On the patron saint of libraries

Came across this today while reading Paul Lendvai’s The Hungarians (2003)

“Three chronicles report different versions, written between 970 and 1075, of an attack on the monistary of St Gallen and its surroundings (today in Switzerland). “The heathen barbarians” advanced like lightening through Bavaria and Swabia along Lake Constance, and inflicted heavy damage on the monastery, killing in the process Wiborada, an Aleman noblewoman, who had herself immured in a cell there ten years earlier. The anchoress was axed to death, and in 1047 Pope Clement II canonized her. Already that spring, she had warned the abbot of the exact time of her hostile hoards’’ incursion from the East, urging him to move the monks, the treasury and the priceless library to safety in time. Rumors recounts the Vita Sanctae Wiboradae; “nonetheless, they were taken seriously only when the barbarians with drawn swords pushed the neighborhood of Lake Constance to the brink of disaster, killing countless people and burning all the villagers and houses.” Only then was the seer heeded. Many people and irreplaceable books could still be saved, but Wiborada was unwilling to escape.

The life and death of St Wiborada (also honored as the patron saint of libraries), as well as the chronicles of the monks Ekkehart I, Ekkehart IV and Herimannus, continually fascinated later generations, inspiring writers, including poets, until the very recent past” (p.7-8; emphasis added).


On solidarity

From Avtar Brah in the introduction to Cartographies of the Diaspora,

… My relationship to these political formations in the USA was inextricably entwined with my status as a ‘foreign’ student who ‘looked Indian’. I was not categorized as ‘Asian’, for this descriptor was then reserved largely for Chinese and Japanese Americans. the highly publicized visits of the pop-band, the Beatles, to India in search of spiritual awakening had made Indian classical music and transcendental meditation quite ‘chic’ in the USA. This might have been one reason why South Asians on USA campuses were constructed as ‘non-European others’, largely through technologies of exoticism, although of course the USA’s own historical relationship with global colonialism and imperialism could hardly be immaterial. As African students we were all constituted as non-Europeans, but students from Africa of South Asian descent were viewed differently from Black Africans. The latter were, in turn, differentiated from black Americans. All this mattered. And not only to white Americans, but equally to black Americans. Once, when I was in Wisconsin, black American students were planning a protest march. A group of us ‘foreign’ students approached them saying that we would like to march with them. We were told in no uncertain terms that this was their march, and we could not join them, although we could show solidarity by marching separately. Here was an important lesson for us. The politics of solidarity with another group is one thing, but the self-organising political mobilization of the group itself is quite another (p. 7-8, italics in original).

On interruptions

From Bonnie Honig in Antigone, Interrupted,

I am one of those people who finishes other people’s sentences. Some people see such interruption as impolite and resent the institution. Others appreciate it and see it as a part of a kind of conversational co-stewardship. You can tell pretty quickly which are which. With those who resent the intrusion, I hold back and try not to let them hear my foot tapping as I wait for them to finish making their point in their own way.

Although often offered in the spirit of mutuality, interruption can be a sign of power. In the parental injunction “please do not interrupt me; let me finish my sentence” which I have had occasion to utter from time to time, I hear the power I disavow elsewhere. And to my kids’ response “but you interrupt us all the time!” I can only laugh and shut up. (I think everyone should have a kid in their life — you don’t have to have one, just have one in your life — so you too can learn to laugh and shut up.)

As a social practice, then, interruption postulates both equality, as when two people interrupt each other to knit together a conversation in tandem, and inequality, as when one party must yield the floor, as it were, to the other (p. 13).