This is the archive of a blog I kept from 2005-2009. I’m not writing much online at the moment but you can see what I’m up to on my website, www.arenaizura.com.
January 2, 2011
May 27, 2009
One of the beautiful things about being post-phd is that it doesn’t matter how many times you listen to “Buffalo Stance” and dance around the house. It doesn’t matter how long you want to read about student occupations in Zagreb or New York (via @rchive). Words won’t “suffer”, they’re no longer holding you hostage. And as much as I liked this other occupation of my time and affect and brain power (”brain power”! said brain is still evidently mush) it’s rather delicious to be free. Even less than two days in.
Next stop: that third world country I’ve taken a shine to, the US of A. Tennessee in mid-June, for a Dollywood pilgrimage and Idapalooza Fruit Jam, after which San Francisco for six weeks of summer. Then in August I’ll be driving across the southwest and up into the midwest: specifically Bloomington, Indiana. Where I’m going to be living for the next two years, apparently. Because the postdoc gods were smiling on me.
Since I’m still pretty exhausted and have precisely 12 days before leaving Australia for the foreseeable, this post is another promise of future content. There’s furniture to sell, books to pack, clothes to throw away, farewells to be made. But I want to keep this blog going. Or, more to the point, I’ve been thinking about how to blog, nowadays. A lot of my communicative output on the nets has been channelled into Facebook or other more “bite-size” media like Twitter lately. I find the latter especially frustrating: you can’t even begin to say anything in 140 characters. By comparison it seems like a luxury to think of writing blog posts, short essays that might even contain a thought rather than, like, an eighth of one. So. When there’s time. And maybe even when there’s not.
March 18, 2009
I’m still alive. Truly! The last three months have been whirlwind. I finished a draft of my thesis in January. Then I took off to San Francisco for six weeks to see loved ones and friends and somewhere in there made it across to the other coast for Lavender Languages. The trip was also to test the waters a little about opportunities in the US for post-PhD life. Nowhere has ever quite felt so much like a cultural home as San Francisco, and I’m having a hard time missing it now I’m back.
At any rate, post-PhD. In the belly of the beast. I know exactly what I want — to keep working, writing, thinking — and an idea of where I might do that, maybe. Or how. But it’s fascinating to learn how to negotiate a whole new academic labour market (not that my knowledge of the Australian one is really so extensive, more spectatorial.) I’ve re-written my CV a few times and am working on a “statement of teaching philosophy”, etc. The latter especially is pretty odd. Well, the cultural disjuncture is odd. My dear friend S. likens the standard Australian teaching philosophy to this pithy sentence: “I try not to turn up to class grumpy and I don’t drink too much when I’m marking essays.” Whereas those I’ve read, American style, take it seriously, or rather one must perform an earnest interest in pedagogy — and why bother to perform that earnestness when maybe you could actually teach better if the philosophy framing your work were on paper?
Anyhow. I have a thesis submission date. And the feedback on my work so far is that it needs some minor revisions, a very little restructuring, footnotes all formatted correctly and a conclusion. So if nothing goes wrong between now and then, I will hand in on May 10. And by June I’ll be back in the US for their summer, having a real and actual “proper holiday” with roadtrips, adventures in the South and gay Christmas. In the meantime I have three part-time jobs and two article deadlines to meet. Working working working. Probably not much time for blogging. But I feel the space in my head opening up to blog again…
Maybe about this: an ad for an Argentinian bank. In it, a bank’s “acceptance” of a transwomen client helps others around her become more accepting. A lot of people are apparently thrilled at it. I’m really not so sure. Capitalism and rather cliched tolerance discourse, all in one neat package. Ugh.
January 2, 2009
On November 21 2007 a person from the Philippines, Sally, or Salvator Kamatoy, was found dead behind a shopping mall in the United Arab Emirates. She was working as a hair dresser. No cause of death was found, but the Filipino Embassy apparently told her family that her head had been beaten in.
Sally was one of the Paper Dolls, someone in a documentary I’ve been writing about in my thesis. The Paper Dolls were a drag troupe of Filipino/a trans/gay/drag queens who lived in Israel from 2000-2005, mostly as aged care workers allowed in under really precarious guest worker conditions. The film Bubot Niyar is their story, although it’s also the story of this gay Israeli film-maker who is naive and repulsed by drag at the beginning of filming and becomes galvanised into political action of a kind by the end, trying to intervene when one of his subjects was deported. Sally is the only person featured in Bubot Niyar whose employer, Chaim, is fine with her dressing as a woman. He comes to regard her as his daughter, and she calls him Papa. She is a presence: well, they are all presences, these people who are not actors, in a film that depends for its drama on the fact that its subjects are consummate queens who joke, whoop, giggle, bitch and flirt in the limelight of the camera just as defiantly as in the real limelight on stage, no matter whether the film-maker is a bit of a jerk, or whether club promoters totally exploit them, or whether they are about to be deported.
Sally isn’t the only Paper Doll who is dead. Rika, too, died in Israel, during production. She is not named in the film, not featured as one of the "five drag queens" written about in the director’s statement. You don’t even know she died until the end credits, and next to her name are the letters "RIP". But she is in the film. She talks. At one point she attacks the director about his dumbass views on transness with a wary, annoyed yet sardonic intelligence.
This just makes me really sad. And angry. I have little time for the Transgender Day of Remembrance, it’s not my way of doing politics. To me, it feels like the appropriation of deaths whose causes are inextricably tied to a bunch of things that aren’t about gender identity: most of the people included in TDOR vigils are people of colour, most of them are poor, and most of them are sex-workers. Often the people most loudly commemorating TDOR are people who are trans, yet whose skin colour and class and privilege makes them pretty immune to violence, or at least protected in some way a lot of people just aren’t. And it’s geographically so specific: to the USA, mostly. So many deaths aren’t counted.
In the stupid fucking irony at which this world excels, Sally was killed just after the transgender day of remembrance. And she is not remembered. But because I’ve been watching the film a lot over the last two years, and it makes me cry even without knowing that at least two of its trans subjects are dead (probably murdered), I want to remember her now. And for others to remember her as well.
It’s yet another irony that the only way Sally can be remembered is through the film she was in, which makes it impossible not to view her through a lens in which her migration to Israel from the Philippines was figured as liberatory, freeing, as her and other’s search for a place where she could be herself. (In fact, in the film they all say how they expected Israel to be primitive and ultra-religious, and were surprised it had a Pride March.) But do watch the trailer. Her face is freeze-framed before you click play.
October 30, 2008
I’m still alive. I’m just buried in thesis writing hell. And freaking out about the future of my life/career/life after thesis/anything else I can think of to freak out about. Also procrastinating by reading US election commentary, which has become far less entertaining than it was a few weeks ago. And, oddly, working on a really amazing collaborative writing project so writing a lot of fiction — which I seem to need to do more in proportion to how much thesis I churn out each week.
I’m not feeling inspired about blogging at the moment. But I’ll come back at some point. Maybe I’ll do a redesign; maybe that will get me motivated to blog again. Til then, adieu and thanks for reading.
September 14, 2008
In ten essays I’m marking on Aboriginal deaths in custody, not one student has questioned whether prisons should exist at all. In class we watched The Death of Malcolm Smith, which paints a dramatically horrific picture of conditions inside most Australian jails and reformatories. The essay I’m marking right now suggests that if adequate and fair treatment was provided for Aboriginal prisoners, then everything would be fine. It’s incredible. I can’t quite believe that they accept the necessity of incarceration so calmly.
On this note, Cruciferous links to two remarkable resources on the treatment of queer/trans people in prisons, and why queer/trans anti-incarceration work is so important. Go read them.
August 24, 2008
Lately I have been reading The Post Card and having discussions offblog with Carol (whose book is coming out very soon now) about schisms between Foucault and Derrida, and the tendency to fold both back into a generalised ‘post structuralist’ hermeneutic that erases difference: both the crudely empiricist reading of their methodological difference as one separating signification (language) and discourse (which can be more easily recruited into talk of acts, reality) where Foucault gets marginally more brownie points; or the more complex reading of the argument about whether it was essential to return to a consideration of metaphysics and the violence at the heart of all language, rather than ‘merely’ relying on genealogical or historical question of how.
Rewriting my thesis introduction (which doesn’t quote Derrida once, at yet) I realise that all the way along, I have been pretending to be a total Foucauldian/marxian/anticolonialist/feminist. When in fact, the whole thing begins as a problematic of language, the impossibility of language, the violence of not being able to think transness in many other frames than geographical traversal. Which is a Derridean problem. Even as what I’m doing shoots off straight away into genealogical method and critique of political economy and so on.
Who can say why I’ve been ignoring Derrida until now? Maybe it’s because for a long time I have only read Derrida for pleasure. For quoting in letters. For play. But perhaps this is the point. Eli Clare, who (just like Jacques) refuses to step on one side of the line between play and work, poetry and theory, brought me back to an awareness of this — and even more, an awareness of the specificity of language’s violence as it adheres to gender variant bodies:
In English there are no good words, no easy words. All the language we have created—transgender, transsexual, drag queen, drag king, stone butch, high femme, nellie, fairy, bulldyke, he-she, FTM, MTF—places us in relationship to masculine or feminine, between the two, combining the two, moving from one to the other. I’m hungry for an image to describe my gendered self, something more than the shadowland of neither man nor woman, more than a suspension bridge tethered between negatives. (“Gawking, Gaping, Staring,” GLQ: Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 9: 1-2, 2003: 260.)
August 10, 2008
I have gotten into a bad writing habit where if the work I have to do is below a certain size (say 3000 words, or more of revision/rewriting) I’ll slack off until the last day I can possibly submit it. Then I write the whole thing in one 12 hour sitting. Which is how I have come to be wide awake at 6am. But the paper is finished, and apart from presenting it on Friday, I won’t have to think about it for a while. I also had quite a lovely weekend. Yesterday, big Footscray mission with S., including pho, op-shopping, and Asian grocery shopping. I came away with: a full belly; a cream silk ascot; a lemon-coloured shirt with French cuffs; a tan-and-brown scarf which will do as a neckerchief; a verrrrry cute red-and-blue neckerchief, which I can’t seem to take off from around my neck; and last but not least a black, red pin-striped blazer which will do as a spruced-up conference outfit with the shirt and one of the scarves. Oh and a really skinny, shimmery, deep blue tie. And that was just the clothes. Then there were the two shopping-bags full of frozen Chinese buns, and special home-made Shanghai dumplings from the bakery. I ate them this morning as a hangover breakfast. Because that’s right, even with three months to go until I submit my draft, I’m still going to parties. And dancing.
This week is shaping up pretty steep in terms of time management. Lauren Berlant’s in town… There’s a conference on Embodied Globalisations on Thursday and Friday…. And tomorrow I am seeing a dentist for the first time in three years. Ouch. (This post has been brought to you by the vague feeling of guilt I get every time I think about my blog, and not updating it.)
July 23, 2008
Okay, here’s a teaser, from one of my more ‘ethnographic’ chapters:
During a process that involves considerable prolonged experience of pain, the practice of care above all demands attention to a patient’s comfort. To offer comfort, of course, is distinct from the state of being ‘comfortable’: one does not guarantee the other. Neither is comfort merely a state that pertains to the corporeal—pillows, climate control, relief of hunger or thirst. It registers an affective disposition, and so does its antonym, discomfort. As those familiar with the previous Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s fantasy of [white] national subjects feeling “relaxed and comfortable” might recall, comfort may also settle on its intended bearers with more or less success according to the vicissitudes of racialisation. “If whiteness allows bodies to move with comfort through space,” Sara Ahmed writes, (more…)
It’s been a long time between drinks for this blog. I am busy thesising and when I’m not doing that lately, I’m trying to write other things, for other publications. So the blog has been a little neglected. I do have some things to post about, though. I want to write a post about intervening on intellectual spaces in which the category of the corporeal goes unmarked or is entirely othered. And I want to write about indigenous politics post-apology, riffing off the saccharine travesty of the ALP ad that here rips off one of my favourite songs:
I wish I had time to write why this makes me feel like puking, but I’ve got too much work to do. Next week. But to make up for the above, here’s a much better rip-off.
July 7, 2008
This story about an ex-policeman turned anarchist squatter who ripped the head off a waxwork Hitler makes me chuckle:
The decapitation of Adolf Hitler by a left-wing activist drew widespread applause from German critics and politicians yesterday who felt that his wax dummy should never have been put on display in Berlin.
One commentator hailed it as “a successful assassination attempt – sadly 75 years overdue”.
The assault occurred only minutes after the Berlin affiliate of Madame Tussauds opened its doors to the public at the weekend. The second visitor in the building, a 41-year-old former policeman known only as Frank L., headed straight for the darkened corner where a despairing Führer was shown hunched over his desk in his Berlin bunker.
But my favourite bit of the article is definitely not about Hitler:
Mr L. resigned from the Berlin police after being assigned to quell a May Day demonstration of left-wing anarchists – “I realised I belonged on the other side,” he said. Since then he has been active in the punk and squatter scene; since February he has been a care worker. His girlfriend Yvonne said: “I’m really proud of him. I’ve been furious about Hitler for days.”
July 6, 2008
The other day I wrote a Sticky note with a list of people whose reading eye I want to keep in mind while I’m finishing my thesis. Only a couple of these people will read the thesis, this is certain. But the list includes a bunch of people with fierce intellects and diverse interests. Writing ‘for’ them, addressing them, helps me attend to what they might wish I performed rigorously, the questions and critical eye they might contribute.
This person, for instance, will want me to go for the jugular: what theoretical density can I sustain, how can I push a line of argument further, how can I shock myself out of wishy-washy cult stud gestures? This other person will be attending to what he talks about as “having enough death” — acknowledging the material violences of inequality, the bodies that are regarded as disposable and whose deaths don’t ‘matter’. One person will care that the words are clear and readable and beautiful, because otherwise they won’t bother reading at all. Someone will attend to philosophical complexity and how I define my theoretical frameworks. Someone else will be interested in the rigour of my critique of political economy and what I’m doing with Marx. Someone else again will want my Thai history and politics to be accurate. Someone else will attend most to my treatment of transnationality and gender/sexuality, and the postcolonial. And so on. It’s a long list.
The beautiful thing is, most of these people are friends. The political and theoretical networks I inhabit are full of people who I respect totally. I feel so grateful to have these people around. Even if they don’t actually read anything I write, in the future, imagining how they might read this work forces me to write as if it were a conversation, larger than myself. (And some of you are reading this, anyhow, which means you’re already part of the conversation.)
I am having a really great time with writing at the moment. When it flows, I know exactly how to stitch everything together. This is why people spend three or four years on the same project. One simply knows, finally, how things fit — and one knows exactly what one doesn’t know, also, and why. But I’m only at this point because of conversations that have already taken place, and because of the generosity of those who have engaged with me, here, and in other spaces.
Did I just write a draft of an acknowledgments page? I think so.
June 24, 2008
I ate dinner at the library, rode home, tried to begin work again and realised I couldn’t concentrate until I made a cake. A semolina syrup cake with orange blossom water and coconut milk, to be exact. Rather an experiment, but we shall see. (The coconut milk is in the cake, not the syrup.)
I’m working on a draft of my final thesis chapter, which is also a book chapter due very soon, and have had my head in gendered and postcolonial theorisations of affective labour all day. I’m reading some fantastic books on migration and gendered labour, such as Rhacel Parreñas’ Servants of Globalization, an ethnography of Filipino/a migrant women, most of whom do domestic work. On the other hand, Parreñas focuses on the familial and resistant practices of her informants outside of the workplace, and what I need right now is writing on gendered and racialised subjective relationships within workplaces. Never mind, it’s a great book and well worth the read.
Today in the Reserve shelves I also randomly found a really awesome critique of the political economy of Thai sex work, Thanh-Dam Truong’s Sex, Money and Morality. Truong talks a lot about women’s ‘emotional labour’ in the context of tourism. I’m not writing about sexwork, but I do draw a parallel between sexwork and the new Thai health tourism economy — this latter is a less explicity sexual economy, to be sure, but it still draws on the same repackaging of ‘traditional’ Thai femininity and requires workers to perform that traditional femininity. Truong’s marxist politics are spot-on, and it’s from 1990, predating any post-autonomist writing on affective labor. This feels like hitting the jackpot, just a little, as if the library was in a good mood and decided to give me a present. I should hang out in the library Reserve section more often.
June 18, 2008
I’ve been weeding my links, and sorting them, and adding some more, because it’s about two years since I added any links to the list and there were some appalling lapses. At the moment I’ve categorised from A to T, and T to Z are still all in the ‘Random’ category. Hmmm. Blogrolls are weird.
June 16, 2008
Where is the room to write thesis, when I’m so busy thinking about everything else? I’m replying on my ability to draw things together fast, because this week the deadline is Wednesday. 3000 words, assembled from notes. Whatever. At 4am, unable to sleep and now entirely nocturnal, I listen to The Pointer Sisters’ “Send Him Back”, Pilooski edit, courtesy of s0metim3s, and it mirrors a thrust into thought I’m enacting, arms windmilling in 60’s dance moves, or was that boxing…? And the new email list I’m moderating (which has a name I think, and maybe we’ll even get some institutional support at some point) is finally in flow. But all I can do is read people’s article recommendations and chew over stuff in my head.
Tonight I attended a HREOC sex and gender diversity project public meeting. I’m glad I went, although my horoscope for today said I’d be annoyed by a business outcome, and to “strategise, don’t nark off.” So right. Based on the initial submissions they received, HREOC has already decided that their project will focus on the question of identity documents: recommending federal legislation to make gender marker changes on birth certificates and passports consistent/coherent. So, defer thinking about affordable healthcare, Medicare subsidies, and forget removing gender from identity documents altogether. (S. suggested this latter solution at the meeting and a lot of people laughed, as if it was absurd.) So, the big question the HREOC people wanted to ask: “What line in the sand do we draw?” Because we have to draw a line somewhere, for people to change their document permanently from M to F or F to M. Surgery and hormones? Psychiatric or psychological assessment? Two years or one? Which legislation is better, Spain’s or the UK’s? Oh, so limited. So frustrating.
But the actual comments, the meeting itself, ran so far outside the bounds of this question that I started to feel better, optimistic. Trans legislative questions always run aground on these immense philosophical rocks that simultaneously connect very material every day existence with the whole epistemology of gender as a central category organising bodies violently, and why we find it so difficult to think without it. So, yes, why is it that someone’s gender is M at such and such an institution but F at another? Why is it that one can change one’s birth certificate, but when one gets pulled over by a motorcycle cop on a deserted country road, the cop can check one’s entire police record with previous names and genders and call one ‘Sir’, and throw in a few transphobic slurs as well? Why is it that in the Family Court, a transwoman suing for partial custody of her children could be denied it on the basis that she was upsetting her children by wearing women’s clothing around them? How do we think about these children’s desires to have a ‘normal family,’ and the violence that enacts against this woman, who has a life-threatening disease, and who just wants to be a ‘normal woman’? How do we think the crazily proliferating deployments of ‘normal’ in this context? How do you even think, when the story is so heart-breaking?
What really surprises me is the intensity of a lot of transfolks’ desires to gain recognition, preferably on an important looking piece of paper with a government seal. So much so that this validation forms a kind of fetish. If we have the piece of paper, everything will be okay. But what the meeting really demonstrated is that no, a piece of paper cannot make everything okay.
My favourite moment was when A. started talking about the costs of outing oneself as trans, and how much safer it is to be stealth. But staying stealth has to break whenever you witness violence erupt against another transperson. You have to stand up and tell people that’s not on, he said. “Do we stand up for each other? Can we have solidarity with each other, even if it means outing ourselves? This is the only line in the sand I want to draw.” What a beautiful intervention.
Filed under: (non) Community, Gender Schmender, Politics, I'm Lost In Music - Az @ 7:43 pm