I have kept journals (in notebook form and online) for years and years (excluding one, which I regret), since I was six and didn’t know how to spell “diary” correctly. This has its benefits: I can follow the progression (or regression) of my personality. I can see how my interests have shaped me (and, conversely, how I have shaped my interests), and revisit book excerpts that were once meaningful. I can remember more clearly things that, over the years, have become blurred and combined with the collective memory of books read and other things passively viewed or experienced, like the dream I had the night that my maternal grandmother passed away. I can see how some circumstances have always been troublesome, even if it wasn’t always obvious.
There are also downsides, mostly chronic embarrassment over what I have written. Being sentimental about the written word ensures that I will likely never destroy these journals, as much as I sometimes want to. I’ve also found that my Tumblr is morphing into a more personal space (this post is proof of this), which is not necessarily a good thing (feeling that there’s too much exposure but still wanting to be exposed, in a way).
It’s always fun to get books in the mail.
For anyone interested, there’s an excerpt from Veils and Words here and a snippet from Simians, Cyborgs, and Women here. Reflections on Gender and Science is by Evelyn Fox Keller, a feminist scientist-turned-historian/critic of science who has written, among other things, a biography of Barbara McClintock.
Yassaman Ameri, images from the series The Inheritance, 2000 (source).
In her description of the series, Ameri writes: “Some years ago, my mother inherited a document containing a series of photographs of women taken in late 19th century Iran. These tiny portraits [postage stamp-sized] had been carelessly cut and pasted next to each other and reproduced as a sort of oversized carte-de-visite with multiple images. The only reference to the identity of these women is the handwritten inscription of their names on the corner of each portrait. To understand the significance of this document, I began a search through books, archives and libraries. At the end, I discovered that conventional research could not reveal much about the identity of these women or the circumstances of their lives. I understood that no source of information exists outside of the images themselves. This is where my project started. I spent years trying to take apart the information these women left behind in posing for the camera mostly unveiled at a time when women were not permitted to appear without being covered. I researched the beginning of photography in 19th century Iran. I studied other visual records from the same period. Searching through scattered documents, collecting bits and pieces of evidence, I developed a new space where these women could exist, a fictional space made with borrowed and appropriated objects and documents to construct an unrecorded history. This is my attempt to retell their lives of which there are no records.”*
This is the title of a paper I wrote on my research for a symposium at my university. Later this month, I’m supposed to give a talk and do a poster presentation on my project; at this point, they both seem like they are going to be disasters. On the positive side, I can now tell you everything you never wanted to know about Fc gamma receptors.
Haiku, translated from English to Persian by the poet Ahmad Shamloo and E. Pashayi, a translator of Zen and Buddhist texts, was apparently the first official introduction* of Japanese poetry to the Iranian public, in the mid-1980s. The translations are based on parts of Haiku and History of Haiku by R.H. Blythe.
* Although Sohrab Sepehri had translated a few haiku into Persian and adopted a “haiku-like style” in his own poetry a few decades prior to the publication of this translation, there had not been any actual publications on the subject, at least according to Massih Talebian, who has written about contemporary Persian haiku here.
Detail from “The Day of Judgement,” picturing “five incorporeal beings” with nimbuses [possibly jinn?]; folio 10b from a Falnameh (Book of Divination), c. 1610-1630, probably Golconda, India; MSS 979 in the Khalili collection; in Earthly beauty, Heavenly art by Pitrovsky and Vrieze
In Strange Harvest, Lesley Sharp writes about the “greening of the body,” the depersonalization of organ donors, and the commodification of the body in the organ transplant trade. The idea of body commodification can be extended to cell culture — immortal cell lines are established from primary cells derived from patients’ tissue samples, grown and passaged a few (or more) times, and deposited at places like the ATCC, where a single vial of cells can cost several hundred dollars. In a way, depersonalization is also at play — for a given cell line, the ATCC will tell us the age, gender, and tissue of the individual from whom the cells were derived, as well as information about disease (usually cancer). When you’re maintaining the cells in a lab setting, it’s easy to forget that they came from a real person who had hobbies and interests, beliefs and opinions, and who actually lived (or may still live to this day) and had their own history in the not so distant past.
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, The Colonel
I didn’t finish this book (I just couldn’t get involved in it), but I really like this statement, which was part of something said by one of the characters of this book. I’m not sure if I like it so much because I’m semi-consciously applying a different context to it — the idea of denying your existence as an act of asceticism, of extinguishing oneself in God — or because of the blatant existentialism/desolation of it, or a combination of the two.
Currently reading Lesley Sharp’s Strange Harvest, on the anthropology of organ transplants, to be followed by Twice Dead by Margaret Lock, on the phenomenon of brain death.
In the introduction to Strange Harvest, Sharp writes: “Through ethnographic investigation, Strange Harvest strives to decipher the problematic status of organ transplantation in this country [the United States]. As an anthropologist I approach transplantation as an exotic branch of medical culture, with its own particular ethos that guides the behavior, thinking, and embodied practices of involved professional and lay parties […] My purpose is to identify and rethink much of what is taken for granted about organ transplants in the United States. In turn, I seek to uncover essential elements of an intriguing medical realm that remain unseen or unspoken, either because they seem far too mundane to warrant consideration or because professional policy imposes taboos that ultimately obscure such key elements from plain sight.”