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|My Curriculum Vitae download link|
I find it very difficult to define myself.
The question “Who am I?” has baffled thinkers and philosophers for millenia and remains a huge mystery.
First, it assumes the possibility of self-knowledge without regard to the problematics of knowing.
Secondly it assumes an objectively knowable “I”, the paradox here being that the “known“ is the “knower“. Alive to the complexities of resolving these epistemological jigsaws (existential maybe?), I have chosen to defer the question, but still retain a healthy respect for people who say they “know“ themselves. Unable to resolve or unaware of the problematics of “knowing“ and “being“, there is often a tendency to confuse what we “do“ with who we “are“.
My life experience though is describable and definable. In its streamlined predictability, it would excusably sound rather mundane and uninspiring. It has been shaped predominantly by my life in Academia.
By design, I have spent the better part of my life in Kenyatta University. It started with a prolonged academic engagement commencing in 1990, obtaining my undergraduate degree in 1995, my M.A. in Literature 1996-1998 and my PhD in Literature in 1999-2002. I predictably proceeded to build an academic career in the University.I did literature effortlessly and therefore my career seemed meteoric. It was not. Like they say, the Eagle does not fly, it floats on wind currents and glides effortlessly. I rode on my natural propensities to engage in literature, it seemed effortless which it was, and clever which it was not. Those who have known me in the past will, to my utter surprise, describe me as “sharp”. https://mbasic.facebook.com/kualumnicard/photos/a.344921365583619.80579.227169597358797/435306756545079/?type=1&source=46. It is a part of my life I honestly do not recognize. I remember gliding and coasting along my academic life floating effortlessly on the ebb and flow of literary seas and winds. It is a ride I still probably enjoy but in a different world far away from the classroom-textbook literature that defined my academic career. I progressed in the ranks in Academics and in University administration to become Senior Lecturer in the Department of Literature in 2007, Chairman of the Department in 2008, Associate Dean of Graduate School in 2009 and Associate Professor of Literature in 2012.
I doubt however that any of these define me. I have always had a love for knowledge of life and ideas, and their exploration and sharing through language. Consequently, the Academy was the obvious place for me to find the space to pursue ideas and their sharing. But this space could only provide so much. The Academy is a very structured place. As I grew in it, I found that my interest in ideas, their sharing and their application in society could only be stifled by the protocols, traditions and structures there-in, not aided. I think structure while necessary for the systematic expression of thought and ideas is counter-intuitive to the random nature of thinking and organic nature of ideas. I also think that modeled along the Western Academy, the African Academy lacks the necessary pragmatism to have a remedial and restorative impact on the rather basic and simple problems that plague the continent and its people. It was therefore natural that I was to get disillusioned with the Academy and I therefore retired in 2013. Looking back, my exit was natural, and not informed by any transgressions of the Academy towards me, though these were not entirely absent.
Having lost the basis upon which I was defined for 23 of the most productive years of my life, a certain sense of limbo is inevitable. It is not only a place of self-redefinition but a place to question the need for one. We are many things at the same time, or rather we think we are. It is the nature of the human mind to look for meanings and definitions. We find them not because they exist but because we have an infinite capacity to create and recreate such meanings and definitions. I have learnt that these at once define us and limit us.I have found that the possibility of the realization of our true essence increases as we progress from the need for definitions towards freedom from definitions. It is infinitely more meaningful to be no-thing than to be a-thing. For, even with these changing and limiting definitions, the many things we think we are change all the time. We are inevitably in a process of becoming. This process has taken a bigger significance for me, unfettered by institutional and societal definitions of a self, and divested of the need for one. It is a process that is less circumscribed compared to what I was in the Academy but one that feels naturally liberating and infinite in its undefined possibilities.
One of those possibilities is this blog. It started by accident, without intention and has grown without effort. I wish I could say that I thought it, planned it and executed it. I would probably sound clever and purposeful but I would be lying. Being a crusader for modern pedagogy, I wanted a forum where I could have discourse with educational practitioners on matters of modern pedagogy. I asked Joshua, my ICT guy to build me a blog. (Being predominantly a man of letters, I am a tech dummy. I am told building a blog is not difficult, I did not try). Provided with a blog, I posted a few educational articles and got no serious responses. For one who takes pleasure in sharing of ideas, this was not a good sign. I remember asking Joshua if I could post a longer version of an article I had previously published in one of the Dailies. He said, “It’s your blog. You can publish whatever you want”. I published the article, the first political commentary in the blog entitled, “Of a feckless Jubilee and CORD kakistocrasy and the optimist’s alternative narrative”. It was a response to an earlier article by columnist Evan Mwangi. The reception of the article was enthusiastic and a political blog was born, and like they say, the rest is history.
I guess that makes me a blogger, for want of labels and definitions. I will accept the definition provisionally. If it ties me to a platform through which I can express my ideas unfettered by protocol or structure, it takes me back to my first love of knowledge and ideas and the sharing of them through language, and it is therefore a label that I will wear proudly.