Inheritance & Reproduction

“You can be invited to reproduce what you do not inherit.”  Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life.

Bhanu Kapil has blogged an incredibly powerful response to this quotation, here.

In her response, Bhanu suggests:

‘PERHAPS YOU CAN TRY IT TOO.

ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS IN TURN, ONE IN THE FORM OF POETRY AND THE OTHER IN THE FORM OF PROSE:

WHAT DID YOU INHERIT?

WHAT DO YOU REPRODUCE?’

 

What did I inherit:

I inherited

a thirty-year yoga

practice

from my Nan –

she taught & practised

for thirty years until

I came of age /and/ desired

to learn

myself.

 

Then she no longer

taught but

gave me her

yoga books –

(an inheritance)

and a set of asana

photocards

she had made

(of) herself –

demonstrating

the major basic

asanas

and listing

their physical & mental

benefits

/attributes.

 

her sharp

lines

& taut

features

/held/

rigid

discipline

& her

health-

food

diet

raw

cauliflower,

chickpeas

 

What she also gave me

when I turned

twenty-one

(because

I had asked

for it)

the (Victorian?)

ring made

from

elephant

hair

that had

belonged to

her mother

my great-grandmother

Nanka

– but originally

had belonged

to

an elephant

I suppose.

 

A dual inheritance

of Indian

heritage

though we

are not

ourselves

Indian

 

:

we inherit

the cultural

appropriation

&

violence

inherent

in these

gifts

& their

giving

 

 

 

What have I reproduced?

In my poetry that engages with the language of yoga, in both Sanskrit and English, I have reproduced forms of cultural appropriation and inequality in my privileged access to the cultural products of a culture that is not my own. This is something I’m continually exploring and working through. My main practice is to work with my desire to write poetry from a place of yoga and to acknowledge and explore the cultural inequalities that enable me to do so. While also recognising the immense gift of yoga in my life (both of which are indirectly inherited from my grandmother – my yoga and my life).

What I find the hardest:

How to write in such a fraught and contested space that exists only to keep me silent.  And how to write: that.  

That is, in the institutional academy where poetry is expected to be antisubjective & disembodied – conceptual and intellectual – how to write a poetry of embodied intersubjectivity from within the yogic space.  And recognising why institutions of power don’t want me to write.  Because to write from such an embodied, intersubjective, yogic space is to deny the supremacy of the ego that sustains and maintains the status quo.  The status quo of the logic of right wing capitalism & conservatism AND the status quo of the logic of left wing intellectual marxism.  The social/cultural institution being right wing conservative and the academic institution being left wing intellectual marxist.  My politics is of the left wing intellectual marxist variety.  But my practice is an embodied spirituality denied by that political position.  Largely, in its denial of embodied (inter)subjectivity, the left wing intellectual marxist politics of the academic institution serves only to perpetuate the structural privileges of the culturally conservative status quo.  Any poetry or critical discourse that presents itself as ‘unmarked’ or antisubjective is blind to its own subjective markers – subjective markers that denote the normalisation of the privileges of the dominant subject – markers of class (middle), race (white), gender (male) and sexuality (straight). This normalised subject sees only itself as unmarked. Because it sees only itself and yet does not see itself at all. I will not participate in the structural reproduction of white male middle class heterosexist ideologies through my writing in either prose or poetry.  I will write from the yogic space of embodied (inter)subjectivity.  I will not be silent.  I will write the experience of embodied (inter)subjectivity as utopian poetics.

The practice of yoga also reproduces its own structural inequalities: originally taught only to higher caste men, steeped in Hindu mythologies that perpetuate normative gender binaries and heterosexual relationships; Westernised and commoditized over the last two (or more?) decades to appeal predominantly to young, fit, able-bodied, healthy, wealthy, white, cis women – yoga carries its own structural inequalities of class, gender, sexuality, race and body.

I choose to engage with the complexities of these issues, recognising the structural inequalities inherent to the gifts I have inherited and attempting not to reproduce them in my own creations. Recognising that I will reproduce those structural inequalities whenever I am blind to them. And to keep working on it.

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