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Precarious, Performative, Playful, Potential...Perspectives!

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Anne Dalke's picture


           Welcome to Precarious, Performative, Potential, Playful.... Perspectives,  the core course in Gender and Sexuality Studies, offered in Fall 2011 @ Bryn Mawr College. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.

So who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about.

We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations.  Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.

Kaye's picture

copy of Little Bee

There was a Rent-A-Text copy of Little Bee left in the classroom last night.  It's now in my office.  Would someone like to claim it?

Kaye's picture

medical education for LBGT health

A student in my Bodies of Injustice class introduced me to a wonderful Canadian resource, HealthJusticeRadio.  Yesterday, they posted a new program about the limited education that medical students receive about LGBT health:

"This week on HJRC we talk gender identity, stigma, “passing” and pronouns with Dr. Carys Massarella. Dr. Massarella is President of the Medical Staff Association at St. Joseph’s hospital. She is a Assistant Clinical Professor in the emergency division at McMaster Medical school. She teaches transgender primary healthcare to students, residents, and family doctors. Dr. Massarella is an outspoken advocate for accessible, and accepting, trans healthcare."

It also includes a link to a recent article published in JAMA.

someshine's picture

Figuring Out Our Group and Performance!

A couple of us were going to continue the conversation about the group work for our last class here... I don't think we agreed who would start the thread... so here it is!

AmyMay's picture


A number of us talked after class tonight as doing some kind of litany for our final performance.  Just wanted to make a post for us to throw up our ideas, so we can form into groups or come to consensus on one joint project.

I'll start.  I was thinking about reworking Eve Ensler's "I'm Over It" piece, since we as a class o[pointed out so many weaknesses and assumptions in the work.  I thought it might be cool to create our own list of "Over-its", about sexual assault or another issue (although I envisioned sexual assault myself.)  These would strive to address previously posed critiques, and any new ones we might have.  I thought it would be neat to once again have everyone read aloud the piece (yay class participation.)  If this were the case, I think we should post a trigger warning on Serendip/ make explicit what we are going to do before we start.  Maybe we could be right after break to allow for more a more graceful exit of anyone who doesn't want to participate (more snacks for them!)

Anyhoo, that's my two cents.

Anne Dalke's picture

Planning for our Final Teach-In

In preparation for our final class/performances/"teach-in," you may want to explore the workshop material made available by Theater of the Oppressed and Theater of Witness.

By Friday morning, Dec. 2, please post (as comments here) a list of the group members you'll be working with (the brainstorming, so far, looks pretty fun!)

Anne Dalke's picture

call for papers: critical disability discourse

Call for Papers: Volume 4 Critical Disability Discourse (CDD)

York University’s Critical Disability Studies Graduate Student Program launched an academic journal in November 2009. Critical Disability Discourse is a bilingual, interdisciplinary journal, publishing articles that focus on experiences of disability from a critical perspective. The journal considers articles from graduate scholars in a variety of academic fields, but undergraduate students, activists, and community members/organizers are also invited to contribute. Critical Disability Discourse's goals are to provide emerging scholars an opportunity to contribute to the expanding field of critical disability studies and to gain exposure for their work in the public sphere.

Possible topics can include but are not limited to the following:

• Critical theory and disability: feminism, post-modernism, postcolonial theory, transnational analysis, Marxism, etc.
• History of disability: Antiquity, Middle Ages, Victorian Age, Industrial Age, etc.
• Law and public policy, and disability
• Qualitative and quantitative research pertaining to disability
• Education and disability
• Culture: disability-related popular culture, television, videos, blogs, arts, literature and film analysis

rachelr's picture


Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee's experience
Of clovers and of noon!

Emily Dickinson

charlie's picture

incorporating gender into daily life

The more time that I spend in this class, the more I realize how applicable what we talk about it. Although my sister did not appreciate my musings about gender inequalities and expectations of sexual favors when we went to see Footloose, I continue to connect what we learn in class to my life in the greater world. Most recently, I have been thinking about gender's relationship with death. I find it very interesting that death, assuming that a funeral is a closed-casket funeral, is gender-neutral. When born, one is immediately labeled "boy" or "girl", then swaddled appropriately in either a pink or a blue blanket. On the carpet in kindergarten, we are separated into "boys on the left", "girls on the right". Day camp groups are 3GB (3rd grade, boys, group B) or 3GB (3rd grade, girls, group B). There are all-boys high schools and all-girls high schools. And the list continues. Throughout life we are asked to separate ourselves into the appropriate blanket, side of the carpet, and camp group. In each stage of life, there is really only one group in which you can sort yourself. If you're a "pink blanket", you're fated for the 3GB group and the women's college. Unless, of course, you make a conscious decision to switch groups at some point. And yet, in death, none of these divisions and labels matter. Tomb stones are not decided by gender. Men don't get bigger tomb stones, women prettier tomb stones. A coffin is a coffin, whether the individual buried inside of it was a "blue blanket" or a "pink blanket".

chelseam's picture

Revisiting the Role of Science in Gen/Sex Studies

While perusing the New York Times website over break, I came across an article published this August titled “No Surprise for Bisexual Men – Report Indicates They Exist” (  I was immediately reminded of our discussion of the role of science in gen/sex studies and Barad’s request that we carefully consider not just the way we interpret scientific studies, but also the way we design them. The article summarizes a study conducted by Northwestern University in which researchers concluded that “at least some men who identify themselves as bisexual are, in fact, sexually aroused by both women and men.” A similar study was conducted at North Western in 2005 found that men who identified as bisexuals had arousal patterns similar to those of gay men, and declared “with respect to sexual arousal and attraction, it remains to be shown that male bisexuality exists.” The difference in the results between the 2005 and 2011 studies was likely caused by the use of “more stringent criteria” in determining who qualified as a bisexual man.

Gavi's picture

Buzzing and Bumbling Thoughts

"Everyone wants to make a difference, Sarah, but there's a time and place." (233)

I'm learning many things from this course. Perhaps the most meaningful thing I've been asked to consider thus far is the moral imperative of precarity. Or, the responsibility I have toward other humans in precarious situations of ensuring that I am as dedicated to change as they are. Or, in the words of Juan Segundo, "Unless we agree that the world should not be the way it is … there is no point of contact, because the world that is satisfying to us is the same world that is utterly devastating to them." Or, the importance of connections and of making a difference.

Another concept I've been presented with is the notion that there is concreteness neither of time nor of place, that my thoughts and actions echo resoundingly from the before and into the after and overlap so as to make distinctions of before and after quite impossible to make out. The issue is not causality, then, "no longer ensuring the fulfillment of certain aims but setting in place a set of conditions for justice, flexibility, and responsiveness." (Welch 24)

"I do not need to tell this story to anyone else. Thank you for saving me, Sarah." (257)

"We won't ever give up on Little Bee. Because she is a part of our family now. And until she is happy and safe, then I don't think we will be either." (261)

sel209's picture

Another Type of Asylum Seeker

Last Thursday, I attended a discussion with my Transitions to Adulthood class about the difficulties undocumented Americans face throughout their lifetimes. Since my knowledge of the topic was limited, I decided to do some research so that I would be well prepared for both class and community discussion. While researching, I stumbled upon this article: “Undocumented Women Forced To Give Birth While Shackled And In Police Custody“ To give you the Cliff Notes version, the article states that it’s legal in over half the states in the US to handcuff women to hospital beds while they’re giving birth if they’re being held for a criminal offense (in this case, being an undocumented immigrant).  Additionally, in most instances, women are not allowed to have family members present while they’re giving birth, nor are they allowed to hold their newborns past the babies’ first 24 hours of life  (unless, of course, there is no American relative to care for a baby, in which case it’s shipped out of the country with the rest of the family despite being an American citizen).


jfwright's picture

Authors and Audiences: A Response to Jennie Livingston's Screening of Paris is Burning

I missed part of last class to attend the screening of Paris is Burning with the director, Jennie Livingston. I have loved Paris is Burning since the first time I saw it as a freshman, and have found it to be a powerful look into the lives of a community that is well-known as being underground (for the sake of safety) and not normally entered by outsiders. Imagine my surprise to find that the director, Jennie Livingston, was a white Jewish woman from a middle class background.

Honestly, until then, I hadn't thought about it: I had just assumed that the documentary was made by someone with an emic perspective. But, when an audience member asked Livingston to address the criticisms made by bell hooks in "Is Paris Burning?" she didn't have much to say. She hadn't realized that, for a brief moment, her face could be seen in the mirror while she was interviewing Dorian Corey, a well-known and well-respected performer in the Ballroom scene: she had intended to be absent from the film, and had assumed that the documentary that she had presented had been based on raw data that she had culled: how could someone else have presented this any differently?

jfwright's picture


I'll be perfectly honest, I haven't gotten through Little Bee yet, but I really like it so far! I love the ways in which Little Bee, Sarah, Andrew, Lawrence, Batman, and Nkiruka (among others) are entangled and wrapped around each other, but I'd like to focus on the power dynamics between people from the UK and refugees. My question is, can Andrew and Sarah grieve for Nkiruka and the guard if there is such a stark difference in power?

jmorgant's picture


I wasn't able to be in class last Tuesday, which I was especially disappointed about after our class on 11/15. I've read the class talking notes and people's blog posts, and there are a couple people I want to respond to, and a couple points I want to make in general.

I left class two weeks ago feeling totally drained - not only because of the things we'd talked about, many of which touch me deeply - rape&sexual assault, Ensler's Huffington Post piece, activism - but also because I felt totally unprepared to be talking about such things so publicly, and also, to be honest, pretty offended. I'm not trying to speak for others here, but I thought that it was grossly inappropriate to take a student's quote from this website and have them read it aloud in class without any warning. As some students (and Kaye) have already pointed out, to say something out loud, in public, is completely different from writing it (semi-anonymously?) online. I felt that in some ways, a community was created as a result - but I also think that it was very insensitive. Kaye acknowledged that if she and Anne had warned us beforehand that we would be discussing rape&sexual assault, people may not have shown up, or had their guard up. It doesn't matter. That's our right.

Shlomo's picture

Keeping Little Bee Simple

I am so enjoying Little Bee.  We are talking on-its-way-to-becoming-one-of-my-favorite-books enjoying.  Part of what I love is how much Chris Cleave elected to leave to our imaginations.  I'm not just talking about Little Bee's past (which, at least at the part I'm at, is murky at best).  I'm also talking about the way the characters look, their emotions, and their surroundings.  At the same time, Cleave provides enough detail to completely blow me away.  Seriously, I know this sounds cheesy, but when I really like things, I can feel them sitting in my chest, and reading Little Bee is like having an inflating balloon on top of my breastbone.

leamirella's picture

Are we really entangled?

A theme that I've started to see throughout this course is just how entangled we all are as human beings. After reading and listening to Barad, I wasn't completely convinced of this. Now that we have read Farmer and Butler who write about an "increasingly interconnected world" (Farmer) and how we undo each other (Butler), I feel like I can solidify my thoughts.

I am intrigued at the call to arms that Farmer and Butler both seem to encourage. While Farmer is not as explicit with his call, Butler definitely is. But I have found flaws with both of their arguments. The basis of their demand for more social work seems to stem from their assertions that all human beings are intertwined, entangled and interconnected. But I'm not quite convinced that we are.

chelseam's picture

Thoughts on Missed 11/21 Class

I really enjoyed the readings for last week’s class. While reading the excerpts of Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power, I was intrigued by his call to arms of sorts. He reminds us that we live in an “increasingly interconnected world” and implores us to “remember that what happens to poor people is never divorced from the actions of the powerful” (158). As I read this passage, I found myself thinking about the implications of such a union between “the poor” and “the powerful.”  I agree with Farmer’s suggestion that the economic and social structures that exist within countries and between them often institutionalize inequality, but I find myself feeling overwhelmed by the significance of this connection. As residents of a first world country and participants in its democracy and economy, what are our responsibilities to poverty stricken people of other nations and our own? How do we effectively target structures, instead of merely attempting to treat the symptoms caused by these structures? Farmer suggests that we begin by  “think[ing] locally and globally and act[ing] in response to both levels of analysis,” but somehow this left me feeling more overwhelmed… Farmer is wise to suggest that structures should be a principal target in the quest to eradicate poverty and the health inequities that accompany it. He implicates his readers in the preservation of such structures, but the excerpt ends just short of him suggesting tangible ways for us to help shift these structures.

someshine's picture

It's Time

See video
Amophrast's picture


In reading Little Bee, I came across two phrases I realized I wasn't aware of: detached and semi-detached, specifically in relation to houses.

Detached? I thought. As opposed to what? Connected?

As opposed to: rowhomes, apartments, mobile homes.

I am privileged enough to think that my kind of housing is the default (detached house), whereas everyone else's is some sort of variation on my norm. I live in a house, what do you mean what kind of house?

So I started thinking of these terms in the realm of gender.

Detached [single-unit housing]

Semi-detached [dwellings]

Attached [multi-unit housing]

Movable [dwellings]

When trying to categorize them further, my first thought was that "detached" would be equivalent to gender deviant and/or genderfuck and/or genderqueer (detached from binary). But then if "detached" was the norm, then detached in terms of gender would mean cis-man or cis-woman. But then again, detached is the norm based on my perception, and my class.

So intersect Gender and Class  with these terms, and this is what I came up with:

Detached graph, explained in text below.

Kaye's picture

GLSEN Respect Award--Rich Espey HC'87

Haverford's home page features an interview with Rich Espey, who teaches middle school science at the Park School in Baltimore, and recently received the GLSEN Educator of the Year award.  (Rich, who is a gay man and an accomplished playwright, did his senior thesis research in my lab.)  Rich was honored for his work in developing the program, "Putting Gay in a Positive Context," with other teachers at his K-12 school.  They created a superb website of gay resources for teachers, which are organized by age of students, subject, advocacy, and support for teachers. I hope you will check it out!

See video