Question 1 for 2/10/10: the "street/straight" binary
Let's talk about binaries and intersections. We have several varying takes on intersectional identities, starting with Crenshaw's critique of "single-axis" advocacy, through Cohen's call for coalition-building along shared lines of oppression, to Nyong'o's reprimand that keywords like "punk," despite being "street" language, can continue to reinscribe notions of regulated behavior.
I find their arguments less contentious, because I am sympathetic to the values of coalition-building, left-wing movements based on histories of oppression, and recognition of the complex strata of privilege and identity formation. From a practical standpoint, though, I pose the following question to these advocates of intersectional identities:
Is there a possibility of exclusion through inclusion? In other words, do we run the risk of a) alienating potential allies who don't agree with a specific aspect of a broad-based agenda, or b) overly watering-down that agenda in order to cater to many groups whose particular interests may at times be at odds with each other?
Because I have more trouble with them, I want to focus more on the works by Singer and Lugones, who both take up "street" idioms - metaphorically? or literally? - to embody their positions as perpetual outsiders, navigating the margins of a system in an active attempt at resistance. Lugones concludes on p 231, "The streetwalker is someone who comes to understand, through a jarring, vivid awareness of being broken into fragments, that the encasing by particular oppressive systems of meaning is a process one can consciously and critically resist within uncertainty or to which one can passively abandon oneself." Singer envisions a similar binary, although she frames it in terms of the conflict between the bandita who "survives outside the sphere of domesticated stabilized identities" (23) and the woman philosopher, who attempts to "try, to dwell or, at least, to work in a place from which one is also always already exiled, dispossessed" (24) - the conflict between the "dutiful daughter" and the "daughter's seduction" (25).
1) What does it mean to be a bandita or a streetwalker and an academic? I find it somewhat disturbing that these theorists appropriate these titles while sitting behind their university desks - is there a way to do this un-ironically or un-problematically? Can one be both "street" and "straight"? Through a close look at the text, can we work out how Lugones and Singer navigate this binary?
2) In practice, I like the idea of constant resistance and constant reformulations of given meanings. The problem is, while this works well on the intellectual level of fragmentation of identity and constant questioning, I have difficulty envisaging a life lived by the same principles - or even more, the world Lugones and Singer hope to create. In other words, I see the intellectual revolution, but not the material revolution. Is intellectual jaywalking enough to change deeply entrenched dynamics of power? Cathy Cohen admits that she's been "short on specifics" (47) - can we find specifics in any of the other articles? (Or, if we can't is this a problem?)
TrackBack URL: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/105761