Archive for January, 2009

That’s Revolting! Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

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Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (Photo: Jefferey Walls)

One of the great advantages with the Internet, is the possibility of following activists and artists in other side of the world. Unfortunately, it is an overt globalized Eurocentrism in such a statement and, of course, not all have the possibility of hooking up with others online, or silently following people as they write on their activities, their travels, their thoughts and actions.

For quite a while now, I have followed the activist writer Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s blog NOBODY PASSES, darling. Currently the blog has documented her experiences and meetings with people on her latest tour, presenting her new novel So Many Ways to Sleep Badly (City Lights, 2008).

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It is inspiring to be a blog-companion, following Mattilda around the US, and picking her thoughts. For those who are not familiar with Sycamore’s work, she has been a seriously active activist based in San Francisco, taking part in groups such as ACT UP, Fed Up Queers, Gay Shame, and several other initiatives. In 2003, Mattilda published her first novel Pulling Taffy, and besides her own literary production, she has edited several books (and journals), such as Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, Dangerous Families: Queer Writing on Surviving and Tricks and Treats: Sex Workers Write About Their Clients. In other words, Mattilda is an active “critic and troublemaker”.

In 2004 Mattilda edited the important anthology That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, published by Skull Press. In 2008, a new revised and expanded version of the book came out, and this is mandatory for everyone interested in queer activism, politics, and history. Here you can read on Gay Shame, Restroom Revolutionaries, Fed Up Queers, ACT UP, Gay Liberation Front, rural queer youth, sex workers, drugs and resistance, sex workers, critiques of straight (and gay) privilege, racism, assimilation, etc.

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I have been thinking about this book lately, as the media in Scandinavia has written about the fight for gay marriage in California, following the Proposition 8, restricting the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples only. In the coverings on the gay Prop.8-activism, there are never any mentionings of the far more radical activism criticising gay assimilation and marriage as an institution in the US. But activist initiatives resisting the normalization of queer existence deserves more attention, also across the Atlantic. And here Mattilda comes into the picture, as her writings and discussions on her blog and in her books are important, as they reach out wide with a strong and precise critical voice. In the introduction to That’s Revolting! Mattilda writes on gay marriage :

“If gay marriage is about protecting citizenship, whose citizenship is being protected? Most people in this country - especially those not born rich, white, straight, and male - are not full citizens. Gay assimilationists want to make sure they’re on the winning side in the citizenship wars, and this they see no need to prevent most people living in this country (and anywhere else) from exercising their supposed ‘rights’.”

Mattilda is not affraid to step on somebody’s toes, and she does an important job criticizing priveleges of all sorts. On her blog yesterday, she quoted herself from an interview she did with The Rumpus, and I think it is worth quoting this in length:

“Complacency isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. I’m interested in accountability and I’m interested in building a culture of defiance. I think it’s perfectly fine if people choose conventional life choices but it’s important to figure out a way to do the least damage rather than the most. We all make horrible compromises in order to survive in this monstrous world but the point is to make the fewest compromises possible, not to push everyone aside in order to grab any privilege we can get our hands on and then police the borders to keep out those who have less access. If the status quo is a rabid, militaristic, imperialist project camouflaged by the illusion of everyday normalcy, then yes, it’s definitely a problem if you’re a willful part of it.”

That’s something to think about folks! So now you are warned: Mattilda’s writing is out there, and it better be read and discussed more in Scandinavia too.

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Queer methodologies roundtable in Stockholm

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

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There seems to be a growing interest in queer methodology as of lately. For instance, at the international conference Feminist Research Methods in Stockholm February 4-6, a two-day workshop session is dedicated to methodological questions in queer studies.

The workshop “Queer Methodologies, or How Do Queer Researchers Do Research?” (pdf.) is organized by The Queer Seminar at Stockholm University (Ingeborg Svensson, Fanny Ambjörnsson, Pia Laskar, Patrik Steorn). During the conference, approximately 20 presenters will discuss their different queer research methods.

For those who are not participating in the conference, there is an open roundtable discussion on Thursday February 5th at 09.00-10.30 at Stockholm University, entitled: “Queer Methodologies: Problems and possibilities”, including Kath Brown (moderator), Anu Koivunen, Mark Graham, Sara Edenheim, and Martin Berg. If you are in Stockholm during this time, remember to check out the social events program, “Queer Spaces”, that is open for everybody. See you there!

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New issue of GJSS on queer methodologies

Monday, January 26th, 2009

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In the end of December, a new issue of Graduate Journal of Social Science was released online: Queer Studies: Methodological Approaches. The issue is edited by the graduate students Robert Kulpa and Mia Liinason, and it includes a wide variety of articles on newer tendencies in queer studies.

In relation to Trikster, an article of special interest is Judith Halberstam’s text “The Anti-Social Turn in Queer Theory” (pdf). This was the paper Halberstam presented when Trikster interviewed her in 2007.  After being published in a short version in PMLA (Vol. 121, No. 3, May 2006), it is great to finally read the paper in full text. In this extended version of her argument, Halberstam discusses the anti-social thesis as developed by Leo Bersani in Homos (1996) and Lee Edelman in No Future (2004), criticizing their focus upon a small white gay male archive, and their disregard for the “far less liberal tradition of homophilia” that is connected to this anti-social tradition. Taking on Sex Pistols’s “God Save the Queen” and their refusal of futurity, Halberstam argues for a more political and eccentric genealogy of the politics of negativity, discussing the work of Jamaica Kinkaid, Valerie Solanas, Yoko Ono, and others. Halberstam urges us to “embrace a truly political negativity”, and thereby, as Kinkaid has formulated it, “make everyone a little less happy.”

Other articles in GJSS that may be of special interest for Trikster-readers are Tiina Rosenberg’s text “Locally Queer. A Note on the Feminist Genealogy of Queer Theory” (pdf.) on the use and deployment of the English term “queer” in a Swedish context; and the Danish queer activist academic Liv Mertz’s text “’I am what I am?’? Toward a Sexual Politics of Contingent Foundations” (pdf.), discussing queer activism in Denmark, with a focus on Enhedslistens Queerudvalg.

Read all the articles in GJSS here.

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