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Notes Towards Week 11 (Nov. 15): Who Appears? In What Queer Alliance?

Ani DeFranco, Letter to a John (via essietee)

I. Kaye: Coursekeeping  (15 minutes, 7:10-7:25)
review of our user names: point, "click" (=name), then step back
thanks to KimK for snacks; next week will be S.Yaeger &  jmorgant
sign up sheet for both last week and this
question (again) about Anne's taking photos to put up on Serendip?

next week: go to Butler's last lecture (or watch it on Moodle--you all have access now,
thanks to's lament about taking notes in the dark!);
read the forward, plus Chapters 1 & 5 in Paul Farmer's Pathologies of Power:
Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor;

look through Progress of the World’s Women/In Pursuit of Justice (United Nations, 2011),
and The Global Gender Gap Report (World Economic Forum, 2010).

II. So much to process!....layering 3 rich lectures of
last-week-and-this w/ today's 3 rich assigned texts:

Sharon Welch, A Feminist Ethic of Risk
Judith Butler, Chapter 2 from Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence
John Humbach, "Towards a Natural Justice of Right Relationships" 

And this isn't all! What's noticeably missing from this impressive line-up
is something leamirella flagged several weeks ago, in her
"Call for A More International Perspective on Sex and Gender":

When we make assumptions about genders in general, we tend to forget that not all societies comply with our notions .... I think it is important to look more at gender constructs in different societies rather than to apply our "own" (or the American points of reference) to other societies. 

Trying to figure out a bread crumb trail to take us through this tangle
(made up of all we've heard and read and NOT heard and read!),
we found inspiration-and-organization for this evening from Katie
Randall's posting, last week, on "a different kind of lecture":

The biggest difference, and the one I talked about with some friends afterwards, was that Judith Butler was there as an academic and theorist but taking a strong political stance. How often have we seen that? I can tell you how often I've heard it: never. Not once. I've occasionally had a professor take up political issues in the classroom, but not often. And never in a way that tied them so thoroughly to theory. I'd never heard a lecture that was both very academic and intensely political-- they tend to be one or the other.  I'd never seen theory and practice so thoroughly entangled (to borrow Barad's term, which I may or may not thoroughly understand. But it seems right here).

Butler said this explicitly last night, too
(in response to the questioner who posited reading as a political act):

political activism has to be nourished by strong reading practices and political philosophy:
activists need theory, to "give them a sense of a conceptualiy possible world"

Following that insight, our plan for tonight is to

1) highlight what seem to each of us to the most important
claims made (and questions raised!) by each of these authors

2) see what happens when we put them in conversation w/ one another

and then (after break)

3) apply these intersecting/intra-acting ideas to some current political questions, asking
how such theory can help us develop more effective actions toward social justice

4) all this is a warm-up for your next web event,
which is due in 2 1/2 weeks, on Sun, Dec. 4:

4 pp. in which you explore the possibility of building some sort of "right relationship"
w/ reference to a concrete contemporary problem that interests you (this could be a
new relationship between theory and action, or what Butler calls a "queer alliance"
among unaffliated identity groups, or....?)

You will also switch up writing advisors @ this point, so if you want consultation
(not required but freely offered!), Mawtyrs should seek out Anne, 'Fords --> Kaye.

questions about coursekeeping?

III. Anne (15 minutes: 7:25-7:40)
So, let's begin by writing for a few minutes.
You've been intra-acting w/ quite a few philosophers lately!

1) what's one insight you've learned from Judith Butler? (a quotation would be good here)
2) what's one question that her book chapter or talks have provoked for you?
Write these out (in preparation for reading them out...step up to the microphone!)

Performing a "text rendering," or slow, deliberate reading aloud->
choose either a quote from her or a question to her.
Let's let the spaces speak, too--allow for some (Quakerly?) silence
(and time for Anne and Kaye to record these on the boards!)

Repeat this exercise (15 minutes, 7:40-7:55),
w/ a third of you (approx. 7 in each group)
doing one each of the other theorists we've read
1) what's one insight you've learned from Karen Barad,
or Sharon Welch, or John Humbach? (again: try to quote)
2) what's one question that their talk-or-essay provoked for you?
(Anne's question: what did it "have to do with" gender?)
(Butler's question, on the Canaday steps:
"Why should those who struggle for gender equality and sexual freedom
care about racism, militarization, and issues of global justice?")

Circle w/ your "third" and repeat the text rendering, choosing
(again) either a quote from your author or a question to them,
not forgetting to let the spaces speak "in between," as you listen
to what one another "heard" in the text.

Exhibit mitosis now!
each group of "thirds" should "divide" again into two smaller groups,
to consider what any/all of these philosophers might say to one another:
where are the interesting/productive moments of intersection and contradiction
among-and-between them?

How do Barad, Welch and Humbach fill in the spaces in Butler's theory?
Or--more creatively--what image/idea can you see emerging,
in between what each of them says?
How can you "fill in the spaces" inbetween them all?

Butler said last night that each body has its own perspective on the world;
but when it appears in a public space, it is both here and there: t/here-->
displaced, perceived by others in ways we cannot control.

In inviting you to "perceive" in this way, (to "displace" Butler,  to "diffract" her
through the lens of Barad/Welch/Humbach), to imagine what might happen
in the space "between" theorists,  we take inspiration from a whole series of
creative intersections on Serendip this week: Amophrast responded to Barad's Derrida
with T.S. Eliot; AmyMay diffracted Barad's entanglement through Kurt Vonnegut; and jmorgant
related Butler and Arendt's ideas about political space what she learned visiting
Inca ruins in Cusco, Peru during her semester abroad last spring:

our tour guide taught us that the Inca looked for constellations not by imagining shapes around
the stars, as the Greeks did, but rather by seeing the black space between the stars. The
pinpoints of light acted as the “supports,” but the image could not be seen through just one
single star. Rather, through the existence and placement of many individual stars, the Inca
saw meaningful images between them.

Your smallerER groups (of 3-4) need to decide together (for 20 minutes, 8:00-8:20):
what can go in that space "between" theorists:
what is created as two or more of them are put in conversation
w/ one another? What new idea might be created?

Write this down, then speak it out, responsively--
with one person reading for each of the six groups.

We're not done yet!

IV. After break (8:25-8:40) we'll think about applications....

V. Kaye: as promised, we're going to do a warm-up now for your next web event,
getting you to think about a possible "right relationship" between theory and action.

Re-group yourselves now in clusters of three--each group should
have one spokesman each for Welch, Humbach, and Barad--
and then seat yourselves in the large circle.

We're going to read responsively one more time (10 minutes: 8:40-8:50)
this time a litany by Eve Ensler called "Over It,"
which Josh both called our attention to on Serendip, and critiqued;
we'll get to his critique in a moment; first, let's just listen as Eve Ensler speaks...

Josh identified one of the things that's missing from Ensler's litany:

Butler, Barad, and a lot of our in-class conversations are heightening my annoyance with the heternormative language used in Ensler's article, which ... is trying to raise awareness and encourage the men who love and cherish their mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters to do something. I also recognize the importance in trying to build an alliance of this kind...However, I can't overlook the exclusivity of the request Ensler is making .... As a gay man who was sexually assaulted by another man, I am over the binary (in most cases) of women as rape survivors and men as rapists. I know this is the most common circumstance according to reported statistics, but a small and/or invisible portion of those statistics occur between and among queer men, queer women, genderqueer, transexual, and transgender individuals. "We" ... need "good men" and women to stand with us too. I worry about attempts to build such a large, inclusive alliance such as this ....I don't want to underestimate potential here

What do you think?

What do you think--and what are you going to do??

Your task now, in multiply-positioned groups of 3, is to explore how the intra-active thinking of Barad, Welch, Humbach and Butler might help you in constructing a concrete activist agenda or political response.

All of the theorists we've heard/read in the past two weeks highlight the
serendipitous [sic!], unpredictable, uncontrollable fragility of life
: there's

* Butler's invitation to us to think of precarity
as "a site of alliance among antagonists";

* Barad
's reminder that "the 'self' I am is the result of specific
intra-actions, part of the nature we seek to understand;

* Welch
's caution, in a world of contingency and interdependence,
not to mistake responsibility for control; and

* Humbach
's argument that "right relationships...are intrinsically indefinite"...

given, in short, the shared belief of all our theorists that in such a "queer," unpredictable world,
we must both acknowledge our entanglement (with others, in the world), and work together for change-->

How can we respond to Ensler's call? What are we going to do?

Ensler says that action that must be taken (and sets a date for it!);
Josh names the exclusivity of the alliance Ensler imagines.

Please talk for a while, and then write on a sheet of paper the line your
group wants to contribute to our litany of political responses (20 minutes: 8:50-9:10)

Finale (10 minutes: 9:20-9:30)
Let's conclude by reading these aloud, w/ silences, remember, in between!

Let's go out thinking about what alliances might be built among and between
(in jmorgant's words) "the existence and placement of many individual stars...."
what are the meaningful images/ideas/alliances you see between them...and action?

Reading Notes from Judith Butler, Precarious Life, Chapter 2 (WOW!)
finding a basis in community in our vulnerability to loss and mourning
mourn = accept one will be changed by loss, w/ result of transformation not known in advance
experience of transformation reconstitutes choice; we are not the masters of ourselves
ties constitute what we are: the attachment to 'you' is part of what composes who "I' am
I have lost 'you"…'I' have gone missing as well
the thrall in which our relations with others hold ways that challenge the notion of ourselves as autonomous and in control:
We're undone by each other…One does not always stay intact.
gender and sexuality …is  amide of being dispossessed, a way of being for another
we are constituted by our relations but also dispossessed by them
bodies…are not quite ever only our own. The body has its invariably public dimension
we are compelled to take stock of our interdependence
fundamental sociality of embodied virtue of being a bodily being..implicated lives that are not our own
my unknowingness, the unconscious imprint of my primary sociality. Can this insight lead to a normative reorientation for politics?
Is there something to be gained from grieving…are we returned to a sense of human vulnerability, to our collective responsibility for…one another?
to make grief itself into a resource for politics…from an apprehension of a common human vulnerability
we are given over to the other…even prior to individuation…this vulnerability…precedes the formation of 'I'
an insurrection @ the level of ontology…What is real? Whose lives are real? How might reality be remade?
how the obituary functions as the instrument by which grieveability is publicly distributed…who has access to the public obituary?
ask about the conditions under which a grieveable life is established and maintained….
at what cost do I establish the familiar as the criterion by which a human life is grieveable?
the loss of First Worldism…the prerogative…never to be in the position of having one's own boundaries transgressed…
the loss of a certain horizon of experience, a certain sense of the world as a national entitlement
from loss and fragility..the possibility of making different kinds of ties emerges
insisting on a common corporeal vulnerability
we are not separate identities…but are already involved in a reciprocal exchange..that dislocates us from our subject-positions
To ask for recognition…is to solicit a becoming…to stake one's…own persistence in one's own being…in the struggle for recognition
At the most intimate levels, we are social…outside ourselves, constituted by cultural norms that precede and exceed us
The 'I' cannot come into being without a 'you'
I am not fully known to myself, because part of what I am is the enigmatic traces of others
an international coalition…will have to accept the array of sometimes incommensurable epistemological and political beliefs and modes and means of agency
fundamental modes of dependency bind us…the basis of our vulnerability, affiliation, and collective resistance
I am nowhere without you…my own language must break up and yield if I am to know ou. You are what I gain through this disorientation an dloss. This is how the human comes into being…as that which we have yet to know.