Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November Meeting (Mad Science)

Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time
by Michel Serres with Bruno Latour


Staging a Conversation

On November 26th, 2013, the MATCH Theory Group staged a reading of a conversation between Michel Serres and Bruno Latour on the possibility of Science Studies.  

The 10 minute scene, "For an Antropology of the Sciences" was pulled from the 1990 interview between the scholars, translated from French by Roxanne Lapidus. M.W. Bychowski played the role of Bruno Latour, questioning Patrick Henry who played Michel Serres.

Performed for a small audience and recorded with the help of a respondent, Shyama Rajendran, the praxis of the reading had a three-fold aim: (1) modeling a conversation on science studies, (2) questioning the very possibility of such a conversation, and (3) embodying the material needs and difficulties at stake in the conversation.


Engaging in Conversation

In the dialog, Latour interrogated Serres's reading of the explosion of the Challenger rocket as an event caught in the middle of scientific and humanistic significance, emphasizing the technical failures between the rocket's systems during the launch. 

Serres responds that challenging, success, and failure never leave behind the social enactment of power. It is the "fire" in the rocket's detonation that fuels "the fire" of science and nationalism as collective engagement.

This conversation concludes with a serious debate over whether one mind can think of an object in a scientific and humanist mode at once. Latour challenges that the objects being considered are importantly distinct, that "the fire" that exploded the rocket and the "fire" that fuels a scientist are of two types. 

Serres responds that we can and must think both together, asking "isn't it more reasonable to use both hemispheres of the brain in unison?... To walk on two feet seems to trip everyone up. Is this proof, then, that we always limp?"



Interrogating the Conversation

Following the staged conversation, the respondent helped the speakers explore their experience and reaction to the material they just performed. The responses were surprising.

While in the role of Serres, Henry found himself convinced by many of Latour's refutations. A dangerous conflation can occur, Henry argued, when we as humanists interpret a scientific conversation about the Challenger we take certain words such as fire to signify passion (which is one type of object) when the scientists mean to signify fire as an object of combustion. The result is not only confusion, but a re-instantiation of two separate conversations about two separate things.

Conversely, in the role of Latour, Bychowski found herself convinced by many of Serres's arguments. Fire can do and be many different things, so that an active attention to it would require an understanding of its burning presence in both discourses. Thus accepting the argument that two objects and conversations exist, to create an interdisciplinary Science Studies scientists have to learn Humanist language and Humanists will have to learn scientific methodology.

Coming together on this point, the respondent brought the speakers to imagine where and how this cross-training is already occurring, offering Disability Studies as one such instance. Indeed, noted Henry, we see universities such as Columbia, NYU, and GWU requiring or encouraging their med-students to take courses on "Literature and Medicine" to help them see their work as acting within a wider network of social relations.

Concluding, all present affirmed the value of the exercise of engaging in such a conversation but admitting a certain disciplinary bias. The Humanities has found reasons (especially relating to funding) to reach out into the sciences, but the Sciences appears less interested in pivoting to include the Humanities. There are notable exceptions, of course, such as Karen Barad which we read the month before, but there is much work left to be done and many people left to convince.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October Meeting (Quantum Intimacies)

Meeting the Universe Halfway
by Karen Barad



And we're back! Returning for a 2nd yr of working to mobilize, theorize & build community we're doing so with a new bent & fervor.

Once again a word of thanks must be given to Patrick Henry who has signed on as the MATCH Working Group Co-Director (you will be hearing from him shortly), and Leigha McReynolds who continues to act as a point person for the KINDLING essay collection project.

This year we are kicking off an initiative called "A Season with the Sciences" where we will be exploring the intersections where the Humanities and other disciplines meet and where they branch off to find productive ways to think, work and live together.

As a way into Science Studies & the Humanities, we read the intro to Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning by Karen Barad from the University of California, Santa Cruz.



Professor of Feminist Studies, Philosophy and the History of Consciousness, Barad demonstrates that a doctorate in theoretical particle physics (or any other specialized degree) should not limit one's imagination on the job market. While there is reason and value in abundance to seeking out one's own discipline, our expertise may be in greater demand in other areas where the population is less saturated with like-minded thinkers.

The formal structure of the book also reflects skills useful in bringing communities together. Barad writes with excellent prose and a critical sense of the poetry of formulas, inventions and theorems. Even better, she boasts the abilities to understand them! 

Charts, statistics, and mathematical formulas populate the text and carry on the argument - in places reiterating what has been said in a language more familiar to scientists and in other places putting forth a new point in a fashion which requires readers to adopt and utilizer a more scientific way of thinking.



A key feature of Barad's argument is a rethinking of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. The quantum observation that one can either determine a subatomic particles position or its momentum, but not both, Barad claims has much wider implication for the way in which we think about the world and each other.

When we observe certain elements of the world, we inhibit our ability to observe other elements. To translate this in terms borrowed from Robert McRuer on difference and dis/ability: every way of knowing is also a way of not knowing something else.

We can consider a persons actions or watch their intentions, but not both simultaneously. Likewise with ourselves. We can act or think about acting, but doing both is often worse than trying to walk and chew gum at the same time. Thinking, thinking about thinking, and thinking about thinking becomes not only recursive but each replaces one another in the process. At a certain point, if we are to act, speak, or perform an experiment, we must be willing to take the risk that we cannot be also be fully on the watch. Momentum and position cannot be expressed simultaneously.



This allows us to break from being frozen in a space of language, thought and impotent potentiality and draw back from the bridle of unconscious action, by embracing our own uncertainty. We must likewise be willing to acknowledge the same for others. "Uncertainty," writes Barad, "is not our undoing but our savior: it is the very unknowability of intentions, that is, our principled inability to truly judge one another, that saves our wear souls" (17).

Faith and good works, the social and the natural, subject and object, relativism and absolutism, the humanities and science, epistemology and ontology, becoming and being may all be aspects of every body that acts in the world but may not be considered in their totality by any of us. This puts limits and caution on what we do, but even better, it allows us to actually do something. It allows us to come together without biting each other's heads off. The discussion can start and something can happen.

"Matter and meaning are not separate elements ... Matter is simultaneously a matter of substance and significance, most evidently perhaps when it is the nature of matter that is in question, when the smallest parts of matter are found to be capable of exploding deeply entrenched ideas and large cities. Perhaps that is why contemporary physics makes the inescapable entanglement of matters of being, knowing, and doing, ontology, epistemology, and ethics, of fact and value, so tangible, so poignant." (3).

Thursday, June 6, 2013

MATCH NOW: Theories of Detonation

"Wanna try? I'll be your detonator"
NaNaNa (NaNaNaNaNaNaNaNaNa), MCR

The 2012-2013 Academic Calendar has come to a close for many of us in MATCH and as we transition into our summer research and other projects, it is important to mark a year of significant accomplishments as we tend fires to carry us towards whatever the future holds.

While initial suggestions for a Theory Working Group was met with general support, there was an initial concern that similar ventures have often folded in relatively quick order. Nonetheless, come September (really late August) MATCH  was officially announced, an event was set and readings dispersed. The feeling going into the first meeting was this:

Rather than worry over perpetuity and goals, let's focus on the present and doing things --- even if MATCH blows out like a candle in the wind, it will nonetheless exist to give a little light and warmth here & now.

With a full set of 6 meetings (3 each term), including a discussion of Failure, Cyborgs, Bubbles, Affect, Hotels, and a Round-Table on the Personal Side of Academia we made something; not least of which was community. The second set of 3 meetings saw the launch of our website and podcast (which will both be expanded in the next year).

As we broke bread and shared a drink to discuss the future, the feeling we started with remains: to move ahead like the next project could be our last, finding what we need as a community here and now and doing that.

In that spirit, drawing on the interests of the members, MATCH has started the KINDLING Series to edit and publish a collection of essays under the title Mad Sciences. Leigha McReynolds will act as the Series Co-Editor along with MW Bychowski, and the Call for Papers has recently been released.

A second collection of papers from the Round-Table "Attitude, Affects & Alliances in Scholarship" is being published by PREFIX.

Finally, starting next year, Patrick Henry will become the acting Co-Director of MATCH.

Thanks to all who has made this possible, you keep my candle lit as we work to make the intellectual world (in & outside academia) a place for intellectuals & intellectual growth; especially for young minds. We are not just the future, we are the now, let's define it.

Be a MATCH: Burn on! Remain a mobile, active, theoretical, community seeking the best of what the "humanity" of the Humanities can be.

MW Bychowski

Monday, March 25, 2013

March Meeting (Hotel Theory)

Hotel Theory
by Wayne Koestenbaum



A Telecom Meeting

It's conference season! In accordance with the travel of many MATCH members, this month's meeting will be held via telecommute on "Hotel Theory" by Wayne Koestenbaum.

Readings have been sent out and available on the Facebook group, and a few key passages have been provided below for consideration. Attendants are invited to post replies to the thread for the next week, noting if or where they are/have/will be traveling.

The passages and questions below are meant primarily to provide a primer for discussion. As our talks often delve into personal experience and hover around the premise of the text as well as on the text itself, responses are welcome that share anecdotes from traveling as well as thoughts about the experience and theoretical position of hotels.


Hotel as Movement to Nowhere

"'Hotel is a method of not staying'...
we enter the euphoric state of 'never-dwelling anywhere.'
Hotel existence, because socially unattached, 
is silent, even amid noise" (4)

A communication from a hotel comes from nowhere.
The letterhead deceives, masks a lack of location" (7)

Nothing gets accomplished in a hotel room

The hotel room is unthinkable though I am trying to think of it.
I ponder the problem of the hotel room 
because I want to escape a closed system (10)

Question for Discussion: 
  1. What do we gain by imagining a hotel not as a static place but as a way of motion?
  2. What experiences of anonymity or placelessness have you experienced?



Hotel as Site of Exchange

The title of Frank O'Hara's poem 'Hotel Transylvanie'
suggests that transfusions and transfigurations occur in hotels:
Dracula, blood-mingling, identity swap.
In such hotels, guests share needles, bareback, and refuse 
all activities except for respiration and fornication" (6)

Hotel represents a failed relation to space.
In a hotel, we do not..."stay with things"
We depart from objects, they fall off us (17)

Anglophone writers take on frenchness 

when they post hotel as a locale of loss.
Hotel is where a french leaning poet can perform availability---
the provisional comfort a prostitute offers. (18)

Question for Discussion: 

  1. How does the invitation to imagine hotel-being as a state of perpetual exchange open us up to new ways of thinking and what dangers might come from this?
  2. What things have you given, taken, or changed while in a hotel-state?



Hotel as Assembled Body

A hotel is an arbitrary collection of human beings.
Like other city structures (stores, arcades)
hotels throw strangers together in chance arrangements....
a hotel's cast changes, but slower and with greater ceremony.
A hotel is a temporary finite set-- hence, a laboratory." (9)

Clearly I am afraid to check into Hotel Theory
I am hovering, nervous, at its threshold (12)

Literary form is a hotel room
sometimes opulent, more often austere (15)

Question for Discussion: 

  1. What might Hotel as a literary, social, or philosophical form help us to do or express differently than what the author opposes as "homeness?"
  2. How does the experience of reading the book perform  Hotel Theory (i.e. the audience, the philosophers cited, the split in the text left/right, etc)?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Attitudes, Affects & Alliances in Scholarship (Part 4): Rust


Patrick Henry


The below is a textual restoration and revision of thoughts first delivered during the “Attitudes, Affects, and Alliances in Scholarship” roundtable at the EGSA Symposium at the George Washington University on Friday, 15 February 2013.


During eight years of my life—four years of undergrad, then two master’s degrees—I kept a rusted spike, meant to secure railroad ties to the earth, on my desk as a paperweight. Perhaps, it was an unconscious effort to subjugate my past, my private history, to my goal of becoming a writer and a literary critic. 

 Or, the spike was an artifact, sheathed in russet flakes that shed red-brown particles on papers and books, that functioned as a reliquary of experiences past: developmental years passed in Bellwood, a small borough tethered by railroads to the nearby city of Altoona, the city and its railyards and its engine workshops and the Altoona Rail Roaders Memorial Museum final testaments to Pennsylvania’s bygone stature as the keystone of American, industrialist infrastructure.

Forget Pennsylvania’s history, its myths of progress and the visionary lieutenants of such captains of industry as Andrew Carnegie; all these lines of iron and steel long ago became the Rust Belt. And the rail lines, its cinctures, extend from one buckling town to another, spreading economic free fall’s corroding touch. 

 In villages and boroughs and cities across Pennsylvania, houses shed their siding as decrepit cars hunker on blocks in front yards, roads are chocked with potholes, and communities are shrinking as the opportunities vanish.


This is, we are told, the fate of this place: rust freezes gears in place, causes machines and progress to fail. When rust makes a cameo in Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, the “Man of Ideas” Joe Welling rants that rust is only an inevitable form of decay: “Decay you see is always going on. It doesn’t stop. Water and paint can’t stop it. If a thing is iron, then what? It rusts, you see.” 

This teleology of rust is not unlike a sinister mystery of faith: a thing’s newness fades; it corrodes, surrenders to rust; it crumbles into dust. But I refuse to accept the nihilistic, tarnished historicism of Anderson’s Joe Welling. 

 After all, rust also indicates a chance for restoration; through refurbishing anything literally or metaphorically rusted (even something as simple as the rusted railroad spike that once served as my desktop paperweight), we discover the possibility to recover past narratives and experiences that are lost in what Welling suggests is the telos of rust, the stagnant state of decay.

Instead, those rusted machines that lurk throughout a place like Pennsylvania should be sites that allow us to remodel our thoughts about every mode of history, from those private stories that we keep close to our hearts to the sweeping panoramas of documentary accounts. Our memories can render rust, then, as a complex metaphor for the multiple ties to our pasts and the histories of others, to the conditions of life today, and to potential futures. 

 After all, we carry those histories guised with so many flecks of rust with us as we propel toward the future or ruminate on the past; they are parts of our work whether we will it or not, like the railroad spike leaving its patina of dust on my old manuscripts. 


 If we keep this perspective in mind—that rust represents how intricately entwined the past, present, and future are—we can, as Walter Benjamin writes in “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” “brush history against the grain.” 

So, memory and recollection are the tools we use to restore the rusted object and the multiple histories that it contains. This is at work in T.S. Eliot’s “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” when remembrances stir stillness into a frenzy:

The memory throws up high and dry 
A crowd of twisted things; 
A twisted branch upon the beach 
Eaten smooth, and polished 
As if the world gave up 
The secret of its skeleton, 
Stiff and white. 
A broken spring in a factory yard, 
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left 
Hard and curled and ready to snap.

Here, the memory of Eliot’s poetic persona, akin to my essayist’s voice in this reflection, has set rigid rust into subtle movement. So, these are my thoughts, assembled from so many pieces of literary rust, made into a textual artifact for you. I’ll leave the restoration in your hands.

Listen via Podcast to
the M.A.T.C.H. Round-Table 
"Attitudes, Affects & Alliances 
in Scholarship"
15 February 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Attitudes, Affects & Alliances in Scholarship (Part 3): Silence


Sukshma Vedere


Silence is my zone of comfort. Having grown up in a conservative family, where talking to the opposite sex made elders shake their heads in disapproval, going to parties was denied with a firm “NO”, and watching the television was considered “a waste of time”, I grew up to be an anti-social geek with books as friends and silence as companion. 

I hated drawing attention and always preferred to remain in the background of any social events/gathering. I loved to be unnoticed! The back bench in class was always mine, from where I tried to evade the teacher’s questioning eyes. Maintaining distance from people made me feel secure. Few ever knew what was on my mind, I was either considered mysterious or dull by peers.


However, from the moment that I decided that I wanted to focus on academics and saw the need to acquire teaching skills to improve my chances of employment, my silent bubble burst. It took me a lot of effort to face the classroom, becoming the object of attention as a teacher. 

I often wondered why academics was always associated with rhetoric and wished it had been otherwise. Why is vocal language the normative means of communication? Can’t people communicate in silence? -were some of the questions which intrigued me at that time. Some of my friends used to joke saying that I ought to become a teacher for the vocally challenged/dumb/muted.

In retrospect, I find it ironical that I have gained proficiency in several languages/ means of communication and prefer silence to rhetoric. I believe that meaning is fluid in a space of silence and that orality shatters the “subjunctive possibilities” of meaning by making things explicit. Speech is a selective device that overlooks subtle experiences to highlight a dominant experience and validate it as reality.


In silence, my identity is fluid, no one knows me or judges me, not even myself. I like it that way. 

In The History of Sexuality Foucault explains:

"Silence itself—the things one declines to say, or is forbidden to name, the discretion that is required between different speakers—is less the absolute limit of discourse, the other side from which it is separated by a strict boundary, than an element that functions alongside the things said, with them and in relation to them within over-all strategies.... There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses."

In my research, I am interested in discourses of silence, and unhistorical narratives which reveal experiences which have gone unrecorded in the span of history. It is time to take a look at how silences shape reality and construct experiences, how silences contain fluid identities and affects which get trapped in the rhetoric of language when made explicit. 


Listen via Podcast to
the M.A.T.C.H. Round-Table 
"Attitudes, Affects & Alliances 
in Scholarship"
15 February 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Attitudes, Affects & Alliances in Scholarship (Part 2): Dragon


Leigha McReynolds

************ /// *************

Like everyone else in an English PhD program, I love to read. The books that really grabbed me when I was young, not just that I enjoyed and re-read but that spoke to me as something more, were about girls with dragons, specifically Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsinger trilogy and Tanith Lee’s Biting the Sun. 

Likewise, while I decided at about age 15 that I was going to be an English professor, it wasn’t until I took classes like Gothic Literature or Introduction to Critical Theory that I really got excited about scholarly work. Why? Because these classes showed me that I could write & teach about girls with dragons. 

And now, even though my primary area of study is nineteenth century British literature, my first publication is going to be about dragons. Boys with dragons, but still, dragons. 

************ /// *************
************ /// *************

This recent project helped me realize one reason why I, and so many others, are in love with dragons: they provide a fantasy of what we can be as humans. Many, though not all, dragon stories feature some kind of symbiotic relationship between human and dragon that changes what it means to be human. 

This realization has also helped me articulate the connection between what I love to write about in my academic spare time, dragons and science fiction, and the topic of my dissertation, which I’m also fond of, mesmerism in Victorian literature. 

They all explore expanded possibilities for the human; they are all a fantasy of what we could or might be as human beings. 

Whether it’s telepathic communication with a giant flying lizard or a mesmeric rapport that allows one to see inside a sick person’s body, these narratives are dreams about our potential.

************* /// ************
Listen via Podcast to
the M.A.T.C.H. Round-Table 
"Attitudes, Affects & Alliances 
in Scholarship"
15 February 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Attitudes, Affects & Alliances in Scholarship (Part 1): Bra-Strap



Orienting / the Round-table

The following was presented at the George Washington University on February 15th, as part of a round-table on "Attitudes, Affects & Alliances in Scholarship" sponsored by M.A.T.C.H. (Mobilizing an Active Theory Community in the Humanities) a Theory Working Group. (Listen to talk on Podcast!)

This round-table on attitudes, affects and alliances is doomed to feel wrong; because this isn’t the space where we are accustomed to have these conversations. It’s also doomed to feel too short, because once we move from talking about our professions to talking about our lives, things are bound to explode across life-times and life-lines.

Perhaps we are not infinite, as the Perks of a Wallflower tell us, but life is hardly finite, life seems to defy limits at every turn. And so since we can’t do justice to the bigness of life, we in MATCH (and today everyone present is a part of MATCH) are trying to do justice to the smallness, the intimacy, the particularity of life by sharing stories told by objects that orient us. So: radical, small, doomed, personal. Here we go!



I. Phantoms in the Chest 

“If orientation is about making the strange familiar 
through the extension of bodies into space, 
then disorientation occurs when that extension fails. 
Or we could say some spaces allow for certain bodies 
and simply does not leave room for others.” 
Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology 11

I am a partial body. The broken fragments in my brain and in my chest tell me that I have breasts of substantial weight and size. When I close my eyes I see them. When I move around, I know they are there. I am a large-breasted woman; that much is fixed in my nervous system. 

I am a partial body. The broken fragments of my eyes and in my finger tips retreat when they run across my naked chest. This is not my body they say, I am not flat-chested. Closing my eyes and moving my hands in front of me, at a certain point I feel warmness and pressure in my chest (6 inches or so in front of me). 

Some trans people say that they hate their body, they look at it and feel violated by their naked-form. I rarely feel disgust at myself when the clothes come off, but I do feel an ethereal detachment. It's like looking at yourself in a Halloween mask or done up in stage-make-up, you don’t mind if you are ugly or silly or whatever, because what you see is not you. 

There is a kind of invulnerability in that state, a sense that anything could be endured in that naked state, humiliation, exposure, abuse, because it would be happening to someone else. Not me. Not me. 

I sometimes wonder if that is why so many trans people commit suicide after puberty, when the transformations of different parts of their bodies (genitals, chests, hips, brains) move in such drastically different directions, that the threat of self-violence is not a threat as such. The attack is not on the self, but on another, on a body that has your phantom body imprisoned.  

I don’t mean disembodied spirits in the slightest, I mean: phantoms-in-the-brain, phantoms-in-the-body's-self-mapping, phantoms-in-the-flesh; for me, phantoms-in-the-chest.



II. Un-Claspings 

“Some boys take a beautiful girl & 
they hide her away from the rest of the world; 
well not me, I want to be the one in the sun.”
Robert Hazard, Girls Just Want to Have Fun

One of the earliest moments I ever felt some of the suffocating pressure of this dysphoria partiality release was when I first had my chest bound. Around the age of fourteen, some of my girl friends and I were at one of their houses. In one of those little double-deceits I practiced, I was letting them do something that no other “boy” had them do before: make them into a “girl.” 

The deceit came not in becoming a girl, but in letting them believe that what they were seeing the result was the lie; that what they were doing was obscuring more than it was revealing. It was a lie about a lie. As they put on my make-up, shadowing my eyes and lining my lips, I tried not to rejoice to much at the un-masking that they were participating in. 

Don’t get me wrong, the feigned displeasure, was not wholly to shield my identity as a boy, but to shield myself as a woman from the immense vulnerability that I was experiencing. Slowly I was becoming visible to them in a way that no one, hardly ever I, got to see myself. Then suddenly I couldn’t hide anymore, because they did something I did not expect. Putting a blind-fold on me, trying not to ruin my eye-make-up, I felt my arms guided up, a snap on my shoulders and a sudden tightness on my chest.

They removed the blindfold, and I looked down and saw the bra and my body. In a moment of panic I bolted up from the chair and ran to the bathroom. The two of them giggled from the other room, misunderstanding my reaction. They thought I ran away because I was embarrassed by the incongruity of the bra on my boyish chest.

Standing alone in the bathroom mirror, my reaction was rather the other way around. I felt too good at this moment. I felt to exposed. I felt too naked. They had seen me. This, this was what my brain had been waiting for and expected. This weight, this lift, these contours. It was like the deadness, the phantoms in my chest had suddenly and wildly come alive. 

I had to be alone in this moment because you couldn't kill a phantom, but this — this you could hurt; this has blood.



III. Straps that Bind 

“The idea of wholeness in partition caught on…matter’s partibility became key to its efficacy…Although the pieces are gathered by various framing devices into a whole, the visual presentation also stresses parts as parts” 
Caroline Walker Bynum, Christian Materiality 193-196

Anyone that has gone from blurry vision to glasses, from limited motion to flying down the street in a car or chair, from straining under labored breathing to being able to take in full fresh breaths... and then suddenly having you new vision, mobility, and breath taken away from you again, knows how much darker the darkness is once you look into the sun (not necessarily worse, but deeper & darker). 

For someone that is often so much in her own head, or maybe everyone feels this way, real action comes as a result of desperation. It's not that the dangers and difficulties are not there, but at a certain point, they become besides the point, to stay put or to go back is too intolerable. It's do or die, to stay in a certain place will surely mean a death of some-kind, an unlife, a haunting. 

It's better to hit the ground running, then to simply and stiffly plunge into the ground. It matters how a person falls, we are told by the Lion in Winter, especially when the fall is all that is left. 

For me, being thrown into the world comes along very particular trajectories, as I am pulled towards particular objects along particular lines; what Sara Ahmed calls "life-lines" or Butler calls "livable-lives." These objects are my bra-straps, my tan-lines, my Victoria-Secret shopping bags, my sisters, my lovers, my friends; they make me feel at home in this world, in this body. 

 My bra-straps, my breasts that go on the outside of the flesh, my object-oriented, crip-focused, queer-infused, ecologically-minded, medievaly-scripted pursuit of transformation gives me attitudes, affects, and alliances that help me hold on to something and to think through experiences -- so I can find the words to tell to myself when I lose my grip and the dissonance between brain and world get too much; so I can find the words to tell to others, because I used to think 50% of trans people commit suicide by the time they get to my age but as studies get better at surveying, we are now finding its closer to 60%. 

Frankly, more times than not, I don't know what to say to them to help them make sense of things; to give them a life-line or to help them share in mine. These kids, these people, they are smart and often their reason against things and reasons not to try are better than what I can offer. But I am still going to try. The questions are hard, but I'm not done thinking yet. This is my life, this is why I study and do what I do, the way that I do it; this is personal.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January Meeting (Affect Theory)

Queer Phenomenology
by Sara Ahmed

The fourth meeting of MATCH was held at the end of January to launch the Working Group into a series of discussions on "Making It Personal," culminating in a Round-Table on "Attitudes, Affects and Alliances in Scholarship" to be held as part of the Temporal Slippages and Spatial Slidings Symposium in Washington DC on February 15th.

In reading Ahmed's Introduction "Getting Into It," we followed up on her invitation to consider how we come to occupy certain spaces and take on certain forms of occupation in response to different "things" which orient us. Those present developed a working list of "things" that seem to have us in their gravitational pull, simultaneously informing our scholarship but with a life and a livelihood outside it.

At times, Ahmed notes, we become formed and directed by dis-orientation and an expulsion from spaces which seem to allow certain bodies to extend and not others. We discussed how such "queerness" launches us on certain trajectories which in turn orient and re-orient us. The idea of objects which move with us became particularly important at this time, occupations which demand that we remain constantly on the move.

In turn, we thought about identity as the inscription of these lines of movement, push and pull, on our bodies and how different things "stick" to us like glue or else slide off us as a result of taking on these identity positions. Without a doubt, scholarship becomes a large gravity well which pull in a lot of our life, but these too can and often does exist either in competition with or in orbit around other "things" which hold a stronger sway on us at this time.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Upcoming January Meeting on Affect

Join M.A.T.C.H., a Theory Reading Group, for our discussion of Affect Theory, with selected readings (aprox. 20 pgs) from Sara Ahmed's Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others.

The trajectory of this month's meeting will be to prepare for next month's MATCH round-table on "Attitudes, Affects, & Alliances in Scholarship" by holding our own informal discussion of the personal side of our work & careers.

For first timers: meetings are once a month. Contact M Bychowski (mbychows@gwmail.gwu) for the reading; aprox. 20 pages from a selected theorist. You will be e-mailed a pdf file.

We will meet in the Rome Hall vestibule (1st floor), move to a classroom where we will have introductions, then begin an hour discussion of the material. Afterwards all are invited to dinner at a local restaurant.

All are invited! Come if you are anxious about Theory and have questions to share (in a low-pressure setting), excited about Theory and have comments to share, or want to meet people that share similar interests!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Coming Soon: MATCH Round-Table

Attitudes, Affects, & Alliances in Scholarship: A Round-table
Sponsored by M.A.T.C.H., a theory working group

"I define affect without necessary restriction, that is, I include the notion that affect is something not necessarily corporeal and that it potentially engages many bodies at once, rather than (only) being contained as an emotion within a single body. Affect inheres in the capacity to affect and be affected." 
Mel Y Chen, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect

What question are we trying to answer? - An unusual query for us in the Humanities, in part because many of us aren't looking for answers. Some of us aren't looking for anything, the looking itself is the thing. If those in other disciplines and professions often misunderstand what the Humanities "does," it may certainly stem from the lack of conversations in the Liberal Arts that allow us to articulate to each other and ourselves what it is we do and why. By holding a round-table on attitudes, affects, & alliances in scholarship, we intend to open up such a dialog, where participants will be invited to discuss what personal tics, dispositions, pleasures, friendships, and goals direct us to work in academia.

This round-table will be a part of Temporal Slippages and Spatial Slidings: A Symposium on Failed Fixities hosted by the George Washington University English Graduate Student Association (GW EGSA) on February 13, 2013 in Washington DC at 9:10-10:10 AM.