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Day Eleven: April 12

Earlier in the semester, we read an essay by Karma Chávez. She's speaking next Monday: 

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How can we read this NPR news report on health and aging beside Ahmed's happiness?

Sara's Sara Ahmed Mash-up: After the jump I do a mash-up of different bits of blog posts from my trouble blog and my course blogs for queering desire and feminist/queer/troublemaking on Sara Ahmed and happiness.

Day Ten: April 5

Here is a pdf of some of my favorite passages from our Foucault/Butler readings for today. 

Here are two blog entries that serve (at least partly) as the inspiration for tomorrow's class on Foucault and virtue:

Horton the caring troublemaker
Blog Mash-up #2, part 3: the SWIP Presentation

Here's the original animated version of Horton Hears a Who:

Day Eight: March 8


  • dignity
  • autonomy
  • freedom
  • respect
  • value/worth
  • devaluation
  • humanity
  • possessing dignity and bearing witness to dignity
  • psychic and imaginary space to dream
  • humiliation (shame?)
  • deviancy
  • im/proper mourning

KANT AND DIGNITY (via Cornell):

Kant thought our desires were given to us by nature: as desiring beings, we are governed by the laws of nature. Our dignity, on the contrary, lies in our autonomy. As creatures capable of reason, we can value our own ends, but we can also discern which ends we should pursue on the basis of moral law ("Autonomy," 145).

The grandeur of every person acting as a universally self-legislating, rational being in an ideal pursuit of human freedom whose realization is always to come.

A human being regarded as a exalted above any price; for as a person...he is not be valued merely as a means to the ends of others or even to his own ends, but as an end in itself, that is, he possesses a dignity (absolute inner worth) by which he exacts respect for himself from all other rational beings in the world. He can measure himself with every other being of this kind and value himself on a footing of equality with them (Between Women, fn2, 194).


Dignity inheres in evaluations we all have to make of our lives, the ethical decisions we consciously confront, and even the ones we ignore. Dignity lies in our struggle to remain true to a moral vision, and even in our wavering from it, since we are still the ones making it (Between Women, xviii). is something that we cannot lose (Between Women, xviii). 

Humiliation is the treatment by another that seeks to force us out of the reach of shared humanity, a shared humanity that includes our physical vulnerability, rather than degrading it. 

The only truly humiliating thing that a human being can do is to seek to humiliate another, because in such acts, we deny both the other person and ourselves the respect that inheres in our dignity (Between Women, xxvii). 

Putting some passages beside each other:


What did it mean that I had to recast who he was into someone he might never have been in order to narrate him as worthy and deserving (Cacho, 199)?

...mourning, at least as I am defining it, demands that we recognize that there was someone else, someone other than our fantasies of them, that we have lost (Cornell, Between Women, xix). 


How do we write about the "disjuncture" between the structural conditions that constrain people's lives and the lives themselves? What stories can we tell to ascribe human value to devalued lives that do not depend upon the language of fairness? How do we evoke sympathy and empathy without deploying the logic of deserving/undeserving?...How do I write about my cousin's value without appealing to the same "family values" that his own life was devalued and disciplined by (Cacho, 201)?

On the day she died, she left me committed to the promise to write a book, dedicated to her, that would bear witness to the dignity of her death and that her bridge class would be able to understand (Between Women, xvii). 

What does it mean to witness to the dignity of another woman? What does it mean to witness to the dignity of her death? What does it mean to die with dignity (Cornell, Between Women, xvi)?


Brandon had always confused me. I could not readily identify a purpose to his actions because they could not be neatly compartmentalized as either complicit or resistant; sometimes, his actions were not even legible as strategies of survival. It was as if he followed a logic all his own, but maybe that was the point. Brandon's defiant dreams refused to follow the logics that were prescribed by the American Dream, organized through heteronormativity, or dictated by capital accumulation, making his desires difficult to decipher within normative frameworks (Cacho, 203). 

The imaginary domain is the moral and psychic right to represent and articulate the meaning of our desire and our sexuality within the ethical framework of respect for the dignity of all others ("Autonomy," 141).

Freedom not to fall prey to drives that prevent us from being able to express our desire, pursue it, and rationally evaluate it ("Autonomy,"144). 

I hypothesize that most acts labeled deviant or even defiant of power are not attempting to sway fundamentally the distribution of power in the country of even permanently change the allocation of power among the individuals involved in an interaction. Instead these acts, decisions, or behaviors are more often attempts to create greater autonomy over one's life, to pursue desire, or to make the best of very limited life options. Thus instead of attempting to increase one's power over someone, people living with limited resources may use the restricted agency available to them to create autonomous spaces absent the continuous stream of power from outside authorities or normative structures (Cohen). 

Day Seven: March 1


  • Check reading schedule for revisions for next week
  • Remember to post your first entry about your big project before spring break

One theme for today's class is "besides." Here are some of my thoughts, as inspired by the readings:


  • next to, in proximity to, touching others, in relation to others (interrelational Chávez, 4)
  • bodies touching--violence and care (Butler, 21/23)
  • keeping vigil, being/doing for others, in solidarity with others (Muñoz, 197)
  • in addition to, another perspective, another direction, always more than "I" (Butler, 32)
  • ecstatic, outside of oneself (but not fully outside of oneself), torn from self/bound to others/undone by others/implicated in lives of others (Butler, 20)
  • overwhelmed with emotion: grief, passion, anger, fear, panic
  • undone by grief
  • result of extreme event, causing person to realize vulnerability/precariousness (Chávez, 2)
  • retaliation or impetus to resist (Chávez, 2)
  • a space of im/possibility
  • a counterpublic space of radical intervention (Muñoz, 198-201) that "produce material possibilities" for subversion/resistance (Chávez, 2) 
  • a space of community, a "we" that is fashioned through "undoneness," refusals to fully identify, inability to fit, disidentification (Muñoz, 202/Butler, 20)
  • relationship to/with theories, mainstream representations/ideologies, other parts of self/community
  • one of many relationships, positions
  • tactics for survival, strategies for imagining new worlds/ways of being
  • failed interpellation: Can a self or a personality be crafted without proper identifications (Muñoz, 7)?
  • to identify with and against
  • to disidentify, to resignify, to reformulate theories/theorists for our own purposes
  • to suspend or avoid judgment, not about what is good or bad, but what is "useful" (word choice?) or valuable
  • not a "good subject" or a "bad subject" but a subject who disidentifies, who doesn't fully identify (good) or fully (reject), but reworks (disidentify) (Muñoz, 11-12)
  • heard by something outside of the interpellation and its regulatory power...something besides the call to be recognized/identify/identified (Muñoz, 21)
  • another direction: using codes differently, reworking them, creating possibilities that are impossible, imaging worlds that are unimaginable (Muñoz, 31)
  • don't fit easily or comfortably in any identity or "discourse of minority subjectivity" (Muñoz, 32)

A METHOD...ETHICAL FRAMEWORK...ETHOS (ways of being/doing)

How do we apply this method/framework/ethos to our critical exploration of ethics? 

How can we be beside/s Kant, Levinas, a feminist ethics of care, bioethics? 

What does it mean to be beside the theories we employ? 

To place our academic self/selves beside our "personal" selves (whatever that means)? 

Sara starts class with a clip from Funny Girl "His Love Makes Me Beautiful"

Announcements: See Sara's blog entry from earlier today.

Pick your brain activity: Sara shows us a video a student posted in Politics of Sex on the topic of heteronormativity.
"Impasse (Reel 13)"
Sara asks is the video problematic? Does it buy into thinking of female bodies as hypersexualized? Raechel thinks that yes the film is problematic. Desire and attraction as a way to break down racist ideology as displayed in this context is problematic. The classroom seems to come to some agreement that the film is problematic. Sara asks whether it would be helpful to show this video to a classroom to expose heteronormativity? Reina reads the video as looking at the guy character as the "hero" and argues that each body is sexualized differently. Where he's protected, "he sees her completely", her role is contingent on his cues. We can only understand her through understanding him.

Day Five: February 15

Two announcements:

1. In order to help you start thinking about your final project, you should post one blog entry about your project before spring break (by 3.8). This post should serve both as a way to document your preliminary thoughts on the project and as an opportunity to get feedback from the rest of the class. Shortly after spring break (the week of March 28- April 1, you will need to set up a time to meet with me to discuss your project. I will distribute a sign-up sheet soon. 

2. Come here Melody speak at the Feminist Spring Colloquium:

Presentation: "Frontin' Gangstas, Getting Down With Thyself: Hip Hop, Sexuality, and Feminism in Afrodite Superstar 

Date: Friday, February 18 Time: 2:00pm  

Location: 400 Ford Hall, East Bank

The topic for today's discussion is: Norms, Normativity and Aspiration

One goal that I have for our discussion of J Butler, J Jakobsen, D Taylor and R Ferguson is to disentangle norms from normal, normativity and normalization. 

  • What do these different terms mean? 
  • How are they connected in a network of relations (Ferguson) or through "working alliances" (Jakobsen)?
  • How do they become conflated? Intertwined? 
  • What are the implications of paying attention to how these terms function differently for queer/ing ethics projects?
  • What do norms do? Can we imagine other ways of using them? Are norms necessary for ethics? 
  • Do developing normative constructions/regulations/understandings of how to behave properly (how to be good, as opposed to bad) = ethics/morality?
"The queer possibilities of Streisand's performance of Jewishness depend in part on the historical twinning of Jews and homosexuals..." and Streisand's queering actions of} relying on and troubling a network of norms (528). 

Here are two clips from Funny Girl to consider: The Swan  

 His Love Makes Me Beautiful

Day Four: February 8

Judith Butler: An Ethical "Evolution"?

Today serves as a small/partial introduction to J Butler's engagement with ethics. We are discussing excerpts from Undoing Gender, Precarious Life and Frames of War. We are also discussing an interview she did with William Connolly on ethics and politics. Here's what I want to do today:

  • Brief overview of some influences/traditions that Butler draws upon
  • Introduction, through video clips, to some key themes
  • Close reading of essays/troubling passages

An Overview of some influences/traditions/themes

  • Jewish Philosophy: Spinoza
  • Hegel and recognition/Subjects of Desire
  • Foucault
  • Nietzsche
  • Frankfurt School of Critical Theory: Adorno/Horkheimer
  • Ernesto Laclau and Radical Democracy
  • ACT UP, Queer Nation
  • Althusser and interpellation
  • Levinas and the face
  • Intelligibility and recognition
  • Ambivalence
  • Anxiety/difficulty
  • Grief, mourning, melancholy
  • suffering
  • AIDS
  • 9/11
  • Norms
  • Non-violence
  • Precariousness
  • Bodies
  • Livable life/possibility/unlivability
  • Critique/dissent
  • Unknowingness
  • Trouble/being undone
  • failure
  • limits
  • Agency/resistance
  • Space/room to breathe/to live (freedom?)
  • the human/non-human
  • Struggle

Butler Speaks...

"It's not a system" (at 5:10) from Judith Butler: Philosopher Encounters of the Third Kind

What is meant by Undoing Gender? (2:27)

"What does it mean to take a walk?" (with Sunaura Taylor)

A close reading of some passages...

Here a few from me:

from Undoing Gender, page 12:

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from "Precarious Life":

(from 141)

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(page 147)

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(page 151)

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Here's a passage that might be helpful from the introduction to Frames of War (13)

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and more from Frames of War:
page 77

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FYI: Here's a link to Sontag's "Regarding the Torture of Others"

Day three: February 1


Before we get to our discussion for today, a few announcements:

  • Readings for next week will be posted on WebVista this evening
  • Read Queering the Color line for Feb 22
  • Questions about blog assignments? Diablog, etc?


Here are a few key passages from the authors that we read for this week. I'd like us to put them into conversation with each other as we critically reflect on what it might mean to "resist morality and the call to be good":


If we want to make the antisocial turn in queer theory, we must be willing to turn away from the comfort zones of polite exchange to embrace a truly negative political negativity, one that promises, this time, to fail, to make a mess, to fuck shit up, to be loud, unruly, impolite, to breed resentment, to bash back, to speak up and out, to disrupt, assassinate, shock, and annihilate.. (824).


hope is spawned of a critical investment in utopia that is nothing like naive but, instead, profoundly resistant to the stultifying temporal logic of a broken-down present....The corrective I want to make by turning to utopia is attuned to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's critique of the way in which paranoid reading practices have become so nearly automatic in queer studies that they have, in many ways, ceased to be critical....Utopian readings are aligned with what Sedgwick would call reparative hermeneutics (826).


Nothing is more promisculously sociable, or intent on hooking up, than the part of our being separate from selfhood (827).


we must respond not only by insisting on our right to enjoy on an equal footing the various perogatives of the social order, not only by avowing our capacity to confirm the integrity of the social order by demonstrating the selfless and enduring love we bestow on the partners we'd gladly fly to Hawaii in order to marry or on the children we'd eagerly fly to China or Guatemala in order to adopt, but also by saying explicitly what Lave and the law of the symbolic he represents hear, more clearly even than we do perhaps, in every public avowal of queer sexuality or identity: fuck the social order and figural children paraded before us as its terroristic emblem; fuck Annie; fuck the waif from Les Miz; fuck the poor innocent kid on the 'Net; fuck Laws both with capital "l's" and with small; fuck the whole network of symbolic relations and the future that serves as its prop (29).


I've also worried that it [a turn to ethics] has meant a certain heightening of moralism and this has made me cry out, as Nietzsche cried out about Hegel, "Bad air! Bad air!" I suppose that looking for a space in which to breathe is not the highest ethical aspiration, but it is there, etymologically embedded in aspiration itself, and does seem to constituted something of a precondition for any viable, that is, livable, ethical reflection ("Ethical Ambivalence" 16).

The prevailing law threatened one with trouble, even put one in trouble, all to keep one out of trouble. Hence I concluded that trouble is inevitable and the task, how best to make it, what best way to be in it ("1990 Preface" vii)


I am seeing the need for ethics in lesbian and feminist communities where I reside--understood as a need to know right from wrong, know the good, act rightly and be good--as a need particular to women trying to earn or maintain a certain status....this leads me to wonder if instead of seeking to create a lesbian ethics...we might consider learning to do without ethics entirely (58).

Now, some questions:

  • How do these different authors describe ethics? How are they positioning themselves in relation to ethics?
  • What does it mean to be good? How does goodness connect with status and citizenship?
  • Should "goodness" be a goal for (queer) ethics?
  • What would it mean to "do without ethics"? How can this be accomplished?
  • What might an ethics of "fucking shit up" (a la Halberstam) look like? Is this a version of learning to do without ethics? How else can we imagine a project of cultivating selves/communities who don't need ethics?
Here are a few youtube clips that connect to our discussion today:

Annie and the ethics of reproductive futurism?


 Dr. Horrible: Embracing evil and reversing/resisting the call to be good?


Day two: January 25

Today in class the focus of our discussion is: Queer Pedagogies and Productions. Before we get into our discussion of the readings, here are a few announcements:

1. Slight reading revision for next week:

  • Butler, Judith. "Ethical Ambivalence" 
  • Butler, Judith. "Preface to Gender Trouble"  
  • Frye, Marilyn. "A Response to Lesbian Ethics: Why Ethics?"
  • "Anti-social Queer"
  • Edelman, Lee. "The Future is Kid Stuff"
All reading are available on our WebVista site. 

2. Class notes sign-up sheet. Note:our class notes blog post should be posted within 48 hours of our class. If you decide to live-tweet our class, you should also post a brief entry summarizing the class + your experiences live-tweeting. Here are some examples from a past class: here and here. You can also check out my reflections on live-tweeting for a class last semester here

3. Not sure how to use twitter? Download my user guide here. You can also check out femped2010's twitter tips or my entry on feminist pedagogy and twitter

Here are a few things that I would like to discuss today: 

1. What is paranoid reading? How do we distinguish it from reparative reading? Can an emphasis on reparative reading enable us to get out of the destructive/productive model that seems to always place ethics in opposition to queer/ing practices and visions?

2. What are the implications for pedagogy and queer/ing classrooms/University spaces of shifting from a focus on "knowing" (as learning through transmission, acquiring knowledge, etc) to ignorance, in the forms of: failing to know, resisting knowing, risking unknowingness, staying at the limits of intelligibility? 

3. How can/does/should failure function in the learning/reading/engaging process? 

4. On page 188, Shahani draws upon J Butler to suggest that "there is always the possibility of reworking failure in more reparative directions by identifying the constraints that 'mark at once the limits of agency and it most enabling conditions'." How can we rework failure? Is it possible to emphasize limits and failure without always falling into a logic of exposure/paranoia?

5. On page 195, Shahani asks: "how are the material conditions that surround the classroom inextricably linked to the failures within the classroom?" What are the material conditions that shape our classroom space? Do you see any parallels between Shahani's discussion of excellence (196) and the UofM's "driven to discover" campaign? How does the drive to discover (and the slogan "because") shape our learning/teaching/engaging experiences?

6. Explain: "The queer insistence is that non-straight sexualities are simultaneously marginal and central, and that heterosexuality exists in an epistemic symbiosis with homosexuality" (Luhmann 3). 

7.Here are a few passages from Luhmann that we can discuss:

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.

8. What is the ethical practice here? How do we think about Luhmann, Shahani and Sedgwick in terms of queer/ing ethics

9. What are/should the implications of these essays on queer/ing pedagogy be for our classroom? Our practices of engagement?

Day One: January 18

Hello and welcome to queer/ing ethics! 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:
Read over the syllabus
Briefly review the reading schedule
Overview of course blog and twitter class list

To Each Other:
Preferred name/pronoun
Discipline/areas of interest
Good book/movie/tv show you watched
Why you're taking this class
Experience with social media/online technology/queer studies

About me: Dr. Sara Puotinen

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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).

Over break I read the Hunger Games trilogy and loved it. I really enjoy teaching in the GWSS/GLBT department--and I especially love teaching classes on queer theory! In addition to this class, I have taught queering desire, queering theory, intro to GLBT studies and a graduate seminar on feminist and queer explorations in troublemaking.

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 in May of 2009 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. In addition to tweeting as gwssprof, I also tweet as undisciplined.