Read this Week

Literature is revealed, not as a site for self-expression or as the exercise of genius, or as a history of great books, but as a process close to the flow of power relations in a modern society, a process central to our experience and construction of our selves’. This wonderful revelation signals the obligation of the writer to engage with power, to question the levels at which we might situate ourselves in society and to interrogate current systems of the self-and-other division. For readers to be aware of how their empathic selves might be manipulated or not.

Labels are meaningless or of little consequence to my work. I could be an Igbo writer, a west African writer, a Nigerian writer, a black writer, or even a Nebraskan writer. But suppose I’m asked to select a particular audience and write for them as some writers claim they do. Then who will this audience be? Will it be the people of Nigeria? If so, why? Why am I thinking in terms of national borders? Do I even believe they exist? Nigeria, to me, is a foreign idea, which, as I have consistently maintained, needs to be rethought. Can one pick and choose what one wants to accept from the fallout of colonisation?

What is five, ten, twenty minutes staring at Blue Poles worth? In exchange for my time, money, and attention, what am I getting? Art is worthwhile because it eludes – even refuses – these measures.

Abstract art in particular asks unanswerable questions about metaphor and representation. Art critic Clement Greenberg championed Jackson Pollock because the artist’s dizzying, drippy work is manifestly self-referential, knocking up against the limits of the medium, gesturing towards that which cannot be done. Greenberg described Pollock’s best paintings as attaining:

‘a classical kind of lucidity in which there is not only identification of form and feeling, but an acceptance and exploitation of the very circumstances of the medium which limit that identification.’

Abstraction of this kind is premised on a mode of expression that lives outside meaning, description and paraphrase. If we ask ‘What is it for?’ or ‘What is it worth?’ then we are not speaking its language.

  • ‘Why I’m Done Talking About Diversity’ by Marlon James problem with me coming to the table to talk about diversity is the belief that I have some role to play in us accomplishing it, and I don’t. And the fact that I have to return to that table often should be proof that such discussions aren’t achieving what they are supposed to.And whose diversity is it anyway? Are we truly being diverse, or are we just widening that hierarchal lens for one sector of the population to broaden their view of the world? And what about diversity’s side effects, like cultural appropriation, which some people still look upon as a positive thing? Are we truly broadening our landscapes, or are we just cutting off a manageable chunk of exotica or worse, putting a white voice on top and selling a million copies, exploiting the cultural richness of diverse peoples without accepting the people themselves or even worse—simultaneously driving them out?

    Because the other problem with diversity, is that it works with segregation extremely well. In fact it gives liberals in particular the opportunity to pay lip service to a thing that they may be unable or unwilling to actually practice.


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