Worming the world

By N.A.J. Taylor on 1st November 2017 — 2 mins read

We think my father began to affectionately call me ‘Worm’ because I have a penis. He stopped quite promptly when my mother alerted him to the idea that, to others outside of our immediately family, it might sound like he considered me a mere parasite. I know for a fact that my mother and two older sisters referred to me as ‘Noodle’, for that very same reason. They stopped only as I entered my teens because, frankly, I let them know that it had got embarrassing. Later, when I was well into my mid-20s, although not long after my father was dead, I became a worm once again. Only this time my nickname was designed to be a sign of contempt, and it had nothing to do with either my family, or my penis.

It begins with a banal message that I received on June 3, 2008, from someone whom I had never met. It ends two years and some three- and-a-half thousand unanswered messages later when a woman— whom I still did not know—pleaded guilty and received a seven-year

suspended prison sentence, expulsion from her university, and a deportation order from Australia.

What happened in between put me at the center of a set of social relations that rippled within my workplace in an IR Department in suburban Melbourne as far as the Vice Chancellor, various Australian and Vietnamese law enforcement agencies, the Victorian legal system, and the office of an Australian federal minister. During that time, my life—and its very security and survival—seemed to me the world. I may have been lecturing on International Relations, but I found this experience in fact un-worlded my own relations. Looking back, I finally find myself able—and willing—to query what it means to teach and research ‘the world’ when you are seemingly the only one left in it.

Following the lifecycle of a worm from birth to death, this essay traces my experience—and ‘internal relations’—as a scholar working on the periphery of IR. Here, in this opening phase, we are protected, as in acocoon, from what I take to be the rather more disturbing description of events that are to follow. In the second phase my life as a worm and a scholar prepares to hatch. It does so as we first encounter the nature of the crime—and the harm—that was inflicted upon me. The story of the worm matures by way of some reflections on the statement that I issued to the Court that documents how I suffered not only personally and privately, but also professionally and publicly. In the fourth—and final—phase, I attempt to kill-off the moniker of the worm. This death is performed by reclaiming the memories that I thought had been erased, and learning to confront the ones that I continue to produce. Such is the residue of trauma, but also the way of the worm.

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N.A.J. Taylor, ‘Worming the world’, Borderlands, Vol.16 No.2, 2017, pp.1-9. [PDF]