Art and Politics of Indexing

index.jpgBy Bill Wylie-Kellermann, re-posted from his facebook.

A long aside. I’ve been indexing a book on the principalities and powers which will appear in October from Fortress Press. “Principalities” is a new testament name for spiritual structures of power (a notion important to movements various) – and I’ve actually been writing about them in the concrete for four decades or so. The index has been kicking my butt and taken a chunk out of my life at a very hectic time of transition. But in point of fact, and unlikely as it may seem, I love indexing. My first, twenty-five years ago, involved a highlighter, note cards and a shoe box. The process is still layered, but electronic search functions come into play now (toward the end). I always do them myself because there’s often a politics involved. A hired indexer is unlikely to enter, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). See also Ku Klux Klan.” Plus I love the ironies and accidental poems which surface. In my recent Detroit book (if you bought one and it doesn’t have an index, email or inbox me), we get: “Hicks, Charity; Hitler, Adolph: Homrich Wrecking; House, Gloria.” Or how about: “Climate change; Columbus, Christopher; Commodity fetishism; Conservancy; Corktown”? I smile at such conjoinings. In this current one, an entry can have 20 subheads that amount to a theological or biographical snapshot. Indexes are for the sake of the reader’s search, but can be a sly pedagogy tagging along. I also surmise that what’s turned so long and exhausting on this current one is to a certain extent personal. This collection does cover a broad range of topics (think: barbed wire, drugs, family, commercial sports, nuclear weapons, emergency management…) and yet because it’s a series of articles there’s a good bit of repetition on theological framing. Page mark every reference to demonic, war, or hope? Decisions at every click. But the real thing is that this is an integrative process in my own head – making connections and cross-connections in my life and world over four decades of work, right at a point where I’m trying to make sense of my history and discern what’s next. Sifting and sorting what’s incidental from what is absolutely crucial.

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