What is Troublemaking?

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.