Unworlding, or, Becoming Something Difficult

October 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Perhaps I started thinking of unworlding when my friend Shannon tweeted that “it takes too much energy to have at outward-oriented personality,” or when we met for tea and she expressed a desire for aphanisis. And perhaps my thinking started earlier, from Berlant’s observation that we desire encounters even as we organize our defenses against them, because we do not want to be completely dissolved by them.

I have been tracking the process of becoming something difficult. And perhaps “process” is too deliberate for that which happens through the accumulation of many unaware moments. What began as a folding—I like to think of it as an invagination—into the self, manifesting as the tone-down of my voice into a moth-breath, as feeling vocally blocked or sometimes forgetting to project, as my voice growing inward from frequently being unheard, has become the difficult work of trying “to map how one moves to a ‘better’ that is ‘bad.’

In Which A Dying Body Interrupts Report Realism—

October 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

A sentence from email has stuck with me: “there are over 3,000 gays in Kisumu.” It is not that I that I want an exact number—even as the fiction of coming up with an exact number would be fun. It is that I am struck by the roundness of the number 3,000. How do rounded off figures of bodies at risk circulate in spaces and publics where reports produced as necessary hardly receive more than a cursory look? Because I have worked for nonprofits and I am familiar with report realism and circulating, I am trying to picture the echo chamber where unimaginable people circulate as rounded off numbers in unread reports.

But perhaps there is nothing more annoying than having your numbers disputed by someone with a dying body. People with dying bodies routinely get in the way of nice round numbers to demand more than a cursory look. They demand double and triple takes, and then some. And it is very annoying.

Stepford Wife Personalities

October 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Why the Kenyan demand that people narrativize themselves, time and again, as “humble” and as “polite”? Which selves become possible through these vernaculars of personhood? Which ones are precluded? How do the selves imagined in this way interact with power? How do they interact with each other? How do “we” circulate—I am thinking of women circulated online as uppity, for instance Huddah Monroe, Mirfat from Tujuane and Vera Sidika—those who refuse to traffic as “humble”? How do those who imagine themselves as “polite” maneuver a social replete with banal, impersonal cruelty? Are the oppressed required to be “polite” in order to get empathy? In order to pursue justice?

Surfing Craigslist (I)

October 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

For years now I have enjoyed reading Craigslist personals. And because geography matters here, I should be more specific: I enjoy reading Portland’s Craigslist. It is not that I find intimate vernaculars intriguing or even that I am interested in how people speak to and engage intimate publics. It is, for instance, that I cannot for the life of me figure out what one person meant when they described themselves as “extremely sexual”. Maybe I am too Freudian, for I find the use of “extremely” here unnecessary, ridiculous even!

I have also been grappling with what many people mean when they indicate in their personals that they are “energetic”. Is there consensus that couch potatoes are people with low energy? As someone who keeps reminding others of the violence of the social and of its multiple and competing exhaustions, I find “energetic” an odd demand to make of living, another assault on those who choose not to engage the social.

And then my favorite: the many people who write that they “do not want to play head games.” Is that not the kind of demand that makes you want to throw a Lauren Berlant book at someone?

Diary: Safe Spaces

September 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Originally posted on Kenne's Blog:

In Kenya, every one of us who questions the structures of gender and sex, those of us who demand accountability on a system made no maximise the satisfaction of the needs of heterosexual men, live among the toxic and hateful ether of harassment. For some, it’s a droning white-noise-like sensation. All day drrrrrrrrnnnnnnndrrrrrrrrnnnn as you speak your truth, pointing out discrepancies in the official patriarchal narratives. It quiets down, but never shuts up completely, and sometimes it explodes into a clamouring and terrifying bang. Many of us are shaken until we have to rightly consider our own well-being and keep away. Others, shivering and tremoring, come back and continue with our work and with our lives.

In school, I must consider the implications of my utterances. Feminist and queer language is always severely policed. ‘Controversial issues’ such as the Domestic Violence Bill currently in parliament, are the source of great…

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Sexual Violence Charge Against Tony Mochama

September 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Date: Thursday September 25

Contact: Ann Njogu, Chair, CREAW, Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness for Women
Mobile: 0722 768 381

On Saturday September 20th, Standard Group columnist Mr. Tony Mochama committed an indecent act upon the person of poet and activist Shailja Patel, at a gathering in the home of Professor Wambui Mwangi in Spring Valley, Nairobi.

Today at noon, Ms. Patel filed a police report at Spring Valley Police Station. She was accompanied by her lawyer Ann Njogu, Chair of CREAW (Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness for Women), High Court Advocate Betty Kaari Murungi, Joan Nyanyuki, Executive Director of COVAW (Coalition On Violence Against Women), representatives from FIDA (International Federation of Women Lawyers), Professor Mwangi, and friends and supporters.

Ms. Patel had previously stated that she would seek restorative community justice rather than engaging the judicial system. Following consultation with civil society colleagues and consideration of all parties involved, she decided to file a police report for the following reasons.

1) To facilitate the need for corroboration, substantiation, triangulation.

2) To support the decades of work by Kenyan women’s movements to improve reporting procedures for SGBV survivors.

4) To move forward policy and practice on sexual violence in public life on the basis of evidence.

5) “The women’s movement has fought hard and long for sexual violence to be treated like the crime that it is. We must uphold that struggle by being as rigorous as possible when we make our claims and the demands thereof.” – Muthoni Wanyeki, Regional Director, Amnesty International

Ms. Patel said:

“Each time a man sexually harasses or assaults a woman with no consequences, he is emboldened to repeat and escalate that behaviour. It becomes a pattern. Sexual predators are not born; they are the product of patriarchies and rape cultures that teach men they are entitled to the bodies of all women.

“When a man invades a woman’s body space without her invitation, touches, grabs and gropes her without her consent, he violates her sovereignty of person. He evicts her from her own body. Our bodies are our first homes. If we are not safe in our bodies, we are always homeless.

“Let us stand with all victims and survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Let us create a society where sexual violence is unknown and unimaginable.”



September 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

The practiced air with which street canvassers raising money “to feed the kids in Africa” avoid approaching, or even looking directly at, me is intriguing. It says something about the coloniality of power. The direction of sentimentality is a well beaten path: it flows from a “here” (and that includes bodies with phenotypes whose belonging “here” is never in question) to a “there” which continues to function as the particular place where horror resides. And should it happen—as it did to me today—that a body with a phenotype deemed as belonging “there” is seen “here”, then requisite defenses are invoked to avoid the kind of frottage that might lead to unworlding.


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