Now Listening: The National, "Boxer"
'Specially: Track 2, "Mistaken for Strangers"
There have been some beautiful sunsets this month. Beauty to break you. And whether their beauty or my breaking came first, I cannot tell. Post hoc is not propter hoc, necessarily.
At the coffee shop the other day I ended up sitting near a student of mine from a while back. We said 'hi', and then moved on to our own things. My thing was a book by a neo-traditionalist Jesuit disgruntled about the "diabolical feminine" bouncing around in the American church today (SoGoddamnAwesome.); hers? A conversation of undergraduate proportions. Drama, and punkrock, and new knowledge. The group spent like 10 minutes trying to remember how English does the subjunctive. It is not, we learned, by adverbs. Or by participles. It is by ... some other thing. My tongue was near bit off as the two of us (tongue and I) wrestled with the possibility of conversational intervention. I, and the book in front of me, won -- my tongue had to be content with the americano there on the bar (temperature, texture; we should be so lucky.)
It is finals. I am writing two papers. One proposes to examine 'Apostasy Within', the book I refer to above as Awesome (a completely reasonable assessment) through comparison to a couple of ethnographic treatments of refugee/victim communities - that is, groups (with individual experiences, but collective stories; individual sensations, collective explanations) who have been from their origins untimely ripped. I'm looking at the work of Liisa Malkki, and the Hutu refugees who escaped Tutsi massacres to settle in either towns or camps - camp settlers end up a little pissed at the town settlers who 'move on' to a certain extent from the collective story, who dissipate its centrality instead of repeating it into myth. Veen Das looks at the victims of partition violence in the India/Pakistan split, and then at the anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. She talks about the difference between 1) finding 'everyday' outlets for pain in the creation of new stories and structures, and 2) repeating stories without authorial voice, without personality, stories recycled and recapitulated without character development that become the rumors that instigate mob violence. And I'm comparing that to neo-traditionalist American catholicism. Because I see symmetry, perhaps, in places that are not altogether obvious. That may not, altogether, exist.
Anyway, I'm not sure exactly what I mean by supplementing that 'symmetry' with 'empire' in my title above. Except that empire is not just about control, regulation, oppression, colonialist expansion. It's about structured relations, some of them hierarchical, some of them just based on contingency: on proximity and working together.
Tradition is my working term. It's about power, sure, but about connection too.
Also, I need to write something today on scripture, language, and conciliar documents/documentation. Eh.