16 March 2010

sex and mummies

I hope you aren't disappointed, but I'm actually linking to two different articles, not one piece about freaky mummy sex. Although the people who made the mummies used giant phalus and vulva symbols as grave markers, so, ummmm ... yeah.
The New York Review of Books | Tony Judt | Girls! Girls! Girls!

On another occasion, a student complained that I “discriminated” against her because she did not offer sexual favors. When the department ombudswoman—a sensible lady of impeccable radical credentials—investigated, it emerged that the complainant resented not being invited to join my seminar: she assumed that women who took part must be getting (and offering) favorable treatment. I explained that it was because they were smarter. The young woman was flabbergasted: the only form of discrimination she could imagine was sexual. It had never occurred to her that I might just be an elitist.

Seriously though, is it really elitism to want only the best students in your seminars?  How do these things even work?  I've never heard of an invitation-only seminar.  (I hope that's not because I want judged unworthy of an invitation.  Are these like one of the skull-and-bones things, where you never even get to know you didn't get invited?)  Sorry, I'm taking that elitist line too seriously, but it's one of those words I'm always on guard with about misuse.  (Exhibit A, B and C.)

Now that that nit-picky digression is done, back to Judt:
Here as in so many other arenas, we have taken the ’60s altogether too seriously. Sexuality (or gender) is just as distorting when we fixate upon it as when we deny it. Substituting gender (or “race” or “ethnicity” or “me”) for social class or income category could only have occurred to people for whom politics was a recreational avocation, a projection of self onto the world at large.

Why should everything be about “me”? Are my fixations of significance to the Republic? Do my particular needs by definition speak to broader concerns? What on earth does it mean to say that “the personal is political”? If everything is “political,” then nothing is. I am reminded of Gertrude Stein’s Oxford lecture on contemporary literature. “What about the woman question?” someone asked. Stein’s reply should be emblazoned on every college notice board from Boston to Berkeley: “Not everything can be about everything.”
Via Tyler Cowen, who links to a NY Times article about those proto-Tocharian pseudo-mummies unearthed in the Taklamakan.

I find the back-and-forth between the Uighurs and Han in the region over the remains so tiring. If your nationalism rests on the backs of some desiccated, 4000 year old corpses being genetically mostly Eurpoean or mostly Asian you really need to re-evaluate your priorities. Not that there are good excuses for nationalism, but claiming some privileges over or control of a spot of land because someone with superficial genetic similarity to populations your people once lived near or sort of talked like has got to be way, way down the list.

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