Testimony, témoignage, martyrion 2: Babel

Part 2 of a series. Part one is here.

Communication towers… Radio towers on Mount Bromo by Matthew Klein. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A letter written to the bishop of Rome in 381 explains why human beings speak different languages. In the beginning, says the letter, all human beings spoke Hebrew and this was the language of creation, the language that Adam and Eve spoke and the original tongue in which things were named. Through this common language, the letter says, human beings were able to organise themselves so that they could build the tower at Babel. In so doing, they caused offence to God who scattered human beings across the earth and rent the fabric of human language.

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On insisting that academic labour is work…

Feminist Nuances

 Or: How to Become a Model Neoliberal Academic Subject.

If you’ve met me recently, online or offline, you’ll know that I’m in the middle of finishing my PhD dissertation. That’s to say: I’m in the middle of finishing a manuscript, a book, the largest piece of writing I’ve ever written. Some 90.000 words, excluding bibliography.

So it should not come as a surprise that writing and everything related to it have been on my mind these past months. How to reduce procrastination time and be more effective in my time management? How to overcome writer’s blocks and deal with the anxiety that comes with trying to finish up a project like this? How to edit your own text and how to be satisfied with what you’ve written?

Because I’m nerdy like that, I also love reading, thinking, talking and even writing about writing. Yeah, that’s some ‘meta’ stuff! The genre of…

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Patristics and Europe in 1951

Closed for business. Snack bar on Avenue Robert Schuman. Photograph by me.

“… since we are gathered here on the soil of Great Britain, how could we not call to mind a model or antitype of the labour we’re now doing: the work completed in the ‘dark ages’ by the scotti monasteries, heirs of the first rush out of Ireland; by the monasteries and episcopal schools of the Anglo-Saxons … where the beginnings of the Carolingian Renaissance, and so our civilisation today, were sketched out.” – Conclusion to Henri Marrou’s address to the first Oxford Patristics Conference (1951)

This quote is a good example of the ways in which people came to see the connections between the end of the Roman Empire and Europe after 1945. I’ve spent some time in the Archives nationales d’Outre-Mer trying to make more sense of these connections. As I walked to and from the archives I also thought about how memories of the past shape our world today.

The building containing these archives stands on the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence at the end of Avenue Robert Schuman. Schuman was a key figure in the early negotiations on European integration after the Second World War. Over the past week, as the consequences of Brexit begin to play out, this junction between the colonial archive and Schuman’s avenue has come to seem a physical monument to the intersection between memories of empire and the European present. Continue reading “Patristics and Europe in 1951”

Library #2: The BnF

A forest grows through the national library of France.

Forest at the centre of the BnF, photograph by me.

In early June I spent a week in the Bibliotheque nationale de France. Every day I walked up through the 13e arrondissement and onto the roof of the library where one found the entrance. The BnF was designed to take its place alongside a host of other monumental buildings along the banks of the Seine – Les Invalides, for example – but I always approached it crab-wise, through a building site on the other side of the Avenue de France, criss-crossing through the roadworks.

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ANOM (nom nom nom)

Paul Cezanne, Maison Maria with a view of Chataeu Noir. Photograph by Charlie Llewellin (CC BT-SA 2.0)

I’ve spent the last few days working through material generated by archaeological expeditions to Algeria in the 1950s. Light relief was provided by the minutes of Faculty meetings at the Université d’Alger. Alongside other records from French involvement in its overseas territories, these archives are located in the Archives nationales d’Outre-Mer (ANOM) in Aix-en-Provence. Aix is built around a charming old town and is famous for being the home of Paul Cezanne, whose painting, above, shows a provencal farmhouse with a gothic ruin partially hidden in the background. Continue reading “ANOM (nom nom nom)”