SE Asia or bust

It’s been nine years, three kids, one vasectomy, two degrees, countless hairstyles, two overseas moves and a couple of breakdowns since our last extended childless adventure o/s, and it’s time. We’ve been looking forward to this since Dad offered it a few months back, maybe even since around 2001? But now that it’s upon us, I can’t believe how hard it actually is to go. The kids are despondent, our friends and auntie & uncle are all set for support, and we really need a holiday, but ouch, this is hard. I just really wish we were taking the kids. I’m sure I’ll change my mind?

So the trip is 3 weeks for Stuart, 4 for me. Two weeks from Angkor to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) then Hanoi with my generous Ma and Pa and sister Jodes, then hopefully to Hoi An for about 5 days on our own (if it’s flooded, we’ll reroute…), finally to Saigon again, where Stuart will head home to lovely chaotic kiddles and I’ll stay on for a week for research. I do have the best research ever, being forced to hang out with people while they shop and/or eat and talk about food, family, memory and imagination. Tough gig.

One glitch though – Stuart was told on Friday that he has to go to Singapore for a meeting on his way to Bangkok, meaning he’s leaving in about an hour, whereas I leave at 1pm tomorrow, so we’re hooking up in the Bangkok airport. Not only is this unfortunate for the whole ‘first exciting/scary long trip away from wee ones’ bonding on the plane, it means I have to be the one to drop kids off at school in the morning without him, whilst they dissolve (and I… ?) and I march valiantly away to get a cab to the airport alone. I know that some folks will be thinking, “yeah, but at least you’re going overseas together(ish)”, but the physical act of leaving the creatures I grew is the single thing I am dreading most, and now, I’m on my own.

Okay, off to a jaw-clenching sleep before the dreaded separation, followed by, I’m sure, an amazing holiday. Hopefully the next post will be a bit more exciting…

Social rhymes with show-all (at least assonantly)…

I’m thinking a lot at the moment about stitching my identities together, some of which have frayed edges and others which sport bias(ed) bindings. In this cyber-real unreality of the uber-E, where ‘e’ is for ‘eccentric’ and ‘eclectic’, my careful stitches sometimes appear as pure pastiche. And isn’t it fascinating that when one finally mends the online schisms, puts that personality that used to make so much sense back into one eager little portal, how schisms show up as schizoid – we aren’t meant to put all our selves back together again. Identities are so fractured, so multiple, that to force them back into one mould simply breaks it. So what the hell am I talking about? Well, it’s this:

I really like having a blog for my musings, a wiki for food reviewing with friends, RSS feeds for journal alerts and blog updates (especially food blogs), email for the banal dailies, websites for designing online curricula, social bookmarking for online convenience and bibliographic trails, online data storage to tame my version-control issues, and social networking for making links (both academic and otherwise).

I have to go to a meeting. I’ll be back. x

Flag F(l)ag Football

It’s hard to remember how annoyed I felt about that restless legs thing – I’ve been far too occupied and amused to bother thinking about foolish people lately. Picture this:

Boston, Chandler Inn, South End. Not the Hilton (where we stayed in DC), but clean and safe. Pop in at the bar downstairs for a drink after the Radcliffe conference on Thursday evening. Stop at the door. Ask doorman, “Are women allowed in here?” as my mind swam in some sort of anachronistic sense that in Boston they don’t let the women drink in public. “Sure,” he says, “more might come later.” Weird, but okay. Sit awkwardly at bar amongst sports fans and wonder what tenacity I possess to keep this up. Order a local beer (boring – Samuel Adams). Pull out shield of notebook and begin to take notes on travels thus far. Men ordering drinks next to me mostly don’t look at me, unless with a slight frown. Take note of stereotypical intonation patterns and abundance of white wines, light beers and martinis. Ooooooh, I get it (duh – bit slow). Confirm understanding that I’m in a gay bar with a nice young man, Anthony. He’s very warm and invites me to join them – I say I will in a moment after finishing a bit of writing. End up having a drink there with Anthony and other lovely guy, who then take pity on me and take me to a straight bar a block away, where we share quesadillas, Australian slang and many laughs before I climb into bed around 10:30pm. Noice.

Next night after the conference: in search of a light dinner and a drink. Revisit straight bar from night before, but too crowded to sit down, so move on. Head for Butcher Shop, recommended by random man on train earlier. No seats. Cross the street to Oysters, recommended by couple in first overcrowded bar as good venue next to the Butcher Shop. Get the only single seat at the bar. The menu has 40 regional choices of oysters. Ask for advice from obvious local next to me. Obvious local turns out to be Charlie, the owner of the restaurant as well as of the Butcher Shop across the street, as well as a fine dining establishment in Beacon Hill. Charlie and his friends graciously keep me company, ply me with expensive wine, insist on buying my dinner (beautiful oysters, calamari, buffalo shrimp, soft-shell crab, etc amen), and then whisk me off to meet his wife the fab chef in Beacon Hill over a Laphroaig. What a gentleman!! What a gorgeous way to spend my last night in Boston! I love Boston!! Thank you, Charlie!

Now in New York with my beloved and Graham and Janine having a lovely time in spite of the wet, chilly nor’easter. Bought a fleece, gloves and hat in Boston – lifesaving devices all. It’s real rain here too – like you really need an umbrella and everything. Crazy.

Restless Legs

Watching tv for the first time on this American dream, there was an ad. The ad was about “Restless Legs Syndrome”, but it was actually about selling a drug for this unpleasant new syndrome. Hm, since when are restless legs a problem? Don’t you just get up and go walkabout to sort that out? Aren’t restless legs something people have talked about forever, the long skinny things that take people places, take people away, make us wander, encourage us to wonder, get us going, grooving, living, loving… ?

What is it about this place that makes people want to medicate restlessness, rather than interrogate it and fulfill it? Why drugs rather than the proverbial hugs, or drugs rather than simply getting off your non-proverbial arse and WALKING, which is probably all those poor little legs want? Of course, that’s hard to do in ridiculous shoes, so maybe what we really need is a SENSIBLE SHOE REVOLUTION. I’m in. In fact, I’m already a card-carrying member of that movement.

So, Restless Legs. In America, you can take drugs to get over that. Me, I travel. Or I just walk or ride my bike at home. I don’t keep sitting and wondering what’s wrong. I suspect far too many people have forgotten about the natural world. The one in which it is OBVIOUS that if you sit and sit and sit allllll the time, you might (probably will) get RESTLESS LEGS.

So GET UP. Go for a WALK. Check out the WORLD around you. Use your body for what it was intended. Have more SEX. LIVE a little. Save drugs for plain fun (or not at all), but not to solve obvious problems. Duh. F*@#in’ Restless Legs. S E T T H E M F R E E. pax.

Jonai Journaling

Warning: this may be intensely boring unless you already like TheJonai, and if you’re not a fan of the ‘annual letter’ genre, stop reading now!

2006 in brief:

  • We moved from Malvern to Fairfield – Malvern is a conservative, wealthy, leafy suburb of SUVs and private schools where we either shopped at the Vic Market in the city for fresh produce or else slumped into Coles for ‘necessities’; Fairfield is a ‘gentrifying’ suburb with a strong mix of working class and middle, Greek, Italian and Anglo, and nary an SUV in sight 😉 – we shop at ‘our local Italian’, Cardamones, or the next suburb’s Piedimontes, plus still frequent the markets when we can.
  • Oscar attended Grade One at Fairfield Primary School where he learned to paint in the style of Fred Williams and helped create beautiful mosaics to brighten the schoolyard. Uniforms are optional (he rarely wears his) and the Principal knows all the children by name. He’s one of the few kids who diligently rode his bike every day of the year.
  • Antigone went to 4-year-old Kinder at St Andrew’s Kindergarten. She maintained her disinterest in the whole kinder experience all year, but dutifully rode her bike most days there, back, to pick up Oscar and back, a total of nearly 4kms.
  • Atticus was in a new Suzuki music class for the first half of the year, but opted out in the second half as he seemed to feel that he was too mature for most of the others.
  • Stuart went to Dubai & Germany and no longer wants to live in Dubai. 😀 However, he does want more elegant and delicious ‘work’ dinners in Europe.
  • Tammi visited the Woods fam in California where she got lots of Hayden cuddles, alone time with McKella, Jianna and Maisie, and hours of warm and earnest sisterly confidences with Jodi. It was a week of family bonding with everyone down at the beach house Dad and Ma rented. On the final night, after witnessing Josh’s deep fried extravaganza culminate in deep fried Twinkies, the siblings went out on the town and it snowed in Santa Cruz! She also got to enjoy a beautiful final sibling lunch at Chez Panisse, then stroll across the road to the Cheese Board to buy some bread and smelly washed rind cheese for the flight home. In the interest of national security, she ate the cheese in the waiting area instead of the plane.
  • Stuart moved offices (again) to the lower end of the city with a view of the Yarra. (Tammi’s office has no windows.)
  • Tammi started her PhD in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne. Her topic is mapping multicultural foods and national identity in Melbourne. If all goes according to plan, you’ll have to call her Dr Jonas sometime in 2010.
  • We all went camping at Tamboon Inlet for Easter and played on sand dunes.
  • Tammi worked for awhile at the School of Graduate Studies, where she was called “UnAustralian” by a colleague, the first time she’d experienced a truly nationalist slur in 15 years in the country.
  • Tammi attended the “UnAustralia” Conference in Canberra 🙂
  • Stuart jetsetted to France where he madly pursued Le Tour de France alongside his generous host, Josh. He has not stopped madly riding about since.
  • Atticus began speaking in sentences. Most of them begin with “Me”, as in “Me not like that very much” or “Me want somefing different.” He is clearly a genius. 🙂
  • Antigone began making books, cards and an endless supply of presents for everyone, especially Mama, who finds them on her pillow most evenings.
  • Oscar became a good reader and devours endless stacks of reference books about aeroplanes, boats, trucks, and spaceships.
  • Oscar perfected the design of a new rocket ship. Watch for his early sketches when he becomes famous (assuming his mother is organised enough to save them all). He and Antigone churn through a sketchbook a month on average.
  • Tammi started a job writing a website for coursework postgraduate students (on academic skills).
  • Stuart went to Dubai again and still doesn’t want to move there.
  • Ianthe was our au pair for two creative and fun months before returning to Holland.
  • Inga was our au pair for two strong and delightful months of friendship before travelling to Darwin and working on a fishing boat. At last report she was in Cairns and we hope for a visit sometime in January.
  • Jade became our au pair and will hopefully remain an integral part of the Jonai for a long time. She brings equal parts warmth and discipline to the children’s world and spends hours doing crafty things with them.
  • All of us began to walk, bike or take public transport everywhere.
  • We bought a Volvo, sold the HQ, bought two new bikes (Antigone & Tammi) and found countless more (Stuart).
  • Tammi went to India and Singapore, delivered her first conference paper, and ate herself silly (see blog entry below).
  • Stuart went to Nanjing and ate many fine banquets. He and Tammi missed each other at the Singapore Airport by three hours.
  • Oscar learned to skateboard, and had tennis lessons where he shows very promising natural talent.
  • Everybody became better cooks, but less frequent ones as Tammi worked too much.
  • We broadened our shopping horizons to the Preston Market, Cardamones, and Piedimontes, but haven’t given up the Vic Market. Must go to Mediterranean Wholesalers to see what all the fuss is about.
  • Stuart and Tammi started systematically working through recommended restaurants around Melbourne (check out the wiki:
  • Antigone learned to write the entire family’s names without copying and can sound out most of the letters of the alphabet.
  • Tammi went to the “Everyday Multiculturalism” conference in Sydney and hung out with Penelope in Sydney’s poor excuse for pubs.
  • We didn’t go to Lorne enough, though the kids did with Ros and Wayne.
  • We camped at the Folk, Rhythm & Life Festival where we danced, swam in a beautiful quarry and played kid stuff.
  • We hosted many dinner parties and celebrated the equinoxes and solstices with dear friends and family.
  • We bought a washing machine – our first white goods purchase ever.
  • We loved, fought, laughed, cried and lived big all year… and that’s just the short list.
  • May 2007 bring us all as much joy and exciting challenges!

Unbalanced approach to the solstice

Balance is not something one should seek too earnestly; equilibrium is statis. Yet in a brief period of equilibrium, one has a moment to feel calm, just before it all shifts again into intense growth, dormancy or some other organic, dynamic response to the world.

Today I am conscious that I am at work, at Melbourne Uni, in front of a screen in a mouse-maze cubicled windowless environment where the air is rife with paint fumes and the horizon is obscured. Only two days ago I felt uncertain whether I was in India, Singapore, Sydney, Canberra, camping in the bush or driving/flying/waiting somewhere between them all. Limbo lurking. The last six weeks have been outrageously unbalanced, even for me. I therefore find myself somewhat unbalanced as well, as in passionately mad. Racing thoughts and viscous verbosity are not helping. Nor is my highly caffeinated state. Thank the goddess the most unbalanced day is only a week away…

So last week I spent some time in UnAustralia. What a maddening, exciting, depressing, horrifying and fun place it is. The dramatically dubbed Melbourne Massive formed a delegation of nine (okay, 11 when Tom & Susanna were around) at the CSAA conference in Canberra, the site of UnAustralia. As per some others’ comments (see Michael, Glen, Mel G, Mel C, and Graham) the papers were a mixed bag of reflexive & un, challenging & not, interesting & dull. John Frow’s final keynote was a definite highlight, which should have been the keynote in Parliament the night before, no offense Professor Ranciere, but John was political and incisive in the most ‘resolutely rational’ ways. Another key moment for me was the panel put on by the Asian Australian Research Network (AARN), who worked on hybridity, identity, politicians, food and art in truly interesting and engaging ways. Hats off to Simon Choo’s work on food and identity in relation to the transnational flow story of the man who just wanted durian ice cream before he died.

I don’t really want to dwell on the conference, but then, nor do I wish to delve into the intense social critique in which the Melbourne Massive engaged for five days running. I think good work was done by all and all our worlds have been usefully complicated just that little bit more. I certainly enjoyed the many pub conversations of the week. May I suggest some optimal follow up reading: Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Naomi Wolf and Susan Faludi come instantly to mind. 😉

A quick recap then: car politics, rogue emails, grassy knolls & feral possums got my shoe, group membership and mob mentality, OD’d on dismal food, J. Frow’s wine, shiteful Irish pub and sterile Civic, Motel Girls at the Garden of Australian Dreams, abstraction and Australian Parliament, bedbugs, academic engagement and a broken fan. Hit it.

Today is the third of nine end of year/xmas do’s in 13 days. Let madness reign.

Making meaning in Kolkata

I think it’s a good thing that the internet access in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta for those who missed the name change in 2001) was rather poor, because I wouldn’t have said anything sensible on the first day or two. It seems rather difficult to speak sense when you’re having trouble making sense of your environment. What is so very fitting about this dilemma is that I went to Kolkata to give a paper on cosmopolitanism, in which I argue for the Raymond Williams theory that one must make meaning of things to feel a sense of belonging to them. How true this is when contextualised so graphically…

I landed at about 1am and was fortunate to have a grad student from Jadavpur University pick me up (the lovely Deep). Of course, I wasn’t aware this was arranged, and so organised a pre-paid taxi before stalking determinedly, sans eye contact, out the door towards the cabs (I’d been to India before, you see). A tap on my shoulder and “Are you Tammi?” changed my entire arrival into a stress-free event. (Except for the two pedestrians we saw lying by the side of the road on the way to the uni, who had just been run down by a large truck in the smoggy haze of early morning, which set me on edge in cabs, but more especially, when crossing roads, for the rest of the visit.) Thank goodness Deep picked me up, because the uni gate was locked, the grounds looked haunted at night, and the directions were not as straightforward as they might have seemed on a sterile screen in Melbourne. To bed.

I won’t detail everything here from breakfast to bed, but I will share some highlights. The first day was a ‘free’ day, as the conference began the next morning. So Murray (the only other Australian presenter) and I headed off after breakfast without a map, guidebook or a clue except I remembered from eight years ago that Park Street was in the centre, New Market was meant to be a good one, and College Street was lined with piles of books. Near College Street, which was indeed lined with the same books of my memory, but with the amusing signs to let you know what each stall was selling (eg. English Lit – and then piles of Engineering texts), I stopped to buy some peyanji, a sort of onion and garlic fritter with lots of spice, from an old woman frying them on the street. By the time she actually served me, we had attracted a crowd of about 30 people circled around us. Murray and I were picturing headlines “Giant red-headed foreigner eats peyanji near College Street!” – because apparently it’s news. We later wandered through the New Market, where I insisted we pop into the meat market, being the food-obsessed, self-conscious adventurer that I am. What I recall is a blur of chicken feet, blood, feathers, semi-naked men crouched on concrete platforms amongst animal parts and rivers of blood, and a stench of bile, shit and fear. It makes me nauseous again sitting here in a comfortably middle class home in Singapore just to think of it. We exited stage left. I felt like a failure, but suspect I would have felt worse if I’d vomited in there.

I didn’t mention the cab ride to the centre, which was the really difficult bit. I cannot describe Kolkata traffic except to say the drivers know the dimensions of their cars, the location of their horns and the strength of their brakes better than any cabbies in the world. And pedestrians manage to flow between cars that are no more than a body’s width apart at any time, and if anybody were to thwart the system and hesitate, it would be fatal. I’ll add a short video of this later. The mad driving, coupled with the chaos of people, rubble and rubbish outside, was my initial taste of how little meaning I could make of any of this. And I found it extremely off-putting and alienating that day. But then comes the night…

Four of the uni’s grad students, Deep, Momo, Priyanka and Simon, took me out to feast on the streets that night. It started with phuchka, which is a deep fried orb-shaped cup made from atta flour and semolina into which is placed a ball of potato and veg filling, then the cup is half filled with a spiced tamarind water. Omigoditwassogoodwehadtohavethree. Next, into a cab to a Muslim area for beef kebab rolls that taught me not all chapati are created equal – these were the fluffiest, chewy chapatis I’ve ever had. Onto mishti doi, a delicious sweet curd, and roshogolla, spongy little balls in syrup. Not finished yet, we ventured across Park Circus for haleem, a chunky beef stew that is a Ramadan specialty for breaking the fast, and finished off across the road with kulfi, a sort of iced cream with sultanas and nuts in it. Sated, we went back to Momo’s for a chat and then to bed back at uni by 9:30, an amazing feat given it felt like we’d been all over Kolkata.

The next three days were the conference, Food: Representation, Ideology and Politics. My paper was in the first parallel session on the first day after the plenaries. It went very well and sparked a great conversation about cosmopolitanism, as well as the crucial question, why does food carry this burden of meaning? Also, why do ‘elites’ feel a need to insist upon their cosmopolitanism or multiculturalism – what’s at stake here, how does it contribute to the construction of a hopeful national imaginary, and what symbolic violence might it also do? I’ll be working on those questions, thinking about the ‘essential’ nature of food and the senses, memory and imagination, as well as considering the role of affect in relation to the sensory experiences with food. I also need to work on ideas about ‘authenticity’, which may be so problematic I can’t even use it; ‘ethnic’, which is a word applied to ‘the other’; and of course, cosmopolitan as a philosophical construct and multiculturalism as quotidian.

The final night in Kolkata, I found out (thank you Anindya!!) about a restaurant called “Kewpies”, who call themselves “purveyors of authentic Bengali cuisine”. So I dragged Ira (who did her PhD at LaTrobe and teaches at Delhi University) and Vidya (a divine classical singer, academic and bossy Indian woman) down a dark, smelly alley to where the place is secreted. And there we had the most divine thalis (sort of set meals, with dal, roti, chutney, fritters, papadum, rice and the dishes we added, including chingri malai, prawns in coconut sauce, bhekti paturi, fish in a mustard paste steamed in a banana leaf, mangsho kosha, mutton curry, and doi begun, eggplant in a sauce/curry). It was all finished with mushti doi and a cream-based soft biscuit, as well as paan, which I tried for the first time. It’s a bit hard to chew such a large folded leaf in your mouth, but tasty and apparently a good digestif. On the way to this beautiful Bengali feast, our cab was actually rear-ended by a small car, which promptly drove on. I don’t think the cab was even dinted (they’re tough), and everyone just sort of carried on as though these things happen all the time, which I suspect they do. I sort of felt like maybe it was a bit of luck to have the minor bingle, like it needed to happen before I left (statistically speaking), it happened at slow speed, and the gods were appeased.

Let me return briefly to meaning. In the space of four short days, I went from a sort of brain cloud reaction to the chaos of Kolkata, to someone able to begin to make partial meaning. Some of that meaning is troubling for obvious reasons – how can a place have such a privileged middle class in the face of stark poverty and crumbling infrastructure? But many of those same people, the intelligentsia of Bengal, are passionate, revolutionary, feminist, often Marxist and always leftist, and are doing their ‘everyday’ bit to find meaning and work within the contraints of a very challenging environment. Their students adore them, and they, in turn, shower attention and respect on their students, who are arguably even more self-assured than Americans. The intellectual passion and comradery I encountered in my four days was breathtaking and refreshing. I’m going to keep arguing for knowledge as a way to engender belonging.

Superdelicious Singapore

Having an awesome time eating with Hannah! Bought some Birkenstocks a moment ago, very comfy choice! But now for a little overview…

Flight uneventful, sat next to two nice Welsh film producers returning after a month in Argentina and Australia shooting a film about a Welsh guy who moved to those places then died in the war in France. Food terrible. Flight slightly late, so made it onto train at about 11pm, watched ‘be alert’ video at all the stations. Checked over shoulder for John Howard.

Met Hannah at Paya Lebar, caught a cab to Serangoon Gardens, just around the corner from her house. Went directly to Hawker Centre (Chomp Chomp), totally buzzing with people still at 12am, where Hannah went off foraging – brought back sugar cane juice (supersized!), Chinese satay (you know it’s Chinese b/c both chicken and pork – Malays don’t do pork due to Islam) and sambal stingray – yum! Finally to Hannah’s to bed at about 1am (4am by my body clock).

Lovely humid sleep with fan blowing hair lightly all night. Slept in, restlessly, ’til 8:30am, showered and downstairs for a glass of water kindly provided by Minh, Hannah’s housekeeper, and five minutes’ wait ’til Dawn, Hannah’s friend, arrived to collect me. Lovely girl, Dawn, very friendly, fun and interesting (English and drama teacher). Walked directly to different hawker centre for best brekky ever – chee kueh (pickled veg & fried garlic on rice cakes) omigodthatwasdelicious, chee cheong fun (fat rice noodles layered with salt/sweet sauce & chili sambal on side), and ‘carrot cake’ (no carrot in sight, something to do with tapioca and dark sweet/salty sauce – super yum!), the ubiquitous sugar cane juice (so refreshing!) and finished with soya bean tau hway (sweetish silken tofu goodness). And then it was 10:30am. 😀

Off for a wander – bus to outer suburb to check out the non-touristic Singapore – got 3 t-shirts for $30! 😀 Back in to mall central in the centre, wandering forever underground, escaping the humidity and heat… got Stuart a book, me a book of Singaporean poetry, and the kids a ‘Cooking Asian food for kids). Grabbed a pork floss bun with chili for a snack – omigod that’s good too! Then time for lunch. Sakae Sushi – where the sushi cruises around you on conveyor belts! You just grab what you want and they count plates at the end. Excellent!

Now must stop blogging and get back to eating – kaya toast awaits!

Cosmopolitanism and original sin

I’ve been working recently on cosmopolitanism – particularly investigating its relationship to foodscapes and foodways. It’s led me down a nice genealogical path right back to Kant, who I’ve yet to properly read (thank you Wikipedia!), not to mention the Greeks, whose word it is originally. I’ve just finished typing up my notes on Bruce Robbins’ “Comparative Cosmopolitanism” (1992), which does some very similar work to what I did in the first draft of the paper I’m delivering in India next week, but with far greater sophistication and depth. It will tie in very nicely to said paper.

The thing I’m really interested in this second (don’t blink or you’ll miss it), is the criticism of the knowledge of the cosmopolitans – Hage comes to mind in particular with his discussion of Heidegger’s argument about the ‘discourse of value’ – that is, those doing the valuing are in the position of power that allows them to value those who ‘exist’ to be valued. In Bell and Valentine’s (1997) chapter on food consumption in communities, the authors define cosmopolitanism as involving “the cultivating of ‘globalised cultural capital’ as a form of lifestyle shopping which, crucially, involves possessing considerable knowledge about the ‘exotic’ [or] ‘the authentic’” which they point out is often referred to as a “colonisation or an intellectualisation of popular culture” (135-136). Robbins offers a clear defense for the knowledge of cosmopolitans ‘to educate future citizens of the world’ rather than ‘future policemen of the world’ (he’s writing about America just after the ’91 Gulf War). But what about the ‘naysayers’, those who object to cosmopolitanism on the grounds that it is elite, based perhaps on assumptions around Bourdieu’s study of distinction and class boundaries maintained by the cultivation of particular knowledges?

What struck me was an issue I’ve had with the Adam and Eve story for a very long time. As the story goes, Eve led Adam astray, overstepped her human boundaries set by God and was tossed out of Eden for it to a life of toil and mortality. What did she do? Was it that she disobeyed God? Perhaps. Was it that she sought knowledge from the apple? Was it that she was curious? Were these her sins? Arguably, it was all of the above – and the fact that she valued knowledge over obedience is one for the philosophers to nut out. (And we shall here entirely ignore the spineless Adam’s ‘she did it’, which appears to have done him or his kind little good anyway, and makes me suddenly wonder whether he even took a bite, but I’m just being cheeky now.)

In the past, a primary concern I’ve had with this story is the other major ‘punishment’ for her ‘sin’, which was to endure pain in childbirth, which, interestingly, is because of those damned big heads of human young, chock full of readiness for knowledge. I will maintain my position that it was this Judeo-Christian story that led to millenia of Western women to think the pain of childbirth was a punishment, and that as soon as medical advances made it possible to avoid this punishment and growing secularism made women increasingly comfortable with saying such things as “we don’t ‘deserve’ this pain”, we had an epidemic of high intervention childbirths with a slurry of unfortunate side effects.

But I digress, because today I’m annoyed at this story as it seems to recur in the arguments against distinguishing oneself with knowledge, as though knowledge is somehow ‘bad’ or even ‘sinful’. If I may be provocative, it sounds like the Christian Right trying to shut down dissent again – which sounds suspiciously like what God was doing back there in Eden. Hm. Perhaps I’d best stop there, before somebody notices I’m not a Christian. Also, before I’m accused of defending ‘elitism’ uncritically, which is not my project. Of course, I don’t have to defend anything, since I’m just talking to myself here anyway…

Hey, another funny thing just occurred to me (I’m a bit slow sometimes) – to get the knowledge, Eve had to taste the apple. Is taste the original sense? Or is it just foundational or essential to identity making practices? Not that the Bible is the definitive authority on such things, of course…

In the beginning

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but welcome to my blog. I suspect I’m just talking to myself, which is kind of what I want from this experience. Finally, I’ll have a reflexive space to type that goes everywhere I do – who cares that I work on four different computers? With this blog, my, my netvibes page and, I have all the information I need as long as there’s internet. And where there’s power…

Mostly I just want to muse about food, identity and place here. Sometimes I may end up off topic, need to rant or report to myself on things I shouldn’t forget. This could be fun…