detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Sunday, November 03, 2002


: . Habitations:

    The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land.
    --Hugh of St. Victor, quoted in James Clifford’s The Predicament of Culture from Edward Said’s Orientalism from Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis

    Most women I’ve worked for have asked me about my feelings, and most of them have not been able to understand that it is possible to love the land and hate sharing it with them. I think that is because most white people do not make a distinction between themselves and the land. When they say, “America, love it or leave it,” they really mean love them, agree with them, or go somewhere else. I love the ground I buried my mother in, and me and that land could go on very nicely if there were not a single person calling themselves white within a million miles of it.
    We don’t really agree with white people about anything important. If we were in power, we would do almost everything differently than they have. We are a nation primarily because we think we are a nation. This ground we have buried our dead in for so long is the only ground most of us have ever stood upon. Africa is mercifully remote to most of us and that is a good thing too. Most of our people are remarkably merciful to Africa, when you consider how Africa has used us.
    --Hannah Nelson from Drylongso: A Self-Portrait of Black America

    I can’t wait for the ultimate liberation theory to imagine its practice and do its work.
    --Toni Morrison from The House that Race Built

I understand the virtues of Michel Foucault's "politics of discomfort," or Dipesh Chakrabarty's "politics of despair," or Stuart Hall's "politics without guarantees." I also understand, following Caroline Hau, that our very finitude in a contingent world compels us to strive for change and promises us what Carlos Bulosan calls a "new morning." But I am unsure if a life of eternal vigilance, a life, to put it in the most hackneyed terms, in which one can never be "at home in the world," is enough whatever its attendant exhilarations. Amid the perils and pleasures of fluidity I can't help but long for the stability of Terra Firma, for "home".

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