Queer Dreams, Conferences, and Language

Friday was a busy day, filled with panels at a conference called Queer Dreams/Nonprofit Blues. It was held at the Columbia University Law School. These are my notes. I have attempted to attenuate them, to make sense of some of the more stream-of-consciousness aspect they have. But only in small bits, as I think that incoherence provides a materiality, a realness, to the notes. If Massumi (in Parables) is correct in suggesting that being, as becoming, may be feed-back, then let me share with you a thing that might be feed-forward.

I want to draw your attention to several issues. The notion of time. The notion of space. The impact of space as both a cause and effect of subjective experiences. The decisively different ‘queer’ that emerges at this conference than at ALP. I want us to recognize that these are more than merely products of attending ‘conferences’. These are spatial issues, as much as they are class, and racial, and gendered issues. The room’s affective economies, I wonder—how they inscribed a sense upon us of how to experience, how to read, how to respond, and how to ‘feel’ queer. And these ‘affective economies’ I will explore at a later post.

“I was late. I came at 10:15 when the actual conference began at 9 am. I couldn’t find my way through Columbia’s campus. I found the library first. I couldn’t find the law school. By luck, I noticed the name ‘Columbia Law School’ and ran to it. Sweaty, I checked in. I sat in a room. A room, curved like a baseball diamond. Each row, growing larger with each row that expands outward. This room was the ‘spillover room’; ‘we had reached capacity’. The room was, itself, filled.  The last bit of discussion was shown on a large screen; major figures: Spade stood out to me. They all became apart of a dialogue that was anti-capitalist—but only one individual spoke about the obvious irony of holding such a conference at a private, elite institution. It is at both a radical statement, and an embedded conceptual attitude.


The first panel discusses the ways in which ‘queer’ as a grouping of organizations can exist in a neoliberal context. And within that, the conceptualizations of queer and gay politics—where the identitarian claims of each need to at one point be considered as placeholders. The rows, set much like the first room, had placeholders themselves. The first row was ‘reserved’ for whomever, but remained empty. Typical processes: by which I mean introductions to the various accolades that each panelist had. I wonder, as what had happened last night at ALP: whether those individuals without being native-born English speakers had access to translation services. Why, in this grand institution of Columbia, would there be the immediate presumption that individuals will all speak the same language? Why wouldn’t resources have been provided?


(Craig W): The first panelist discusses the various ways in which anti-assimilationist—and the notions of matrices of power by which and through which we as subjects operate, are framed, are made. The failure of the queer critique, for example, was aroused by the following presentations of institutions—marriage and military. Can we accept marriage—can we ask whether the marriage idea is consolidating the state with social life. He spoke of imperial ideas—the notion of imperialism is the distribution of the spoils of war (marriage, property, status), which is really a claim about citizenship, and perhaps links dangerously close to a cosmopolitanism that breaks a part. Do nonprofits do the mitigating of the distribution? Can we conceptualize this as war? Is this the notion developed in Deleuzian (Nomadology) terms, or perhaps as Negri and Hart (War) have articulated?


(Kenyon): Uses an Apple—are we discussing anticapitalism within the confines of capitalism, using its tools as a means of communication? The notion of marriage and the institutionalization of racism within it—through a critique of MA marriage cases. Through what ways of representation of the self in media can marriage then be considered anti-black, and thus complicit in the racism. I look around the room and note that the audience really was rather diverse, but tended toward lighter skinned individuals as unknown national origins.


Kenyon speaks, breaks the notion that there must a standard academic notion of the ways in which each speaker had to articulate. Thus, usages of the words fuck and shit—through the anecdote of how his piece once had been prohibited from being censored. The use of the term shit to describe the ways that racism operates, as ‘this racist shit’—these are ways of reaching out to the audience—and beyond all, this use of language is so instrumental. I believe this speaking subject is a way of noting the ways that hierarchy can actually be overcome through communication, breaking barriers.  Through the conservation and the relationship of anecdotes was the violation of the audience/panelist divide, the bringing in of individuals and subjective ways of ‘feeling’ and affective ties that also bring about a communicative plane. I wonder whether more of this should an implemented style. Would Kenyon identify as queer?  Is this how queers speak?


Are the ways of pointedly discussing these issues, and bringing about a rise from interstitial spaces, or intermediate spaces that always, always, confine the audience to the places and spaces in which they sit—each individual sitting and only sitting in one place is invited to participate mentally, psychically, and the ways that we might think of communicative action beyond merely ‘reason’ in some odd Habermasian sense.

Kenyon brings about the notion, or more articulated as fact, that we have accepted black folks as ‘enemy number one’ whereas LGBT folks are fine. Bringing in the notions of institutions and the usages of the US Supreme Court to discuss the implications of liberal democracy and the development of civil society. Why would the state care, or why would the ways in which the South African state would adopt marriage equality—would this possibly mean that the state would want to distance itself from the US in such a way as to suggest that it wants to be an antiracist state.


The politics of marriage equality as a value system, or a framework through which we might discuss blacks as enemies of the state—in which we might note that state’s rights arguments confer upon blacks a ‘racial optics’ in which blacks are repositioned in opposition to whites and particularly white LGB people. In what ways does this movement for marriage seem to direct our attention away from HIV/AIDS, and those living with, and those activists within which they do their work. They become invisible. The affect—the pain, in what ways does this relation present itself on our bodies, or invoke the notion of the body, where we discuss the body, and where is the body and its implications in our conversation as queers?


(Female embodied speaker): Marriage will never set us free, already read it. The speaker invokes native tribes, the displacement of those tribes—how the ways in which we forget, in what ways does this space then become the ways that affective economies or signifying economies are then being used in this space. Is this a queer space? Can we define it as such? The notions of enduring or structurally enduring (Patrick Wolf) imperialism and displacement of indigenous peoples (through the lens of settler-colonial studies). Is settler-colonialism a structure—not an event. Colonialism is not a relegation in the past. Franchise colonialism? For instance, England-India versus England-America. How does the native become invisible or eliminated, what is the logic and therefore how does this logic still inform our current politics?


Land expropriation is at the heart neoliberalism as well as settler-colonialism—in what ways has patriarchy emerged? Settler homonationalism and settler modernity—what constitutes modernity and the racialization of marriage. How has marriage become the tool of liberalism, of the state, of the critical state? The Hawaii case study through which we might rethink marriage and same-sex sexual practices. 566 tribal sovereigns.


In the name of protecting indigenous sovereignty how has the racial wars within a territory in such a way as to obtain a state sovereignty? What had to be abolished? Precisely the multiplicity of sexuality and sex outside of the marital bed. How can we discuss the ways in which anarchic roles and indigenous critique can be used as a means of discussing things in the present? The ways of our epistemological claims and in this context always discussing the state as a settler-colonial state. How do we bring together these discourses. Is it the use of space? Does this space become the crucible in which the understanding of ourselves and subjectivities developed as the occupation of our own minds?


Can native peoples as a voice, as a narrative, be a part of the inclusion, intertwined, not fixated on inclusion—it doesn’t have to be about settler lineage. Can we bring within a space in which the invocation of a peoples, an indigenous people, in which the radicalness of a space can be approximated? Can I listen with ears that do no shed away the impact of indigenous-ness?


They say: ‘Queer Dreams and Non-Profit Nightmares.’ Ha!


The reclamation of the commons as a colonial construction—it is a form of property, it’s a legal and social production. (Taylor Spence: Canada and the US). The origins of property rights are themselves a product of culture, race, and imperialism. How does one re-conceptualize the use of resources outside of the state, or outside of the historicity that this thing, property, possesses?”

My notes end here, for that panel. But I was struck by something–at how close I felt to individuals at ALP, individuals with whom I had no prior contact, individuals filling a room in which nothing ‘fancy’ existed (just a table, chairs, speakers), and how distant I felt at a conference that was supposed to bring queers together.




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