Week in review: May 10 – 16

Along with Zainab Amadahy I participated in an interview on CIUT radio with the Vibe Collective on the 10th. Short interview so I didn’t get to explore the relations between art and healing, though embodiment and breath were discussed. On the subject of healing, the discussion with participants in the Encuentro work group Making Trauma Visible is slowly developing. My objection to “mechanisms of repair” as terminology that evokes a Cartesian conception of body as machine and of healing as a mechanical intervention was picked up by two other participants. One suggested “embodied mechanisms of repair”, which, to my mind, actually further solidifies the machine analogy. I’ve put out “processes of healing.” I sense that in its simplicity and everyday appearance, it may not be sexy enough for a title.

On Monday and Tuesday I was still compiling material for Samsonia/Teresia. A lot of what I’ve come across about her specifically is repetitious. Nobody knows much, and everybody seems to be taking their info from the same source, that is, Denis Wright’s The Persians Amongst the English. And he is very sketchy about her. She is a footnote to Robert Sherley’s saga. So most of what I’ve compiled is about his work from different angles. My reconstruction of her would have to have an ample amount of imagination.

I finally started with Joseph Emin on Wednesday and by the end of the week I was finished with his passage. In deciding to focus only on his early days in England, I am obviously leaving out large parts of his life as an intellectual and liberation activist. I may return to this, perhaps to incorporate one of his many letters to his English friends, especially in his late years when he complains of having been forgotten by them and cast aside. In one letter, he is indignant that his friends weren’t willing to be inconvenienced by parting with a bit of money to subscribe to the publication of his memoirs, saying that they were all so ready to spend money on entertainment and amusements such as visiting freak shows, why should his memoirs be worth any less. And there is a letter from Edmond Burke to Emin, obviously responding to the latter’s complaint that Burke had left many letters unanswered, where Burke tries to appease him by saying even his grown son who was only an infant when Emin had seen him in England, thinks of him as an uncle. Emin’s letters have an air of loneliness and bitterness. He is disappointed at his return to his family in Calcutta without having realized his dream of forming a liberation army, and he resents having been dropped by his English patrons and friends whom he counted on so much and supplicated to so frequently for support. His trying to hang on to his exalted views of the English people and political system as being the most righteous and liberal is quite heart-wrenching. He who rejects Eastern hierarchies of power and traditions of subservience is caught up in the British kind and deeply hurt by it. Or, perhaps, one should accord more agency and shrewdness to him and read in his complaints a calculated performance by a political leader who pulls on sentimental strings to get what he wants. I’m not fully convinced of this latter interpretation. His heartbreak seems genuine while there is also a certain performativity in his rhetorical style.

The challenge of the coming weeks is to settle on the last two figures. In light of the fact that I have not yet found Sahhafbashi’s travelogue, I’m probably going with Mirza Abu-Talib. And I’m still thinking of Taj al-Saltana as my third woman. I also have to write a proposal for A Space’s upcoming deadline.

A final note: My trip to Oakland is confirmed, thanks to my dear friends Ronman Ng and Haleh Niazmand. I’ll be there in July, working on the embodied writing performance processes.

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