How have US imperialism and nationalism informed perceptions of racial identity? What can we gain from strengthening the relationship between scholarship and public engagement? How can we let our political and ethical commitments guide our professional endeavors?
In episode 30 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach talks with guest Vince Schleitwiler about liberatory coalitions between Black and Asian communities, how the public humanities have shifted in the context of neoliberalism, and how contemporary activists draw inspiration from what he calls “the geography of the lost Afro-Asian century.”
Guest: Vince Schleitwiler
A fourth-generation Japanese American, Vince Schleitwiler grew up in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, and received the greater part of his education from student-of-color organizers at Oberlin College and the University of Washington.
He has worked in journalism, independent film, and arts consulting, and taught at Williams College and the University of Southern California before returning to the University of Washington, where he is currently an acting assistant professor in the Department of American Ethnic Studies.
His first book, Strange Fruit of the Black Pacific: Imperialism’s Racial Justice and Its Fugitives, was published by NYU Press and explores the intersecting migrations of Japanese Americans, Filipinos, and African Americans across US imperial domains, from the 1890s to the 1940s.
Vince’s writing has appeared in African American Review, Amerasia Journal, Comparative Literature, and the Village Voice. As a Scholar-in-Residence for the Center for Art and Thought, he published a set of serial essays for the blog City of Refuge, as well as published “Break, Burn, Hoard: For an Atlas of Lost Afro-Asian Worlds,” a dialogue with the writer Tamiko Nimura.
We chatted about
- How during the Bush/Cheney years, the language of antiracist movements was co-opted and used as justification for US imperialism (2:40)
- The deep imbrications of African and Asian political histories (6:00)
- The differences and overlaps between public humanities work and social justice activist work (8:25)
- How we can harness the power of our marginality within the academy to make changes to it (12:20)
- The limits and promises of comparative studies (20:30)
- How our interactions with and strategies for survival in a capitalistic world are part of our political practices (24:10)
- Imagining otherwise (26:20)
Multiculturalism versus Third World revolution
For a lot of folks on the antiracist left, the language of multiculturalism was always a little bit suspicious. It was always seen as a comedown from the language of third world revolution that it replaced.
The Afro-Asian century
The struggle over the language of racial justice is the dynamic that motors the Afro-Asian century.
Why academics should create and publish in public venues
When you’re open to new forms and new audiences, the work can go in ways you can’t expect.
What we can learn about race from studying imperialism
Race is a technology of conquest that has been repurposed as a technology of liberation.
The limits and promises of comparative studies
Comparison is something that any imperialism tries to monopolize. Under the heyday of multiculturalism, it seemed that the only way to think about histories comparatively was to make them culminate in the triumph of US nationalism, the triumph of American diversity. And in fact, there are all these other sites of comparison that had to be repressed.
Academia beyond the tenure track
If you enter into this space, if you enter into what we might call the undercommons, without an expectation that there’s an institution that will give you a home, you can find really fascinating forms of solidarity.
Hustle versus liberation
For folks who are going down this line (into academia), it’s important to recognize that you shouldn’t mistake your hustle for liberation. You might be successful in ways that might create their own problems and their own difficulties for you. You might find success that comes with the cost of other things that you care about. But on the other hand, you shouldn’t think that the ways that you pursue your livelihood are outside of your political practices.
Employment as a political act
You shouldn’t think that the ways that you pursue your livelihood are outside of your political practices.
Desire and imagination
The desire to imagine new worlds or other worlds is the desire to open yourself to something that is beyond your imagination.
There is already this other world [beyond capitalism] that we can sometimes glimpse and sometimes be a part of and sometimes realize we’ve been living in the whole time.
More from Vince Schleitwiler
- Vince’s page in the American Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Washington
- Vince’s book Strange Fruit of the Black Pacific: Imperialism’s Racial Justice and Its Fugitives
- Vince’s blog City of Refuge
- “Break, Burn, Hoard: For an Atlas of Los Afro-Asian Worlds,” Vince’s dialogue with Tamiko Nimura
- Vince’s article “A Demonology of Comparisons: Imperialism, Justice, and Anti/Blackness”
Projects and people discussed
- Center for Art and Thought
- Tamiko Nimura
- Paul Beatty’s novel, The Sellout
- Public humanities
- Keith Feldman
- Comparative Literature forum on blackness and relationality
- David Kazanjian’s book The Brink of Freedom: Improvising Life in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World
- Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study
- Nathaniel Mackey and Black centrifugal writing
- Walter Benjamin, “Critique of Violence” and “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (on history as the history of violence)
- Kimberly Alidio at the Center for Art and Thought
About Imagine Otherwise
Imagine Otherwise is a podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice, and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining and creating more just worlds. Check out full podcast episodes and show notes at ideasonfire.net/imagine-otherwise-podcast. Imagine Otherwise is hosted by Cathy Hannabach and produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.
Cathy Hannabach (00:03):
Welcome to Imagine Otherwise, the podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice and explore the nitty gritty work of imagining otherwise. I’m your host, Cathy Hannabach.
Cathy Hannabach (00:22):
This episode is brought to you by our new publication, Book Marketing for Academics, which teaches interdisciplinary authors how to identify and engage your book’s audience, harness your unique skills and expertise, and help people use your book to make a change in the world. You can get your copy at ideasonfire.net.
Cathy Hannabach (00:42):
This is episode 30 and my guest today is Vince Schleitwiler. A fourth generation Japanese American, Vince grew up in Chicago’s Roger Park neighborhood and received the greater part of his education from student-of-color organizers at Oberlin College and the University of Washington. He’s worked in journalism, independent film, and arts consulting, and has taught at Williams College and at the University of Southern California before returning to UW, where he’s currently an acting assistant professor in the Department of American Ethnic Studies.
Cathy Hannabach (01:15):
His first book, called Strange Fruit of the Black Pacific: Imperialism’s Racial Justice and its Fugitives, was published by NYU Press. That book explores the intersecting migrations of Japanese Americans, Filipinos, and African Americans across U.S. imperial domains from the 1890s to the 1940s. His writing has appeared in African American Review, Amerasia Journal, Comparative Literature, and The Village Voice. As a scholar in residence for the Center for Art and Thought, which we talk about in our interview, he published a series of serial essays for the blog, City of Refuge, as well as published Break, Burn, Hoard: For an Atlas of Lost Afro-Asian Worlds, a dialogue with the writer Tamiko Nimura.
Cathy Hannabach (02:02):
In our interview, Vince and I talk about liberatory coalitions between Black and Asian communities, how public humanities have shifted in the context of neoliberalism and the neoliberal university, as well as how contemporary activists draw inspiration from what he calls, the Geography of the Lost Afro-Asian Century, to imagine and create a different world. Thanks for being with us, Vince.
Vince Schleitwiler (02:27):
Ah, thank you, thank you. It’s wonderful to be here.
Cathy Hannabach (02:30):
So, you’re the author of a brand new book called Strange Fruit of the Black Pacific, which was just published by NYU Press. What’s that book about?
Vince Schleitwiler (02:38):
The book is an attempt to take seriously the ways that the language of anti-racist movements was pressed into service as justification for imperialism. So, the book comes out of a time that looks kind of quaint now, the Bush-Cheney years and the resurgence of imperialism then… An imperialism that was unabashedly aggressive, unapologetically violent, but they justified itself in terms of multiculturalism, right, in the language of diversity. And so this was something that I really thought a lot about. For a lot of folks on the anti-racist left, the language of multiculturalism is always a little bit suspicious. It was always, I think, seen as a kind of come down from the language of third world revolution that it replaced. But this was still a real cause of concern, right, and people were wondering, is this a matter of bad faith on the part of people advocated for multiculturalism? Is it a failure of the intellect? Is it a failure of the will?
Vince Schleitwiler (03:47):
And what I came to understand really is that it’s something more structural that the language of imperial justification and the language of anti-racist and anti-imperialist solidarity is always commonly contested terrain. And that the kind of dilemmas that you see in the use of anti-racist language to justify imperialism goes back as far back as you want to look. But also the dynamic of this kind of struggle between the struggle over the language of racial justice is a dynamic that motors what you might call the Afro-Asian century.
Vince Schleitwiler (04:25):
So, the book itself is actually… Turns to an earlier period. It turns to the first half of the 20th century. It’s a study of the interrelated migrations of Black and Asian people across the domains of U.S. empire. It’s a work of literal and cultural studies, so it looks at novels, it looks at plays, it looks at poetry, music, and movies, and journalism, and private letters. So, one way to put it is, it’s a history of the Afro-Asian imagination. And so it’s premised on recognition that the signature event of the last 100 years or so is the social and political advancement of people of color around the world. So, this is what you might call the Afro-Asian century.
Vince Schleitwiler (05:10):
But for the book, instead of celebrating the accomplishments of Afro-Asian movements, I try and sort of dwell in the failures of those movements, in their fractures, in their misunderstandings, in their disjunctures. So to riff a little bit on Walter Benjamin, the history… To tell the history of the victors is to tell the story of a long unending procession of violence. And we find ourselves now on the other side of that century. The radical potential of Afro-Asian politics seems exhausted, even as he was in imperialism, is still kind of zombie along into the sunset, right? So the book tries to ask what kinds of possibilities might be released by bearing the failures of the Afro-Asian imagination.
Cathy Hannabach (05:52):
Your book is one among a growing number, but still a kind of relatively small number of books that looks at blackness and Asianness together, right? And I’m curious how you came to that nexus? What kind of… What’s fruitful about thinking those two identity formations and political histories together?
Vince Schleitwiler (06:13):
Well, yeah, as you said, there’s been a kind of… Some growth of interest in this area of the last decade, decade and a half. But it’s also true, I think that there’s a kind of new salience of this, there’s a kind of new excitement or interest around connections between blackness and Asianness. But has to do, I think with the way that the moment that we’re in now is one of a kind of radical transformation of the meaning of race around the world. And so this, something about this conjunction seems interesting to folks. The writer Paul Beatty, who just won the Booker prize for a really, really fantastic book called The Sellout. He tells a story about how he got a question at a reading from someone, said that they thought it was weird that an African American writer would be influenced by Japanese literature. He says, and the person says, “I would think that your opposites,” right? And so Beatty says, “What does it mean to think of people as culturally opposite?”
Vince Schleitwiler (07:05):
But the truth of the matter is that over the course of the last 150 years, the imagination of Western imperialism has often positioned blackness and Asianness as opposites, even though the terms of that opposition can flip. So since the mid-sixties, it’s common to think of Asians as somehow politically docile, somehow politically accommodationist, right, passive as opposed to African-Americans. Before World War two, Japanese people were stereotyping U.S. as the most aggressive and the most militant, the most likely to object to racial slights, as opposed to African Americans who were seen as opposite to them, right, as passive and as accommodating. So I think there’s this kind of curious history of the way that the vaccination has been placed against each other and kind of fracturing that history gets to this other longer history of the potential that’s been seen around the world for the solidarity between black nation, people to be transformed.
Cathy Hannabach (08:14):
In your research, in the kind of process of writing this book, but also in your other work, you’ve demonstrated a really strong commitment to the public humanities or to publicly engaged scholarship that taps into and it contributes something actively to social justice movements, to community activism, to art, to journalism, to all these fields that clearly have a connection to academia but don’t often get to converse too much with it. So I would love to hear more about that commitment to publicly engaged scholarship. Why you think that’s important and maybe why you think that’s important for the social justice issues that you’re… That you focus on more specifically.
Vince Schleitwiler (08:56):
It’s kind of a complicated question, right? Because some of the terms that we use to describe this work like, public humanities or publicly engaged scholarship, they present themselves as new when they’re actually an attempt to kind of rebrand longer traditions of activist intellectual work, right? And other forms of intellectual lives that have not found a sort of satisfactory home in cultural institutions and academic institutions. And I think what makes it tricky is that language, like public humanities, is tied up very much with a set of strategies for securing resources, for figuring out how institutions that are not meant to do a certain kind of work can become hosts for it. And so it can be a little bit disorienting sometimes to talk about that because those strategies are kind of necessary and important, but they seem to kind of be handing an operating [inaudible 00:00:09:48]… sort of like in the next room from these other kinds of commitments to liberation, right?
Vince Schleitwiler (09:54):
So if you think about traditions of ethnic studies, for example, they have always relied upon an engagement with communities outside of the academy. And in fact, not just as a sort of… as a desire to make work relevant, but as a kind of necessary commitment to those communities as the things that make this work possible. So I guess, on the one hand, there’s a work that needs to be done to figure out how you can build homes within institutions or on the edges of institutions. On the other hand there’s this… There’s other kind of practices going on. And I think that if there’s a new language, or another kind of practice these days, or a new thinking about that… What I think of is Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s, The Undercommons.
Cathy Hannabach (10:38):
Nice, it’s always strucked me as interesting too because the language of the public humanities often gets touted by administration, right, as this campus commitment, as a broad university wide project when those of us who come out of the interdisciplines kind of chuckle to a certain degree, right? I mean, it’s useful and it’s strategic and we all need to figure out how to navigate the spaces that we don’t get to choose the formations of. But I mean, fields like ethnic studies, as you point out, ethnic studies, women’s studies, disability studies, these were designed to be academic arms of social and political movements. That was their job, that was their goal. So it’s just… It seems like these are the fields that have been doing this for so long and yet they’re often not at the center of, at least administrative conversations about what it means to do public work.
Vince Schleitwiler (11:31):
And I think you’ve put that really beautifully, and I think that to some extent that marginality is okay, right? Sort of from the perspective of those interdisciplines as you’d call them, right? The project was never to legitimize yourself in terms of the institution, right? It was acted to transform the institution-
Cathy Hannabach (11:54):
Vince Schleitwiler (11:54):
… and to see it as radically different than it is now. The possibilities of that transformation receded very quickly after those moments were kind of formed. And we’re only now coming to a moment where there seems to be more possibility and not just a kind of strategy retreat. But I think of… One thing I think of in relation to this work is other kinds of cultural work that has to deal with this kind of marginality. So I think about the poet and theorist… I think you can also say Nathaniel Mackey who talks about, what other people call an experimental or innovative tradition in black poetry, what he calls black centrifugal writing. And he says that this is something that is marginal and necessarily so… and not afraid to claim that marginality, right? To sort of see that marginality is something useful.
Vince Schleitwiler (12:45):
So in terms of public humanities work, it is necessary. I don’t think one should dismiss that kind of institutional work. I think it’s really, really crucial. I think people do a remarkable job within it and people who sort of step back and just kind of theorize it, can be a fairly ignorant in their recognition of how much deep intellectual work goes into sort of negotiating those spaces. But I think it’s also important to recognize that it’s the prize… If there’s a prize for this, these kinds of movements, it’s not a home within the university as it exists, right, it’s something else.
Cathy Hannabach (13:22):
So maybe as an example of the kind of social justice or activist engaged work that you’ve done, you were a, what they called a virtual artist in residence, which I’d love to hear more about that title and that framework because it’s, I think it’s a new model and it’s interesting. But you are a virtual artist in residence with the Center for Art and Thought, and you created a blog, kind of interactive digital project about what you called the Geography of the Lost Afro-Asian Century. I’d love to hear more about your work on that project and what it means to be a virtual artist in residency.
Vince Schleitwiler (13:57):
Well, yeah, let me take a step back and say first of all the Center for Art and Thought is this really fantastic organization. It’s web based but it has all kinds of manifestations in the world and it is centered on the perspective of the Filipino diaspora. It is interested… But it sees that perspective as something that is global and universal in its reach. So to see itself as a Filipino diasporic art organization means that it can talk about anything. It is an effort really to put into conversation the work of practicing artists, and scholars, and critics, and anybody who’s interested. And so they have had an artist in residence… A residency established for a while and they had some really, really fantastic, really exceptional poets who happen to also to be scholars, Kimberly Alidio and Alondra Nelson.
Vince Schleitwiler (14:58):
And my position there, which we sort of… we’re kind of making up on the fly, the official scholar-in-residence actually, although they put me on the blog and they didn’t change the name of the blog from artist in residence to scholar-in-residence. So I was happy to let myself be called an artist for a while. But, so the project was really to take a lot of the concerns that had come up in writing my book and in thinking about that the next project and just to try to think of them in new and innovative ways, in more experimental ways, in more public ways, but also more personal ways. So when I did it, to be entirely honest, I didn’t think there was an audience, right? I thought, well, this is a really interesting project and it’s really beautiful, but I can’t imagine who reads this stuff.
Vince Schleitwiler (15:44):
Whereas when I do scholarly work, even though the audience is very small, I know who it is. I actually probably know most of the people who will care the most about what I’m writing, at least when it comes out. So I started doing this work and it turns out that freedom allowed me to find a different audience, right? There were all kinds of people who were interested in this and I don’t entirely know all those people or what they’re interests is but it turned the language of the work into something that was… I’m not talking about literary, more experimental, not necessarily easier, in some ways more challenging, but more open, I think to readers and also something more personal, right? So I thought I was going to be writing primarily about connections between African Americans and Filipinos in the U.S. empire in the 20th century.
Vince Schleitwiler (16:34):
And it… I find myself… I found myself writing about police violence in Chicago, where I’m from. I found myself writing about family history, the history of my grandfather, and how he got to Chicago. So what was really kind of powerful about that project is that, when you’re kind of open to sort of new forms and to new audiences, the work can go in ways that you can’t expect, right? And I had really no idea what I was doing when I started, but it was, I think the most satisfying thing I’ve done as a scholar.
Cathy Hannabach (17:07):
I’d love to hear about your next book project that you mentioned briefly.
Vince Schleitwiler (17:11):
Well, the next book project is still very much an act of the imagination, right? But it comes out of the same kind of archival research that I’d done earlier. So in looking at the history of Afro-Asian relations in the first half of the 20th century, there’s so much more that can be said. But the trajectory of that is, I think really interesting. So from the African American side, one of the aspects of an interest in Asia and the Pacific is that it is a kind of speculative or fantasy site, right, a place where you might find emerging global challenger to white supremacy. And that is most often imagined in terms of imperial Japan in the first half of the 20th century, but it shifts later.
Vince Schleitwiler (17:59):
The other side of it of course, is that this is a site to get to access through the pathways of U.S. imperialism, right? So African-Americans go to the Philippines, they go to Hawaii, they go later all across Asia as soldiers, as colonial officials, as educators in the service of imperialism and sort of working out what it means to be in the service of a racial project that you recognize as white supremacist. But it’s also giving you new opportunities. And ultimately these two strains kind of come to serve tension, right? So is… Can you keep thinking of Asia as this sort of this space where this new political force might emerge? And so I think of this project as sort of dealing with the kind of really difficult dilemma between, on the one hand, thinking of racism, thinking of white supremacy as something that is permanent, right? That you can’t imagine a United States, you can’t imagine a society, you can’t imagine a world that hasn’t been sort of fundamentally shaped by white supremacy.
Vince Schleitwiler (19:00):
And on the other hand, the recognition that white imperialism is mortal, that we’re in the age of the last of the great white empires and something else is coming. And if you look back in the history of this imagination, you see attempts to think about what could be beyond that. There’s all kinds of really fascinating stuff there about sort of, kind of early Afrofuturism, but also sort of the speculative imagination of… In the early present 20th century, you had African American writers sort of writing the speculative fiction about race war with Japan that becomes [inaudible 00:19:38] about what the meaning of World War two would be for Afro-Asian relation, right? You have this sort of vision of… that comes out of the Nation of Islam, of a mothership, right? This sort of giant ship that’s being built in Japan. It’s a sort of giant kind of war machine that has direct antecedents in books that are written by Japanese military officials in the 1920s.
Vince Schleitwiler (20:05):
So it’s just a kind of fascinating and obviously it’s difficult. It’s not necessarily an obvious place of liberation. There’s a lot that’s wrong with a lot of these fantasies, but I think that it might point towards a way of thinking about… I guess sort of a way to put it is, race is a technology of conquest, which has been repurposed as a technology of liberation, right, and to try to think about what the future of that technology is.
Cathy Hannabach (20:30):
What you’re saying reminds me a lot of David Kazanjian’s new book, The Brink of Freedom. And it seems like there’s a lot of, or at least an increasing number, an excitingly increasing number of books that are doing comparative work like that. But not in a traditional way that comparative studies or comparative literature has been kind of looking at different spaces like distinct spaces, distinct geographically and politically spaces that are nonetheless linked but not necessarily in obvious ways. I mean there are obviously colonial and imperial links that connect the spaces that you’re talking about and the spaces that David is talking about because he’s looking at Liberia and Yucatan. But there’s also kind of philosophical links or he… I mean he’s talking about speculative links, ways of imagining some other future, some other present that either is already here or that some people can already experience now and increasing that. So it’s an interesting pattern and I think we’re going to see more of it, which is great because I think that’s a really exciting scholarship.
Vince Schleitwiler (21:35):
Yeah, absolutely. I wrote a little bit about this for a forum in comparative literature that Keith Feldman put together on blackness and relationality, right? So this thing about, okay… On the one hand you have all these new forms of comparison that often articulate themselves as a rejection of the term comparison in favor of something else like relationality. And on the other hand you have this sort of tendency to think that to sort of specify what anti-blackness is, you have to step away from forms of comparison that we’re familiar with, right? And so multiculturalism is sort of a dominant language of comparison.
Vince Schleitwiler (22:14):
But I think what people are recognizing is, the way that I put it is, comparison is something that any imperialism tries to monopolize the terms of comparison. Under the heyday of multiculturalism, it seemed as if the only way to think about histories comparatively was to make them culminate in the sort of triumph of U.S. nationalism, right? The triumph of American diversity. And in fact, there are all these other sites of comparison, these other ways of comparison that they’ve had to be repressed.
Cathy Hannabach (22:49):
That sounds fantastic. Do you have any advice maybe for listeners who are interested in those kind of collaborations or those kind of different mediums that they can get their work out in?
Vince Schleitwiler (23:06):
I think I’d be just as interested in getting advice because I think that it’s kind of an underimagined world. Again, the language that we have to talk about this is language that really is kind of pointed towards institutions or how can we make the institutions of culture better at taking this supposed oversupply of PhDs and turn them into something interesting, right, and give them an income. And that’s necessary work, but I think that if you enter into this space, if you enter it to what some people call it, the undercommons, right, without an expectation that there’s an institution that will give you a home, you can find really fascinating forms of solidarity. And for me, I called the blog for Center of Art and Thought, city of refuge because it was this incredible space of refuge for me. And it was a space of refuge that is not a space of security, right, it’s not a space of stability, but it was a place of real solidarity.
Vince Schleitwiler (24:08):
Generally speaking, for folks who are kind of going down this line, I think it’s important to recognize that, on the one hand, you shouldn’t mistake your hustle for liberation, right? You might be successful in ways that might create their own problems and their own difficulties for you. You might find certain kinds of success that comes with the class of the other things that you care about.
Vince Schleitwiler (24:31):
But on the other hand, you shouldn’t think that the ways that you pursue your livelihood are outside of your political practices, right? And I think that’s actually equally true, if not more so true for people who have more conventional homes in institutions of culture, right? The idea that, on the one hand there’s this politics you do, which is about making these kind of broad declarations of things outside of yourself. And on the other hand there’s the way that you interact with the world as a teacher, as somebody in administrative communities, right, or as somebody who is applying for certain kinds of grants or whatever it is you’re doing, right, that’s also part of your political life and that might be the greater part of your political life.
Cathy Hannabach (25:14):
I think that’s a fantastic model and certainly one that lets people weave together the various things that they care about, right? While also conceding that, we unfortunately live under the terms of capitalism and have to pay rent, and eat food, and all these things that cost money even as we wish that they were structured in a different manner.
Vince Schleitwiler (25:35):
Yeah, I mean, so this is the world we struggle with, right? But there is already this other world behind it, right, that we can sometimes glimpse and sometimes have a part of and sometimes realize we’ve been living in the whole time. That sort of kind of fully realizing the sort of liberatory imagination that we have is not possible through a kind of single act of will. But it’s also already been there, right, and it’s already the thing that we rely on. It’s already the thing that sustains us.
Cathy Hannabach (26:05):
So I think this actually is a nice transition into the final question that I wanted to talk to you about. My favorite question that I could get to talk with guests about, which is that vision of a better world that they’re working towards whenever they make whatever it is that they make in the universe. And so I’ll ask you, what’s the world that you are working towards? What’s the world that you want?
Vince Schleitwiler (26:29):
I guess a couple of ways of thinking about that. One is to… Everybody wants to quote Fred Moten these days, but he’s such a beautiful thinker, right-
Cathy Hannabach (26:35):
Vince Schleitwiler (26:37):
… In one of his interviews, he says something like, if I remember correctly, “I believe in this world and want to be in it. I want to be in it all the way to the end of it and to see what’s there.” Right? And I think that it’s important to think of that engagement with sort of as a world of your imagination in that way, right, that it comes through this world and on the other side of this world. And in fact, that in some ways it’s already there. But I guess the other way to put it is a common way that people talk about the radical power of the imagination is to say that you need to dream something before you can do it. And I appreciate that statement and what people are trying to get at when they make that statement.
Vince Schleitwiler (27:17):
But I think it’s more than that, right? That you want your imagination to take you to a place beyond itself, right, to take you to a place that you would not think you could have imagined, right? That you could not really sort of see properly until you get there. A place where so much of what you think you can anticipate ahead of time has to be given up, right. And that, in very kind of practical terms, for somebody who is doing this very small kind of scholarly work, right, you can think of it or I can… I think of it as, if this book I write has any kind of real value or significance people see beyond it, people see in ways that make its vision look small and limited. And I’m more interested in that, right, and in the broader sense, again, the desire to imagine a new world throughout the world, is a desire to open yourself to something that is beyond your imagination.
Cathy Hannabach (28:24):
Thank you so much for being with us and talking with us about your book and what it means to you imagine otherwise.
Vince Schleitwiler (28:31):
Thanks. I really appreciate it, this was a wonderful practice. I’m so glad to be here.
Cathy Hannabach (28:39):
Thanks for listening to another episode of Imagine Otherwise. Check out our website at ideasonfire.net to listen to full episodes, read show notes, and see links to the people, books, and projects discussed on the show. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to find out when new episodes are released and to get tips to help you rock your interdisciplinary career.