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Friday, December 10, 2021


 What I study is cultural refraction, the way one culture sees another. My work is intersectional to the core, in that I am always looking at identifications and failures of identification across languages and cultures. The two most powerful kind of refractions I have found are translation and musical text setting.  I came to both of these through my study of Lorca, since he is one of most frequently translated and musicalized poet. 


I despise performative "wokeness." Listing of one's pronouns. "Land acknowledgments." The word "Latinx." I guess the definition of this would be a verbal act that is the equivalent of a bogus check, with no funds in the bank to back it up.  So, to take the example of a land acknowledgment, we can imagine a college president solemnly stating at every official event that the campus is on land stolen from a certain tribe. Every concert and play performed at the college must include an announcement of stolen land. 

Then the college president gets a letter from the tribe's attorneys. "Hey, we are going to bill you for rent, since you acknowledge that the land is ours. You owe us millions of dollars." How will she respond? She would have to say that she didn't really mean it, that is was a performative gesture.    

The whole phenomenon of acknowledging the land is stolen is based on the supposition that it won't be given back, that the people it is stolen from have no legal standing. We know that if there were an actual legal dispute about who the land belongs to, that the president could never acknowledge that the land was stolen! 


So why do I like intersectionality in my own work, but can't stand calling Cervantes "latinx" or Lorca "LGBTQ"?  I am a specialist in a gay writer, but will never put my pronouns in my email signature? I don't think this is a contradiction at all.   

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