Recently in Big Project Category

Final Project

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I almost can't believe that I just did it: instead of a paper, I decided, on Monday night - or shall I say Tuesday early morning? - that I would try building a website. It's striking how things have evolved since I last tried to do this (about five years ago). At the time, after my first attempt, I swore I wouldn't take to such a laborious task every again. For those who don't know the application and share my apprehension when it comes to handling tools of the modern (post-modern?) age, I strongly recommend Easy as pie.

Here is the link to my pape-site.

Happy holidays everyone!

Big Project Update #2

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As the semester draws to a close (hurray and gasps of horror!), I'm working on finishing up my big project.  Once it's done, I'll post it on the blog--for anyone that's interested in French film!  It has been really useful and productive, and I'm pretty sure that I'll make use of what I've written later on when I teach.  We even have some oppurutnities while teaching the lower langauge levels as grad students to bring in film, so I think I'll be able to use this (either exactly this or something in the same format) sooner than later!

I, like Liz, have struggled a bit to find a voice that I'm happy with, and I'm still not satisfied, but I think that it's just the nature of the "big project" beast.  I worry that I've gone so far away from academic writing that it's too basic...but still useful, simple words can be useful (I keep having to convince myself). 

I'll reflect more on the project in my "conclusion" section, as I think reflection within the project will be useful for furture film endavors. 

Big project update

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I know I haven't been very explicit as to what this final project of mine would look like. I've thought and thought (I tend to do a bit too much of this, without it being followed by any sort of reasonable and/or substantial action). By now, you might have understood that my world revolves around Hedwig's, and that my final project for this course will, one way or another, be related to her disidentifiying inch. When I chose to take this class a few months ago, I was hoping to gather a great deal of ideas, queer my horizon a little further, so as to be ready to set out to my Masters thesis. I am indeed more than ready now (I believe).

Earlier this semester, Sara and I met to discuss this final project. Sara suggested that I write an annotated bibliography, aiming at supplementing the research I had just started for my thesis. I thus embarked on some sort of selection process: I had to come up with eight works that I found the most engaging and relevant to my research. I did a lot of reading, here and there (a lot of it actually coming from the course's assigned readings), and came to the following realization: although I am more fond of certain authors/texts than others, I can't say for now which I am going to make a more extensive use of throughout my thesis. However, what I can say is that with all this thinking and reading, an argumentative line (shall I even dare the plural form? - argumentative lines?) started to shape. Which means that now, I feel ready for a "proper" paper for this class. One of the advantages of a paper being: I can fit more of these greatly engaging authors I've come across. So a paper it will be, oh, what a conventional format.

I can't help but regretting not having had the guts (to avoid using another word) to try more and get over two essential problems, which prevented me from making the most of this class, namely: a very, very old, writer's block - from SMS to thesis, this affliction doesn't spare anything - and a reluctance to embrace "new" means of communication - e.g. emails and blogging. Raechel and Sophie have been doing such a great job with their blogs, it makes me want to re-/deconstruct this confusion (?!), redigest these weird feelings I have about writing a blog, about writing on a blog.

I wish myself, and of course all of you who aren't done yet with their (many?) papers a lot of courage and luck, shall Inspiration be your guide.

Due Date for All Work

All work for the class--this includes the final project and your book review--is due by 3 PM on Wednesday, May 12. Good luck finishing everything up!
You all may or may not remember that my big project involves writing profiles on various female characters in 18th century French literature. My intention was -- is -- to treat them as real people, and to examine their roles as troublemakers in their respective worlds. That's going quite well, and I'm finding all sorts of things I hadn't noticed in my original readings of these texts. 

My major stumbling block (after actually getting to work, that is!) is one of style. My original concept was to write these profiles in the style of magazine articles. However, I've been trying to reference texts we've read in class, and here is my problem: I don't know how to write this. I am having a hard time writing about Judith Butler in a casual (or at least, a non-academic) style, and I am having an even harder time writing about Judith Butler in relation to a fictional character in a casual style. I've gone back to read what I've written, and it sounds very stilted.

I have two ideas to circumvent this issue. The first is to abandon the ties with texts from class and deal entirely with concepts as opposed to direct references (IE talking about being beside oneself, but not saying, "As Judith Butler writes..."). The second idea is to abandon the idea of this particular writing style, and just allow myself to write a series of short, academic-sounding essays. I'm not crazy about either of these ideas; getting rid of references to theoretical texts gives me the impression that my project is not scholarly enough; ironically, I don't like the idea of getting rid of my magazine article idea because this seems like it will be too scholarly.

Goodness! What to do, what to do? If anyone has any thoughts, I'd welcome them. Otherwise, I may well end up tossing a coin. . . I kid, I kid. I'll probably try both ways and see which turns out better.

A few weeks ago, I decided to (again) change my final project. The impetus, though, began with a question I was asked last semester in a core course for my program. As I was beginning a presentation on my research proposal, a fellow student asked me what I taught. In a program in which most students are or have been PK-12 teachers, that question is about what grades and/or subjects one is licensed to teach--or what classrooms one is currently in. I answered that I am not now nor have I been a licensed PK-12 teacher. Her response was, "What are you then?"

What am I? An existential question, although she did not mean it that way. I answered that I would address her question in the course of my presentation, as it has everything to do with both why I am pursuing a Ph.D. in education as well as how I am reconceptualizing what I have been spending most of my time and passion on in the last decade. I am now coming to realize that I am a teacher and have been acting in pedagogical ways and spaces for a long time. And yet these spaces and methods of pedagogy trouble traditional notions of what it means to be a teacher.

Therefore, for my final project, I am troubling what it means to be a teacher. I would like to do this for multiple reasons:

  • to help me articulate to colleagues (and myself) what I do and why I am in education

  • to push the boundaries of what a degree in education means, which my particular department and track make room for

  • to try to figure out what makes for successful teaching in a variety of spaces

  • to ask questions about why the university often neglects pedagogy and why those in the university are not encouraged to spend time thinking about their own pedagogy

  • to trouble what it is that I--and my department--am doing

  • to find ways of weaving in my own story and experiences that may disrupt the common narrative of teaching

In other words, I want to explore "being a teacher" along the lines of what Tavia N'yongo was doing in attempting "to express creative discontent with settled categories" (2005, p. 20)

What I have done so far is a lot of free-writing on what I think it means to be a teacher, what spaces of teaching look like, what most important ways I learn from teachers are. I have talked with a number of colleagues, mostly in my department, about what they feel is successful teaching or what they feel makes for a good teacher. I have also found a number of writers who address questions of what teaching means. None of these has anything to do with teaching content, classroom management, best practices, or other common strategies and buzzwords around education.

I am not sure yet how I will organize the final project. It may take the form of short essays on different aspects of what I believe teaching is, e.g., asking good questions, creating a space that empowers others to self-appropriate knowledge, sharing of yourself, fostering humanness. (I simultaneously like this because it troubles "traditional" academic writing.) A final goal may be to produce a succinct statement of what I do and what I hope to do, to be able to answer the question "what are you?"

And, if anyone wants/needs a break from their big project and paper writing and grading and end-of-semester craziness, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on troubling what it means to be a teacher.

Big Project Update

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Hello! I am about to go to a Vegas-themed bday party, and, now that I'm all decked out in glitter and feather-boa, I thought it would be a good time to write. : ) As some of you may remember, I, like Sophie, decided to start a blog for the big project. So in January I began "rebel grrl academy: revolution in the shoproom, the classroom, the streets & the hips." One of the aims was simply to start and maintain a blog "to process and reflect on issues relevant to my research and activist interests, [and] also be a space to share reflections on the more ostensibly banal elements of everyday life." More specifically, I wanted to feature "Queering Labor Showcase"'s to help me explore my research interest of the intersection of queer and sexualized bodies in organized labor. So far my entries have included:

1. "Troublemaking at the U: AFSCME Local 3800 "Chop from the Top" Rally"-a report back on the protest

2. "twenty-five (&the trouble with futurity)-a reflection on turning a quarter-century and pondering the scripts we are given or not given, and how to queer-world-make inspite of it all.....Draws on Butler.

3. ".a people's history of [my relationship with] Howard Zinn."-a reflection on the late, great HZ, on the day he died.

4. "saturday night at the supermarket."-reflecting on grocery shopping at 1am on a saturday

5. "to putting more energy into dreaming/building the future, than being pissed off at the present."-an analysis and response to a Robin DG Kelley article that really, really spoke to me. discusses tension between activism and academia

6. "a post about naked lady bodies in honor of V-day."-response to a new law in Australia that bans A-cup breasts and female ejaculation from being seen in porn.

7. "troubling personal space: the bus ride home."-reflection on personal space on the bus and be-longing. 

8. "High Priestess of Trouble, Judith Butler, on "Critique""-reflection on the Butler piece we read about critique.

9. "Education is under attack! What do we do? Stand up, Fight back!"-reflection on March 4th National Day in Defense of Public Education rally

10. "Girl Interrupted? Let's Hope So."-the Shiloh Jolie Pitt is turning into a boy moral panic response. Draws from Clare and Butler.

11. "Queering Labor Showcase #1: Sleep With the Right People UNITE HERE campaign"-my first foray into analyzing the queer/labor stuff. in-depth look at rhetoric and media.

12. "SEWSA Conference Report-Back."-just as the title says! : )

13. "Queering Labor Showcase #2: Sex Workers Outreach Project and Erotic Service Providers Union."-analyzed rhetoric, media, contrasted to sex-negative sex work research, etc. Draws from Butler. 

14. "FEMME-SUBVERSION!: Smashing the State in Stilletos and the Political Potential of Femme Desire."-an entry i'm particularly pleased with. also submitted to a zine called Femme Means Attack. discusses femme identity, brings in Lugones, Munoz and Butler.

So what have I learned/processed/realized through all this? Blogging takes a lot of energy and, Sara, I have even more admiration for the thoroughness of your blog after embarking on this project!  Sometimes it's so much easier to post a clip on facebook and write nothing more than "OMG!", but the blog forced me to articulate responses to things. It's time-consuming, but, ultiamtely, so fulfilling.

It has also made me feel incredibly vulnerable. I decided to post the link on my facebook page, and every once in a while I will post specific entires on my page. On days I post, I get upwards of 100 hits (wordpress tracks how many people look at your site); days I don't advertise on FB, I get between 10-40. But to know my friends and family are reading what are reading my thoughts, and then responding to them (I often get more comments on my fb posts of the links than the actual page) is scary! Especially because at least two of my posts are pretty explicit about my sex-positive politics (and sexuality and desire).  I have also gotten comments from folks I don't know; one that stuck out was someone who found my blog because he was a labor/UNITE HERE guy. He called my analysis "silly." It's crazy how making yourself public just totally opens you up for criticism--both constructive and otherwise! But it's been good, and the feedback I got (again mostly on FB) about my Shiloh Jolie Pitt and my latest Femme-Subversion post has been productive and enlightening (and very exciting to be promoting dialogue!). 

The only disappointing thing about this is that I've had more fun with the non-Queering Labor posts than I have with those that are focused on that. It's discouraging me from turning this into a larger project, only because I'm not sure how much I can do with it, nor how productive it is to the sorts of issues I'm interesting in negotiating (tensions around identity politics, exclusive rhetoric and organizing tactics from unions, etc). I dont' know. I still have at least two more showcases to do before the end of the year (Lusty Ladies Union and Queers for Economic Justice).

This has also reiterated for me taht I need to be doing more community-based work. I did field work and community-based/participatory-action-research for my whole master's program, and since coming to the U of M, I've been locked in the ivory tower. : ( Blogging about my activism makes me feel more exhilerated than non-community research (which I do love, but not without a community element). Anyway, this has been a good thing to realize.

So, I guess that's it for now. I do plan to keep the blog up. It's fun. I used to have a livejournal that way fewer people knew about, but it was definitely filled with more personal reflections than academic interventions...I prefer this new format, but I do miss the creative-writing the former enabled me, so this summer I hope to do some more creative non-fiction-y reflections on this blog (which there are some of now, but not as much).

Okay, off to my vegas party! 

Queer Project Update

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Being Irrationally Troubled (big project update #2)

My turn to chime in with a big project update. I've been working on this blog, Troubling Rationality, for most of the semester, and it's raising a bunch of questions for me, both intellectual and methodological. The initial aim, I should explain, was to get at the intellectual tradition of rationalism, stemming from the Enlightenment. Traditionally (in many spheres, including philosophy, certain strains of evolutionary theory, psychology, etc) rational thought has been placed in the domain of men, and women are said to be "irrational" or "emotional" or "intuitive" or what have you. For my blog, I'm looking at feminist ways of thinking non-rationally - not as a way of playing into the stereotype of the Irrational Woman, but as a way of resisting a male-constructed/male-valorized system of thought. 

This, by the way, is probably the most coherent way I have managed to sum up this project this whole time!

So far, I've looked at works by Gertrude Stein, Julia Kristeva, María Lugones, and Gloria Anzaldúa. I've also thought about psychoanalytic and surrealist theories of the unconscious (and why they both may fall short of being feminist). I'm planning to post soon about two more books, "Women's Ways of Knowing" and "Eight Women Philosophers." But here are some problems I'm running into, and I'd really appreciate thoughts (as well as comments on the blog itself, which I'd love you all to check out if you've got a chance!):

Intellectual problem: I'm having trouble defining "rationality" across my blog posts, since it can variously include ideas like the scientific method, strains of logical argumentation, and (in Freud, for example) ideas about the conscious (vs. conscious) mind. Does it matter that there's this variation? In a blog about non-rationality, do I need a rigorous definition of terms? I feel like I'm skating a thin line of "you know it when you see it"... but the problem is, especially when you're venturing into the nonrational, you kind of do know it when you see it!

Methodological problem: I had originally planned to write five posts, each one putting two works in dialogue with each other (10 works in total). But I am having trouble keeping each post short enough, while still feeling like I'm exploring the text enough, so I've ended up writing separate posts for each of the books that I'm reading. This is more along the lines of Liz's question - but sometimes it's hard to convince myself that I'm saying something useful, when I'm restricting myself to blog-length posts! But, it's useful to me, anyway, so hopefully that counts for something. :)

Other question for the class: I'm having trouble finding books that speak directly to this issue (of rationality vs. not), and I'm wondering if, for the last few posts, you all had ideas of ways I could venture into non-written forms of expression. Can you think of visual or musical explorations of something we could call "non-rational argumentation"? I would love some class input!!

Big Project Update 2

Hello all,

So here's what's going on with my safe-space project.  I am beginning to receive a trickle of responses to an email I sent out a while ago asking several questions about safe space and the Ryan Sorba debacle.  To refresh your memory, Sorba is the asshole/conservative pundit who came to Smith my senior year to give a talk on "The Born Gay Hoax."  His thesis is that gay people choose to be gay, and therefore do not deserve civil rights.  Much chaos ensued.

I'm going to harass people some more to respond, but so far a lot of the responses have been written in a really compelling manner.  Plus, they are almost all friends of mine, so they have a conversational tone that I think will be really fun to play with in the paper.  I've also been reading some lit on the subject, the most helpful ones so far being Queers in Space and Bernice Reagan Johnson.

I guess I am having two quandaries at this point.  First, I feel really out of my element making this a thought-based project rather than a research based project.  I'm really excited about having the opportunity to just ponder at length, but I'm having trouble convincing myself that this is a legit scholarly effort.

Second, I've been thinking about interspersing some personal recollections of my coming out experience into the paper.  These have been really easy and fun to write so far, and I think that it might be a good way of putting my own positionality into the paper.  I'm also taking a personal narrative class (with Angela- woot!) and I'm intrigued by the challenge of working myself into an argument.  However, Sara, if you don't want to read about my awkward early adolescence, etc., I will not have my feelings hurt. 

Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated.