Posts Tagged ‘new publication’

Call for contributions to Queeristan 2012

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

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Below is a Call for Contributions for the important political festival and gathering Queeristan 2012 that takes place in Amsterdam between May 18 and 20 this year. Queeristan is said to be one of the central meeting places for anti-racist queer critique in the area. This year they have a “freaky” framework for the festival:

All the freaky people
make the beauty of the world
(Michael Franti)

With this message Queeristan is calling out whoever is interested in using freaking beauty to achieve a different queer politics. Together, let’s join forces in a festival that will take place in Amsterdam from May 18-20.

What is Queeristan? Certainly not a(nother) country. Behind it there is a nomadic collective of activists based in Amsterdam whose interests do not exactly rhyme with law&order, nor with setting up new borders. Nonetheless Queeristan is all about providing a space. Not only an autonomous space that dodges logics of profit and commercialization, but also a platform to both explore and counter the normative workings of gender and identity. A safe environment for queers and a factory of resistance. Our critique departs from the simple fact that buying “normalcy” in the guise of being either male or female, a Dutch or a foreigner, gay or straight, either one or the other, simply means to be disciplined by a choice made elsewhere, to be docile towards it, to keep your mouth and your eyes shut.

Although Queeristan strives to bring together all sorts of sexual outlaws, we do not want it to be another gay pride: we are not interested in using the beat of our music to celebrate the “integration” of just some queer lives whose skin color, citizenship, cultural and financial means are played as “assets” within a liberal democracy that trades rights as if it were a stock exchange. Instead Queeristan wants to be a festival where dissent unpredictably materializes and becomes shareable in a performance, in a workshop, but also in a work of art, or in partying all night long. There is no fixed formula for Queeristan. There is a togetherness based on affinity with political projects that focus on the body as the site where social aggregation and exclusion can be concretely addressed. Queeristan discerns the battlefield where a geopolitics of consumerism, migration, human rights is enforced. Queeristan resists.

Amsterdam becomes Queeristan the moment we recompose the space we inhabit to uncover the possibility of troubling our private, individual consumer identity. To start using our bodies and intersect the multiple layers of stories and practices that shape them as they tie them to one another. Therefore Queeristan is calling activists, artists, performers, queers to come up with proposals that aim at re-inventing the modes of encounter, feeling, and understanding our bodies and with interventions that seek to spatially short circuit and re-map Amsterdam beyond its neoliberal rhetoric of gay-friendliness and connect it to other places and struggles.

If Queeristan’s politics resonates with yours, come onboard and share the platform by joining the collective in our weekly meetings in preparation to the festival. Or, if you have exciting ideas for a workshop, a performance, an art exhibition, or other, original formats cooked up by your queer creativity: we are looking forward to receiving your proposals - being aware of the nasty logistic limits of time, space and money - to construct the festival that will form Queeristan this spring.

Please send all your inquires and proposals (max 500 words) to queeristan (at) gmail.com

Deadline for submissions is February, 29 2012.

On that freaky note - it is worth mentioning that the German artist and theorist Renate Lorenz’s long awaited book Queer Art - A Freak Theory is out in just a couple of weeks. 2012 is a freaky queer year indeed.

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We Who Feel Differently

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

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A couple of weeks ago, the multi-disciplinary artist Carlos Motta released his fascinating research-based art project We Who Feel Differently with talks in Bergen and Oslo.

We Who Feel Differently is the result of Motta’s extensive work on queer activism and the question of alternative thinking, centered around numerous interviews with activists in Colombia, USA, South Korea and Norway. Motta has collected an amazing number of voices and material, and he has been generous enough to present it all for free on a compelling homepage: wewhofeeldifferently.info. Great!

I have just started to read, listen and watch all the fascinating material in the interview, journal, ephemera and theme-sections, and look forward to spend much time on and with this homepage in the future. Here is how Motta presents the structure of the project:

We Who Feel Differently is a database documentary that addresses this question and other critical issues of contemporary queer culture.

Interviews features conversations with fifty queer academicians, activists, artists, radicals, researchers, and others in Colombia, Norway, South Korea and the United States about the histories and development of LGBTIQQ politics in those countries.

Themes outlines five thematic threads drawn from the interviews in the form of a narrative. This section has also been produced as a book.

Journal is a sporadic publication that presents in depth analyses and critiques of LGBTIQQ politics from queer perspectives. The first issue is “Queerly Yours: Thoughts and Afterthoughts on Marriage Equality.”

We Who Feel Differently attempts to reclaim a queer “We” that values difference over sameness, a “We” that resists assimilation, and a “We” that embraces difference as a critical opportunity to construct a socially just world.

I hope Motta’s project will generate critical discussion and debate about politics of difference and sameness, queerness etc. It surely is a gold mine to all scholars, activists, artists and others interested in queer activism, transnational solidarity and alternative perspectives on the “site” of queer politics. I hope to write more about this project in the future!

Queer in Eastern/Europe

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

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There are lots of new publications coming out these days that I wish I could get hold of. The latest is Lisa Downing and Robert Gillett’s edited collection Queer in Europe - a book collecting perspectives on the translation, morphing and travel of queer through different European countries and contexts. It seems to move country-by-country through the continent (although Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and the other Nordic countries have been swept together under the rubric “the Nordic region”; but as the text is written by the always amazing Ulrika Dahl, I’m sure it is a great one). The book is unfortunately only in hardback (as so many of Ashgate’s ‘Queer Intervention‘-books - a shame!), but hopefully it will be releases in paperback too, or/and be bought by a library close to you in the near future. Here is what the publishers write:

Queer in Europe takes stock of the intellectual and social status and treatment of queer in the New Europe of the twenty-first century, addressing the ways in which the Anglo-American term and concept ‘queer’ is adapted in different national contexts, where it takes on subtly different overtones, determined by local political specificities and intellectual traditions. Bringing together contributions by carefully chosen experts, this book explores key aspects of queer in a range of European national contexts, namely: Belgium, Cyprus, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, The Nordic Region, The Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Spain.

Rather than prescribing a universalizing definition, the book engages with a wide spectrum of what is meant by ‘queer’, as each chapter negotiates the contested border between direct queer activist action based on identity categories, and more plural queer strategies that call these categories into question. The first volume in English devoted to the exploration of queer in Europe, this book makes an important intervention in contemporary queer studies.

Contents: Preface; Introduction, Lisa Downing and Robert Gillett; Queer in Belgium: ignorance, goodwill, compromise, Bart Eeckhout; Queer in Cyprus: national identity and the construction of gender and sexuality, Nayia Kamenou; Queer in England: the comfort of queer? Kittens Teletubbies and Eurovision, David Nixon and Nick Givens; Queer in France: AIDS dissidentification in France, James N. Agar; Queer in Germany: materialist concerns in theory and activism, Ute Kalender; Queer in Hungary: hate speech regulation and the queering of the conduct/speech binary, Erzsébet Barát; Queer in Ireland: ‘deviant’ filiation and the (un)holy family, Anne Mulhall; Queer in Italy: Italian televisibility and the ‘queerable’ audience, Luca Malici; Queer in The Netherlands: pro-gay and anti-sex – sexual politics at a turning point, Gert Hekma; Queer in the Nordic region: telling queer (feminist) stories, Ulrika Dahl; Queer in Poland: under construction, Lukasz Szulc; Queer in Russia: othering the other of the West, Brian James Baer; Queer in Spain: identity without limits, Santiago Fouz-Hernandez.

The book looks rich, and although not without controversial figures (such as Gert Hekma writing about Netherlands, pace the discussion of his scandalous ‘contribution‘ to the Sexual Nationalism conference in Amsterdam recently), there should be much interesting stuff here.

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Queer in Europe seems to speak well together with Robert Kulpa and Joanna Mizieliñska’s new edited collection De-Centring Western Sexualities: Central and Eastern European Perspectives (similarly from Ashgate in expensive hardback). The editors have over the last years done much important work to decenter queer theory from the Anglo-American focus, and it is great to know that this book exists. Here is what the publishers write about it:

De-Centring Western Sexualities critically assesses the current state of knowledge about sexualities outside the framings of ‘The West’, by focusing on gender and sexuality within the context of Central and Eastern Europe. Providing rich case studies drawn from a range of “post-communist” countries, this interdisciplinary volume brings together the latest research on the formation of sexualities in Central and Eastern Europe, alongside analyses of the sexual and national identity politics of the region. Engaged with current debates within queer studies surrounding temporality and knowledge production, and inspired by post-colonial critique, the book problematises the Western hegemony that often characterises sexuality studies, and presents local theoretical insights better attuned to their geo-temporal realities. As such, it offers a cultural and social re-evaluation of everyday life experiences, and will be of interest to sociologists, queer studies scholars, geographers and anthropologists.

Contents: Introduction: why study sexualities in Central and Eastern Europe?, Robert Kulpa and Joanna Mizielinska; ‘Contemporary peripheries’: queer studies, circulation of knowledge, and East/West divide, Joanna Mizielinska and Robert Kulpa; Between walls: provincialisms, human rights, sexualities and Serbian public discourses on EU integration, Jelisaveta Blagojevic; Nations and sexualities - ‘West’ and ‘East’, Robert Kulpa; A short history of the queer time of ‘post-socialist’ Romania, or, are we there yet? Let’s ask Madonna, Shannon Woodcock; Travelling ideas, travelling times. On the temporalities of LGBT and queer politics in Poland and in the ‘West’, Joanna Mizielinska; Researching transnational activism around LGBTQ politics in Central and Eastern Europe: activist solidarities and spatial imaginings, Jon Binnie and Christian Klesse; Rendering gender in lesbian families: a Czech case, Katerina Nedbálková; The heteronormative panopticon and the transparent closet of the public space in Slovenia, Roman Kuhar; Heteronormativity, intimate citizenship and the regulation of same-sex sexualities in Bulgaria, Sasha Roseneil and Mariya Stoilova, Situating intimate citizenship in Macedonia: emotional navigation and everyday queer/kvar grounded moralities, Alexander Lambevski.

The pile of books that I want to read is growing each day, and hopefully Ashgate make these available in paperback so more people can get the chance to get hold of them…

Special issue of Criticism on Eve Sedgwick

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

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After the “primum mobile of queer theory,” Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, passed away in April 2009, there has been several events honoring her important work. Boston University arranged a series of roundtable discussions last year entitled “Honoring Eve” with scholars such as Lee Edelman, Cindy Patton, Michel Moon and others. The event was recorded and parts of it made public on YouTube, and it all is now published as a special issue of Criticism, edited by Erin Murphy and J.Keith Vincent.

The table of contents looks quite amazing, including contributions by an impressive crowd of researchers - among others Eve Sedgwick’s partner H.A. Sedgwick. It looks like this:

H. A. SEDGWICK: Opening Remarks for Honoring Eve Symposium

CAROLYN WILLIAMS: The Boston Years: Eve’s Humor and Her Anger

LEE EDELMAN: Unnamed: Eve’s Epistemology

SIOBHAN B. SOMERVILLE: Feminism, Queer Theory, and the Racial Closet

ED COHEN: The Courage of Curiosity, or the Heart of Truth (A Mash-up)

MICHAEL MOON: Psychosomatic? Mental and Physical Pain in Eve Sedgwick’s Writing

CINDY PATTON: Love without the Obligation to Love

JONATHAN FLATLEY: “Unlike Eve Sedgwick”

HEATHER LOVE: Truth and Consequences: On Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading

TAVIA NYONG’O: Trapped in the Closet with Eve

JOSEPH LITVAK: Sedgwick’s Nerve

BILL GOLDSTEIN: Some Scenes in Proust

KATHERINE HAWKINS: Re-creating Eve: Sedgwick’s Art and the Practice of Renewal

JONATHAN GOLDBERG: On the Eve of the Future

ID 450 COLLECTIVE: Writing the Plural: Sexual Fantasies

RENÉE C. HOOGLAND on Mad for Foucault: Rethinking the Foundations of Queer Theory by Lynne Huffer

BRIAN GLAVEY on Is the Rectum a Grave? and Other Essays by Leo Bersani

DREW DANIEL on Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity by José Esteban Muñoz

KATHRYN R. KENT on The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century by Kathryn Bond Stockton

HENRY ABELOVE on The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America by Margot Canaday

JOHN ANDREWS on The Reification of Desire: Toward a Queer Marxism by Kevin Floyd

FIONA BRIDEOAKE on Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History by Heather Love

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If you find purchasing the issue too difficult or expensive, and don’t have a library with online access nearby, some of the papers can be seen delivered on YouTube. Here are some of them:

Honoring Eve: Feminism and Queer Theory:

Honoring Eve: Writing and Illness:

Queer Adventures in Cultural Studies

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

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The great journal Cultural Studies is out with a new fascinating issue entitled “Queer Adventures in Cultural Studies,” edited by Angela McRobbie!

The new issue looks amazing, and after a short read, I can say for sure that Lisa Blackman’s article on performance of queer subjectivities, as well as fabulous Cecilia Sosa’s work on Claire Denis’ film Beau Travail and Judith Butler is good stuff. But the other texts looks great as well! Find a library with online access, and read on. This is the table of contents:

Cultural Studies, Vol. 25, Issue 2, 2011

Angela McRobbie: “Introduction: Queer adventures in Cultural Studies”
Donna Landry: “Queer Islam and New Historicism”
Volker Woltersdorff: “Paradoxes of Precarious Sexualities: Sexual subcultures under neo-liberalism”
Lisa Blackman: “Affect, Performance and Queer Subjectivities”
Cecilia Sosa: “Beau Travail (1998) and Judith Butler: Dancing at the limits of queer melancholia”
Leticia Sabsay: “The Limits of Democracy: Transgender sex work and citizenship”
Tim Lawrence: “Disco and the queering of the dance floor”
Heidi Hoefinger: “Professional girlfriends: An ethnography of sexuality, solidarity and subculture in Cambodia”.

New issue of Lambda Nordica: Queer Methodology

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

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Lambda Nordica, the great Swedish LGBT-studies journal, has just released a good looking issue on “Queer Methodology”. The main articles in the issue are all in English, and this is what the editors write in the press release:

“Fanny Ambjörnsson, Pia Laskar and Patrik Steorn of the Queer Seminar at Stockholm University has acted as Guest Editors for this publication that feature articles chosen from a number of papers presented under a queer theme within the interdisciplinary colloquium “Feminist Research Methods - An International Conference” at Centre for Gender Studies, Stockholm University in February 2009.

Various disciplines with different perspectives and takes on queer methodology are represented in this issue that focus on texts written by researchers active in a Nordic context, which highlights the vital and growing interest in Queer Studies in the Nordic countries. The outcome is a diverse and heterogeneous selection of texts discussing queer and methodologies, which makes this issue of lambda nordica a vital contribution to a continued and further detailed discussion of the role of methodology within interdisciplinary Queer Studies.”

The table of contents of the issue looks like this:

Fanny Ambjörnsson, Pia Laskar, Patrik Steorn: “Introduction”

Irina Schmitt: “Do you have a boyfriend? Feeling queer in youth and education research”

Anu Koinvunen: “Yes we can? The promise of affect for queer scholarship”

Mark Graham: “Things in the Field. Ethnographic research into objects and sexuality”

Mathias Danbolt: “We’re Here! We’re Queer?– Activist Archives and Archival Activism”

Patrik Steorn: “Queer in the museum: Methodological reflections on doing queer in museum collections”

The cover of the issue is from the amazing performance artist Mary Coble’s work Blood Script (2008).

You can order an issue of Lambda Nordica here.

Neoliberalism at play: An interview with Margot D. Weiss

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

– by Mika Nielsen and Tove Nilsson

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At the conference Desiring Just Economies /Just Economies of Desire that took place in Berlin this summer, we hurried to get good seats for the presentation of the paper “Unpacking the Toy Bag: Commodity and Power Exchange in BDSM Communities.” Author of the paper was Margot D. Weiss, Assistant Professor of American studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University, USA.

Weiss’ research focuses on sexual cultures and politics in USA today. Focusing on BDSM, she explores how certain subjects and performativities are made possible and others impossible in the BDSM communities; examining how intersections between consumer capitalism, neoliberalism, race, gender and class affect sex practice. She relates BDSM sexuality to socioeconomic facts, and has, for instance, questioned the transgressive potential of the dungeon.

After Weiss’ presentation we interviewed her about the status of BDSM research in the US, the constructed dichotomy between feminism and BDSM, and her forthcoming book, Techniques of Pleasure: Subjectivity and the Socioeconomics of BDSM (Duke University Press).

In your book Techniques of pleasure: Subjectivity and the Socioeconomics of BDSM, intersections between consumer capitalism, neoliberal rationalities, and racialized,
gendered and classed social hierarchies are crucial. How do you see these structures affect your material?

My book is an ethnography of the “new guard” pansexual BDSM scene in the San Francisco Bay Area. Between 2000 and 2003, I did fieldwork in the Bay Area, combining participant observation at a wide variety of community events with 61 two- to four-hour interviews with diverse BDSM practitioners.

My book analyses this scene as a technique-orientated community, organized around SM educational organizations, classes and workshops, semipublic dungeons, and other community events. Many of these new practitioners are in their forties and fifties, and they are as likely to live in the suburbs as in the city of San Francisco. Most are involved in long-term relationships, either married or partnered; the men are majority heterosexual, while the women are bisexual and heterosexual. And the vast majority of practitioners are white, with the means – or the aspiration – to buy the toys that, together with forms of self-improvement and technique, link community belonging with often invisible race and class privilege. For example, many of the practitioners I spoke with had spent between $1500 and $3000 on their toy collections, wardrobes and, in some cases, play spaces; such investments are a crucial way practitioners becomes skilled and knowledgeable members of the BDSM community.

It is somewhat ironic, then, that for many practitioners as well as social theorists, SM practice is imagined to transgress social relations and social norms. Much of the pro-SM literature produced by practitioners and theorists argues that BDSM is “subversive.” Working from Michel Foucault’s glorification of San Francisco’s SM “laboratories of sexual experimentation,” scholars have imaged SM as a break with both subjectivity and capitalist productivity. This fantasy participates in a logic that cordons off sexuality from the social real, creating the deep irony of a community organized around rules, regulations, codes of conduct and techniques, but one whose members also and simultaneously desire SM sex to be “free” of precisely these regulating norms.

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Michel Foucault

Departing from this Foucault-inspired analysis of the radical alterity of BDSM practice, I show, instead, the way BDSM sexuality – indeed all sexuality – is a social relation, linking subjects (private desire, identity, autonomy, fantasy, embodiments) to socioeconomics (public community, social hierarchies, collectivity, social power). I call this linkage a circuit in order to emphasize the productivity of the exchanges between realms imagined as subjective or private and those understood as social or economic. In chapters on BDSM rules and classes, toys and other commodity exchanges, gender play and “cultural trauma play” (play with race and ethnicity), I show the ways SM community, practitioners, practices, and scenes are linked in complex ways to the social and historical formations of race and gender in the United States, but also to the subject positions produced within late capitalism.

One crucial aspect of this is neoliberalism a cultural formation or a political rationality that produces and validates subjects with particularly marketized understandings of the relationship between the public and the private. In SM, this emphasis on free choice, individual agency and personal responsibility can justify – by obscuring – the forms of social inequality performatively produced and reproduced through community, a disavowal installed in SM through alibis such as color-, gender- or class-neutrality. For example, practitioners believe that SM roles are “freely chosen” in accordance with liberal ideas of choice and agency; SM roles, in this analysis, have nothing to do with forms of social inequality. However, when, for example, practitioners claim that a charity slave auction is unrelated to historical slavery, SM participates in a kind of neoliberal whiteness that disavows social and structural racism through a colorblind, individualist approach to privilege. This logic can create opportunities to “transgress” – or at least feel free of oppressive social norms while simultaneously restricting these possibilities to – and bolstering the position of – those with class, race and gender privilege.

In this way, the book shows that SM performance is material: rather than a safe or separate place of “play” (a radical alternative or outside to everyday life), SM community is, instead, deeply tied to capitalist cultural formations; rather than allowing for a kind of freedom from race, gender and sexuality, such SM practice and performance both remakes and consolidates the social norms that produce subjectivity, community and political imagination.

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Is there anything you would like to evolve concerning gender issues in particular, how they play a part and what affect they have in your dissertation?

My work is crucially concerned with gender and gender play. One of my chapters, entitled “Beyond Vanilla: Public Politics and Private Selves,” is an analysis of gender play that parallels social inequality: male dominant/female submissive couplings. Departing from both radical anti-SM feminist theory and Foucault-inspired queer theory, I argue that SM neither reproduces social relations (as a faithful copy) nor transgresses them (as a resistant form of play acting). Instead, I explore the ambivalence generated through the mimetic relationships between gendered, raced and sexualized social norms and SM roles, between the social real and the SM scene/play, within the context of neoliberal understandings of choice, freedom and agency. I analyze the ways the desire to transgress social norms produces a split between the public (of oppressive social norms: white privilege, heteronormativity and sexism) and the private (of personal desire). Such splits rely on a narrative of self-empowerment, where the “freedom” to sidestep or remake oppressive social norms relies on precisely the forms of social privilege instantiated through such norms. The ambivalence I track in this chapter is one way of thinking this split: an uncanny disavowal that names the ways practitioners know and do not know, name and fail to name, the social relations of power – grounded in material relations – that drive SM play.

In 2005 there was an anthology published in Sweden on Swedish queer research.

In 2005 the anthology Queersverige was published with a focus on Swedish queer research. In the preface Don Kulick pointed out that when sex radical researchers like Gayle Rubin are presented in Swedish research, they are not presented with focus on their ideas on sexual practices. Instead these ideas are marginalized. Kulick sees this as a symbol for queer in Sweden being reduced to just issues of sexual orientation (meaning homo/bi/hetero) and gender. Can you see parallells to this in the gender/queer research in USA?

I think, in general, that something similar happens in the US, although it is important to differentiate between work on “queer” (meaning gay, lesbian, bisexual, occasionally trans) topics, which often re-solidifies identitarian categories, and work in queer theory or queer studies, which, in general, pays much more attention to the production and enforcement of those categories. More recent queer studies work on the relationships between sexuality and capitalism, racialization, disability, globalization, etc. has broadened the range of queer studies, and given scholars new tools with which to think through sexuality in terms of social theory. I’m thinking of the issue of Social Text, “What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now…”, and work by Kevin Floyd, Martin Manalansan, Robert McRuer, Lisa Duggan, Tom Boellstorff, among others. At the same time, there remains less work on sexual practice, per se – a situation I hope is changing.

In Sweden there is only one ongoing work in the field on graduate/post-graduate level, which is Kim Herburt who writes about the history of sadomasochism in Sweden. Can you describe the BDSM research in the US? How many researchers are working in the field? What are the themes and focuses within this research at the moment?

I wouldn’t really describe BDSM research in the US as a field: right now, there are a few researchers scattered across different disciplines. You can see this in the three relatively new edited volumes on SM: Darren Langdridge’s and Meg Barker’s Safe, Sane and Consensual: Contemporary Perspectives on Sadomasochism (2007); Thomas S. Weinberg’s S&M: Studies in Dominance & Submission (1995); and Charles Moser’s and Peggy J. Kleinplatz’s Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures (2006).

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Because I am interested in linking BDSM (and sexuality in general) to broader socioeconomic formations, I am mostly interested in ethnographic or cultural approaches to sexuality. The only other US-based anthropologist I know who has published ethnographic work on BDSM is Gayle Rubin; there is a graduate student named Richard Martin whose work on BDSM in Germany I look forward to reading. I’ve also found work by Jacob Hale, Patricia Duncan, and Robin Bauer useful in my work and my teaching.

In the literature as a whole, BDSM is most often approached as either an abstract problematic or an individualized orientation. The former – work in philosophy, cultural theory, feminist theory and literary criticism – is useful to theorize SM dynamics or explore the political or ethical dilemmas posed by SM, but I often find it too abstract to account for historical (or socioeconomic) particularity. The latter – work in social psychology, psychoanalysis, and sexology – is effective in dispelling some of the more pernicious stereotypes of SM practitioners, but I’ve found that it tends toward either statistical approaches or individuating desire, whereas I prefer a more social, community analysis.

There is also, as I’m sure you know, a large collection of non-academic journalistic, political, essayist and practitioner-oriented guides, how-to’s and anthologies on BDSM.

At the conference in Berlin you mentioned that one of your chapters deals with feminist resistance against kinky issues. Can you tell us more about that?

Sure. The chapter, as I mentioned briefly above, focuses on “het male doms” – white men who identify as heterosexual dominants. The chapter analyses these men’s anxiety about not being “transgressive” enough. I show that this anxiety stems from the desire for SM sex to stand outside, as a-productive of, social relations – to be “safe” and “separate” from real life gender roles. Exploring the imagined connections between “real world” social norms and the “safe” world of “the scene,” I contrast the two most common analyses of SM play: the radical feminist anti-SM position and the queer pro-sex/SM position. In the radical feminist argument, this seeming replication means that SM roles and play scenes are exactly the same as the social relations of inequality (patriarchy, primarily) that give them form, whereas in the queer argument, SM scenes flout these (hetero)normative conventions, and thus transgress or subvert social norms. This debate, stated baldly, is the SM version of the familiar replication/reenactment versus subversion/transgression binary.

Yet the ambivalence voiced by these men suggests another reading, in which the desire to be transgressive relies on the construction of a boundary between the “real world” (of capitalism, exploitation, unequal social relations, and social norms) and the “SM scene” (a pretend space of fantasy, performance, or game). Unpacking this boundary-making project, I show the ways gendered and raced performativity produces subjects who view their SM practice as private and individual, as a form of self-cultivation and mastery. However, this sense of personal autonomy, agency, and choice also relies on liberal (sometimes inflected as libertarian and/or neoliberal) ideologies of agentic individualism and “freedom,” formulations that are complexly bound to both material and discursive formations. Thus, this fantasy of sex outside material relations, this desire to transgress social norms of racialized gender, produces a split between the public space of the law and the private space of desire that simultaneously creates opportunities (for “freedom”) and restricts those opportunities to those with privilege. The ambivalence of practitioners whose SM desires seem to match up with their social locations, then, illuminates a complex and contradictory social field, where the topography of social power, the justifications of social hierarchy, and the dense interconnections between gender, race, sexuality and class are produced, reproduced, and embodied.

In this way, the binary options for a cultural critic reading such scenes – subversive or reenacting? Political or personal? Feminist or queer? – fail to pay careful enough attention to what is being produced at such moments – a production that includes privilege and power, in addition to a non-normative self-cultivation and practice. Instead, I take seriously the radical feminist contention that sexuality, desire and fantasy are bound up in real-world structures of inequality, that we cannot separate the bedroom/private from the public/social world, while writing against the collapse of SM dynamics into the slavish reproduction of formal inequality.

In Sweden, there has been talk about a new kind of political kinky activism in the beginning of the 21st century. For example, bigger NGOs have integrated these issues in one way or another. At their 2007 congress RFSU, Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, decided to work with issues related to BDSM and fetishism. This year, RFSL, The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, took a similar decision. In general, a more public form of kinky activism is taking place. Can you tell us anything of the presence/absence of these issues in the social movement in the US?

I haven’t seen any of the big LGBT organizations in the US address BDSM or fetish communities. The main BDSM organization in the US is the NCSF (National Coalition for Sexual Freedom), a political and legal group that advocates for BDSM, leather, fetish, swing and polyamory communities. It is not, however, linked to LGBT groups or organizing as far as I know. In general, BDSM and fetish politics are not included in LGBT organizations, especially the mainstream (homonormative) ones, although there are local links and connections (for example, the San Francisco pansexual BDSM organization The Society of Janus participates in the annual Gay Pride, or the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago has links to a variety of leatherman and leatherdyke clubs and materials).

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What parallels are there between the research fields of gender and BDSM and what do you think can be gained in the gender research by including a kinky perspective and vice versa?

I think BDSM has much to teach us about the complex ways individuals negotiate social worlds. Gender – a primary axis of differentiation, of identity, of power, and of subjectivity – is densely linked to sexuality, race and racialization, class, nation, disability, and other calcified social hierarchies. BDSM is one – and I would say a particularly useful – way to think more complexly about how individuals situate themselves within and simultaneously reproduce larger social relations with greater and lesser degrees of control, since BDSM often spectacularizes these relations, thus rendering the contradictions already embedded in such systems even more apparent.

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Tove Nilsson is an activist and Medicine Student at University of Gothenburg with the ambition to rip the system from inside.

Mika Nielsen is a PhD-student in Economic History. For the moment she is a guest PhD-student at Gender Studies at University of Gothenburg.


Manifest

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Things are happening in Norway these days. The nice little left-wing publishing house Manifest has started to publish some promising queer and feminist texts as of late, and I hope they continue.

They srated this spring with Agnes Bolsø’s highly readable and important pamphlet Folk flest er skeive - Om queer teori og politikk (roughly translated, Ordinary People are Queer - On Queer Theory and Politics). Bolsø’s book is great for people unaccustomed to the importance of queer theory in political debates in Scandinavia, and has lots of good thoughts on how to develop a queer activist politics outside of the framework of identity politics. Her argument for dismantling the weight and value of categorical markers such as “heterosexuality” and “homosexuality” when talking about and teaching about sex is (of course) important, and her argument feels both refreshing and fun.

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Now, they have just published the feminist sociologist Hanna Helseth’s new book Generasjon sex (Generation Sex), a critical feminist text on the sexualization of the public sphere in Norway - focusing the ambivalence of agency for women in the age of body-hype and sex visibility. A summary of Helseth’s arguments can be found in this article.

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Lambda Nordica on Queer theology

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

The Swedish journal lambda nordica released an issue on queer theology a little while back, and it is worth looking into if you’re interested in the intersection of Christianity and sexuality. It has essays in Swedish by writers such as Peter Forsberg, Niklas Olaison, Malin Ekström and Daniel Enstedt, among others. (Read the positive review in Svenska Dagbladet here). Especially interesting is the text on the Swedish Lutheran Church’s thanaphobia - their fear of death…

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While waiting for their next issue on ‘Queer Methodology’ in English (due later this fall), readers who haven’t gotten a copy of their issue on Fashion (3/4, 2009), with Del LaGrace Volcano’s image of Bird La Bird on the cover, has some good reading ahead. Warning: The one and only Ulrika Dahl’s article on “(Re)figuring Femme Fashion” does not only give you a tour-de-force of femme-inist aesthetics, it is highly likely that it inspires you to think and write differently…

Read more on Lamda Nordica’s homepage.

Siri Lindstad: Å fylle L-ordet med mening

Monday, August 30th, 2010

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Siri Lindstad, the Norwegian queer feminist journalist and editor has just released the book Å fylle L-ordet med mening (which perhaps can be translated along the lines of, Filling the L-word with meaning).

Lindstad has travelled around Norway interviewing a wide range of lesbians from different generations, environments and places, resulting in a book of stories from lesbian communities and scenes across the country. As the press-release puts it, the book gives less attention to the ”coming out” process but focus instead on the complexities “of ‘coming in’ as a lesbian, about coming home, but also about getting away or even perhaps fall behind”.

Here is the press-relase in Norwegian:

“Kan man være lykkelig som lesbisk i Finnmark? Kan et utested uten biljardbord egentlig kalle seg et lesbested? Klarer du å kjenne igjen ei lesbe på gifteringen?

Å fylle L-ordet med mening er den første norske sakprosaboken med historier fra lesbemiljøene. Den handler lite om det å komme ut.  Derimot får du høre mye om hvordan det er å komme inn som lesbisk, om å komme hjem, men også om å komme vekk, og kanskje til og med komme bakpå.

Journalist Siri Lindstad reiste rundt i landet og snakket med lesber i alle aldre om miljøer, møteplasser og lesbiske liv. Resultatet ble en bok om kjønn, seksualitet og klasse, med tv-serien The L Word som bakteppe, og med den utskjelte traktorlesba som heltinnen.”

The book is published on the new queer feminist publishing house Kill Your Darling Press, and can be ordered here for 299 NOK.

Trikster #4: Towards a Queer Horizon

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

[Norsk version]

The fourth issue of Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal focuses on queer political struggles in the present. Despite the critics who describe feminist and queer critique as a thing of the past, the problems in the here and now are just too many to put radical politics to an end.

Trikster zooms in on the medical pathologizing of trans people. With the important Danish documentary Nobody Passes Perfectly (2009) as a starting point, the media and gender researcher Tobias Raun debunks the widespread notion of Denmark as a transgender “paradise”. Through an incisive critique of the state regulation of transsexuality, he sheds light on a political battleground that for long has gone unrecognized by the media and human rights organizations.

While critics tend to present queer politics as a market run lifestyle diversification, Mika Nielsen argues for the importance of anticapitalist queer critique. Discussing the intertwinement of economy and heteronormativity, she introduces a branch of research that has seldom been discussed in the Nordic countries: Queer Economics. If Raun and Nielsen’s articles inspire to action, Jan Wickman discusses the grounds of queer activism in the Nordic countries more broadly in the article “Queer Activism: What Might That Be?”.

The ongoing queer activist conversations stand in stark opposition to the mainstream LGBT organizations’ discussions of what to do in the so-called “twilight of equality”. With the new legislations on marriage and adoption in some of the Scandinavian countries, some tend to think that the fight is over. But for this story of progress to be told, other stories and problems must be forgotten. It is a similar simplified narrative of progress Mathias Danbolt locates in his analysis of the ambitious history exhibition As I Am: LGBT in CPH at Copenhagen City Museum in 2009. In his critique of the show’s portrayal of LGBT activism as a thing of the past, he argues that interventions into queer history should rub against the grain, and take part in the fight for a better future.

But no activist fights without joy, laughter, and dancing! The importance of humor in queer and feminist critique is at center stage in Rikke Platz Cortsen’s introduction to current Swedish cartoonists. And a laugh is not far away when reading the author Kristina Nya Glaffey’s text revolving around the so-called lesbian baby boom. Viktor Johansson deals with a related area in his suite of poems, where he meditates on becoming in a broad sense – of bodies, babies, and identities.

The artist Heidi Lunabba plays with the established gender norms in her temporary beard salon Studio Vilgefortis, where she makes beards and mustaches on passers-by on the street – woman as well as men. While taking its outset in an understanding of gender as a performative act, Lunabba’s beard salon also reminds us that we are never fully able to choose our own gender identity in the present, as we cannot control which gender we pass as in the eyes of others. The fight for destabilizing the meanings assigned to gender attributes are therefore far from over.

While critics seem to line up with obituaries for queer theory and activism, it seems pertinent to remember that a queer world is still in the horizon. It is perhaps here we can locate one of the most important tasks for queer activism at the dawn of a new decade: Not to give in to the pragmatic demand for quick and easy solutions, but to keep imagining new social orders in the future.

Trikster is a multilingual web magazine edited by Mathias Danbolt. Trikster is supported by The Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo, Nordic Culture Fund, and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Bergen. For more information visit www.trikster.net, or contact Mathias Danbolt at mathias@trikster.net or +45 41 15 16 13 / +44 78 31 96 55 85.

Trikster #4: Mot en queer horisont

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

[see English version]

Det fjerde nummeret av Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal stiller skarpt på aktuelle queerpolitiske kampsaker. Til tross for at kritikere har hevdet at feminisme og queerkritikk hører fortiden til er det dessverre for mange problemer her og nå som tilsier det motsatte.

Trikster setter fokus på kampen mot det medisinske herredømmet over transkjønn. Med utgangspunkt i den danske dokumentarfilmen Nobody Passes Perfectly (2009) demonterer media- og kjønnsforskeren Tobias Raun den utbredte forestillingen om Danmark som et “paradis” for transkjønnede. Gjennom en skarp kritikk av den statlige reguleringen av transseksualitet belyser han et kjønnspolitisk felt som lenge har blitt forbigått av mediene så vel som av menneskerettighetsorganisasjoner.

Mens folk ynder å fremstille queerpolitikk som en markedsdrevet livsstilskamp, peker Mika Nielsen på behovet for en queer antikapitalistisk kritikk. I artikkelen “Ett kapitalt misstag” diskuterer hun hvordan økonomi og heteronormer henger sammen, og introduserer en forskningsgren som sjeldent har blitt lest i Norden: Queer economics. Der Raun og Nielsens artikler oppfordrer til aktivistiske intervensjoner, legger Jan Wickman opp til en mer grunnleggende diskusjon av hvordan queeraktivisme har blitt forstått i Norden med sin artikkel “Queer Activism: What Might That Be?”.

I de seneste år har selv homoorganisasjoner feiret at kampen for likestilling nærmer seg slutten. Men for at forestillingen om fremskritt skal fungere må man lukke øynene for andre historier og problemfelt. Det er en slik forenklet framskrittsfortelling Mathias Danbolt lokaliserer i den ambisiøse historieutstillingen As I Am: LGBT in CPH på Københavns Bymuseum i 2009. Mens As I Am fremstiller homo/bi/trans aktivismen som en avrundet epoke, argumenteres det for en aktiv historiefortellinger som ser forbindelseslinjene mellom nåtidens og fortidens kamper.

Men ingen kamp uten dans, latter og glede! Humorens rolle i queer og feministisk kritikk står sentralt i Rikke Platz Cortsens introduksjon til nye svenske tegneserier. Og gapskrattet er heller ikke langt unna i lesningen av forfatteren Kristina Nya Glaffeys skjønnlitterære tekst “Padder og krybdyr”, som tar for seg den såkalte lesbiske babyboomen. Viktor Johansson beveger seg innenfor en beslektet tematikk i diktsuiten “Önskepapporna”, men fokuset her er snarere på tilblivelse i bred forstand – av kropper, barn, identitet.

Heidi Lunabba leker med de etablerte kjønnsrollene i sin mobile skjegg-salong Studio Vilgefortis. Her kan forbipasserende kvinner – og menn – få anlagt en bart eller et skjegg etter eget ønske, og resultatet setter vante avlesningsmekanismer av kjønn på prøve. Lunabbas prosjekt tar utgangspunkt i at kjønn er noe vi gjør snarere enn noe vi er, men peker samtidig på hvordan vi nettopp ikke selv uten videre kan “velge” hvilket kjønn vi vil gjenkjennes som. Vi har aldri kontroll over hvordan vi passerer, og kampen for å endre betydningene som tillegges kjønnsattributter er derfor langt fra over.

Mens kritikere synes å stå i kø med gravskrifter over queerteori og aktivisme, synes det viktig å fastslå at en queer verden fortsatt ligger ute i horisonten. Det er kanskje her queeraktivismens viktigste oppgave står på veien inn i et nytt årti: å ikke gi etter for dagens pragmatiske jakt på hurtige resultater, men å fortsette troen på at andre løsninger er mulig.

Trikster er et flerspråklig, gratis webmagasin, redigert av Mathias Danbolt. Trikster er støttet av Fritt Ord, Nordisk Kulturfond og Senter for Kvinne- og Kjønnsforskning ved Universitetet i Bergen. For ytterligere informasjon, besøk www.trikster.net eller kontakt Mathias Danbolt på mathias@trikster.net eller +45 41 15 16 13 / +44 78 31 96 55 85.


Why Gay Marriage is the End of the World (or the queer world at least)

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

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Gay marriage. Adoption. Handbags. Gaybies. U.S.A. Obamamania. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Well…

The queer activist-author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore has re-published a thought provoking and immensely funny round table discussion entitled “Why Gay Marriage is the End of the World (or the queer world at least)” on the status of queer politics in a conservative US climate. The text was first printed in the October issue of the DIY punk zine Maximum Rocknroll (“The Queer Issue”), and is now luckily available online on Mattilda’s blog Nobody Passes, darling.

It includes the SF-based activist filmmaker Hilary Goldberg, the Chicago activist Yasmin Nair, and the NYC-based activist and organizer of the radical club Switch Gina Carducci as well as Mattilda. It is quite a read. Here is an excerpt on babyboom and adoption:

Mattilda: (…) Kids are the next big thing! How do you feel about the issue of gay adoption, and child-rearing in general, as a central preoccupation of the so-called “movement?”

Hilary Goldberg: Why don’t Madonna and Angelina, in their gay wisdom, adopt some adult queer artists and activists instead? For a fraction of what they spend on a handful of appropriated transnational youths, they could adopt queer artists en masse, and foster a global queer trust fund for the movement. No need for nannies and we’d love them even more than their children, and could be just as dependent, if not more so. Average gay couples could do the same thing, direct their money towards something more expansive and useful than a handbag—I mean a gaybie. I’m thinking of a website that pairs queer artists with gay couples who have big hearts to share their love and help.

Gina Carducci: Yeah, no need for pacifiers, no need to push us around in strollers, and you don’t have to wait nine months for us. We’re right here! Mommy!!!!

Yasmin Nair: If you’re white, beautiful little blonde children are the best, because then you’ll look like a normal and natural family. But adopting one can be next to impossible! Little brown babies make the best gay accessories. Although, like every gay fashion accessory, babies have shifted in trends. I think Mongolian babies are now much more hip. Central and South American countries were once popular, maybe NAFTA opened up free trade in cute Latin babies! Until they discovered that some of those babies were most likely kidnapped. Awkward. They may not have those pesky rules in Mongolia. Of course, if you can adopt an HIV+ African baby whose mother is still around to waste away in the last throes of the disease, so that you can show the world what you rescued the baby from, all the better. (…)

Read more about this, and much more on gay assimilation on Mattilda’s blog.

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If you hunger for more perspectives on why marriage in general might not be the coolest thing in the world to promote - and you can read Swedish - don’t forget to read Anna Adeniji’s fantastic book: Inte den typ som gifter sig? Feministiska samtal om äktenskapsmotstånd (Not the marrying kind. Feminist conversations on resistance to marriage). This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is fantastic fun to read, and it performs critiques of marriage from a wide variety of perspectives, highlighting all the different privileging discourses this “ritual” is entangled in: migration and racism; heteronormativity and coupledom; legal and economic issues; capitalism and consumerism; religion, etc. It is a mandatory read. For a great critique of the book, see Lene Myong Petersen’s text at FORUM.

Vi är misfits!

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

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I Trikster #2 kan man lese et reisebrev fra aktivistene Christoph Fielder og Elin Sandström Lundh som i 2007-2008 reiste Nordamerika rundt for å snakke med queerfeministiske aktivister. Nå har Christoph og Elin samlet inntrykkene fra reisen i boken Vi är misfits! – Queerfeministisk aktivism och anarkistiska visioner, som er utkommet på NORMAL Förlag. De beskriver boken slik på forlagets hjemmeside:

Efter åtta år med historiens minst omtyckta president reste vi till USA för att intervjua queerfeministiska aktivister. Vi sökte efter människor som står upp, som gör motstånd, som slåss och som visar oss andra vägar att gå. Andra än de som styrs av normen. Den vite heterosexuelle mannens norm. Resultatet av vår resa blev Vi är misfits! En bok som blandar intervjuer med aktivister med våra egna betraktelser och funderingar kring anarkism, anti-assimilering, rasism och intersektionalism.

Vi är misfits! är en inspirationsbok för alla som ser att denna värld radikalt behöver förändras för att vi ska kunna överleva. Den är ett queerfeministiskt manifest och den är en samling berättelser om människor som gör praktik av den ofta så teoritunga queerfeminismen. Den vill bråka, vara jobbig, den vill sporra läsaren till att aktivera sig. Överallt, alltid.

Vi är misfits! er et must for queerfeministiske aktivister og forskere, og boken inneholder blant annet denne oppsangen fra den fantastiske aktivisten og forfatteren Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore:

Ett tecken på att du gör rätt när det gäller queeraktivism är om folk blir upprörda! Och, var beredd på att förstå saker och ting på ett mer komplicerat sätt än du någonsin trodde var möjligt. Om något eller någon verkar vara din fiende, tänk en gång till, vem är det egentligen som är vår fiende? Öppna upp för möjligheten att tänka om allting du någonsin tänkt.
- Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Trikster #3: Queer litteratur

Friday, April 17th, 2009

 

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[English below]

Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal lanserer i dag sitt tredje og største nummer hittil, fylt av queer litteratur i tekst, lyd og bilder.

Triksters tema-del “Queerlitt” inneholder bidrag fra nordiske og internasjonale forfattere som stiller skarpt på begjæret og kroppens betydning i litteraturen. Felles for bidragene i “Queerlitt” er at man ikke alltid vet hvor man har dem – de forstyrrer både seksuelle, språklige, og sjangermessige grenser.

Trikster er stolt av å kunne presentere den New York-baserte spoken word-poeten Staceyann Chin, som i sin performance setter fokus på kroppsliggjorte erfaringer av rasisme og sexisme. Men humor er aldri langt unna, som i diktet hvor Chin instruerer lesbiske i hvordan man forfører streite kvinner. I “Manlighet” undersøker og utfordrer de svenske poetene Hanna Hallgren og Johan Jönson maskulinitet og kjønnstilhørighet, mens Dennis Cooper og Eli Levén flørter med det pornografiske i deres tekster om flyktige erotiske møter i “Switch”. Andre bidragsytere til “Queerlitt” er Christian Yde Frostholm, Kajsa Sundin, Tova Gerge, Jonas Brun, Kristofer Folkhammar, Ulrika Dahl, Britta Tegby Frisk og Carlos Díaz. Flere av bidragene tar utgangspunkt i Queerlitteraturdagen i Gøteborg i 2008, organisert av Linn Hansén og Athena Farrokhzad, som sammen med Mathias Danbolt har redigert Trikster #3.

Trikster #3 byr også på et intervju med den britiske kunsthistorikeren Gavin Butt, som forteller om hans nye prosjekt om seriøsitet, og hans ønske om å gjøre queer teori morsommere. I nummerets kritikkdel utfordrer Sara Edenheim norske queer-forskere i sin anmeldelse av Når heteroseksualiteten skal forklare seg, Jon Helt Haarder leser med og mot Stephen J. Walton, Peter Edelberg jubler over boken Criminally Queer, Susanne Christensen svarer på Wenche Mühleisens kritikk av feministisk litteraturkritikk, og Tommy Olsson ønsker han var homo, etter å ha sett Slava Mogutins fotografier.

Trikster er et flerspråklig, gratis webmagasin som utkommer to ganger i året.Trikster #3 er redigert av Mathias Danbolt (ansvarlig redaktør), Linn Hansén og Athena Farrokhzad, og er Støttet av Fritt Ord, Nordisk Kulturfond og Senter for Kvinne- og Kjønnsforskning ved Universitetet i Bergen. For ytterligere informasjon, besøk www.trikster.net eller kontakt Mathias Danbolt påmathias@trikster.net / +45 41 15 16 13.

 

Trikster #3: Queer literature

The third issue of the web magazine Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal is now online on www.trikster.net.

Trikster #3 is entitled “Queerlitt”, presenting queer literature with contributions from several Nordic and international writers and artists. Through video, images, and texts this issue of Trikster focuses on the body and desire in literature – giving attention to the sound of the voice, as well as bodily and textual gestures.

Trikster is proud to present the spoken word poet Staceyann Chin through video performances, and a conversation with the Swedish activist-theorist Ulrika Dahl. In her energetic performance, Chin touches upon the bodily effects of racism and sexism. But humor is never far away, as in the poem where she instructs lesbians how to seduce straight girls. Seduction is also central to Dennis Cooper and Eli Levén’s contribution “Switch”, where they read each other’s texts about the erotics of sexual encounters.

Trikster #3 also includes an interview with the British art historian Gavin Butt. In “Dismantling the Serious Machine” Butt talks about his new project on cultural seriousness, where he reflects upon the amusing but difficult task of making theorizing more fun.

The texts in “Queerlitt” take their outset in the Queer Literature Day in Gothenburg in 2008, arranged by Athena Farrokhzad and Linn Hansén, who have co-edited Trikster #3 with Mathias Danbolt. The issue also includes contributions from Athena Farrokhzad, Linn Hansén, Christian Yde Frostholm, Kajsa Sundin, Tova Gerge, Jonas Brun, Kristofer Folkhammar, Hanna Hallgren, Johan Jönson, Britta Tegby Frisk, Carlos Díaz, Jon Helt Haarder, Peter Edelberg, Susanne Christensen, and Tommy Olsson.

Trikster is a multilingual web magazine, releasing two issues a year. Trikster #3 is edited by Mathias Danbolt (executive editor), Athena Farrokhzad, and Linn Hansén. Trikster is supported by The Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo, Nordic Culture Fund, and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Bergen. For more information visit www.trikster.net, or contact Mathias Danbolt at mathias@trikster.net / +45 41 15 16 13.

Det sjuka av Anna-Maria Sörberg

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

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Nylig utkom journalisten Anna-Maria Sörbergs bok Det sjuka, en reportasjebok om hiv/aids i Sverige. Dette er en av de viktigste bøkene jeg har lest på lenge, og kan anbefales på det sterkeste.

Sörberg tar utgangspunkt i de monstrøse fortellingene om “hivmenn” og “hivkvinner” som i de seneste årene har vært skrevet om i pressen, der de har blitt fremstilt som personer som intendert har smittet folk med hiv. Sörberg har gått bak mediepanikken, og intervjuet disse menneskene som har blitt omtalt som ondskapsfulle drapsmaskiner. Flere av intervjuobjektene sitter i fengsel, andre har blitt utvist av Sverige etter de har sonet fengselsstraffer. Dette er sterke og vonde historier om hvordan det er å leve med et virus som fortsatt er skambelagt og kriminalisert - selv 25 år etter viruset ble oppdaget. Boken kretser rundt det strenge svenske lovverket, og viser dettes bakside: dets medvirken i opprettholdelsen av den skambetonte diskursen om hiv/aids; de mange tilsynelatende rasistiske dommene i hiv-smitte saker, der ikke-svensker har fått lengre fengselsstraffer for samme forseelser, og har blitt sent ut av landet uten mulighet for riktig medisinering.

Gjennom en postkolonial optik på hiv/aids problemstillingen viser Det sjuka farene ved å se viruset som noe som kommer “utefra”, som noe “Annet” og “fremmed”. Den nasjonaliserte kampen mot hiv/aids i Sverige er feilslått, ettersom den ikke tar inn over seg hvordan sykdommen ikke har noen grenser: dette er en internasjonal krise, og krever større prespektiver enn fokus på å beskytte viruset innenfor nasjonens grenser. Sörberg argumenterer for en solidaritet som inkluderer det fremmede, og dette kunne jeg ikke være mer enig i.

Jeg skal skrive mer og bedre om Sörbergs bok enn dette, men nå er det viktigst å påpeke at hun i kveld presenterer boken sin på den fantastiske queerfeministiske bokhandleren Hallongrottan i Stockholm. For dem som er i byen, bør man dra dit kl. 19, for å høre Sörberg i samtale med Finn Hellman.

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(Illustrasjon fra Hallongrottan.com)

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.

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.

Ny bok: Kjønnsteori

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

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På norsk har man lenge savnet grundige introduksjonsbøker til kjønnsteori. I 2006 kom et bud i form av Jørgen Lorentzen og Wenche Mühleisens lærebok Kjønnsforskning, og i forrige uke lanserte en gruppe forskere med tilknytning til Senter for kvinne- og kjønnsforskning (SKOK) ved Universitetet i Bergen boken Kønnsteori – en stor og grundig introduksjonsbok til det kjønnsteoretiske feltet.

Kjønnsteori er tenkt som en “presentasjon av hva som er særegent ved de enkelte tilnærmingsmåtene og teoretikerne [innenfor kjønnsteori], og hva som gjør kjønnsteori til et eget felt”. Boken er derfor bygget opp av korte kontekstualiserende tekster til emner som f.eks. “Psykoanalytisk tilnærming” og “Seksualitetsteori og skeiv teori”, med påfølgende presentasjoner av relevante teoretikere innenfor området. I løpet av boken blir ikke mindre enn 35 kjønnsforskere presentert, og her finner man både kapitler om kanonisert figurer som Simone de Beauvior, og om nåtidens store navn som Luce Irigaray, Gayatari Chakravorty Spivak, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Judith Butler og Judith Halberstam. Men det er også tekster om noen kanskje litt mindre kjente - med særdeles interessante - forskere som f.eks. bell hooks og Joan Copjec.

Det er hele syv Bergen-baserte forskere som har redigert boken: Ellen Mortensen, Cathrine Egeland, Randi Gressgård, Cathrine Holst, Kari Jegerstedt, Sissel Rosland og Kristin Sampson. Dette kollektivet er også blant bokens sentrale bidragsytere, men på skribentlisten finner man også tidligere Trikster-redaktør Fredrik Langeland, med en artikkel om Raewyn Connell. God lesning!

Jenter som kommer

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

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I Trikster #2 stilte Tatjana Laursen og Sissela Segergren spørsmålet til om sex er fantastisk i møte med den svenske boken Stora sexboken for tjejer som har sex med tjejer (2007). Nå har Ida Jackson og Maren Kristiane Solli utgitt den første norske sexhåndboken for jenter med tittelen Jenter som kommer. Gratulerer!

Jenter som kommer skal være både en “nytelsesbok og en actionbok”, og med et uttalt queer perspektiv forklarer og guider Ida og Maren leseren gjennom ulike aspekter av jentesex. Her beskrives onani, BDSM, dildoer, orgasmer - you name it - og boken avsluttes med et feministisk “pulepolitisk manifest”!

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(Ida Jackson og Maren Kristiane Solli)

Et intervju i Dagbladet før boken ble lansert skapte debatt på forskjellige feministiske blogger, og for å klargjøre sine meninger som Dagbladet i kjent stil hadde redigert og forenklet, har forfatterne nå publisert det politiske grunnlaget for boken på Ida Jacksons (a.k.a. Virrvarr) kritikerroste blogg Revolusjonært roteloft.

På bloggen presenterer de bakgrunnen for bok på en fin måte, og påpeker at “hovedmålsetningnen med boka vår er å få jenter til å komme. Ja, vi mener orgasme er viktig”. Men Jenter som kommer er langt fra en bok som legger seg i forlengelse av damebladenes orgasmepress. Snarere har de skrevet boken for at de “jentene som vil komme, skal få informasjonen og tipsene til å få orgasme.” Og i motsetning til mange andre sexhåndbøker har de inkludert et kapittel med tittelen “Når sex gjør vondt” ettersom de ikke ville “skrive om sex som et ‘hipphurra, alle synes dette er lett og bra’, når minst en av ti jenter har virkerlige vonde opplevelser bak seg i en seksuell kontekst. Halve boka er satt av til den politiske siden av jenter og seksualitet.”

Vi får håpe at boken kan generere fornuftige og bra queerfeministiske diskusjoner om sex, seksualitet og kjønn i Norge. Det trengs!