Focus Pocus

This post was originally published on the blog Peachleaves

You guys, my exams are in two weeks.  I feel like a lunatic.  I am driven to practice sanity insanely – cooking nightly; co-hosting multiple parties in a weekend; going out on the night that the Phillies won the World Series – because if I don’t, I’ll lock myself in my bathroom with the space heater and start chewing up pages of library books.

Today I’m finishing up Inderpal Grewal’s Transnational America, which I like.  But as I plowed through a chapter on the cosmopolitan subject, I began to experience that kind of visual agnosia where you see a familiar word or pattern that seems to have detached itself from the referents you know, or attached itself to new referents.

It’s common in theory for writers to clarify their argument more than once in a chapter – particular post-colonial theorists, who are trying to resist binarism and try to paint themselves a mediating space by repeatedly stating “I am arguing this… not this.  I am not suggesting that… but hopefully, something more complex than that.”  This is familiar.  But I read one paragraph in which Grewal confirmed and denied her position in nearly every sentence – instead of suggesting…. I want to suggest; rather than focus on… I want to instead address; in particular, I focus…; Thus I argue…
And the persistent invocation of I focus I focus started to resemble a spell-casting, where the idea Grewal intended to summon is a particularly evasive and plural spirit, something that doesn’t materialize too comfortably in our limiting three dimensions, a presence she shapes by words and repetition:  not/but, both/and, thus I argue.

I like this idea, theory-making as spell-casting.  That is (I think) my task after exams; once I have proven my proficiency in arcane knowledge, I am to summon a concept that had not previously been named in this dimension, trap it in a bottle.  Sell it, maybe.

Well.  Anyway, I’m going to make some lentil soup and read more of The Disappearance of the Outside, which I also like.

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