Monday, December 24, 2018

Half a Million Reasons: Transliterature Passes 500,000 Readers!


"The question we pose to the Other is simple and unanswerable:  ‘who are you?’"

Judith Butler
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This website began back 2011 with an invocation combining a visual poetry piece that I had composed along with a quotation from Judith Butler from Undoing Gender, "The question we pose to the Other is simple and unanswerable: ‘who are you?’  The violent response is the one that does not ask, and does not seek to know. It wants to sure up what it knows, to expunge what threatens it with not-knowing, what forces it to reconsider the presuppositions of its world, their contingency, their malleability. The nonviolent response lives with its unknowingness about the Other in the face of the Other, since sustaining the bond that the question opens is finally more valuable than knowing in advance what holds us in common, as if we already have all the resources we need to know what defines the human, what its future life might be." By this invocation I hoped to establish a thesis and a tone for what I wanted the website to be. Only time and readers can determine whether or not this promise materialized. In my own heart, it was a statement about the vulnerability of public scholarship but also its importance. Such a venture is sure to begin as a voice in a relative wilderness, crying out with some form of "this is who I am" and "who are you?" There were the dangers of turning oneself into a target, into a caricature and then into a sounding board for the worst anxieties or prejudices of others. Indeed, when I first began writing I was given warnings that putting my emerging ideas out into the world might come back to haunt me later when people steal my work or cite it later in my career as proof of some flaw. Yet amidst these tensions, there was hope for contact that might become a correspondence and perhaps then into a community. Years and half a million readers later, I've seen a mix of being targeted by people who regard me as a caricature as well as being contacted by people in search of community. But overall, the question, "who are you," continues to bring a plentitude of blessed contacts, correspondences, and communities.

Over the years, the website has evolved. Transliterature began as a public notebook where I could share many of my thoughts and projects as I worked through them, especially those concerning critical theory. Over time, conference papers and the beginnings of peer reviewed articles began to find their ways onto the site. Indeed, the last few months has been rather sparse in terms of exclusive web content because I've been using my approximately 3 posts a month to advertise for various peer-reviewed publications or public journals and newspapers. Yet even as my writing continues to expand into other necessary areas, I appreciate this forum as a place to share pedagogical tools and resources, announce partnerships, share digital humanities work, run fundraisers for organizations such as the Trans Travel Grant, publicize Calls for Papers, update my CV, announce upcoming events, compose memoirs, and yes, also share my in progress notes. Some of these things have their beginning on Transliterature but other projects begin elsewhere and find there way onto the website. This is an exciting growth and change as Transliterature becomes a quilting point wherein I can thread the various types of work in which I engage.

One of the areas into which I would love to see Transliterature continue to expand is its autobiographical content. As the website closes in on ten years, my life has changed a lot along the way. Importantly, how I view moments and movements in my life have also changed. I am grateful to my readers who have allowed me to make room for sharing these reflections. They helped me and I hope they have done some good for those who are not me. The audience component of a website like Transliterature is a good challenge for anyone who wants to write about their lives because in my experience writing for a public rather than in a private journal reminds me to write in such a way that benefits others and not merely myself. Drafts are often written (but not published) that are written in ways that I needed to write for my own benefit. But before I publish, I feel challenged to revise my memoirs in such a way that it works for others. To my surprise, writing for others usually improves even the portions that I write for myself because the process challenges me to be charitable (even with myself), measured (even with myself), and service-oriented (even with myself). How often I lack such generosity, mercy, and compassion towards myself when I recall things in my own head! Moreover, to my surprise people writ large seem as interested in the memoir pieces as the more academic work. Granted, in the fields of study in which I work and in those models of writing which I emulate, the political often affects the private and the private is often political. I grant that there are some who would prefer more of the one over the other but I am grateful for all those who have come to Transliterature and made space enough for other types of writing and readers. As this area grows, perhaps even into other media such as a book, I thank you for welcoming not only my writing but a bit of me along with it.

500,000 readers marks a point in the history of this website, my career, and my life that gives me pause to be grateful. Thank you to all my readers and advertisers. Thank you to my guest writers and those who have offered valuable feedback. Thank you to those who helped Transliterature grow and to help my work grow beyond it as well. Thank you to all the people who are part of the ongoing story which knits across Transliterature, all the people who likewise heard the question, "who are you?" and offered such rich and valuable responses; some stated and many silent among those half a million hits. This marker belongs most of all to you. Thank you for including me in your asking of this simple but unanswerable question.

Happy holidays, happy new year, and a new second half-a-million from Transliterature!

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