“Resistance: defying the self”
Reading Summer 2016
Introduction: Gesture, Theatricality, and Protest- Composure at the Precipice
Jenny Hughes and Simon Parry
[powerful gestures can help create empowered, aware communities]
At moments of revolt and protest, gestures serve as powerful crystalized way of engaging (and reimagining) power relations: this can be a response to trauma, and as wordless communication, can circulate across populations, spaces and times. It is characterized by transgressions of public/private; expressions of labor; mobile/migrating gestures; and gestures of solidarity. The power of these gestures can be magnified by (social media) technology.
Occupy Wall Street: Carnival Against Capital? Carnivalesque as Protest Sensibility
[The celebration of the body can help create public carnival spaces that invite politically active participants, e.g., OWS.]
Carnival spaces (and theatrical performance) creation of carnivalesque spaces offers a space of potential political power where various people can unite and envision together a “rude” re-imagining of a truly egalitarian society.
Race (and societal proscriptions against being a radicalized being in a public space) are activated as powerful sign and reality in carnival, with radicalized subjects occupying public spaces with a measure of power they are typically denied. At times, non-racialize subjects will don the visual signs of the raced subject for its visual/political disruptive power, e.g., participants in the Boston Tea Party dressing as native Americans.
Celebration of the body is a key part of these spaces; everyone is made ‘common’ through bringing attention to the materiality of the body; all the supposedly immutable, sacred hierarchies of power and instead exposed as contingennt, temporary and arbitrary. Participants are invited, at least for the charged carnival moment, to imagine new ways of organizing and distributing power.
OWS activates this dynamic around notions of individual and national/international debt and wealth distribution.
Selfie Culture in the Age of Corporate and State Surveillance
Henry A Giroux
[per Giroux, the selfie is principally the sign of atomized, de-politizied, survaillence-saturated, jaded, consumption obsessed culture (not rise of self-authoring, disruptive culture)]
Giroux catalogues the ills of ‘selfie culture,’ highlighting the disempowering elements of this cultural techno-moment: the atomizing, the privatization, the erasing of the social and suppression of social/common impulses. He outlines the ways in which this is powered by celebrity culture and the anti-intellectual pulses of this moment.
He’s especially concerned with the collapsing between the public and the private. Ultimately, he gives only cursory acknowledgement of the potentially empowering aspects of the selfie, namely the voluntary construction of the self in a public space. He does acknowledge that this can be an especially powerful assertion of agency for marginalized subjects, although in identifying for what communities selfie culture might be empowering, he appears to privilege race over class in a way that appears to border on an essentialist argument.
Performing illness: Crisis, collaboration and resistance
[making the private public and ‘spectal-izing’ a normally hidden power structure, can be a way of “defeating” it, making it seem less powerful, and us as individuals (and communities) feel more powerful]
By actively performing her illness, making a spectacle of it, exaggerating it (e.g., amplifying the sounds of body processes under stress) Ellsworth seeks to resist the power of the body/illness, to somehow assert agency over it. Blurring lines between the public and private is key to this process.
Making explicit the internal ‘logic’ of the body, like those who attempt to de-fang external structures of power and inequity by making spectacles of their usually hidden machinations of power, somehow weakening them by making the secrets of their structures of power visible. Here, she humbly admits though, that ultimately she is powerless when her disease —now in remission—might re-emerge.
Tactics of Resistance
[archive as powerful tool to unite community and articulate future paths of resistance]
The archive offers a way to blend art and activism. It provides a space both to remember the actual but also to invite a new political subject to explore the limits of the possible. The archive can be a part of an ‘enlarged artistic practice” that explores points of commonality of universal struggle and may help articulate a new public, articulate new and proven effective ways of resistance and possible ways to be together in a future yet to come.
Keith Piper: After Resistance, Beyond Destiny
[The black body activating and subverting the stereotype]
The black body aoctivating and subverting the crystalized “meaning-packs” of the stereotype. Piper navigates through a web of institutional photographic archives making explicit the historical contradictions and pointing to future possibilities. The articles’s discussion of privacy, surveillance and digital culture appear to have extremely limited relevance since the article was written just just pre-Snowden, but was actually written closer to the birth of the World Wide Web that it was to the present.
On never having learned how to live
[Derrida could not be taught to live or die; he felt his writing does what is most essential about human action: affirm life.]
The article appears to privilege logos over flesh. The article is a tribute to Derrida’s words, not his life. As such, Butler seems to suggest that she is his heir in a more important and lasting way than Derrida’s biological son.
Ultimately the point of the argument appears to be that Derrida’s legacy is to invite us to have our work affirm survival/life and continue to do so after we have passed. Whether learning “how to live and how to die” is the same as this Butler suggests is the main question we might have from looking at his work through this focus. She does not however really justify why that is a question worth asking, and why the article couldn’t have been reduced to four words: affirm life. the end. I am left wondering as a reader, what Butler sees as the contribution of this work to the reader: What does the reader take a way politically, sensually, intellectually from it. If the words are dirty tools to get to something more meaningful and useful to humans, to help them ‘survive. On his deathbed, the last words attributed to the Buddha is, roughly, ‘in all my life, I have not said a word.
[Language can be used to help us recover our individual/collective power.]
Also concerned with the power of words, hooks suggests that language, although imperfect and always tainted by the oppressive origins at its core, can still be used to move us towards individual “self-recovery” and collective liberation as a community, a community that can create its own liberatory language, its own enlightened voice. She lament popular self-help books for women, works that appear to overlook the central insights of feminist discourse/namely the oppressive structures of patriarchy. She sees these works deluding women into believing that individual choices can be an individual answer, completely ignoring the larger monsters of patriarchy.