What to expect

Time to rouse this blog from its slumbers . . .

On the off chance that anyone still comes ’round here, here are some things to look for within a week or two:

1) a post (or two, more likely) in which, pivoting off some things Margarita Zamora says in her fine book, Reading Columbus, I try to use Columbus as an exemplum for an argument that New World writing (as distinguished from “American” writing, and I haven’t forgotten about doing that . . . ) requires a rather different approach to reading it, one rooted in the dynamic of the Encounter itself. I have a pretty full post laying out those things over at Blog Meridian, so I’ll refer you over there if you want fuller explanations; but I can boil them down to these summaries: A reading of Columbus as a producer of New World texts before the fact (Roberto González Echevarría’s book Myth and Archive: A Theory of Latin American Literature will be useful here, too). All this is bound up in an idea I have about wanting to discuss the New World as a heterotopic space.

2) Also inspired by Zamora, and linking up as well with Benedict Anderson’s discussion in Imagined Communities about the necessity of a concept of “homogeneous, empty time” in order for a sense of nation-ness to emerge in a people: Something that in the dissertation I call a “search for a language,” one that fumbles toward articulating the experiencing of this heterotopic space. In the diss., I worked this out via a long reading of Cabeza de Vaca’s Naufragios, along with some brief excursions into other texts; the Zamora and Anderson will help buttress that. Also, based on what I’ve read thus far in Ilona Katzew’s Casta Painting, some discussions of the impulses behind their production may appear here, too.

3) Or, the material on casta paintings might get their own post as a follow-up to my earlier, initial post on these paintings.

Lots of irons in the fire, in other words–which is, you know, good.

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Initial response to “Miscegenation” post

[Update: some obvious errors corrected; some phrasing now (I hope) a little clearer]

I’m truly appreciative of the thoughtful, thorough, and challenging responses to my previous post. You have given me much to think about and re-think. I’ve been quiet on this end in part because of teaching duties but mostly because I needed some time to think through your comments and compare/contrast them to my own intentions and assumptions, examined and otherwise.

What’s meant here, then, isn’t a rebuttal but more like a sketching out of what I’m thinking about now in response to your critiques–and, of course, how my project can best be informed by those critiques.
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“Miscegenation” as (a) “domestic issue”

It seems felicitous that I’m beginning this post on April 14: 180 years ago today, Noah Webster published his American Dictionary of the English Language. I say this because the word “miscegenation,” whose usage in these pages I’ll be discussing here, is in every sense an American word. More about that later.

I’m writing this post partly out of necessity–one of its concerns is, after all, the vocabulary of its subject–and partly in response to some questions asked of me by Jennifer and a commenter, cvt, over at Jennifer’s blog, Mixed Race America. Each wanted to know whether my choice of the term miscegenation when discussing racial admixture is a conscious one, and Jennifer has a post in which she asks her readers to comment on the efficacy of using loaded language and words and phrases with difficult and painful histories.

Here are the questions Jennifer poses:

Can loaded words and contested terms be rehabilitated? Can they escape, in the case of “concentration camp” the tragic and overwrought associations with one of the worst genocides of the 20th century? Can we use a term, like “miscegenation” to simply mean “inter-racial” without invoking its etymological roots in race baiting and its historic use as a word associated with negativity, rancor, and hatred (because whenever “miscegenation” was invoked in the mid to late 20th century it was usually done in the context of “anti-miscegenation” laws, ie: laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage, or white racist Southerners invoking the fear of “miscegenation” as a rationale for school segregation.

I suppose a few more questions to consider are:

*Why is this loaded word or contested term being used in current, contemporary usage?
*What is the purpose of this rehabilitation?
*Who is trying to use this term and for what purpose?
*Is there another term that is as accurate/precise in its meaning as the contested term? Why is it important to use the contested term rather than the less loaded word?

My response is below the fold.
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Forays into the academic blogosphere

In a small exercise in scholarly self-aggrandizement, I’ve created a wiki page for good old Domestic Issue over at the very handy but (so far) modestly-sized AcademicBlogs Wiki. Now, I sit back and watch visits here jump into the tens per day.

It’s via that wiki that I’ve found a couple of blogs with foci that intersect with those of this one.

Mixed Race America is kept by Jennifer, a professor of contemporary lit. and Asian-American lit. somewhere in the southern U.S. Her blog’s banner says that she is interested in “any . . . way you can describe the blending, melding, melting, tossing, turning, churning of race relations in the United States.” That sounds a lot like this place, too.

Dennis Hildago’s blog, Professor of History, is focused on his research interests in comparative and Atlantic world history. His most recent post concerns a research project in which he compares the historiographies of, respectively, U.S.-Mexico and Haiti-Dominican Republic border crossings. This is especially intriguing to me in that I’m interested in seeing how that might intersect with Antonio Benitez-Rojo’s trope of the Caribbean region as a Repeating Island.

As a look ahead to the look of this page, as I find more blogs whose interests intersect more or less directly with those of this one, I’ll add a separate links category for them. Also: plans to jazz up the banner via the magic of CSS.

Some good news

My sabbatical application was approved by my college’s committee for the coming fall. So, beginning this summer the content here, such as it will be, will increase apace.

My site director (the administrator in charge of the management of the location of the college where I teach) actually learned of my sabbatical before I did (those gossipy administrators!), and today he said I should always feel welcome to come into the office and work there if I wished. Most gracious of him.

So: in addition to readin’ and writin’, what now? Most of the time I’ll be in Wichita: most of my materials are either already here in my study or should be pretty easily available through interlibrary loans and JSTOR. But I also have a couple of trips in mind: one to Denver to visit the Mayer Center‘s collection of colonial-era casta paintings (the painting at the head of the previous post is from that collection), and one to Mexico to take some images of buildings and art objects that also express, in material ways, an early acknowledgment of the reality of miscegenated culture. Finally, part of the terms of my sabbatical is the creating and presenting of some materials (a media presentation, a videotaped interview, a lecture) on aspects of my work. Of all that I’ll be doing this fall, the lectures and other presentations may pose the greatest challenge, but I admit to looking forward to that work: I want the work I do to serve as a kind of demonstration to my colleagues–and, yes, my students–that community colleges can be (and should be) supportive of scholarship as well as of good teaching.

Anyway. Now it (really) begins.

About this blog’s title

Welcome, accidental and intentional visitors. There’s not a lot to see here yet, but that will change on down the road.

In the meantime, I thought I would say a few words about the title of this blog. When working on my dissertation, I had a look at the etymologies of signifiers for the offspring of miscegenous relationships. What follows below the fold is my discussion of the Spanish word criollo (“creole”): Continue reading