Argh! Feeling undutiful, frustrated and sad. Not because of this book cover. Although, now that I think about it, what is on the cover of this book? I suppose since the series is "Breaking Feminist Waves" it must be water on sand. Anyway, what's got me frustrated is the preface, in which Rosi Braidotti, following Deleuze, writes of "nomadic feminisms."
I remember coming across something like nomadic feminism once before, in a book by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson called De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in Women's Autobiography. I believe it was "nomadic identity" there. But I just remember reading about Karen Blixen as a kind of nomad, and how mobility became her liberation in Africa, and while I read I was thinking of her Somali servant Farah, who was a nomad in a different way, following along with her when she traveled, and who maybe was a nomad in yet another way before that. "Nomad" is not a neutral term for me. It describes an increasingly impossible way of life that is also an identity, but not the kind of identity I see in Smith and Watson, and in Braidotti. Nomadism doesn't seem open to me, it doesn't seem amenable to the strain of celebration I felt when I read Braidotti's preface (I have not read her books on "nomadic subjects" and "nomadic ethics"). Or maybe what this term is amenable to is precisely the strain of celebration. Celebration as strain: desire both to embrace Braidotti's fluid, "nomadic", always-becoming "society of undutiful daughters" as a vision for feminist practice, and to preserve a space in which "nomadism" could mean the lives of actual nomads. I am feeling the strain.
I looked up Braidotti and found this interview. The interview is accompanied by a beautiful photograph of people and camels in a desert. Silhouettes, no faces. The interview does not discuss the photograph. This use of nomads as decoration makes me extremely uncomfortable. I worry that this is exactly what is happening with the nomadic as a term: a double move in which a way of life is first romanticized, and then completely detached from those who live it.
When you trace the photo to flickr, you find that the photo was taken in India, in the Thar Desert. Of the Thar Desert, Wikipedia tells me:
The increase of human and livestock population in the desert has led to deterioration in the ecosystem resulting in degradation of soil fertility. The living standard of the people in the desert is low. The Thar Desert is the most densely populated desert in the world...