it's great to see how much he condenses into his stories. As with much sci-fi stuff, Gibson casts the battle over information and technology into the hands of an elite, somewhat-inscrutable and technologically-adept Asian world (Japanese and Chinese players battle it out in this movie). But as usual the "main" characters -- the heroes -- are white (and maybe black) in America. Although it might be interesting to think about Keanu Reeves as a biracial character in the difficult position of the courier, the literal link between worlds of information and people. Ummm. Yeah. It was interesting.

The religious elements seemed intriguing, too. At one point, the Ice-T character (leader of "low techs") says that the Dolph Lundgren character (a street preacher hired assassin) confuses God with technology. And that seems to be how Gibson worries about technology. But I was thinking in particular of the multiple images of crosses in the movie and the odd way in which placed in a Chinese context, the cross is also the word "ten." And so this coincidence led me to think about writing, ciphers, images, and the representation of information that is also beneath the surface of Gibson's anxieties about technology. Johnny is a "wet-wired" courier, a human with a brain implant for storing information. It would've been amazing if Gibson had pushed that tension between brain-computer to explore how the two might interact, the idea of electronic data and memories, rather than simply pitting the two as mutually exclusive and destructive. (The data overload in Johnny's implant seeps into his brain and threatens his life.) I'm trying to figure out the ghost-in-the-machine woman, too, and how her presence messes with the idea of life, memory, and identity.

      >> 10:32 AM

Saturday, March 09, 2002

I'm trying to figure out why this process of trying to obtain residency for tuition purposes has been such a thorn in my side. Given that for all intents and purposes, gaining residency makes no real difference in my financial status -- the Graduate School pays my tuition and a stipend for my teaching -- why am I bothered so much by my rejections?

I took a drive to Virginia this afternoon. (Hi Joe! Hi [Peter]!) I was feeling claustrophobic, or perhaps alienated. I had an e-mail exchange with [bj] earlier today that left me feeling uneasy because he pointed out that I am perhaps being prejudiced against UNC as a Southern institution. And I must say that although I don't consider myself a "Northerner" either, I am largely skeptical of people's motives when they declare that they are "Southerners" or want to preserve the "legacy" of the South. I hopped in my car, leaving Rob sleeping in bed, and headed north on I-85, driving for a little over an hour to get across the North Carolina-Virginia border. I exited at the first available Virginia stop, got something to drink, walked around on non-North Carolina soil, and then headed back home. I listened to [Holcombe Waller] on the way up and [Sam Harris] on the way back while thinking, thinking, thinking. I don't know if I came to any conclusions, but I might begin to parse the situation, psychoanalyze my anxieties, reconstruct a teleology for the residency process.

To begin, I know that the repeated rejections of the Residence Status Committee, their refusals to classify me as a resident for tuition purposes, make me feel like I don't belong here. And while there is a clause somewhere in the law that explains classification as a non-resident for tuition purposes doesn't mean that one is not a "resident" of North Carolina per se, I still can't help feeling that in essence, the Committee is labelling me as an outsider -- or more than that, as someone who doesn't belong. This feeling is especially odd because I've long thought of myself as someone who doesn't mind not belonging, who doesn't mind being cast as an outsider. But for some reason, I really do feel that North Carolina is my home (if not here, where else?), and the Committee's claims that I do not meet the requirements for showing that this place is my legal residence leave me feeling frighteningly homeless. As much as I feel that I am putting significance where it does not belong, I can't help but see in this situation the complexities of our political and legal institutions in the workings of constructing the body politic.

So perhaps my thinking about home, belonging, physical location, and identity are not as foolproof as I thought. These are issues, of course, that have particular valences for me as an Asian American and as a queer. The story of Asian American consciousness has always been about displacement, identifications with/against homelands, negotiations of polarized cultures, and the problems of belonging and acceptance that come with the disjunction between races and cultures. Within Asian American literature, there is a genre of fiction that has been concerned primarily with the difficulties of second generation Asian Americans (like me) in finding a place in this country. And the story of gay people has always been about a fraught relationship with the home. In the usual story of growing up gay and coming to terms with one's sexuality in the context of a heteronormative family (and society), the gay youth invariably struggles with understanding home as the site of primary identification and as the site of the most profound anxieties about life.

I wish I could say more, but these thoughts are all a jumble. I feel like this situation also troubles my sense of how laws and legal bodies serve to construct particular communities that replicate privileged groups rather than expand communities by encouraging dialogue. The Committee, in other words, seems to me to be policing the boundaries of what constitutes a true North Carolinian. And truly, if I were to live here for the rest of my life, I don't know if I would fit their definition of someone who will proclaim this state as my love and my life. I'm thinking of how Russell Leong in the introduction to the volume of essays Asian American Sexualities ends by writing, "We become what we call ourselves." And this assertion seems to me to fold my concerns back into questions of identity. Because I am not comfortable making easy assertions of identity (I am a North Carolinian), I feel like I am being rejected as a person. But I don't understand the logic that identity inheres in location or race or sexuality. Rather, I think these concepts are ways of describing identities and that a person's identities (never singular) reside in the spaces between people, in interactions, rather than in some fixed essence.

      >> 10:16 PM

I need to avoid having too much coffee. Yesterday I had four cups (in addition to two cups of tea) at the various cafes and eating places I hung out at with my friend E. By early evening, I was lethargic beyond control. I napped in the evening, got up for a couple of hours, napped a few more, realized it was 2 am, and went to bed. And I've only really just gotten up now, although I had a yummy breakfast in bed (bagel egg and cheese) courtesy of Rob and some morning cartoons and other fun before dozing off again.

Now it's back to the books. Just made a quick list of all the stuff I need to do over break. Of course it's an impossible list. But as long as I can start making a dent in it, I'll survive. I'm going to tackle Henry James's The Wings of the Dove now.

      >> 11:28 AM

Friday, March 08, 2002

It's spring break! Yay! Thesis writing time. Catch-up-on-reading-for-classes time. Catch-up-on-grading time.

Last night at dinner, the [Judy Shepard] talk came up. Neither C nor K had made it. They asked me how it was. I brought up my concerns with the idea of compassion as a motivating force for social change, my concerns with pity and sorrow as the language of a discourse around acceptance (of homosexuality). I wish I could be more articulate about how strange it all seems to me. But it reminds me of one of [The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force] publications, [Calculated Compassion], and its analysis of the language of family-values compassion in the ex-gay movement in the late 1990s. There's just something very sinister about the play on emotions and family ties, the idea that there is a normal way of relating/feeling about family that obviates further thought or discourse. And yet, I'm not sure I want to rely wholly on rational discourse for understanding. So I'm left thinking there must be some way to bring the two to bear on each other. I think Wahneema Lubiano has done some work on theorizing the role of affect in political and social discourse. She's given a talk on the September 11th attacks and their coverage in the media with an inundation of tears and families. I wish I'd gotten around to hearing her talk about it.

      >> 4:47 PM

Joe sent me an e-mail today asking why I don't write about him here anymore. It's just odd because I don't know what I would say. He's sad and lonely. We talked on the phone last night, and he finally volunteered that he is having a hard time with thinking about me and Rob together. Before last night, he would call me and say he's lonely and sad, but he would insist that he was happy for me and Rob. So. I know it's really difficult. I don't know how I would feel if the situation were reversed and he were seeing someone new while I was without. It's all very strange, though, because I really had the sense that Joe was completely getting over "us" and feeling optimistic about his new home and his new life (career, colleagues, etc.). I know it must be lonely to start over in a new place without old friends. But he does at least have one close friend from graduate school. Ummmm. That's about it. I really wish Joe wouldn't feel sad and lonely. I really do want us to remain close friends. And I don't see my seeing someone as jeopardizing that friendship. Joe said that the me-and-Rob thing made him feel like our relationship was really over, not that he was really thinking he wanted to get back together with me. He feels like he's been "replaced." And he has, in a way, but it doesn't mean that he's out of my life as a result.

In other news, I was denied residency for tuition purposes again by the Residence Status Committee here. I guess they saw through my assertions that I am indeed intent upon staying in the area. It's not totally a lie, though. I could conceive of my future here if in fact I finish my PhD at UNC and either UNC or Duke or perhaps one of the other universities in the area offered me a tenured teaching position. In any case, I'm going to appeal the decision again. I think it's crap that they put graduate students through this "test" of Carolinian-ness. It's such an exclusionist idea of community and a person's relation to a geographical location. What I hate about their method of determining residency status is that they claim to rely on a "preponderance" of evidence such as car registration in NC, driver's license registration in the state, length of stay in the state, etc. -- all things I have shown -- but for some reason they continue to deny me residency. What else can I do to show a preponderance of evidence? The only things on their list that I don't show are things I can't show or won't be able to until I get a job -- things like show that my parents are from NC (they are not) or that I own property in the state (and just where am I going to get the money to buy a house as a graduate student?).

      >> 4:14 PM

Yesterday I spent a beautiful day with Rob. Then I went to a talk by documentary filmmaker Charlene Gilbert who presented her work-in-progress, the Henrietta Lacks Project. She showed three clips from the film that is part of that project. It's a very interesting idea. Through the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who died in 1951 and from whom the immortal cell line called HeLa came, Gilbert interrogates ideas of ownership in the body as well as informed consent in medical and scientific research practices.

The first part of the project is an installation piece documenting the history of J. Marion Sims's use of African slave women for medical research. American medical historians consider Sims an important founding father of gynecological and medical practice in general. In the nineteenth century, he operated on slave women who had vaginal tears. He didn't use anesthesia or other methods of controlling pain because he believed African women had higher tolerance for pain and were essentially not "human." Gilbert's purpose in this first section, then, is to recover this often-unmentioned history of racial bias in the development of gynecological science.

The second section is the experimental film on Henrietta Lacks's story and the HeLa cells. It traces broadly three themes: the history of Lacks's cancer, treatment, and subsequent "immortalization" in the perpetual HeLa cell line; the uses and problems of HeLa cells, including its reputation as a "contamination" to research; and the bioethics of medical research and the bodies on which this research relies (often without the persons' knowledge).

The third is a web site dedicated to tracking all patents for genes. The purpose is to bear witness to the continued efforts of pharmacuetical companies to patent genetic code, a practice often associated with the attempt to corner the market (and hence profits) on particular research. Gilbert's hope is that eventually this continually-updated site will cease to be updated with the reformation of current patent law.

I like Gilbert's project and the way she is consciously trying to deal with problems of racialized bodies. But sometimes I wondered if she was really making any significant statements about how race operates in the (supposedly race-neutral) scientific community. I want to think about her ideas more, but don't have time now.

After the talk I had dinner with C and her partner K. It was a great dinner with great conversation. We talked about coming out, being open in Durham, relationships, meeting people, etc. They're great fun.

      >> 11:19 AM

Thursday, March 07, 2002

I have a hard time considering myself a person of a particular state. Or even of this country, necessarily. So my appeal hearing on Monday for residency for tuition purposes was so odd. At the hearing, I had to face questions from a committee of three persons about my intent to make North Carolina my domicile indefinitely. While I can readily acknowledge that I am a resident of this state, that I pay my taxes here, have all my personal property here, live here physically, etc., I am unwilling to (or at least wary) make the assertion that I consider myself a North Carolinian. In some ways, my concern is with defining myself against the background of what North Carolinians define as a North Carolinian. And I just feel like I don't fit that description. My family is (obviously) not from the area. I am not a born-and-bred kinda guy at all. I don't have a patriotic feeling about this state or my school (especially in relation to the sports teams). I especially do not consider myself a North Carolinian in order to insist that others are not. I just can't stand that move to define a community exclusively. And I get that feeling a lot here. It might be a Southern thing. It might be a North Carolina thing. But there's this way that outsiders, non-natives of this state, are always and automatically and foremost aliens, interlopers in the region. I hate that.

(I don't know if I would even consider myself a [Californian], though I grew up there.)

      >> 3:56 PM

It was Rob's birthday yesterday, and we had dinner with his mom and her partner (they're not technically married). Afterwards, I took him out to the movies and we saw [40 Days and 40 Nights]. It was a very silly movie. I did like the way it didn't come down against sex as an element of relationships, though, or at least of the beginnings of relationships. Because even though the guy who gives up sex for Lent ends up meeting an incredible woman but can't sleep with her (or kiss her or touch her), he also doesn't end up with her just because he has stayed away from sex for so long. I think. Whatever. It was a remarkably open sexual comedy, one that didn't end up with prescriptions of appropriate sexual involvement in "serious" relationships.

Yesterday was also a talky day. I went to one by Crystal Feimster who talked about "Ladies Who Lynch." Her project is very interesting because she's looking at women's involvement in lynchings, both black and white women, both victims and participants. She's exploring the complicated ways in which women fell prey to as well as used lynch law to define their positions in the racial order of America in the early twentieth century. And then I went to a talk by John Plotz who talked about "The Social Life of Victorian Things." I couldn't follow the talk very well because I have very little knowledge of the period's central issues or the texts he discussed. But I think he was dealing with the tension between the sentimental value of portable property and the economic value (fungibility) of things. Afterwards I was talking to my friend about his talk, and she really didn't agree with his perspective on this tension. She believed that the Victorian novelists and writers were highly concerned with the takeover of the sentimental or personal world by the economic or public world.


      >> 3:47 PM

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Oh. My. God. I have to get [Giles's new album]!

      >> 9:14 AM

Monday, March 04, 2002

Need salt, the chicken quesadillas I just ate do. Had some moments this weekend of excruciating pain when the large doses of ibuprofen wore off. Apparently, my back is not really doing any better. The pain killer is just making me feel like it's all better. Oh well. I guess I'll keep taking the medicine and work on getting rid of this cough. Poor spasming back. I feel like I slept all weekend. I guess I had sort-of wacky hours after getting up early Friday morning to prepare for teaching and staying up late after the show. At least I got to spend a lot of time with Rob so I wasn't alone.

Have my appeal hearing for classification as a resident of North Carolina for tuition purposes. The school here (according to state law) has these draconian measures to prevent non-natives from being classified as residents for the substantially cheaper tuition rates. While I understand the purpose behind the law (making sure North Carolina's youth get a higher education), I think it's insane how they pretend to allow everyone to establish residency after a year when in actuality you have to proclaim yourself a true-blue Tar Heel or something in order to get it. And I'm just not going to do that. I know it's all a performance anyways, and that it's the act of saying something, of proclaiming North Carolina as my home, that they want to hear. And I'm ready to do that because if this is not my home, where is? But I'm not ready to say I'll die for this state, that it's the best state in the country, that I hate all outsiders, etc. Maybe I'm being silly thinking that they are wanting to hear me say those things, but then why did not reject my initial application? I meet almost all of the statutory requirements for determining residence. And I just need a "preponderance" of evidence. If I don't have that, then I don't see how I could ever achieve residence status because I wasn't originally from here. Anyways. It's all just stupid. I know someone who's lived here for six years, and the committee continues to deny her residency status. I think that as graduate students, we should have different criteria for residency anyways. And the fact that we English graduate students do practically all of the teaching for the university's writing program should count for something!

      >> 12:49 PM

Sunday, March 03, 2002


      >> 1:24 PM

Saturday, March 02, 2002

Needing to do some work. Lambchop show last night (with Portastatic and another group opening) was awesome. I've never been to such an intimate live performance before. Shows I've seen live have been concert-arena ones (excepting the ever glorious [Holcombe Waller]). It's great being able to see the musicians, their facial expressions, etc.

Rob ditched work to spend the night with me. But his stomach was upset so he ended up going back out and taking care of some things at home and on the phone. It's nice to spend time with him, but I feel like I'm such a bad influence on him (and he on me). He skipped out on an exam for his math class this past Tuesday (watched Buffy with me instead) -- although there were other reasons for what he did. We watched [Queen of the Damned] earlier this afternoon. (It wasn't nearly as fun as I thought it would be. Much too saccharine in its investment in "family lines" and "humanity." But at least it really explored those ideas in vampire mythology...) And afterwards, I forced myself to part with him so I could do some reading. We might try to grab some dinner together later, though. That being said, it's off to the books for me.

      >> 4:03 PM

Friday, March 01, 2002

Yesterday was a full day after a slow start. Getting to campus in the early afternoon for a coordinating group meeting (teaching fellows get together to discuss teaching issues), I settled down after to get some work done. Instead, I putzed around and looked on the web, realizing forty-five minutes before the scheduled start of the talk that [Janet Halley] was in fact speaking at Duke that afternoon instead of on Friday. I rushed back to Durham from Chapel Hill and made it in time not to miss the start of her talk. And it was worth it! For the next hour and a half, she went through an analysis of sex/sexual/sexuality harrassment, discussing how a sexual-subordination strain of feminism has structured the laws around employment harrassment. Then, she went on to critique such a model for its inability to deal with same-sex harrassment as well as problems of evidence in determining harrassment. She discussed a gay identity model and a queer theoretical model as alternate ways of approaching harrassment based on sex/gender/sexuality. Best of all, she was adamant about avoiding a convergence theory of dealing with sex/sexual/sexuality harrassment. Instead, she strove to understand how the various situations require different analytics and evidentiary claims. The talk was more like a "class" than these kinds of talks usually are. I felt like I learned a lot about how the law approaches sex/sexual/sexuality harrassment.

After the talk, I went to the reception and had free yummy food. My friend C was there so I didn't feel so awkward standing around alone. I spent a fair amount of time talking to a professor of mine. She's so incredibly friendly and makes me feel like I have something to say. We talked about her class and some of her work. I also got in touch with this friend of C's, another law professor, and we are going to try to get together later to chat. It's just great to go to these talks and see the same people. I finally am feeling like I know some people around here.

Of course, by the time I left the reception, it was late and I didn't feel like doing work. So, I headed out to grab some coffee and say hello to E. I called up M, the guy I went to college with, and met up with him for coffee. We chatted for an hour and a half. It was very nice. He's a fun guy.

All the while, my cough was not getting any better and I was developing this pain in my back. Not good.

I talked to R on the phone when I finally got home. Then I fell asleep on the couch.

I woke up this morning itchy all over. The pain in my back was much worse. I decided to go to the clinic again after teaching. The doctor ordered x-rays; she found nothing. It seems like the pain is probably related to my cough -- a musculoskeletal inflammation due to persistent coughing these last three weeks. The doctor prescribed me an anti-inflammatory pain-killer and sent me on my way. I think the pain has been dulled since this morning, but it's not gone away. Argh.

In half-an-hour I'm off to a talk by Gautam Premnath about Frantz Fanon and the move in postcolonial theory towards a diasporic/liberationist theory.

R finally got a cell phone today, and I got to talk to him on his "new toy." We're going to try to meet up for dinner this evening. Then I'm off to the [Lambchop] show at [Cat's Cradle] with E.

      >> 1:34 PM