Friday, October 8, 2010

Queer times?

Tuesday, 12 October – zero degrees? salience and starship gender?
Weston, Gender (whole book)

What role does space-time play in gender constructions, interventions, and deployments? What sort of critique of one’s own field does Weston model here? How is it related to the self-critiques of anthropology as a field? How does Weston operate time-claims in a queer analysis?

Interview with Kath Weston by Stephen Helmreich, 2006. Body and Society 12(3): 103-121. Notice the networks including other folks we are reading and those to whom they refer. (Thanks Oliver!)

and what counts as queer theory, or studies, or intervention? what queers it? For some of Katie's own considerations on these matters see: "Queer Transdisciplinarities." And another handout highlighting Bowker and Star tools is HERE. It is similar to the one I handed out, but has some other references too.

from the acknowledgments (x): "If obstacles are to be acknowledged as well as debts, it must be said that it is not always easy to find the means to pursue research on topics (gender!) that have shifted with intellectual fashions from the cutting edge of tomorrow to today's au courant." 

from the preface (xi): "Turn the page and step into a time machine. Destination: Gender. Gender is not a thing to be understood, or a conceptual space to be visited, but as a product of social relations imbued with time. Grab your gear and prepare for a trip to another galaxy."

(xii): "It is well known that books, like fossils, are time machines of a sort that can transport readers to another era. Words become the equivalent of a starship that slithers through a rent in spacetime to convey readers to various yesterdays, tomorrows, and occasionally even a parallel universe in which events unfold rather differently than expected.... Less recognized is a second way in which books can provide a vehicle for time travel. By supplying the analytic machinery required to understand time, they serve as devices for examining the workings of temporality. In the case at hand, presumptions about time embedded in theory and practice turn out to affect, intimately, the making of gender."

parallel realities (xiiff):

1: on the one hand: "preoccupation with ambiguity" :: "preoccupation with multiple genders" :: "street violence directed at bodies that seemed to resist classification." 
on the other: a different time period of globalization: "golden age of Arabic/Islamic science" :: implications of THAT zero in "rhythms of gender's creation, disappearance, and reemergence in the 'real time' of life under the latest of capitalism."

2: on the one hand: "visual emphasis incorporated into performativity theories of gender"
on the other:  "temporal movements associated with repetition" :: "aftermath of historic shifts in industrial production that relocated manufacturing plants overseas"

3: on the one hand: "part played by historical memory in the production of gender"
on the other: "ideologies of modernity" 

4: on the one hand: "time-sensitive versions of gender studies"
on the other: "in order to engage with the new forms of power that globalization brings."

WHAT IS AT ISSUE? (xiii): "The prospects for equality, the work to which we give our days, passion, rage, friendship, survival, resource distribution, memory's wagers.... Our theories, our relationships, and sometimes our very lives." 


1: Liberation when? (9): "Liberation denied, liberation achieved; both visions dependent upon an all-or-nothing approach to social change. Both visions dependent on vision and an unexamined allegiance to the concept of change. A certain grandiosity prevails in either case, puffed up by generous infusions of time. ¶ To dissolve a paradox is not, however, to dismiss its social effects. It is by no means an easy matter to extracate gender studies from the 'seething of words and dreams' that issues from its utopian heritage. How to generate an analytics that will, if only for a time, resist the lure of commodification? How to grasp the resources withheld from women -- and which women? -- at the self-proclaimed centers of freedom? Shifting between scraps of land claimed by different states, or simply holding hands, remains a life-threatening proposition in many of the sites where modernity's well-schooled voice proclaims that life is uniformly better." 

2: Vision just in time & spacetime. (Katie's version: how do we know social change when we see it?) (10): "At what historical moment did it become possible to imagine gender as an artifact of performance or a resource for pleasure rather than some dead weight to be thrown off? Could a time without gender in is unrecognized dimensions of the here and now, rather than some far off, future "then"?" 
(11): "emphasis on seeing and space as metaphors for overcoming oppression." (12): at "the very moment when 'eye candy' begins to describe a range of visually induced consumer pleasures."

(13-14): "Space-plus-time (space and time) is not the same theoretical apparatus as spacetime.... An additive understanding (space-plus-time) pictures time and space as two geometric planes that intersect.... The analyst brings the two together after the fact by first imagining them as separate but interdependent, then investigating the effect that one has on the other.... An integrated understanding of spacetime offers a better approach.... // There is no need to explain how they come together... because nothing stands between them.... The unified concept of spacetime puts gender back into time by calling attention to what is peculiar to the production of gender under the latest capitalism."

(15): "This excursion into physics may seem to have brought the discussion a long way from genderless utopias and social movements, but here again the length of the journey depends upon the frame."
"The social relations that make gender visible, visual, turn out to be drenched in history, time discipline, and duration... gendered bodies come up temporal."

(17): "Visibility elicits recognition, but in a racist society, it can also help define a target." 
(18): from Hennessy 1995: 31: "the visibility of sexual identity is often a matter of commodification, a process that invariably depends on the lives and labor of invisible others."

3: Surviving representation. (Think Keeling here too.) (18-19): "...when activists and theorists pit survival // against representation, treating the two as though they were mutually exclusive rather than radically intertwined.... The two cannot be lived or analyzed in isolation, because they occur in and through one another." 

(19): "a woman's survival depends upon calling people into classification." " judgments about gender lead to romance as well as lethal exchange. 

(21): "the study of queer materiality" "Within these pages other things have been queered as well, queered in the sense of rendered unexpected and strange." 

(22): "By drawing upon elements of Arabic/Islamic and Buddhist/Hindu science that provided the wherewithal for global navigation, I develop a zero concept to comprehend the fleeting moments in which gender makes its disappearance on a daily basis." (23): "time claims and the periodic zeroing out of gender in the current era of globalization."

(23) "the violence of counting" -- "cloak unjust social arrangements with an aura of the inevitable" 

some spacetimes: 

• raced, gendered, class and labored restrooms,  in the 50s, 70s, 90s, 2010, across identity-based social movements, from airports to bus terminals to universities (25ff; 27): "When a flash of gendered uncertainties prompts onlookers to do whatever they can to set a person at odds with the call of her own body, she walks through a history, not just a door."

(27-8): "Something is going on in the streets and shops of a globalizing economy, at century's beginning, at century's end, that targets ambiguities as // raced and classed as they are gendered. Something is going on in the posts and outposts of power, where gender reasserts itself with each breach of a border. Something is going on that involves more than an inability (and on the part of whom?) to let well enough alone, to let ambiguity remain ambiguity, to let your hesitation double as my knowledge, your verities locked in conflict with my relative interpretation."

What counts as "queer"? Weston's series of vignettes & (30-1): "These vignettes raise the possibility -- the inevitability -- of multiple, conflicting readings. What one reads as 'straight' another reads as gender-bending. What one understands as oppressively or scintillatingly real, another takes as parody, a third as failed attempt. Privilege, often unannounced, bolsters claims to a definitive interpretation.... When one person's femme becomes another person's butch or 'halfway middler,' the interpretive shifts involved are neither arbitrary nor random. They depend on who's viewing whom, at which historical point and in the context of what sorts of power relations.... // This very eagerness to move someone out of that moment of becoming unsexed, to arrive at a classification of femme or man or dyke, is the product of an era in which the absence of clear demarcations subjects bodies to desperate measures. Presence turns into passing, and even 'deviants' find themselves slotted into neatly tagged categories." 

Meta? (39): "In a twenty-first-century sense, zero is not just another number among numbers or a sign among signs.... zero operates as a meta-sign: both a sign about signs, and a sign for the absence of other signs. If zero is there, seven is not there; in the place where zero stands, tow and forty-seven are not. As such, zero signifies not only an absence, but also the potential for later occupation. Movement is thus implicit in the sign. ¶ Zero also keeps other numerals in their place, so to speak." 

(40): "Like zero, unsexed does not refer to something that is there -- 'a' gender -- in any ontological sense. Like zero, unsexed operates as a meta-sign, a sign about that ephemeral instant in which someone perceives an absence of gendered signification.... The zero concept of unsexed draws attention to a movement in and out of gender that occurs under very specific historical conditions, conditions that have everything to do with shifting relations of power and production that performativity theories can acknowledge, but otherwise fail to engage.... the temporalities involved far exceed the processual time of performativity."

(42-4): "The multiple genders that have insinuated their way into // monographs as analytic as well as descriptive devices are signs arrayed alongside other signs. They are not meta-signs like zero, but signs of the same order.... Without the distraction of that kind of abstraction, one might begin to suspect that the onset of scholarly fascinating with the notion of a Third Gender coincided with shifts in more generalized social processes of commodification.... Packaging gender into the calculable bundles that are genders -- even in culturally or historically relative terms -- paves the way for disciplinary practices that subject bodies to tallying and sorting. Without this kind of makeover, there are no guessing games about who is and who is not, no // medical interventions to sort 'intersexed' people (hermaphrodites) into numbered slots, no controversies over chromosome testing in international sports, no heated discussions about where to place someone when 'it' walks through the door of a bathroom or bus.... encouraging people to look once again to bodies, to the visual, as gender's ultimate referent. Bodies can be racked up, ordered, totaled in a way that the power relations involved in a moment of unsexing cannot."

(50-1): "Although anyone can become unsexed/unraced/unclassed -- undone -- at any given moment, the process is not random.... As a person becomes undone, s/he becomes a cypher.... However short-lived, the value endowed on the place that the cipher holds open is the potential for gendered signification. With it comes the potential for reflection.... the cypher represents a more general undoing of identities in which gender may have melded with class, race, age, religion, or any of the classifiers used for social sorting. Unsexing is a process too instantaneous, too ephemeral, and too complex to call only gender in and out of play.... // Whatever onlookers perceive, it is not what they expected.... Embedded within any momentary absence of expected signification is an enticement to resolution."

generations? time claims & post memory (103): "...young women on the cusp of what would soon be declared a global economy would, in their turn, use the bodies of preceding generations as a screen. By symbolically converting elders into representatives of a bygone era, they perpetuated the 'modern tradition' of treating older people as denizens of the past.... The judgments about time and change and gender hammered out in these venues incarnated historical memory, insofar as younger women understood the older women around them to exemplify the past. In the process, bodies metamorphosed into indices of what Marianne Hirsch has called postmemory, a kind of second-generation memory 'mediated not through recollection but through an imaginative investment and creation' consolidated by vigorous narratives that predate someone's birth." 

another spacetime: lesbian "community" -- marginalized/ing, involved/ing -- (110): "Narrators [self-identified lesbians of the 80s or 90s?] identified the 1970s as the period of androgyny and lesbian-feminism, then skipped ahead to the mid-1980s, when a 'new' butch/femme emerges as a option rather than an expectation. Their accounts were not nearly so nuanced as those developed by historians such as Elizabeth Kennedy and Madeline Davis, who carefully distinguish the butch/femme of the 1950s from that of the 1930s and 1940s. In the later bar stories, the 1960s becomes a lost decade, while the years before 1949 fade from history into the relatively timeless past."

(116-7): "Memories, historical or otherwise, do not move so much backward (or forward) as in- // and-out, through and around, in a process through which forgetting becomes not just the flip side of remembering, but its price." (119): "The most common models of temporality in North America are either too linear or too cyclical to explain what happens as people forget, remember, forget to remember, remember to forget, remember that they have forgotten, and devise intricately collective ways to traverse time.... The bodies of those Old Butches have opened up a wormhole of sorts, a rent in the fabric of spacetime with the potential to turn analysts of gender into time travelers, depositing us somewhere, somewhen, at another end."

(123): "...foster what cultural theorist Lauren Berlant terms 'paramnesias,' in which images 'organize consciousness, not by way of explicit propaganda, but by replacing and simplifying memories people actually have with image traces of political experience about which people can have political feelings that link them to other citizens and to patriotism.'"

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