Notes for Questions 2/18/09
Notes on Questions
That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation
Some of the writing is reminiscent of Homi Bhabha’s notion that all changes come from the borders or margins of society. But, is this the same as an outside? What constitutes a border region? Butler theorizes inside/ outside as constantly shifting notions that are mutually constitutive. The various authors in That’s Revolting offer different notions of inside/outside that are complex and different. For instance, in the “Legalize Sodomy” essay, whether one is inside or outside prison is shifted by the legalization of certain sexual practices. However, the barrier is merely shifted, as other sexual practices are still criminalized. This is true both of the inside/ outside the law barrier and the power/pleasure/ “outsider” status border that is operative in such situations.
The academy is another inside/ outside construct developed by various authors in the collection. It is restricted and codified discursive space. How does this relate to Butler’s notion of internal critique? She offers a critique from within feminism not to tear it down but to productively push its boundaries from within. Is this a useful construction of how to be a “freak” or “troublemaker” without the traditional trappings, such as being an “outside” voice? In this way, does this book valorize the “outsider” position? Does it do so uncritically? Furthermore, it is possible to look at some visions of outsider identity as necessitating a utopian impulse or organizing vision. Is there a way to insist on negation without these future-oriented ideas?
Troublemaking through (And the Trouble with) Affinity Politics
The question of social movement is central to That’s Revolting. When does organizing break down? Why? When do these movements start replicating the same hierarchical structures of dominant society? How did ACT-UP, never wanting to be an “insider” group, still end up as an institution? Can a real-deal, trouble-making queer really be part of an organization or group? (p.256). Assumed similarities/ goals need to be analyzed to organize without identity as central. Can it be a queer project and still be inclusive? This type of coalition politics are supposed to be hard, provisional (Bernice Reagan Johnson). However, we always organize with friends and people we already know. Are shared values a stumbling block for critique? Is there an element of anti-intellectualism in organizing that doesn’t allow constant, fracturing, internal critique? The focus on action in some groups can be seen to exile thinking in some instances.
Is “resisting assimilation” about how you position yourself in relation to a dominant? Can such a framework be considered a purely “negative” politics? If assimilation is conceived of as some form of conformity with dominant structures, then resisting it outright may be a way to consistently negate dominant identity. However, this notion of the outside as place constituted by those on the margins as a place of minority identity. Is taking part in such an identification a “positive” project that rearticulates dominant notions of identity and social organization?
Pride, Creating Public and Personal (Bodily?) Space, and Not Being a Victim
Does being a parent require a certain level of assimilation? Can you remain a queer when others constantly assume you are a normal, heterosexual parent with a child? p. 104. The discussion of these issue in That’s Revolting do not resolve the issue of whether assimilation is conferred by others or about self-definition. Do you have to resist the way others may simple identify you as a normal? Performativity is key here. How do you perform resistance? Who polices these performances of oppositional identity? These issues have been considered in the study of subcultures by British Cultural Studies theorists (Dick Hebdige Subculture: The Meaning of Style). Is it an issue of intent?