Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On why I have not worked on my book revision in about a month

StraightMan and I share the responsibilities of Beanie's and Bubbie's drop-off's and pick-up's at their respective schools. I think it is important to talk with their teachers and the other kiddos and their parents. Also, I just like holding their little hands and walking with them, hearing their little thoughts. Beanie asks questions like why "tissue" can be something you blow your nose with or what your body is made of - I have no answer. Bubbie seems to notice every crack, twig, and drop of water on the pavement.

This morning, I dropped off Bubbie at nursery school, where he seems to be thriving.

When I say "dropped off," I mean that I walked him there, leaving the house about 20 minutes before 9am, after feeding him a "second" breakfast as he hardly ate his first, which StraightMan served around 6:45am, then bundling his reluctant little body in boots, sweatshirt, winter jacket, mittens, and hat after locating his favorite Matchbox car and packing it into his backpack. At nursery school, unbundling Bubbie, accompanying him into the classroom where we have a routine where I bumble at locating his name tag, then sit down and read a story book before I walk him to the table where a teacher is helping other children use scissors and glue sticks to create a craft that fits with the day's lesson, which was, most fittingly, adaptation. (Good luck with that, I think.)

When I arrived home after a micro-run - my almost-daily exercise, which I fit into my day because it requires dropping off a child at school, then returning home to eat breakfast and ready myself for the rest of the day - it was about 9:20am.

In other words, "dropping off" Bubbie is a multi-step process from door-to-door-to-door that requires at least 40 minutes.

I mention this because when I arrived at home, about eight hours later, I found on my desk, a photocopy of the first page of the Acknowledgements to Kay Anderson's 2008 book, Race and the Crisis of Humanism.

No, I have not read the book. StraightMan, aka LuckyHank, is on sabbatical: He has read it. He left me the page, noting that it reminded him of me: This is what counts as romance between two anthropologists married almost 14 years.

I doubt I am alone in sensing over the past 10 years the loss of a profession that once moved to a rhythm that fostered creative surges and pauses. This was a profession that felt alive to its own distinctive disposition - that winged immersion in ideas reigned in by the labour of composition. The challenges in producing this book have had less to do with the pressure of multiple relocations..., plus the arrival at an advanced age of a much-wanted but unexpected child. Mostly the experience has been an interior wrestle with an intensifying regime of academic production that seems increasingly hostile to sustained projects of the kind this one, in intellectual terms, has necessarily been. To be sure, the privileges of a writing profession remain (tenuously) intact. I am thinking of those riveting moments in the creative process when the parts appear to converge in a plot that drives and exceeds them. But, still, there is cause to highlight wherever possible the blindspots in an academic culture that increasingly measures 'output' as if it actually hails, machine-like, from the buried chambers of a mind divorced from all its embodied and circumstantial conditionings.

I might add that what can be said of scholarly writing can be said also of scholarly teaching.

1 comment:

  1. I did not read the book by Kay Anderson, _Race and the Crisis of Humanism_ although it seemed worth a read. I skimmed, copied the conclusion, and sent it back. I find that in today's higher-education world, taking a full-on sabbatical means you get about as much time as many academics used to have during a normal semester. No complaints, but I think that's realistic.