It’s been so long… what to say?  How can I summarize the past few months in the 30 minutes I have until teaching my next class?

Life away from the commune is hard for me.  When I told that to my boss at the summer camp, he said, “Welcome to the real world.”  That’s the thing — after living at Twin Oaks, I KNOW that this isn’t the “real world.”  Now I know that more is possible, this out here isn’t as satisfying to me.  The “real world” includes so much more than what people in this culture generally accept as possible.  Twin Oaks is just as “real” as my everyday life right now… sometimes, it feels like it’s MORE real.  I had real connections with people, not just passing “howareyou?finehowareyou?”s.  I engaged in real decisionmaking processes instead of voting for white men to represent my ideas and beliefs and values.  I did real, tangible work of growing food, nurturing children, fixing broken fences, and creating works of art.  What’s really real?

I struggle with how luxurious grad school feels sometimes.  There’s work to be done, in my house, in my neighborhood, in this city, country, and world… and I sit inside and read social theory.  When there’s work that needs to be done, why am I not doing something?  Ah, right, I’m teaching.  One day a week, I get to talk with students about the world that they’re likely to recreate, and suggest the possibility that something else is possible, and even necessary.  This one day a week, I feel effective and fulfilled in how I use my time and energy (isn’t this the same thing I wrote two months ago?  I just have to keep reminding myself…)

I’m also doing research that fascinates me, and seems like it might lead to something… When I’m actually working on my reaserach, crunching numbers and working to synthesize ideas, I’m excited about what I’m doing.  I took my idea from the last post (in which I sadly misspelled “deodorant”!), and have been researching the social construction of the taboo against body odor in American culture.  There’s been only a very little research done on odor in general, and almost none on body odor specifically.  In my class on Race and Ethnicity, I decided to write my paper on how body odor has been used as a tool to justify racist beliefs and practices.  There’s no dearth of information there!  In most books on the history of race relations in the US, there’s at least one mention of white people’s perception that black people smell not only different, but bad.  This is used to justify the belief that they are biologically different (and inferior).  I’m also writing a more general paper about body odor for another class.  I’m hoping to talk with people about their experience of learning that they “needed” to wear deodorant.  Who did they learn it from?  What was the reason given?

From all of this, I’m hoping to develop a workshop about the BODY, and the ways American culture teaches us to repress, modify, and deny basic human functions (and how advertisers play into this idea in order to get people to buy products!)

Off to class now — time to teach about social stratification and how the class system reproduces itself…

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