Cheers to Black History Month, and to ALL of the struggle involved in its creation and continued preservation! With that in mind, I find this reflective post to be quite relevant to the current Black (and more general marginalized people of color) struggles within our white supremacist, heteronormative, patriarchal society. I am happy to share this reflective blog post with you, in hopes that it engages and incites thought.
My Weekly Frustration.
So, the presentation finally happened, y’all. For those of you not in this class, but engaging with the class discourse via my blog; because of the threat of snow in this southern state, class was cancelled, my presentation was postponed a week, and we were left to commence upon a tangential and fairly disconnected (though at times intense) discussion via what I have been referring to as ‘blogfest’ (we primarily interacted with one another’s blogs in relation to the weekly readings, though there was an in-depth chat via google that I became aware of after the fact).
I left the discussion space feeling existentially positive. Mine was the first presentation of the semester for this class and because of that, I felt fairly inclined to use my creativity, passion, and rage to facilitate an engaged discussion of a few primary connecting themes I found between the readings. I wanted a space that not only focused on the theoretical implications, but also really attended to normative and practical issues of methodology, affect, and acts (performative and otherwise) that could possibly be used in circumventing our normative disparate power dynamic. Upon reflection, it seemed to foster a space ripe with potentiality and discourse! By the end of this 2 hr, 45 minute class, we had only fully discussed 2.5 (if you include my impassioned brief explanation of a third question, which was also used as my discussion ending/concluding thoughts) of my 9 questions from the three readings assigned! Okay, we discussed 3.5 of 10 questions total (the first question was part of my intellectual warm-up activity, which I will explain soonly), but still, that made me leave the discussion hopeful that my questions were impactful.
I won’t spend too much time at all in this blog post discussing the intricacies of my presentation in the hopes of keeping you engaged with this post. What I will do is discuss a couple of highlights from the questions that we did discuss, and use that to hopefully incite your engagement with me, on this post. Ready? Here we go.
**Just in case you are wondering what literature/discourse was discussed in my presentation this week, here’s the link to my presentation preparation blog post (FYI, I also linked the same prep post at the very beginning of this one).**
And So It Began:
After my introductory thoughts, I had us engage in an intellectual warm-up activity, you know, so that we can knock the cobwebs off from our “snow” days away, and also in order to avoid hitting the reading questions cold. Based on my assessment of our blogfest the week prior, I thought a good place to start the juices flowing was by having us attempt to deeply assess some of the neoliberal implications surrounding an interview on Huff Post Live I brought in for the class to watch. The interview was of Mikki Kendal, the creator of the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen, and Tara Conley, the founder of Media Make Change. Although on the surface the purpose of the interview seemed well intentioned, as it seemed to focus on clarifying the origin of the hashtag, articulating the purpose and intention of advocating the perpetuation of the movement surrounding it, and [very] briefly discussing implications of even having such a thing as the hashtag (and it actually only vaguely alluded to a movement surrounding the hashtag). UNDER THE SURFACE, there were NUMEROUS layers of neoliberal implications stemming from the interview itself, the dynamic, the tensions between the interviewer and interviewees, and even in the location of the actual interview (link) in the context of the main Huff Post website. If you choose to watch the interview I linked above, when you watch it, just think about how many things scream out to you, “white hegemony!” “white supremacist power norm!” “neoliberal commodification of identity expression!” “disparate sociopolitical economic power dynamic!” and I think you will begin to realize how it took us about an hour to really deeply assess this interview in its entirety.
In The Thick Of It:
After about a 10 minute break, we began to discuss a couple of my questions that were directly in reference to the 3 readings. In the interest of being concise, I will skip the details and focus on the issues that we all seemed to spend lots of time and mental energy on.
1. Imagination as a repelling mechanism– (For a brief explanation of my use of the term repellent, click here and scroll down to the comments section) This was a theme we all had quite a time engaging with. Although imagination was discussed more prominently in one of the three readings, it was a connecting theme in the fact that all of the readings at the very least alluded to the usefulness of imagination as a mechanism to circumvent our current neoliberal disparate, white supremacist, heteronormative, patriarchal power dynamic. There was discussion focusing on the importance and value of the use of imagination to navigate the ghosts of slavery past (which in most part has been sentimentalized and normatively commodified in addition to the fact that most of the slave narrative has been perpetuated from the perspective of the slave master/power normative), especially among those marginalized and exploited through our current system of slavery, the prison industrial complex. The use of imagination in this context could have potential to connect those in positions of privilege with ACTUAL affective experiences of those marginalized (you know, the unfiltered version, direct from the source), while simultaneously making explicit a (seemingly obvious) parallel of our current prison industrial complex to chattel slavery of yore.
We also made note of the implied risks and explicit vulnerability involved in engaging imaginative spaces. We began by considering the general vulnerability of any agent engaging in a space ‘outside’ of the normative (in the face of power, so-to-speak) and the vulnerability of the imagined product possibly being raped and separated from the originator(s), or being commodified for our neoliberal aims (to name only a couple of potentialities discussed). After realizing how much is at risk generally for any agent engaging in imaginative spaces, we compounded the situation by considering who these agents being called to action actually are in the context of the readings, all of which pointed to perpetually marginalized people (namely, women) of color, who are seemingly inherently made vulnerable by birthright, notwithstanding engaging imaginative spaces. After compounding the vulnerability factor, we took a second to absorb what we just did. “Would engaging in this imaginative “connect the dots,” be futile in practice?” There are a lot of layers here.
2. Navigating & assessing “the floor”– “The floor,” is in reference to the (singular) already subjugated space that varying types of feminists have been allotted within our neoliberal frame to speak/write/engage aims, goals, and impacting issues. We focused on a question of mine that challenged the language used at the end of an article asserting the need for white feminists to, “cede the floor,” to women of color feminists, who’ve been writing and critically engaging the neoliberal implications surrounding white [and multi racial white supremacist] feminist discourse within the various waves of feminism. It seemed like a call for those dominating the space to be silent, to shift the (marginal) power to those who have consistently been silenced and placed outside of it. While this is most certainly a relevant and important point to make salient, I find issue in the language they used to articulate it. “Is there a need to cede the floor…?” The way that it was stated seems to perpetuate the very power dynamic the authors were trying to rupture! So, my original question included a suggestion of ‘sharing’ the space as an alternative to the act of ceding. We all had a very lively discussion challenging both acts of ceding and sharing, agreeing that perhaps neither were appropriate terms for what is really desired here. No, we never really came up with a singular term that encapsulated the desired act. By the end of this discussion, in lieu of grasping that all-encompassing term we were searching for, we identified some attributes of this elusive term including but not limited to developing imaginative spaces of discourse and also for introspection, collaborative communications, listening, openness, and a little bit of playful traveling.
With only a few minutes of class remaining, I had to decide how I wanted to end this invigorating discussion. My concluding thoughts pointed specifically to Maria Lugones’ suggestion of playful traveling, which is found in this powerful piece of literature. In the context of the issues we have been actively discussing for a few weeks now in this class (I.e., Neoliberalism, implicit/insidious perpetuation of status quo, and neoliberal implications found in seemingly commonplace interpersonal communication, to name only a few), I suggested that we consider whether or not Lugones’ notion of playful traveling could be a potentially plausible initial step in developing our power normative repellent. From there, I actually ended with a rather unnerving open-ended question concerning implications that surround our potential consideration of Lugones’ theoretically amazing suggestion of playful traveling. It went something like this, “What are the neoliberal implications surrounding the fact that Lugones wrote this over 10 years ago, and STILL nothing [has] ‘changed’?” I found that this question connected all of our mini discussions into this mass of contention, as it saliently pointed to the insidiousness of our neoliberal power dynamic, which was a major theme undergirding the entirety of our class readings and discussion this week.
We worked with this abbreviated version of Lugones’ notion of playful traveling:
“Playfulness is, in part, an openness to being a fool, which is a combination of not worrying about competence, not being self-important, not taking norms as sacred, and finding ambiguity and double edges a source of wisdom and delight. So, positively, the playful attitude involves… openness to self-construction or reconstruction and to the construction or reconstruction of the “worlds” we inhabit playfully, and thus openness to risk the ground that constructs us as oppressors or as oppressed or as collaborating or colluding with oppression. Negatively, playfulness is characterized by uncertainty…” (Lugones, 96)
I’d love to know your thoughts on these concluding questions, or on anything else in this post that tickled your fancy. Just because my presentation is over, doesn’t mean the discourse is. In fact, the discourse is fluid, free flowing, and the water is warm, comrades!
I am happy with the way things played out. I wish that we would’ve had more time to go over more questions, but I am SO glad about the amount of deep critical thought we used on the ones we did choose to tackle. Great discussion, at least from my perspective.
Until Next Time, Comrades,
 Lugones, Maria. Pilgrimages = Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. Print.