Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ann Cvetkovich

I've never wanted a job. That is, I've never wanted my work to be something to be done in exchange for cash. I prefer work that is a calling. A mission. Generally, I've been fortunate in my life to do exactly that kind of work. I've been thinking about this ideal of mine since Thursday afternoon when I had the good fortune to hear Ann Cvetkovich speak at the University of Maryland as the inaugural event of the LGBT Studies spring speaker series, Queering the Archive, Archiving the Queer.
I became acquainted with Cvetkovich's work in one of my first graduate school classes with Katie King. We read her book, An Archive of Feeling. It was one of those books that blew my hair back. One of those books that I thought, ah! Here is a model of what I want to do.
Hearing Cvetkovich's lecture, I was newly inspired. Not only is she a brilliant writer and researcher, she is a generous person in her thinking and speaking. She spoke about a new archival project. I won't summarize because I was too taken with her to spend time writing notes, but i will say the images from the Gertrude Stein archive at the University of Texas and Cvetkovich's thinking and speaking about them were stunning. What was most inspiring about her, however, was her generosity. As she was speaking, she acknowledged not one or two of the incredible scholars in the audience, but nearly two handfuls. She called people out by name with a brief summary of their work and what it meant to her. Her generosity didn't end there, however. She engaged the audience thoughtfully in discussion during the question and answer period and afterward at the reception. It was incredible to watch and participate.
I think this generosity is an example of mission-based living. Work, certainly, but work with passion and commitment to people and principles. She is my model for this week for thinking, living, being.