Many years ago, my partner and I were on a ferry headed to Governors Island in NYC. I remember seeing a girl who couldn’t have been more than five, pointing excitedly over the railing of the ship to call her parents’ attention to something. For some reason, this image has stuck in my mind as a symbol of curiosity and excitement for the unknown.
It has taken a while to get here, but I’m trying to do a new project. I’ve been talking to people who do different kinds of care work, and attempting to build on these oral histories to write something that might be a more revealing and perceptive portrait of our contemporary political economy than what we’ve had so far. I don’t know that this will be an academic book, strictly speaking. A lot of the people I draw inspiration from — Loren Eiseley, Joan Didion, Marilynne Robinson, Susan Sontag, Nancy Folbre, JB Jackson, Svetlana Boym, and in particular Arlie Hochschild — were people who wrote in a way that was elegant and open, personal but also engaging in themes many readers can understand and relate with intuitively. They did work that was informed by scholarship, in one way or another, but addressed people in the way you would tell a story to your friends at a bar, responsive, attuned, and aware, while still being resolute in their searching curiosity.
This is what I’m trying to do. It might be a big mess, but it’s what I’m doing. Already so many people have already been wildly generous to me when I’ve asked, not just to sit down for oral history interviews but for thinking and feeling out this project more generally. My trip through academia has had its ups and downs, to put it mildly, but I’ve perpetually been amazed and humbled by how many people have put pause on their time and bothered to help me figure things out. Many journalists, bloggers, and experts of various kinds have done the same.
The project is tentatively called A World of Their Own, and the podcast associated with it is The Tactile World. There are a few interviews posted now, and hopefully this will continue.