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Still seeking that "right relationship"

Anne Dalke's picture

Kaye and I had designed our class tonight in search of the "right relationship" between theory and action, in which we were nudging you all repeatedly to think about the ways in which the intra-active thinking of Barad, Butler, Humbach and Welch might help us construct a concrete activist agenda or political response.

By the end of our discussion, though, we both realized that we'd activated a much more insistent dynamic than that of theory and action: that of reason and emotion--perhaps particularly because we'd chosen to structure the class around the repetitive exercise of reading passages aloud, passages that, in their evocative echoes, evoked a range of strong emotional responses. Our action in the world might well be guided by theory (as Butler has been saying). But it is also clearly always motivated by other sources, those of experience and emotion. As Humbach observes in his thinking "Towards a Natural Justice of Right Relationships,"the results of reason alone never directly determine the specifics of people's actions...we can be reflective, but we can never hope to exert rational control over the selection of things that we reflect about."

One reason I find Butler's discussion of precarity so moving, and profound, is because it also risks talking about the emotional wellsprings of the work we do, about the ways in which pain might activate our activism, how mourning, and the loss it signals, marks a transformation "we cannot know in advance," how this experience "deconstitutes choice @ some level": "Somthing is larger than one's own deliberate's own knowing and choosing."

So, looking back, I regret that we surprised you w/ Eve Ensler's litany. The statistical likelihood that some of us have had personal experiences with sexual assault should have made us much more cautious than we were in selecting--much less asking for a performative reading of--that piece, and I'm very sorry that we weren't. Retrospectively, neither of us can quite believe that we didn't anticipate --and so forestall--what happened; we're very sorry.

And also grateful to you all, for making our teaching, always, an ongoing occasion for learning.
In glad hopes that we're not done, yet, w/ that project--