Essay on Inspiration of Arundhati Roy to an Activist

4276 Words 18 Pages
November 2nd, 2004 was a difficult evening for me. Having helped stage protests against the invasion of Iraq, having urged friends to support the HRC and the struggle for gay marriage, it was difficult to watch the election returns come in, making it seem as though all I had done had been futile. One of the things that got me through was Arundhati Roy’s CD, Come September, which I’d left in my car’s CD player. Driving home from the grocery store I heard her read an excerpt of her article, “The End of Imagination,” in which she offers a skeptical friend another way of dreaming:

The only dream worth having, I told her, is to dream that you will live while you’re alive and die only when you’re dead. “Which means exactly what?”
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Austin’s “How to Do Things With Words.” In speaking of what is required for a performative to be “happy,” Austin claims that “There must exist an accepted conventional procedure having a certain conventional effect, that procedure to include the uttering of certain words by certain persons in certain circumstances, and further, the particular persons and circumstances in a given case must be appropriate for the invocation of the particular procedure invoked.” (Austin 148). I argue that, in this instance, Roy is operating within the “conventional procedure” of a speech given by a public intellectual, and that this identity is itself constituted through her performance. Moreover, I argue that within the performative identity of the public intellectual, to borrow from Judith Butler, “resides the possibility of contesting its reified status” (Butler 155). I assert in this paper that Roy’s performance as a public intellectual contests the reified status in her challenge against the means by which the public intellectual is authorized. Roy offers an alternative means of authorization—amateurism—in order to resist the process of iconization and open public intellectualism to other activists.

On the cover of Arundhati Roy’s latest collection of essays and speeches—An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire—is the phrase “From the author of The God of Small Things.” When one considers the extent

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