Sunday, 28 October 2012

A cauda

Escritórios exclusivos rebrilham na solidão das nuvens
enquanto gravatas edificadas martelam telemóveis
à sombra gherkiniana do cash flow.

Em baixo, por entre as peles de pettycoat lane,
ganho nacionalidade de vespa.
Dentes macios sorriem
no mercado de prejuízos arredondados.

Na penumbra do semáforo,
de boris bike no bolso,
relembro a esperança que pedala adiante,
e que ultraleve ultrapassa a poluição
e sobe aos últimos andares do Nido
e desce em desatino até ao capacete.
Reparo que pedalo em unísono
com a sua cauda brilhante.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Pussy Riot: the faces of rebellion

Three young Russian women - Maria Aliokhina, Nadezha Tolokonnikova and Iekaterina Samutsevich - were arrested earlier this year after occupying a cathedral in Moscow to sing a punk prayer against Putin. They are accused of vandalism and religious hatred. If found guilty, they could spend up to seven years in prison. Similarly to what happened to the Three Marias in the 70s, these women's trial has been delayed since February. Let's hope that History repeats itself and that a revolution in Russia is able to suspend the accusation. 

Who said we live in a world beyond gender? New theories of gender must start right here.

The trial begins on 30 July.

(Chorus) St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin Drive away! Drive away Putin! (end chorus) 
Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners are crawling and bowing
The ghost of freedom is in heaven
Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains
 The head of the KGB is their chief saint
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend the Holy
Women have to give birth and to love
 Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit! Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit! (Chorus)
St. Maria, Virgin, become a feminist 
Become a feminist, Become a feminist (end chorus) 
Church praises the rotten dictators 
The cross-bearer procession of black limousines 
In school you are going to meet with a teacher-preacher 
Go to class - bring him money! 
 Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin 
Bitch, you better believed in God 
Belt of the Virgin is no substitute for mass-meetings 
In protest of our Ever-Virgin Mary! (Chorus) 
St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin Drive away! Drive away Putin! (end chorus)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Novas Cartas Portuguesas: The Making of a Reputation

My article on Novas Cartas is now available in the Journal of Feminist Scholarship (open-access). Comments are very welcome!

Ana Margarida Dias Martins turns our attention to the feminist literary and theoretical canon as she focuses on the text Novas Cartas Portuguesas (New Portuguese Letters), published in 1972 and co-authored by Portuguese writers Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta, and Maria Velho da Costa. Martins reassesses the internationalization of Novas Cartas Portuguesas in order to understand what forces, both theoretical and political, kept the text from becoming an established part of feminist literary canons in Europe or the United States, while also exposing how it contributed to 1970s feminist intellectual conversations and movement. In doing so, Martins also argues for further reanalysis of Novas Cartas Portuguesas in order to understand the often overlooked relationship between French and Anglo-American feminisms and texts from outside the Franco-Anglophone spectrum. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Guinea Bissau (and the Three Marias)

I've been receiving emails about the situation in Guinea Bissau. No-one seems to know exactly what is going on there, but from what I could gather, it boils down to an explosive mixture of military coups, repressive regimes, great famine, and international silence. The tone of the emails I'm receiving from the academic community in the global north reminds me of the three Marias' worry about what words can do.

Mas o que podem as palavras? O que podem abaixos assinados, cartas e assinaturas? O que podem campanhas virtuais no twitter contra a fome e o desespero de uma população?

Talvez possam alguma coisa. Porque é que só intervém o ECOWAS? Onde estão as headlines? Onde está a CPLP? Onde está o UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)?

Guinea Bissau: the bad news...
In nearly 40 years of independence, no elected leader has finished their time in office in Guinea Bissau. It's one of the world's poorest countries, with 70% living in poverty. It's the world's first narco state: a hotspot for the smuggling of cocaine from Latin America to Europe. It's heavily dependent on foreign assistance, with a massive foreign debt. It has an issue of impunity, with no prisons. It's considered to be one of the worst places in the world to be a mother.

Guinea Bissau: the good news!
Despite having been dogged by war, coups and assassinations, the country has been making progress to reverse violence and destruction. Young hip-hop artists are speaking out in Kriol against political violence. The House of Mothers is helping women to deliver their babies safely, offering them food and treatment. The UN is helping to build a police academy so as to better tackle organized crime. Bissau-Guinean Flora Gomes is putting Guinea Bissau on the map of international postcolonial cinema. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Levanto-me e meto água a ferver. Depois entorno-a para um bule amarelo e faço chá verde. Detenho-me por instantes a sorver o silêncio desta casa. E verto a infusão para uma chávena azul. Imagino um veado selvagem junto ao sofá, também azul. Sento-me. A cadeira é vermelha. Começo a sentir tudo muito intensamente. As cores da casa e o silêncio. Sinto-os como se tivesse a pele dos sentidos sensível. A linguagem é uma pele. Há quanto tempo não escrevo um poema, pergunta-me o veado. Avanço com os dedos pelo teclado brando do computador branco, numa fúria intencional que afugenta o veado. Situo o poema num tempo fora do meu, where it can sit still and wait in vain. Não escrevo poemas. Não tenho jeito. E regresso a mim.

Friday, 9 March 2012

The useful and the useless

First of all, I wish I could write like Stefan Collini.

I'm reading his book, What Are Universities For (Penguin 2012 – 15% off at Waterstones!), while keeping at the back of my mind the situation in which Portuguese Studies finds itself. I posted on this question some time ago (Saving Portuguese). At the time, I wasn't sure what I was trying to say in that post. I'm afraid I came across as rather cryptic, as my one and only faithful reader told me. But Collini's book has oddly made my intention clearer to me.

What worries me about the way we are dealing with the situation of Portuguese is the way we, the defenders of the Lusophone in a time of general crisis, are driven, perhaps unintentionally, to overstatement. According to Collini, this is a typical feature of the defenders of the useless in past and current debates on what universities are for. In my other post, I described some of the arguments we have come to know by heart due to repetition in our fight to keep Portuguese alive and well in some European universities. A brief look at the nature of those arguments and it becomes clear that they are mostly about numbers, facts and recent BRIC economic booms.

But let's not chain Portuguese to numbers, facts and booms. Let's be honest. After all, Portuguese is, to a large extent, a useless academic field, and should be defended as such. Of course, Portuguese prepares people for survival in lots of countries all over the world. Of course it offers useful packs of knowledge. Of course the numbers of speakers of Portuguese are growing. But transforming Portuguese into something entirely useful, stable and fixed will inevitably lead to failure. Not least because we as academics are questioning, every time we teach or take the pen to write, the very numbers, facts and booms which are being used to justify Portuguese. We work on vulnerable stuff.

'Not everything that counts can be counted'.

Language is a skin

'Language is a skin. I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My words tremble with desire.'

Monday, 13 February 2012

Of passionate nuns and religious thrillers

I just found out about the tale of yet another passionate nun, this time Mexican, chamada Joana Ines de la Cruz, who apparently wrote a play about romantic entanglements in 1683... Sor Juana is the subject of Helen Hedmundson's new play, The Heresy of Love. At the RSC until March 9. Exciting!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Saving Portuguese

Flabbergasted, outraged, fuming, dead serious. This is the state in which we've been signing petitions, writing letters, starting up facebook groups, inviting family, friends, colleagues, (ex-)students to get involved. Fully aware, of course, of the pressures currently constraining the sleek interiors of certain European Faculty board meeting rooms. But it isn't working. Why are all our arguments - to keep Portuguese alive and growing in some European universities - falling flat on their back?

Now listen, and listen carefully, and again and again:


Portuguese is a major world language.
Of critical importance. Spoken in eight countries and four continents.
More than French and German.
It has over two hundred and fifty million speakers world wide.
Portuguese-speaking countries are de facto leading economic actors in global affairs.
Closing down Portuguese destroys minds!
Closing down Portuguese is like closing down Portuguese discourse itself.
Seems pretty important to a lot o people.
It's a very melodious language with superb poetry and literature!
Finance will profit from that... eventually.
As an ex-student, I could talk with everyone in Portugal last December, it was wonderful!
Dutch students are entitled to know something of its culture.
I studied a BA in Portuguese and it was the most amazing thing I've done.
Yay for learning Portuguese! ;)
Closing down Portuguese is bad management.
A very unintelligent decision.
Fernando Pessoa's poetry.
A Holanda deve reconhecer e reverenciar a importância dos judeus portugueses.
Portuguese doesn't deserve this treatment!
One should not burn down one's bridges.
I'm a Portuguese Minor and love the language!
Closing down Portuguese is an absolute disgrace.
All reasons before.
Now that Portuguese is really growing they want to close it down.
My mother tongue is a rich and beautiful one.
Mw van Rooy, maak dit plan ongedaan!
It has a rising global significance as attested by the importance of Brazil among the BRIC countries.
Brazil has overtaking the UK as the 6th largest economy in the world.
Brazil is a rising power.
A promising market.
A future partner.
My wife is Brazilian.
I work in Brazil.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Save Portuguese at Utrecht!

The Faculty of Humanities at the University of Utrecht announced that the Faculty intends to shut down its BA program in Portuguese. Effects are to be felt very soon, with possible firing of all staff members after September 2012 and a last date for enrolment of students set for September 2013. This has been sent to the national press today and appeared in one of the most respected newspapers, the NRC Handelsblad. This is being done as a reaction to imposed budget cuts. However, in the plans announced so far Portuguese is the only Department that is targeted for a full shut down. Two other BA programmes, on Arabic and on Theology will be allowed to restructure and become part of related BA Programmes. For Portuguese no such option was contemplated; neither together with Spanish, nor in terms of Latin American Studies.

SPREAD THE NEWS AND WRITE a letter of complaint addressed to:

Chair of the Board of Governance of Utrecht University
Professor Yvonne van Rooy
Heidelberglaan 8
3584 CS

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Humanities... Benign Neglect

(European Academy statement on the position of Social Sciences and Humanities in Europe)

Modern mass universities are increasingly seen primarily through the lenses of costs, performance, number of students and exams. Protocols of benchmarking and statistical indicators applicable to the empirical and to the exact sciences are carried over to the humanities: peer-reviewed journal articles outweigh monographs, the name of the publisher, the number of citations, the impact factor of a journal reputation, and whether a publication is international or national, become all-determinative. 
As a result, smaller fields and subject disciplines become marginalized, and in many instances are phased out altogether. Larger fields and disciplines that do not 'deliver' along the lines of the preferred 'industrial model' are stripped of research funding and reduced to rote teaching of ever larger groups of students. While the former development also affects certain areas of the natural sciences, the latter applies particularly to the humanities and social sciences. The result, is that in these latter fields the very basis of scholarly research, which should be the foundation on which rests the competent teaching of future generations, our citizens as well as our scholars and scientists, is relentlessly being eroded. 
The AE believes that research in the Humanities and Social Sciences is essential for the future of Europe in all time-frames. Only the Humanities and Social Sciences can help develop the transnational sense of a European identity necessary to underpin the social cohesion of the continent. These disciplines are essential for the understanding of different national and personal forms of behaviour, and to elaborate a mutual 'culture of recognition': to move from facing otherness as 'foreign and alien', to come to recognize in the 'other' our own objectified humanity and our common rationality, beyond our natural divisions. In this sense, to invest in the Humanities and Social Sciences is also to invest in deepening our understanding and acceptance of diversity, and in increasing our level of cohesion as European citizens, not through the overarching dominion of one model but through the mutual integration of people's cultural, historical, linguistic, and sometimes antagonistic, differences. 
Especially important in this regard, is the preservation of research and teaching in the so-called 'small subjects' - not limited to, yet primarily in the Humanities and Social Sciences - which because of the economic and institutional pressures outlined above risk disappearing unnoticed state-by-state. Europe has a proud history and research culture in the Humanities and Social Sciencesumanities and Social SciencesHumanities , but that position is under threat from the increasing investments in major sustained programmes in other parts of the world - not only in the USA, but also in South and East Asia. Many, if not all the smaller subjects mentioned, will simply cease to be studied if in Europe we abandon their pursuit. 
The creep of loss by benign neglect, is a somewhat "silent", but nonetheless real killer and a risk to our longer-term academic competitiveness.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Feeling an incredible longing for Carmen Miranda

In the 1930s, whenever he felt exhausted and drained from his classes at Cambridge, Ludwig Wittgenstein would go to the cinema with a friend or some student. Ray Monk tells us that he would always sit in the front row, where he could probably immerse himself more completely in the stream of images and sound, and he preferred either westerns or musicals starring the Portuguese-Brazilian Carmen Miranda.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, by Norman Malcolm (Oxford University Press, 1958)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Should one refrain from speaking about the "wrong" kind of feminists?

This Maria doesn't think one should.

In fact, this Maria is applying Sturgeon's Law to everything that comes her way reading as feminist, emancipatory and empowering. Including what this article has to say on "Tory feminists: the true blood of sisterhood".

Of course, this doesn't mean that there aren't different kinds of feminists and feminisms. What I'm saying is that you can't write the words "feminist" and "Big Society" in the same sentence. You can't call yourself a feminist and be against abortion, or turn a blind eye to the extent to which cuts are really affecting women more than men everywhere. You can't call yourself a feminist and still endorse Tories proposal to offer tax breaks to married couples in the UK. And so on.

This is neither about alienating men, nor about victimising women. It's about making clear choices about the kind of society that we want. Gaby Hinsliff goes some way towards acknowledging the problem when she notes in her long article that:

The glaring gap in rightwing feminism, of course, is in what it offers poor and low-skilled women. Bold and imaginative when it comes to getting more high-flyers into boardrooms, it has rather less to say to women clinging to humbler jobs by their fingernails (whose childcare subsidyunder the Working Tax Credit is being cut). Perhaps that's why Tory support has risen among professional women since the election, but plummeted among the "squeezed middle".

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Of REF and other cycles

An interesting response to REF 2014, which emphasises the other side of the impact coin:

We believe that the current proposal would push women to take shorter maternity leaves or to work during their leaves, which would be detrimental to their families and contravene their maternity rights. Alternatively, these women would effectively be expected to be more productive than their colleagues when not on leave, which constitutes a clear equalities issue. 

 (in The Feminist and Women's Studies Association)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Let me count the ways

O que é que interfere com a minha escrita?
  • pés frios, mãos frias.
  • desejo de ser container, de prender, consumir, devorar, manter por perto qualquer coisa apenas (des)conhecida. Tentativa de ser tupperware de palavras. O desejo de possuir traz lá dentro uma ideia de beleza e uma vitória. Tão grandes quanto podem ser grandes as vitórias e os belos dentro de sistemas maiores que eu. Sistemas que me cercam em circumferências. My business is, in this sense, stumbling on circumferences, not drawing them, Emily D.
  • a vontade de escrever o que só consigo articular pensando, e também
  • o hábito de duvidar dos pensamentos. Tendência para me esquecer que os pensamentos não são meus, mas deles próprios. Como certas filhas.
  • o mistério que envolve certos livros que pouso sobre a mesa, meio lidos.
  • maus hábitos adquiridos no Facebook.