Posts tagged desire
Posts tagged desire
I’ve thought so much about nostalgia over the years. At first I thought it was just missing an object - friends, family, a home, your bed. Then maybe it was missing what that object meant to you because it was still present but somehow changed - friendship, kinship, relationships. Or perhaps, as I’m more recently thinking, it’s a different type of desire — for an object that you need to distance yourself from in order to move onto something new - new friendships, new kinships, new relationships. Nostalgia, in that final sense, is maybe an optimistic detachment. A holding at a fond distance the things that made you who you were, and did so in a way that enabled you to become who you are.
Which brings me to the goodbyes. I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve been more freaked out than excited about going to a PhD program. The notion of transplanting myself to another coast, living in a city I’ve never been to, literally gave me sleepless nights.
But into that feeling of drowning came goodbyes like a life-line. How odd that saying goodbye could make me more ready to leave. These good farewells felt like closing a satisfying book, one that you could pick up again and read knowing you would get something different from it the next time around. The best so far was my thesis adviser, who corded me at an Honors ceremony, and later looked me dead in the eye and expressed the following sentiments in words I’ll never be able to remember: you’re awesome, I’ve loved working with you, we’ll continue working together. All of that ceremony, and her words in particular, made me realize that this goodbye foreshadowed the type of mentoring relationships I’ll cultivate in New York: it makes leaving not only bearable, but necessary for my personal growth, and downright exciting.
I have one more huge goodbye, split into two parts. The speech team I’ve helped coach for 3 years. It’s hard for me to think of them as students anymore; they’re more a herd of little brothers and sisters and cousins. Saying goodbye to them means saying goodbye to the community that compelled me to study Anthropology, and then propelled me into grad school. It also means saying goodbye to some of the more personal relationships I’ve established. I have no idea how I will feel tomorrow, but I hope I walk away with a sense that I could do it all again, better; that I can contribute to the lives of students through anthropology; that I have been a positive force in the lives of others. Selfishly, I hope that tomorrow cultivates, renews, and seals the sense of purpose coaching has given me. I wish all my students the best in their future endeavors too, and that their goodbyes are well spent.
It’s been a reflective week. Mostly my thoughts accreted around nostalgia for things past and the mutually exclusive desire for a productive future. I’m on my way to CUNY, academia, and maturity. Nostalgia has to be the antithesis of productivity since its a desire for things that have already happened, and which in being caused to happen, won’t happen again. I didn’t feel like writing when I was nostalgiac. That constellation of emotions pinned feelings to the wall and cemented perspectives of events in concrete. If I built a house out of my past I wouldn’t be able to escape. So I left those thoughts unfinished so in order to walk outside my own head a bit.
But now I feel a bit more productive. I made a sketch of things I wanted to write about in the last week in relation to my medical narratives project. Using confusion as a productive state to channel productivity. Inverting the perspectives of biomedicalization in Vita. Tracing the embodiment of medical discourses in nurses.
When I write “confusion” on sticky-notes it seems like such a flat word. It really transmits nothing of the phenomenological experience fundamental to human life. My confusion is a constant companion made up of whatever is forming on the filmy membrane separating my consciousness from the world, in no particular order: family, friends, school, work. Confusion is the emotion of questions without answers. The Greek root of questions is “to seek,” like a quest: confusion is a journey. Confusion is the journey that never really ends. Right now I’m confused by Frank Ocean’s song “Swim Good.”
I’m about to drive in the ocean
I’ma try to swim from something bigger than me
Swimming from something is an act of aversion. It denotes certainty that what you’re swimming from exists as an object in the world with a set definition. But I’m confused: I want to swim with something bigger than me. And that’s what the best narratives do.
Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment is an ethnography of a woman in a Brazilian care center. From the back cover: “Zones of social abandonment are emerging everywhere in Brazil’s big cities — places like Vita, where the unwanted, the mentally ill, the sick, and the homeless are left to die… [In the story of Catarina,] we learn about subjectivities unmade and remade.” Catarina, the main character, is recycled through social ecologies: from home, to hospitals, and then to Vita. Forms of kinship, neoliberalism, and biomedical pharmaceuticals consecutively reduce her to a narrowly defined subjectivity (possible identities she can assume). The question of the objective reality of her mental state became a non-issue as I continuously read about the ways in which she was constituted, stripped of her personhood, and reconstituted. This kind of intensely theoretical narrative fundamentally humanizes those who tell the stories by revealing how human subjectivity is constructed. The author also explains that the stories told by the residents of Vita are fundamentally human in another way: they show desire, a way to live in the world. (This is meant in the sense that without desire, one would do nothing because one does not care about anything). But it is worthwhile to invert the focus: what were the biomedical experts, the family members, the social ecologies embodying that placed Catarina in a zone of social abandonment? They have desires, they too are human.
The nurses I’m looking at embody the discourses that may be placing people in zones of subjectivity. Their focus on expertise, knowledge, and control draw the discursive lines surrounding the practices of mothers. I’m drawn back to my picture of the eyeball prison: I think there are gaps and holes, places where mothers are free to explore certain aspects of child-rearing. But the eyes are the nurses, who keep looking, disciplining, and defining the roles of mothers through the productive discourses of gender and biomedicine.
That’s where I am right now: wondering how the nurses I’m looking at create zones of subjectivity in which mothers practice child-rearing. I think I’m play off “care of the self” and refer to it as “care of care of the self,” in that the nurses are caring for the mothers’ subjectivities, as the mothers care for their own, while caring for their children. This is really rough, so thanks for reading.