weapons of the weak: STALLING recategorize what looks like inaction, passivity, lack of resistance (88)
Trainspotting and unqueer failure: failure leads to while male rage directed against women/people of color
OUTLINE OF REST OF CH: An examination of what happens when failure is productively linked to racial awareness, anticolonial struggle, gender variance, and different formulations of the temporality of success (92).
Moffat and 4th Place: The Art of Losing
The L Word, the Anti-Aesthetic of the Lesbian, and the butch lesbian as loser/failure
Darkness, Shadows, Failure-as-style, Limits, Hopelessness, Punk politics, Fucking shit up, and the Queer Art of Failure
Children, Queer Fairy Tales, Shrek/Babe/Chicken Run/Finding Nemo, and Bringing down the winner and discovering our inner dweeb
A rallying cry of England’s dispossessed?
A snarling rejection of the tradition of the monarchy and national investment in it?
No future for Edelman…seems to mean (too) much about Lacan…and not enough about the powerful negativity of punk politics (108).
Negativity may be anti-politics, but it should not register as a-political.
three: Halberstam, expanding of the archive of negative affects and “fucking shit-up”
our: A queer archive? Inspired by JH’s call to discover our inner dweeb…
The concept of practicing failure perhaps prompts us to discover our inner dweeb, to be underachievers, to fall short, to get distracted, to take a detour, to find a limit, to lose our way, to forget, to avoid mastery…” (121).
The following are the online notes for my Queering Theory class in fall 2011. I’m in the process of bringing my various lectures over from my 18 course blogs to this site. Eventually, I’d like to do more with these lectures. Maybe combine them into a few key themes, particularly ones that connect to my work on making and staying in trouble. I also might want to reflect further on how to use the blog as a platform for lectures and discussions in class.
NOTES FOR JHALBERSTAM’S The Queer Art of Failure
see pdf of full notes (with embedded tweets) here.
Introduction: Low Theory sources of knowledge? Sponge Bob Square Pants
This book loses the idealism of hope in order to gain wisdom and a new, spongy relation to life, culture, knowledge and pleasure (2).
live life otherwise
Low theory tries to locate all of the in-between spaces that save us from being snared by the hooks of hegemony and speared by the seductions of the gift shop (2).
standing outside of success: failure = not succeeding, not achieving success
goal = dismantling logic of Success/Failure
re-envisioning failure (and losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing) as offering more creative ways of being parallels with Luhmann and ignorance, Butler and undoing
Failure’s rewards (3)?
escape punishing norms that discipline behavior/manage development
preserves some of the wondrous anarchy of childhood
disturbs “clean” boundary between childhood/adulthood, winner/loser
allows us to use negative effects (disappointment, disillusionment, despair) to poke holes in toxic positivity and myth of power of positive thinking and positivity/personal responsibilitysee Ehrenreich and RSAnimate’s “Smile or Die”
Is failure necessarily negative? Does it demand that we embrace and value our negative, “whiny,” grouchy attitudes?
Little Miss Sunshine and a new kind of optimism: not based on positive thinking or the bright side at all costs, but a little ray of sunshine that produces shade and light in equal measure (5).
not being taken seriously, lack of rigor, frivolous, promiscuous, irrelevant (7).
What should count as “serious” and rigorous academic work?
Benjamin: strolling down the paths, going the wrong way, not knowing exactly which way to go
Disciplinary knowledge, the sciences and rogue intellectuals
Do we really want to shore up the ragged boundaries of our shared interests and intellectual commitments, or might we rather take this opportunity to rethink the project of learning and thinking altogether (7)? Is this possible in academic spaces, especially at the U?
Let me explain how universities (and by implication high schools) squash rather than promote quirky and original thought (7).
JH on hegemony (from Gramsci and Hall): “the multilayered system by which a dominant group achieves power not through coercion but through the production of an interlocking system of ideas which persuades people of the rightness of any given set of often contradictory ideas and perspectives” (17).
traditional vs. organic intellectual
Low theory = counterhegemonic form of theorizing, the theorization of alternatives within an undisciplined zone of knowledge production (18).
Linebaugh’s/Rediker’s The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors,Slaves, Commoners, and The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic and the history of alternative political formations
flesh out alternatives: how to live, how to think about time/space, how to inhabit space with others, how to spend time separate from the logic of work (19)
Animated films deliver queer/socialist messages:
revel in difference
invest in resistance
“the art of getting lost?”
FAILURE AS A WAY OF LIFE
goals of book:
“I hold on to what have been characterized as childish and immature notions of possibility and look for alternatives in the form of what Foucault calls “subjugated knowledge” across the culture: in subcultures, countercultures, and even popular cultures.”
Turn the meaning of failure in a different direction, away from happy/productive failure to the “dark heart of the negativity that failure conjures”–modes of unbecoming
Early chapters (1-3) chart the meaning of failure
Later chapters (4-6) allow for fact that failure is also unbeing
It is a book about failing well, failing often, and learning how to fail better (24). Reminds me of JB’s passage: “Trouble is inevitable, and the task, how best to make it, how best to be in it.”
JHalb hopes this book is accessible to a wider audience. What do you think? How do we put Halberstam’s desire for intelligibility/accessibility beside our discussion of Butler’s value of difficult writing?
Master the art of getting and staying lost (25).
chapter one: Animating Revolt and Revolting Animation
explain the title: A cynical reading of the world of animation will always return to the notion that difficult topics are raised and contained in children’s films precisely so that they do not have to be discussed elsewhere and also so that the politics of rebellion can be cast as immature, pre-Oedipal, childish, foolish, fantastical, and rooted in a commitment to failure. But a more dynamic and radical engagement with animation understands that the rebellion is ongoing and that the new technologies of children’s fantasy do much more than produce revolting animation. They also offer us the real and compelling possibilities of animating revolt (52).
connection to failure:
Animated films for children revel in the domain of failure
Childhood is a long lesson in humility, awkwardness, limitation, “growing sideways”
Animated films address the disorderly child
PIXARVOLT: new genre of animated films that use CGI and foreground themes of revolution and revolt, making connections between communitarian revolt and queer embodiment (29)
Pixarvolt films draw upon standard narratives, but is also interested in:
relations between inside/outside
desire for revolution, transformation, rebellion
self-conscious about own relation to innovation, tradition, transformation (30)
Films: Chicken Run (collective rebellion, imagining and realizing utopian elsewhere), The March of the Penguins (resolutely animal narrative about cooperation, affiliation, anachronism of homo-hetero divide), Monsters, inc (anti-humanist, anti-capitalist), Bee Movie (oppositional groups rising up to subvert the singularity of the human w/unruly mob)
difference between Pixarvolt and merely Pixilated? difference between collective revolutionary selves and conventional notion of a fully realized individual…Pixarvolts desire for difference is not connected to a neoliberal “Be Yourself” mentality or to exceptionalism; it connects individualism to selfishness, overconsumption (47).
chapter two: Dude, Where’s My Phallus? Forgetting, Losing, Looping
“we can argue for queerness as a set of spatialized relations that are permitted through the while male’s stupidity, his disorientation in time and space” (65).
The beauty of Dude is that it acknowledges the borrowed and imitative forms of white male subjectivity and traces for us the temporal order of dominant culture that forgets what it has borrowed and never pays back (67).
dude, seriously: forgetting, unknowing, losing, lacking, bumbling, stumbling, these all seem like hopeful developments in the location of the white male (68).
Dude offers a potent allegory of memory, forgetting, remembering, and forgetting again which we can use to describe and invent this moment in the university, poised as it is and as we are between offering a distinction “negative” strand of critical consciousness to a public that would rather not know and using more common idioms to engage those who don’t why they should care (68) EXPLAIN
Forgetting: forgetfulness as useful tool for women/queer people for jamming smooth operations of normal and ordinary (71), allows for rupture of present/break w/past/opportunity for new, non-hetero future (71), delink historical change from family/generations, forget family (71-72), Dory forgets family and opens up new modes of relating/belonging/caring (72
Edelman and heterofuturity + the Child (73)
Stockton and growing up sideways (73)
Finding Nemo (key argument 80-81) and 50 First Dates (key argument on 77) both deploy forgetting to represent a disordering of social bonds, employ transgender motifs to represent queer disruption in logic of normal, and both understand queer time os operating against progress/tradition (74-75).
The example of Dory in Finding Nemo in fact encourages us to rest a while in the weird but hopeful temporal space of the lost, the ephemeral, and the forgetful (82).
I’m continuing to experiment with using iMovie to create digital stories. I’m having a lot of fun and learning new techniques. While I created two videos in the early aughts with STA, he did almost all of the technical stuff on them (running the camera + editing the footage in iMovie, etc). It’s great to learn how to do it myself. Part of my feminist techagogy (Feminist pedagogies in conversation/beside online technologies) is a passionate belief in empowering/inspiring/encouraging a wide range of folks how to engage in their own digital multimedia projects for critical and creative expression. With easy to use and inexpensive tools like iMovie, lots of people who aren’t tech/media experts can create, produce and share compelling stories. There are also lots of storytelling apps for creating movies. I’ve created a Pinterest board with some that I’ve tried or want to try.
I like using iMovie (as opposed to final cut pro) because it’s automatically built in to all macs and fairly easy to use. So far, I haven’t had that much difficulty figuring out how to import photos and video and edit them. I’ve also experimented with splitting video and audio clips and slowing down some footage. One thing that I haven’t spent that much time on is sound. iMovie seems to have some serious limitations when it comes to sound; it’s hard to get a consistent volume between clips. Even though iMovie has its limitations, I really like how it enables me, someone who is not a digital media expert (or interested in becoming one), to develop enough skills to experiment with various ways for creating, telling and troubling my stories.
Here’s my latest digital story project: Stories from the UP. I’m pretty happy with the various techniques that I tried out in the story. I’m also pleased with how I was able to use this story to trouble ideas of how stories, especially ones about family trips, can or should be told.
Technical note: I used iMovie + built-in MacBook Air microphone + Pixelmator for photo editing.
Here is the transcript from my voice-over:
Beginning: Last summer, for the second year in a row, Scott, Fletcher, Rosie and I took a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I was born in the Upper Peninsula, Houghton to be exact. And although I haven’t lived there since I was 4 and a half, I still consider it to be one of my most important home spaces.
We remember our trips to the UP with great fondness and nostalgia, as we look through Scott’s beautiful stylized instagram photos, but I know that even as these trips are deeply important and fulfilling, they aren’t always…fun or easy or relaxing. Bugs, over-excited yet easily-bored kids, too much togetherness, bugs, too cold water, lots of driving, did I mention bugs?, and the difficult and ongoing negotiations of 4 different, all strong, personalities living together as a family makes any trip messy…and exhausting….and a lot of work. But joyful, nonetheless.
I want to craft and share stories that reflect a more troubling understanding of our trips to the UP, that convey the joy and difficulties, our fulfillment and exhaustion.
Before the Path I like messy stories; stories that don’t always erase our conflicts, that allow us to put our sometimes contradictory experiences beside each other.
Before the Place I like reverent stories; stories that allow me to express an ongoing love for a place that grounds me, that nurtures me, that inspires me and that reminds me of who I am always in the process of becoming.
Before Characters I like character stories; stories that describe who we are, more than what we do…that expose our quirks and flaws and that represent us as human, not heroic.
Before the Action I like small stories; stories that represent our everyday experiences and that help to reflect who we are in our habits. Not stories of grand or epic adventures, but everyday events, when we’re just hanging out and where the exciting ending is not reaching the top of a high mountain, but going to have mackinac island fudge ice cream at our favorite ice cream shop, The Berry Patch.
Even though I’ve been wary of Pinterest over the past couple of weeks, I’m still using it. And I’ve actually found some fun/playful/useful ways in which to experiment with it. In addition to continuing to add onto my Troublemaking Role Model board, I just, a few minutes ago, created a new board: Beside/s. It’s inspired by my continued interest in beside/s as an important concept for troublemaking and troublestaying. My first pin on this board? John Waters/Justin Bieber.
While looking for an image of John Waters (I’m planning to add him to my troublemaking role model board), I came across an article headline, “Justin Bieber could win an Oscar, according to one director”. Of course, I tweeted about it:
I also had to post about it on my new Tumblr. Here’s what I wrote on that post:
Wow, I find this fascinating. How does it fit with my tumblr? J Waters is one of my troublemaking role models and I like to create curious/troubling/playful juxtapositions: queer camp/bieber fever, shit/bubble-gum?
I don’t think that I want to do too much theorizing about this juxtaposition, but I’m glad that John Waters/Justin Bieber inspired me to create a new Pinterest board on the concept of Beside/s. I’m not sure what I will include in it, but it could be a great space for visually representing the various juxtapositions/besides that I want to perform. This board could complement by Beside/s category on this blog. Here’s my description of that category’s purpose:
BESIDE/S: In this newly developed category (as of January, 2012), I post blog entries that enable me to experiment with being beside/s. Being beside/besides is a concept and practice that I find extremely compelling for working with and through readings, ideas, understandings, and experiences; it was the central organizing principle for my essay and blog posts on living and grieving beside Judith and for my queering ethics course last spring.
Having ideas or things beside each other is to see them as next to each other. Literally, beside is a reminder of the material spaces that we inhabit. This might mean being aware of how books that you are reading/researching reside next to each other or how multiple tabs, with the various posts you are processing, are open at the same time. Conceptually, ideas or things beside (next to) each other indicates that you are reading them together, sometimes through each other, sometimes against each other, but always in ways that recognize that the various ideas/concepts/things that you are engaging with influence and shape each other. These ideas don’t necessarily fit together (and they don’t have to), but, taken together they influence how you read, interpret, understand, and produce your own ideas. To put ideas and things beside each other is to put them into conversation with each other. The process of putting them into conversation is a form of exciting and challenging work that involves much more than sitting alone and staring painfully at a blank screen.
Beside also means besides, that is, in addition to or instead of. Besides can involve the labor of thinking about and being open to alternatives to the ideas that one is reading. It can also mean de-centering one’s own perspective or the perspective of any one idea as the Idea and considering how multiple ideas/theories/experiences outside of ourselves can provide new insights and new understandings. Embracing that which is besides enables us to be, albeit temporarily, beside (not quite outside of) ourselves.
On last week’s podcast, STA and I spent a lot of time discussing recent reports of human rights violations at the Apple supplier, Foxconn, in China. Our discussion was based mostly on the recent Nightline report on working conditions at the factory. After finishing the podcast, I decided to do a little more research on how the problem of labor conditions and human rights violations was being framed, what critical discussions were taking place, and what solutions were being offered. My first research stop: Democracy Now! and a report from February 10, 2012: Apple, Accustomed to Profits and Praise, Faces Outcry for Labor Practices at Chinese Factories
I appreciate what Shelby Knox (a feminist activist and subject of a film that I screened for a class last semester: The Education of Shelby Knox) had to say about what is at stake:
We’re asking Apple to make an ethical iPhone. Factories in China and the countries that they’re made suffer horrible labor conditions. And so, we’re asking them to live up to their ethical supplier agreement, make sure that they are under good working conditions, that they’re not using toxins that harm them neurologically, and that they take care of those people as well as they would want their customers to be taken care of.
In the Apple’s ethical supplier agreement that Knox mentions, Apple discusses Labor and Human Rights, Worker Health and Safety and Environmental Impact. I’m particularly interested in the human rights aspect of their code. Key to their focus on human rights is the idea that workers should be treated with dignity and respect. I wonder, what does this actually mean? Here’s how they describe it on their site:
Apple prohibits practices that threaten the rights of workers — even when local laws and customs permit such practices. We’ve taken action toward ending excessive recruitment fees, preventing the hiring of underage workers, and prohibiting discriminatory policies at our suppliers. And as the first technology company to be admitted to the Fair Labor Association, Apple is setting a new standard in transparency and oversight.
In watching the Democracy Now! video and briefly skimming the New York Times article (which first broke this story in January), I’m struck by how different their accounts of how the workers’ human rights are being violated seem to be from the Nightline video’s depiction of working conditions. While Nightline suggests repeatedly that the work is “hard,” they don’t focus much attention on the details of why it is hard (physically, mentally or psychologically). When is hard work too hard (and demeaning, damaging, a violation of one’s dignity and respect)?
I’m sure that there are some great conversations about how to define/determine dignity and respect for workers in Foxconn factories and I bet, with a little effort, I can find them…