Human-ities · Philosophy · Social/Politics · Theory

On the genre of “Raising Awareness about Someone Else’s Suffering”

A propos of absolutely nothing, a few texts I’ve found helpful in unpacking the aforementioned genre, in no particular order:

1. Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write About Africa.” You’ve probably read it already – and if you haven’t, get on that – but I need to get that out of the way first. It’s the entrance to any serious conversation, the prerequisite. Not just because he’s right, but because it’s funny. And its funny because it comes from a place of exhaustion, of total and complete exasperated frustration. That’s important, because it helps you understand how omnipresent this shit is, what an unstoppable energizer bunny of neverendingness it is. Humor isn’t enough, is never enough – after all, how can you satirize people who satirize themselves? – but the recourse to it tellingly reflects an experience that you need to come to terms with, the experience of living in the world created by such discourse. As he wrote in a reflective essay, later:

“How to Write about Africa” grew out of an email. In a fit of anger, maybe even low blood sugar — it runs in the family — I spent a few hours one night at my graduate student flat in Norwich, England, writing to the editor of Granta. I was responding to its “Africa” issue, which was populated by every literary bogeyman that any African has ever known, a sort of “Greatest Hits of Hearts of Fuckedness.” It wasn’t the grimness that got to me, it was the stupidity. There was nothing new, no insight, but lots of “reportage” — Oh, gosh, wow, look, golly ooo — as if Africa and Africans were not part of the conversation, were not indeed living in England across the road from the Granta office. No, we were “over there,” where brave people in khaki could come and bear witness. Fuck that. So I wrote a long — truly long — rambling email to the editor.

Written by Aaron Bady, The New Inquiry. Continue HERE

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