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.