Download Ann Cvetkovich - Depression: A Public Feeling PDF

TitleAnn Cvetkovich - Depression: A Public Feeling
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Table of Contents
                            Front Cover
Title Page
PART I The Depression Journals (A Memoir)
	Going Down (1986–1989)
	Swimming (1989–1990)
	The Return (1990–1991)
	Reflections: Memoir as Public Feelings Research Method
PART II A Public Feelings Project (A Speculative Essay)
	1. Writing Depression: Acedia, History, and Medical Models
	2. From Dispossession to Radical Self-Possession: Racism and Depression
	3. The Utopia of Ordinary Habit: Crafting, Creativity, and Spiritual Practice
	The Depression Journals (A Memoir)
	1. Writing Depression
	2. From Dispossession to Radical Self-Possession
	3. The Utopia of Ordinary Habit
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Document Text Contents
Page 151

Racism and Depression 137

rate that have cohesion but under another framework” (322). Even as
she demystifies the sacred by connecting it to a mundane everyday,
Alexander does not shy away from insisting on a notion of the sacred
that transforms our understandings of political practice. (She thus
echoes my suggestion, with respect to the connections between left
melancholy and acedia, that in addition to offering secular explana-
tions for the spiritual, we consider the possibility of spiritualizing the
political.) Building on her long- standing rejection of easy distinctions
between tradition and modernity, she insists that the sacred not be dis-
missed through its association with the primitive and the traditional
and other conceptual frameworks that privilege the secular.31 She trans-
lates the sacred into the language of transnational feminist theory, but
without domesticating it.
Alexander uses as a foundation for transnational politics and scholar-
ship African- based cosmologies that begin from the premise that all
human beings are important and connected. For those who remain
resolutely committed to the secular, this premise might be one way of
understanding the meaning of the sacred—as a form of radical human-
ism and radical democracy that insists on the importance of every per-
son to the collective. (For Alexander, though, a significant source for
this understanding of the human is the African concept of ase, the life
force or energy that is present in every being.)32 She invokes the cate-
gory of the “sacred” to describe new forms of knowledge production
and archival practice that can counter the soul- killing effects of colo-
nialism, which continue even now to produce forms of self- alienation
that require a politics of self- transformation. The category of the sacred
is a way of articulating this politics of the subject, which, like Avery
Gordon’s account of Toni Cade Bambara’s call for a revolution of the
self, is not an individualized quest.33 The sacred is connected to every-
day practices that are not glamorous or other- worldly and that suggest
a rethinking of political practices that can address the self and its feel-
ings, moods, energies, and will. Taking the risk of invoking the sacred
allows Alexander to connect everyday feelings of disconnection with
transnational histories, as well as to forge practices, often everyday
practices of the body, that aim to address them.

Page 152

138 Part Two


One of Jacqui Alexander’s proposed directions for future inquiry into
the pedagogies of the sacred is to establish a center for the study of in-
digenous spiritualities.34 Using the category of “indigeneity” to encom-
pass African diasporic practices is a significant move, suggesting a pos-
sible rapprochement between notions of indigeneity and diaspora that
are sometimes at odds with one another because of the differences be-
tween those who can lay claim to home (including literal land claims)
and those for whom it is a more imaginary concept. The study of indige-
nous spiritualities would enable a discussion of the syncretisms that
connect indigenous and diasporic cultures and a global comparative
perspective on, for example, African and (Native) American cosmolo-
gies. And if the goal is also to undo distinctions between the sacred and
secular epistemologies, then American indigenous studies are an im-
portant resource for bringing the spiritual into the domains of therapy,
politics, and scholarship. Hartman’s and Alexander’s efforts to explain
despair and depression as the result of the long- term legacies of diaspora
and slavery are matched by efforts to explain contemporary indigenous
struggles with addiction and depression as the product of colonization,
genocide, and displacement. Increasingly, “therapy” within indigenous
communities includes not only historical frameworks but traditional
spiritual practices as tools for healing. Theresa O’Nell, for example, de-
scribes understandings of depression on the Flathead reservation that
incorporate a historical and culturally specific understanding of depres-
sion as a sadness that acknowledges transgenerational loss.35 The social
worker Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart combines trauma theory and
indigenous paradigms to develop workshops that address long- term
histories of violence.36 The wealth of work on the residential school
system, including, for example the establishment of a Truth and Recon-
ciliation Commission in Canada, proceeds from the premise that the
legacy of colonization includes mind and soul and that decolonizing
the mind entails a complex mix of historical, spiritual, legal, and psy-
chic work.37
The debates about the category of sovereignty that have been cen-
tral to Native American and indigenous studies in the U.S. and Canada
are an important place where distinctions between the secular and the

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