03 May 2013

"On Quitting": We Need New Forms

Keguro Macharia has written an essay titled "On Quitting" that I've now read three times since I first learned about it this morning. So much of its subject matter sits close to my heart, and thus so much of it is heartbreaking.

I begin to wonder about the relationship between geo-history, the saturation of space with affect, and psychic health.

I want to
describe how
I come to
be here-now:
another
threshold

I start writing a linear story, winding, but linear, about psychic health and academic production, a story that tries to make sense of why I am resigning from a tenure track job from a major research university at the same time as I am completing a book manuscript for publication. Not only resigning but also changing continents, returning to a place I have not called home for a very long time. This, I realize, is a story about words and places. So let me start with the word that started it, or named its fractures.

As you can see from that little excerpt, it's a formally inventive essay, and magnificently so — there are sidebars, collages, fragments. It could not be otherwise.

I've loved Macharia's blog Gukira for a while, and have benefited from his scholarly articles (indeed, a year ago, two students, without any prompting from me, cited his "Girlhood in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's The River Between" in their final papers, which pleased me greatly), but this new essay is something else, something for which I have no better word than necessary. It birthed a phrase in my mind all day — We need new forms. New forms of writing, new forms of teaching, new forms of learning, new forms of governing, new forms of being.

"I am completing a book manuscript for publication." Those words fill me with hope, despite the essay's sadness and fury.

We need this essay.

We need more essays of similar honesty and intellect and poetry.

We need new forms.

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