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Day 18: December 7

More on Sara Ahmed and The Promise of Happiness for today. Before getting into that discussion, here our a few reminders:

  • Last week @nosecage asked if you would all be turning in your blog folders for a third time. While I initially answered "no," I have since realized that you will need to turn them in/email them to me a third time on the last day of class (a week from today on 12/14!).
  • Your remaining assignments are due on the last day of class. Here's a reminder about a few final assignments. Also, here's a breakdown of your final wrap-up:
It should be roughly 500-700 words and should include the following: 
  1. A summary of your thoughts on tracking your term/author/organization: what you learned about the term, a tentative definition of the term, what you thought about the experience of tracking your term. 
  2.  Some of your thoughts about participating on the blog and twitter this semester. What did you think about the assignments? Were they helpful in your critical exploration of our readings? Did they enable you to engage more/less with other students and/or with the topics? Did these assignments enable you to engage in queering our class/queering the academy? 
  3. You can also include any advice for me as I develop future versions of these assignments or advice for future students who will engage on the blog. What do you wish you would have known when you started class/started blogging? What would you like to tell other students?

Okay, now onto more discussion about The Promise of Happiness, especially the "Unhappy Queers." I know that the diablog group will be discussing this chapter on Thursday too. For today's class, we will continue building off of our killjoy discussion by critically exploring what happiness does and how to think about the value of unhappiness. While there are many ways to get into this discussion, I thought we could frame it around a popular topic of the semester: the "it gets better" campaign. In particular, I want to read the better in Dan Savage's "it gets better" video beside/through/against happiness and some of Ahmed's passages about it. 

First, let's watch the video again. As you are watching it, think about how Dan and his partner explicitly define better and implicitly define happiness. 


Consider the following passages from Ahmed:

  1. The recognition of queers can be narrated as the hope or promise of becoming acceptable, where in being acceptable you much become acceptable to a world that has already decided what is acceptable (106).
  2. One could also ask whether queer happiness involves an increasing proximity to social forms that are already attributed as happiness-causes (the family, marriage, class mobility, whiteness), which of course suggests that promoting queer happiness might involve promoting social forms in which other queers will not be able to participate (112).
  3. Our question becomes: can we sustain the struggle for recognition, the struggle to make the world bearable for queers, without approximating the very forms of happy heterosexuality (114)?
Pick one of the three passages from above and spend about 10 minutes writing a response.  

Now, let's watch another response/contribution to "it gets better" (thanks to reina):


Consider this video in relation to these two Ahmed passages: 

  1. To narrate unhappiness can be affirmative; it can gesture toward another world, even if we are not given a vision of the world as it might exist after the walls of misery are brought down (107). 
  2. We need to think more about the relationship between the queer struggle for a bearable life and aspirational hopes for a good life....I think the struggle for a bearable life is the struggle for queers to have space to breathe. If queer politics is about freedom, it might simply mean the freedom to breathe (120).
Drawing upon one or both of the above passages, spend another 10 minutes writing a response. Does this second "it gets better" video offer up a space to breath? Does it gesture toward another world?

See my whole handout, with more Ahmed passages, after the jump. 

Day 17: November 22

Today we begin talking about our sole book for the course: Sara Ahmed's The Promise of Happiness. Before we get into that discussion, a few announcements:

  • Check out my post with info about the blog folder, upcoming due dates, and the remix/revisit/redux DE assignment. 
  • No class on Thursday--Thanksgiving
  • Any questions or comments?
Who is Sara Ahmed? Visit her faculty page at Goldsmiths, University of London. You can read her research profile, research interests and publications. Here's a blurb about The Promise of Happiness:

The Promise of Happiness (2010) considers how we are directed toward certain objects by the promise of happiness, such that we "happen" upon those things that are already attributed as happiness causes. In this book, I explore how the freedom to pursue "whatever" makes us happy is directive: we are free to pursue this "whatever" on condition that it causes happiness, which as a condition involves an implicit demand that we make certain choices. Drawing on feminist, queer and anti-racist "unhappy archives," as archives that are assembled out of the struggle against happiness, the book considers happiness by taking up those who enter its history as "wretches", "killjoys" and "affect aliens." It analyses how one history of happiness is the history of the removal of the hap from happiness, and calls not only for "the freedom to be unhappy," but for a politics that puts the "hap" back into happiness.
Now, onto The Promise of Happiness. There are many different ways to approach the feminist killjoy (and how it connects with our discussions this semester). Here are just a few:

Shift attention from "what is happiness?" to "What does happiness do?"

THE HAPPY HOUSEWIFE: How does the "happy housewife" function on mommy blogs? Check out these google searches: mommy blogs happy and happy housewife blogs 
Here's what Ahmed has to say about this type of blogging:

On the internet, we witness a new generation of bloggers who take on this identity of 'the happy housewife.' These bloggers use the opportunity of the public space generated by new technologies to make public their claim of happiness (53). 

Ahmed doesn't devote much time to social media and happiness. Does the myth of this "happy housewife" get reinforced on i or other forms of social media? If so, how?

Key claim: "the very hope for happiness means we get directed in specific ways, as happiness is assumed to follow from some life choices and not others" (54). What life choices are supposed to lead to happiness and which are not? Who gets to decide what leads to happiness and how are those decisions made?

The face of happiness, at least in this description, looks rather like the face of privilege. Rather than assuming happiness is simply found in "happy persons," we can consider how claims to happiness make certain forms of personhood valuable (11). 

Promoting happiness promotes certain ways of living (over others) and certain types of families (11). 

"Ideas of happiness involve social as well as moral distinctions insofar as they rest on ideas of who is worthy as well as capable of being happy 'in the right way'" (13). What conclusions can we draw about what happiness is from this commercial (check out the comments on youtube too)? Is this happiness in the "right way"? 



  1. Suspending belief that happiness is a good thing. "This book proceeds by suspending belief that happiness is a good thing [note: not by rejecting but suspending belief]. In this mode of suspension, we can consider not only what makes happiness good but how happiness participates in making things good....My task is to think about how feelings make some things and not others good" (13). 
  2. Tracking the word happiness: "In order to consider how happiness makes things good, I track the word happiness, asking what histories are evoked by the mobility of this word. I follow the word happiness around" (14). 
  3. Exploring the happiness archive: "a set of ideas, thoughts, narratives, images, impressions about what is happiness" (15). 
  4. Asking questions about happiness and its history/histories: "what does it mean to think of happiness as having a history? How or why should we write such a history? Who or what would belong in this history" (16)?
  5. Rewriting history from the point of view of the wretch: "I thus offer an alternative history of happiness not simply by offering different readings of its intellectual history but by considering those who are banished from it, or who enter this history only as troublemakers, dissenters, killers of joy" (17). 
  6. Giving the killjoy a voice: "This book is an attempt to give the killjoy back [their] voice and to speak from recognition of how it feels to inhabit that place" (20). 
  7. Not spreading unhappiness but making room for other ways of living/imaging life: "I know that I risk overemphasizing the problems with happiness by presenting happiness as a problem. It is a risk that I am willing to take. If this book kills joy, then it does what it says we should do. To kill to open a life, to make room for life, to make room for possibility, for chance. My aim in this book is to make room" (20). 


Going along with this duty [to make parents/others happy] can mean simply approximating the signs of being happy--passing as happy--in order to keep things in the right place. Feminist genealogies can be described as genealogies of women who not only do not place their hopes for happiness in the right things but who speak out about their unhappiness with the very obligation to be made happy by such things. The history of feminism is thus a history of making refusing to follow other people's goods, or by refusing to make others happy (60).

Happiness shapes what coheres as a world (2).


While I am not sure that we would consider Debbie Downer a feminist killjoy, Ahmed's discussion about the polite politics at the dinner table reminded me of the SNL skit (with Rachel Dratch) in which Debbie Downer "ruins" Thanksgiving dinner for her family. What isn't "right"/goes wrong in this family dinner? Does Debbie Downer simply kill the joy of the others or does she read that joy from the perspective of the "wretched"?

Here is a (just) slightly different version of what Ahmed writes on page 61:

What do we make of this clip? How does humor function in this skit? What kind of killjoy is Debbie Downer? Is she a feminist one--or some other type? Can we envision her killing of joy as ever being productive or leading to transformation? Or is it (too) easy to dismiss? How can we read this second Thanksgiving scene beside/against/through the first one (Publix commercial)?

Here's another humorous clip that envisions the woman (is she a feminist killjoy?) killing the joy at a dinner party by speaking her mind and thinking too much:


Is she a feminist killjoy? Consider the following passages in relation to the video clip:

We might explore how imagination [being curious and thinking critically] is what allows women to be liberated from happiness and the narrowness of its horizons (62).
Screen shot 2010-11-23 at 9.24.12 AM.png
But if we do not operate in this economy--that is, if we do not assume that happiness is what is good--then we can read the link between female imagination and unhappiness differently. We might explore how imagination is what allows women to be liberated from happiness and the narrowness of horizons. We might want the girls to read the books that enable them to be overwhelmed with grief (62). 

We can talk about being angry black women or feminist killjoys; we can claim those figures back; we can talk about those conversations we have had at dinner tables or in seminars or meetings; we can laugh in recognition of the familiarity of inhabiting that place. There is solidarity in recognizing our alienation from happiness, even if we do not inhabit the same place (as we do not). There can even be joy in killing joy. And kill joy, we must and we do (87). 

FYI: I have written about these ideas in several different blog entries. Check them out:
  • on Debbie Downer and unhappiness in relation to grief here
  • on Ahmed and the feminist killjoy here 
  • on Ahmed and the feminist killjoy for class discussion here

Day Sixteen: November 9

Before we get into our discussion, a few announcements:

  • No class next Tuesday. Attend the conference instead. Class on Thursday.

Interrogating Complicities: Postcolonial, Queer, and the Threat Of the Nonnormative
Monday, November 15- Tuesday, November 16

*Note: We will have class on Thursday. Please attend as many panels as you can. The panel during our class is "Plotting Resistance" 11:00-12:30, Nolte Center, Room 140.

Reading: (for DIABLOG discussion on Thursday)
Arondekar, Anjali. "Without a Trace: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive"

  • Blog Reading Mash-up is due by next Monday (11/15). Here's a reminder on the assignment.
  • I'm running really behind on blog folders. Therefore, you don't need to turn them in on the 16th of this month. Instead, you can turn them in after Thanksgiving (11.29). 
Now, our discussion:

This week the focus of our discussion is on the question, No future? While there are many ways in which we could critically reflect on the question of the future, I want to spend some time today thinking about these readings beside/against/through the claim, as it is articulated in the Dan Savage video, that "it gets better." What sort of future does this "better" suggest? Is it too tied to Edelman's reproductive futurism? Or, can we imagine it as an utopian horizon of potentiality that opens up spaces for creating new worlds outside of straight time?

In order to think about the "future" and no future?, let's look at a few different "mainstream" visions of it. These visions, all expressed through song, were produced between 1961-1982. 

1. Annie: Tomorrow (1982)

In No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, Lee Edelman has some harsh words for Annie , both her optimistic vision of the future and her figuring as the (only) Future. Note: These harsh words can also be found in Edelman's 2nd footnote in "The Anti-social thesis in queer theory": 

Screen shot 2010-11-09 at 9.17.30 AM.pngEdelman is particularly critical of the image of the Child and its reinforcing of a narrow vision of the future as reproductive futurism (exemplified by Annie in her song). Tim Dean offers the following definition of reproductive futurism: "dominant ideology of the social, which sees it in terms of a future requiring not only reproduction but protection and that therefore represents futurity in the image of the innocent child" (827). 

Michael Snediker discusses Edelman and Annie in an essay on queer optimism, writing:

If Edelman opines that all forms of optimism eventually lead to Little Orphan Annie singing "Tomorrow," and therefore that all forms of optimism must be met with queer death-driven irony's "always explosive force" (31), I oppositely insist that optimism's limited cultural and theoretical intelligibility might not call for optimism to be rethought along non-futural lines (26).

How does optimism function in this song? Can we imagine an idea of optimism that does not rely on a futural promise in the ways that Annie does? Must a belief in (the possibility of) better futures always look like this? Is this what is meant by the project, "it gets better"?

Check out the lyrics for "Tomorrow." What do you make of the line, "I love ya tomorrow"? How can we think about Annie's song in relation to Munoz and his claim that queerness is "not yet here" and that "we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds" (Introduction, 1)? Is Annie's desiring of tomorrow a form of utopia--maybe as abstract, banal optimism instead of the concrete hopes of a collective or a solitary oddball (Introduction, 3)?

2. Jackson/Flack: You Don't have to Change at All (1974)

Here's another vision of optimism, from the Micheal Jackson/Roberta Flack song in Free to be...You and Me. [For more on this song and its connections to hope and troublemaking, check out my blog entry, Michael Jackson, the 1970s version (pre-MTV, pre-surgery, pre-loss of hope, pre-spectacle)]


What vision of hope and/or optimism is present in this video? What similarities/differences do you see between this vision and Annie's vision? How does the future work? How does Jackson's/Flack's vision of past/present/future fit or fail to fit with the "it gets better" project? Does this vision offer up a nostalgia for past/lost innocence? A defiant rejection of "growing up" (and a queering of straight time)? 

3. West Side Story: Somewhere (1961)

Towards the end of his "it gets better" video, Dan Savage invokes, "Somewhere" and the idea that there is a place for gay youth. Starting at 6 mins 47 sec in, he says:

If my adult self could talk to my 14 year old self and tell him anything, I would tell him to really believe the lyrics to "Somewhere" from West Side Story. There really is a place for us. There really is a place for you. And one day you will have friends who love and support you. You will find love. You will find a community. And that life gets better. 

What do we make of this song and Savage's invoking of it, in relation to Munoz and his vision of utopia: Is this "place for us" a horizon of hope? What tensions do you see between the present and the future in Savage's words? 

On page 3 of his introduction, Munoz distinguishes between abstract (perhaps naive, merely affirmative?) utopia and concrete utopia. What sort of concrete vision of a better future does Savage and his partner offer in this video?

Now, let's watch the "It Gets Better" video:


On page 25 of his intro to Disidentifications, Munoz argues for the need to "risk utopianism if we are to engage in the labor of making a queer world" (Gopinath cites this in their discussion of Munoz). What does it mean to "risk utopianism"--the utopianism of the everyday? He also writes: "The critical work that utopian thought does, in its most concise and lucid formulation, allows us to see different worls and realities. And this conjured reality instructs us that the "here and now" is simply not enough" (171). 

Think about the idea of "it gets better" in relation to JHalb and their discussion of expanding the gay archive of negative affects:


Is it possible to have space for a utopic (yet concrete and imagined) "somewhere" and spaces for "rage, rudeness, anger, spite, impatience, intensity, mania, sincerity, earnestness, over-investment, incivility, and brutal honesty" (824)? Hmm...what if we throw the kids in the FCKH8 campaign into the mix here (anyone up for a mash-up video?)? Straight Talk About Gay Marriage from on Vimeo.

Not enough videos for you? After the jump, check out some videos mentioned in the "After Jack" video, including a trailer for the documentary on Jack Smith, Dynasty Handbag's Hell in a Handbag, several videos from My Barbarian and a Kalup Linzy's performance of "Asshole." Try to watch (at least some of) these before class on Thursday.

Day Fifteen: November 2

Last week we had a very productive discussion about queer/ing children. The diablog group did an excellent job of setting us up for a close reading of Kincaid's "Producing Erotic Children" on Thursday and I experimented with live-tweeting. In our discussions, we focused a lot of attention on the Child (as an image, as metaphor, as blank slate on which our stories of innocence, nostalgia, protection and purity are crafted and expressed). This week we will focus more of our attention on the impact of these (gendered/sexed/raced) stories on actual children. We will look closely at the "It Gets Better" Project; the various "stories" being circulated concerning children/youth (should we continue pushing at the distinctions between child, youth, adolescent, teenager, etc here?), bullying and suicide; and the consequences of these stories for children/us/our activist strategies for fighting oppression. 

Revised Reading Schedule for the next two weeks:

9/11     NO FUTURE? 

  • "The Anti-Social Thesis in Queer Theory"
  • Selections from Jose Esteban Munoz: 
  1. from Cruising Utopia. "Introduction" (OPTIONAL) and "After Jack" (REQUIRED)
  2. about Cruising Utopia. Social Text: Periscope: Cruising Utopia (READ ALL 4 ENTRIES)
  3. from Disidentifications. "Introduction" (for DIABLOG DISCUSSION)

Interrogating Complicities: Postcolonial, Queer, and the Threat Of the Nonnormative
Monday, November 15- Tuesday, November 16

*Note: We will have class on Thursday. Please attend as many panels as you can on Tuesday. The panel during Tuesday's class is "Plotting Resistance" 11:00-12:30, Nolte Center, Room 140.

Reading: (for DIABLOG discussion on Thursday)
Arondekar, Anjali. "Without a Trace: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive"

Any Questions?

Reading Mash-up Assignment: Part of Reading Engagement Grade, due 11/15

  • At least 2 readings from class
  • 1 Queer This! 
  • Another Student's Direct Engagement 
  • Whatever else from our blog or other blogs that is relevant
Combine all of these to make an entry in which you critically reflect on the following question: What is queer/ing? You don't have to provide a definition of queer (although you can), just an engagement with the question and with your various sources. This entry is your opportunity to articulate your own vision and to offer it up to others to reflect on. Be creative and push yourself to engage deeply with our blog/readings. Good luck and have fun!

Oh, and in case you missed it, here's a recent entry that I posted on how to do links in comments.

Discussion: Halberstam, femmephane, questioning transphobia, Bernstein, Rowe

1. It gets better? Here are a few more links to add to the conversation: 

And an excerpt:

Some folks have criticized Savage's campaign, saying that we should not ask gay teens to stand by and accept their own bullying. I can understand that criticism, but at the same time, I can hear the message Savage is trying to convey. Adolescence is a strange, awkward period of time for most of us - we are in the process of discovering who we are, and we are still learning to navigate our peers and parents/guardians. We are starting to learn some of life's harshest lessons, and beginning the journey toward adulthood. For those of us who have left this phase in our development, we can say that it does get better. It isn't guaranteed to do so, but most adults have one thing teens lack: control over their lives. At some point, the decisions you make become those youdetermine. And that kind of control and autonomy does make a world of difference.

Also, check LaGaeta's (Tavia Nyong'o's) entry about this issue on bullybloggers: School Daze. Here's an excerpt:

As an adult I admit to finding news of teenage suicide heartbreaking. But I am young enough to remember a time when I confess to finding the phrase "teenage suicide" hilarious, reeking as it did of concern. That is, of the condescending, sentimental and moralistic attitude parents, teachers and adults take to the aggravations and ambiguities of being an adolescent, which you kind of have to survive in spite of their help. Heathers (1989) was my generational call-to-arms against both high school bullying and the inept adult response that halfheartedly steps in to confront it, only to see, reflected back, a less compromising mirror of its own determined hostility to queers, youth, and other marginal types.

I'm not sure my 13 or 14 or even 18-year-old self would have been able to identify with Savage or his hubby. And my 35-year-old self isn't so optimistic that it does just "get better." Another member of this blog once criticized the LGBT obsession with saving gay youth as perpetuating the general American idolatry with youth over aging, and that is a valid point. It's not that there aren't vulnerable young people, but there are vulnerable people of all ages. Lots of folks, particularly the gender nonconforming and/or trans, never "grow out" of the kinds of social reprisals for being physically different the hubbies talk about. Lots of people's families of origin never accept them, or are too damaged and fucked up for anyone to want to go back to, even if they could. And then there is that little issue of aging. Who'll spare a thought for the old queen?

Anyone interested in using our blog as a space for crafting (a) thoughtful responses to "It Gets Better" (specifically) or bullying and suicide?

2. Initially I was planning to offer up a little blurb about how/why I decided to put these various readings into conversation with each other. Instead of doing that, I want to ask you all: 

  • What connections do you see between these readings? 
  • What themes emerge?
  • How do these readings fit/don't fit together?
  • What do these readings say about the topic of queer/ing children? Anything important that's missing?
3. On page 199, Halberstam write: 

They [Hyde, Rosenberg, and Behrmann] believe that tomboyism should be viewed as "a normal, active part of female development." The unfortunate effect of the normalization of the tomboy role in this study is...good and bad models of tomboy identification are produced in which good tomboyism corresponds to heterosexual female development and bad tomboyism corresponds to homo- or transsexual development. 

What is normal? (How) do normal and normalization differ? What are norms? Does normal = normalization = norms? If not, how do these terms fit together? What do they mean in the context of Halberstam's passage? What about in the context of the youtube clips below?

4. Two more examples of gender policing and its consequences to add in:

Example One: Video Clip from Judith Butler: Philosopher Encounters of a Close Kind:

Example Two
: All the Single Ladies Fail


Day Fourteen: October 26


Today we begin our discussion of queer/ing children. There's so much that we could talk about in relation to the topic, readings and current ideas/discourses/events in the news. For class today, I want to focus our attention on the introductions to Curiouser and The Queer Child. We will take up Kincaid's (productively?) troubling essay on Thursday with the diablog group's presentation.


  • Still making my way through the blog folders. I've decided to print out the log with my comments and distribute them in class. It seems to be an easier way to grade and keep track of your assignments. I will pass them out in class as I complete them. 
  • Check out my entry on annotated bibliography advice. 
  • Any questions? Concerns?
  • Events? Anyone attend the Obama event?
  • This weekend I presented on Butler, Foucault and the virute of troublemaking at a philosophy conference in Madison, WI. Check it out here.
Introduction to Readings: Today we start discussing queer/ing children by looking at the ideas raised in Steven Bruhm's/Natasha Hurley's introduction to Curiouser: on the queerness of children and Kathryn Bond Stockton's Introduction to The Queer Child: Or Growing Up Sideways in the 20th Century
"It is effort to examine the complex stories that arise from the field of child sexuality, and in particular their relation to queer, that unites the essays in this volume" (ix). 

What stories do we tell/absorb about children and sexuality? According to Bruhm and Hurley, what is the dominant narrative about children and sexuality? How is it connected to heteronormativity? Where do these stories come from? Here


ANOTHER QUEER DEFINITION: deviation from normal/association with sexual alterity (x)

the queer child: that which doesn't quite conform to the wished-for way that children are supposed to be in terms of gender and sexual roles (x). 

How are children supposed to be in terms of gender and sexual roles? What is normal? Where/who/what does normal come from? Who gets to decide what is normal? Who doesn't?

the child queered by innocence (stockton, 30-31):
  • normative child...child on path to normativity
  • seems safe/needs to be protected
  • made strange through innocence
  • normative, but not like us
  • privilege to be protected and sheltered
  • weakness
Are these children in this video about purity rituals queered by innocence? Are they understand (by mainstream media/"common sense") as normative? What about these children in this news clip about "grade school lolitas?" 

Think about the above video in relation to this passage from Foucault:

"As historian Michel Foucault cautions us, reveling in this proliferation of stories about the sexual child does not guarantee a new, free world. This proliferation may herald new ways of expressing sexuality, especially for children, but according to Foucault it also invents new regimes for controlling and regulating the sexuality we think we are affirming..."(x). What new regimes? How does it regulate/control?

And...even more: What about the glee kids? Jaropenerkate wrote about them for a queer this! post. They are all over the news again for their photo spread in GQ--which one parent organization is describing as "bordering on pedophilia". Remember when I brought up Katy Perry and her banned appearance with Elmo on Sesame Street because of parent outrage? I mention it in this entry. Jaropenerkate also talks about Perry's response here. Here's the "banned" video:

Finally, what about queering children/the queer child in the FCKH8 campaign

For more on The Queer Child, see a book review that two of my students wrote for my grad class on troublemaking last spring. For more on Curiouser read what Julia Shaw has to say about it in Rhizomes. And also check out Mary's fabulous notes about these essays!

Day Thirteen: October 21

Today we will continue our discussion of queering the non/human by revisiting the questions from Tuesday's class and adding in a few more:

Goal of queering? Here's one suggestion by Azzarello. To develop an:

increasingly rich and operative appreciation of our irreducibly multiple and variable, complexly valenced, infinitely reconfigurable relations with other animals, including each other (137). 

Think about this goal in relation to Haraway's passage about "turtles all the way down" and the "discursive tie between the colonized, the enslaved, the non-citizen and the animal" (xxiv). And Cathy Cohen's passage about the radical potential of queer politics:

...the process of movement building be rooted not in our shared history or identity but in our shared marginal relationship to dominant power that normalizes, legitimizes, and privileges (43). 

How does power work through the production and perpetuation of certain binaries? 

Queer theorists and environmentalists are interested in the natural. How? Why? What does "natural" mean? What does "natural" do (to our understandings of gender, desire, sexuality; our connections with others; our own lived experiences)?

How is nature/natural positioned against culture/cultural? What are the implications of this division, particularly within queer/ing theory/queer studies?

How are "the questions and politics of human sexuality always entwined with the questions and politics of the other-than-human world" (139)? 

Break up into small groups. Look over and discuss the list of words/actions associated with queer/ing. Come up with your own set of words/tentative definition or explanation/reaction to queer/ing. Pick one group member to post your statements on our blog. 

Day Twelve: October 19

Today I want to do a very close reading of the introduction to Queering the Non/Human. This intro is a great place to dig into a in-depth discussion of how queerness/queering/queer theory/queer studies (5) functions in this reading and other readings we have done thus far. Before we get into that, some announcements:

  • Advice on DEs. Filed under category: How to Blog/Tweet
  • Further reflections on diabloging assignment: Any thoughts? Questions?
  • Anyone attend the Social Justice film festival?
  • Lots of great "queer this!" examples to choose from. Remember that the goal of comments is to open up discussion and to help us all think through what is meant by queer/ing practices. Keep  your comments thoughtful and respectful. 
  • Any other questions? Events?
  • DE #2 is due this Friday. Tweet Source + comment on someone else's annotated bibliography also due this Friday.
Discussion: "Introduction: Queering the Non/Human"

First, check out this Animal Planet commercial: Surprisingly Human?

store.jpg Now, reread the following passage from the text. Write down (comment on) some of your reactions to the questions:
What is non/human? What does it mean to "be, live, act, or occupy the category of the Human (Butler)? Who/what gets to occupy that category? Who/what doesn't? How are they excluded?

Why think about non/human in relation to queer?

The discursive tie between the colonized, the enslaved, the non-citizen and the animal--all reduced to type, all others to rational man, and all essential to his bright constitution--is at the heart of racism and, lethally, flourishes in the entrails of humanism (Haraway xxiv). 

Queering has the job of undoing 'normal' categories, and none is more critical than the human/nonhuman sorting operation (Haraway xxiv). 


What other binaries can we think of?
How are the created? Where do they come from?

There is no ontological starting or stopping point, neither order nor disorder, boundaries nor boundary violations. That is not a recipe for free-fall in abstract space, but for coming to know our obligations to each other in all their impossibility and necessity, across species and in communion. Companion species are about patterning, consequences, and the possibility of response. Living and dying on earth is tangled turtles all the way down (Haraway xxv). 

What does Vicky Kirby mean when she writes:

Binary logic undoes its truths even as it affirms them, so that an effective way to displace and intervene into what appears to be a repressive mono-logic is to consider its essential perversity" (3). 

Can we make strict (and fixed/sealed) divisions between binaries: non/human...what about other binaries? Do we need binaries? What should we do with them?

What is queerness/queering/queer theory/queer studies?
noun, adjective, verb, adverb (4). Examples of each? How do our authors use the term? How do you think about it?

What is the proper object of queering desire? See J Butler's essay, "Against Proper Objects" for more in-depth discussion.

  • Who gets to decide what is proper?
  • How does that decision create new boundaries and generate monolithic understandings?
queer: "ambivalence marks attachments to it as an identity category, political positionality, methodological framework, or system of knowledge production" (4). 

...not so much what queer "is," but what it "does":

resist, reclaim, invent, oppose, defy, make trouble for, open up, enrich, facilitate, disturb, produce, undermine, expose, make visible, critique, reveal, move beyond, transgress, subvert, unsettle, challenge, celebrate, interrogate, counter, provoke and rebel (5). 

...and what it causes/produces/generates:
uncertainty   openness   uneasiness  fluidity  inclusivity   indeterminancy  indefinability   unknowability   the preposterous  impossibility  unthinkability  unintelligibility  meaninglessness  (add failure too?) (4).

Queer: = "critical theory 'to challenge and break apart conventional categories'...collection of methodologies to unpick binaries and reread gaps, silences and in-between spaces" (5). 

How do you understand queer/ing?

Day Eleven: October 14

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Here's a digital copy of the notes you'll be receiving and working with in class today. Hopefully this guide will help to keep us focused and lead to a productive and in-depth discussion. We'll be addressing some themes as a large group and likely also rearranging a bit in order to further push at our ideas of power as well as how classrooms should work.

Queering Desire Notes for 10.14.10

Power: How do you relate to power? How does it work?

To what extent do regulatory practices of gender formation and division constitute identity, the eternal coherence of the subject, indeed, the self-identical status of the person? To what extent is "identity" a normative ideal rather than a descriptive feature of experience? And how do the regulatory practices that govern gender also govern culturally intelligible notions of identity? (Butler, Gender Trouble, 23)

[M]y concern is centered on those individuals who consistently activate only one characteristic of their identity, or a single perspective of consciousness, to organize their politics, rejecting any recognition of the multiple and intersecting systems of power that largely dictate our life chances. (Cohen, 25)

And: we can begin to think critically about the components of a radical politics built not exclusively on identities but rather on identities as they are invested with varying degrees of normative power. (Cohen, 37)

How might we represent power visually?

Gender can be described as a system of meanings and symbols and the rules, privileges and punishments for their use. All the ways in which people express their bodies and communicate with the world can be gendered and encoded with meaning-- for example: vocal inflection, body hair, clothing, laughter, sexuality, and the very space one takes up in a room.

Gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being. (Butler, Gender Trouble, 45)

The injunction to be a given gender produces necessary failures, a variety of incoherent configurations that in their multiplicity exceed and defy the injunction by which they are generated. (Butler, Gender Trouble, 199)

How does gender make sense to you? How do we all do gender? How do we all fail gender?


unknowingness, opposition, liminality, questioning, problematizing, interrogating, troubling, deconstructing, failing

Utopia can never be prescriptive and is always destined to fail. Despite this seeming negativity, a generative politics can be potentially distilled from the aesthetics of queer failure ... Queer failure ... is more nearly about escape and a certain kind of virtuosity. (Muñoz, Cruising Utopia, 173)

I envision a politics where one's relation to power, and not some homogenized identity, is privileged in determining one's political comrades... if any radical potential is to be found in the idea of queerness and the practice of queer politics, it would seem to be located in its ability to create a space in opposition to dominant norms, a space where transformational political work can begin. (Cohen 22)

[Queer] as an outcome of temporality, life scheduling, and eccentric economic practices (Halberstam)

It is not enough, in other words, to take up the simultaneity of race, class, gender, and sexuality, which it is my argument that the vernacular does constantly in keywords like punk and punked. Rather, we must investigate the subject transformed by law that nevertheless exists nowhere within it, the figure of absolute abjection that is, paradoxically, part of our everyday experience. (Nyong'o, 30)

I take it as almost axiomatic that queer theory embraces, even celebrates transgression; it seeks the sublime not in resistance - that's too damn bristly and self-serious - but in the blithe and gleeful disregard for social convention. (Ford, 478)

Heteronormativity encompasses many neoliberal systems of (invisible) privilege which favor specific white, upper and middle class heterosexual bodies, lives, experiences, values, and ways of knowing, for example.

Precisely because many queers refuse and resist the heteronormative imperative of home and family, they also prolong the periods of their life devoted to subcultural participation. This challenge to the notion of the subculture as a youth formation could on the one hand expand the definition of subculture beyond its most banal significations of youth in crisis and on the other hand challenge our notion of adulthood as reproductive maturity. (Halberstam)

Homonormativity reiterates heteronormative ideals (ie. gender), mapping them onto homosexual bodies, etc.

Day Ten: October 12

In today's class, we are finally directly addressing (or are we?) the question: what is queering and queering desire? But, wait. The troublemaker in me has to question: Is this the right (as in effective, productive) question to ask? Do/should we know what queering is? Why? What are the limits of knowing? (How) does focusing attention on this question prevent us from asking other questions? Hmm....maybe we should discuss some of these troubling questions in class?

Here's a breakdown of class:

  • Announcements
  • Discussion of texts + last week+ blog + queering
  • Blog folder meetings this week (tues, weds, thurs)
  • DE #2, Queer This! example #2 and tweet are due on 10/18
  • Questions? Announcements (you can also post them as comments on this entry)

Day Nine: October 7

In today's class we will continue our discussion of queer/ing pedagogy. We will briefly discuss blog/twitter assignments and @Pinstin will be facilitating a class discussion.


  • First annotated bibliographies must be posted by tomorrow at 10PM. 
  • If you haven't already signed up for the diablog assignment, I'll pass around the sheet
  • Sign up for a blog meeting with me next week: Tues/Weds/Thurs
  • Join in the rally for Defending Public Education after class (starts at Northrup)
  • Readings for next week are changing. Here's the list (with changes in bold):
Cohen, Cathy. "Punks, Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens" 
Nyong'o, Tavia. "Punk'd Theory"
Halberstam, Judith. "What's That Smell?"
Ford, Richard Thompson. "What's Queer About Race?"

*I have dropped the Jasbir Puar. You may still write about the essay for your direct engagement. 

Day Eight: October 5

It's hard to believe, but we are starting our 5th week of class today! I hope that the blog and twitter assignments are starting to make sense and that you are feeling more confident about experimenting with both of them. This week we will be discussing queer(ing) pedagogy. Here's a breakdown of today's class:

  • Announcements
  • Turn in Blog folders + review diablog and annotated bibliography assignments
  • Overview of Readings
  • Discussion of concepts/ideas/readings
  • Any questions?
  • Blog folders due today
  • Annotated bibliographies are due on Friday (10.8)
  • Anything else?
Blog Assignments:
  • 3 sources/1 must be academic
  • Intro paragraph tying sources together and to your term/author/organization
  • Each entry should include: title, author, brief summary, additional resources, where/how you found source, formal citation (all of this information can be found in the assignment entry--linked above). 
  • Goal of these entries: process information, share it with others, critically and creatively explore your topic

Overview of Readings:
This week we are discussing texts that are all connected to the issue of Queer and queering pedagogy, including:
A few key ideas came up repeatedly in these readings:

Heterosexual matrix of intelligibility (Butler)
Performance/performativity (Butler)
Hetero/homo divide 
Postmodern subject/self (Foucault: power/knowledge produce subjects)
Queering identity...Queer as identity
Sex/gender (how are these connected?)
Binaries: queer/straight, hetero/homo, teacher/student, knowledge/ignorance

One version of queering pedagogy: Making and Staying in Trouble

...trouble is inevitable and the task, how best to make it, what best way to be in it (Butler, Gender Trouble).
troubling, spoiling, undermining, disrupting, destabilizing, unveiling, exposing, unsettling, subverting, resisting, twisting, critically questioning, deconstructing, opening up

uncertain, unpredictable, abnormal, fluid, unstable, confusing, flexible...

A few passages from Luhmann:

If subversiveness is not a new form of knowledge but lies in the capacity to raise questions about the detours of coming to know and making sense, then what does this mean for a pedagogy that imagines itself as queer? Can a queer pedagogy resist the desire for authority and stable knowledge; can it resist disseminating new knowledge and new forms of subjection? What if a queer pedagogy puts into crisis what is known and how we come to know (Luhmann, 5)?
Instead of focusing on the common concerns of teaching, such as what should be learned and how to teach this knowledge, pedagogy might begin with the question of how we come to know and how knowledge is produced in the interaction between teacher/text and student (Luhmann, 6).
As an alternative to the worry over strategies for effective knowledge transmission that reduce knowledge to mere information and students to rational but passive beings untroubled by the material studied, pedagogy might be posed as a question (as opposed to the answer) of knowledge: What does being taught, what does knowledge do to students (Luhmann, 7)?
Alice Pitt (1995) points out: "Learning about content is not the same thing as learning from it. In other words . . . learning is something more than a series of encounters with knowledge; learning entails, rather, the messier and less predictable process of becoming implicated in knowledge" [p. 298](Luhmann, 8).
Both queer theory and pedagogy argue that the process of making (sense) of selves relies on binaries such as homo-hetero, ignorance-knowledge, learner- teacher, reader-writer, and so on. Queer theory and pedagogy place at stake the desire to deconstruct binaries central to Western modes of meaning making, learning, teaching, and doing politics. Both desire to subvert the processes of normalization (Luhmann, 8).
at stake are the implications of queer theory and pedagogy for the messy processes of learning and teaching, reading and writing. Instead of posing (the right) knowledge as answer or solution, queer theory and the pedagogy I have outlined here pose knowledge as an interminable question (Luhmann, 9).
Such queer pedagogy does not hold the promise of a successful remedy against homophobia, nor is it a cure for the lack of self-esteem. This pedagogy is not (just) about a different curriculum or new methods of instruction. It is an inquiry into the conditions that make learning possible or prevent learning. It suggests a conversation about what I can bear to know and what I refuse when I refuse certain identifications. What is at stake in this pedagogy is the deeply social or dialogic situation of subject formation, the processes of how we make ourselves through and against others. As an inquiry into those processes, my queer pedagogy is not very heroic. It does not position itself as a bulwark against oppression, it does not claim the high grounds of subversion but hopefully it encourages an ethical practice by studying the risks of normalization, the limits of its own practices, and the im/possibilities of (subversive) teaching and learning.
Some key questions:

  • Queer pedagogy? Queering pedagogy? What's the difference (is there)?
  • What queer interventions can we/should we make into the classroom? Teaching-learning?
  • What is queer? Is queer a matter of being? Doing? Both? Neither?

Spend about 5 minutes writing down your reflections on troublemaking in the classroom. Is it valuable to make trouble and to be troubled/in trouble? Do you experience this frequently in classrooms? What about in here? How is this classroom space (productively/unproductively) troubling for you? Do you see connections between trouble and queer/ing?

Large group: 
What does a queer classroom look like? What does it mean to queer the classroom? Queer the University? (How) are we queering the University/learning? How does social media fit in here--does it enable us to engage in queering practices (what are queering practices)?

Day 7: September 28

For today's class, we will devote most of our time to small group work. I will be moving around from group to group to discuss the readings. Additionally, I well spend time in each small group reviewing the assignments, answering questions and providing mini-tutorials on the blog and twitter. Here's the small group assignment. Even if you are not in class today, you are responsible for the blog assignment in part three of the group exercise.


  • The Diablog assignment has been posted. Check it out, read through it carefully, post questions on the entry for the assignment, and think about which week you want to sign up for. 
  • Your first query response entry is due this Friday. Use this entry to help you out.
  • Class is canceled this Thursday (9/30). I encourage you to use our class time on Thursday to engage with/get caught on the blog and twitter. 

Day 6: September 23

Today in class, we will continue our discussion of the blog cluster about J Butler refusing the civil courage award. We will also briefly look at the work of J Butler. Why was she being given a civil courage award in the first place? Who is Judith Butler?


  • First direct engagements were due yesterday. Thoughts on the process/assignment?
  • First source for annotated bibliography needs to be tweeted by Monday (9/27)
  • First comment on someone else's direct engagement is due Monday (9/27)
  • Query tweet is due on Monday (9/27) hashtag it with: #?qd2010
  • Readings from next week are on webvista. I added one: "The Facebook Revolution"
9780415389556.jpgWho is Judith Butler? Why would she be receiving a civil courage award?
J Butler is frequently considered a central figure in U.S. queer theory/studies. Her book, Gender Troublecaused a seismic shift in both feminist and gay and lesbian movements and understandings of sex, gender and identity politics. Want to know more about GT and its influence on ideas about gender, identity, and feminist/queer ethics? Check out my presentation: The Ethics of Making, Being and Staying in Trouble. You can also check out all the entries from my blog that I have tagged with her name

Small group discussion
  • Remember to tweet your first source by Monday!
  • Sources: at least one academic (journal article, book) + two other sources 
  • Examples from last year: one, two, three
  • Here are two examples of how to tweet sources:
And, here's an example for your query tweet (which is also due this coming Monday):


Day Five: September 21

  • Announcements
  • Discuss blogging, tweeting, first assignments, etc. 
  • Question: Can we be happy and work for social justice?
  • Introduction to Week and discussion of blog cluster
  • DEs due on Wednesday by 10PM
  • Tracking topic sign-up sheet--if you haven't signed up yet, I will bring the sheet on Thurs.
  • Any questions? Events?
  • Thoughts on blogging and tweeting? Overwhelming? Engaging? 
  • Some sample tweets: 
a. How we Read/Lived Experiences of Engaging and Processing:
This is an image, so you can't click on the link. Here it is: Twitter is a great place to share how we all engage and to document the physical spaces where we do that engagement. 

b. Question about assignment:
Twitter is a great place to put up practical questions that you don't have time to ask in class. It's also a great place to get opinions, ideas and/or advice from others. 

 c. Sharing of ideas, conversations and sources. 
Here's the link:  You can use twitter to share ideas with us. Not only does this give us more to think about/reflect on, but it helps to build up the archive of our course and our collaborative definitions of queer/ing. 

This Week's Blog Cluster: I want to jump right into a discussion of some issues that this blog cluster raises, particularly the issue of happiness or (and?) social justice. Then, at the end of class, I will offer some more introductory remarks about the cluster, why I assigned, and how we will continue the discussion online and in class on Thursday.

The Event: Judith Butler refuses the civil courage award at Berlin Pride. Why?

a. Listen to the following radio interview with J Butler
b. And watch the following youtube clip:

  • What is the relationship between social justice and queer movement/queering practices? How is queer movement/practices connected to other social justice movements?
  • Where does/should/can happiness fit in here? What is happiness?
  • What is the significance of Butler's refusal for queer/ing politics (especially in relation to desire)?
  • About 2 minutes and 50 seconds in, A. Davis talks about a "terrain of struggle" and the value of always asking questions. What does she mean by the terrain of struggle? What sorts of queer questions can/should we be asking? What questions does Butler's refusal and all of the important work by activists and theorists of color leading up to that refusal prompt us to ask?
What is homonationalism? Briefly, homonationalism is the collusion of homonormativity (who counts as the "good" gay/queer) with nationalistic aims (patriotism, all-Muslims-are-terrorists, protection of borders). Homonationalism involves those ideas/discourses/actions that perpetuate a false binary between good (as in sexually enlightened, inclusive) nations in the West and bad (as in sexually repressed and repressive) nations outside of the West. In her book, Terrorist Assemblages (and the article we will discuss in a few weeks), Puar links this homonationalism with the idea of U.S. exceptionalism and traces how discourses about the terrorist and the "war against terror" in the U.S. reproduce racism and the privileging of whiteness. In her refusal speech, Butler applies the idea of homonationalism to Europe (particularly Berlin), arguing that anti-immigrant discourses are being used (wittingly and unwittingly) by gay and lesbian groups to mobilize their members. Immigrants, often Muslin immigrants, are presented as a serious threat to gay/lesbian rights. In her official refusal, Butler writes:

We all have noticed that gay, bisexual, lesbian, trans and queer people can be instrumentalized by those who want to wage wars, i.e. cultural wars against migrants by means of forced islamophobia and military wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. In these times and by these means, we are recruited for nationalism and militarism. Currently, many European governments claim that our gay, lesbian, queer rights must be protected and we are made to believe that the new hatred of immigrants is necessary to protect us.

Still confused? SUSPECT offers many examples of how homonationalism works in Berlin and why Butler rejected the award.  After describing many instances of demonizing/criminalzing migrants and youth of color, they conclude:

It is this tendency of white gay politics, to replace a politics of solidarity, coalitions and radical transformation with one of criminalization, militarization and border enforcement, which Butler scandalizes, also in response to the critiques and writings of queers of colour.
For Thursday: Reread the blog cluster and reflect on the process of reading blog entries as opposed to a book or journal article: How to Read for the Blog Cluster

Day Four: September 16

Today we finally get to talk about some readings. Hooray! Slowly but surely we are finally moving into more explicit discussions about queer/queering desire (as opposed to overviews of assignments and how-to tutorials).

Breakdown of today's class:

  • Announcements/Questions
  • Engaging with Readings/Topics
  • Pick topics for tracking/discuss assignment more
Queer This! example posts and tweets are due tomorrow. 
Next week's reading is a blog cluster on Judith Butler
First direct engagements with readings due next Wednesday (9.22)
First queer this! comment is due next Monday (9.20)

Any questions? Post them as comments to this blog entry (or tweet them @qued2010).


The topic for today's class is: queer social media. Our goal is to begin thinking about the implications of blogs and twitter for theories/reflections on and practices of queer/ing. I asked you to read Julie Rak's "The Digital Queer" and the HASTAC forum on Queer and Feminist New Media Spaces. I assigned the Rak article to provide you with some more background on blogs, identity, and queer communities. I assigned the HASTAC forum to give you a sense of how some scholars are engaging with and on feminist and queer new media spaces.

I want us to critically reflect on the readings and ideas in a number of different ways:

  • First, you will do a brief free-write/draw on your assigned passage. 
  • Second, you will discuss your reactions with your group members. 
  • Third, we will discuss the ideas together in a large group. 


  1. Bodies: What is the relationship between a digital body and a physical body? Connections between the virtual and the real? (How) do bodies function differently in these spaces? 
  2. Play: How does play and structure affect digital identity? (How) are digital identities freeing? What structures limit our constructions and practices of those identities? Can cyberspaces encourage/allow us to "play" with those identities?  
  3. Community: What are the possibilities for queer communities online? Can blogs or twitter provide queer spaces of connection? 
  4. Consumption and commodification: How are social media shaped by consumerism? Who/what becomes a product to be sold and consumed? Is it possible to get outside of/disrupt/queer the capitalist logic of blog and twitter spaces--and the liberal individualist logic (see Rak)? How?  
  5. Queer Time and labor: Blogs and twitter post entries/tweets chronologically. Are the other ways to imagine how time works on these spaces? Does time always move forward on blogs--any other directions?Who has time for these (and who doesn't)? Who has access to "imaginative possibilities"? 
  6. Value of Social Media: What is the value of social media and how do/should we use them? Have we, in J.Jack Halberstam's words, "become a social network of spies and narcissists?" How can we bring desire into the conversation here? What is pleasurable about social media? When is it pleasure and when is it labor? Are these always in opposition (and should they be)? 
  7. Public/Private: What sort of spaces do social media provide? Are they private? Public? (When) is public visibility useful/productive/resistant? What are the limits of visibility? How can visibility be used to disrupt (hetero)norms? How can visibility be used to reinforce them? Can we create private (safe?) spaces online--how/why are those important for queering and queer desire? Where can/do we foster authenticity/authentic moments of our selves--in public? in private? 
Want to know more about queer blogging? Here's what I wrote for the class blog last year. It deals with the Rak and two other essays that we didn't read. Here's what I wrote about Rak: 

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?

Day Three: September 14


As I mentioned in my last post, I have decided to slow things down a bit. Instead of discussing the readings, we are going to talk more about how/why to blog and do introductions. Also, I have another "queer this!" that I would like us to discuss.

1. Introductions (go around the room)
2. Discuss assignment + blog/twitter log
3. More on blogging and twitter
4. Queer This! Lady Gaga example: What are the implications of this from a queer perspective? How does this connect with queer/queering desire?

1. Introductions

  • Name
  • Hometown
  • Major/areas of interest
  • Good book/movie/tv show you watched
  • Why you're taking this class
  • Experience with social media/online technology

2. Discuss Blog/Twitter Assignments

3. Reviewing Blog and Twitter

Why Blog? I like to post a slightly different version of this on each of my course blogs. Here it is for our class:

Welcome. This is the blog for GWSS 4790/GLBT 3610. It will play a central role in our discussion of and engagement with the material. While only class members (the instructors 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, I see 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
  • Inspiring us to engage in queering practices of our own

But blogs aren't just useful for creating connections between students (or teacher and students or students and other communities). I spent the past two summers writing in my own blogs, Trouble, It's Diablogical! and Unchained, 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 both summers and I found that by the end of August my critical thinking skills were in much better shape then when I started in May. Last Summer, I 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. And this summer, I found that engaging in writing with a diabloging partner, enabled me to clarify my ideas and theories even more than I had previously done on my own. 

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/queering desire. It is also my hope that writing in our blog will inspire you to keep writing and thinking and questioning and connecting.

Twitter? This is my very first time using twitter in the classroom. Since I only started using twitter on my own this summer, I don't have too many expectations for how it will/won't work in our class. I hope this will be a fun and critically/creatively productive experiment. 

I envision it as being helpful in the classroom when used in concert with a blog. In order for it to be successful (just like any other type of social media), it needs to be used thoughtfully and deliberately. I hope that throughout the semester we will return to discussions of the limits and possibilities of twitter in a queer classroom. Let's start the conversation today:

What are the limits and possibilities of twitter? How can we use it to disrupt, distort, trouble or queer typical ways of being in the classroom? 

On my own twitter account (@undisciplined), I use twitter differently (or is it different?) than outlined in the video. I use twitter for posting:

  • brief notes about sources
  • updates/summaries of the class
  • replies to students/friends
  • announcements about the class or local events
  • questions related to the material and the class

How do you want to use twitter? Read this brief essay about twitter by Peggy Orenstein: I Tweet, Therefore I Am. Any thoughts on a queer analysis of this essay? Is the performed/performative self not an authentic self? What are the differences between self-promotion and self-awareness? 

4. Queer This!: Lady Gaga and the meat dress

Did you hear about what Lady Gaga wore to the VMAs this weekend? Here, check out this clip:

Reactions? Is this an effective way to make a statement in support of gay rights? Why or why not? Will most people "get" what she is attempting to do here? What is she attempting to do here? Is it important/necessary that her message be understood? Why/why not? 

For Thursday:


Day Two: September 9

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Today, we are meeting in the Rachel Raimist Feminist Media Center (FORD 468) where we will be discussing how to use our course blog and twitter. Since we only have about 30 minutes, I can only cover the basics today. Periodically throughout the semester, we will return to the media center in order to review and learn new strategies for using blogs/twitter in our class.

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 Desire: Fall 2010" on your list of blogs. Click on it. (If you don't see it, please let me know.)

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.

Always remember that our blog is a public blog. This means that anyone has access to it and can read. Keep this in mind as you are writing your entries and comments. For more on why I think the blog as a public site is a good thing, see this entry from one of my course blogs from last year.  

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 categories and tags: 

a. categories: On the right-hand side of the screen (and just below the text box), is a section called categories in which you will find a list of different categories for this blog. It is very important that you click on the box of the appropriate category for your assignment. Doing this ensures that the blog stays organized and easy to search. For your various assignments, I will clearly identify which category you should select for your entry. Categories will include: Queer This!, Queries, Direct Engagements, Tracking Terms, etc. 

b. 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 "The Brady Bunch" and found a great image of the family 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 the Brady Bunch). 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.


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 youcan 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!

Twitters tutorial on how to sign up for twitter:

Since twitter has its own helpful tutorial, I thought I would just post a link to it instead of writing my own. Here it is. Here are some other things to remember:

1. Once you sign up, make sure to follow the class. You can do this by clicking on the link in the upper right hand corner that says: Find people. Search for "qued2010". Click on it. This will take you to the course twitter account. Click on the button, right below the course name/button, that says: follow. Now you are following the class. 

2. As you all begin to follow the class, I will be putting you in a list named, "class-list." Click on the list (located on the right hand side, halfway down the page) and find your classmates. Click on their accounts and follow them too. 

3. Make sure to mark all of your entries for class with this hashtag: #qd2010. 

In the next few days, I will be posting more information about your blog and twitter assignments. Make sure to read over this information and post questions (as comments or tweets). We will discuss the assignments more next week. 


1. You should post your first example for "Queer This!" by next Friday(9.17).  Here is my explanation of the "queer this" category from last year's queering theory blog:

Queer This!: This category is for posting 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. Entries filed under this category should not merely be WTF or "oh bother!" posts. Instead they should be entries that invite us to apply the queering skills we are learning to popular culture/current events or should inform us about ideas/topics/images that are important for queer theory and/or queer communities.

Want to see how some other students used this category last year? Check out queer this examples from queering theory. Although you can provide some explanation of your example, don't write too much. One important purpose of this type of blog post is to offer up examples for all of us to critically analyze and queer. 

In addition to posting your first example on our blog (as an entry), you also need to tweet about your example. We will talk more about how to tweet your "queer this" example on Tuesday. 

The official description for "queer this" blog entries (along with all of the other blog assignments) will be posted soon. 

2. Readings for Tuesday on up on our WebVista site. 

14        Queer Blogging: An Introduction 

  • Rak, Julie. Excerpts from "The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity" 
  • Threlkeld, Aubry. "Virtual Disruptions: traditional and new media's challenges to heteronormativity in education"
  • Mitra, Rahul. "Resisting the Spectacle of Pride: Queer Indian Bloggers as Interpretive Communities"
Although the syllabus indicates that you  only need to read excerpts from "Digital Queer," I would like you to read the entire essay. Make a note of words/concepts that you don't understand/have questions about. You could also post questions on twitter or this blog. 

One more reminder: Don't forget to fill out the questionnaire on our WebVista site! I would like them to be completed by tomorrow 

Day One: September 7


Hello and welcome to queering desire! In addition to all of the other ways we might be using this blog this semester, I thought I would experiment with using it as a space for organizing our individual class sessions. Here's what we are doing today in class:


To the Class
To Each Other:
  • Preferred name/pronoun
  • Hometown
  • Major/areas of interest
  • Good book/movie/tv show you watched
  • Why you're taking this class
  • Experience with social media/online technology
About me: Dr. Sara Puotinen
Photo 11.jpg
Hi, I'm Sara or Dr. Puotinen. My preferred pronoun is she. I was born in Houghton, MI, but I have also lived in North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa, California and Georgia. I have a BA in religion (Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN), MA in ethics (Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA) and a PhD in Women's studies (Emory University, Atlanta, GA). My areas of research interest are: troublemaking, feminist and queer ethics, feminist pedagogies, queer theory (especially Judith Butler), feminist and queer social media (especially blogs). 

One of the most recent books I read is Share This! How you will change the world with social networking. I have a mild obsession with pop culture from the 70s, like the Brady Bunch. And I find myself strangely drawn to Cartoon Network and their weird shows like Adventuretime. I love teaching in the GWSS/GLBT department--and I especially love teaching classes on queer theory! In addition to this class, I have taught queering theory, intro to GLBT studies and a graduate seminar on feminist and queer explorations in troublemaking. This spring, I am teaching a graduate seminar on Queer Ethics. 

I have been using blogs in my classroom since Spring 2007 and I have been writing on my own blogs since 2009. I started my first blog, a research/writing blog on making/being in/staying in trouble last May and I started two more blogs, both collaborative diablogs, this summer. One is on breaking bad consumption habits and the other is on feminist pedagogy and blogging. The feminist pedagogy diablog, It's Diablogical!, has been particularly helpful and inspiring for me this summer. Since 2009, I have written extensively about the value of blogs and blogging in feminist and queer classrooms. I also recently started my own twitter account, @undisciplined, and I have been reading/researching/thinking about twitter for this class all summer. 

One popular category on the course blog for queering theory last fall, was "Queer This!" The goal of a "queer this!" is to think about the queer implications and/or to engage in some queering of an image/media example/idea/event, etc. Here's how I described in last year:

This category is for posting 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.
So, here's our image for today (the link is to my blog; I posted it as one of my "oh bother" examples). Spend a few minutes writing down your reactions to it, particularly from the perspective of queer/queering/queering desire. In a few minutes, I will ask you to get into groups of 3 or 4 so that you can discuss your thoughts on how to queer this image. If you already know how to post on the blog, you can post your thoughts about this image as a comment to this entry. You can also tweet a 140 character or less response (an @qued2010) to the image. 


Now, Queer This!

On Thursday, I will be giving some brief tutorials on how to use our blog and how to sign up for and use twitter. Class will take place in the Rachel Raimist Feminist Media Center (FORD 468). Our class is too big to fit into the media center all at once, so we will break up into two groups. Even if you know how to blog and do twitter, please still attend this tutorial. I will send out an email with the list of names for each group. 

Group A will meet with me from 11:15-11:50.
Group B will meet with me from 11:50-12:30. 

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