Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Towards Day 4 (Thurs, 9/11): Homing In?

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping
by 5 p.m. on Monday, please do a posting, reflecting back on this week's discussion of Eli Clare--
applying what you have learned from his memoir to the current conversation on campus about
the admission of trans women. I want you to think about the role that environment plays in creation
of the self: what might be the effect, on transwomen, of being welcomed by BMC?
what is the effect, on transmen, of being welcomed here? (Feel free to flip the question--
what might be the effect on the campus of a larger population of transfolk?)

This is just to repeat, and make local, the questions I was asking on Tuesday:
What happens when you start identity work with place?
What role does environment play in the construction of identity??

Eli Clare, as you know by now, had to leave home to become himself:
his desire for community, for physical safety, for emotional well-being and psychological comfort compelled him to leave.
Being queer, being abused, being working class, having cerebral palsy--these were all reasons for him to leave.
Re-locating himself in an urban area enabled him to claim an identity as a working, cripabled transman.
But that meant exile from the forests of southwestern Oregan, his "home"...
This is the deep story he tells: choosing exile in order to become himself, to make his body "home."

The other key idea in this text, I think, is what happens when we recognize the intersectionality of our identities,
we also recognize their interaction, how they might affect one another. For Eli, being disabled in one domain
was enabling in another. This is the single passage, I think, that makes the whole
book worth the price of reading it (from "stones in my pockets, stones in my heart," pp.. 151-153):

"The same lies that cast me as genderless, asexual, and undesirable also framed a space in which I was
left alone to be my quiet, bookish, tomboy self, neither girl nor boy....How would I have reacted to the
gendered pressures my younger, nondisabled sister faced? For her the path of least resistance pointed
in the direction of femininity; for me it led toward not-girl-not-boy....when I look around me in disability
community, I see an amazing range of gender expression...mixed and swirled in many patterns. Clearly we
respond in a myriad of ways to the ableist construction of gender....I think of disabled people challenging
the conception of a 'perfect' body/mind."

Next week, not unrelated to all of this, and making it visible, Riva Lehrer will be on campus, and we will be working,
under her guidance, in all 3 classes, on a project called "Ghost Parade," about our childhood bodies,
w/ a focus on who we thought we were, growing up. In place of  reading, you may be doing some
work outside class on these projects (you could also look ahead @ next big reading, graphic novel Persepolis).

Thinking towards our first trip, next week, to Camphill Village:
Bridget: is driving one of the vans next Friday, leaving @ noon from where?
Rebecca is driving her own car?
Nikki get herelf back to BMC by then?
Sophia can get a ride (all the way to Camphill) from HC with Riva and Kristin

II. part ii of Exile & Pride: "bodies"
Tuesday we looked @ two paired images of trans "bodies" in "place,"
and then talked about what an unusual form Eli Clare's memoir has:
he puts the setting first, brings it into the foreground....and then shows us
what happens to the self, when gender, and disability, and class identity are
contextualized in this way, "when embodiment is represented as emplacement."

When we ran out of time, we were talking about his concept of "the body as home,"
and what it might mean--and what might be needed--to call our bodies [rather than a place] home.
I seems to me that this is very much related to the questions that Sophia put on-line last Thursday about
agency--whether learning about how to do "cultural mediation," to engage in "transculturation,"
to use the language of power to challenge power (in Mary Louise Pratt's terms)--could be seen,
not as co-optation, but as an expression of agency;
smalina developed this thought further, in c'ing "macro-contact zones" (ike BMC) with "micro-ones" (like SGA).

Either of you want to play out these ideas further??

Today I want to interrogate Eli's valorization of "home" (and relatedly,
rb.richx's query about whether BMC is "home" to us all--and whether it "should" be...).

In a 1986 essay called “Feminist Politics: What’s Home Got to Do with It?” Biddy Martin and
Chandra Talpade Mohanty argue that "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..."

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

Their question is based on their analysis of another text, another memoir,
Minnie Bruce Pratt's "Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart," which we'll read later in the semester,
and which (as I was telling you Tuesday) charts her exile from a place of security and privilege--
an exile that was the beginning of her activism.

So I want us to think together today about the relationship of home
to politics, and to the process of learning, of education...
how essential is claiming our location to the process of understanding--
and acting? And/but also: how limiting?

What do you think?...Write for 5 minutes about your own investments in and search for home....
(see attached)

Go 'round, read these
...and then loop back to Eli Clare:
what is he teaching us about home, and (the necessity of) dis/placement?
...particularly in relation to gender identity?

File HomePrompt.docx51.13 KB