Nisha Ramayya


 
 

Secretions or Obstructions

1

	You come too late, much too late. There will always
	be a world – a white world – between you and us….
	The other’s total inability to liquidate the past once
	and for all. In the face of this affective ankylosis of
	the white man, it is understandable that I could
	have made up my mind to utter my Negro cry. Little
	by little, putting out pseudopodia here and there, I
	secreted a race. (Fanon 2008: 92)

2

In the face of this affective ‘formation of a stiff joint by
consolidation of the articulating surfaces’ –

In the face of this affective ‘coalescence of two bones
originally distinct’ –

It is understandable that I, like a critical rub, could have
the advantage of taking into your skin and the
disadvantage of going off.

You come too late, embarrassed by the analogy between
you and us. You say what doesn’t come to mind: ‘toasted
bread or potatoes, peat, lignite, withered leaves’.

You say the utterly in common.

There will always be a world in which this self, projecting
inwards or outwards, separates.

Likeness to likeness, we are marrow-scooped in the face
of the articulating surfaces. Chins pointing down to the
drops of oil in backlit water, we give ourselves away.

3

In On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional
Life, Sara Ahmed considers the arrival of the stranger in
the university (she discusses the implicit racialisation of
the stranger elsewhere). In the institutional space, the
body of colour is, statistically and otherwise, the body out
of place. Reflecting on her experiences of working in
British and Australian universities, Ahmed writes: ‘When
an arrival is noticeable, we notice what is around. I look
around and re-encounter the sea of whiteness. I had
become so used to this whiteness that I had stopped
noticing it’ (2012: 35).

This impression of whiteness is an impression of
coherence that results from a gathering of white bodies;
the body of colour disrupts this coherence:

	It is important to remember that whiteness is not
	reducible to white skin or even to something we can
	have or be, even if we pass through whiteness.
	When we talk about a ‘sea of whiteness’ or ‘white
	space,’ we talk about the repetition of the passing
	by of some bodies and not others. And yet non-
	white bodies do inhabit white spaces; we know this.
	Such bodies are made invisible when spaces
	appear white, at the same time as they become
	hypervisible when they do not pass, which means
	they ‘stand out’ and ‘stand apart.’ You learn to fade
	in the background, but sometimes you can’t or you
	don’t. (42)

The stranger who wishes to pass – whom Ahmed
describes as ‘the “right kind” of minority, the one who aims
not to cause unhappiness or trouble’ (157) – tries not to
stand out. She minimises her difference in an attempt to
blend into the surroundings, to reproduce the coherence
of the white space by blending, by fading, by dissolution.

Standing out is the cause and effect of uncomfortable
feelings. The stranger does not like to sit down, for fear
that she will be asked to leave. She does not like to make
herself comfortable, for fear that she has misheard the
invitation:

	Whiteness is produced as host, as that which is
	already in place or at home. To be welcomed is to
	be positioned as the one who is not at home.
	Conditional hospitality is when you are welcomed
	on condition that you give something back in return.
	(43)

What may be given back in return? What may be given in
order to return? The intensity of the stranger’s gratitude
corresponds to the impact of her returns.

4

Frantz Fanon suggests that whiteness is rigidity, brittle
coalescence; blackness is projection, extraction,
supersaturated release. Ahmed’s rendering of the body of
colour is similarly obtrusive – a cluster of sore points,
swellings and stains.

Although the ‘sea of whiteness’ implies fluidity, the body of
colour may experience the continuous body of whiteness
as an obstruction (‘like banging your head against a brick
wall’):

	Things might appear fluid if you are going the way
	things are flowing. When you are not going that
	way, you experience a flow as solidity, as what you
	come up against. In turn, those who are not going
	the way things are flowing are experienced as
	obstructing the flow. (Ahmed 2012: 186-187)

To come: the incoherence of our bodies is what we bring
up, the condition of what we have to bring.

To come up: despite the insufficiencies of the conditions,
we don’t know when to leave.

To come up against: (the impression of) settling deeply.

5

Kidney stones come to mind.

The stones that pass through the body, leaving the body
unchanged.

The stones that must be shattered: they are broken, the
body is left unchanged. The stones that must be surgically
treated: the body is opened, they leave unchanged.

The mass inside you that resists encouragement, that
refuses the slip of the spontaneous passage.

Sometimes obstinacy manifests as inertia, which is an
apparently neutral position. It feels as if your body has not
caught up to the world; it feels as if the world has not
caught up to your body.

Disinclination comes up against the fear of not being
missed.

6

	There are things that would delete
	themselves if only you would let them, damage

	to the circulation, and that is what I wanted.
	Was a gasped voice from the beginning,

	overly phlegmatic, striated to perfection,
	the colour of our facets and we wouldn’t be

	blind. And I could hold myself within me
	so tight that I might burst; prolapse of the

	epidermis – is that you, polymorphous pervert,
	moaning, ah, fuck me in the plural. (Uziell 2016: 4)

7

There are bodies that would dissolve, that would not be
contingent upon the argument of their embodiment. There
are arguments that would admit points to the point of
atrophy.

In moving round desires, we go from death to death: ‘But
the advantage of syncope is precisely that one always
returns from it. Asthmatics, epileptics, lovers – they
recount explicitly how wonderful it is to breathe after the
attack. […] We place ourselves in the before death, in the
after death. The real crossing is forgotten’ (Clément 1994:
15). The inability to speak precedes asphyxiation; there is
no question apart from the question of who comes first.

The destroyer of strength said: ‘It is built up with bones,
smeared over with flesh, covered with skin, filled with
faeces, urine, bile, phlegm, marrow, fat, grease and also
with many diseases, like a treasure house full of wealth’
(Radhakrishnan 1989: 807). I am full of fullness.

The destroyer of strength said: ‘In such a world as this,
what is the good of the enjoyment of desires?’ (797). My
eyes are full of fullness.

Over-identifying with you, I am unable to speak or listen or
respond to you. Compressed by the fullness of bodies, my
body implodes. (Inertia may manifest as love.)

The argument is hypertrophic, admitting too many colours
and consistencies. My desires are irreducible to the point.

8

	बिन्दु bindu, a detached particle, drop, globule; a
	pearl; a drop of water taken as a measure; a spot
	or mark of coloured paint on the body of an
	elephant; the dot over a letter representing the
	anusvāra [after-sound] (supposed to be connected
	with Śiva and of great mystical importance); a zero
	or cypher (in manuscripts put over an erased word
	to show that it ought not to be erased); a mark
	made by the teeth of a lover on the lips

9

	Orgasm is therefore the foremost means of
	attaining the dissolution of the individual subject,
	who thereby becomes the Absolute I, the Immense
	Heart, or a Forbidden Word. This notion of
	favouring the moment of syncope is pushed to its
	extreme consequences; it is true that afterward
	nothing of value remains. Not sex, nor death,
	incest, excrement, urine, or even God: it’s all the
	same, or rather, it’s All One. (Clément 1994: 139)

10

I light fires in your stomach to worship the tiger eye in your
eyes.

The body becomes rancid in the warmth of the embrace.

I absorb your inability, in me the juncture is hardened in
fire.

I absorb your inability, in me the hardness reaches
extinction.

I absorb the world between you and us, in me the white
world reaches extinction.

The body comes into the world, continues into the world,
dissolves into the world.

‘Thereafter it burns the world, devoid of lustre, devoid of
limit, devoid of appearance. It burns the mahat tattva: it
burns the Unmanifested. It burns the Imperishable. It
burns Death’ (Radhakrishnan 1989: 890).

In the deadness of night, our eyes filled with slime –

Tell us the great secret of aloneness –

Likeness to likeness, we are utterly fucked.

Bibliography

Ahmed, Sara, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in
Institutional Life (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012)

Clément, Catherine, Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture,
trans. by Sally O’Driscoll and Deirdre M. Mahoney
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1994)

Fanon, Frantz, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. by Charles
Lam Markmann (London: Pluto Press, 2008)

Monier-Williams, Monier, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary:
Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with Special
Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages (New
Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2008)

OED Online (Oxford University Press, 2016)

Radhakrishnan, S., ed., The Principal Upaniads (New
Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989)

Uziell, Lawrence, ‘untitled’, ZARF, No. 3 (Spring 2016), p. 4

 

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