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Bringing Diffraction and Entanglement into Practice: The "It Gets Better" Campaign

AmyMay's picture

            Our discussion in class last Tuesday, in which we looked for examples of diffraction and entanglement within Exile and Pride, reminded me of a set of videos shown to my freshman as part of a multicultural awareness presentation.  The first one is an “It Get’s Better” video put together by Pixar employees (  The video encourages gay youth to resist the urge to commit suicide, on the promise that life will get better.  The second video is the response by a self-identified poor lesbian woman of color.  I had been having trouble conceptualizing what diffraction might look like in practice, especially outside of the ivory tower.  These videos seem to capture this concept.  The woman in the second video ( takes issue with the concept of “it gets better,” claiming this experience as exclusively available based on class and race.  She brings the intersection of class, race, and even ableism into play in looking at the difficult experiences of gay youths (i.e how they are all entangled).  Such experiences take on a whole new meaning and set of problems when diffracted through her experience as a poor woman of color.  As a result, the interaction between these many different social factors and how they might play out in individual experience in many different ways splits the singular white, upper-class gay fairytale into a spectrum of lines and possibilities.  These videos show that diffraction and entanglement are important outside of the ivory tower, having a direct impact on activism by offering a more critical look at what groups are represented within different special interest groups.  The woman in the video seems to feel similarly underrepresented as a poor woman of color in the gay community as Eli Claire does as a poor, rural crip in the queer community, and as Wilchins felt as a queer in the gay/feminist communities. 


I do have a lingering issue with the epistemological concept of diffraction and entanglement.  These techniques, particularly entanglement, seem particularly well suited for the interdisciplinary investigation of social phenomena.  These practices are key to producing a more global, interactive conceptualization of the many different factors and perspectives that go into creating and sustaining the system.  Such an approach would seem essential to academic activism that seeks to overturn existing oppressive social systems, or system challenging praxis (this concept is taken from an article by Merrill Singer on applied medical anthropology, which can be found here:  However, system correcting praxis, interventions that seek to compensate for the inequalities for the system rather than changing the system itself (e.g. affirmative action) still seem to me to be an important part of social justice efforts.  I am left wondering what differentiation and particularly entanglement can contribute to system correcting activism.  As a treatment addressing the symptoms and not the causes, do practices of diffraction and entanglement have a place in system correcting praxis?  Are the two ideas diametrically opposed?  

First video from Pixar employees.


AmyMay's picture

Second response video

Wasn't sure how to embed multiple videos, so here's the woman's response to the Pixar "It Gets Better" video: