To Assemblage Across Age

By Alejandro Jaramillo

Within assemblages, what interests me is the temporality of them and the way that disturbance is always a factor at play.

Being so distant from my people back home for eight months out of the year is something that I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, I miss them dearly and am restless throughout my time in Kalamazoo knowing that what is separating me from them is both the distance of two thousand miles, and three long months. On the flipside of that, I find that there is some relief with not having to be constantly around some of them. This relief comes out of not having to engage with rhetoric that reinstates forms of power and domination that I am resistant of. I see this especially with family that is older than me in age.

This mode of thought drives me to a question that I find myself in conflict with each time I return home – how do we have conversations across generations?

The relationship between my father and I was somewhat toxic in my younger age. It was not until recently that we truly began to grow close to each other. I find that we are very gentle with each other, as we understand that history of violence that we share; although, our histories together cannot be reduced to just violence. I feel that in understanding this we remain with the possibility of being able to be in non-violent relationship with the other. We constantly navigate this space of considering how things have been, and where they could be. I enjoy that I have gotten to this point of growth with my dad, and at the same time there are tons of things that we both still need to learn. This can be seen with the way that forms of violence from our past are recapitulated in some of his rhetoric and actions. It is important to note that although time gives us the possibility to be able to work through things, I do not fall into this linear progress narrative where ‘time heals all wounds.’

In thinking about the relationships I am a part of back home as an assemblage, I position my own self and my knowledge as something that is constantly being engaged with, as well. The schools of thought I come from are centered in radical leftist politics, and this is what I enter these spaces with. Considering that, I wrestle with a way of how to bring what I have learned from these knowledges produced by the left. Of course I am careful to not romanticize leftist politics as there are plenty of things that we must remain critical about. This also is not to say that everything I put on the table must instate itself as being “the right way” of doing things. The purpose is to put in conversation what we are individually bringing forward. One of the things that I want to bring forward is different forms of developing kinship.

I’ve always wanted to figure out a way where we can have a conversation with one of my relatives that I disagree with on several things where we are not stepping on each other’s toes. As I reflect on the idea of disturbance, perhaps this is not the project that I should be concerning myself with anymore.

The disturbance that we share with each other either through verbal or non-verbal action is what continues to draw me in into these types of uncomfortable interactions. I return to Donna Haraway as I hold close the ability to remain with the trouble. It is in remaining with the trouble that the assemblage begins to acknowledge its own presence. It is through the negotiations that we make amongst each other through the words and all the other forms of communication that we share with each other that keep us together in some sense. This entanglement is a figuring out of a way to negotiate both tenderness and violence at once. These types of engagements encompass a more complex node built of contradicting sentiments and feelings. This is precisely why I enjoy remaining with disturbance as something that can be used to organize around when shaping relationships.

To return to my relationships back home, I also consider the relationship I have with my brother. My brother and I grew with each other for most of our life, except for a period of time where my mom had sent him away. Something important to note is the my brother and I do not share the same father, and this always made for interesting interactions amongst us. My brother and I grew up eight years a part from one and other. We had access to different types of technologies at different historical moments. For example, as we both use sites like Facebook and Instagram in the fast access of our phones, he would have to check his MySpace and MocoSpace by either visiting a public library or find a relative/friend with a computer. Not having access to certain technologies back then made it more difficult in certain situations for my mom when it came to dealing with our mishaps. I think about this particularly when my brother would leave home abruptly and we would have no idea where he was. My mom could not directly call him to a cellphone (although he probably would not have answered), but instead had to call the phone home numbers of all his friends to see where he was. Often these moments where my brother would leave home arose from not wanting to be around what was being put on the table by my parents.

Although my father, brother, and I have gone our separate ways in terms of living space, we all grew up in the same home with each other. For this I return to Tsing’s conceptualization around contamination. She states, “We are contaminated by our encounters; they change who we are as we make way for others. As contamination changes world making projects, mutual worlds – and new directions – may emerge” (Tsing 27). It was in being in a close space that positioned us to have to engage in ways that were often full of discomfort. We each grew up with specific circumstances that worked against us and those that were there for the possibility of benefit. We were shaped by everything we did together all at the same time as we were shaped by everything that did not involve each other. To work through this, I reflect on how Tsing discusses, “Collaboration is work across difference, yet this it not the innocent diversity of self-contained evolutionary tracks. The evolution of our “selves” is already polluted by histories of encounter; we are mixed up with others before we begin any new collaboration” (Tsing 29). Our contamination of each other has remained engrained in how we are constantly working towards a future.

Weighing in at 6lbs and 7ozs, my nephew was born about a year and half ago. This being my brother’s first child, this was the first time that introducing a small human into our assemblage was really a thing. After having several conversations about how he wants to raise his son, there are a couple of things that I am anxious of. One of the ways that my brother’s own contamination has affected his approach to being a father is that he has made a commitment to be a part of his son’s life. What comes with that commitment is also very much been a part of that contamination. There are certain things that he wishes for his son that reinstate some of the things that we grew up with. This has led me to reflect on questions such as the following:

  • How do we take our own personal histories of contamination as something that we could not be separate from, yet do not enforce the same set of violent terms on generations that are set to come after us?
  • How do we develop the types of collaborations that Tsing talks about as we directly consider the interactions of various contaminations in assemblage with one and other.

As we move into the future, I am aware of the degrees of disturbance that will be taking place in relation to the avenues of action and imagination that are both being made space for and denied for my nephew. This comes in the way that the types of politics, people, place, activities, and forms of kin that are being framed for him. I hope to see that he grows up with an openness to queerness, and not a rejection of it. I want to see him exist within an anti-racist frame of navigating the world, and not falling into the tropes that we are undoing now. I also desire that my nephew will accept the complexity of growing in an assemblage and realize that he is not a carbon copy of his father. Although our relationship to ourselves is very different, I want him to understand that there are various limitations to my brother and I’s masculine identities. Without positioning the femme subjects in his life as the sanitized feminine server of men, I want him to develop a politic outside of this very mode of thought. Of course not everyone in the assemblage shares this sentiment, and this is the space of contamination and disturbance that awaits.

Assemblages are never static, and are constantly shifting. It is a shift that changes with the invitation of disturbance that allows for a change with the future historical moments that approach. The temporal existence of them is what allows me to envision the assemblages that I am a part as part of the future. Being able to identify and work with our individual complex histories is something that will aid in the crating a future that we want to see, but of course, it must be something we do together.

Thanks for joining me!

Alejandro Jaramillo as a baby

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