Eric reminds me that Wendy Brown’s new book, Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire, is out. I’m looking forward to reading it — Politics Out of History wasn’t my cup of tea, and States of Injury has been cited far too many times in things I’ve written to bear much more. If I owned a copy of the latter, it would be faded, battered and dogeared. Instead I just have numerous photocopies of the same chapters from moments when I couldn’t find them in my enormous photocopy piles.*
Speaking of the US feminist/queer left (or maybe queer leftists Taking A Break from feminism) I finally started reading Janet Halley’s book Split Decisions after BitchLab’s enthusiastic recommendations. (Princeton University Press: what all the cool kids are wearing this season.) One of the things it does very well is to rearticulate some of Wendy Brown’s thought about rights, democracy and coalitions in a manner akin to how Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook made trans theory immediately conversational, personal and ‘tasty’ reading ten years ago.
But with an added kick. Reading Split Decisions is a bit like doing a one-night refresher class in queer and feminist theory over tequila shots, one shot per theorist. It can make you feel a little drunk. There’s an amazing recapitulation of Leo Bersani’s “Is the Rectum a Grave?”, which makes me yearn for thinkers like Bersani. Obstinately Freudian and only interested in ‘gay men’ he might be, but at least he never wanted to assimilate. Not even deep down. He just wanted to be taken apart.
I feel particularly gleeful about Halley’s reading of Jay Prosser’s conflicted relationship to Butler — “an oedipally murderous prodigal son who wants his father to approve the prodigal’s depredations at the homestead.” Ouch, Jay. She just said your book was all about daddy issues. (With a daddy like Butler, no wonder you got issues, boyfriend.) Actually, this has got to be the most incisive and perceptive reading of Second Skins I’ve encountered. Halley neither bows to Prosser’s demand that we read his interpretation of the transsexual body as the only one available, or tries to water down the more useful claim that trans politics cannot collapse its deeply conflicting claims into one united community.
I’m not sure if it was reading Spilt Decisions that fired me up, or because I stopped working on the most boring chapter in the history of theses and got cracking with a paper on Paper Dolls, but I’ve been working very hard this last week. I’ve also been experimenting with filing notes, full-text articles and writing drafts in Keynote, this tree-structured note manager. It’s fully searchable, which is a huge improvement on the strange collection of word documents I’ve collected in my phd folder that all seem to called ‘plan.doc’ or ‘thoughts.doc’. I’m now wishing I could combine EndNote, Keynote and a note manager that read pdf’s and multimedia files, so all my references, articles, random notes and chapter drafts could be accessible in the same interface. If anyone knows of such multi-tasking software, I’d be very interested in finding out more.
*Memo for November: buy a freakin’ filing cabinet.