Monday, June 08, 2009

Of Epigramology

I'm working furiously on finishing up my dissertation, and other than the filling in of my 700 footnotes, one of the fun tasks left to finish is the choosing of epigrams from the start of each chapter. An epigram is a quote or passage that you place at the start of the chapter to help set the mood or the tone. It can be tragic, funny, serious, boring, whatever you'd like, but it provides a extra bit of spice, meaning or flavor to help give your chapter a sense of presence or meaning, even before the reader has actually read any of it.

For my dissertation I'm torn between using jokes passages, or all passages meant to be silly or funny. So for instance, in one of my chapters on the United Nations, sovereignty and the way the claims of indigenous people for decolonization are reduced to domestic concerns or effects of the nations, I thought about using this quote from an Eddie Izzard show:

“So the American government lied to the Native Americans for many, many years, and then President Clinton lied about a relationship, and everyone was surprised! A little naïve, I feel!”

Or for my methodology chapter in which I discuss the difficulties in doing work on a concept such as sovereignty in relation to a place considered to be invisible, marginal or exceptional like Guam, I thought about using all or part of the long quote below from Michel Foucault's The Archeology of Knowledge. This quote explains how in order to critique concepts of sovereignty through Guam's political status, I deprive it of the stability and tranquility that history of the concept is often afforded with and takes for granted.

“These pre-existing forms of continuity, all these syntheses that are accepted without question, must remain in suspense. They must not be rejected definitively of course, but the tranquility with which they are accepted must be disturbed; we must show that they do not come about of themselves, but are always the result of a construction the rules of which must be know, and the justifications for which must be scrutinized: we must define in what conditions and in view of which analyses certain of them are legitimate; and we must indicate which of them can never be accepted in any circumstances. … But need we dispense for ever with the ‘oevre,’ the ‘book’, or even such unities as ‘science’ or ‘literature’? … What we must do, in fact, is to tear away from their virtual self-evidence, and to free the problems they want to pose; to recognize that they are not the tranquil locus on the basis of which other questions (concerning their structure, coherence, systematicity, transformations) may be posed, but that they themselves pose a whole cluster of questions (What are they? How can they be defined or limited? What distinct types of laws can they obey? What articulation are they capable of? What sub-groups can they give rise to? What specific phenomena do they reveal in the field of discourse. The question proper to such an analysis might be formulated this way: what is this specific existence that emerges from what is said and nowhere else?”

Or one other option was to go the route of inspirational quotes. So I considered using a quote like this one from Epeli Hau'ofa's essay "The Ocean in Us."

"there are no more suitable people on earth to be the custodians of the oceans than those for whom the sea is home...we seem to have forgotten that we are such a people...our roots...our origins are embedded in the sea...our ancestors were brought here by the sea...the sea is our pathway to each other and to everyone else, the sea is our endless saga, the sea is our most powerful metaphor...the Ocean is in Us..."

In my search for epigrams, I took a look at what epigrams other books were using to give me some ideas and also to see it there were any nice ones to steal. One book I looked at was Exception to the Rulers by Amy and David Goodman. The authors put together a nice collection of quotes for their chapters (the chapters are pretty good themselves as well, Amy Goodman is one of the most critical and engaged progressive media people out there). Although I didn't find any of them very useful for my particular project, they were an interesting mix nonetheless and so I thought I would paste them below for people to check out.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-George Santayana


*

We're more likely to see other companies as collaborators rather than adversaries...We aren't so much competing with each other as we are competing with the earth. And maybe that's a healthy way to look at it.
-George Kirkland, Chairman and Managing Director, Chevron Nigeria Limited

It is very clear that Chevron, like Shell, uses the military to protect its oil activities. They drill and they kill.
-Oronto Douglas, Nigerian Human Rights Lawyer

I'm very proud of my association with Chevron.
-Condoleeza Rice, National Security Advisor

*

First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist so I did not speak out. Then they came from the socialists and the trade unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came from the Jews, but I was not a Jew and so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
-Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), Protestant Pastor in Nazi Germany

*

We can bomb the world to pieces. But we can't bomb it into peace.
-Michael Franti, Hip-Hop Artist

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Imagine living, eating, sleeping, relieving oneself, day-dreaming, weeping - but mostly waiting, in a room about the size of your bathroom. Now imagine doing all those things - but mostly waiting, for the rest of your life. Imagine waiting - waiting - to die.
-Mumia Abu-Jamal

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From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August
-Andrew H. Card, White House Chief of Staff, speaking about the Iraq War P.R. campaign, September 6, 2002.

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Good morning Baghdad!
-Dan Rather, CBS Evening News Anchor, describing the message being sent by President Bush with the first bombs on Baghdad, March 19, 2003

George Bush is the president...Whenever he wants to me to line up, just tell me where and he'll make the call.
-Dan Rather, on Late Night with David Letterman, September 17, 2001

One of the things we don't want to do...is to destroy the infrastructure of Iraq because in a few days we're going to own that country.
-Tom Brokaw, NBC Nightly News, March 19, 2003

*

Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.
-General William C. Westmoreland, U.S. Military Commander in Vietnam

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There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.
-Howard Zinn

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I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book.
-Groucho Marx

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For every torturer, there are a thousand people ready to risk their lives in order to save another. For every soliders who shoots in a neighborhood, there are a thousand companeros who help and protect each other.
-Isabel Allende

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Nobody is as powerful as we make them out to be.
-Alice Walker

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If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
-Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), Hitler's Minister of Propaganda

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When the operation of the machine becomes so odious...you've got to throw your body upon the wheels, upon the gears, upon the levers, and upon all the apparatus of the machine, and you've got to make it stop.
-Mario Savio, Leader, Free Speech Movement (1964), Berkeley, California

*
Governments lie.
-I.F. Stone, Journalist

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Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
-Frederick Douglass

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Another world is not only possible, she's on her way. Maybe many of us won't be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen carefull, I can hear her breathing.
-Arundhati Roy

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