(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25, Summary of Class Notes:

Part of postmodernism is a reaction to modernism. In ways, it subsumed aspects of modernism into the dominant culture so that what was once fairly radical has become regularized.

But prof started this discussion with the distinction that:
  • Modernism = ~1914-1960
  • Postmodernism = 1945 or 1960 - Present
  • But the present isn't quite postmodernism. Postmodernism has been around for a while and with advances in culture/society and technology our current situation could better be better described as digital culture, media & technology, atemporality or even post-postmodernism
If this last statement is true, then how has postmodernism or the ways in which it interacts with society/culture become regularized? How is our current situation reacting against postmodernism?

To be honest, pomo is kind of a downer a lot of the time. I respect it, but I think part of the reaction has been a yearning for praxis, how do you live or performatively enact this discourse? Yes, there's a lot of writing but when does this become practice?

I know this is happening, with Queer Theory when I go to events by the LGBT/Queer groups on campus we inevitably introduce ourselves and our preferred gender pronouns. This conception of gender as being separate from sex, attempting to subvert assigned, socialized assumptions of gender prescribed onto living bodies by performatively announcing our preferred gender, finds its origins in a Butlerian model of gender that questions the construction of a binary gender systems and "compulsory heterosexuality."

Or as was brought up in class, the entire construct of "hipster culture" is uniquely (ha) postmodern. It is based in a kind of nostalgia while maintaining a false pretext of being hyper-individualistic and original.

Often, it's subtle, but we've found aspects of that application. It's just the discourse used to describe it has to catch up, which is hard when you're working with what I would call a kind of meta-theory.

I'm sure I'll have more on this later, but this is a start.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Danny, tell me about the word "queer"

I'm not trying to be too in-depth with this piece so while I encourage you knowledgeable-types to make factual corrections, please don't quibble over every minor detail I got wrong. If you'd like to read a slightly better researched piece, go here.

That said, let's start at the beginning. There's the obvious origins of the word queer as a synonym for weird, strange, peculiar that because they were seen as such, was then applied to gays, lesbians, ad nauseum. In a lot of areas it has as much vehemence as the word "faggot."

Then around I want to say primarily the late-1980s with some of the bigger pro-gay movements, people started to reclaim it.

Nowadays it's used by more radically liberal activist and academic types as this really weird construction where it is used as a umbrella term. By that, I mean that queer is used to denote the entire LGBTQetc community. But these very same liberal activist/academics also often have a LOT of problems with that use since it kind of homogenizes the community. By having one word mean everything you erase the connotations and diversity inherent to such a community. There's more than one type of queer person. Queer used in that way tends to favor images of your standard college-educated, white, middle-class, gay male. Leaving out all those other types of queers.

An even more contemporary usage of the weird queer comes from the more radical academic-types as meaning something closer to "a non-normative political identity."

Basically what this means is that by this definition being queer isn't so much a sexual identity as a political affiliation. It's an outcrop of the postmodern rejection of binaries, be they gender, racial, sexual, etc. Queer in that sense tries to look at the intersectionality of those identity politics to kind of go "hey, that way of thinking is stupid and marginalizes a lot of people and doesn't really benefit everyone long run."

Which is why you find queer as a far more accepted term by younger, West coast (for lack of a better term) queers. Because we didn't grow up with queer as such a strongly derogatory term. We grew up in a world of Queer as Folk and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Here at Western, the LGBTA (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance) Office recently changed its name to the Queer Resource Center. And there was the same kind of split on this decision as you see among most of the LGBTQ population. There are those (myself among them) who were for the decision. Queer Resource Center more accurately reflects what the office is and does. I still have issues with queer used as an umbrella term here, but I think the strength of the Bellingham queer community in particular is that enough of the people who claim the term as an identity come from a diverse range of backgrounds that disavow a lot of the marginalizing effect of that queer homogenization.

We queers are feminists, male and female, people of color, people with disabilities, of a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. For the most part we recognize where queer comes from (both good and bad) and often claim it as something beyond just the LGBT.

What do you think about reclaiming words? What do you think we can reclaim or can't reclaim?