Borderlands/La Frontera (reading about Glória E. Anzaldúa on the way from Kraków to Leiden)
It is practically my third year abroad, yet Poland does not forget about me. I'm still called for all sorts of evaluations and official committees. This is directly the reason why I am reading about Glória Anzaldúa right now; my interest in Lesbian Chicana studies might be otherwise moderated. Be that as it may, I am reading the book of my colleague from Łódź, Grażyna Zygadło, as I cross my Europe in the bus, coming back from my old home in Kraków to my new (makeshift) home in Leiden. I am not a mojada myself, not yet, as we cross the Oder. But a new frontier right across my Europe is being rebuilt right under my own eyes. There is a police control where the frontier used to be, and as I've heard, Macron has recently said that "some countries do not need to be in the Schengen zone, if they do not wish"; he means the countries that refused to participate in European policies concerning the refugees. A new refugee crisis is on the way from the Saharan limes of our oecumene. I suppose Poland will be very unwilling of contributing for its solution, even if we used to have such excellent relationships with Libya in old days. They will bring on their own backs the clay to make bricks for the Wall. So strangely oblivious of the fact that they stay on the outer side of it.
But let's return to my Lesbian Chicana:
Always pushed to the other side. In all lands alien, nowhere citizen.
I am the citizen of Europe, at least for the time being. And all its lands are mine, I speak languages of the earth everywhere I step, I collect words, local poems, national songs. They are all mine. Till the moment someone push me to the other side. Anzaldúa says: The words are foreign, stumbling on my tongue.
*** In the book there is a photo of an old wooden fence that used to exist on the boarder between Mexico and the United States, long before the idea of modernising it into a proper Wall.
She looks at the Border Park fence posts are stuck into her throat, her navel, barbwire is shoved up her cunt. Her body torn in two, half the woman on the other side half the woman on this side, the right side.
I remember to have seen, some years ago when such ideas were still freaky news to laugh at, a couple of rose Dutch girls in a bar at the University of Amsterdam, choking with laughter over a smartphone. They were watching a clip supposed to prove Dutch excellence in comparison to the United States. The giant dam destined to "keep all that water outside" was presented as the ultimate frontier, the supreme fulfilment of Trump's most cherished dream. Some years passed by, but these girls stand right in front of my eyes; I found them worth remembering, because they were so rose-cheeked, so healthy, in their mental aptitude at finding their own nationalism irresistibly funny.
Zygadło's book aspires to paint a large biographical context of Anzaldúa's writing of convergence, her roots in the American borderland community, the circumstance of being alien in relation to her own culture - not only as Lesbian; even more essentially, as someone who aspires to education, literature, visibility without abdicating of one's own idiosyncrasy. At the end of the Introduction, the author makes an allusion to her own process of writing, in this case, a Habilitation book, which is supposed to give her a place in the academia as a "self-reliant" scholar (samodzielny pracownik naukowy). Certainly, she tries to navigate against the current, proposing her research in gender and queer studies, in a society increasingly conservative and intolerant precisely of those identities. Czy aby uprawomocnić swoje bycie "samodzielną naukowczynią", muszę się opierać na teorii białego zachodniego świata, w którym nadal kobiety są dyskryminowane i nie mają takiej samej mocy sprawczej jak biali mężczyźni, a język, którym się posługują, ciągle jest "obcy"? Czy mogę "udowodnić" swoją samodzielność, posługując się teorią kobiet Trzeciego Świata, jeśli to ona jest mi bliższa i to z nią się identyfikuję? (p. 42). What are these words, so strangely anachronistic, while gender and queer studies are such an accepted part of the "white Western world's theory", since such a long time? In the international scholarship, this study of Glória Anzaldúa comes so very late. And in Poland?
(Glória Anzaldúa received the doctoral degree from the University of California Santa Cruz, posthumously.)
Grażyna Zygadło, "Zmieniając siebie - zmieniam świat". Glória E. Anzaldua i jej pisarstwo zaangażowanego rozwoju w ujęciu społeczno-kulturowym, Łódź, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, 2019.