Posts Tagged ‘queer theory’

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.

CfP on Transnationalizing LGBT/Queer Studies

Monday, November 8th, 2010

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Trikster has received this interesting Call for Papers about a conference in Madrid next year. The CfP is in English, Spanish, and French, and note: The deadline for abstracts has been extended to January 5, 2011.

LGBT/Queer Studies:
Toward Trans/national Scholarly and Activist Kinships
An International Conference
Madrid, Spain
July 3, 4, and 5, 2011

Keynote speakers:
- Zackie Achmat (Director, Centre for Law & Social Justice, Cape Town, South Africa)
- Sunil Gupta (Photographer, writer and curator, Delhi/London)
- Jin Haritaworn (Fellow, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Finland)
- Beatriz Preciado (Professor, Université de Paris VIII, France)
(biographical information available on the website)

Note: Gay Pride is July 2 in Madrid

Organized by the LGBT Studies Program & Minor
Chancellor’s Leadership Project
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY, USA

We invite scholars and activists to join in an exploration of the methods, possibilities, challenges, and dangers of doing LGBT/queer scholarship, activism, pedagogy, and curriculum in a transnationalized and technologically mediated world. We want to address the many challenges of understanding and responding to the complexly lived lives of queer subjects, as they are shaped by local and global upheavals and opportunities. What does the ‘transnational’ mean? How are queer lives rendered visible and legible and affectively accessible? What matrices of power make some queer figures more visible than others? What new forms of scholarship and activism emerge as people, images, ideas, and capital move in rapid, uneven, and complex ways across national borders? How might practices of kinships, however tense or contingent, happen? How does, or should, the transnational turn shape our pedagogies and curricula? And how do we connect and collaborate as scholars and activists across the globe? These are messy knowledges, nuanced knowledges, framed by the local and the global in complicated and often surprising ways.

We are interested in a truly global conversation, and encourage submissions about and from all over the world. We hope too to produce some form of publication out of the conference.

Possible topics:
Representing the complexities of everyday queer lives
Working with queer archives and memory
Analyzing gay imperialism
Designing pedagogies and curricula
Sustaining scholarly relationships across borders
Engaging with queer suffering and activism across borders
Studying legal and political responses to queer suffering
Queer media and literature
Exploring queer diasporas and homonationalisms
Writing queer histories
Analyzing queer labor and immigration
Responding to the challenges of translation and access

We invite scholars and activists to submit paper proposals (no more than 500 words) or complete panels (of no more than three papers) that address questions like these from various perspectives. English is the primary language of the conference, and we will accept submissions in Spanish and French. Please submit paper proposals or panel proposals electronically here.

Please feel free to contact Margaret Himley (mrhimley@syr.edu) or Andrew London (anlondon@maxwell.syr.edu), co-directors of the LGBT Studies Program and Minor at Syracuse University, for more information or with thoughts or questions about this conference/workshop. Read more here.

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Convocatoria: fecha límite 5 de enero, 2011.
LGBT/Estudios ‘Queer
Hacia afinidades trans/nacionales de investigación y activismo

Un congreso internacional
Madrid, España
3, 4, 5 de julio 2.011

Keynotes speakers:
- Zackie Achmat (Director, Centre for Law & Social Justice, Cape Town, South Africa)
- Sunil Gupta (Photographer, writer and curator, Delhi/London)
- Jin Haritaworn (Fellow, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Finland)
- Beatriz Preciado (Professor, Université de Paris VIII, France)

Ojo: Orgullo Gai en España el 2 de julio en Madrid

Comité organizador: LGBT Studies Program & Minor
Chancellor¹s Leadership Project
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY, USA

Invitamos a los académicos y activistas participar en la exploración de los métodos, posibilidades, desafíos y peligros de desarrollar el campo de investigación, el activismo, la pedagogía y el programa de estudios LGBT/queer en un mundo mediado por lo transnacional y la tecnología. Queremos destacar los desafíos múltiples de comprender y responder a las vidas multidimensionales de los sujetos queer, y la influencia de oportunidades y trastornos tanto locales como globales. ¿Qué significa lo transnacional? ¿Cómo se logra hacer visible y legible las vidas queer y cómo se vuelven accesibles? ¿Cuáles son las redes de poder que hacen que algunas figuras queer sean más visibles que otras? ¿Cuáles son nuevas formas de investigación y activismo que emergen cuando gente, imágenes, ideas y bienes cruzan de modo rápido, complejo y sin estabilidad las fronteras nacionales? ¿Cómo se puede lograr conexiones de afinidades, aunque sean tensas o contingentes? ¿Cómo formula o cómo se debe formular, lo transnacional nuestra pedagogía y programa de estudios? Y ¿cómo podemos conectar y colaborar internacionalmente como académicos, investigadores y activistas? Estas ideas son conocimientos desordenados, conocimientos matizados, marcados por lo local y global de maneras complicadas y, a menudo, sorprendentes.

Tenemos interés un una conversación verdaderamente global y animamos a todos proponer ponencias que representen todas partes del mundo. Esperamos también publicar las actas del congreso.

Temas posibles:
Representar la complejidad de las vidas cotidianas queer
Trabajar con el archivo y memoria queer
Analizar el imperialismo gai
El diseño de la pedagogía y los programas de curso
Sostener las relaciones académicas internacionales
Dedicarse al sufrimiento queer y el activismo multinacional
Estudiar decisiones y respuestas legales y políticos al sufrimiento queer
Literatura y prensa queer
Explorar la diáspora queer y lo homonacional.
Escribir la historia queer
Analizar el trabajo y la inmigración queer
Responder a los desafíos de la traducción y el acceso a la información

Invitamos a los académicos y los activistas proponer ponencias (máximo 500 palabras) o sesiones (máximo tres ponencias) que se indagan en estas preguntas de varias perspectivas. El Inglés será el idioma principal del congreso pero aceptaremos propuestas en Español y en Francés. Favor de entrgar las propuestas para una ponencia o una sesión eletrónicamente.

No duden en contactar a Margaret Himley (mrhimley@syr.edu) o a Andrew London (anlondon@maxwell.syr.edu), co-directores del Programa de LGBT Studies and Minor en Syracuse University, para más información o con ideas o preguntas sobre el congreso/taller.

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Appel à communications
Date limite: le 5 janvier 2011

Les études ‘LGBT/Queer’
Le ‘Trans/national’: vers des affinités activistes et intellectuelles
Un colloque international
Madrid (Espagne)
le 3,4, et 5 juillet, 2010

Keynote speakers:
- Zackie Achmat (Director, Centre for Law & Social Justice, Cape Town, South Africa)
- Sunil Gupta (Photographer, writer and curator, Delhi/London)
- Jin Haritaworn (Fellow, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Finland)
- Beatriz Preciado (Professor, Université de Paris VIII, France)

Nous invitons chercheurs et activistes à participer à l’exploration des méthodes, des possibilités, des défis, et des dangers de la recherche, de l’activisme, de la pédagogie, et du curriculum ‘LGBT/Queer’ dans un contexte transnational dont la technologie sert de médiateur. Nous aborderons les défis qu’entraînent les tentatives de comprendre et répondre à la complexité de l’expérience vécue du sujet ‘queer’ à la fois bouleversé et favorisé par son mileu actuel, sur le plan global ou local. Quelle(s) signification(s) peut-on accorder au ‘transnational’? Comment la vie ‘queer’ atteint-elle la visibilité, la lisibilité, et l’accessibilité? Quelles matrices de pouvoir rendent certaines figures ‘queer’ plus visibles que d’autres? Quelles nouvelles formes de recherches et d’activisme se manifestent lorsque les gens, les images, les idées, et l’argent franchissent les frontières nationales de façon rapide, inégale, et complèxe? Comment de nouvelles pratiques de parenté, si tendues ou conditionnelles qu’elles soient, naîtront-elles? Comment le tournant ‘transnational’ influence-t-il la pédagogie et le curriculum? Ce sont des saviors à la fois embrouillés et nuancés, que le global et le local encadrent de manières complèxes et souvent surprenantes.

Nous nous intéressons à une vraie conversation globale, et invitons des communications qui proviennent du monde entier. Nous espérons éditer un volume de communications prononcées au colloque.

Thèmes proposés:

Représenter la vie quotidienne ‘queer’
L’archive et la mémoire ‘queer’
L’impérialisme gai
Les pédagogies et le curriculum ‘queer’
Encourager les relations scolaires qui franchissent des frontières
L’engagement contre la souffrance / l’activisme trans-frontières
Réponses politiques et légales contre la souffrance ‘queer’
Les médias et la littérature ‘queer’
Le diaspora ‘queer’ et les homo-nationalismes
Ecrire l’histoire ‘queer’
Le travail et l’immigration ‘queer’
La traduction et l’accès: défis et réponses

Nous invitons chercheurs et activistes de proposer (en 500 mots) une communication individuelle, ou bien une session complète de trois
communications de perspectives variées sur une question. L’anglais sera la langue principale du colloque, mais nous accepterons des propositions en français et en espagnol aussi. Veuillez proposer votre communication ou
votre session en ligne.

Les co-directeurs du programme d’études LGBT de Syracuse University voudront bien répondre à vos questions au sujet de ce colloque. Veuillez contacter Margaret Himely (mrhimley@syr.edu) ou Andrew London (anlondon@maxwell.syr.edu).

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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Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

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On May 29 at 17.00 you are all invited to the opening of the exhibition Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive at Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center, Denmark.

The exhibition Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive is curated by Jane Rowley and Louise Wolthers, and “presents a series of spectacular, thought-provoking works that generate new narratives based on private memories and experiences beyond gender and sexuality norms. Using the potent and emotionally laden detritus of society, like found silent-movie footage, garments from the family past, and desecrated and fictionalised photo albums, the works in Lost and Found recreate, deconstruct and reconstruct the past as we allegedly know it, questioning the power structures that are created and preserved through the archives we’ve inherited.”

Participating artists in the exhibition are Elmgreen & Dragset (DK/NO), Mary Coble (US), Ingo Taubhorn (DE), Tejal Shah (IN), Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay (CA), Conny Karlsson (SE), Flemming Rolighed (DK), Aleesa Cohene (CA), Kimberly Austin (US), Cecilia Barriga (CL) og Heidi Lunabba (FI), Al Masson (FR/DK).

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At the opening there will also be a book launch of the publication Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive, published in conjunction with the exhibition. Edited by Mathias Danbolt, Jane Rowley and Louise Wolthers, this 160 page publication takes up questions of the archive, history writing, and memory from a queer perspective.

The book includes new articles by the influential cultural theorists Ann Cvetkovich and Heather Love, as well as articles by the editors, poems by Joe Brainard, and artistic contributions from the artists in the exhibition.

The book is avaliable for only 150 DKK. Order it by emailing Kunsthallen Nikolaj: sh@kunsthallennikolaj.dk or buy it online on Audiatur bookstore.

Queer Futurities in Berlin

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

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On the 18th and 19th of May, The Society of Queer Studies in Finland hosts the conference “Queer Futurities, Today: Utopias and Beyond in Queer Theory” at ICI in Berlin.

The conference takes its outset in Lee Edelman’s critique of the “reproductive futurism” in his notorious 2005 book No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. The seminar interrogates the term “futurities,” questioning ideas of progressive time and homonormativity. (Read more about the background here).

At the conference, Lee Edelman will hold a keynote entitled “Against Survival: Queerness in a Time that’s Out of Joint”.

Other speakers are: Tomasz Jarymowicz, Volker Woltersdorff, Annamari Vänskä, Jan Wickman, Tuula Juvonen, Tatjana Greif, Katerina Kolarova, Kevin S. Amiddon, Antu Sorainen, Heike Bauer, Christien Garcia, Jin Haritaworn, Željko Blaće & Milo DePrieto, Thomas O. Haakonson, Katherine Wiedlack, Harri Kalha, Alexis Lothian, Tomasz Basiuk, Eveline Kilian, Philip Pass, Anu Koivunen.

See the program in detail here, and read the abstracts - they look great.

Theory Now! Symposium at SKOK

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

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This year the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (SKOK) at the University of Bergen is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
On that occasion, they organize Theory Now! - “a symposium that gathers some of the most vocal scholars working on the cutting edge of gender theory.” On May 14th and 15th, they give an opportunity to meet with some really great scholars, and hear their lectures free of charge.

These are the invited speakers:

Professor Vikki Bell, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
Professor Pheng Cheah, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Assistant Professor Ulrika Dahl, Södertörn University College, Sweden
Professor Elizabeth Grosz, Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, USA
Professor Judith Halberstam, University of Southern California, USA
Professor Marcia Inhorn, Yale University, USA
Postdoctoral fellow Kari Jegerstedt, SKOK, University of Bergen, Norway
Professor Ellen Mortensen, SKOK, University of Bergen, Norway
Professor Robyn Wiegman, Duke University, USA

See the preliminary program and register at SKOK’s website.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1950-2009)

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

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Trikster mourns over the death of the brilliant theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick April 12 2009.

Sedgwick was one of the most influential and important theorists for the development of queer theory, with seminal books such as Between Men (1985), Epistemology of the Closet (1990), Tendencies (1992), and Touching Feeling (2003). Her death at only 59 years leaves a big gap in contemporary queer theory, literary analysis, affect theory, and poetry.

According to the obituary in The New Yorker, it was the breast cancer she had been battling with for over a decade that caused her early death. In A Dialogue of Love (1999), her book on her diagnosis of breast cancer, she writes about one of her conversations with her therapists, where she says “What I am proudest of is having a life where work and love are impossible to tell apart.” That’s an ideal to strive for.

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!

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.

Debatt: Anmeldelser av feministisk teori og filosofi

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Filosofen Frode Nyengs kritiske anmeldelse i Morgenbladet 05.12.08 av den nyutgitte antologien Kjønnsteori har ført til debatt på nettforumet Underskog.no. Nyengs manglende interesse for kjønnsteori er et uttalt premiss for anmeldelsen og et av spørsmålene som kom opp i nettdebatten var “om ikke et minstemål av kjønnsteoretisk kunnskap være på plass før man setter i gang og anmelder en lærebok i kjønnsforskning”. Debatten har klare paralleller til diskusjonen som gikk tidligere i år på Underskog.no i kjølvannet av Tarjei Skirbekks anmeldelse på NRK av Birgitte Huitfeldt Midttuns da nylig utgitte intervjubok Kvinnereisen – Møter med feminismens tenkere. Trikster henter her opp igjen noen av poengene fra denne debatten for å sette fokus på hvorfor mediene tillater at anmeldelser av feministisk teori og filosofi holder et så lavt nivå.

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Kommentar til Tarjei Skirbekk

av Audun Lindholm

Birgitte Huitfeldt Midttuns bok Kvinnereisen gir et lett tilgjengelig riss av mangfoldet av samtidige retninger innen akademisk feminisme, gjennom intervjuer med tenkere som Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray, Toril Moi, Julia Kristeva, Camille Paglia, Hélène Cixous, Gayatari C. Spivak og Martha Nussbaum. Boken behandler et internasjonalt synlig filosofisk felt med betydelig akademisk og politisk aktivitet de siste tiårene, noe NRKs fagbokkritiker Tarjei Skirbekk underslår når han anmelder boken: Fra hva som later til å være et olympisk utsiktspunkt feller Skirbekk vage dommer i øst og vest, med en rekke påstander om feminisme som later til å tiltro seg selv objektivitet tross sviktende argumentasjon.

Allerede introduksjonen av bokens forfatter varsler tekstens nedlatende tone: “Hennes innledning og introduksjonsdeler til den enkelte tenker, vitner om at Huitfeldt Midttun har hatt stor interesse for feltet før hun i voksen alder tok en formell akademisk grad ved Universitetet i Oslo.” Den virkelige overraskelsen kommer imidlertid i anmeldelsens siste avsnitt. Skirbekk gir her Simone de Beauvoir en rettmessig plass som historisk betydningsfull skikkelse – men underkjenner samtidig tradisjonen hun har hatt slik innflytelse over. Konklusjonen er oppsiktsvekkende: “[Midttuns bok] gir en grei innføring i dagens feministiske tenkning [...]. Men en lesning av Det annet kjønn fra 1949 vil trolig gi bedre forutsetninger for personlig refleksjon og akademisk søken etter hva det vil si å være kvinne.”

Hvilken annet filosofisk diskurs vil en anmelder mene at det på denne måten er mulig å redusere til ett historisk verk? Ville man bli tatt alvorlig hvis man avsluttet en omtale av en bok om samtidig fransk filosofi ved heller å anbefale Sartre? Ville man med anstendigheten i behold kunne anmelde en samtidig innføringsbok i logikk ved å henvise leseren til en bok av Frege? Ville man beholdt jobben som kunstanmelder om man i en omtale av en bok med intervjuer med en vifte av dagens viktigste kunstkritikere gjespet frem en anbefaling av Gombrich?

Kort sagt: En anmeldelse av en lignende bok om et hvilket som helst tilsvarende felt, ville tatt for gitt at det aktuelle ordskiftet finnes og er det man har å forholde seg til. Man ville ikke feid det vekk til fordel for en anbefaling av én enkelt bok fra første halvdel av forrige århundre. En NRK-gjennomgang av den norske bokhøsten anno 2008, vil til sammenligning neppe konkludere med å henvise leserne til Hamsuns Paa gjengrodde stier (i likhet med Det annet kjønn utgitt i 1949).

Feministisk tankegods inntar i dag en selvfølgelig og markant plass både i akademia, litteraturen og den politiske debatten. Når man anmelder feministiske bøker i den norske rikskringkastingens kulturkanal, burde man ta for gitt at anmeldelsen inngår i en diskusjon som allerede eksisterer, og som man ikke trenger å legitimere eller introdusere før man begynner å ytre seg innenfor den. Skirbekk signaliserer derimot at feminisme er noe rart og eksternt og privat (merk formuleringen “vil trolig gi bedre forutsetninger for personlig refleksjon”), som ikke fortjener å behandles på lik linje med andre offentlige ordskifter. Midttuns prosjekt rekker så vidt å karakteriseres som “ambisiøst”, før det avskrives som “pompøst”: Anmelderen synes mer opptatt av banale rim enn av å bruke boken han har fått i hendene til å tenke.

Skirbekk fremstiller Midttuns bok som et innføringsverk stilet til en atomisert (kvinnelig) leserkrets, som er uvant med å tenke strukturelt, politisk, eller filosofisk, og som derfor må tilegne seg disse tenkerne gjennom personlige dannelseshistorier. En slik reaksjon er muligens forståelig når man ser på hvor stor plass private nykker og karriereakademisk skryt får i enkelte av intervjuene. Like fullt krever det kreativ eksegese å få noe meningsfullt ut av argumentet om at feministisk teori først og fremst er til for å fremme selvrealisering, og at det derfor ikke kan “si noe generelt” (som Skirbekk formulerer det, med en karakteristisk ubestemt vending). Og hva menes med påstanden om at “I dag knyttes ikke feministisk teori til historiske og sosiokulturelle strømninger som kvinnen er en del av”? Mer halvkvedet og misvisende enn dette blir neppe motstanden mot de lingvistisk-filosofiske strømningene innenfor samtidig feminisme – de Skirbekk med enda flere eksempler på depresiserende begrepsbruk kaller “den selvfokuserende lingvistisk[e] feminisme” og “et postmoderne selvrealiseringsprosjekt uten retning eller form”. Men paradoksalt nok har Skirbekk rett i én del av formuleringen: Feministisk teori angår ikke alene de historiske og sosiokulturelle strømninger som kvinner er en del av; den angår oss alle.

I innsirklingen av hva slags feminisme Skirbekk ønsker seg, får man ingen konsise meningsytringer, bare halvartikulerte utsagn av typen “å samle en individuell og allmenn tilnæring [sic] for slik å ta feministisk tenkning videre og ikke minst gjør den viktigere og mer tilgjengelig”. Man fornemmer at anmelderen forsøker å henspille på velkjente ståsteder i den pågående svenske debatten om queer-feminisme som konsumtilpasset livsstilsprosjekt, som visstnok skal være uforenelig med den tidligere kvinnebevegelsens mål om organisering, felles krav og likelønn (mer her og her). De mange kompliserte forholdene mellom teori, livspraksis, aktivisme og politikk kunne vært diskutert i forlengelsen av dette, men Skirbekks omtrentlig formulerte innsigelser hjelper oss neppe på vei, og henviser heller ikke til de eksisterende debattene.

En anmelder i NRK P2 har ikke som oppgave å presentere et crash course i feminisme som munner ut i en anbefaling av Det annet kjønn, når han skal levere en kritikk av en bok som Huitfeld Midttuns. I Skandinavia kan man lese om feminisme i avisene hver dag (også høyrekreftene er blitt kompromissløse feminister på sine gamle, anti-islamistiske dager), og de få prosentene av Norges befolkning som lytter til P2, kjenner til de Beauvoir fra før. De fortjener skarpere anmeldelser enn dette, fra anmeldere med en målsetning om å bidra til den aktuelle diskusjonen, ikke bare referere den diffust – for å konkludere med å forlate den.

Maskulinismens offersang: Svar til Arnt Folgerø

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Under overskriften ”Intetkjønnssamfunnet”  i Aftenposten 15.11.08, angriper journalist Arnt Folgerø “queer-bevegelsen” som han hevder har fått innpass i både “forvaltningen, mediene og i rettsvesenet” med sin kamp om å “renske bort” mannlig heteroseksualitet i forsøket på å skape et sex- og kjønnsløst samfunn. Folgerø nevner ingen navn på hvem som utgjør denne tilsynelatende ekstremistiske “queer-bevegelsen”, men som redaktør for det nordiske nettidsskriftet Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal føler jeg meg kallet til å svare på tiltale. Jeg kjenner meg ikke igjen i verken Folgerøs samfunnsdiagnose eller hans forestillinger om “queer-bevegelsen”.

La meg først oppklare en utbredt feiloppfatning av queer-teori og -aktivisme som Folgerø ukritisk reproduserer – sammenblandingen av heteroseksualitet og heteronormativitet. Et sentralt element i queer-teori har nemlig vært nyanserte kritikker av heteronormativitet, altså, den måten spesifikke former for heteroseksuelle begjær og livsførsler privilegeres innenfor juridiske, økonomiske, politiske og kulturelle rammeverk. Når Folgerø betegner queer-bevegelsenes kamp som et angrep på mannlig heteroseksualitet i seg selv, blander han altså kortene. Det er ikke folks seksuelle praksis som er det sentrale her, men derimot at definisjonsmakten over hva som er naturlig og sant har tatt utgangspunkt i den hvite heteroseksuelle mannen.

I Folgerøs kronikk finner man et treffende eksempel på dette i hans argumentasjon for at menn undertrykkes av statsapparatet. I sin gjenfortelling av saker hvor menn har blitt anklaget for å fornærme eller antaste kvinner, stiller Folgerø seg uforstående. Sett fra hans perspektiv representerer disse hendelsene nemlig ingen fornærmelser – snarere tvert i mot. For kvinner må da tåle å bli befølt og klådd litt på – mot deres egen vilje – ettersom dette er et uttrykk for menns uskyldige og naturlige “paringstrang”. At kvinnene derimot ikke opplever dette som verken uskyldig eller naturlig, synes irrelevant. I Folgerøs argumentasjon er ikke deres synspunkt viktig. Her er kvinnene kun eksempler på hvordan det norske lovverket motarbeider menns naturlige behov.

Jeg er uenig. For det første fordi jeg ikke er interessert i å bli tilskrevet en slik primitiv og særdeles fordummende forståelse av mannlighet som Folgerø opererer med. Forestillingen om at menn må få leve ut deres “naturlige parringstrang” og derfor ha frihet til å la pikkhodet styre, er ikke bare en dum, men også potensielt sett farlig argumentasjon, ettersom det risikerer å legitimere at menn forgriper seg på andres kropper. Alle skal ha rett til å bestemme over egen kropp, og mannens “uskyldige naturlige trang” er selvsagt illegitim når den går på bekostning av andres selvbestemmelsesrett.

For det andre er Folgerøs paranoide forestillinger om at queer-bevegelsen legitimerer myten “om at det bor en voldtektsforbryter i en hver mann” mest av alt beskrivende for hans egen retorikk. For det er Folgerø selv som reduserer mannen til å være et kåt og potensielt sett farlig dyr – et velkjent utgangspunkt for forestillingen om menn som voldtektsforbrytere. Men er det ikke denne stereotypiseringen av menn og heteroseksualitet vi bør bekjempe?

Folgerø avslutter sin kronikk med en beskrivelse av den queer-teoretiske kritikk av kjønn- og identitetskategorier. Men her har han tydeligvis misforstått hva kritikken dreier seg om. De queer-bevegelsene jeg er i kontakt med arbeider ikke ut i fra et “likhetskrav” som vil skape ”mennesket uten kjønn, intetkjønnet”. Kritikken av hvordan våre forståelser av kjønn og seksualitet er kulturelle konstruksjoner som ikke kan reduseres til noe essensielt eller naturlig, tar nemlig utgangspunkt at vi alle er radikalt forskjellige. Språket innfanger ikke disse forskjellighetene med kategorier som “mann” og “kvinne”, “homoseksuell” og “heteroseksuell”. Hvis Folgerø hadde satt seg inn i den queer-teoretiske kritikken ville han sett eksempler på dette.

Folgerøs kronikk skriver seg inn den etter hvert utbredde forestillingen om at “den norske mannen” er i krise – en krise som den store stygge Feminismen og dens uregjerlige følgesvenn Queer-bevegelsen er årsak til. Hans fremstilling av mannen som offer minner om det den britiske kulturforskeren Richard Dyer kaller “me-too-ism”, nemlig fenomenet at hvite, vestlige heteroseksuelle menn hevder at også de er undertrykte i dagens samfunn. Jeg er enig med Folgerø i at det er viktig å diskutere forholdet mellom makt, kjønn og seksualitet. Men den maskulinistiske posisjonen han inntar, ved å kjempe for (noen) menns rettigheter på bekostning av andres rettigheter er ikke veien frem.

Mathias Danbolt
Redaktør for Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal

(Sendt til Aftenposten, men ikke publisert pga. plassmangel.)

David L. Eng i København

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

I helgen gjestet den amerikanske queerteoretikeren David L. Eng København i forbindelse med Foreningen for Kønsforskning sin årlige konferanse, som i år hadde temaet Hvidhed og andre majoriserende bevægelser. På konferansen holdt Eng en meget interessant forelesning med tittelen “Lawrence v. Texas and Whitness as Property”, fra hans kommende bok The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy.

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David Eng tok her utgangspunkt i den amerikanske høyesteretts banebrytende avgjørelse i rettsaken “Lawrence v. Texas” fra 2003, som frikjente John Geddes Lawrence og Tyron Garner som var anklaget for sodomi, med den følge at sodomilovgivning ble avskaffet i USA. Rettsaken står som et landemerke i kampen for homoseksuelles rettigheter, og har gjentatte ganger blitt sammenlignet med historiske rettsaker som “Brown v. Board of Education” (1954) som dessegregerte skolesystemet i USA, og “Loving v. Virginia” (1967) som opphevede forbudet mot at sorte og hvite kunne gifte seg. Men som Eng påpeker er slike analogier ikke uproblematiske, av mange grunner. Spesielt fordi det lett kan fremstå som om spørsmålet om rase er noe som hører fortiden til, mens “queer liberalisme” er nåtidens kampsak. For, spør Eng, hva er det som må glemmes i “Lawrence v. Texas” for at fortellingen om fremgang og frihet for homoseksuelle kan fortelles? Svaret er ikke overraskende rase.

I sin forelesning ruller Eng opp bakgrunnen for at politiet i 1998 brøt inn i huset til Lawrence, der de fant ham i seksuell omgang med Garner - en sort mann. Politiet hadde nemlig blitt oppringt av en tredjepart i dette som viste seg å være et sjalusidrama, som hadde hevdet at “There is a nigger going cracy with a gun!” Det var denne stereotype fortellingen om en skytegal neger som hadde fått politiet til å reagere umiddelbart, og som førte til at de brøt seg inn i huset der de fant Lawrence og Garner i en “intim” situasjon.

Eng er interessert i hvordan det kan ha seg at denne saken som begynte som en rasistisk anklage uten hold i virkeligheten, endte opp med å bli vendepunktet for fremveksten av “queer liberalisme”. Svaret ligger blant annet i det faktum at rase og seksualitet har en lang historie for å bli tenkt separat - som to elementer som ikke har direkte med hverandre å gjøre. Engs analyse viser hvor tett disse to aspektene henger sammen - både historisk, teoretisk og kulturelt - og han viser nødvendigheten av å tenke interseksjonelt.

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På mandag kunne man igjen oppleve David L. Eng i aksjon, på et åpent seminar på Københavns Universitet der han holdt forelesningen “The Art of Waiting: Queer Diasporas and The Book of Salt“. Med utgangspunkt i Monique Troungs roman The Book of Salt viste Eng også her hvordan “race can only appear as disappearing”.

Romanen er en litterær fantasi satt til husholdet til Alice B. Toklas og Gertrude Stein i Paris, der fortelleren er deres vietnamesiske kokk Binh. Troung har tatt utgangspunkt i en notis i Alice B. Toklas’ kokebok, der det fortelles i korte trekk om tiden med de uansvarlige, upålitelige men underholdende indokinesiske kokkene som paret måtte ta til takke med under krigen. The Book of Salt stiller på den måten ikke bare spørsmål til hva som har eller kunne ha skjedd i fortiden, men også hva vi egentlig kan vite om historien.

I Nina Trige Andersens fine artikkel “Race i farve-blindhedens tidsalder” i Information, kan man lese mer om Engs forelesning om queer diaspora, rasisme og glemsel i Monique Troungs The Book of Salt.

Mens vi venter på David L. Engs kommende bok, kan man jo i mellomtiden lese hans forløpige hovedverk, Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America (2001).

Queer er sosialisme

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

I Sverige har det vært en opphetet debatt om queerbevegelsen i den siste tiden. Det begynte for alvor med Maciej Zaremba som i Dagens Nyheter gjorde sitt for å disskreditere queerbevegelsen som han hevder er fundamentalistisk, med en forvridd virkelighetsoppfattelse og absurd agenda. I forlengelse av Zarembas “kritikk”, har mange forutsigbart nok hevet seg på skittkastingskonkurransen.

“Att högern blir nervös begriper vi. Men vänstern?” skriver Athena Farrokhzad og Tova Gerge i den meget gode artikkelen “Queer är socialism” i Aftonbladet, der de kommer med et viktig innlegg i debatten. For som Farrokhzad og Gerge påpeker er det ikke akkurat overraskende at liberale og konservative debattører som Zaremba rakker ned på revolusjonær virksomhet, men at også en lang rekke venstrefeminister i den siste tiden har angrepet queerbevegelsen er mer problematisk.

Som svar til feministiske skribenter som Kajsa Ekis Ekman, Ebba Witt-Bratström og flere andres manglende forståelse og absurde angrep på queerbevegelsen, viser Farrokhzad og Gerge hvorfor og hvordan “queer är socialism”. De skriver:

“Queer är också en möjlighet för socialismen att börja betrakta sig själv och lossa greppet om en exkluderande motståndsymbolik. I vänsterns kollektiva medvetande reser sig fortfarande propagandaaffischens friska vita fabriksarbetande män mot den kapitalistiska jätten, kanske med några frodiga kvinnor i bakgrunden. Fantasin om den vita fabriksarbetarens revolt upprätthåller en bild av agens som är snarlik den kapitalistiska. Queerfeminismen, antirasismen och cripteorins analyser av kroppens form och funktion skulle kunna bistå den traditionella vänstern med andra symboler och giltigförklara den socialistiska aktivism som andra aktörer bedriver. Eller som Tiina Rosenberg fastslår i den nordiska queertidskriften Trikster: ”Den antiheterosexistiska, antirasistiska och antikapitalistiska politiken är vår tids vänsterpolitik.” I stället för att betrakta queerengagemang som en energiförlust skulle vänstern kunna få näring av de rörelser som vill göra upp med kapitalismens grundprinciper.”

Det er nesten trist at det i 2008 er nødvendig å forklare venstrefløyen at “queer är socialism”, men det er godt at Farrokzhad og Gerge gjør det. Det er ikke vanskelig å være enig med dem i deres fine avslutningskommentar, der de med et lite vink til Artaud & Deleuze bemerker: “En kropp kan sakna organ, men ändå ha hjärtet till vänster”.

Pingviner og dukkesex i Tidskrift för genusvetenskap

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

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“Docksex och pingvinkärlek - Att göra det icke-mänskliga queer” er tittelen på Judith Halberstams artikkel i det meget gode nummeret av Tidskrift för genusvetenskap (nr. 4, 2007) som jeg nylig fikk i hendene. Teksten er basert på en forelesning Halberstam holdt på Malmö högskola i mai 2007, og er en del av bokprosjektet Dude, Where’s My Theory? som hun forteller om i intervjuet “The Eccentric Archive” i Trikster #1.

I artikkelen argumenterer Halberstam for hvordan det finnes alterantiver til forståelsen av det mannlige og kvinnelige, maskuline og feminine, familie og individualitet i populærkulturen. I skrekkfilmer og animasjonsfilmer finner Halberstam nemlig et rikt arkiv for å utvikle alternativ forståelser av kroppsliggjøring, reproduksjon og ikke-reproduksjon. I “Docksex och pingvinkärlek” foretar Halberstam blandt annet en kritisk lesning av “dokumentarfilmen” Pingvinenes marsj - som skildrer de antarktiske keiserpingvinenes livssyklus som en fortelling om menneskelig kjærlighet, familie og reproduksjon - og en interessant analyse av de transbiologiske øyeblikkene i animasjonsskrekkfilmen Seeds of Chucky, som bringer på banen mildt sagt alternative forståelser menneskelighet og reproduksjon. Dette er spennende lesning, og jeg håper Halberstam publiserer boken sin snart.

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Nummeret av Tidskrift för genusvetenskap inneholder også en tekst om samkjønnet partnervold av Carin Holmberg og Ulrica Stjernqvist, og en interessant tekst med den skarpe tittelen “Varför måste Butler vara så jävla akademisk?” av Anne-Charlotte Ek, som diskuterer feministisk kunnskapsteori og det akademiske undervisningsrom, med utgangspunkt i hennes erfaringer med å forelese over blant annet Judith Butlers tekster.

Det er også verd å nevne bokanmeldelsene i nummeret, der blant annet Sara Edenheim retter skarp kritikk mot oversettelsen av Judith Butlers Genus ogjort - kropp, begär och möjlig existens som utkom på Norstedts Akademiska Förlag i 2006. Boken er oversatt av Karin Lindeqvist med en innledning av Tiina Rosenberg, og Edenheim kommer med kritiske kommentarer til begge deler: i oversettelsen har det blitt skapt forvirringer og teoretiske forskyvninger i forhold til orginalteksten, mener hun, og Rosenbergs innledende beskrivelse av Butlers forhold til psykoanalysen, forvrenges i møte med Rosenbergs anti-psykoanalytiske kjønnsrolleteori. Skarp kritikk, som det kunne være interessant å få svar på fra de involverte parter.

Det Malmö-baserte Tidskrift för genusvetenskap har også nylig utgitt et nytt nummer om Velfärdstaten (Nr. 1, 2008), med tekster av blandt andre Liz Fekete, Malin Rönnblom, Paulina de los Reyes og Åsa Lundqvist.

Hvidhed og andre majoriserende bevægelser

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

26. april arrangerer Foreningen for Kønsforskning sin årlige konferanse, og i år er temaet Hvidhed og andre majoriserende bevægelser. Konferansen holdes på Danmarks Pædagogiske Universitetsskole (DPU) i København, og årets keynotes speakers er professorene David L. Eng og Anne-Jorunn Berg.

Konferansen setter fokus på en rekke majoriseringsbevegelser - altså prosesser og krefter som gjør noe til selvfølgelig og passende, og dermed skaper usynliggjorte normer. Utover hvithet vil konferansen sette fokus på parallelle og interagerende majoriseringer som heteronormativitet, maskulinitet, voksenhet, danskhet, den riktige vitenskap, profesjonalitet m.m. Det tegner til å bli en veldig spennende konferanse - programmet og abstracts kan leses her.

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Av årets keynotes gleder jeg meg spesielt til å høre David L. Eng, som er en av de mest interessante forskerne innenfor det queer teoretiske feltet i dag. Engs arbeid fokuserer på skjæringspunktene mellom rase, kjønn og seksualitet, og dette står sentralt i hans forløpige hovedverk Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America (2001), hvor kulturell produksjon av asiatisk maskulinitet leses sammen med formasjoner av hvithet, migrasjon, diaspora og multikulturalisme i nordamerikansk historie. Eng har også vært medredaktør på den meget gode antologien Loss - The Politics of Mourning (2003) med David Kazanjian, og Social Text-nummeret What’s Queer About Queer Studies Now? (2005) med Judith Halberstam og José Esteban Munoz.

I København skal Eng snakke om hvithet og rasialisering av intimitet, med utgangspunkt i hans kommende bok The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy (Duke University Press, 2008). Det er forhåpentligvis hans tanker og kritikk av “queer liberalisme” han her vil diskutere, slik man kan lese i hans interessante artikkel “Freedom and the Racialization of Intimacy: Lawrence v. Texas and the Emergence of Queer Liberalism” i den nye antologien A Companion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies (Blackwell, 2007).

Hvis man ikke har råd eller tid til å delta på konferansen, har man en glimrende mulighet til å stifte bekjentskap med David L. Eng på mandag 28. april. Da holdes det et åpent seminar på Københavns Universitet fra kl. 10-13, der Eng skal forelese over temaet “Masculinity, Race and Sexuality”.

Påmelding til kønsforskningskonferansen er utsatt til 11. april - altså ganske snart! - og det kan gjøres på DPUs hjemmeside.