A Lengthy Disclaimer

Roosevelt_in_a_wheelchairMy previous post was whimsical and must not be taken too seriously. I never did take it very seriously, although I still believe it remains important to understand what this photo can be made to mean in the present, and what implicit needs or ideologies are served by doing so. I do not think that this (or any) photo can really tell us a great deal, indeed, this seems to be a photo that provides a lot of space to tell one’s own stories. I let myself run wild on it, and have received many other interpretations from people which were equally speculative, although I think it is telling that there’s not one among those that I have not heard at least twice. None of these readings is perhaps true in the sense of providing real evidence about the real Roosevelt (girl, dog, porch) , but such interpretations are in themselves indicative of how memory-making works. If people see the girl’s right leg as potentially affected by polio, because it is in the shade, then of course that doesn’t mean it’s true –unlikely, she’s wearing identical shoes – or an intention of the photographer to make it seem so, but an indication that people see polio around FDR regardless of whether or not it’s there (probably, as someone pointed out, because there are many photos of FDR surrounded by young polio patients). Similarly, I don’t care to find out who the man in the background actually is, but am very intrigued by the fact that everybody seems to assume he is a bodyguard.

But now for the actual disclaiming part:

This blog is a place for me to think aloud and talk to myself in public. I brainstorm, spit out a great deal of bullshit, make jokes that only I find funny, and generally exhibit myself in a way I hope not too many people actually care to read. Doing so is scary as well as exciting, on some level in the same way as I imagine exhibitionists get a kick out of what they do, but also because formulating (premature) thoughts and getting readers’ responses really helps me to develop ideas. Occasionally a sentence or paragraph of what I have written here makes it into the draft of my PhD thesis. More often, it helps me to develop my ideas, draw from yours, and share my work (for my own benefit, though by all means use it to your advantage too if you can!) I love the responses – many of which are far more knowledgeable and erudite than anything I could have written. Sometimes I fear that that exposes me as the intellectual lightweight I am, but really on the whole I don’t think I need to worry. There may be truth in the idea that intelligence is gauged not from the clever things one says, but from the stupid things one doesn’t say. However, I don’t think saying silly things is necessarily silly. Self-plagiarism is what is considered morally shameful nowadays, changing your mind all the time is a worthy part of the academic process.

Over Sara Polak

Blog about my research: The World We Live In Today Is FDR's World
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