Reflections on Blogging, on Thought, and on Community

THE BLOG

Medium

Writing a blog this semester has been interesting for me. Though I read some blogs some of the time, like Black Girl Dangerous or Feministing or the blogs of friends who I adore (like iwanttoknowwhatis whose author is also one of the three ladies of that cross-country bike and awareness raising trip localmotive), I have never written my own. I remember when my friend, the author behind iwanttoknowwhatis, sent out an email to tell us to follow her blog. I remember, fondly, a few months later as she was in the middle of a semester in India, that she sent out a second email, somewhat unexpectedly, announcing that she was done with blogging and I have not seen a post since. Blogging, I gathered from her, can a be an oddly internal experience. When one is contending consistently with oneself over time, there is definitely space to feel tired of one’s conversation with oneself (and with one’s imagined reader, who, because they are imagined until explicitly confirmed, is sort of like oneself anyway, with the caveat of being more regulative). Of course her blog was more experientially based, whereas mine has been topically focused. Whereas her’s was written in some ways for and to herself as well as for a number of potential but unconfirmed readers, I have always known my main audience.

What I have found interesting about the internet blogging experience though, has been this odd tension between it being one of the widest conversations one could ever have (that could have any number of unknown readers via the internet), while also being one of the more personal and self-referential conversations one might have, especially in an academic space. As the weeks have progressed, many of my blog postings have looped back on earlier ones or predicted future posts. I might find a new topic, an interesting article or image, and then realize “oh, I am writing about that (identity, race(ism), classism, image, community, etc) again.” In many ways, I feel as though I have been in a combined and multifaceted conversation with our class, our readings, my other classes, and with myself. The blog has afforded us that.

Ashis Nandy. "The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism." Delhi: Oxford UP, 1983. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1988.
Ashis Nandy. “The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism.” Delhi: Oxford UP, 1983. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1988.

A unique element of the blog is the ability to link. When I was writing about the Natalie Kitroef article in the New York Times (also a required reading from our syllabus), I could link directly to the page. When I was writing about the Keep Your Milk in Maine Campaign, I could ask my readers to watch the video in whose symbolic representations I had taken an interest. When I was writing about ghee, I was given the space to consider the meaning of linking the word. I found myself sitting there, recalling work like that of Ashis Nandy’s on the post-colonial situation and the “advanced stage of psychosocial decay” (I will never quite forget that phrasing) of the colonizer. His work was written mostly in English, but, without explanation or translation, would pass seamlessly into Hindi. I sat staring at the word ghee wondering what it meant to link its picture from the Wikipedia page to its name, as though it should not have been my responsibility to define or explain the ghee’s nature to an unknowing (Euro-American) reader: as though maybe we can all only work to educate each other so much before we (especially, in this case, those of us in situations of imperial privilege) must each work to educate ourselves. But I linked the ghee anyway: it was only a picture, there are moments in which one can lower the noise of hyper-analysis in the discussion of butter, and the informed reader could choose not to click it. When I was writing about community after superstorm Sandy at Battery Farm, it took me too long to find an article (and CNN’s coverage still feels insufficient) that I wanted to link to bring the disturbing story of Glenda Moore into the space of a conversation on community. Community can be beautiful, but I wanted to conclude and re-conclude that post with the notion that community is work and working and re-working. In this way my blog posts conversed with one another, with internet searches, with images, and with our course work in a way that was new and interesting for me. The ability to link proved to both multiply and narrow possible meanings by connecting content directly to work beyond the post.

Process

I have been realizing, as the semester has progressed and I have become more comfortable with my own voice in this context, that there is freedom in blogging that is not as easily enjoyed in more traditional mediums for academic work. Throughout the blog, I’ve developed a voice that is both academic and casual, that is at times fully sincere and at others exasperatedly sarcastic.

I have also evolved in the selection of topic. On January 28th, 2013 I announced that the blog would be about “food, the body, and power.” I broke this down. In my section on BODY in this first blog post, I retrospectively read Judith Butler on the bounded body and our own professor Christina Sharpe on marked bodies, on raced, sexualized, gendered, and classed bodies. I read in this early blog the ways that my other academic work has impacted the building blocks with which I built food work in this blog. These idea and linguistic cross-pollinations carried forward throughout my blog and I like that my blog has referenced not only our own class, but other classes as well, both from this semester and the prior. I believe that these multiplying references and inextricable connections are part of the truth of food.

With food, the body, and power on the mind, I progressed into the blog, beginning with a piece on environmental justice as inspired by reading the work of Allison Truit. Her work on mal-distribution of resource and environmental burden immediately brought previous work that I had done in East Somerville, in our own backyard, to mind.  From there I considered colonialism, but through a new lens of the tomato and the power of (constructed/imagined) taste. Shortly thereafter my blog took a turn into my own home communities: Portland, Maine and the university. If community had not explicitly been an important word in my introductory blogs, it became one of the most central ones. Beyond community, key themes included local-ness and product. These posts asked, how are symbols (of locality, of “womanhood”, of community, of class/status, of wealth) deployed to sell product and to reinforce hegemonic orders of knowing? I ended the blog thinking about representation, identity, and product, especially within the context of community, farming, and food.

THINK: Emerging and Re-Emerging Themes

Victus Radicalis Word Cloud
Victus Radicalis Word Cloud

As the above word cloud shows, some of the most repeated words in my blog are: think, community, animal, food, farming, farmers, local, market, women, Maine, Indian, Europeans, American, product, producer, public, white, patriarchy, Oakhurst, eat, work, people, family, and tomato. I like that the central word is THINK. Though it is fully accidental, as “thinking” was never a theme in and of itself, I like that this is the central word because it is both a command/request/plea and a proud and anthropological admission of my own ways of knowing.

One of the strongest emerging themes in my blog, as well, I believe, as in our class, is that of community. Food is at once fully intimate and fully social and political and therefore closely tied to experiences of community. We have read about the urban farm, about soup for soil initiatives, about the possibility of expanding community to include a multispecies awareness, about political communities of veganism and its relationship to feminism, about campus communities and dining halls, and about Boston’s new market district plans. In our last class we got our hands out of a comfortable seat in the classroom and into the dirt of a community garden in Medford. We’ve considered community as it empowers and unites, as it requires space, as it is connected to learning and growing and regeneration. We, even if the community elements have been implicit in these conversations, have also considered violence. Part of the evolving engagement with community in this blog has reinforced the idea that it is not only a state or a community to which we do not belong that might do us violence, but our own communities and the ways in which they order us based upon our socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, conventional beauty, etc that may harm us. The field of food does not escape the habits we have developed and symbolically maintain that do  harm to others and to ourselves. The field of food and farming is also wrapped up in communities of status, of racism, of  consumerism, of exclusion, of privilege, and of imperialism. In many ways, my blog has explored the ways in which food and farming relate to community (re)building and the ways in which this building can be beautiful as well as violent (it may be one or the other or it may contain elements of both).

FURTHER REFLECTIONS ON CONTENT & POINTS OF REALIZATION

A few more points of realization.

As already explored, community is central to this blog. This semester I have had realizations about community’s closeness with food, land, and farming. I have also had realizations that have helped me to articulate community’s importance beyond land, beyond public, and beyond place. In writing about community, I have explored both its potentials for beauty and its potentials for violence.

I have been realizing the importance of product and the difficulty (perhaps impossibility) of fully de-mystifying the roots of a personal relationship with a concept, goal, belief, or food (“Back To Nature” is Kraft brand?!). I have been exploring the ways in which concepts of “local” or “family-run business” have become important tools of marketing and realizing that I am not always sure how I would even define “local” in the first place.

I have been realizing that I am not really sure how I define “natural;” that when I get down to it there is something about “natural” that means untouched or pure or safe to me, but that when I more fully consider what retreating into this might entail I recognize its privilege if not its impossibility (non-existence). Even as I recognize the privilege of a retreat into the natural, I also recognize the importance of being able to imagine nature.

I have been realizing that my own identity is closely wrapped up in what I eat and how and with whom I eat it. Differently but relatedly, I have been realizing that my identity may then be tied up in places and processes that I know little about.

I have been realizing that food is intersectional, cross-disciplinary, and messy with a wide and tangled relevance.

 

In the spirit of the core topics discussed here, I hope that the reflexivity and open conversation of the blog with self and with other will be another small example of an act of (love and) community in the world of food.

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