Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Beyond Marriage

Thanks to my friend L, I was exposed to this video:

Which followed from my post of the Beyond Marriage's Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships:

The time has come to reframe the narrow terms of the marriage debate in the United States. Conservatives are seeking to enshrine discrimination in the U.S. Constitution through the Federal Marriage Amendment. But their opposition to same-sex marriage is only one part of a broader pro-marriage, “family values” agenda that includes abstinence-only sex education, stringent divorce laws, coercive marriage promotion policies directed toward women on welfare, and attacks on reproductive freedom. Moreover, a thirty-year political assault on the social safety net has left households with more burdens and constraints and fewer resources.

Meanwhile, the LGBT movement has recently focused on marriage equality as a stand-alone issue. While this strategy may secure rights and benefits for some LGBT families, it has left us isolated and vulnerable to a virulent backlash. We must respond to the full scope of the conservative marriage agenda by building alliances across issues and constituencies. Our strategies must be visionary, creative, and practical to counter the right's powerful and effective use of marriage as a “wedge” issue that pits one group against another. The struggle for marriage rights should be part of a larger effort to strengthen the stability and security of diverse households and families. To that end, we advocate:

Ø Legal recognition for a wide range of relationships, households and families – regardless of kinship or conjugal status.

Ø Access for all, regardless of marital or citizenship status, to vital government support programs including but not limited to health care, housing, Social Security and pension plans, disaster recovery assistance, unemployment insurance and welfare assistance.

Ø Separation of church and state in all matters, including regulation and recognition of relationships, households and families.

Ø Freedom from state regulation of our sexual lives and gender choices, identities and expression.

Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My New Favorite Porn Name

(Don't click this link if you don't want to see nude men engaged in lewd acts)

His name is GANGSTA PUSSY.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Recommendations from my exam list...

I decided if anything the completion of my exams should at least result in some book recommendations for those who are intrigued but don't have the time to sludge through the material without much direction.

The Devil's Highway, By Luis Alberto Urrea

If you read one literary account of the tensions at work on the Mexican/American border this would be the one to read. Here we experience the border through the mythology and hallucinations/illusions of slowly sickened and dehydrated “walkers,” “wets,” “Oaxacas,” or “tonks” wandering the Arizona desert in search of their pick up site, nowhere to be found. Here the border region is filled with the dreamy and nightmarish sense bestowed on la frontera by authors like Gloria Anzaldua etc., but it is just as often the result of biological failure and heat exhaustion. Urrea painstakingly reconstructs their stories from the surviving walker’s testimonies, the accounts of those working in the unit that discovered them, the local histories of the region, the surviving families, and the repetitive and haunting repetition of indocumentados wandering in the region.

This book is important not only in its activist journalist mode and its attention to the details and gruesomeness of the state of the border, but also how it links every episode to some wider socio-political/cultural/economic situation that speaks to the breadth of the problems at work the universality of the aspirations that lead to them.

Drown, By Junot Díaz.

Short story collection from recent Pulitzer Prize winner, describes the deprivations and emptiness experience for both American Dominicanos and those back on the island. This central narrative grounds the pieces in the general trajectory of Dominican migration to the United States. Abandonment appears to be a consistent theme throughout the works, the relationships that are bound together by a barely articulable known quality (usually because of the colloquialism and posturing of the authors) and yet often filled with loneliness and isolation.

The title story, "Drown," describes a few fumbling homosexual encounters between a few barrio boys, one who successfully assimilates into a gay identity and a business school. The other of the pair, the narrator, fails to get anywhere and its trapped in a suspended place of "whispers" like that of a swimmer at the bottom of the pool. Whereas one of the boys is advanced and moving through his situation the other seems about to be consumed by the "silence" surrounds his life.

The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo,
By Oscar Zeta Acosta

This book dramatizes consistent problems at work in Latino narratives generally, particularly those of the 2nd generation in a way that eschews the mystifications of these conflicts in many of the proceeding authors. This autobiography is divided into the sections detailing a crisis at the heart of the protagonist’s life as a Legal Aid Lawyer and then a turn to the road, a journey. As the narrator pursues his journey he simultaneously retraces his roots along with the sources of his present misfortunes (a limp wang and an ulcerated stomach). There is an attempt to retrace steps through his home town El Paso and its sister city Ciudad Juarez, only leading to a conundrum of self. What begins as a search for personal and existential identity moves here to a collective and/or political identity (something to which he was indifferent before, Corky Gonzalez). Throughout the journey Acosta faces the choice between two “answers” for his ulcers: that of the psychiatrist the Fordist era regulatory mechanism of psychoanalysis and self-interrogation, and that of his “guru” drug dealer Ted Casey the representative of a counterculture’s desire for escape, to fade away in puffs of smoke even as he is clearly embedded in the excesses of wealth from his dealing. Ultimately he finds that neither offers satisfactory answers.

...And the Earth Did Not Devour Him, By Tomas Rivera

This is an astonishing and brilliant story that begins with a consciousness seeking clarity, but incapable of arranging his experiences with language--he is at a "loss for words." What results is a set of stories that seem to disaggregate into narrative and non-narrative voices, whose sources are relatively unidentified as if they were speaking from some sort of collective choral space (as in a Greek Chorus). At the end of this very short work the voices reaggregate as memories within this singular consciousness constricted underneath a house, riddled with fleas.

This piece depicts not only the misery, and brutality to which Mexican migrants and Mexican-Americans are exposed in their day to day movements in search of labor and dignity, and the ways they are shuttled around by the agricultural industry and the military to serve as cannon fodder. Similarly, the narrator finds himself at odds with and undermining the Catholic based superstitions of his past.

JR, By William Gaddis

This book is simultaneously a work of incomparable skill, intelligence, wit, and also one of the most difficult books to maintain your attention. a novel obsessed with the texture and phenomena of exchange. The novel demonstrates the vertiginousness and therefore insurmountability of finance capital as it divests workers of their pension funds to buy a brewery with poisonous beer, and a deadlock that regularly occurs in basic conversations. The novel is generally praised for its use of different forms of colloquial, American english, but this can at times make it rather difficult read as it spends a great deal of time immersed in various bureaucratic idioms and systemic inanity. This can make for some moments of sustained hilarity as well as frustration.

The Culture of Expediency
, George Yudice

This book represents to me the best summation and argument for the importance of discussing globalization at all as a separate field or set of unique questions that might guide analysis. Rather than arguing for the pure epiphenomenal character of culture in the global era, something of which many seem convinced. Yúdice argues that what is needed is to update the notion of culture beyond the Gramscian understanding of culture as a site of struggle as politics by another means.

In this context culture becomes a great protagonist even as the richness of the concept appears reduced. Culture functions as an expedient in two unique ways as a “panacea” to social conflict and as a vehicle for economic development (tourism, heritage industries, creative cities, minorities as “reinvigorating” areas through diversity, diversity itself as a new kind of political agency).

On the Shores of Politics, Jacques Ranciere

This work takes as its starting point the notion that we are at the end of an era where politics had a sort of effectivity it now lacks, it now fails to fulfill. Ranciére responds by again locating the political at the heart of the organization of society with a few addenda in terms of how the structural relationships functions with regard to social imparity and the like. For Ranciére the political can never be coextensive with the social, which is to say that one cannot be mobilized to completely remedy the ills of the other, there always be some remainder, new names for the people. The politics (the art or techne of politics) seeks to render itself irrelevant, seeks its own, end against this he poses the notion of the political which occurs only in these upheavals where a group w/out a “share” in the community, whose subordinated in that community steps forward to assert itself as equal, in a sense generating and imposing that equality. In so doing this group draws into sharp relief the division at the heart of the community (this can, and very often does include class politics), therefore for Ranciére the beginning of the political has nothing to do with institutions but in the organization of language and the virtual conflict zone organized by this new group speaking the in the name of the people, renaming the people.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

En Fin...

PostPartum-Depression Pictures, Images and Photos

The way the qualifying/comprehensive exam process works in my program is we are supplied with 4+ questions at the beginning of a week and we are expected to select two, write two ten page essays in response to each, and then submit our answers to our committee members as well as 2 outside readers. After the committee and readers have taken the opportunity to read over the documents and your proposal (one element of the process that pushed the whole process further and further into the future for me) they meet with you for a span of one and a half to two hours in order to test your knowledge through your answers, bring other aspects of your reading and understanding the of the material to bear on the discussion, and to ask you to synthesize various schemas and concepts. After your orals then the committee and readers deliberate over whether or not you should pass and then move onto working toward your dissertation or whether or not you will need to do some remedial work in the coming months and undergo another examination.

I passed, but not without some impediments.

I haven't written anything for the last few years so my skills at making, as opposed to marking, arguments in a written form were a little rusty. As a result, I continued to face the radical variations in attention span that are attendant with high stress scenarios for me, coupled with denunciations of my examiners their poorly worded questions. The essays I think came out well in general, given some constraints that came from the coverage of my reading list and space in which to articulate my answers.

My mock orals with the other PhD students also went really well. I did blank on a question, but after I started going my momentum propelled the knowledge. They seemed to be claiming, that I was in fact ready.

The actual orals began with one member of my committee, however, communicating her displeasure at some of the supposed assumptions my exams were making about my field. The fact that they were locked into a particular set of historical circumstances (the legacy of the Monroe Doctrine, the militarization of the border, the rise of neo-liberalism, the possibilities for upward mobility in terms of new immigrant groups, etc.) that according to her didn't look at the long history of the concepts at work. Although I later realized that this reprimand was more directed at those on my committee and our deparment in general and seemed less to do with me specifically. Not having realized this right away I felt increasingly embattled as the exams proceeded, even though I never felt panicked, and I felt confident about my answers.

Anyway, the committee deliberated for what felt like 1/2 and hour (but was probably more like 10 minutes) and then congratulated me on passing.

Aftwards I felt relief but also a sense of loss. I've heard the state I'm in right now described to me as "postpartum," and I agree. There is something distinctly anti-climatic about the whole thing, and I've been feeling waxing and wanning sense of despair and then just orneriness. Also, I plagued with doubts about my performance, and whether or not I was handed, what is sometimes described as the "pity pass." All that said, I am excited to start working toward the diss and other projects I have in the works.