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Notes Towards Day 15: On Home and Exile

Anne Dalke's picture

I. 2:25-2:45--coursekeeping
* sign-in sheet

* formal portraits (of some of us) by Laura Swanson now on public view

* handouts re eco-360 (eco-feminism!?)

* on Thursday we'll continue discussing Exile and Pride
(Part I today, on home; Part II on Thursday, on bodies)

* also come w/ a proposal for your upcoming web event, due this Sunday @ 5,
on how institutional structures be re-made for intersectional identities
(work in small groups to help each other design these projects)
tomorrow afternoon between 1-3 is the only time left to come talk to me about this--
(if you want to talk to me about this)--e-mail me for an appointment.

* reporting on weekend conference on “Disability Disclosure in/and Higher Education”:
my own session was about "unbinding time," w/ lots of talk about slow time, crip time,
on what might it mean to
create a world where accommodation has no meaning
[if you don't have timed tests, you don't need extended time to take them...];

need to move beyond accommodationist politics-->
more radical positions of changing the systems in which people need to be accomodated...
most interesting to me were the discussions that challenged the valorization of accessibility--
thinking about unstable subject positions/ unpredictable uptake, and about
how trigger alerts (to signal accessibility) can be a form of priming

speaking of accessibility
* projecting as another site for parallel conversation

* Celeste, Margaret Rachel Rose and Amoylan all thought the 5-second pause did not work
(it messed with our dynamic, and didn't actually keep us from jumping onto the end of others' speaking),
but they had different ideas on what to do about this-->

Celeste advised self limitation/self censorship/being mindful that others
might want to speak, esp. if we have already spoken;
Margaret RachelRose didn't think we should focus on restraining the opportunity to speak,
but suggested instead our using prompts from our Sunday Serendip postings
to start off small group discussions, that we can then bring to the full circle (=changing the structure) let's try that:

count off by 8s into groups of 3 for small group icebreaking questions (pick one):
Taylor 11 [who came here for the archeology:] did you apply to Bryn Mawr because it is a Women's College?

ccassidy: What does the class think about their ability to adapt to Queer time?

Polly: [on wanting to know how she did in comparison with others, on a math exam:] would comparing
ourselves to others in terms of ableness be a good thing? would that comparison just contribute to ableism?

nia.pike: What do y'all think about the projection of feminism through the lens of Law and Order SVU?

II. 2:45-3:10: returning to the large group--
did anyone discuss ccassidy's question about queer time...?

[EP: I was pretty confused about how "success" would be measured in queer time...
if success were taken out of the picture, I don't believe many people
would be productive or want to learn...]

example of "queer time not working" are your not posting on Sunday night (14/24 of you)
...why not?

--last week we had a very shortened discussion of
Judith/Jack Halberstam's “Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies"

an exploration of the "potentiality of life unscripted by family conventions,"
of "failing" to be "respectable" or "productive"--a radical critique of
normative temporality, space, reproductive logics,
of the sort of "driven" productivity that drives BMC, and keeps us all to the clock

If "the goal of empowerment... is at the heart of a women’s college education,"
what happens to this historical mission
"in a queer time and place," where
productivity isn't valorized?

* If you were a BMC admissions officer, or traditions mistress, or
faculty member devoted to getting more women into the sciences, how might
Halberstam's "strange temporalities" invite you to re-think the work you do?

* what would a "queer counterpublic" that didn't celebrate
family, longevity, safety, and inheritance look-and-act like?

* what would an education preparing you for that sort of life be like?

Today we move from questions of time to those of space--
(the second part of Halberstam's "Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies"),
as we continue to explore transgender/intersectional identity,
through Eli Clare's memoir, Exile and Pride.
This book is dedicated "to the rocks and trees, hill and beaches";
and Part I is called "Place," and a central chapter is about "losing home."

Let's lay our own stories next to his.
In those same groups of 3:

* Where is your "home"? 
  Where were you born, where have you lived,
  and how does that "burrow into your bones?" 
  What are your places of origin, growth and development?
  Where are you most comfortable?
  What place is most familiar?
  Where do you most "belong"?

* What does it bring into focus?
* What is out of focus, from the perspective of your homeplace?

* Where are you "homesick"? [and why?]
"What I don't say is how homesick I feel for those place names, plant names, bare slopes, not nostalgic, but lonely for a particular kind of familiarity, a loneliness that reaches deep under my skin, infuses my muscles and tendons.  How do I explain the distance, the tension, the disjunction between my politics and my loneliness?" (Clare, p. 19).

"My loss of home is about being queer" (p. 35).

"My loss of home, of exile, is about class" (p. 37).

* Clare repeats the refrain "The body as home" five times over 3 pages  in Exile and Pride (pp. 11-13):
"The body as home
, but only if it is understood that bodies are never singular,
but rather haunted, strengthened, underscored by countless other bodies."
"The body as home, but only if it is understood that
place and community and culture burrow deep into our bones."
"The body as home,
but only if it is understood that language too lives under the skin."
"The body as home,
but only if it is understood that bodies can be stolen,
fed poison and lies, torn away from us."
"The body as home,
but only if it is understood that the stolen body can be reclaimed."

* What would it mean to call our bodies home?

* How might locating ourselves @ home--or away from home/in exile--
  be useful in the work we are doing here?
in feminist action?

* What do you need to make a home?

* What "multi-issue politics might make [your] home possible?"

V. 3:10-3:45: Back to large group, to question the usefulness of "home" in the work we do
I'm going to give you a frame, and then ask you to write about what you think about what I've said,
and then to read it aloud (no passing....--per ccassidy: do this once/week!]

Biddy Martin and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “Feminist Politics: What’s Home Got to Do with It?” (1986)--

"There is an irreconcilable tension between the search for a secure place from which to speak, within which to act, and the awareness of the price at which secure places are bought, the awareness of the exclusions, the denials, the blindnesses on which they are predicated...

The tension between the desire for home, for synchrony, for sameness, and the realization of the repressions
and violence that make home, harmony, sameness imaginable...

...what distinguishes [our justification of the homogeneity of the women's community] from the justifications advanced by...the Klan for "family, community, and protection"?

A question based on an analysis of Minnie Bruce Pratt's "Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart"
Our guiding question today: what is the relationship of home to (feminist/any identity) politics?

What is its relation to the process of learning, of education...

how essential is claiming our location
to the process of understanding--and acting?

In The World, the Text and the Critic (1983), Edward Said discusses "travel as a habit of mind," the importance of getting some distance in order to see clearly. He advocates an "ascetic code of willed homelessness," a procedure which allows you to think beyond the box/boundaries/commonsense, to theorize what is new. He privileges the concept of movement, of transition, an openness of mind facilitated by being "unsettled"...a good way for one who wishes to earn a proper love for the world."

This is metaphoric, geographic, philosophic, epistemological...

--and it fits w/ a lot of the ecological theory I've been reading. For example:

Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought (Harvard, 2010): It’s the “West” that fixates on place, thinking that there’s this thing called “place” that is solid and real and independent and that has been progressively undermined by modernity, capitalism, technology, you name it. Fixation on place impedes a truly ecological view (26).

In the West, we think of ecology as earthbound….we want ecology to be about location, location, location. In particular, location must be local: it must feel like home; we must recognize it and think it in terms of the here and now, not the there and then (27).

Perhaps the ecological thought is picaresque—wandering from place to place, open to random encounters (48).

Ecological collectivity decisively can’t be rooted in “place”; as Levinas asserts, quoting Pascal, “my place in the sun” marks the beginning of all usurpation. “Place” contains to much “at-homeness,” too much finality, for the ecological thought. Localism, nationalism, and immersion in the ideological bath of the lifeworld, won’t cut it anymore…We need collectivity, not community….it must be a collectivity of weakness, vulnerability, and incompletion (127).

How can "a deeply honest multi-issue politics...make home possible"?
(Might it make it impossible?...back to the issue of safety....?)

On Thursday we'll focus on Part II: Bodies....