politics of the hap

March 3, 2015, 3:06 pm
Filed under: Grief, PhD chat, Subjectivities, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , ,

Sometimes my fear of losing overrides my ability to listen. This is a lesson I should have learnt already. As I undertake the mind-numbing labour that is interview transcription, I note how as I went from one interview to the next my contribution became less and less. When my input appears it is more measured, concise, to the point.

I’ve always felt how I express myself is at odds with what I mean. This is no doubt true. And I am no doubt not alone in this. One always speaks as the stereotype of the person they think they areDelving into the stories people tell about themselves and their losses, I’ve been struck by how we rarely say things in concrete terms. We’re always skirting, dancing in vagueness – like, sort of, kind of, thing. It’s as though words, language, is constantly failing us. Or else we’re scared that in the act of capturing we enact violence to the ‘thing’ (experiential, sensory realm) itself. And yet we understand each other, make sense of each other through these mumbles, incoherences, gestures. We talk in codes, metaphors, sounds, utterances, signs and silences – those most important silences. How we ever manage to find a space to commune and feel known by another amazes me. I often would walk away from an interview encounter carrying one impression but in the process of typing speech into words on a blank page it impresses upon me in a totally different way. Sometimes when I hear myself ask the questions that occurred to me at the time, I cannot even recognise my own thought process. The stories we tell through language are already not our own, but then they become mine as listener and researcher and in turn they become owned by the page or screen. It feels as though something seeps away in each step of this process, that messy something that’s better to edit out.

So too must we be transparent with ourselves about how we go about understanding. First of all – there is no neutral place. We’re always giving something, even in silence – perhaps especially so. Spending time in the mysore practice room taught me this. As well as the theorists before that. India has taught me this too, aggressively so at times. And again my adopted Indian family before that. I think spending a lot of time being the only white face in a room/house/temple full of brown bodies, all speaking in a language once foreign to me is an experience instructive as all the post-colonial theory I can get my hands on. Because what happens is you stop seeing difference. I started to understand a different language through listening alone. When, after some time becoming part of, I got mistaken for Indian, I don’t think it had anything to do with not seeing my white skin – that much was obvious – but a reaction to the way I had consciously and unconsciously developed a disposition, a bodily disposition that went beyond appropriate clothing or eating with the right hand. This wasn’t merely a performance – it was as though ‘India’ had tapped into something vital in me – but the process through which I on occasion managed to ‘pass’ is still elusive to me.

In the research encounter my identity became more performative as I had not yet cultivated an academic demeanour I could rely on. I was concerned people would not take me seriously but on reflection the only person who struggled to take me seriously was me. Becoming serious would mean becoming present. And never being neutral can feel like a heavy burden to bear. More so when its due to things you can’t control like being female or feeling complicit in the neo-colonial benevolence of the new empire.

Down the other end of the Skype line in another time zone my PhD supervisors tell me once again “You need to clarify your position. It’s still not clear where you stand.”

Most of the time I view myself as an outsider in the academic world, in the ashtanga world, in rooms of white middle-class people. When positioned as the one with power whether that’s when I’m using academic discourse to get people to talk to me or paying for chai and chocolate cake at the Green Hotel in Mysore with 1000rs note, it disturbs me and I seek to displace myself. And sometimes power displaces me. I’ve been thinking perhaps that’s part of what going on with sexual harassment in India. My body symbolises power but it can still be violated by your body. I can always become silenced (again).

Knowing from where we speak is the most important lesson for the critical researcher. I’d say its pretty important for a yoga practitioner too. And I will have to establish my position for my thesis as much as I loathe fixity. My supervisors tell me too that the position I will take is only a performance. But I wonder if there’s more to be said about why I understand emotionally and you understand logically and if we can describe this without resorting to gender roles.

Positioning oneself is all about becoming part of a structure that is recognised. The habitus cannot exist without the field (Bourdieu). That’s why the entrance fee is through learning the language (and that’s not just about words). We reach our limit in structures that reject us on things that either we cannot or choose not to change. Its here we fall back into the space between the idea of ourselves that finds room to move through performing and passing and what stands still, caught up against weighty structures. That’s why I always start with stuckness. Why don’t people recover from loss? What happens when you’re deemed as failing to capture the dream of the ‘good life’? Why can’t they/we speak? Trauma is often considered to be a result of not having a story. But the voices in the stuckness have always been speaking clearly its just that the world is poorly equipped to translate. What if we all developed the capacity to listen to each other even in the midst of prejudice. Might then we find relief in the stuckness and find space for flourishing to exist in and alongside the messiness.

ways of being (human) that were never sovereign

I’ve always been interested in people who don’t do as they’re told. They excite me, intellectually and personally. In my current work I am interested in those that are seen to have failed to recover from their grief over losing someone. What’s interesting is that it is hard, if not impossible, to identify cultural examples of someone who hasn’t recovered. The non-recovered mourner – like Freud’s melancholic – is the silent, shadowed figure that strikes fear in all us as we inevitably face the loss of someone we love. This is partly because in the modern rhetoric of recovery everyone is always on the road to recovery, and even if we haven’t faced a traumatic event we are (or should be)  always on the way to bettering ourselves, trying to be happier, grasping that elusive ‘good life’ fantasy. The non-recovered are read as resistant, refusing, problematic, troublemakers because they appear to be actively rejecting the normative fantasies to which we are all obligated to subscribe. There was a telling moment in episode three of the Channel 4 programme Bedlam (an insight into the work and patients of the Maudsley psychiatric hospital), where we see a social worker knocking on the door of the home of a woman whose health he feared was taking a ‘downward spiral’. “Why are we going to these lengths when she is living the life she chooses?”, he remarks. And yet the woman, Rosie, was deemed as not having the mental capacity to make a choice, and so by law choices had to be made for her.

Many things are happening here and here’s a few to point out: having capacity to make a decision is part of what is considered to be a functional, mentally fit, human being yet these decisions and choices have to fit into a pre-existing framework that already decides for you what is normal and what is not normal, e. g. going to work, waged labour, owning a home = normal; singing Christmas carols to yourself in July, having a fear of bedbugs = not normal. Being normal then could be seen as more about making the ‘right’ decisions than about the level of perceived control one has over the decision. Yet we are encouraged to believe that by virtue of being human we have sovereign control over our lives, our behaviour, and our choices. The problem with sovereignty is that when someone makes a choice society at large disagrees with, and this could range from being overweight or a refusal of a 9-5 capitalist regime, it is deemed a fault of the individual. The problem individual just needs to be turned to face the ‘right’ way. In what follows I am going to attempt to unpack the notion of sovereignty by heavily drawing on Lauren Berlant’s ”Cruel Optimism’ to consider how sovereignty can be unsettled by affective experiences such as grief and love and can only ever be an aspirational concept that might better be expressed as a temporary display of ‘composure.’ Composure, as detailed in the middle section, is also worn thin by an unending desire for the good life where for the worker the act of reproducing life is also the means of being worn out by it. In closing I start to move on from Berlant and think about what responses might be possible to an attachment to a wearing way of life that is not working.

i. How can I keep my composure?

Sovereignty, in a truncated form, is about having the power over one’s life and having the ability or capacity to decide how you live your life. Sovereignty is mostly used on political terms, as in the sovereignty of the head of state. As a ‘death’ scholar, I explore the ways sovereignty is interrupted, and eventually destroyed, through the inevitable act of death. Ideas of sovereignty, and autonomy have only ever appeared to me as unsustainable pipe dreams, that provide at times a necessary illusion in the face of getting on with life.

In a previous post I argued that melancholia and the refusal to recover or let go of attachments to the dead can not only be read as a sign of pathology but might be understood as an active choice to not be sovereign. This presents a contradictory twist – the right of choice we have over our lives can also be used to reject those choices. But there is also something more subtle taking place, it is about injecting the unconscious into the intentionality of the subject. It is suggesting that certain affective experiences such as love and grief can reveal to us we often do not know to what we are tied and why, the one who refuses to recover might not be aware of the ways they are attached to something that is actually becoming an obstacle to their ability to live a life. We rarely get to choose what interrupts our lives or the attachments we forge to people, to ideas, to habits, to objects. Grieving and being in love are great exemplars where these features are exaggerated, where to be able to grieve and to be able to love require violating the attachment to our own intentionality, our sense of sovereignty. Why is it, we wonder, that when we are around a certain person we cannot keep our composure?

Composure is something we try to keep, maintain or that we lose. It is the ‘default’ setting, it’s something already there. Showing the right levels of composure at the right time is all part of the performance of normal. Composure is a way of holding the self, it is a maintainance of social identity, it helps provide a distance from our desires. A healthy level of composure is required in order to function and perform well in a world where losing one’s composure brings shame, or is read as incapacity, madness. The anxiety we feel over the struggle to keep our composure around certain people is a struggle over the fear of being mis-recognised by those whose recognition is so fundamental to our sense of self. I decided to do away with sovereignty too following Berlant when grief taught me that other people undo us over and over in ways we are unable to predict and control. These sort of experiences reinforce the importance of composure whilst simultaneously it’s fragility becomes all too apparent. But in the face of loss composure is about all you have to protect you. Keeping your composure means the world can come up to you when you choose and you can keep it at a distance. You can protect yourself from the world, other people, from coming in and interrupting you again.

Then love taught me that composure is only a holding ground until you find an environment in which you can relinquish your composure. Love doesn’t let you keep your composure, it’s too greedy. Composure is willed not natural, love is fantasy, not conscious – that comes later.  A sense of sovereignty is considered a part of being a functional citizen and yet the moments of non-sovereignty are paradoxically seen as the moments where life truly takes place. Finding an easy friend, needing someone, thinking about someone, is what colours the otherwise weary days. It’s not so much the dependency that lifts the spirits but the chance to be recognised by another, for them to say ‘I see you’, for us to ‘feel ourselves’. I got obsessed with the MTV programme ‘Catfish’ as it documents a fascinating array of moments of misrecognition, of misplaced fantasies and overwhelming investments in a desired other. But as Catfish reveals, this sense of recognition is only the misrecognition we can bear, what we want to believe. We let someone carry an image of us, better than the one we can hold of ourselves.

ii. …never enough money, never enough love, and barely any rest…

Stories of love are all too often the plaster that fills in the cracks of the everyday overwhelmed life. Berlant’s ‘Cruel Optimism’ is remarkable in numerous regards but particularly in the way she describes how in modern industrial society the act of reproducing life (working for a living) is also the means of being worn out by it. We might not be fighting life and death on a daily basis, in fact the clinical, sanitized workplace might feel very detached from anything quite like a real experience. There’s something very ordinary about the crises encountered in the modern workplace. The labour is numbing and mundane, but still the dangers of precarity, little money, little time, work stress, and an exhaustion so very old and new all at the same time, feels pressingly real. As Berlant argues the feeling of deterioration is a fundamental part of the experience of modern working life. This not about a desire for the good life; it is the search for a less bad life. It is about finding resting places, someone who might understand our struggles, spacing out in mindless entertainment or seeking nourishment in food not for thought.

And modern life does provide pockets of intimacy to distract and soothe our overloaded sensorium: selling smiles and anecdotes on dating sites, or picking up whatever you can find on the weekend for some quick thrills and empty affection, or sleeping with him/her in the office.  We are provided with things that promise reprieve but not repair: sex, mindfulness courses, energy drinks, all help keep the machine running smoothly, help us to catch up with a present that is always already happening too quickly. We’re keeping our composure even in intimate relations, discomposure is too unsettling, we haven’t time to come undone. The situations within which lie the potential for change are kept at bay – even the previous radical practices: mindfulness, yoga, are emptied out, re-branded and co-opted as a form of niceness production that keep us striving for the status quo. We’re not aiming for the horizon, just spreading out sideways, passing under the radar. But this is not a comfortable position, there’s little safety inhabiting the normal. It is a constant bargaining with what you can bear.

iii. The concrete realisation of being the odd one out.

Even if it doesn’t feel like it, the boundaries of normal are shifting all the time. This is what learning a bit of history can give you. ‘Doing your homework’ as Gayatri Spivak would say. This might sound less dramatic than it actually is. Encountering the fact that the prescriptions of the ‘good life’ you are encouraged to follow are not inevitable, and are in fact quite disagreeable, is the first step in the realisation of being the odd one out. Staying proximate to normality is a way of keeping out of view, toeing the line, not ruffling feathers. This is easily done if you happen to be born and grow up in a environment that is in line with the normative discourses on how best to live a life.  But you might grow up as always already the outsider. You’re the odd one out without even trying. Either way, interruptions can work to destabilize the most comfortable of existences – the wearing out of working life, death, loss, scouring love – can elucidate in an often very banal and depressing way that the life you were living was held up by a series of attachments: to a person, a job, an ideology, a cat, or anything in which you had invested your sense of endurance about life. Losing that thing, interrupting the fantasy to which you had attached to it, is I think crucial in coming to a critical awareness of the world in which you live. I don’t know, this is just a hunch, but I think there has to be a loss. Even if not tangible, just the process of losing your sense of privilege.  I don’t think there can be sovereignty in freedom. This is a view contrary to perhaps most movements that seek freedom, such as the recovery movement in mental health care, where freedom is conflated with reclaiming autonomy.

Discovering you are the odd one out, in my view is rather not about reclaiming sovereignty or autonomy but about dispensing with it entirely. Being the odd one out might sound like a passive position, but whilst yes you may feel as though you do not fit, you are also not accepting the life on offer. Who rejects who first is hard to tell, and perhaps not important. The rejection is not necessarily conscious either, we might spend many tiring years attempting to pass as normal before we realise that we had already given up on believing in the sustainability of this form of life a long time ago. This lag might mean we come to this impasse a little late, or not at all.

Talk of freedom might seem too corny and idealistic for jaded ears but again this might sound less radical than it actually is. It is a response that says: don’t try and reason, persuade, convince, expend energy as it does not serve you. When the system does not respect you, you owe nothing to it and you can make yourself free. And when I say freedom, I’m not speaking in sugarcoated tones, freedom without sovereignty is entering into what I can only describe as the realm of the ‘I don’t know’. It’s a liminal space, without boundaries or form, it is being in transit without knowing where it is leading. If you decide to reject the fantasies of the good life, than this is what you get. How to build a world that is not hopeless? Where to find a life worth living? In the liminal space of ‘I don’t know’ there is all to experience and different roads to go down. Choice is not pragmatic but whimsical. In this liminal space subjectivity is allowed the space to be non-sovereign, to be incoherent, changeable. We can mourn, love and lose our composure. The challenge is to find a sense of stability built through not being attached to what we attach to. Some call this nomadic theory, but I quite like unequal attachments that are sticky and messy. We might never quite become the person they wanted us to be, but in this liminal space of becoming the odd one out, unlike the cruel optimism of the fantastical good life, there are multiple exits.


Berlant, L. (2011). Cruel Optimism. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

the non-sovereignty of grief: revisiting Freud

[This is a revised extract of my probationary literature review and a (hopefully) future paper in the works. Currently obsessed with the idea of non-sovereignty and how this shapes political/social identities and nature of relationality]

One of the themes that recur throughout the grief literature is that of attachments and bonds with the deceased. Whether it is framed as attachments or bonds, the focus on attachments has contributed to an understanding that suggests in order to recover the relationship with the deceased has to be reconfigured in some way, either as a process of detachment or reinstating and/or continuing bonds in order to accept the loss.

Freud in ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ (1917) is often attributed as the first thinker to promote the idea of the need to detach from the deceased, and that ‘hanging on’ to the deceased is pathological and an obstruction to healthy mourning. The melancholic figure persists as an example of what happens when people fail to mourn successfully, when they are unable to let go of the deceased. This at least has been the way in which Freud’s ideas have been interpreted by later theorists. Yet I would like to contend that Freud can be re-read as being far more ambivalent about attachments, especially if noting his later writings. In particular Freud emphasised that mourning is normal and healthy, and that grief was not a cause for intervention.

The picture portrayed by Freud is a more complex understanding of interdependency and bonds than what is commonly depicted in grief theory, even those emphasising the role of continuing bonds. The continuing bonds theory was an attempt to reject the models of detachment that Freud and others appeared to be claiming. Instead the continuing bonds thesis highlights the many ways people do retain some type of bond with those they have lost, but it does not mean that the continuation of a bond is pathological or necessarily stays the same as it was before the death. It is rather an attempt to relocate the dead into a new identity by a process of relinquishing but also continuing attachments in order to activate recovery. This is achieved by a process of oscillation where the loss is at times confronted and at others avoided. Developing a balance between avoidance and yearning for the deceased is seen as a way to successfully recover from the loss. However, there is no empirical study that has proven the benefit of relinquishing ties, rather it is counselling and therapy literature that has centred on the idea that holding on to the deceased brings complications. This is again perhaps evidence of the particular reading of Freud that has become prevalent in grief literature.

Further there is neither any empirical evidence to prove the benefit of continuing bonds. The continuing bonds theory then remains only a theory; a theory that is unclear on how people actually carry out the process of oscillating between confrontation and avoidance and what precisely needs relinquishing and what needs continuing in order to recover. Moreover, the process of oscillation is viewed as an intra-psychic process that neglects to place the individual in a social and cultural context, thus failing to acknowledge that the aspects of identities and memories that are held on to and the ones that are relinquished, will to an extent be shaped by the cultural beliefs and norms of the society in which a person is situated. Therefore, whilst the continuing bonds theory provides a welcome counter to the emphasis on detaching bonds it too tends to individualize people, just as the detachment focused models have done by failing to delve further into the complexity of interdependence and relations people have with one another. The continuing bonds theory manages to retain the same assumption of autonomy dominant in recovery stage models and theories on resilience, by viewing people as having choice and control over what they stay attached to and what they do not, and further that is it their own responsibility to find the appropriate balance.

To return back to Freud’s melancholic figure presents a revealing contrast to these ideas for the melancholic is one who is never sure what he or she has lost. That is to say, what has been lost remains unconscious to the melancholic, they do not know what they are missing. The melancholic knows whom they have lost but not what is lost in him/her. The melancholic does not know what they have lost in themselves because the melancholic incorporates the lost person into his/her ‘ego’, so that he/she never fully experiences the loss, since the loved one, even in absence, becomes merged with the self. What this suggests therefore is that people who are seen to be ‘stuck’ in grief do so perhaps unknowingly because they are not fully conscious of how they are still tied to what they have lost. This is because the lost person has been incorporated into, in Freud’s terms, the ego. In other words the deceased person still makes up a large part of how the grieving person understands their sense of self.

To understand how someone could get stuck unable to face the ‘reality’ of their loss requires a refiguring of how the self is understood and how the sense of self is composed. It is to look upon identity as not something that is shaped and constructed autonomously, but composed in relation to others. Grief theories which describe continuing bonds or building biographies of the deceased attempt to explain how and why people talk about keeping the deceased inside themselves. However these theories often do not elaborate further on how grief and loss become an instance that reveals the one who has been lost already existed inside the subject. To say that the deceased person already existed inside the subject is to point towards the fact that people are shaped by one another, often perhaps ambivalently, in ways that do not presume two atomized autonomous individuals making an attachment, but rather a more intimate and intricate interface of being entwined into one another’s lives and sense of self. But the ways in which people are bound to one another is often not known until an event such as loss or the risk of loss that allows the recognition of how the sense of self is invested in another person. Grief therefore destabilizes the ‘I’ of autonomous thinking through a process of coming undone, being confounded by loss, in which the self, and not only the one who has died goes missing.

But what exactly is it that people remained attached to in grief? Freud talks of being attached to and losing ‘objects’. This is to imply that grieving is not just an occasion of losing a person but losing the objects invested in that person; the cluster of promises and future that person represented. To stay stubbornly fixed to situations of bruising attachments, as the melancholic figure does, is then because losing the lost object is to also lose the possibilities that person represented, and thus to lose part of his/her self. The refusal to let go and detach from the deceased is partly a result of the attachments often existing outside of awareness, but also a way of protecting one’s self, of keeping oneself together. Yet of course holding on to something that is no longer present becomes problematic in the path to recovery. The melancholic figure is read by others as failing to let go of an object that others declare as absent, as already dead. To state that a person with complicated grief, a contemporary term for melancholia perhaps, is not facing up to the reality of their loss, is to declare the objects they have failed to let go of as dead on their behalf.

Certain types of attachments act to impede the ability to move on, even if they provide a sense of self, a sense of place in the world. The bereaved person is then suspended in the space of liminality, for to let go and leave the object of desire is to leave the anchor for optimism, and yet staying with this fantasy produces unhappiness. This sense of ambivalent attachment is captured by Lauren Berlant’s concept of ‘cruel optimism’ which describes how any form of attachment can become cruel when they become obstacles to flourishing. Berlant’s example is instructive for grieving for whilst recovery is constructed on the understanding that detaching from the lost object leads to successful mourning, the lost object is the very anchor that sustains hope. Thinking about attachments as cruelly optimistic recognises how staying attached then becomes the only way to perpetuate what the grieving person does not want to relinquish. For the person who is grieving is not only grieving for the person that has died but for the person they could have become, and the vision of the future in which they had invested.

There are benefits to remaining stuck, and to let go is to risk losing one’s self into an uncertain, unknown future of liminality. Interestingly, neuroscientific research has begun to find links in people with complicated grief to the parts of the brain associated with addiction. A study discovered that those diagnosed with complicated grief found it hard to resist in engaging in ‘pleasurable reveries’ about the deceased even though these reveries may prevent them from ‘adjusting to the realities of the present’. So the attachment brings pleasure whilst becoming an obstacle to what others deem to be successful adjustment. Cruelly optimistic ties suspend people in a space where they are encouraged to move forward. As individuals navigate through the liminal space of grief they will encounter various discourses, people and narratives that seek to direct them the right way. The person diagnosed with complicated grief, the melancholic, needs reorientation to the right direction, they need to learn how to let go in the right way. This ambivalence also reveals a more complex view of agency, where the bereaved may desire and not desire to become attached to something that makes them lose control, a desire and lack of desire to become sovereign. Discourses that promote recovery often assume autonomy, choice and agency are desirable traits that everyone should wish to achieve and vulnerability is weakness and undesirable. What the sustaining of cruel attachments suggests on the contrary is that people often wish to not be sovereign, (and proposes further that sovereignty can never be anything but a fallacy) and to give themselves over to something larger than themselves. To tell someone to lose the object of their desire and face up to the reality of their loss – the reality that is apparently evident to everyone but them – is to neglect to see how certain fantasies that people invest in provide a sense of belonging all of their own.

Be a body
October 28, 2013, 1:00 pm
Filed under: Love, Recovery, Resistance, Subjectivities
Amedeo Modigliani - Le Grand Nu

Amedeo Modigliani – Le Grand Nu

How do you feel? No, I mean, how do you feel, energetically? If I touch you here, hold you there, breathe with you, sense the movements of the body; how do you feel? This is superficial and deep all at once. It’s primal but not specifically sexual. You’re revealing something in this moment or you’re holding back. If you share this with me, I can give you this; this energy. I can give you all this if you want, it will not diminish me.

Something’s happening to the energy in my body but its been too close and exciting to talk about. The body is responding on a level the mind hasn’t quite caught up with. Or maybe this is how it works: being a body. When you start breathing through those fears and make new and wonderful shapes with the body; that point on the horizon – that ever-reaching point on the horizon in which you focus in the yoga practice (the always somewhere elsewhere, never quite specific, formless – god??) blurs, it all blurs. Having a body to being a body.

How do you feel?: (how does it feel) to be a body.

Back in the home town I revisit the multiple ghosts of my past. How can such a small space contain so many versions of myself? The clumsy, youthful, inauthentic expressions of my self; it makes me cringe. And it occurs to me, as it always does, quite how the only thing we know is that we don’t know who we will become. That’s the theory: I don’t know.

Being a body is about situating yourself in those layers of becoming, not so you crystallize an identity, but so you can observe how the past selves either dissipate away or comes to rest inside, settle in the porous, membrane, cells, flesh, bone, tissue as tension, tightness, or softness. This is what I’m seeking in a touch. I’m trying to disperse it with you, or let it go.

I’m wondering if this is what it means to be home as I sit and pick the leaves off stems of mint and coriander and listen to the paath on PTC Punjabi. I recall the times in the kitchen of the Gurdwara sat over heaps of potatoes shoulder to shoulder with the elder women as they told tales in Punjabi or gossiped under their chunnis and we peeled the potatoes one by one. And I would sit up from time to time to stretch out my lower back, my hands sore and chapped and mud stuck under my fingernails.

Out of the corner of my eye I see the lines of people shuffle into the Golden Temple with their hands placed together. I think about repetition. What repetition does energetically. “This is what you need to keep you from delving into the 12th house in your mind”, the astrologer tells me as I sit patiently labeling crystal after crystal. I smile and nod. “You have a tendency to fly away”.

Is this what home is: the encircling motion of the same. To know that somewhere there is a place or space (within the self or between two) where everything stays the same. When I look up at the shala in the early morning darkness and see the lights, it feels like home. This is what love is, I think. It’s about feeling like you’re home.

I’ve always felt at home with those who don’t belong. Bodies out of place. When the world makes you feel out of place, you become aware of being a body; a disappointing body, a willful body, a body that refuses to resign to a normative fantasy. Your body is always a statement whether you wish to say anything or not.

It’s funny the ways we can be read, and read ourselves, and read others. We’re always becoming something else in this mis-recognition. Attributing characters to ourselves and others. I never quite understand it when people tell me I have changed – what else would I do? “Who are you?”: I’m being a body. “That’s not like you”. Haven’t we learnt by now that we can never know the other, only the fantasy we make for them, the ideals we invest in them. “You weren’t the person I thought you were.” Well of course. You will always be other to me. But instead of trying to overcome this difference lets make it our centre. Let’s work towards a ‘we’ that never implies sameness but promotes the understanding of difference. Let’s make the act of understanding one another the most powerful gesture we can attempt as humans. Let’s allow ourselves to breathe in one another’s bodies in such a way that we can both blur into that space in-between, if only for a moment.

Oh and I could drown that gap between us with words and stories; stories about what it means to care, and how it feels to not recover and how I got stuck year after year. Or how I spent my university years drinking masala tea and watching Zee TV and why the feeling of being alone in the world never leaves. I could tell you what happens when you lose the object of your desire. I could tell you that you were never my type either; it was just that I was looking for difference not sameness, and I always want to be different and new and everything. I could tell you when I started minding not having it all and how I’m carrying you close. And I could tell you what it means to care, I could show you what tenderness feels like, and I could tell you that I’m sorry and how I don’t like these things you’ve brought me so can you just take them back? I could tell you how to care. And I could tell you how in my dreams you stain the landscape but when I wake up I can’t remember all the things you were saying.

To love, indifferently
October 12, 2013, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Grief, Love, Subjectivities | Tags: ,

“I love you” is addressed by convention or habit to an enigma – an other. An other body, an other sex. I love you: I don’t quite know who, or what. “I love” flows away, is buried, drowned, burned, lost in a void. We’ll have to wait for the return of “I love.” Perhaps a long time, perhaps forever. Where has “I love” gone? What has become of me? “I love” lies in wait for the other. Has he swallowed me up? Spat me out? Taken me? Left me? Locked me up? Thrown me out? What’s he like now? No longer (like) me? When he tells me “I love you,” is he giving me back? Or is he giving himself in that form? His? Mine? The same? Another? But then where am I?, what have I become? – Luce Irigaray, ‘This Sex Which is Not One’ (1977).

Don’t let me go
October 10, 2013, 5:55 pm
Filed under: Grief, Love, Recovery, Subjectivities | Tags: ,

Reticent affect is often dramatic because it refuses the abreactive mode of demand. People who yell all the time stop getting listened to; so do the quiet. So creativity gets caught up in making new idioms for feeling things out and for being found. Care, tenderness, stuckness: we see ourselves seeing the world emerging from gestures, and seeing the critical need for the present to be extended, held out there, walked around in, rested in—to honor what’s tender. In this style of being in relation (in sex as in politics) to care for the world is to keep something of it close, not just to imagine displacements or futures. Casid and Wilson perform this so beautifully: refusal, attachment, a multiply voiced “don’t let me go, don’t be gone, don’t let go, get out of here, leave, well, not completely, I just need to move from this impossible knot to a more possible one.” What does it mean to have a sexuality when the world is so bad at it? – Lauren Berlant (emphasis mine).



The concrete realisation of being the odd one out
February 24, 2013, 7:58 pm
Filed under: Subjectivities
Making being the odd one out look damn cool.

Making being the odd one out look damn cool.

The last post lead to an exchange of comments between myself and a friend and I felt they deserved airing here. Some salient (but unfinished) points concerning escape, running away and crucially the process of self-realisation necessary for freeing oneself.


C: “Non-action is decisive even if it is not active, and can be the better option when the avenues to express one’s desires are unsatisfactory, limiting and repetitive.” This is why those maroon communities and a life of docile leisure has began to look as the only way out… for me anyway….theres no more to understand or learn, delinking is the next and only logical option…must revive our long-winded tradition..

Me: hmm delinking is possible only when we are at first linked – linked, tied to what and whom? We are always tied it is a matter of choosing to what we are tied – ‘maroon’ communities and ‘docile’ leisure, appear marooned or docile only to us but we will never un-know that which wish to detach from, in other words we can never live as those we desire… way out of what? the ladder to where etc…?

C: Lol @ the ladder….delinking and becoming marooned from the society that does not accept us, a society which has tried but failed to meet our ideals….since the sum-total of our socialization which through no fault of our own (well through our addition of the wrong stuff (books instead of “reality tv”)) has failed to ready us for full participation- we either remain and come to terms with weirdness and solitude or risk our mental health by trying to change things from within…and history has shown us that this rarely happens….yes we have to choose our jailers and we have to be very proactively serious about that..for we all know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road—they get run over…seen

Me: Perhaps life is too short to battle from within, perhaps. Yet so long as such things as pregnant gang rape porn exist I cannot quite abandon this society to which I have been socialized. It is mine, as much as people would like to push me into solitude and ‘weirdness’. History has shown that meanings and definitions change, sometimes very arbitrarily. Escape is an intoxicating vision but me fleeing from the situation will only reinforce the situation better to work towards expanding the vision of what is possible, to fight against the reduction in the tolerance of the different ways people actually live their lives.

C: no one is pushing you into solitude weirdness…you are already in it. whats is left is the concrete realization of who you are/what you have become due to your wide reading etc…the fact that you are still thinking about the significance of that genre of entertainment goes to show that you are not “normal” normal people just forget and move on… kill your consciousness or it will be killed for you. my reading of history has led me to believe rightly or wrongfully, that one is simply not let in ‘the event’ wearing their conscious on their shoulder…they either quickly jettison it or it is duly extracted by the mere fuctionalism of ‘the event’. how many have come in thinking they are going to change it and have ended up being changed themselves ? those who have done any good have been squeezed out or have run out of steam and have become satisfied with churning out long-winded academic crap that is accessed by 3 people of average… doing battle is also an intoxicating vision, perhaps even more so- romantic cavalry-ism…maybe at a small scale one can inform those in their vicinity, unless one is in a teaching capacity then writing would be a way…but other than that SAVE YOURSELF. As for the society being “mine” i really dont understand this…just because we have been thrown here it doesn’t mean that this is the only way of being… fighting and running is part and parcel of life…I think its Bob Marley who sung that “he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day”

Me: I don’t have any sugar-coated visions of changing the world especially not through academia, as you know I have little faith in the cardigan-wearing tea and biscuits culture it has become. Everyone is too scared to speak out. I have no plans to battle anyone nor save them so maybe you misunderstood my intent. I just don’t believe fleeing the scene or ‘escaping’ is a valid option. Just as I don’t presume to bring utopia to this society I don’t presume utopia exists elsewhere, in these marooned communities, inequalities and problems exist there too only in different guises. Perhaps it is naive or childish of me to hope in contributing to small changes in peoples’ day to day lives. Yet I rather that than to live just for myself. That is why I write a blog, one person reads it and thinks about then great my job done. I don’t foresee being changed by the process, I’ve wised up in my old age. Realisation of who I am? what does this mean?? I have accepted my position in the world but I don’t accept the structures/discourse/ideology that put me there and I won’t. The task is not to realise who I am (this is an impossible exercise) but to realise who/what is making up my identity and with what claims. Seeing through the binds that restrict feels freeing, I can keep running as long as I don’t believe that the life I am living is any more truthful than what I have left behind.

C: its impossible to “undermine your current purpose of existence” you’ve outlived dying young ps.-we are all in this together…true there is no utopia– its only in our heads. thats why some people believe in going to a better place in the afterlife (thats another story though). sometimes nothing is a valid option, maybe we shouldn’t be looking for solutions in the first place. in a way doing so might be setting ourselves up for failure. the benefit of scaling down is that contradictions become clearer thus making it easier to think up and find viable “solutions” or even at least ways of living in harmony together. herein the maroon communities/delinking can shade clear examples of how we can do things a bit differently- jared diamonds new book makes a strong case here. living with and for an exclusive small number of people is more rewarding than living trying to help these headless sheep. today i read a report in the croydon guardian of a 2 year old kid who had to be rushed to hospital after going two months without heating, this is when croydon keeps the lights on in the shopping center on all year round. things like these make it difficult to accept or claim this society. it does not accept me nor do i accept it- this is the concrete realization of being the odd one out- coming to terms with this is the real awakening for me…so the thing to do is to maroon to another place- the earth is wide….this is not running in its totality- that would require a rope or gun to the head…this is just to find better livable conditions. i have always said seeing the world for what it is, in all its horribleness is therapeutic- hence why im not depressed yet have a very bleak outlook…