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Preaching to an entangled audience?

leamirella's picture

As I was thinking about activism in the context of some of the readings from last class, I thought about this idea of constantly bring "awareness" to an issue. If we look at our social landscape, we notice that there are so many issues that are being brought up and the sheer amount of them makes it difficult to fully engage with any because there is just so much information. Given that we are all entangled, shouldn't we be able to unify and thus, make what we are campaigning for a little bit more integrated?

A lot of the time, many campaigns and movements, in my own personal experience, have fallen on deaf ears because there are just so many issues. This is frustrating from the viewpoint of both the people attempting to spread the word as well the audience. Where do we focus? Who do we listen to?

Also, in terms of a global movement towards social justice, I would like to see something that really integrates both the sender of information regarding a more specific cause with the 'listener'. I personally feel that there is a hierarchy within social justice movements between these two categories. Given our entanglements with each other, I think that this would be better if equalised and thus, be more integrated.





Kaye's picture

the human microphone many ways speaks/listens to this supposed polarity between those who call and those who listen.  By parsing ideas into manageable speech bites, individuals and groups can then do "the calling independently and in unison."  By hearing and re-speaking what we've heard, we can broadcast ideas to larger groups.  I wonder, though, if these speech bites ever change as they are passed through a crowd, like in the children's game of "telephone"?  I think it would be wonderful to set up a system in which speech bites have the potential to evolve as other individuals and groups listen and re-speak?  Might we be able to do this in our class?

Gavi's picture

The Power of Coalitions

leamirella, I think that your frustration with the particularism of awareness groups and subsequent call for unification intersects interestingly with sel209’s hesitation in creating “we’s” that are too large and unwieldy. This class has forced me (through the assigned readings and in my web-events) to problematize the “we” and explore its possibilities/limitations. Like you, I’m frustrated with the inefficacy or shortsightedness of some smaller “we”s, but I also fear losing hold of some of the “we”s I cherish by making my categories of belonging too inclusive.

In last week’s readings, Sharon Welch offers a compelling compromise to these anxieties. Throughout the reading, Welch appeals and references specific and contained communities—the white middle class, African American critics, feminist theorists—and in this way admits the delineation (necessary, historical, continued) between “we”s. In this way I think she admits that conflict and difference between groups are inevitable and necessary, and so the concept of erasing difference by creating the largest “we” possible is not only impossible (she writes that “the goal of lasting peace is illusory”), but also not desirable. Instead, she says, we can preemptively avoid the need for tragic issue politics by creating comprehensive coalitions of different “we”s. Each “we” in the coalition would care about and identify deeply with its own group politics; each “we” would also recognize both the values of each other group and the ways in which overlapping concerns created broader coalitional ideals and efforts. 

You also articulate a distinction between the “we”s that call upon others and the “you”s of listeners who are called upon (or, depending on perspective, the converse). It seems like a successful coalitional politics is dependant on every group doing the calling independently and in unison. In the culture Welch has envisioned, listening is important primarily in the productive actions it informs. So then how does a group of listeners become a group of actors? Not all of us can belong to coalitions in anything more than name, due to restrictions on time, money, etc. Does inter-group empathy and dependence depend on a reworking on the ways we prioritize our lives and work?