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polymexina in theoryishotcrew

:D here's my list.

1. The Methodology of the Oppressed by Chela Sandoval
2. Soul Talk by Gloria Akasha Hull
3. Culture and Truth by Renato Rosaldo
4. Thirdspace by Edward Soja
5. Homo Ludens by Huizinga
6. Tales of Dark Skinned Women by Gargi Bhattacharyya
7. In Other Worlds by Spivak
8. Queer Phenomenology by Sara Ahmed
9. "A Cyborg Manifesto" by Donna Haraway
10. "Situated Knowledges" by Donna Haraway

:braces self:



I have a question about the Haraway. Haraway uses the metaphor of the cyborg to disrupt dualistic thinking. But Deleuze and Guattari were trying to do the same thing much earlier. So my question is, why Haraway?
Because Haraway uses her concept of the cyborg to argue for solidarity between white feminists and 3rd world feminists.
So, you like the way she applied theory to something you wanted to believe in?
If I were to take your list as my basic tool box, what new problems would I seek out, what unusual answers would I find?
I don't know what answers you'd find since you haven't started looking yet. :)

But one of the questions you mgiht start with would be what the political and social utility of play is in a post-colonial world.
I don't know what answers you'd find since you haven't started looking yet. :)

Does not a theoretical position suggest not only the types of questions but the types of answers as well?

political and social utility of play is in a post-colonial world.

So what function jokes, jests, and games had in the Latin west after the break up of the Roman world? The forms such playfulness takes is certainly much different today than the earlier post-colonial period, but with your books we are investigation primarily FUNCTION, right?

What sort of answers do we find?
1. Huizinga seems like a bit of an odd man out on your list. I have never read Homo Ludens but have read the first 50 pages of his Autumn of the Middle Ages at least 3 times in my attempt to read the whole thing (it is a side interest, so it gets repeatedly pushed into the background). Tell me about Homo Ludens. From looking, it seems like a quite different type of work from Autumn. I am sure poldy will have follow up questions on it based on your response.

2. A couple of the authors/books on your list (Rosaldo and Sandoval) are ones that are touted to be field challengers or changers. What makes them so? What do their texts introduce that challenged cultural criticism as usual? I read today a line in a book about how theory can only actually emerge when convention is found to be wanting (sort of a paradigm shift). How might these works fit into such an understanding of theory?

Edited at 2010-07-13 02:20 am (UTC)
1. I haven't read Autumn of the Middle Ages :(, but have read Homo Ludens a few times. Basically, I use it as an intro text in my course on US culture and technology, because Huizinga's arguing that man's interest in playing and play-time is hugely important, and that play time is distinct from regular time and from regular space. What's neat about this is that other theorists working on cybercultural studies have taken his concept of homo ludens and have used this to press really hard on the kinds of worlds created through online gaming. The best secondary articles on this IMO are Edmund Chang's "Gaming as Writing" and Hayot and Wesp's "Towards a Critical Aesthetic of Virtual World Geographies."

Huizinga's really a stepping stone for me to some really interesting theorizations about play-space and domesticity and the imagination.

2. Sandoval does a couple of really neat things. :D First, she flips up the standard timeline of the women's right movement, and basically finds a way to wedge in these counter histories produced by the 3rd world feminist movements in the US. Then, and this is the awesome part, she argues that the techniques used by WOC activists and queer activists are useful both in and outside the academy. That's why it's so important that it's a methodology -- even though it's wicked dense writing, it's supposed to be a portable approach to work crossing academic and activist lines.

Rosaldo challenged what it means to be an anthropologist, and suggested that the way "we" write about the "Other" has some serious theoretical and implications. He was one of the first authors I read that suggested that embodiment was both a spiritual and methodological concern.
Στρικεσ με τηατ ονε οφ τηε μοστ (oops)

Strikes me that one of the most important elements to the Sandoval for you is that she is attempting to breach the seemingly unbreachable divide between academic and activist feminism. BUT, by turning theory into method, doesn't that dilute, in many ways, the feminist notion of changing the world--in a sense of trying to change the default mode of thinking from always masculine to incorporating naturally the feminine? When theory becomes a portable methodology instead of a way of thinking and viewing the world, it becomes like a new hat--something artificial that we can use or not, put on or not, to temporarily change. Or a cookie cutter with which we cut into dough to force the material to conform to the shape we want. Methodology becomes an artificial substitute for actual thinking and is temporary, outside of the text (or material under examination) and unnatural.

Also, is the Rosaldo really the first person in Anth to get them to think about how they write about the "Other"? I find this disturbing for some reason. Also, I have no idea what you mean by " embodiment was both a spiritual and methodological concern." Can you elaborate?
Add to Kat-chan's request for information about embodiment. It is, so far as I can tell, a central axiom of the area where your books work - yet I don't really understand what it is and why it is so pivotal and - importantly - what are the problems with the concept of embodiment.
Rosato as a place to go on the anthropology of embodiment is, frankly, just a little bit bizarre. Why do you think anthropologists should look at the body? How do you think Rosaldo, of all people, gives you helpful tools to do this?
Okay, talk to me about the Soja? Why would this work, of all his contributions, merit a top ten list? What new tools does it give you to think with?
Soja combines space + history + community in his idea of thirdspace, which I find really useful in thinking about utopias and critical utopias. He's leaning heavily on Anzaldua and Foucault in this text, which I kinda like because theoretically it looks like what would happen if Anzaldua's Borderlands and Foucault's "Of Other Spaces" meet up and had babies. It goes further than both of those by making explicit some of their underlying concerns, AND by making clear that surveillance, tactics, and strategies are a huge part of what creates and defines a micro-geography.
Have you read ay geography theory?
Interestingly, "Spivak" is the only name or title on that list I even vaguely recognize. With that in mind:

1. Here is the "Product Description" Amazon gives for Queer Phenomenology:

Focusing on the “orientation” aspect of “sexual orientation” and the “orient” in “orientalism,” Ahmed examines what it means for bodies to be situated in space and time. Bodies take shape as they move through the world directing themselves toward or away from objects and others. Being “orientated” means feeling at home, knowing where one stands, or having certain objects within reach. Orientations affect what is proximate to the body or what can be reached. A queer phenomenology, Ahmed contends, reveals how social relations are arranged spatially, how queerness disrupts and reorders these relations by not following the accepted paths, and how a politics of disorientation puts other objects within reach, those that might, at first glance, seem awry.

Philistine that I am, I can't help but find the use of "orientation" in this description obnoxious. It appears to be trading opportunistically on homophony to push a very strained and implausible analysis. What exactly is distinctly spatial about being queer?

2. Evidently someone named Renato Rosaldo wrote something called Culture and Truth. But I'm not interested in Culture and Truth or Renato Rosaldo. I'd just like to hear your own answer to this one: what is Truth? (Oh, and what does it have to do with Theory?)
(Well, I suppose it's not exactly homophony, since sexual "orientation" surely derives from some spatial sense of "orientation". But the spatial part has long since drained away, and reasserting it appears entirely unmotivated to me. Can you convince me otherwise?)
<3 I have no idea if I can convince you otherwise! But I'll try to make Ahmed a little less obnoxious. <3

Okay, she's using orientation in this way to be like, "What orients you to a particular body? What cues you to desire what you desire?" So for her the idea of orientation is very much about the externals that direct you to want or feel particular things. She's got this one really great passage where she's thinking about repetitive stress disorder and carpal tunnel syndrome, and then starts talking about heteronormativity as a kind of cultural RSD -- the marks left on the psyche and the body as a result of repeated disciplining into an orientation.
(Haha I'm tempted to answer your truth question by doing a Dark Tower reference. More soon!)
Sandoval highlights that postmodernism comes out of dominant culture's abrupt realization that shit's unstable and unsure, and that this is a realization marginalized people have been having for generations. She suggests -- and I'd agree -- that truth's a convenient concept contingent on what's politically and socially useful at the moment. It's always conditional, and also always deployed in a utilitarian manner.

I honestly haven't really thought about what that has to do with theory. I'm thinking that it highlights that reality is unstable- and for me theory provides a just-so! story to navigate that instability. Like, I don't know if what Ahmed's saying about RSD and heteronormativity is "true" or not, but it's got some explanatory power that I find really useful in clarifying some questions I have about the wedding industry in the US. ;) So it'll do.

Edited at 2010-07-13 03:41 am (UTC)
I would take issue with the notion of truth being something always "useful", especially politically and your description of her position strikes me as a little less than subtle: i.e. it is fashionable to call all truth "political" and "useful." It speaks of a level of presentism that marks Americans mostly but also feminist scholars (frighteningly). Would she allow for any "truth" that isn't conditional?

Also, I bring this back to my above comment about when and how theory happens--theory is not a method, but a way of thinking that comes about when the old conventions become unsatisfying (shit's unstable and unsure!). If we think of theory within that frame, how does postmodernism really differ from other theories? And (I think postmodernism is a good example here, though structuralism is harder, no?) is theory a stabilizer or destabilizer?
I am also not a fan of homophony play--like the popular "Herstory" for "History." The Greek word ἱστορία (hope I put that accent correctly) is already gendered feminine but people don't know enough (or care enough) about etymologies to get that.Oh, well.

Edited at 2010-07-13 12:15 pm (UTC)
You just hate the wymynz, Kat. Embrace your feminine desire to spell words wrong as a meaningful act of defiance of the patriarchy. Embrace it like a wymynly mother embraces her sisters.
So, I am a big fan of several of the texts on your list, especially the Ahmed and the Sandoval. What do you think of Sandoval's use of Haraway, and do you believe that the methodology of the oppressed truly creates a decolonizing cyberspace, as the former claims? (176) What does that mean?

Late to the game

I haven't read any of these, so my question is a bit different.

One claim that people tend to make about theory is that it can change how we think about something. Is this is the case for you, with these works on your list? Using any work/group of works on your list, please explain how they changed your mind about some issue. What was your position on Issue X before reading the work(s), what was that position based on, and what was so compelling about the work(s) that you changed your position?
I too come here in the 11th hour, sorry about that. Your list is intriguing. Even if I would not "agree" with all choices on the list, from what I am seeing in your comments you are defending your choices cogently.

My question is with the inclusion of Hull. It is the book that does not seem to 'fit' at least in some ways. It is less 'theory-ish' than the others on this text. In fact, I won't go so far as to say it is self-help, but it is a more popular-market book on spirituality and the like.

Can you explain to me not the value of Hull the work, but your reasoning behind including it in a top ten list of theoretical works? I'd love to hear both what makes this theory to you (not saying it isn't -- I think some things are theory that others would not and can be quite perverse about it), and also how it merits such a position of status in your readings.