Monday, June 25, 2012


As I was writing in my journal recently, I made a comment about my family that prompted a fair bit of reflection.  In the comment, I framed relations with my family in postcolonial terms, and it surprised me a bit that I did so.  I decided to give some thought to why it happened.

Part of it is that I have put a fair bit of time and effort into work in postcolonial discourse.  It was the first major school of critical thought to which I was introduced in anything approaching a serious fashion; my undergraduate thesis rolled around (ineptly, as I now realize) in it.  My master's thesis and some conference papers I have presented worked in it, if not exclusively so, as well, so I can say that postcolonial discourse has occupied a large chunk of my academic life.  That it has, that I have become accustomed to applying that particular filter to my perception, makes sense.

Unfortunately, as I thought about the matter a bit more, it occurred to me that the comment implies that I exist as an entity colonized by my family, which has unpleasant overtones.  I do not think they are entirely accurate.  My family does not exploit my position.  (Economically, this is certainly true.  There is some deployment of the social cachet of my having a doctorate and teaching college in New York City, but I am not giving anything up to allow my family to do so.  I am not convinced, therefore, that there is any "exploitation" going on.)  Nor am I certain that I am "removed" from the centers of power in the family; I maintain close ties with the people I love, and the structure of my family is not entirely so centered as to have a specific "core" in relation to which I can exist as a "periphery."  (And, to be as arrogantly egotistical as I am accustomed to being, I am one of the centers of power in the family.  So there.)

Although I do not, upon reflection, see myself as colonized, I do in some ways act as a colonizer.  I have, in fact, gone out from the gathering of my people into distant lands to take for myself and my own benefit the resources I have found in those places.  From the Texas Hill Country, I went to southwestern Louisiana, from which I derived an education and (damned little) funding.  I also ended up taking a wife from the people I found there, which, if not necessarily "going native," and certainly not against the wishes of the other person involved, does in some ways mimic aspects of the colonization of the Americas by European "explorers" (the more so since my wife grew up a lot closer to southwest Louisiana in many ways than she did to the Hill Country).  I also came to The City, where I used the available resources to complete a degree and to financially enrich myself.  In that, I am very much reenacting on the micro scale what has been and continues to be so destructive on the macro--as are a great many people who go away to school and to work.

Does it then make of us evil folk that we do so?  Are we being as destructive in our small ways as more overt, obvious colonists have been and are?  Or is the reduction in scale enough to make what I and others do in our personal lives not an ill?

I obviously have some more thinking to do.

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