Friday, June 30, 2006

producing the crisis: reproduction, the underclass, self-publishing and unlikely pleasure

Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order, Stuart Hall et al, 1978
Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women, Cheryl Clarke (Kitchen Table Press), 1982
Un Marquer de Paroles (preface to Chamoiseau's Chroniqu de Sept Miseries), Edouard Glissant, 1986
Order, Disorder, Freedom and the West Indian Writer, Maryse Conde (Yale French Studies), 1993
Time Binds or Erotohistoriography, Elizabeth Freeman (Social Text), 2005

What pleasure have I been hiding, even as I seek to articulate an "ethics of queer desire"? It seems that my relationship to the word "ethics", works well in terms of "accountability" and "justice" and "so on and so forth":), but when it comes to desire I believe that I may be creating an unacknowledged binary between "ethics" and "desire". In other my recent writing, our ethics is not something we adopt because it turns us on. Our ethics is something that our oppression makes necessary, that our trauma forces us into, or at the very least something that my poetic and convincing arguments make obvious, not as choice, but as an imperative. No good. Disclaiming myself to the predicament of forced poetics, I lament the fact that I have been reincorporating the energy of desire into the duty of ethics (and doing so because i need your agreement so badly) and not admitting to the pleasures that I already get, and am motivated by in this (still maligned) practice of being free. man as in Elizabeth Freeman in her convincing contribution to the "What's so Queer About Queer Studies now?" issue of Social Text points out that oppressed folks generally, and queer people specifically connect to each other across time, not merely through traumatic renewal of violence, but also through pleasure desire...and in my case booklust. I mean what is it that I am doing anyway but creating a breathless links to past and future black girls through reading back/writing back/writing towards/writing because of the fact that it turns me on? This is pleasure that I need, an ethical pleasure that requires me to face my multiple partners and fall apart YES, because of the trauma that has not stopped, but also because i want you.
How else can I explain why i keep on reading these little books by these crazy third world women who were writing circa 1982. I want to think of it as a queer desire for the maternal (the ephemeral material): black women disperse into paper and I am born. So Cheryl Clarke for example self-published, community published and republished (goshdarnit) her book of poems in 1982 with the collaboration of women as illustrators (GAIA) and typesetters, and blurb writers and printers. And she wrote about madness and trauma and pleasure. She wrote about creepy families and solid lesbian love. She wrote about embattled pleasures secreted in kitchens and women who broke her heart. She wrote about violence and silence and made them stop rhyming for a bit. She was (for me) articulating "tradition" in a way that was not biological, patriarchally reproductive, but that felt real anyway. Printing...even printing two editions...should not be called reproduction because it is unlikely, not natural clearly embattled and nonetheless as strategy that black queer women are a queer way. I still want to call that co-production. We'll see. What is clear though is that Clarke (and shortly following of course Shange, Walker, Morrison will do this too) needs to make visible the violence experienced by girls and women under the cover of race coherence such that that violence is not reproduced again.
In an brilliant and long-relevant collaboratively written monograph that thinks in careful Marxist/revisionist Marxist terms (Policing the Crisis) Hall et al seem to unwittingly reproduce the invisibility of black women or at least seem to lose the opportunity to analyze the feminization of the black labor class that is perpetually reproduced and disenfranchised. This collective does what Irigaray does (and what the third world women's movement at least from the moment of the combahee river collective statement cannot afford) and forecloses intersectionality by presentingthe struggle of unemployed blacks in the streets and women in the home as parellel struggles. What about the black women who are out in the street..what about the other,non-sensationalized violence committed against black girls and women at home? Why mention the black hustler pimp specifically and the prostitute only through Marx? Why is it so salient to quote the racist sentencing judge pointing out that "notably no west indian women have been mugged", but then not relevant to look at the gender dynamics in a masculinized unemployed/criminal underclass that they are analyzing specifically through economics of reproduction and the reproduction of an economic relationship. I guess because that is my work to do...but damn.
Glissant would seem to fall into somewhat of the same trap in his analysis of language (in his analysis of the forced and the natural as i am writing about elsewhere) but also in the preface to Chronique...where he centralizes the djobuer, marginally informally employed cart pushers in Martinique, as the site oflanguage production, code making, and logic changing resistance. This kind of masculine, tentative, magical work of course also becomes the marvelously real work of writers in the West Indies...and the male writers specifically...unsurprisingly.
Conde draws this out in her article, but I think the reproduction is still playing an invisible role in her argument, or at least some sor tof naturalized gender binary which seems only to be a slight reappropriation of the momentum of stereotype. In this text "order" is what male writers do in order to reproduce themselves and achieve their ambitions for political power. In "order" to do this they must suppress the desires and the violent experiences of women which would awaken a femininized "disorder" in the region. "Freedom" on the other hand is yet to come, and is evidently in the province of the youth. Forced poetics again? Is it that coherence requires this formulation to emerge in the configuration of a bad, but productive heterosexual dialectical coupling of order and disorder?
The concept of forced poetics (the reason that i will critique but never abandon glissant) seems to have with in it the presence of force and the structure of rape that is always being denied, repressed and suppressed. Freeman might want to insert some SandM logic to the other possibilities of a forced pleasure (like filling other things up besides she puts it). Could it be that my positionality (informed by a global order of rape that will never be necessary evil..or otherwise justified in my view at all) that puts me next to you is not to be seperated by my all consuming love for you, want for you, want for us to be free?

No comments: