September 2009 Archives

Language as the imprinter of ideology

I find Judith Butler's desire to complicate language, and write in a difficult manner fascinating. Language not only ascribes ideologies, but in fact has been built upon them. Words have histories, and multiple meanings, and ramifications, and exclusions. But language also packages ideology into something that can be consumed, and as the picture so clearly illustrates these words can have a profound and painful impact on us.Photo 30.jpg

Query #3

As promised, here is the Butler passage about the shift in her thinking from Gender Trouble to Undoing Gender.

From Judith Butler: Philosopher Encounters of the Third Kind
About 30 minutes in...

Well, I think another way of naming Gender Trouble would be doing gender, right. Uh....Gender Trouble was taken as a text which described the ways in which people did their gender...described gender as a kind of doing that was all about acting, doing, making, becoming. What various ways can we do our gender? What are the various things we can do with gender? And, I think maybe, uh, in this text [Undoing Gender], I am asking a different question which is, first of all, how do the norms that constitute gender do us and undo us, that is to say, they make us but they also prevent us from making what we would of ourselves. On the other hand, uh, it seems to me, we don't want to say we never want to be undone again. We only want to do ourselves. That is to privilege a certain idea of self making that I am also criticizing. We are inevitably undone by other people. We become undone in our relations with others. We don't always know ourselves. We learn something new about ourselves. We have certain conceptions of ourselves challenged in the course of our relationships. And this kind of challenge that comes from the other, we have to be open to this. If we knew always what we would become then we would be finished, we would be dead, we would be over. But I think that part of what it means to be a self is to be open to a future that one cannot know. And it is to be open to a future of oneself. What will this self be in the future? That openness only comes about through one's relations with others.

Query: What distinction is she making here? What are the differences between doing gender and being undone by it?

Okay, here's another query. In "Values of Difficulty," Butler writes about the strange:

To honor the moment in which the familiar must become strange or, rather, where it admits the strangeness at its core, this may well be the moment when we come up against the limits of translation, when we undergo what is previously unknown, when we learn something about the limits of the promise of what is different, what is possible, what is waiting for us if we do not foreclose it in advance (209).

It reminds me of Cherry Smith's article "What is this thing called queer?" and her linking of queer with "strange, odd, and eccentric."

Query: What does Butler mean in her passage? What is the value of strangeness? How might focusing on what is strange (unknown, odd, different) be important for queer theory and politics?

Course Packet Available!

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The course packet is finally available at Paradigm Printing in Stadium Village!

The new address is:

720 Washington Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414 Map
(Between Erberts & Gerberts and Dairy Queen across from McNamara Alumni Center; there's a sign out front)

Phone: 612.379.4590

Hours for Fall 2009 Semester:
Mon - Thu -> 8:00 - 7:00
Fri -> 8:00 - 5:00
Sat & Sun -> 12:00 - 4:00

our desire

As I sat watching the documentary on Butler and why reading the articles and the pervious blogs, I cannot help but wonder about our desire to know the author. I mean, I get--we want to connect, to understand, to complicate, to judge, to humanize, etc... I hesitate to think i one second that by understanding Butler's background and her being a 'troublemaker' that I will be able to understand or connect to her readings any better than I have before. Do I need to know who she is to legitimize my understanding of her work? And can an okay documentary really explain who Butler is?

One thing is for certain, by removing the mystical vail of authorship from the text does allow for me to demystify Butler. In my experience Butler has been lifted to this place of god-like proportions in academia. Do not misunderstand me, she is and has been one of the leading thinkers in gender and queer theory--she deserves much respect. The film exposes that she is like many of us--trying to make sense of the world around us and how do I/we fit into or out of it.

Butler, like all of us, has a story that has brought her to where she is. It isn't linear and it ebbs and flows. Will this understanding lend to a more amazing reading of her? I do not think so. Why should it? That knowing has always been there... that we are all trying to figure it out. I am just hoping she quickens the process for me! :-)

Coming out in Middle School

27cover-395.jpgComing Out In Middle School is the cover story for this week's New York Times Magazine. Much of the article is relevant for our class and is worthy of a queering, but this passage particularly struck me--especially after our discussion last Tuesday.

All of this fluidity, confusion and experimentation can be understandably disorienting for parents and educators. Is an eighth grader who says he's gay just experimenting? Could he change his mind in a week, as 13-year-olds routinely do with other identities -- skater, prep, goth, jock -- they try on for a while and then shed for another? And if sexuality is so fluid, should he really box himself in with a gay identity? Many parents told me they especially struggled with that last question (6).

What do you think? How would you engage in a queering of this issue, particularly the last question? What sorts of issues are raised when we think about this passage from a queer perspective?

The Way

Judith Butler has been an elusive figure in my education thus far, remaining on the outskirts of my studies of sexuality and gender; I am excited to have the opportunity and motivation to become more intimately acquainted with this intelligent figure.

While Marcie Bianco, author of the documentary review, found the film to be a reflection of entertainment as a derisive form of academia instead of a visual presentation of Butler's philosophical intelligence, I find the documentary to be an appropriate introduction to Judith Butler. It gives a humanized snapshot of how Butler's character developed in face of the struggles in her life, which resulted in the development of a trouble making and intellectually intimidating philosopher. The absence of any experience would have deprived her of the passion and inquiry she expresses about gender, sexuality, and the human condition.

From the brief glimpses revealed in the documentary and article, I see an intellect that approaches ideas multi-contextually and multi-dimensionally. I have great admiration for Butler because she uses her intelligence to challenge current human experiences. It is quite unfortunate that Butler is limited to communicating through language because it restricts her thought process to two-dimensional expression, which often makes it difficult for complexity of her thoughts to be understood by her audience. Her philosophical approach reminds me of the words of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who stated: "That which is said to be the Way is not the true Way" similarly she quotes Adorno in "Values of Difficulty" "Only what they do not need first to understand, they consider understandable." From these quotes can be drawn an idea that limitations in text and a scholar who studies Butler must challenge the text and imagine the depth that it reveals beyond the simple words on the page.

Unorganized thoughts on the Judith Butler documentary

Judith Butler is a figure of many labels ---"theorist", "scholar", "celebrity", "disciplinary problem", "writer", "feminist", "lesbian" --- which are all addressed in this documentary. The purpose of the documentary seems to be to either juxtapose or merge Judith Butler the Figure with Judith Butler the Person, and , if so, is only mildly successful in its execution. Butler tells us a story about her early adolescence in which she is forced to see a rabbi who tells her it is time to "get serious". I found this story to be the only successful link between who Butler is as a person and who she is as a theorist --- the trouble-making nature she displayed as a child was her way of "getting serious". Trouble-making is a form of confrontation, and her thoughts and ambitions at age 14 speak of her inherent compulsion to make trouble, to be difficult, and to do it with the utmost seriousness. However, it was not until reading this week's selection of articles that I made this connection --- especially after reading her essay, "Values of Difficulty," which addresses the importance and ethical factors of difficult language, language that transcends the known, allowing for new ways of knowing and understanding. For Butler, trouble-making is an impulse, a necessity, a responsibility. Liz McMillen sums up Butler's scholarly career nicely: "marked by extreme diligence -- and a knack for making trouble" --- a contradiction that Butler has made a definitive niche, one that I think is neither a marketing ploy, nor a discrediting flaw, but one that becomes somehow cohesive and relatable --- I tend to be drawn to contrasts and contradictions, and find Butler's approach to writing, her ability to be so forward in her work, yet so withdrawn from the public arena, quite attractive.

Edited Encounters of the Ideological Kind

"It's not the [queer is not my] only identity."

"...we might think that to be a certain gender is to have a certain sexuality."

"There are people who would argue that we should all have a gendered place..."

"...gender always fails, and it's a good thing."

"If we knew always what we would become then we would be finished, over..."

Constructed and constrained with possible goals of making personally known "Judith Butler, the person" and with time constraints in shooting and editing, Philosophical Encounters of the Third Kind is certainly a tricky little piece of filmmaking with an intended audience that may best be described as "groupies." That's my soundbite. I agree with Keagan and the Feminist Review that the above "theorybites" are almost without question reductive and their tenuous connections to Butler's personal reflections strung throughout the film must leave many a spectator still unsatisfied, hungry to know who "Judy!" really is. So, whose intentions are behind this text? Who, or what, controls the ideological content of a film?

Different strands of film theory of course have vastly different takes, no singular one of which I can completely subscribe to and still sleep at night. Instead, I want to present an overview of some film theories in order to show elements of production which may in part contribute to the themes and meanings derived from a given film, using the text in question as an example.

Auteur theory generally speaking holds that the central producer of meaning in a film is the director. Ideally, this director interprets the script/plan/whatever else in ways that radically transform the object (script, actors, situations, locations, weather) into fine art. But only sometimes does the director have final say over the cohesion of a film, when shooting is finished, which shots go where, how long they last, what the film will convey overall through these aesthetic arrangements. Sometimes a producer, an editor, a studio, funding sources, the MPAA, the FCC, or whoever else has partial/"complete" control over the final product has different demands. Is the goal to produce this work of art, or to make money? And of course, there are always different goals on the horizon for different subjects of the production team. In the text at hand, it is notable that shots of Butler telling the camera to go away are included in the final product, rather than cast away to look for a "better shot," perhaps one where she picks up on something or leads into something she was saying another time, allowing the construction of the narrative that was in mind when this whole documentary was envisioned. You get the idea.

Building on this, Structuralism looks to linguistics, society, and institutions as systems which contribute also to products of meaning. Basically, this strand seeks to put films into historical context and results in the categorization of genres (documentary, western, sci-fi, etc.) and thus common themes (isolation, paranoia, individualism) of film art. There is a definite construction of the character of Butler in opposition to systems of power, the troublemaker. Stories of the times that Butler was a model citizen are not included because this is not "that kind of movie." Themes of trouble, difference, and the resulting personal consequences abound.

Finally, Poststructuralism looks also to semiotics, psychoanalysis, feminist theory, and deconstructionism and seeks to make visible not the cohesion but the disunion of films. Rather than looking to back-up theoretical assumptions about the general theme or meaning of a film text, Poststructuralism shows where these assumptions have their gaps and where the spectator is key in constructing (or being a beacon through which shines) the ideology of a particular film. As we each watched the text in question, we interpreted it in our own ways, based on the connections and intelligibilities which we made within such an intricate network of symbols and meanings. Some would say that a work of art does not exist except in this relation between it and the spectator.

I guess I just wanted to call into question the authorship of Philosophical Encounters of the Third Kind as a means of employing a little non-resolute argument in a similar style to that of Butler's "Values of Difficulty." I highly recommend a little deconstruction with your next afternoon dose of caffeine.

Categories? What Categories?

Do you find yourself having difficulty figuring out what the different categories for this blog are for? Are you uncertain about which category you should file your entries under? Does my repeated mention of "Queries" or "Queer This!" leave you wondering just what I am talking about? Worry no longer! I have just added an explanation of categories--called "About the Categories"--for this blog. It is located on the right hand side at the top of the blog (under PAGES), so check it out. You can also check it out here. Hopefully this explanation will help you to make sense of the categories.

Still not making sense? Post a comment to this entry with your questions and I will offer even more explanation.

Judith Butler Film Thoughts

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I will have to confess my ignorance when it comes to Judith Butler. Although I have heard her name circulating around in the department, this semester will be my first time reading her. I know it's awful. So, for me, reading articles and critiques about her and watching a documentary focused on her has really peaked my interest. However, does knowing her make her theories more authentic? Is it important to know who Butler is as a person in order to understand her work? I would have to say no to both of these questions mostly because I just don't think it should always matter but also because often times I know nothing of the author before I read something and it makes no less of an impact. But for me personally, knowing a little something about the author does help me take more interest in the writing, or vice versa when the writing is so interesting that it makes me want to know more about the author. Which I think is why this alleged "superstardom" has arisen around her. I think these questions of authenticity and "knowing" Judith Butler speaks more to people's inquiry about WHO has the "authority" to speak on certain subjects, hence the call to her identity as "troublemaker." All in all, I felt that in the case of this documentary our level of knowing was very limited and controlled by Butler. She seemed guarded and aware of the effects her words and actions would have on both her work and public personae. Like Butler said herself she is not her theories, she is not the embodiment of her theories. So this would just be a reflection of that, I felt the message was that the details of her life shouldn't matter; her work should be taken for what it is.

How to post youtube clips

The last post ("Something of Interest") had a link to a site that had a youtube clip. It is perfectly fine not to include youtube clips in your entries and just link to other sites that do have the link. However, in case any of you want to add a youtube link to your entry but are confused on how to do it, here's how:

1. When you are posting a youtube clip that you found on

Find the embed box (located on the right hand side in the gray box under the URL), highlight the embed text and copy it.

Note: For a fancier version of the youtube clip you can now customize your embed clips. At the end of the embed box you will find a blue gear image. When you scroll over it it should say "customize." Click on it. Now you can pick a color scheme for the border of your clip (I recommend green to match our site) and a size (I would say 500 X 405). Now copy the embed text and follow the next step.

Now go back to your entry and put your cursor on the place that you want to insert the youtube clip. Before pasting it in, make sure that you have changed the format (located above the insert image button) to none (away from rich text or convert line breaks). The embed text will not work in rich text; it will just show up like a bunch of code. Once you have switched the format to none, paste in the embed text. You are done and ready to save!

2. When you want to embed a youtube clip that you found on another site (like on Represent)

Click on the white triangle symbol in the bottom right hand corner of the youtube clip that you found on the site. Then click on the box that pops up (it is the image of a screen with text). If you have done it correctly, once you click on this box the actual clip should shrink a little and embed and url boxes should now show up. You want to embed the clip, so highlight and copy the embed link.

At this point, the directions become the same as in #1. Now go back to your entry and put your cursor on the place that you want to insert the youtube clip. Before pasting it in, make sure that you have changed the format (located above the insert image button) to none (away from rich text or convert line breaks). The embed text will not work in rich text; it will just show up like a bunch of code. Once you have switched the format to none, paste in the embed text. You are done and ready to save!

Like this:

Something of Interest


I'm putting this under Queer This! because I'm not sure where else it belongs. Maybe I'm wrong or confused but I am thinking the Queer This! is like an OH Bother! or WTF! entry but this is not that. Rather just something I found interesting and somewhat applicable to the class.
A girlfriend of mine who works for a public relations and advocacy agency in New York called Represent had sent me a link to her company's blog so I could check out some work she's been doing and when I clicked on the tag word "Gender" this blog about a new film called "Straightlaced" was there.
So check it out. Just thought it was interesting and I welcome any comments on it, maybe someone has already seen it or heard of it.
Additionally, the film is by a non-profit called Groundspark and I also went to there site and watched the trailer for another film called "It's Elementary" that I found interesting as well.
See what ya think. I am personally intrigued and wish there was greater access to films like these.

"It's not misogyny if you hate EVERYONE"

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This "Queer This!" post definitely does follow in the footsteps of the Oh Bother posts, in that I am both not surprised but utterly speechless at this. I remember Tucker Max as an online sensation from several years ago, but never imagined he was still relevant (and don't think he is). I saw this poster advertising the movie on the St. Paul campus at work today:
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Though these undertones were always present in his "stories," it's apparent the only effort he can be bothered to make to try and get some spotlight back is to have promotional material for his material as follows:

I encourage you to look through the entire photo album, but in case you can't be bothered, here's a taste of what I'm talking about--yes, it gets MUCH better than the photo posted above.
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Why Do We Think Butler Has Given Us Anything to Go On?


I want to counter back with: why is it assumed that it's important to know who she is as a person? It doesn't make her theories more authentic--if it's assumed that theories are more authentic when you have an understanding of the author, I'd posit that the theory wasn't understood in the first place. Why are we assuming she's giving us personal accounts for the purpose of relating it to theory? Her intention in offering words about her own childhood seems to be to provide basis for an understanding as to why she became what she is professionally, NOT why she theorizes what she does, but again, the desperation of many to connect a body to the theory seems to distort this in attempt to placate itself.
The title of the movie is a very strategic one, serving as a commentary on those who refuse to stop trying to tie a body to the work--"Close Encounters of the Philosophical Kind" are never going to be possible. I agree with the Feminist Review's notion that it seems as though the film aims to make personal, but I disagree with the assertion of that actually being the point. The documentary aims to serve as a primer to Butler and her work through two main avenues--(1) presenting strategically oversimplified statements regarding theory and (2) showing that personal contact with Butler is not something she will allow. The awkward scenes of Butler looking at the camera with a "get away" look before she asks the cameraperson to leave solidified this even in light of the "armchair discussions" of her personal life.
The film and readings leave me anxious to read her work--the notions of convoluted, purportedly inaccessible work that refuses to be personalized are relatable for me.


Queer bike gang is hosting Cirque du SoGay. A little bit of hardcore October fun! Check out the event invites, and figure out what an alleycat ride is

Philisophical Encounters of the Third Kind

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For this blog, I would like to engage more with the reading we did by Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham: Changing the Subject: Judith Butler's Politics of Radical Resignification, and bring it in conversation with the documentary.

For me, this documentary highlighted the problems I have with Judith Butler's writing more than it clarified or supported her writing. While the director indeed often placed Butler's ideas in an over-simplified manner, as Sara commented on in her review of the movie, I was surprised by the oversimplified nature of Butler's own responses to prompts posed by her interviewer and the simple structure of her lecturing. I found that not only were Butler's lectures, comments, and responses far simpler than her work, but that she also sometimes seemed to have trouble articulating herself. Especially in her French lecture and in the last interview session, there were quite a few moments of stuttering, pausing, and asides. Whether this is because she was trying to be an accessible "human" character for the film, as the Feminist Review suggested was the goal of the film, I did not find this convincing.

While I agree that simple language is not an automatic reflection of reality and that complicated language has much potential and importance, I think Butler goes well beyond its useful applications. I seems to me that Butler does not pose a good defense in the face of the criticism leveled against her. She dismisses the critique of the inaccessibility of her writing as anti-intellectual, but does not acknowledge the privilege she has to dismiss that criticism, to do the things she does without fear of brutal retaliation, and the exclusive and often colonial traditions of the continental philosophy that influenced her and how that plays out in her writing.

In regards to the representation of Judith Butler "as a person" in the film, I tended to favor the comments made in the Feminist Review that the accessibility of academic theorists now-a-days lays in their ranking as superstars and publicly visible "people." While certainly Judith Butler is in respects, a "trouble maker" I also cannot help but feel that this documentary was an attempt to market Butler as a theorist. The idea of knowing "who she is" as a person making her theory "more authentic" has more to do with peoples' obsession with authenticity and legibility than anything else. Judith Butler herself states that she is more at home in the realms of instability, fluidity, change, and ambiguity. Understanding her "as a person" on her own terms in this way, for me, doesn't say much of anything about her theory other than that it could at times be reflective of her own experiences.

Who's Queer? Whose Queer?

Questions such as ours are absolutely everywhere right now. Take, for example, this event notice that just came across my inbox:

The Eighth Annual Women's Studies Student Conference presents as this year's theme: Who's Queer? Whose Queer?

Here's the C A L L F O R S U B M I S S I O N S:

How do we understand queer? Whose definitions of "queer" matter? Is there a place for queerness in feminism and/or Women's Studies? Moreover, what are the implications of queering or *not* queering feminist inquiry?

We invite students (both graduate and undergraduate from all disciplines and colleges), as well as activists and artists, to submit proposals for papers, film, music, art, live performance, and other creative and critical works.

We especially encourage analyses that address through a queer and feminist lens the intersections of gender, race, class, (trans)nationality, (dis)ability, and sexuality.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

• Personal vs. group identities.
• Queer productions of knowledge.
• Queer readings of current events and pop culture (e.g. the late Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Caster Semanya, etc.).
• Queer bodies and embodiment.
• Queer politics and politicians.
• Queer media and art.
• Queer histories.
• Taboos and deviance.
• Globalizing queerness.

Please submit 200-word abstracts briefly describing your work to no later than Friday, October 30, 2009.

Abstracts describing film and live performances should indicate the project's running time (image or digital files of media projects may also be submitted as e-mail attachments or through a URL if presented on the web). You may use the same e-mail address to send us any inquiries.

For more information, please visit our website:

This year's conference will be held on December 4, 2009, in Humanities 354 on the uptown campus of the University at Albany, SUNY.

I might just submit something-- I'm actually working now on the thesis and key points for my final in Feminist Thought & Theory, which, thanks to joint inspiration from Sara and Katie Bashore, hopes to address "The Possibility of Gender Studies" in dialogue with two essays some of you may be familiar with...

Wendy Brown's* The Impossibility of Women's Studies (in Women's Studies on the Edge)wsote.jpg

Robyn Wiegman's The Possibility of Women's Studies (in Women's Studies for the Future)wsftf.jpg

The questions in the above call for submissions now have me reeling. Can anyone else tell me why I'm querying Gender Studies instead of Queer Studies? I've got my ideas, but I want to know your thoughts!

*Gossip courtesy of Katie Bashore: Wendy Brown is Judith Butler's partner.

you go girl!

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I want to comment more but wanted to get it up for everyone to see!

Reading for 9.29

Here are a couple notes about the readings for next Thursday.

a. Judith. "A Bad Writer Writes Back" (online)
The link in our syllabus to this reading is wrong. I have posted the correct link under the reading section on this blog. You can also click here to get it.

b. Butler, Judith. Excerpt from "Value of Difficulty" (WebCT)
You should read the entire essay. You can find it on our WebCT site.

c. Salih, Sara. "Judith Butler and the Ethics of Difficulty" in The Critical Quarterly.
(2003), 45: 3 (WebCT)
Again, read the whole essay. You can find it on our WebCT site.

d. Interview with Judith Butler. "Changing the Subject" in jac (WebCT)
Read the following pages from this interview: 727-top 729, 731-top 736. You can find the entire interview on our WebCT site.

Handout from last Thursday's class (9.17)

Here is the handout from last Thursday's class.

Intern Opportunity

I just received this notice:

Student Work-Study Intern Positions Open in GLBTA Programs Office

The GLBTA Programs Office is currently hiring two undergraduate Student Interns for 2009-10. The responsibilities of these fun, flexible positions include communications, outreach, clerical duties, and assistance with planning and delivery of programs/events. Requirements include having work-study funds, the ability to work 8-12 hrs/week, strong communication and multi-tasking skills, and a commitment to working on GLBTA issues within an intersectional social justice framework. Download full job description (Word file).

If you are interested, please send: 1) cover letter expressing your interest in the position and the office, 2) current resume, and 3) your semester work availability to or 46 Appleby Hall. Questions about the position should be directed to Ross Neely at 612-626-3064. Interviews begin the week of Sept 21 and will continue until position is hired in early October. Please spread the word!

Check this out (and information about other events, etc) at the GLBTA office website

Blog Assignment for 9/24 on the Butler film

On Thursday (9.24) you will be watching the Judith Butler documentary, "Judith Butler: Philosophical Encounters of a Third Kind" in the Rachel Raimist Feminist Media Center. As part of your participation grade, you are required to post your reactions to the film. Here's what I want you to do.

First, watch the movie. As you are watching it, jot down some of your reactions to the film and the idea of Judith Butler (as a person, scholar, queer theorist). Make note of particular clips from the film that you like/don't like, etc.

Second, read the Feminist Review's brief review of the film. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Third, read the The Chronicle for Higher Education interview with Judith Butler as a troublemaker posted on our WebCT site.

Finally, read my analysis of Butler as a disciplinary problem here.

Now, in your post, offer your own reflections on the film and the representation of Judith Butler "as a person." Also, think about it in relation to the readings. Why is it important to know who she is as a person? What are the limits of our knowing? Does it make her theories more authentic when we know who she is? (Why) is it important to know that she was a troublemaker as a child? You are not required to answer all of these questions. Just use them as a guide for your entry, which should be about 200-300 words long.

Trans Women Athletes

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Check out this great post about trans women athletes and the "rules" for when and how they can participate in sporting competitions. How do these rules shape what is supposed to count as a "real" woman's body? How do a range of different institutions participate in this enforcing of the "real" and the "copy"? What insight might a queer analysis offer to these issues?

Note: Every week unusualmusic offers a list of helpful links on a different subject (kind of like an informal annotated bibliography for links), with this week's edition being about trans women athletes. Their format might be helpful (with a few tweaks, of course) as you think about your 3 required annotated bibliography posts.

Now, Queer This!

Pre-Pubescent Kids: Queer This?

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If little kids undergoing sex/gender changes isn't a topic that poses questions about queering, I don't know what is.

The topic is gaining momentum faster than many people can bear to handle, and so they either completely fumble around the issue or choose to say nothing at all. After all, when you look outside of the liberal urban/UMN bubble we live in, it's readily apparent that we're not even close to the tipping point of adult trans issues being looked at with a respectable eye. The few times they are, most people in the conversation are either overcome with a fear of saying anything not 500% PC, or the need to be so radical that they fail to acknowledge the limitations of real life, thus thwarting many of the efforts that manage to be made (or, at least, that's how I see it). All of this gets magnified to an incomprehensible level when you're talking about kids.

This isn't necessarily something that angers me to the point of saying "Oh f---" like Sara's format, but the discussions often frustrate me to the point that I can't begin to bother a lot of the timeThere's clearly a very tight rope that needs to be walked here, and there are (rightfully, given the dynamic nature of childhood) many more restrictions on how things work with gender-variant children.

--How can we overcome both polar opposites of this argument (i.e. "let EVERYONE do what they want as long as they're happy!" vs. "little kids need to be told who they are, not decide it on their own!")?
--If your child is showing unhappiness in their assigned gender, how do you allow them to explore/express themselves while still protecting them from social dangers AND being a good, realistic, and authoritative parent?
--Given what the (very limited) research tells us about the success (or lack thereof) of children who transitioned, what standards should be created/modified in order to handle this issue effectively?
--What issues regarding gender-variance in children could potentially be handled simply with less BLUE/PINK culture surrounding raising children?

(P.S. The links are in the text!)

Query #2

I ended our discussion of the Cohen article with a set of questions about the differences between Nikki Sullivan's article on queer as being or doing and Cathy Cohen's article on the radical potential of queer politics. I want to offer that set of questions now as a query:

VERSION 1: Something that struck me about Cohen's essay is how different her tone/style/approach is from an essay like Sullivan. How is Cohen engaging in queering theory (and theorizing queer/ing)? What sources/theories is she drawing upon and using to validate or support her own vision of queer theory and politics? What sources does Sullivan draw upon to develop her vision? How does each writer use (or not use) postmodern theories and "cannonical" works of queer theory and activism (like J Butler or Queer Nation, for example) in their own arguments? (How) do these different styles/tones/approach highlight differences between these two visions/versions of queering theory?

Or, put another way:

VERSION 2: What are the "roots" of Cohen's vision of queering theory? Which authors does she cite? What are the "roots' of Sullivan's vision of queering theory? Which authors does she cite? Are these distinctions important? Why or why not?

Does the HRC have potential for Queer politics?

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The blog posted pictures from Another Bash Back event protesting the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) gala, and expressing the marginalization of queer issues by the groups agenda of assimilation, and reinforcing of the dominant institutions, like marriage. I love that the protesters drew attention to it in this way, but I wonder what kind of coalition building could exist between the queer and gay politics in Minneapolis. I am trying to imagine how the HRC could begin to destabilize their collective identity.

What is queering theory, part 2: Explaining the Title

The subject of class for Thursday (9.17) is "What is queering theory, part 2." We will be focusing our attention on Cathy Cohen's chapter in Black Queer Studies entitled, "Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?" (also found in GLQ). For this reading reflection post, instead of writing a lengthy post on Cohen's argument, I thought I might briefly discuss one possible way to reflect on the reading--I call it "explaining the title." [note to students in queering theory: you might find this form helpful to use in your "direct engagement" entries]

Many authors, myself included, like to spend a lot of time (maybe too much) picking out a title that succinctly or cleverly or playfully describes what our central argument is. So, as I often tell students, one effective way for recognizing, understanding and articulating the thesis of a reading is to think (and write) about that reading's title. While this doesn't always work (some titles are hard to explain or don't necessarily get at the point of the essay), I think it works quite nicely in the case of this reading. In fact, I think Cohen's repeated explanation of the title (in different ways) throughout the essay is a real strength of the article.

Here is my brief explanation of the three parts ("Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare queens," "The radical potential of queer politics," and the ? mark at the end) of Cohen's argument. Cohen believes the radical potential of queerness and queer politics can be found in queer's ability to bring a wide range of non-normative folks--whose relationship to power marginalizes them in many different ways that are not exclusively based on heteronormativity, (like the punk, bulldagger and welfare queen)--together to engage in "progressive transformative coalition work" (22). Her question mark at the end of the title speaks to her doubt about whether this radical potential can be realized within the term "queer" and queer politics because queer, as it is currently used by queer theorists and white queer activists, fails to consider the complex (and intersecting) ways oppression occurs. Another way of explaining this doubt is this: queer politics frequently fails to attend to the complex ways in which power relations work and, without an analysis of power (and how it travels based on gender, sexuality, race and class), the radical potential of queer politics cannot be realized.

In case you are interested, my summary is 157 words. Now, this explanation of the title is a good starting point, but it doesn't get at how Cohen makes this argument. In engaging with this reading, it would be helpful to offer a few examples that Cohen uses to support her argument. Like when she talks about how some queer politics-as-it-is, as particularly manifested in "I Hate Straights," is based on a "single oppression framework" (31) that fails to offer any intersectional analysis of how power works outside of the hetero/homo divide (32). Or when she discusses how 'mall visibility actions' fail to address a whole bunch of reasons (besides sexuality) that queers might be feel alienated and unsafe in the mall (33). Or, you could talk about how she explains her title through a brief history of how marriage is an oppressive institution for many not just because it perpetuates heternormativity, but because it shores up "white supremacy, male domination, and capitalist advancement" (39).

I will admit, it can be hard to sum up an author's argument in such a short amount of space. How do you think I did?

This entry is also posted here.

For the next three sessions, our class will be discussing "What is queering theory?". Today, we will begin with part 1 and readings by Cherry Smith, Elizabeth Freeman/Lauren Berlant, and Lisa Duggan (with Nikki Sullivan for some background). I have entitled this entry, "Queer is what queer does?" because all of the articles, in different ways, challenge the idea of queer as something that one is and develop (albeit tentative) definitions of queer and queering through queer practices of resistance and rebellion and queer approaches to politics/theorizing/living. In other words, these readings point to the possibilities for defining what queer is through what queer does.

Incidentally, I am struck by my title here and my choice to write "what queer does" instead of "what queers do". My title is no accident; it points to the troubling tendency within certain forms of queer theory to privilege "queer/queering" as Practices (of deconstruction, resistance, destabilizing) over situated practices that are done by persons who may or may not identify as queer. Ah ha! Here it is again: the tension between Queer/ing as a concept and queer/ing as specific practices done by actual people. How might it shift our perspective on and our engagement with queering theory if we moved from "queer is what queer does" to "queer is what queers do"?

1535386.gif"What is This Thing Called Queer?"
by Cherry Smith

After opening her essay with a list of definitions of queer (from a range of sources), Smith outlines a queer agenda and key queer issues as articulated by queer direct action groups like OutRage. This group, formed in London, aims to assert the dignity of lesbians and gay men, fight homophobia, and affirm the rights of sexual freedom. They maintain a tenuous balance between "rejecting assimilation" and "wanting to be recognized" (278). OutRage, along with other groups, like Whores of Babylon, SISSY and PUSSY use extravagant actions that, while fueled by anger, are theatrical, fun and aimed at getting the media's attention in playful and serious ways--like staging KISS INS or Queer Weddings.

Smith defines queer as "a strategy, an attitude, a reference to other identities and a new self-understanding" (280). As a strategy, queer is about disrupting the system. Queer activists, like those in OutRage, don't want to work within the system and be accepted by the mainstream, they want to "'fuck up the mainstream' as visibly as possible" (279). As an attitude, queer "marks a growing lack of faith in the institutions of the state, in political procedures, in the press, the education system, policing the law" (280). As a new understanding, queer "articulates a radical questioning of social and cultural norms" (280).

Throughout the essay, Smith defines queer in terms of what it does and how organizations use it to resist systems of power that oppress gays/lesbians/queers. Here are some other actions that she mentions: sex-positive reclamation of words, outlandish acronyms, and promotion/visibility of queer sex practices (281).

Hmm...Smith highlights one key queer strategy of the 1990s: outing. Several of the other articles mention outing as well (especially the Duggan essay). Is this an effective strategy? What are the ethics of outing? What are some arguments for and against forcing others into visibility?

CITATION: Smith, Cherry. "What is Thing Thing Called Queer?" The Material Queer. Ed. Donald Morton. Boulder, CO: WestViewPress, 1996. 277-285.


"From 'Queer Nationality'"
by Lauren Berlant and Elizabeth Freeman

In this essay on Queer Nation and queer nationality which is also found in the anthology, The Material Queer, Berlant and Freeman describe queer as:

* being deliberately incoherent
* exploiting internal differences
* refusing assimilation while asserting visibility
* employing a wide range of tactics from identity politics, postmodernism, feminism, civil rights movement, peace movement
* fueled with anger and rage
* wanting to value and make visible queer sexual practices as "modes of ordinary identification and pleasure" (307)
* reclaiming/reterritorializing public space (changing oppressive heteronormative spaces into safe queer spaces)
* using surprise attacks and other aggressive actions to expose and "redress the more diffuse and implicit violence of sexual conventionality" (308)
* drawing upon "embarrassment, pleasure, spectacle, longing, and accusation interarticulate to produce a public scandal" (309)

Huh? In discussing the practice of prayer and "queeritual" for Queer Nation, Berlant and Freeman write, "Queer Nation's emphasis on public language and media, its exploitation of the tension between local embodiment and mass abstraction, forfeits the possibility of such taxonomic clarity" (307). Huh? What do they mean here?

Question: Berlant and Freeman write: "Being queer is not about a right to privacy: it is about the freedom to be public..." (306). What do queer theorists (and/or queers who do theory) think about public, private, visibility, assimilation? Does queer/ing theory allow for safe spaces? What kind of safety is possible when engaging in confrontational direct action? What kind of community/communities are created/fostered through organizations like Queer Nation that are "deliberately unsystematized" (305)?

CITATION: Berlant, Lauren and Elizabeth Freeman. "From 'Queer Nationality'." The Material Queer. Ed. Donald Morton. Boulder, CO: WestViewPress, 1996. 305-309.


"Making it Perfectly Queer"
by Lisa Duggan

In the opening paragraph, Duggan suggests that queer/ing theory and queer organizations (like Queer Nation) "carry with them the promise of new meanings, new ways of thinking and acting politically" (149). She devotes much of the essay to discussing how that "promise is sometimes realized, sometimes not" (149). Her essay is organized around several scenes of gay/lesbian/queer activism and resistance.

The first scene takes place in New York City at the St. Patrick's Day Parade and is centered on Mayor David Dinkins and his experiences of and reactions to anti-gay violence as he marches with the Irish Gay and Lesbian Organization. In speaking out against this violence, Dinkins appeals to liberalism and tolerance and invokes the civil rights movement. Duggan argues that such appeals, while standing out as "movements of highly visible achievement" for gays and lesbians, are still limited in their success. The inclusion that they provide is only "negotiated on humiliating terms" and does not guarantee public civility (152).

Duggan contrasts this scene of liberalism with a second scene of militant nationalism. Taking place in New York City in spring 1991, this second scene involves posters of celebrities--most notably Jodie Foster--being outed as "absolutely Queer." This approach, coming from "new gay militants" in ACT UP and Queer Nation, rejects tolerance and assimilation in favor of publicity, self-assertion, confrontation and direct action (153). Duggan argues that these militant tactics draw upon the ideology of nationalism and the idea of a nation of gays who share a common experience, are easily identifiable, and are linked under a clear and united definition of gay/lesbian/queer. She writes:

Outers present their version of gay nationalism as radical but, like other nationalisms, its political implications are complex and often actually reactionary. These new nationalists define the nation and its interests as unitary; they suppress internal difference and political conflict (154).

In critiquing this position, Duggan also writes:

any gay politics based on the primacy of sexual identity defined as unitary and 'essential,' residing clearly, intelligibly and unalterable in the body or psyche, and fixing desire in a gendered direction, ultimately represents the view from the subject position 'twentieth-century, Western, white, gay male' (155).

Question: What does she mean here? According to Duggan, what are the dangers of outing?

The third scene takes place at a writer's conference in San Francisco, again in 1991, and offers a challenge to the tension between academics and activists as they struggle over the question of essentialism-versus-social-construction (156). Here is how Duggan describes the tension:

In its most cliched formulations, this controversy is presented in one of two ways: valiant and dedicated activists working to get civil rights for gay and lesbian people are being undermined by a bunch of obscure, arcane, jargon-ridden academics bent on 'deconstructing' the gay community before it even comes into full visibility; or theoretically informed writers at the cutting edge of the political horizon are being bashed by anti-intellectual activists who cling naively to the discursive strategies of their oppressors (156).

Question: What is at stake with this debate? Is this the only way to think about social construction versus essentialism?

Duggan argues that the writers conference, which brought together a wide range of scholars, artists and activists constructed a queer "oxymoronic community of difference" (156)--a community that was not based on shared experiences or identities but on a similar difference from (and resistance to) the norm (157). This new vision of community challenges seemingly entrenched (within feminist and gay/lesbian politics) ideas about how community is created, the relationship between the academy and activism, and the necessity of invoking liberal and/or nationalist strategies of resistance.

Questions: What does a community like this look like? How does it function? What purposes does it serve? How does this third scene relate to the other two? What is Duggan's purpose in offering it--is it a viable/promising alternative to liberalism and nationalism? Or, something else?

Duggan concludes her essay by reflecting on the challenges that queer theorists face as they attempt to live up to the promise of queering theory:

to engage intellectually with the political project in the best sense of 'theory,' while avoiding jargon and obscurantism in the worst sense of 'academic' (161).

to open up the possibilities for coalition across barriers of class, race, and gender, and to somehow satisfy the paradoxical necessity of recognizing differences, while producing (provisional) unity: Can we avoid the dead end of various nationalisms and separatisms, without producing a bankrupt universalism (162)?

CITATION: Duggan, Lisa. "Making it Perfectly Queer." Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture. Eds. Lisa Duggan and Nan Hunter. New York: Routledge, 2006. 149-163.

Queer This #1: Queering is all about style

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Just a short entry relevant to today's readings:

On the topic of Queer Nation /Bash Back, I thought it might interesting to see that Details magazine (at recently ran an article called "Meet the Fearsome Gay Gangsters of Bash Back!"

There should be plenty of discussion fodder for the picking here.

The Blog Assignment: The Details

I have worked out more of the details for the blog assignment (which you can download here).

30% or 300 points (15 total @ 20 points each)

7      Direct engagements with the readings
3      Annotated bibliographies
5      "Queer This!" posts

10% or 100 points (10 total @ 10 points each)

3       Comments posted in response to the query in "Class Summaries and Queries"
4       Comments posted on direct engagement OR annotated bibliography entries.
3       Comments posted on any blog entries

Readings for 9.17 are on WebCT

I have posted our readings for 9.17 (Cohen and Johnson) on our WebCT site. Please read all of both articles.

Note: We will not be reading the Moraga article for this Thursday.

See you tomorrow!

Classroom Location

We will be staying in Ford 400 for our class. Occasionally we will meet in the FMC, but our regular meetings will remain in FORD 400. Sorry about all of the confusion.

Queer This!

Yesterday in class, it was suggested that we use my "oh bother" concept (from my trouble blog--see here) on our blog. Instead of calling it, oh bother, I thought we might title it, "Queer This!". What do you think? I thought we could post images, news items or anything else that you feel speaks to issues related to queering theory and/or our readings and class discussion. It could also include anything that you believe especially deserves a queer analysis.

Here is my first entry. This image/news item comes from the feminist pop culture blog, Jezebel via a grad student in the GWSS department. For more on the image, see the story and other links in the jezebel post. Now, Queer This!


Query #1

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Note: So this blog is all about experimenting with different ways for us to connect with each other and the material. I am introducing a new category today called "class summaries and queries." In this category (which, depending on how successful we think it is, will become a regular feature), I will post a brief summary of part (or all) of our previous class discussion. Then, I will offer a query to you. You are encouraged to post a comment to that query. I am hoping that this category will enable us to clarify terms and to (better) ensure that we understand the terms/ideas/theories (and what is at stake with them) that we are discussing. This material is difficult and really pushes at "the limits of most sure ways of knowing" (that's Butler-speak) so don't be too afraid to speak up if you don't understand something.

Thanks for a great discussion yesterday. We raised many issues that will be coming up all semester. One set up questions that will come up repeatedly in the readings is this:

How can we talk about the lived (and embodied) experiences of a person/persons in their situated practices in ways that don't reinforce the person/the body/the subject as unchanging and essential?

And, the converse...

How can we talk about the person/the body/the subject as not essential and in flux in ways that don't ignore the lived (and embodied) experiences of a person/persons in their situated practices (and particularly, as Dolan/Mittra and Gajjala/Rak all discuss in different ways, their diverse sexual practices)?

These questions speak to a tension within queering theory (and within Judith Butler's work) that we will push at all semester. So, keep it in mind.

QUERY: Does this set of questions make sense to you? Post a comment explaining them in your own words OR post a comment in which you ask a question about what you don't understand.

Queer Blogging: Some Sources

This entry is also posted here.

It is the first week of the semester. In anticipation of my blog experiment in queering theory, we are reading several essays on queer blogging. While I have spent some time thinking about feminist blogging and have read a few articles about the (specifically) feminist possibilities of blogging for teaching/thinking/activism, I have not given that much attention to all of this in relation to queer/queering. For class today, we are discussing: Jill Dolan's "Blogging on Queer Connections in the Arts and the Five Lesbian Brothers" (2005), Rahul Mitra's and Radhika Gajjala's "Queer Blogging in Indian Digital Diaspora: A Dialogic Encounter" (2008), and, if we have time, Julie Rak's "The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity" (2005). Here are some notes/thoughts about the readings:

Dolan. "Blogging on Queer Connections..."
In this article, which was written in 2005, Dolan discusses her experiences creating and writing in her feminist/queer/arts blog, The Feminist Spectator. The article is divided into three parts. First, Dolan offers some reflections on why she started her blog. Second, she provides, with only a few minor revisions, an entry from her blog on a performance in New York City by the Five Lesbian Brothers (here is the original entry from her blog). Third and finally, she offers some concluding thoughts (responses and reflections) on her blog entry and on blogging in general.

Initially I chose this article for us to read for a couple of reasons. First, Dolan offers some brief reflections on why blogging is a useful way to write and think which can be helpful as we try to understand how and why we will use the blog in the course. And second, she provides us with an example of blog writing that doesn't fit the popular image of blog writing as confessional and purely personal (okay, perhaps we should interrogate what we mean by "personal" a bit do we think about personal/"person"/body in relation to Mitra/Gajjala?).

Here are the reasons Dolan gives for why she started her blog:

1. Immediate critical (thinking) writing: A blog allows her to write in a timely fashion (as opposed to waiting 6 months or much more for an academic article or book to be published). And it allows her to write about performances that don't usually get much attention. The idea of immediate critical writing is something that I also like about the blog. I really appreciate the fact that I can read an article (like this one) and immediately post my critical reactions to it on my blog.

A note of caution: The critical aspect of this process is crucial. Effective blog writing, for Dolan and for me/my course, goes beyond immediately posting every reaction to an idea or article. Effective blog writing requires critical reflection and the filtering and shaping of your reactions into a coherent and focused response.

In her concluding remarks, Dolan cautions against the dangers of immediate writing in her own blog. She writes:

I've found, in my very maiden adventures in blogging, that its immediacy lends it to an aura of risk. That is, rather than running my ideas through an intermediary like an editor, I offer them here with much less outside manipulation and consideration. The freedom of such a venue in which to write appeals to me; at the same time, I worry that I've been intemperate, already, in my writing here (505).

I agree with this caution. In previous entries, like here, I have talked about the dangers of immediacy, especially for students who are all fired up at 2 AM after reading a particularly problematic article for class. Here was the tentative conclusion that I came to in that entry:

The trick, I think, is to find a way to balance the benefits of immediate access (to expressing ideas, to connecting with others) with the necessity of posting thoughtful, responsible and accountable entries.

Perhaps one way to create this balance is to find ways to remember that blog writing is always for an audience that we are (whether we recognize it or not) accountable to and responsible for. I briefly talk about blog audiences here.

2. Freedom. Dolan wants to start her blog so that she can write as much as she wants. In her past experiences writing more immediate reviews of non-mainstream performances for small papers/dailies, she was limited to a very short word count. This prevented her from going beyond the "slash-and-burn, 200-word consumer reporting that too often characterizes arts coverage" (August 25, 2005). Because she wants to "stage a more deliberate, extended, generous kind of conversation about things I see at the theater, at the movies, or on television" (August 25, 2005), she wants to be able to write much longer entries.

I like her point here, but I wonder: Does limiting the number of words necessarily lead to a less thought out entry? Is it possible to engage "deeply" and critically with a topic in 200 words or less? On this trouble blog, I have experimented with this possibility (see here). Does it work? I am not sure, but there is something helpful about learning to communicate an idea/concept succinctly.

3. An outside/outsider space. Drawing upon her training and experiences, Dolan wants to write a blog that deals with gender and race and that is written from a queer perspective. Her blog is aimed at those outside of mainstream media. A blog allows her to stay on the outside, to not be (as) concerned with any "mainstream readership" and what they might think or understand about her queer musing on gender/race/identity.

Questions: Is a blog an outsider space? A queer space? If so, how? Is it always outside? Do you see any ways that a blog can/does perpetuate dominate ideologies or participate in oppressive systems?

4. A specific (friendly) audience. Consider what Dolan writes about her ideal audience:

I was looking for a forum to read friends, colleagues, and other sympathetic readers interested in a discussion about the meanings of the arts in this moment in U.S. culture. I think, in fact, I was looking for a place to preach to the converted through a more in-depth discourse about the interrelationship between the arts, identity, and culture (492).

Questions: Is this the type of audience we want to create for our blog? What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing for sympathetic readers? Dolan links the idea of a friendly audience with "preaching to the converted." Are these two always connected? Is it possible to write for a friendly (that is, not hostile but respectful) audience that is still critical of your ideas and comments? Should the blog be a safe space or something else?

Later in her opening comments, Dolan indicates that her blog is meant to be widely accessible and aimed at "any reader/spectator/practitioner" or "citizen/scholar/artist" who is committed to the arts (493). I really like this term, citizen/scholar/artist, and her description of what she wants to do in her blog.

What do you want to do in our blog? Who do you want to read it? What audiences are you writing for/to/with?

Mitra/Gajjala. "Queer Blogging in Indian Digital Diasporas"
This essay is a "dialogic encounter" between two scholars (one a grad student, the other an associate professor at Bowling Green State) who do research on and participate in "queering in the Indian digital diaspora" (400). The tone is very different from Dolan and so is the focus. Whereas Dolan looks at her own (individual) experiences of creating and writing in a blog about performance and art, Mitra and Gajjala weave their own performances of blogging (by interjecting entries/comments into their essay) together with other bloggers' entries and comments and with theorizing about queer Indian identity/blogging, power, and blogs as spaces of situated practice.

Situated Practices: Dolan is focused (almost exclusively) on writing about her own blogging as the (somewhat situated) practice of an individual critical thinker/spectator/graduate program director in the U.S. who writes about peformance and writes to others who value/engage in exploring arts and their meanings in U.S. culture. In her concluding remarks, she does offer a few cautionary words, but her overall tone reflects hope and excitement about the possibilities that blogging opens up for citizen/scholar/artists like her. Mitra and Gjjala are focused on providing a space for thinking about/reflecting on both queer blogging and "the negotiation of online queer Identity" (402). Their intent is not to celebrate the blog as a liberating space for oppressed populations to express themselves, but to examine "how queer/GLBT presences are manifested in blog spaces" (402). And they want to present/perform their own researching and writing of their article as the situated practice of queer bloggers/researchers who are (re)negotiating institutional power in relation to dichotomies of public vs. private, offline vs. online and person (as identity/Queer) vs. practice (non-normative sexual practices).

Personal and the Person: Dolan is interested in distancing her own version of blogging, what she calls "ruminations" and "think pieces" on arts and culture, from the personal (that is, confessional and self-revelatory) online journal writing that she imagines dominates much of the blog writing currently online. Mitra and Gajjala are interested in paying careful attention to how queer performativity as public gets separated from queer sexual practices as private. They are wary of the validation of the Person (as a Queer identity/Subject) over practices (of that queer person) and the promotion of the web as queer because it allows disembodied performances where no one knows who you are or what you do (401). They write:

In this article, we post this question implicitly while further examining the implications of the private and public separations that lead to the separating of sexual practice from queer practice so that particular queered speech and performativity are placed in the public space and expected to stand in for queer formations while specific situated queer practice is shifted to the invisible private space still not to be revealed for fear of consequence (411).

In considering this question, they want to attend to the specific ways that persons (particularly queer Indian bloggers) negotiate power online and offline. They devote the second half of their article to a discussion of three different ways that the dichotomy (public/private; Person/practice; online/offline) gets constructed and reinforced: 1. offline marginalization--can they be "out" and visible as queer? acceptance as Queer as long as queer acts are invisible (414-415), 2. online queer representation--issues of access to technology, to language, to proper queer behavior (415-417), 3. Being anonymous--confession and highly individualized construction of self and readership online (417-419).

Blogging and the Individual: This brings us to the individual and to Julie Rak's article, "The Digital Queer." In addition to giving a helpful overview of the history of blogging, Rak provides a detailed discussion of the rhetoric of queer blogging (this is something that Mitra and Gajjala take up explictly at the end of their article). Her main argument: blogging = some form of liberalism which = the Individual (their value and rights) + freedom of expression (172). In this equation, bloggers are individuals who are able, through technology, to freely express themselves and communicate to a wide range of others. They can do so anonymously (173), and while deliberately and carefully negotiating the public and private (173-174). Their blog posts are intended to honestly and accurately represent who they are; the blog allows them to be "real" (174-175). Their blog posts also enable them to connect with other, like-minded bloggers.

Rak sees two problems with this liberal ideology for queer blogging/bloggers. First, in representing themselves as a "real" individual who deliberately negotiates the web, bloggers are reinforcing their own (blog/queer) identity as essential and fixed. This identity gets further reified through the process of categorization and the classifying of specific blogs as "queer." Rak writes:

The act of classification is a social act in the blogger community that works to create recognizable subjects who do not shift. Therefore, queer blogging does not feature the kind of subjectivity described in queer theory or in cyberculture studies as these areas have been influenced by postmodernist ideas about identity (177).

Second, the reification of Queer (as an identity, as a category for blogs) flattens out the differences between those who identify as queer and engage in queer practices. And it focuses (almost exclusively) on the practices of one version of queer experience--living in the U.S., American, English-speaking, located in large urban area, left-wing or liberal in political beliefs. For Rak, it seems, queer blogging is a privileged activity (179-180, also cited in Mitra/Gajjala, 420). This particular queer experience also seems to be conservative in terms of sexual identity, sexual practice and writing style. None of the blogs that Rak read experimented with representation in a "postmodern" way (what does she exactly mean by this?) (179).

Rak concludes her essay by discussing how the technical process of categorizing/classifying blogs through keywords contributes to the lack of differences among/between queer bloggers.

Questions: What are the politics of keywords and tag clouds? Are they useful or problematic or both? How could we use tag clouds to organize our blog in ways that don't overemphasize similarities at the expense of differences?

How can blogger/bloggers experiment with the representation of themselves in a "postmodern" and/or queer way? What might a "queer" subject (not just in terms of content but in terms of subject formation/representation) look like?

How to Blog, a primer

Step 1: Getting Started or How to Log In and Set up my Alias

1. Go to
This is the UThink main site for U of M blogs.

2. Log in by clicking on the link (login to UThink) located under About Uthink on the right hand side of the page.

3. If you are not already logged into the system, you will be required to submit your x500 and your password. If you are already logged in then clicking on login should take you directly to your Dashboard. Your dashboard will list any blogs for which you are an author (courses, personal blogs). To access our blog, click on "System Overview" at the top on the left hand side. I have added all of you to our blog as authors, so you should see our course, "Queering Theory: Fall 2009) on your list of blogs. Click on it.

4. Now you should be on the author page for our blog. This is where you can create entries, upload files, and insert images.

5. For those of you who haven't used UThink before: You can set up your own alias for posting. This means that when you post an entry or a make a comment, only your alias will show (not your email address or your name). As the blog administrator, I will be the only person who knows that it is you posting. If you are a little nervous about posting, this is a good way to stay somewhat anonymous.

Step 2
: Creating a Basic Entry

6. Now that you are on the author (or, the behind-the-scenes) site for our blog and now that you have signed in and created your posting name/alias for our blog, you can create an entry. Click on create (located on the right hand side right above--or between--the course title) and scroll down to entry. Click on it.

7. You should now be on a page titled "Create Entry." You can create a title for your entry by typing in the box, "Title." Then, type your entry in the bigger box below.

8. A note about body vs. extended entry: Above the big box where you type your entry, there are two options: body and extended. If you are writing a particularly long entry, you could post the opening paragraph in the body section and then the rest of the entry in the extended section. When people look at your entry on the blog, they will only see the part you wrote in the body with a link at the bottom that says something like: "continue reading entry x." This can be helpful in making the blog visually more compact, but it not necessary.

9. When you are finished typing your entry, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click on save (If you want to preview your entry first, click on preview. This can be helpful in making sure that you formatted everything correctly and that you put in the right address for your links). Once you have saved the entry, click on the view site button which is located at the end of the row that starts with the "create" button.

10. A note about tags: Right after the text box (where you type your entry) is a much smaller box labeled "tags." Tags work like key words and can be used to identify the key topics in your blog. So, if you are writing a blog about Roseanne as a queer character or the Twilight series as reinforcing heterosexual romance, you could tag your entry with the keywords: Roseanne, television shoes, working class, anti-capitalism or Mormonism, heteronormativity, vampires. Type the keywords in and separate them with commas. Put these keywords in before you save your entry. These tags will be reflected in our tag cloud which is located midway down on the right hand side.

Step 3: Creating links, inserting images and embedding youtube clips.*
*These should all be done before you hit save and post your entry.

11. Links: Okay, so now you have typed in your brilliant entry about the queer relationship between Harry Potter and his mentor, Albus Dumbledore, but the whole thing looks kind of...boring. One basic way to make it more interesting (not to mention interactive) is by adding in links to other sources (that you have referenced in your entry or that point to more information on the topic or that offer a different perspective). For the purpose of our blogs, your links should not merely be thrown into your text. Instead, you must address and explain them (but more on that later). Technically speaking, the way to add a link is to highlight the text that you want to create a link for (like David Halperin and his discussion of pederasty in ancient Greece). Then click on the image of the chain (you will find this image in the row of buttons above the text book). Enter the address for the link and then click on save.

12. Images: But, wait, you say. Links aren't enough. You want more things to add to your entry. You want images.

a. First, find the image you want. Probably the easiest way to do this is opening up a new tab, going on Google images and putting in a keyword to search. That's where I have found most of my the one to my left. Because this is a basic primer, let's stick with google images. So, you have typed in "Desperate Housewives" and found a great image of Bree that you want to use. Click on the image. Then click on "see full size image". Drag the image onto your desktop. Now you are ready to upload the image into your entry.

b. Now, switch back to the entry you have been working on. Put your cursor at the place in your text that you want the image to appear (like where you are discussing Bree). Then click on the button (which is a few after the link button) that looks like an image and is called "insert image." Click on the "new upload image" link and then browse on your desktop for the image of the Bree that you just found on google images. Now that the new image is uploaded, you will be given a bunch of file options. It is up to you how you want the image to look, but here is what I usually do. I click on "display image in entry," "use thumbnail (manually adding in a width of 150 pixels)" and "Link image to full-size version in a popup window." In terms of alignment--left, right, or center--pick whichever works best for you.

13. Youtube clips: Now that you have started adding things, you can't stop. Links and images aren't enough. You want to embed cool youtube clips in your entry. Here's how:

a. First, find the youtube clip that you want. Open up another tab and go to youtube. I put in "Susan Stryker" as a keyword search and found these really cool book reviews for Trans/Queer related texts by the scholar, Reese Kelly.


I haven't had a chance to watch them yet, but maybe they could serve as a good model for an entry for our blog?

Now, you need to embed the clip. To do this, you need to find the embed box (located on the right hand side in the gray box under the URL), highlight the embed text and copy it.

Note: For a fancier version of the youtube clip you can now customize your embed clips. At the end of the embed box you will find a blue gear image. When you scroll over it it should say "customize." Click on it. Now you can pick a color scheme for the border of your clip (I recommend green to match our site) and a size (I would say 500 X 405). Now copy the embed text and follow the next step.

b. Now go back to your entry and put your cursor on the place that you want to insert the youtube clip. Before pasting it in, make sure that you have changed the format (located above the insert image button) to none (away from rich text or covert line breaks). The embed text will not work in rich text; it will just show up like a bunch of code. Once you have switched the format to none, paste in the embed text. You are done and ready to save!

Why Blog?

Welcome. This is the blog for GWSS 4403/GLBT 4403. Hopefully it will play a central role in our discussion of and engagement with the material. While only class members (the professor and the students enrolled in the course) can post new entries, the blog will be open to the larger public (for reading and commenting).

Having used blogs in my courses for over three years now (11 blogs total), I am slowing discovering how valuable they can be for:

  • Developing community between students
  • Enabling students to engage with the material and each other in different ways
  • Encouraging students to really think about and process the ideas
  • Helping all of us to organize our thoughts and ideas
  • Providing a central location for posting information and handouts
  • Allowing for a space outside of the classroom for engaging with the readings and each other
But blogs aren't just useful for creating connections between students (or teacher and students or students and other communities). I spent the summer writing in my own blog, Trouble, and I discovered that blog writing can make you (the writer) a better writer and thinker. This is especially true if you write in your blog on a regular basis. I wrote every couple of days this summer and I found that by the end of August my critical thinking skills were in much better shape then when I started in May. I also found that my understanding of my chosen term--trouble--had grown deeper and richer over the summer as I creatively explored different ways in which to engage with it.

Writing in a blog alleviated a lot of my anxiety about "serious" writing; somehow posting an entry didn't seem as intimidating as writing a formal manuscript. Writing in a blog also encouraged me to make new connections between ideas in unexpected ways. I found myself applying theoretical/political concepts like Michel Foucault's notion of curiosity or Judith Butler's notion of gender trouble to children's movies (Horton Hears a Who) and television shows (Hannah Montana). Not only did this experience allow me to reflect on these concepts but it also helped me to really understand them as I worked to translate them into more accessible language. For more on how/why I wrote in my blog, check out my about pages here and here.

It is my hope that the experience of writing in our course blog will enable you to develop your critical thinking skills and enhance your understanding of queer and queering theory. It is also my hope that writing in our blog will inspire you to keep writing and thinking and questioning and connecting.

Course Books

The following books are required for our course this semester. They are available at the U of M Bookstore in Coffman. In addition to these books, course readings will be available through our WebCT site. Occasionally, readings will be available on this blog (scroll down and look under "readings" on the right hand side).

9780415389556.jpgJudith Butler's Gender Trouble. While we won't be reading all of this book, it will serve as a key starting point for many of our conversations about queering theory, Butler and important queering terms. Originally written in 1990, this book is considered by many to be a "founding" text for queer studies. Her notion of gender as performance, her reflection on drag as a practice of parody, and her critical engagement with feminism/feminist theory of the 1990s are all dealt with in this groundbreaking work.

butler.jpgJudith Butler's Undoing Gender. Written in 2004, this collection of essays serves as a continuation of some of the key issues concerning gender and sexuality that Butler first raised in Gender Trouble. Here is her description: "The essays included here represent some of my most recent work on gender and sexuality focusing on the question of what it might mean to undo restrictively normative conceptions of sexual and gendered life" (1). In these essays, Butler links her work with "new gender politics," which she describes as: "a combination of movements concerned with transgender, transsexuality, intersex, and their complex relations to feminist and queer theory" (4). 


9781580051842.jpgNobody Passes. The subtitle of this book is "Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity." It is an edited collection that brings together a wide range of authors who all reflect, in very different ways, on their experiences of assimilation and not passing. In their introduction, Mattilda discusses the experience of creating such an anthology and the resistance they received from their editors because they refused to focus their book exclusively on gender and sexuality.

Note:The U just upgraded the blog system (to Movable Type 4) this summer and I am still becoming familiar with its new features. This has been my first attempt at uploading images.


Welcome to the blog for GWSS 4403/GLBT 4403. Here is the syllabus for class. And here is a brief description of the course:

In this upper level seminar we will use the work of Judith Butler as our focal point for tracing multiple practices of queering theory and mapping the shifting terrain of the term "queer" and its role within critical sexuality studies. After beginning with the investigation of some preliminary questions--What is queering theory? and Who is Judith Butler?--we will spend the rest of the course engaging in practices of queering through, beside and against Butler. Drawing upon readings by Butler and putting them into conversation with a wide range of important queer thinkers (Foucault, Halberstam, Sedgwick, Moraga, Edelman, Gopinath, Munoz, Anzaldua and more), we will explore some terms/concepts that are central to understanding and engaging in queering theory: 1. Gender, 2. Performativity, 3. the Abject, 4. Resistance, 5. Trouble (being in it, making it and staying in it), 6. Norms and 7. Queer Time.

Some questions that will come up this semester include:

  1. Is queer theory a matter of doing or being? Can it be both?
  2. How does Butler engage in queering theory?
  3. Is Butler a "bad writer" or a difficult writer?
  4. What (if anything) is important about distinguishing between bad and difficult writing?
  5. How has Butler's understanding and promotion of queer(ing) theory changed since the writing of Gender Trouble in 1990?
  6. What does it mean to trouble gender? Who can trouble gender? When is troubling gender subverting dominant norms and when is it merely reinforcing those norms?
  7. What are the political and ethical possibilities of queering theory?
  8. What can queer theory do with norms (besides rejecting them)?
  9. Does queering theory have a future? If so, what kind?