There's just something freeing about renting a car and taking a quick jaunt down to New Haven that makes me so happy to live in New England. I'd been going back and forth about whether to attend the Money Talks symposium and History of the Book presentation for some time, but lover of learning (and aspiring Yalie) that I am, I just couldn't stay away.
People sometimes ask why I make a point of sitting in on lectures even though I'm not a student. I just can't seem to stop myself from exploring, from putting myself in spaces that keep me on my toes (and jotting down scores of terms to google later on). Much like my identity, my response to the question has morphed over the years - in 2008, Impostor Syndrome made me want to inhabit spaces that seemed to both be my poison and have my antidote; in 2011, the answer would include burgeoning intellectual esteem, a sort of ease with which I began to navigate decidedly academic spaces as a result of having spent many afternoons in the front row of lecture halls in the Boston area. Now, the answer is quite simple (and divorced from any mention of Impostor Syndrome):
As a child, I was taught that everything on earth, whether Black Blues traditions or Renaissance art, was my cultural inheritance. Simply by virtue of having been born, I am a humble and grateful beneficiary of the collective wealth of nations...
...and I honor those contributions and continue to undergo a gorgeous sort of alchemy by allowing myself to be shaped by what I learn. It is both an act of great courage and worship.
So, back in September, I rented a car and set off for New Haven from Cambridge to be changed a bit more.
I listened in on presentations about everything from money and sin in early political economies to the ways women experience the pains of miscarriage and in vitro fertilization. One speaker traced the migration patterns of money and humanized our understanding of cold capital by infusing it with the narratives of immigrants sending funds back to relatives around the world. I took a trip through societies that bequeathed ideas about currency that directly impact our own as we navigate a world becoming increasingly enamored with intangible markers of value through Bitcoin, Google Wallet, and Apple Pay.
Marion Fourcade: "The Meaning of the Mirage: Money and Sin in Early Political Economy" (Yale Law)
Rene Almeling: "Money, Technology, and Bodily Experience: Comparing the Production of Eggs for Pregnancy or for Profit" (Yale)
Nigel Dodd: "Is Bitcoin Utopian?" (London School of Economics)
I took a break from all the money talk to learn more about my first loves, books. I feed the parking meter for the twentieth time that day (thanks, New Haven) and hightail it to the lower level of the Beinecke library. I entered, got a little cubby for my belongings and went into the room equipped with my recorder and bibliophilic zest.
I made my way around the room, stopping to loom over the books and documents. It's always been such an act of love for me to pour over texts, to wonder what lessons they have to teach us, what wisdom they have dammed up in their spines and margins. After all, it's like Norman Rush once opined, "Literature is humanity talking to itself." Literature enables us to sit at the feet of the ages, and like all other deities, she has a long memory.
Jae Rossman (Yale)
In the Black canon, the Talking Book trope is referenced throughout the generations. Whether we're reading the emancipation narratives of Frederick Douglass (in which the then-illiterate Douglass sees a white man reading and is transfixed by how the book appears to impart wisdom by "talking") or sitting across from Henry Louis Gates, Jr during a present day lecture at Harvard, the notion of an animated book is one that challenges our ideas of agency and wisdom's resting place. I reflect on the more striking images that stuck with me from canonical Black works - how the movements of Black bodies in Toni Morrison's work leap off the pages and tug on my own heartstrings, how the sound of pickaxes and chains clunking and jangling form the pulse of work songs and continue to echo in our collective memory -
...and I can't help but marvel at humanity's ability to inherit, chronicle and pass down knowledge the ways we have. May we be good stewards of the lessons and maintain the heart to contribute to the conversation.