Welcome! — Karibuni!
My name is Carol, and the best way to sum me up is that I am basically a perpetual student. I find it hard to turn off my critical filter; and that includes when reflecting on my own points of view. I read all the time. And as a wanna-be anthropologist who finds that anthropological methods and ways of seeing come naturally, I am always studying and learning by watching and listening to people; whether I’m in New York City or eastern Congo.
I have an MA in African Studies (Yale); MS in Global Affairs (NYU); and BFA in Film (School of Visual Arts). I’m currently PhD’ing at Cambridge, writing about the DDR in the DR Congo.
I noticed that I first wrote this “About” page nearly 7 years ago, well before I started finding my voice or knowing exactly what it was I wanted to do here, and so I thought it was time for an update. Since then, I’ve decided that I’m not very good at snark (and I often don’t agree with myself afterwards when I try it), and that I want this blog to be about pretty much anything that interests me or sets my intellectual or artistic loins ablaze. Initially, I wanted to keep some kind of humanitarian/development aid blog that would have an academic and philosophical tinge, or position me as some kind of “Congo watcher,” but then I realized I was interested in too many things, and I didn’t want to restrict myself to any particular theme. (For wonky political commentary, mostly about politics in central Africa, you can see all my posts over at UN Dispatch). The upshot is, I would like this blog to be more personal than professional, even though the two realms are highly blurred for me. Plus “Congo watcher” sounds too voyeuristic.
So, very briefly, here’s a summary of where I’m currently at ideologically and academically in the form of a list of interests I hope to keep exploring here: Politics, law, and international relations; human rights; the aid and development industries; anthropology; genealogies of ontologies; languages, linguistics, and metaphors; postmodernism; critical theory; critical race theory; Black Power; postcolonialism; intersectional feminism; democratic socialism and/or economic democracy; political philosophy; philosophy of science; public health; mental health; books; art, music, and poetry; Afropunk; La Sapologie; prisons and the school-to-prison pipeline; Black Lives Matter; restorative justice; peacebuilding; ex-combatants and veterans; and one of my favorite places on earth, eastern Congo.
One thing I would like to note is that in the past I have made awful, prejudiced mistakes in in life and in my academic work, without anyone calling me out on it – I only saw these mistakes in hindsight, after self-reflection and reading like crazy and making an effort to listen to lots of different perspectives. I am much better than I used to be, but I’m sure there’s still plenty of room for improvement. So I see anything I write here as a work in progress, and I welcome criticism. Like I said, I’m a perpetual student – I am constantly learning. Criticism helps me move forward. Nothing I write here should be taken as any kind of Carol Doctrine – it’s all just, basically, thinking out loud.
I want to use this space as part of my own “life-long journey of questioning internalised assumptions [and] problematizing ‘truths’.”
As Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public-health researcher at Harvard, put it in his commencement speech at the California Institute of Technology:
Ultimately, you hope to observe the world with an open mind, gathering facts and testing your predictions and expectations against them. Then you make up your mind and either affirm or reject the ideas at hand. But you also hope to accept that nothing is ever completely settled, that all knowledge is just probable knowledge. A contradictory piece of evidence can always emerge.
Anytime I write anything, I have that possibility of a “contradictory piece of evidence” in mind. And for me, particularly in the social sciences, personal narratives are included in that. Stories are important.
I also plan on being relatively informal here, as I want to explore ideas without having to think too hard about putting thoughts into academic language, or, worse, conforming to neoliberal disciplining. You have been warned.
Commenting Policy and Safety Warnings
This blog, not that it’s that widely read, needs some caveats. It is purely for my own intellectual meanderings and academic explorations. Opinions, thoughts, philosophical excursions, assertions, etc. are mine and not those of any organization or person or institution I have had or may have in the future some kind of academic or professional connection to (all the usual caveats, basically). Much of what I write is for the sake of argument, and while I often try to be explicit by prefacing what I really think by saying “I think that” or “IMHO,” I don’t always make the distinction clear. As I believe the important thing is the arguments and their merit, this shouldn’t matter much. I would encourage readers and commenters to take the same approach and try to separate themselves from their arguments, and to respect the points of view of others.
Comments that I happen to disagree with will be published with enthusiasm.
Abusive, hateful, and completely pointless comments will not be published (unless I find them hilarious or somehow instructive). That’s my prerogative, as it is anyone who has a blog.
I am completely aware that the distinction is, at least to an extent, arbitrary and subjective. But I have my own sense of what is a difference of opinion and what is hate and abuse, and, as per Karl Popper, I won’t tolerate the latter.
At the same time, it should be noted that I do not intend this blog to be a safe space, either. I think it will be, for the most part. But I also intend to confront potentially upsetting subject matter very bluntly sometimes. So consider this a trigger and content warning for the whole blog — though I will do my best to flag posts that may be especially problematic or upsetting.
All that said, welcome — and enjoy!
And, if you’ve made it this far, let me start you off with one of my favorite posts.
Asante sana na karibuni!