Sunday, 22 July 2012

Reviewing writings from the Past

Prompted by a recent Twitter thread I have published an edited version of my MA thesis on this blog ( and also as a note on

I wrote the original thesis entitled : Multiple Gender Identities of the Isthmus Zapotec and the Transition of the Household into a Neoliberal Mexico back in 2006. As well as the submission for my MA in Social Anthropology is was also intended as the project for my first attempt at gaining a PhD (which turned into a major disaster but that's for another time and place!).

Photo from
Re-reading, editing and re-posting sections of this thesis has presented me with some opportunity for reflection. The original tweet thread from @icdad and @ThinkMexican reminded me of the months of thinking, reading and writing about the complexities of gender and sexuality constructions in Latin America I had done, that now seem a distant past. Just what happens to all that stuff we learn in our early academic and educational journey? Does it just get compartmentalised, archived in the memory banks until prompted by an external force to come to the fore again? 

Surely on many levels this previous knowledge hoard must inform my thinking and understanding of the world today? I just don't spend much time reflecting upon it.... I now realise that is a shame.

As well as a reminder of my first in depth anthropological thinking into gender and economy, reading this thesis has demonstrated en evolution in my writing. It's difficult to read academic work from the past, it makes me cringe - I admit to never revisiting my undergrad assignments - I don't think I have the stomach for it! Opinions and ideas without much substance is a polite way to describe my undergrad self... What I would probably now write on my own student's feedback as "This discussion has some potential, however..."

I think perhaps its a good idea to have a reunion with my past self every now again, catch up with how I arrived at my current state of being and maybe learn a few things about where I'm going! 

Monday, 2 July 2012

If I could draw my PhD....

If I was able to express in art what I'm trying to do by analysing what is inside and how women feel it would look like this:

Salvador Dali City of Drawers

If only I could embody Salvador Dali that is!

This last couple of weeks I've been trying to get to grips with pregnant embodiment via a multiple body analysis (using Lock and Scheper-Hughes' notion of Individual Body, Social Body and Body Politic). I'm finding that as with theories of embodiment themselves I am awash with mental imagery and physical feelings of what it is to embody a social (and cultural) idea of what reproducing is and what having an occupied womb feels like. What I'm finding most problematic is turning this into something tangible, that makes sense to those outside of my head who are given the task of deciphering what it is I'm trying to say. 

Studying the humanities (or social science - when it comes to anthropology no-one can decide!) has introduced, rejuvenated and reaffirmed a love for artistic expression. I'm finally able to connect how humans have coped with a lack of the right words to describe how they feel - what they have done with a burning desire to express how they experience the world. Making me at once liberated and dismayed that no matter how much I would like to dance my way through a viva voce I will never be allowed.

I have discovered one saving grace though, the work of Julia Kristeva  and her writings about poetic language and the semiotic chora (the pre-lingual subject in process). From what I can begin to understand is that she is willing to explore the pre-cultural human in the womb, ourselves before we become social selves. This entails trying to grasp what urges are and can be - if there is any chance that some part of us cannot be explained via the route of social construction. 

I spend so much of my time thinking about how our every thought and feeling is manipulated by our surroundings and experiences - a very European approach to a world we have perhaps lost touch with, a spirituality that has been analysed away. Kristeva has bought something back for me, in a way given me permission to think through my own birth experiences and those of others. To be able to dig deep into other cultures and narratives that celebrate a female, maternal, real, connection to the earth - a way of metaphorically kicking off my shoes and feeling the earth or sand in between my toes. I can close my eyes and see liquid, blood, organs, space and what I imagine to be the collective wombs of women around the world, I can imagine myself swimming through dark, sticky red liquids that relate to womanhood and reproduction.

If I only I could find the right words......