There are conditions for my presence here in this troubled space of possibilities. I ride into this ring on a horse made of debts. My mind is mortgaged, sectioned by the speculative economy, promised to five different banks and one Federal Government, divided and subdivided, securitized and resold. Somewhere a man is ordering offal. Foreclosure is a failure of the imagination. Poverty, if not yet, is always about to be. Precarity is a tinnitating torment, a financial tattoo.
One of my loans, originated by a now bankrupt company called My Rich Uncle, claimed to determine the interest rate based on academic potential through a program called PrePrime™, funded by a German bank. The bank used a proprietary algorithm to determine intellectual value. This is the loan that carries the highest rate, a bigger cliff than the rest. It has doubled in size. And I am there, singing a smart tune, a fool dancing at the edge with a little flower, a tiny dog nipping at my heels. My bottom line is a looming fiction of red ink and proliferating zeros. My ability to survive is directly related to my ability to materialize thought. I am forestalling crisis. Deferment is a weak tactic, but a necessary one. I’m trying not to let this house of promissory paper implode under the weight of external pressure. I’d rather burn it from the inside.
Better yet, I hope that the ground itself is moving. Movement portends an earthquake, tectonic tactics. In the wake of a disaster of the ‘real economy,’ the speculative economy of my mental activities might be freed from the burden of all this financial history. All this paper. All these fictions. I’d never make the same mistake twice. Of course, I can still wish for Jubilee, but I don’t hold my breath. We, the lost generation of debtors demand the right to bankruptcy! Or else, We Refuse To Pay! As it stands, we simply can’t.
The speculation I name is distinct from the speculation of philosophical detachment. Instead, it is wrought by real conditions in which the object called my mind is claimed by speculative capital. My resistance often feels like feeling more than it looks like action. Speculation is what would force me to take possession of my mind, to intensify my relationship to my mind beyond the point where it is clear what belongs to whom. My mind to me or me to my mind? What’s the difference anyway? I can never forget the body that aches, that grabs my mind at the root, pulls it down my spine, returning it to the ground, upside down, stood on its head––or––right way around again.
The body loves, even if the mind is slow to figure out the cost of proliferating zeros.
Instead of possessing my mind, I try to make and remake it without forgetting where I am from and without presuming where I am going. I carry my house on my back. I dig and dig an dig into the floor beneath, seeking a different geology and geography, one of shifting grounds and antipodean alliances. My dwelling is not a house of cards, but a tent, a collapsable shell, wind whipped, held down only by my laying weight. As I dream it onto the page, this tent not a dwelling at all, but a conveyance to other worlds.
My challenge, at least in this context, is to turn the foolishness of messianic hopes––the hope for a freedom to be bankrupted, to demon-etize work such that the art and joy of living and loving is enough, not just for me, but for all––into a different kind of (non)work.
A work of justice and imagination, a work of collaboration and transformation. I need this space as much as I want it. It is already here and yet to come. Each book in the stack is another contribution to a library of dreams: a vast hallucinatory apparatus made of paper and ink and imagination. Not enough, but sufficient to muddle through, good enough for now.
My readings are preludes and postscripts. Preludes to the worldly work to come, postscripts to eight years of trying to locate myself intellectually in and through urban studies, geography, anthropology, and sociology. (There was work before as well. And locations after.) Eight years of failing to locate myself definitively and seeking to make this failure a virtue. Nomadism, yes. But more queer than nomad; wandering with a weedy sensibility, taking root around, growing fast, moving on, returning in a season, or else when the ground is disturbed. I’m tough to get rid of! I move as a means to survive and strive. In movement I find multiple relationships (family friends–partners–lovers) which serve as loving landmarks in an otherwise harsh landscape. Response-ability to these lands is a longer term geographic and emotional struggle en route to becoming more fully political and ethical.
My readings are also smokescreens for the work I do everyday, work beyond and beholden to value. They are attempts at inhabiting texts; at finding, in texts, a habit. They are not final destinations. They are not conclusive statements. They are renderings, wrestings, and recapitulations.
Even though I have spent considerable time reading, I have spent a less considerable amount of time writing. I was distracted by doing, organizing, feeling like I was making space for something yet unknown. I was responding to the ‘fierce urgency of now.’ I needed those spaces and times to find the courage to share readings that I know are incomplete, inevitably imperfect, and, at times, in/appropriations of the work of others. They are a product and a process. A project of the univers(e/ity), that most complicated social location for particular kinds of imperfect dreams. That place for dreaming amidst real and ruined lives. Is it expanding or contracting? Either way, it is not yet a free space, it is not yet what it needs to be.
I suspect that I appear to be very comfortable with abstraction, or at least fond of it. And, while there is a fondness (a groundedness, fond) in abstraction, it is not on account of comfort. That ground is more about testing a limit, testing how uncomfortable I can remain. If I can make this discomfort a virtue. That is where I feel most ready to change. I am ready for new kinds of discomfort, new kinds of uprooting and overturning, new kinds of action, reading, writing, and doing.
But discomfort cuts both ways. It can be a high summer day with no air conditioning, a discomfort that makes you want to be suspended in the middle of a block of ice, no clothes to cloy the skin, every rhythm slowed down, barely a heartbeat. Comatose until the rush of fall, the Academic New Year (of the Horse), wakes you again. Or it can be the warm discomfort of a room where you know you belong, a room where your presence alone is a good indication of your willingness to let presuppositions die. “I don’t know who I am here and I’m going to fuck this up.” I never find it easy to know which rooms these are and I am never certain who will mistake my fallen body for another stone on the broken road.
I follow weeds (whether I write them or not) because they lead to disturbed grounds. They push through pavement. We work together. Borne on wind, dropped in shit, cast away from the intended crops, we land in places where we just may grow. No less striving for hoping to remain unnoticed. No less interior for needing to be recognized in our unfolding.
Mine is a history of unlikely alliances. Queer marriages stretching across oceans despite apparently irreconcilable differences. So, my writing is always in and through queerness as my lived specific, but generalizing, difference. Writing difference in a philosophical––conceptual, practical, political––mode is, for me, always already writing queerness, which is what brings me here in any case and in all actual cases.
My readings are also always ‘about queerness’ in some sense, if queerness is my wandering, my constant attempt at turning over old ground, never settling in one place for too long. I move even if I wish I never had to get out of bed, that soft paradise of immobilities, belonging to another time, the sweet oblivions of sleep. I never know for sure who I am, never know for sure whom I will encounter. What responsibilities will be born in that encounter? Such openness may be foolish, but I don’t care or I can’t help it or both. It is just this world. I find it necessary to start with love and deal later with the consequences.
Lately, my strategy has been too small or the world has felt too big. Love, the beginning, is stretched too thinly across oceans, enfleshed worlds stretched by late liberalism. These memories require enormous energy to stay afloat, to keep from sinking to a soft landing on the abyssal plains of the Ocean of Betweenness. A flight is lost at sea. I’ve killed so many dinosaurs back and forth back and forth back and forth. I cannot afford it, but there’s always credit. Symptom of my generation. Fake money supports emotional globalization. We put it to use creating different, better fictions. Our little G8 summits, just you and me, leaders of our free world. Autonomous states of feeling. Calling into being new collectives. Making new rituals. Taking care of her.
In some sense, these readings are personal, they are a live struggle, even as they are trying to avoid solipsism. They are part of a long attempt to be and become otherwise, to grow and die seasonally. They are uncertain in that I have never been sure if the academy is best for me, even if I have also never been sure that I can live without it. Intelligence is not enough at this point, survival needs more than intelligence. Thriving even more. Courage is hard to come by. These readings are not courageous enough for me, but they are a start.
Still, I’m ready for scrutiny. Please push. I know I don’t need to invite you to push, that is why I am here, dancing on the edge of the cliff. I’m ready! But it feels more honest if we name what we are doing and if we know what it is we are being invited to do. Especially when our positions are not equal and may never be, differentiated by age and titles, money and origin, sensibility and experience. Yet we are joined by the tender threads of shared interest and a commitment to knowledge and to each other, to a world ‘other than what?’ We do not know. To a world folded out of the that one we do. At least I think so. Maybe I should ask. Maybe I don’t yet know what binds us to each other other than these words and the room we’ll share to discuss them, the institution and its spaces, its archives and ways of knowing. In both moments, I deeply appreciate that what we are doing is an unfolding, a getting-to-know-you, full of excitements and unspoken joys, full of fears and strange mysteries, not without abundances and privations, oriented toward precarious and actual professionalization.
My readings are a place to start, again. They are a hinge between the thinking and the doing and the thinking again. They are a roll of the dice, an old game, a rare privilege, a necessary passage, a wrestling with giants, a glamorous flip of my hair on the edge of a broken heel, a handful of glitter thrown out a window on a grey winter day.
They are not finished but it is time to move on. To shuffle again.
Lefebvre, H. 2008 . Critique of Everyday Life: From Modernity to Modernism (Toward a Metaphilosophy of Daily Life). London, UK: Verso.