A few links I want to re-read (or reference)…someday

Ever since I got my iPad in May, I use it a lot for my morning internet news reading. For some reason, I can’t figure out how to make bookmarks on my iPad version of safari (which might be a good thing because I tend to bookmark lots of links that I never return to). So instead, I have started emailing myself the links. Now my inbox is filled with them and I’m feeling the need to clean (which doesn’t happen that often–as hard as I try, I usually have hundreds of emails in my two main mail accounts. Sigh).

Since I use this blog as an archive for ideas, I have decided to post a brief “annotated” list of these links/entries/articles:

1. Childhood, Disability and Public Space a blog entry by Angus Johnston at Student Activism
This entry, which links to an interesting thread on Feministe about kids and public space, is about the rights of children and adults with disability in relation to public space. Here’s his conclusion:

Which brings me to my most important point: that the duty to minimize disruption isn’t a duty that the young and the old and those with disabilities have to the robust adults among us, it’s a reciprocal duty that each of us, whatever our condition, has to each of our neighbors, whatever their condition.

Each of us has an obligation to refrain from whining too long or too loudly in museums. But each of us also has an obligation to accept the company of others good-naturedly, and to respond with grace when disruptions inevitably occur.

Why I’m archiving it: This essay resonates with me on a number of different levels–personally (as the mother of two young children who struggles to navigate public space with them and in the midst of other parents who do seem to feel entitled to take up lots of space, and as a daughter who witnessed my mom’s fearful attempts to inhabit public space as terminally ill, slow-moving and fragile without being knocked over or shoved out of the way) and intellectually (I like thinking about the links between public space, children and disruption).

Where I found it: random twitter search on @bitchphd, buried deep on page 2 or 3

2. threadbared a blog by Mimi Thi Nguyen and Minh-Ha T. Pham
Here’s a description of this super-cool blog:

Threadbared is an evolving collaboration between two clotheshorse academics to discuss the politics, aesthetics, histories, theories, cultures and subcultures that go by the names “fashion” and “beauty.” With commentary on how clothes matter, as well as book and exhibit reviews and interviews with scholars and artists, Threadbared considers the critical importance of taking clothes –and the bodies that design, manufacture, disseminate, and wear them– seriously as an entry point into dialogue about the world around us.

Why I’m archiving it: Okay, I’m not really into fashion that much (but maybe after reading this blog, I will be!), however I am familiar with Mimi Thi Nguyen’s work (Alien Encounters and a brief online essay on Mulan from years ago) and I appreciate the ways in which she brings feminist, queer, and anti-racist analyses to bear on pop culture. Minh-Ha T. Pham’s work seems pretty cool too; I especially like her post (which I just found) on why I feel guilty when I don’t blog. And here’s one more reason: this is a kick-ass blog done by academics who are using their impressive set of critical tools (feminist transnational studies, queer theory, critical media studies) to critically reflect on popular (fashion) culture. And it’s a diablog. This is a great model for being diablogical!

Where I found it: Wow, I wish I could remember. Probably twitter again. I think twitter is my new researching BFF. Seriously, twitter is a great resource. I will definitely have to use it in my classes this year.

3. May I, Please, Queer Your Kids? The New Queer Pedagogy an online article by Stephanie Jo Marchese in a Special Issue of MP: An international feminist journal
In this article, Marchese opens her discussion of queer pedagogy and the queer classroom with one queer student’s story (Sara) of being deemed a threat by her teachers:

By asserting the contagion of queerness, any school system, any teacher, any student, and any administrator has an increased chance of exposure. Paranoia becomes the vaccine to this social disease. It has seeped into pedagogical practices resulting in the devaluation and disgust with which queer studies is viewed in mainstream educational discussions. In advocating queer learning spaces, educational institutions run the risk of losing all categories, run the risk of leaving all subject matter ripe learning material, and inadvertently allow for provocative and resistant citizens to thrive. In linking this theoretical pondering to my opening example it makes perfect sense that Sara was told to pipe down. Keep it quiet. Don’t disturb your role because you unsettle mine.

Marches argues that queer visibility (and a pedagogy that is queer) doesn’t always have to lead to paranoia and containment; making sexuality visible in the class could allow for more honest conversations about it and the ways in which it gets regulated (through what is normal/acceptable and what is not).

Why I’m archiving it: I am always interested in essays on queer pedagogy and the bibliography for this article seems like it could point to even more sources. Plus, I appreciate her discussion of the queer who unsettles/disrupts as someone who needs to be encouraged (because of the productive, good troublemaking they do) instead of being contained or denied.

Where I found it: I got a mass email through the WMST-L listserv about a call for papers from the MP journal. I went to their website and randomly searched the archives.

4. Twitter for Academia a blog entry by dave on Academic Hack
In this entry, dave provides a list of various ways in which to use twitter in the classroom, including: class chatter, classroom community, get a sense of the world, track a word, track a conference, instant feedback, follow a professional, follow a famous person and more.

Why I’m archiving it: I plan to use twitter in my classes this year (and to teach about how to use it in my feminist pedagogies class) and am always looking for advice and ideas about it. Not only does dave offer some great suggestions, but his post has 46 comments worth of ideas too. Cool. This post should be very helpful. Here are a few that I particularly like:

Track a Word: Through Twitter you can “track” a word. This will subscribe you to any post which contains said word. So, for example a student could be interested in how a particular word is used. They can track the word, and see the varied phrases in which people use it. Or, you can track an event, a proper name (I track Derrida for example), a movie title, a store name see how many people a day tweet that they are at or on their way to a Starbucks. (To do this send the message “track Starbucks” to Twitter, rather than posting the update “track Starbucks” you will now receive all messages with the word “Starbucks.”)

Instant Feedback: Because Twitter is always on, and gets pushed to your cell phone if you set it up this way, it is a good way to get instant feedback. I was prepping for a lecture and wanted to know if students shared a particular movie reference, I asked via Twitter and got instant responses. Students can also use this when doing their classwork, trying to understand the material. Tweet: “I don’t understand what this reading has to do with New Media? any ideas?” Other students then respond. (This actually happened recently in a class of mine.)

Maximizing the Teachable Moment: It is often hard to teach in context, Twitter allows you to do this, but better yet, allows your students to do it for you (a way that others will hear perhaps). Recently someone in my Twitter circle made a marginal comment about a male friend who was dating an older woman. Another person in the same circle called him out this. Perfect, an in-context lesson on gender prejudice.

Public NotePad: Twitter is really good for sharing short inspirations, thoughts that just popped into your head. Not only are they recorded, because you can go back and look at them, but you can also get inspiration from others. This is really useful for any “creative” based class.

Where I found it: I’m pretty sure that I did a google search for twitter and academic use (or twitter teaching?). Sidenote: I used Academic Hack’s blogroll to find ProfHacker, which is great source on the Chronicle of Higher Education for teaching and technology.

Okay, I’m done now. Well, my list of links is not done, but I’m done. I find this entry to be a helpful exercise, one I might try in my classes. It’s more time-consuming than I imagined it would be (it took about 90 minutes, off and on, to write). I need to go rest my brain now and listen to some summer music:

Playgrounds, kids and making trouble

I really like Rebecca Mead’s article about children’s playgrounds in the July 5th issue of The New Yorker: “State of Play: How tot lots became places to build children’s brains.” She describes the history of playgrounds in the U.S. and the shift that is occurring in the philosophy and design of them. Playgrounds used to be designed primarily for regulating children’s behavior, training them to be good (as in disciplined) citizens. With their carefully planned swings, slides, sandboxes and seesaws (the four S’s), playgrounds were intended to give otherwise out-of-control children a place to direct their immense amount of physical energy towards productive, responsible and physically appropriate actions. Now, new playgrounds, like David Rockwell’s Imagination Playground, are being designed to encourage children to be creative and engage in their own imaginative (not-so-directed) play. The 4 S’s are being replaced with loose parts like foam blocks and tubes that can be moved around by kids and put together in expected and unexpected ways. Instead of regulating kids’ unruly behavior, playgrounds are being designed to train kids’ brains so that kids use their imagination more and learn how to creatively explore their own (as opposed to parents’ idea of appropriate) play. Here’s Rebecca Mead’s summary of the change in playground philosophy:

Over the past century, the thinking about playgrounds has evolved from figuring out how play can instill youngsters with discipline to figuring out how play can build brains by fostering creativity and independent thinking. The hope of Rockwell’s playground project is that children who have experimented with fitting together oversized blocks and cogs—and who have learned to navigate a place where social challenges of sharing and collaboration are built into experience—will be better equipped to handle the complexities of twenty-first century life (37).

Sounds great, right? In many ways, yes. I’m all for encouraging kids to be creative and designing playground equipment that fosters their imaginations. I also appreciate the emphasis on play as being driven by kids themselves as opposed to their over-bearing parents. However, I am troubled by how this play is still framed almost exclusively in terms of how it can train kids to be good adults. Whether playgrounds are designed to curb the behaviors and bodies of unruly, troublemaking kids (which Mead indicates were some of the original reasons for developing playgrounds in the early 1900s) or to shape and train their brains to better function in the 21st century (one current playground philosophy), the end goal is always about disciplining children and about “developing [the child’s] abilities, their individual judgment, and their sense of moral and social responsibility” and training them “to become a useful [and productive worker?] member of society” (35).

What’s fun and playful about that? It sounds like more work. Sure I appreciate the shift in emphasis from controlling bad behavior to inspiring creative engagement, but by understanding imagination and creativity primarily in terms of how it trains/disciplines kids to be more creative and able to direct their own actions, a lot of what is fun (and creative) about play is, at best, not valued, and at worst, pushed aside in favor of one version of productive, useful and serious play. In the hyper-competitive, capitalist-driven environment of New York City (where many of these playgrounds are making their debut), these new “imagination” playgrounds could have some contradictory/conflicted results: “achievement-minded New York parents will likely flock to the place” (37), hoping to give their kids’ one more advantage (creative imagination!) for their future in the highly-competitive marketplace. So, play isn’t about playing; it’s about acquiring more tools for success.

Whenever I think about the value of play, I am reminded of Maria Lugones’ wonderful example of playfulness in “Playfulness, World-Traveling and Loving Perception“:

Being playful and playing doesn’t always have to be guided by rules or some larger aim (to be successful at being creative); being playful can (and should) be fun and freeing and not work. Kids know and embrace this. And no matter how hard playground designers, play experts and parents try to shape how they play, kids find ways to have fun on the playground. They use the equipment improperly (by climbing up the outside of the slide) or ignore the equipment altogether (by climbing random trees instead of jungle gyms). Often I have found myself exasperated by my son’s refusal to play on the equipment “properly.”  I am sure I have even uttered, “why does he have to make this so difficult–why can’t he play the right way?” (I know, even troublemakers like me reinforce the rules sometimes). While sometimes he is just being difficult, maybe sometimes he is practicing resistance and making trouble for the system and its efforts to mold him into a good little worker. Maybe the playground is full of little-troublemaking revolutionaries? Cool.

SIDENOTE: Almost every time I go to a park I witness how disciplining is done by parents to their own children and to others’ children. Of course, children aren’t the only ones disciplined; parents spend a lot of time at the park disciplining  each other (in subtle and not-so-subtle ways). After I started reflecting on these ideas of disciplining and parks, Foucault immediately popped into my head and I knew that if I searched for it, I would find some great articles on Foucault and the playground. I was not disappointed. I can’t wait to read this totally awesome-sounding essay by Holly Blackford entitled “Playground Panopticism : Ring-Around-the-Children, a Pocketful of Womenwhich I originally found in the journal, Childhood. Doesn’t it sound cool?

In this article, the author invokes Michel Foucault’s analysis of panopticism to understand the performance of mothering in the suburban playground. The mothers in the ring of park benches symbolize the suggestion of surveillance, which Foucault describes as the technology of disciplinary power under liberal ideals of governance. However, the panoptic force of the mothers around the suburban playground becomes a community that gazes at the children only to ultimately gaze at one another, seeing reflected in the children the parenting abilities of one another. The author analyzes the elaborate rules of playground etiquette and social competition that occupy the mothers, linking their social discourses to the public neighborhood playground as a symbol for child-centered (suburban) ideology.

Excellent. I need to read this article and then re-read KCF’s guest blog entry on The Elf on the Shelf.

This is my brain between semesters, part 1

…or some random sources that I am finding as I wrap up my thoughts/discoveries from last semester and ponder what to include in my classes for next semester.

Before I begin all of the “actual” work that I have slated for the next month (betwixt and between the fall and spring semesters–hmm…a liminal space, perhaps?), I am taking some time to explore different ideas. I have always loved the part of research when you just travel from source to source and track the connections that authors make between their ideas and the work of others. I used to spend hours in the library scanning the shelves, picking out books with interesting titles, scrutinizing the footnotes for further sources and then tracking those sources down. Now I do it on my computer through google books or amazon or E-Journals while I am drinking my latte and eating my chocolate zucchini bread at Anodyne. I miss the smells and sounds of the library (so I still do that too), but I think it is so cool that I can do research anywhere (and at anytime–even at 2 AM when I can’t sleep). Anyway, I am sitting here at Andoyne (having just briefly visited Wilson Library), thinking about troublemaking, queer theory, feminist theory, Foucault, children and childishness, and affect/emotion.

I went to Wilson Library to pick up James Kincaid’s Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting. I found him though his essay in Curiouser. This book, particularly his chapter, “Inventing the Child–and Sexuality,” seems important for me to read as I think through the dominant narratives of the Child as innocent (and a/pre-sexual). Before I actually started reading the book, I was struck by one of his epigraphs. Well, maybe not the epigraph, but its source : Adam Phillip’s On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life. I tracked it down through google books and previewed it. Here is part of the  book overview:

Psychoanalysis began as a virtuoso improvisation within the science of medicine, but virtuosity has given way to the dream of science that only the examined life is worth living. Phillips shows that the drive to omniscience has been unfortunate both for psychoanalysis and for life. On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored is a set of meditations on underinvestigated themes in psyochoanalysis that shows how much one’s psychic health depends on establishing a realm of life that successfully resists examination.

I love this idea of unknowingness as central to a successful life (reminds of Judith Butler in Undoing Gender). After I check out the book and skim it closely, I will have to reflect on Phillips’ ideas in relation to Socrates and his oft cited mantra: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I was also want to spend some time reading Philips’ chapter, “Worrying and its discontents.” In my last entry I wrote about the link, which seems to be inextricably drawn, between worry, thinking and trouble. I am wondering, when is worrying a valuable enterprise? When is it too much? What exactly is it? Before my google preview ran out (because you can only preview a limited number of pages–perhaps I should look for the exact “rules” somewhere on the google books site), I was able to read this intriguing description: worries are farts that don’t work (47). I am reminded of my queering theory class and our (very) productive, especially for one student, focus on the connection between the abject and shit. If worry is a fart, or the failure to shit, what purpose does it serve? Are farts the in-between the subject and the abject? Wow. I should stop before I go too far here….

Okay, that’s enough writing about books; now I want to read them!

The Queer Child: Some Sources

Time to start putting together my syllabi for the spring. I am excited to teach “Feminist and Queer Explorations in Troublemaking” again. As always, I plan to mix up the readings a lot. I am not quite sure what I will keep. One topic that I want to take up is troublemaking and “the child”/children. Here are two sources that I am thinking of using:

41XYSS5W3XL._SS500_1. Curiouser: on the queerness of children
Edited by Steven Bruhm and Natasha Hurley

This authors in this collection are particularly interested in exploring what happens when we queer the dominant narrative of children as “innocent of sexual desires and intentions.” One way they envision queering this narrative is by interrogating how even as children are understood to not have sexual desires or engage in sexual practices, they are assumed (encouraged? required?) to be heterosexual. Another way they envision queering this narrative is by focusing on those (other/counter) stories “that make children ‘queer’ in a number of distinct ways and therefore are rarely told” (x). Here is how Bruhm and Hurley define queer, and its relation to the child/children, in their introduction:

The authors use the term queer in its more traditional sense, to indicate a deviation from the “normal.” In this sense, the queer child is, generally, both defined by and outside of what is “normal.” But the term queer derives also from its association with specifically sexual alterity. In this collection, the figure of the queer child is that which doesn’t quite conform to the wished-for way that children are suuposed to be in terms of gender and sexual roles. In other circumstances, it is also the child who displays interest in sex generally, in same-sex erotic attachments, or in cross-generational attachments (x).

I am not sure if I want to use the entire book or just a few essays? Hmm…. At first glance, there are several things that interest me about this collection:

  • The link between queer, curious and children. I think being curious is a central part of troublemaking as a virtue. How does being curious get shaped and regulated through the creation or exclusion of narratives (cautionary tales?) of the queer child?
  • The link between children, innocence and protection. How does this understanding of children as innocent (of certain knowledges about/experiences of the world) shape our vision of them as knowledge producers and critical thinkers?
  • The specter of the queer (that is, not normal, not innocent–the troublemaker, perhaps?) child that haunts dominant narratives about and for children.

978-0-8223-4364-62. The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century
by Kathryn Bond Stockton

Published this year, this book builds off of Stockton’s essay on queer children (included in Curiouser) entitled, “Growing Sideways, or Versions of the Queer Child: The Ghost, the Homosexual, the Freudian, the Innocent, and the Interval of Animal.” I don’t know much about this book (except that it includes a discussion of the Johnny Depp version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which is, in my mind, is especially ripe for a queer, anti-capitalist analysis); I haven’t found a table of contents and it is checked out of the library right now. Should I assign this book, or a chapter from it, or just her essay in Curiouser? I don’t know yet…While I ponder that question, here is part of the blurb about it that I found on the Duke University Press website:

Engaging and challenging the work of sociologists, legal theorists, and historians, Stockton coins the term “growing sideways” to describe ways of growing that defy the usual sense of growing “up” in a linear trajectory toward full stature, marriage, reproduction, and the relinquishing of childish ways. Growing sideways is a mode of irregular growth involving odd lingerings, wayward paths, and fertile delays. Contending that children’s queerness is rendered and explored best in fictional forms, including literature, film, and television, Stockton offers dazzling readings of works ranging from novels by Henry James, Radclyffe Hall, Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, and Vladimir Nabokov to the movies Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Hanging Garden, Heavenly Creatures, Hoop Dreams, and the 2005 remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The result is a fascinating look at children’s masochism, their interactions with pedophiles and animals, their unfathomable, hazy motives (leading them at times into sex, seduction, delinquency, and murder), their interracial appetites, and their love of consumption and destruction through the alluring economy of candy.

Wow. This does look really cool. I like the idea of sideways as an alternative to linear progression and “growing up.” I must order this book today!

Note: I have already discussed Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive here. We are reading the first chapter at the end of this semester in my Queering Theory course. I will probably use it in the graduate seminar as well.

I need to keep searching for more sources to use. What about the feminist child? How can I think about the troublemaking child in relation to feminist theories about critical thinking, problem posing, and/or radical rebellion?