My Long View is Broken. No Hope, No Answers, No Answerability.

I’m in the basement of H.B. Crouse, where hope goes to die—maybe not die, maybe where I realize that hope is so thin that fluorescent lighting can pierce it. I’m in the basement of H.B. Crouse, where hope mixes between students and faculty and staff and the air vents that never turn off and the shivers that run down your spine because it’s hot outside in September and the sweat meets the bone in the cold. I’m in the basement of H.B. Crouse where I’m surrounded by white walls and neutral blues, staring at some rainbow pins and a pin with Judith Butler’s face on it that ask me to believe—to hope in the work that I’m doing, in survival, that the world won’t be flooded (but global warming and it’s hot outside in September). I’m in the basement of H.B. Crouse—

I spend a lot of time in the basement.

And I’m talking with a new friend, and we’re talking about how our minds are elsewhere, about how we’re checked out of this PhD work project that we’re both involved in and he says to me “My long-term view operating system is busted” and I can hear it in my own heart that same beat that I didn’t download that patch either.

And I say yes, yes there’s a certain amount of irrelevance to the work that we do. When I can’t see the future, when I can’t see the long view that this academic project is, when hope isn’t, what is teaching, what is research, what is the doing of being here when here is always out of reach in this academic enterprise?

Our work has no answers. It shouldn’t. But what are we doing if we aren’t answering to? Or what is it that we are answering to? What answerability does our work have? What hope can we have—and for what can we have hope–when we do not answer to?

At least 21 trans lives have been taken in 2017. Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, JoJo Striker, Tiara Richmond, Chyna Doll Dupree, Ciara McElveen, Jaquarius Holland, Alphonza Watson, Chay Reed, Kenneth Bostick, Sharrell Faulkner, Kenne McFadden, Kendra Marie Adams, Ava Le’Ray Barrin, Ebony Morgan, TeeTee Dangerfield, Gwynevere River Song, Kiwi Herring, Kashmire Nazier Redd, Derricka Banner, Ally Steinfeld. But I’ve wrote smart things.

What haunts our work? Are the ghosts of lives that we lose what sustains the answers we look at?

How does our work answer to our presence? Our absence?

Notes: Danielle Endres and Samantha Senda-Cook, “Location Matters: The Rhetoric of Place in Protest”

Endres, Danielle, and Samantha Senda-Cook. (2011). Location matters: The rhetoric of place in protest. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 97(3), 257–82.

Summary:

Endres and Senda-Cook analyze the ways that place participates in social protest as an argument or as a rhetoric of (re)constructed meaning. Place is thus performed in social protests.

Keywords: activism, affect, communication, embodiment, materiality, place, rhetoric

Quotations:

“(Re)constructing the meaning of place, even in temporary ways, can be a tactical act of resistance along with the tactics we traditionally associate with protest, such as speeches, marches, and signs… place (re)constructions can function rhetorically to challenge dominant meanings and practices in a place. Place is a performer along with activists in making and unmaking the possibilities of protest” (p. 258).

“Place in protest allows us to understand how social movements use both place-based arguments and place-as-rhetoric” (p. 258).

“[M]aterial rhetoric is always temporary. Place in protest acts as a reminder that places are always being reconstructed or deconstructed. We are interested in material aspects of place that are best revealed when we consider materiality as fluid, temporary, and embodied” (p. 262).

 

Amy Villarejo, “Tarrying with the Normative: Queer Theory and Black History”

Villarejo, Amy. (2005). Tarrying with the normative: Queer theory and black history. Social Text, 23.3–4, 69–84.

Summary:

Villarejo develops a queer of color critique that tends to the symptom (the affective) and system (the normative).

Keywords: affect, bodies, critical race theory, embodiment, film studies, queer, queer theory

Quotations:

“[Q]ueer theory seems to me most equipped to ‘tarry with the normative’ when it forsakes its claims to the literal and makes for the more dangerous—but also more commodious—complications of relationality and variegation.1 Queer is but one name, hurled back with pride, for social abjection, exclusion, marginalization, and degradation; it provides, by this logic, but one opening toward freedom” (p. 70).

“Queer theory offers a view of relationality that is not strictly speaking symptomatic; it offers ways to fly with language and desire away from homology and continuity. Queer theory can offer, in other words, a way to grapple with feeling and with response (affect), a way to work in the interstices of contacts, affiliations, relations” (p. 75).

“The powers of the normative do not yield themselves at all times according to systematic rules of equivalence, where what is progressive lines up historically or theoretically with content alone…. The challenge is to parse the difference between prescription/symptom and living/agency, to resist the desire to tell the old story about how black nationalism is a ruthlessly masculinist enterprise, or to remark the heteronormative assumptions without moving on. The challenge is not, finally, to confuse similarity with equivalence” (p. 82).

Notes: Sara Ahmed “A Killjoy Survival Kit” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). A killjoy survival kit. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 235-249.

Summary:

Ahmed assembles her feminist toolkit for feminism and feminists around key points of time, life, permission, others, humor, feelings, and bodies.

Keywords: affect, bodies, embodiment, feminism, feminist theory, theory,

Quotations:

“Survival can thus be what we do for others, with others. We need each other to survive; we need to be part of each other’s survival” (p. 235).

A killjoy: a project that comes from a critique of what is.
Speaking of projects:
We are our own survival kits
” (p. 249, original emphasis).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Feminist Snap”

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Feminist snap. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 187-212.

Summary:

Ahmed puts forward the idea of the snap as a site of feminist work and the creating and maintaining of crises to make the violences of experience visible.

Keywords: embodiment, feminism, feminist theory, queer, queer theory, theory

Quotations:

“We can see how resilience is a technology of will, or even functions as a command: be willing to bear more; be stronger so you can bear more…. Resilience is is the requirement to take more pressure; such that pressure can be gradually increased” (p. 189).

“Feminism: a history of willful tongues. Feminism: that which infects a body with a desire to speak” (p. 191).

“A case for a feminist life can be made in a moment of suspension: we suspend our assumptions about what a life is or should be. Just opening up room for different ways of living a life can be experienced by others as snap” (p. 196).

“We thus learn the need for caution about harm: difference and deviation are often registered as damaging those who are different, those who deviate. So much conservation of power rests on the assumption that not to conserve the familiar forms of an existence would cause damage to what might be or who might be” (p. 197).

Notes: José Esteban Muñoz, “Feeling Brown: Ethnicity and Affect in Ricardo Brancho’s ‘The Sweetest Hangover (And Other STDs)'”

Muñoz, José Esteban. (2000). Feeling brown: Ethnicity and affect in Ricardo Bracho’s “The Sweetest Hangover (And Other STDs)”. Theatre Journal, 52(1), 67-79.

Summary:

Muñoz looks at Ricardo Brancho’s “The Sweetest Hangover” to show ethnicity as in-process as the performance of affects.

Keywords: affect, bodies, citizenship, critical race theory, culture, embodiment, ethnicity, performance studies, utopianism

Sources:

Alarcón, Norma. (1996). Conjugating subjects in the age of multiculturalism. in Avery F. Gordon & Christopher Newfield (eds.) Mapping multiculturalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 127-48.

Quotations:

“Latino, a term meant to enable much-needed coalitions between different national groups, has not developed as an umbrella term that unites cultural and political activists across different national, racial, class, and gender divides. This problem has to do with its incoherence, by which I mean the term’s inability to index, with any regularity, the central identity tropes that lead to our understandings of group identities in the United States” (p. 67).

“To be cognizant of one’s status as an identity-in-difference is to know that one falls off majoritarian maps of the public sphere, that one is exiled from paradigms of communicative reason and a larger culture of consent. This exile is more like a displacement, the origin of which is a historically specific and culturally situated bias that blocks the Latina/o citizen subject’s trajectory to “official” citizenship-subject political ontology” (p. 68).

“This blockage is one that keeps the Latina/o citizen-subject from being able to access normativity, playing out as an inability to perform racialized normativity. A key component of my thesis is the contention that normativity is accessed in the majoritarian public sphere through the affective performance of ethnic and racial normativity” (p. 68).

“This theoretical formulation, ‘dreaming of other planets,’ represents the type of Utopian planning, scheming, imaging, and performing we must engage in if we are to enact other realities, other ways of being and doing within the world. The play, like the poem, does not only dream of other spaces but of other modes of perceiving reality and ‘feeling’ the world” (p. 74).

“This analysis has posited ethnicity as ‘a structure of feeling,’ as a way of being in the world, a path that does not conform to the conventions of a majoritarian public sphere and the national affect it sponsors. It is my hope that thinking of latinidad in this way will help us better analyze the obstacles that must be negotiated within the social for the minoritarian citizen-subject” (p. 79).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Fragile Connections” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Fragile connections. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 163-186.

Summary:

Ahmed describes how the uneven distribution of diversity work wears and shatters nonnormative bodies and also how diversity work can be a work of breaking. Ahmed offers a different orientation toward breaking, one that holds the tension of nonnormative bodies within institutions as a site of resistance.

Keywords: bodies, critical race theory, disability studies, diversity, embodiment, feminism, feminist theory, queer, queer theory, theory

Quotations:

“It might be that in order to inhabit certain spaces we have to block recognition of just how wearing they are: when the feeling catches us, it might be at the point when it is just too much” (p. 164).

“Clumsiness might provide us with a queer ethics. Such an ethics attends to the bumpiness of living with difference, so often experienced as difference in time; being too slow or too fast, out of time” (p. 166).

“Bumping into each other is a sign that we have not resolved our differences. The resolution of difference is the scene of much injustice. Things might be smoother because some have had to adjust to keep up with others” (p. 166).

“Racism becomes the requirement to think of racism with sympathy, racism as just another view; the racist as the one with feelings, too” (p. 177).

“Perhaps we need to develop a different orientation to breaking. We can value what is deemed broken; we can appreciate those bodies, those things, that are deemed to have bits and pieces missing. Breaking need not be understood only as the loss of integrity of something, but as the acquisition of something else, whatever that else might be” (p. 180).