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Archive for August, 2009

got

If you can’t read the question properly it says:

On 11th September 2001, two planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York, killing more than 3,000 people.

a. I feel this was a good thing to do

b. I feel this was a bad thing to do

I guess it is one of the biggest questions of our times.

In schools in Cardiff teenagers are being tested for political extremism. The test is conducted through a series of multiple choice questions like the one I have posted above.

Other image based questions include photographs of people from a range of ethnicities and cultures. The question asks whether if they saw this person on the street they would ignore , attack, like or dislike them.

A few other examples of the questions the test asked are as follows:

To judge and hold a bad view about someone before you even know them is:

a. equality
b. discrimmination
c. scapegoating
d. prejudice

A person’s attitudes and behaviour shows prejudice , discrimmination or extremism. That person can be described as displaying:

a. harmony
b. tolerance
c. intolerance
d. acceptance

I especially love the last question.

A person who wants to live in harmony with people of difference races and cultures is:

a. tolerant
b. extremist
c. Islamophobic
d. prejudiced

Expect the test to come to an inner-city school and possibly your workplace sometime soon….

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To continue the theme of the day, the return to lesbian literary theory, I wanted to offer a reading of a film I went to see last night, Sin Nombre.

At least, at a narrative structural level.

I am a total sucker for how texts, films, music etc are structured. It’s easy for me to fall in love with people who make music like this.

I seem to get an odd kind of mechanical fascination in understanding how something is structured. It helps you understand how the world works.

I learnt everything I know about narrative structures through reading lesbian literary theory. I think this was because I was reading 19th century fiction by women trying to find ‘lesbian narrative space’ in the resounding absences.

It doesn’t take long for you to realise that most story-telling structures are over-determined by heterosexuality. That is, in the end the girl and boy get together and do the fairy-tale thing. Boring, predictable and a great way to control vast populations and turn them into unthinking, breeding machines.

So there I was, watching Sin Nombre. It’s a film about a group of people from Honduran trying to cross the Mexican-US border in search of a new life. Woven into this story is the tale of boy gangs in Mexico who tattoo and beat each in an attempt to hold their rather fragile masculinity in place. The main male character Willy/ Casper kills the leader of the gang in order to avenge his girlfriend’s murder. As he does this he saves a girl called Sayra’s life. They then head towards the US border together. He on the run from the gang who are bating for his blood. She enamoured with her prince charming.

As I sat watching the film I did find myself in a way longing for the happy heterosexual ending. I’m quite orthodox about things and generally hate anything which reinforces heterosexuality in a lazy or boring way. I was shocked at myself but I guess that is where the dramatic tension and pathos of the film is supposed to arise. It plays on our longing for the happy ending.

Of course, there was no happy ending. The final scene of the film was of Sayra on her own calling her family after she crossed the border without Willy, her Uncle or father who had all fallen foul of the challenges of the journey.

Previous to this poor Willy/ Caspter had been pelted with a dramatic number of bullets by his gang. About 20 of them shot his body to bits. This seemed to me to be over-asserting masculinity that was barely being held together throughout the film.

To go back to narrative structure. Despite the waves of affective longing for a happy heterosexual ending which were cruelly arrested, the final structural characteristic of the film is the image of Sayra, a woman, alone. She escaped the fate of the male characters who turned against themselves in self-destructive, flaccid machismo.

As a consequence of too many littered bullets, the scaffolding of the story is opened to offer a different structural outcome. I think its a healthy sign that patriarchal storytelling structures are crumbling down and self-destructing. One can only hope.

Let’s make sure the structures we put in their place create the possibility for many different endings.

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The Lesbian Haptic

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I wanted to start these blog posts with a few thoughts about lesbian theories of culture. For some reason, the impact of spending the hot hot summer of 2003 reading every book about lesbian literary theory imaginable has never quite left me. I was studying for an MA. At the time I didn’t really know any actual lesbians who I liked or liked me. Every day was a diligent pilgrimmage to theory to find some glimpse of something that could reflect my experience or interests. I was hurting.

Now it seems I can’t let go of what I learnt there. Even more so because I know that lesbian culture and identity is hardly seen as the vanguard of radicalism these days. I am also profoundly influenced here by Allyson Mitchell’s Deep Lez
theory. Check her out.

In recent years there has been an increased interest in critical theory in haptic cultures. Or, in the words of Erin Manning, The Politics of Touch.

‘Haptic trajectories start from the incommensurable’ write Papadopoloulos et al in Escape Routes.

That is, haptic cultures – cultures of touch – exist under the radar of traditional forms of representation and sovereignty.

The reason why I am interested in these theories from a lesbian perspective (and yes, I know the whole notion of a ‘lesbian perspective’ is problematic) is that lesbian cultures have always been haptic cultures.

Although the issue of lesbian invisibility is hardly as bad as it used to be – and no, I’m not saying the L-word has answered all our prayers – I was always struck by the idea that lesbianism was unsignifiable in the patriarchal symbolic system. That’s the language system most of us get socialised into. She was a black hole of representation. She was excess. She was incommensurable. I remember reading these points when I was studying and understanding the lingusitic reason for my psychic pain when I was growing up as a young lesbo asbo. Of course the linguistic reason is never the whole reason.

I think the way that contemporay writers talk about about haptic cultures as a politics based on sensing bodies-in-relation is very similar to my understanding of lesbian culture as it has existed throughout history. Lesbian culture is profoundly experienced on a material level by groups and individuals through sensing bodies. These actions are not always recognisable within the available schemes of representation.

Haptic cultures require new ways of understanding relationships and our political capabilities. They are not organised around a central, optic regime that channels the senses into a narrow corridor of perception. Haptic cultures are not in exclusive abeyance to the eyes or the cock. Haptic cultures are about what gets pushed to the edges of bodily senses. The edges where hands touch in emergent understandings of relation.

Of course the lesbian haptic is sexual too. I think its high time we celebrated the sexual power of hands.

At the beginning of the post I have included my photographic interpretation of the lesbian haptic. Hands that touch with erotic capability. Hands drawing a different representation of the language we circulate in. Hands, oh hands.

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Yes, welcome

Welcome to this blog.

It will provide snippets of things that knock around my head. A vessel for the energy to flow. A piece of something bigger. A building block. A place to catch the bits that seem unnecessary.

Expect ramblings about cultural theory – especially queer lesbian theory – politics, living with eczema and whatever else comes up over time.

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