Thoughts about Happiness, the Unhappy Archives, Gidget, the trouble with dinner, and putting the hap back in happiness

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Back in December I wrote a blog entry on my blog about Ahmed's "Happiness and Queer Politics." I opened the entry with this image:

Does troublemaking (in the forms that we have discussed throughout the semester or as articulated by Ahmed) really take the fun--and the joy--out of everything?

HAPPINESS: In "Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness," Ahmed asks: "Can we rewrite the history of happiness from the point of view of the wretch" (573)? And then, in describing the purpose of her essay, writes:

I thus offer a different reading of happiness, not simply by offering different readings of its intellectual history but by considering those who are banished from it or who enter this history only as troublemakers, wretches, strangers, dissenters, killers of joy (573).
What should/does the history of happiness from the perspective of troublemaking look like? What is happiness? How can we think about happiness and Ahemd's idea of unhappiness in relation to Snediker's optimism or Munoz's utopias or Laclau's/Mouffe's horizon of hope?

UNHAPPY ARCHIVES: Where does Ahmed's call for an unhappy archives (573) fit into all of this? At the end of my blog entry on last week's readings, I offered Halberstam's passage about expanding the archive of bad feelings:

halberstam.pngIs this part of the unhappy archives? Is Halberstam talking about unhappy queers and feminist killjoys here? Are there other ways to think about what the unhappy archives could be (and what could be included in them)?

GIDGET: In discussing conditional happiness, Ahmed cites the novel Émile, "A good girl finds her own happiness in the happiness of a good man" (579), which reminds me of Gidget and her "grandmother's saying" that hangs on her wall:

What is conditional happiness and how do feminist killjoys and unhappy queers challenge/subvert/resist it?

DINNER: Now, I am not sure that we would consider Debbie Downer a feminist killjoy, but Ahmed's discussion (in both "Killing Joy" and "Happiness and Queer Politics") about the polite politics at the dinner table reminded me of the SNL skit (with Rachel Dratch) in which Debbie Downer "ruins" Thanksgiving dinner for her family:

Here is what Ahmed writes on page 582:


What do we make of this clip? How does humor function in this skit? What kind of killjoy is Debbie Downer? Is she a feminist one--or some other type? Can we envision her killing of joy as ever being productive or leading to transformation? Or is it easy to dismiss? (I keep thinking of Angela's earlier distinction between the troublemaker and the asshole--could we fit in the "Debbie Downer" as another category? Should we?) In case you're interested, I have written briefly about Debbie Downer on my blog, here.

Okay, I also can't resist adding in this humorous clip that envisions the woman (is she a feminist killjoy?) killing the joy at a dinner party by speaking her mind and thinking too much:


Is she a feminist killjoy? Starting on page 584, Ahmed discusses "consciousness and unhappiness." Referring back to Rousseau, she writes, "it is interesting that the danger of unhappiness is associated with women having too much curiosity" (584). Consider this passage in relation to the video clip:

We might explore how imagination [being curious and thinking critically] is what allows women to be liberated from happiness and the narrowness of its horizons (585).
THE HAP: Ahmed wants to disentangle happiness from the future (futures promises/events, like a wedding) or from any end goal (Aristotle's teleology). She wants us to envision happiness as possibility (the hap/happens). For her, happiness is not a promise or an inevitable outcome of certain, very constrained and often heteronormative, activities. It is a sense of possibility that is kept open by the refusal to be happy or a willingness to stay not (or un) happy. Ahmed suggests that this type of not/un-happiness is not all wretched, miserable or joyless. Instead, she writes:

There can be joy in killing joy. And kill joy we must, and we do.
What does/could this joy look like? Is this queer optimism?

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