Staying in Trouble

TROUBLE is a blog created by me,  Sara Puotinen. I developed it to give serious attention to making, being in and staying in TROUBLE and to function as a writing, researching and teaching tool. I started it in 2009. In honor of its third anniversary in 2012, I created a video introduction. Check it out to learn more about this blog and it’s history:

What is Troublemaking?

  • An approach to looking at and acting in the world
  • That pushes at the limits of our most sure ways of knowing.
  • A broad term
  • That encompasses a wide range of practices.
  • Involves thinking critically all the time
  • And the willingness to challenge the status quo.
  • A skill that must be cultivated and practiced
  • That is not only destructive but productive
  • And that involves asking questions and being curious.

Troublemaking is dangerous, creative, fun, virtuous and needed.

I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the value of troublemaking for individuals and communities who are engaged in ethical, political, personal, theoretical projects of social transformation. I have studied it, written about it and taught it in undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Minnesota.

Troublemaking (as a wide range of practices, an attitude, a virtue) is a compelling way to organize my feminist and queer thinking about the world. When I reflect on what moves me (as a writer, as a scholar, as a thinker, as a critic, as a person), I am perpetually drawn to the idea of troublemaking.

My thinking about troublemaking is inspired by Judith Butler. I first read Gender Trouble as a graduate student in Claremont, California in 1997. And, like many others, I was deeply moved and changed forever. But, what moved me about her work was not simply her ideas about troubling gender or about performativity. What moved me about her work was the attention and value she gave to troublemaking as an important way of living.

In the preface to Gender Trouble, she writes,

…trouble is inevitable and the task, how best to make it, what best way to be in it (vii).

What would it mean to embrace trouble? To develop strategies for making it and being in it in ways that could produce compelling and potentially transformative ideas and actions?

What would it mean to take troublemaking seriously—as an important way of living life? As an object/subject of analysis? As a virtue that guides our moral and ethical practices?

What would it mean to encourage the troublemaker and troublemaking within us—to listen to the voice that tells us that something isn’t right and that demands that we challenge the ideas that are being forced upon us? To refuse to merely accept what we are told without question or careful consideration? To perpetually ask why things are the way they are and who benefits from them being so? And, most importantly, always to think and reflect on our lives and our actions and relationships to others?