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Arondekar Diablog Wrap-Up

Our group discussed the work of Arondekar called "Without a Trace: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive" and also put it in discussion with the "Interrogating Complicities: Postcolonial, Queer, and the Threat of the Normative" conference held on our campus. The piece itself along with the papers read aloud by their authors at the conference were all quite advanced critical engagements with postcolonialism and queer theory, though some were more accessible then others.

The following quote is taken from one of Ava's response on our open thread, and, in lay terms, describes one of the facets of the argument poised by Arondekar:
"There are always many structures operating as to what is documented in any time and space, and limits to what can be known or inferred from their 'discovery' as well as infinite ways certain lives and ideas will ever be able to be documented or theorized. So the point is exactly that to track 'queer history' presents a lot of problems, one of which is why something of the sort would ever be documented or recorded, and thus 'discovered' and how sexuality is dealt with in any particular time and place."

A particular quote from the reading that engendered discussion was the following:
"We may trap ourselves in the need of a history to sanction our existence" (16). Ava suggests that this could be taken as "a warning against having too much of a personal attachment and stake in looking to what has already been to help understand our various identities and validate our experiences". Honeybump0515 extrapolated to say that "If there is that need for constant validation from the past then there is no real way for there to be growth".

The subject of the archive as a valid source for information, and validation of the queering of these narratives also arose.
The following quotation from Arondekar describes this relationship and perhaps why it can be problematic:
"The process of "queering" pasts has been realized through corrective reformulations of "suppressed" or misread colonial materials. These reformulations have intervened decisively in colonial historiography, not only decentering the idea of a coherent and desirable imperial archive but also forcing us to rethink colonial methodologies. Implicit in this rethinking, however, is the assumption that the archive, in all its multiple articulations, is still the source of knowledge about the colonial past. The inclusion of oral histories, ethnographic data, popular culture, and performances may have fractures traditional definitions of the archive (and for the better), but the teleos of knowledge production is still deemed approachable through what one finds, if only one can think of more capacious ways to look" (11).
Are there other "valid" sources of knowledge about human sexuality? What does a queer theory look like that doesn't centralize sexuality?

Are we all agents of neocolonialism?

For the most part, the diablog experience went well. As previously mentioned, the material was very dense and, at times, difficult to work through. Having a base in feminist thought and theory helped to process and engage with the material presented, along with exposure to texts that discuss the narrative of histories...Edward Said's "Orientalism" comes to mind. I was interested in the subject and was happy to make attempts, both successful and of failure, to understand and interpret the material. I feel that after all this engagement and analysis, the idea that most resonates with me is that objectivity is subject to interpretation.

Open Thread Discussion: Arondekar

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This space is to be used to respond to group members' engagements, and further engage with Anjali Arondekar's "Without a Trace: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive", and to also bring into discussion the Interrogating Complicities: Postcolonial, Queer, and the Threat of the Normative Conference.

Feel free to engage along with our group!

Diablog Arondekar

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In Anjali Arondekar's "Without a Trace: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive" there is a large discussion at hand about colonial historiography and sexuality studies. Throughout the article Arondekar presents cases of many researcher and their findings of the loose history of homosexuality. The main message after reading this article seems to be that many people, be them professors, researcher, or everyday people, crave the need to make a connection with themselves and the past. However, in having such a great need to do so in a sense takes away from what we are now.

Within Arondekar's article there were many things that causes questions to come to mind. One question that was stated within the article that caused me a lot of thought was "What kind of history does sexuality have?" Personally, I don't know much about sexuality's history, even less when it comes to the history of homosexuality. Other then the pop culture references and the few random facts about homosexuality within the ancient Greek culture, there isn't much that I can go off of. I understand the need to want to know more, wanting to connect with the past, however, with the little that is at hand how can people go about knowing this history?

Another thing that caught my attention was Robert Aldrich's quote, "..colonial homosexuality did not proclaim itself openly". If colonial homosexuality was never proclaimed openly, how can we track queer history? Having this element of underhandedness doesn't allow the information to be easily available to people today, which in turn just brings me back to my previous question. Along with Aldrich's quote, another statement had me being drawn back to the same question. "Scholars in disciplines ranging from literature and anthropology (the more favored locations) to law and science have held up the colonial archive as a storehouse of historical information that can reveal secrets about sexuality's past". Overall this statement I would like to discuss, I feel like there's a lot there and I would like to hear others input.

The quote from Shah sticks in my mind as well, "We may trap ourselves in the need of a history to sanction our existence." The final quote that sticks with me from this article is "homosexuality remains both obvious and elusive".

The need to connect with the past is strong for most people, however, Arondekar makes strong arguments within this article to believe that that connection is not as necessary as to be presented.

Diablog Arondekar

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In Anjali Arondekar's "Without a Trace: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive" there is a large discussion at hand about colonial historiography and sexuality studies. Throughout the article Arondekar presents cases of many researcher and their findings of the loose history of homosexuality. The main message after reading this article seems to be that many people, be them professors, researcher, or everyday people, crave the need to make a connection with themselves and the past. However, in having such a great need to do so in a sense takes away from what we are now.

Within Arondekar's article there were many things that causes questions to come to mind. One question that was stated within the article that caused me a lot of thought was "What kind of history does sexuality have?" Personally, I don't know much about sexuality's history, even less when it comes to the history of homosexuality. Other then the pop culture references and the few random facts about homosexuality within the ancient Greek culture, there isn't much that I can go off of. I understand the need to want to know more, wanting to connect with the past, however, with the little that is at hand how can people go about knowing this history?

Another thing that caught my attention was Robert Aldrich's quote, "..colonial homosexuality did not proclaim itself openly". If colonial homosexuality was never proclaimed openly, how can we track queer history? Having this element of underhandedness doesn't allow the information to be easily available to people today, which in turn just brings me back to my previous question. Along with Aldrich's quote, another statement had me being drawn back to the same question. "Scholars in disciplines ranging from literature and anthropology (the more favored locations) to law and science have held up the colonial archive as a storehouse of historical information that can reveal secrets about sexuality's past". Overall this statement I would like to discuss, I feel like there's a lot there and I would like to hear others input.

The quote from Shah sticks in my mind as well, "We may trap ourselves in the need of a history to sanction our existence." The final quote that sticks with me from this article is "homosexuality remains both obvious and elusive".

The need to connect with the past is strong for most people, however, Arondekar makes strong arguments within this article to believe that that connection is not as necessary as to be presented.

DIABLOG: Anjali Arondekar

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In "Without a Trace: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive", Anjai Arondekar critically examines the motivations behind the desire and pursuit to 'recover' archival materials as well as asserting the clear limitations of any perception being bound and rooted socio-historically. So that while we as humans are curious as to old records that create a past narrative to reveal and affirm what is possible now (or ever), we fail to recognize that this 'archive' of 'recovered' materials/stories is still so absolutely totally ridiculously incomplete (impossible...yeah?). To look to the past for glimpses to confirm identities/behaviors/thoughts in the present can be useful, yet Arondekar articulates quite well some of the important considerations and limitations of doing so.

Some poignant quotes and questions from Arondekar that resonated with me and would like to bring into discussion (though by no means comprehensive of Arondekar's entire article) are:

*Colonial archive defined "as the register of epistemic arrangements"..., using Foucault's observation that "the idea of the archive animates all knowledge formations and is the structure that makes meaning manifest" (10).

*Derrida's "Archive fever" (10).

*Quoting historian Carolyn Steedman," You think, in the delirium: it was their dust that I breathed in" (which Arondekar explains is a reminder that "the material deposits of the past (dust, in her case), whose affective reach exceeds all forms of theorizations" and are the "real drama in archive fever) (11).

*"The process of "queering" pasts has been realized through corrective reformulations of "suppressed" or misread colonial materials. These reformulations have intervened decisively in colonial historiography, not only decentering the idea of a coherent and desirable imperial archive but also forcing us to rethink colonial methodologies. Implicit in this rethinking, however, is the assumption that the archive, in all its multiple articulations, is still the source of knowledge about the colonial past. The inclusion of oral histories, ethnographic data, popular culture, and performances may have fractured traditional definitions of the archive (and for the better), but the teleos of knowledge production is still deemed approachable through what one finds, if only one can think of more capacious ways to look" (11).

*"Parameters of space, time, and knowledge" as highlighted by David Halperin making the case for the role of "a historicism that would acknowledge the alterity of the past as well as the irreducible cultural and historical particularities of the present" (12)

*"Archival turns still cohere around a temporally ordered seduction of access, which stretches from the evidentiary promise of the past into the narrative possibilities of the future" (12).

*"The intellectual challenge here is to juxtapose productively the archive's fiction-effects (the archive as a system of representation) alongside its truth-effects (the archive as material with "real" consequences), as both agonistic and co-constitutive" (12).

*"While shifts in critical modes have occurred, the additive model of subalternity still persists, where even as the impossibility of recovery is articulated the desire to add, to fill in the gaps with voices of other unvoiced "subalterns," remains" (14).

*"Epistemology of the Closet": "Relies upon the maintenance within the epistemological system of the hidden, secret term, keeping all binaries intact" (taken from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick 16)

*"We may trap ourselves in the need of a history to sanction our existence" (says Nayan Shah 16).

*"Rethinking of the narrative of progress" (17).

*"Such an archival turn, I would suggest, requires a theory of reading that moves away from the notion that discovering an object will somehow lead to a formulation of subjectivity- from the presumption that if one finds a body, one can recover a person" (21).

*"The traveler wandering from town to town forgot
the path to his house. What was mine, what was yours, both
of the self and of the other, lost, then, to memory."
-Miraji, Tin rang (26)


*"Sexuality studies is an accomplice in such archival mythmaking and must remain alert to its own methodological and analytical foibles. Not to do so would be to forgo the histories of colonization, to brush aside the possibilities and impossibilities accorded by the idea of an archive" (27).

This post is a lot longer than intended, but I think the above for me lays out some of the more important pieces of Arondekar's article and gives you all a sense of what I'm focusing on and taking from it. What do we think about our drive to recover the past? Have you thought about the limitations of being able to interpret/perceive/uncover 'new' archival material given we are always socio-historically situated? Can we talk more about "epistemologies of the closet" please, and what this has to do with the points Arondekar is raising?

Diablog: What is history? Let's queer the Archive

What is history? According to the Oxford English Dictionary (which is a good resource for us U of M students...you are already paying for access to it. Much better then dictionary.com and the like), history is defined as the following:

1. [mass noun] the study of past events, particularly in human affairs: medieval European history.

• the past considered as a whole: letters that have changed the course of history.

2. the whole series of past events connected with a particular person or thing: the history of the Empire | a patient with a complicated medical history.

• an eventful past: the group has quite a history. • a past characterized by a particular thing: his family had a history of insanity.

3. a continuous, typically chronological, record of important or public events or of a particular trend or institution: a history of the labour movement.

I think a discussion around history can be a productive and interesting means to talk about Anjali Arondekar's piece, "Without a Trace: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive".

European_Colonialism_1500_AD_to_2000.jpg

Let us start with the first definition. We tend to think of what qualifies as history as only pertinent to human affairs, neglecting our relationship as sentient beings with non/humans, environment, or the "other". How can our understanding of history and the historical change or become affected by a posthumanist perspective?

What does it mean to think of history as a narrative, a motivated story with purpose to be retold and reinscribed? Arondekar described studies of colonialism and the archive industry as being inspired in part by Subaltern Studies, which is critical of traditional focus on the elites who inspire the masses. Subaltern Studies approaches history from below, focusing on non-elites--subalterns, which can be thought of as any person or group of "inferior rank and station" based on given/perceived/self-identified social identities. Can history be empowering? How does looking at looking at history through the lenses of minorities problematize social hierarchical structures and elitist narratives?

The final provided definition of history purports history to be a continuous and chronological record. The archive then, is both a "system of representation" and "material with 'real' consequences". Standpoint theory acknowledges the subjective nature of our individual perspectives as relative temporally, geographically, and as affected by our social identities. History then is also herstory. It is a multiplicity of histories. It is relative and subjective. It is continuous yet never present.

In what ways can queering history be productive? What happens when we think beyond the terms and limits of empire? How can we queer the archive and archival process?

Arondekar Diablog

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Arondekar's article Without A Trace seems to state that sexuality's historiography has turned to the colonial archive to find evidence about homosexuality in the Indian national archives. Furthermore, Arondekar states that "Holden rightly suggests, "find the latter part of the nineteenth century a period of radical historical discontinuity." The late nineteenth century is the period that marks the intensification of imperial domains, territorial redistributions, and the rise of nationalist movements." Arondekar also writes that the 19th century also the period when the relationship of sexuality to knowledge and power is articulated and differentiated by homosexuality emerging as a set of identifications.

When Arondekar writes "The new material on homosexuality does not purport simply to "correct" and/or reveal the truth about the history of sexuality in the colonial period. While there might be a certain evangelical flavor to some of the scholarship, most of the work indicates that the authors are keenly aware of the shifting parameters of space, time, and knowledge and of the role of the archive in such entanglements" I wonder if there are any other parameters to consider when dealing with archives. For example, could the archiver (person recording events/documents) also add some mystery or biased information in relation to the decade/time period?

Also, Arondekar writes that a scholar names Shah uses the "coming out materials of his contemporaries" to analyze and critically think about past archives."Shah advocates strategics of historical research that derive from a differentiated language of loss and discovery. Shah must rely on the coming-out materials of his contemporaries (classic models of the logic of the secret) to think critically about the archives of the past." While I think it's a wonderful idea to use contemporaries to try to analyze past archives I think it might be 100% efficient and accurate. Each period has a different way of doing things and a different way of thinking so trying to use something contemporary to analyze sexuality in colonial archives would be very difficult due to time, space, and knowledge parameters.

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